Today I want to start a study of how we got our Bible: why we can confidently believe what it says, and that it is the Word of God, not just the fruit of human minds; how we ended up with so many versions of both the Old Testament and New Testament, and what led to the variations, and which ones are most reliable.
Just to cut to the chase, in case you wonder which version I like the best, I will tell you. I have recently found the version that I like the very best is the Giant Print Version.
Why do we believe that the Bible is the Word of God?
Several religions around the world have their holy books, with all the history and trappings which they consider word from their God. How can we as Christians be so egotistical as to think that ours is the real Word of God, and theirs is not?
We are going to explore that question some. We are going to study where the Biblical texts came from. That alone could take a year of lessons, so we will just hit the high points to get some perspective. We are going to see what the deal is about "canon". What we ultimately want to know is, "How do we really know that the Bible is the Word of God?" What evidence is there? What proof?
We say we believe that, especially if we are in Church. But what do we really mean when we say that? If that is really true, then this is the most precious thing you have in your life, bar none. It should reprioritize everything in your life.
In our culture today, we are in a major crisis -- the biggest crisis in the past 200 years, (since the founding of this country). All authority in this country is being challenged:
All of these are in shambles, which is destroying our culture which had as its foundation this structure of authority. The Bible, if it is the Word of God, is the foundation of all authority.
As we looked at the Christian foundations of this country during our study of Thanksgiving, we studied the collapse of our society that started with the 1962 decision by the Supreme Court that in effect outlawed the Bible from our schools. And we made the case that this event started the collapse of the rest of the authority required for our society to survive.
We need to reaffirm the authority of the Bible. And to do that, we have to confirm its validity as the Word of God.
Only Two World Views:
Let’s step back a minute. There are really only two “World Views” -- two ways to look at the world and at life. You can take lots of variations, but at the guts of it you have to choose one of two possible world views:
You may not have thought of it, but you have one view or the other. It is pretty hard to postulate a third alternative.
You either believe that all of this is the result of a cosmic accident, which is what schools teach our kids; it is the only thing allowed to be taught -- evolution and all the rest of it -- (and then we wonder why society is crashing, and why we have a Columbine High School tragedy);
Or this is the product of an Artist. From those two options you have to ask four questions:
But if you have the creator view, you can understand who we are, who put us here, where we are going, and to whom we are accountable.
The Question of Authority:
I think it is the accountability problem that drives the majority to the one world view. If there is no creator, man can do whatever he wants;
But the creator is the source of authority. So the ultimate question is, "Does authority exist, or is there no such thing?"
This is the question raised in Genesis 3, in the very beginning of the Bible. Every doctrine of the Bible starts right here, when the Na-hash, the shinning one, challenged God's authority when he questioned Eve about what God had said.
The first direct quote in the Bible from someone other than of God himself when he said “let there be light” in Genesis 1, is from Satan. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" His first step was to cast doubt upon what God said. The next step was to add to what God said, and to change it. This is the challenge of God’s authority. It starts in the beginning of Genesis, and never ends until the real end comes.
The irony of all this is that only through the accountability to a creator God who fashioned human beings for moral obedience and a high spiritual destiny, do we gain human dignity and true freedom. Only if there is accountability to a true Creator does freedom have any meaning.
The miracle of the founding of America was that they understood this irony. The freedom of America rested on accountability to God. It was in the founding documents and in the Constitution.
The first thing that the world socialists have to do is to twist the foundation around, convince the people that the rights were not given by God but by the government, so the government can take them away. It is pretty amazing how criticisms of the Scriptures have been made over the years. Claims have been made that the history of Abraham in the Old Testament are not real, but are myths; that at the time of Abraham, man did not even have writing. That is still taught in some seminaries today -- the liberal ones, the ones that do not want man to have to really follow God’s commands, so they don't want a literal Bible.
Defenders of the Faith:
You may have seen in this week’s paper that Dr. Criswell, in Dallas, died this week. He was one of the drivers over the last 50 years to return to a literal Bible, one without errors. He wrote many books and published widely, giving evidence that the Bible is truly God’s Word, literally.
Charles Lowery was on Dr. Criswell’s staff for several years there at First Baptist in Dallas.
Liberal teachers refuted by the evidence:
Liberal teachers also claim that the Gospels and the Epistles in the New Testament were actually written in the 2nd Century, long after the events. What is amazing about these arguments is that all of them have been refuted by archeological findings, by documentary discoveries, and by competent analysis by people like Dr. Criswell.
You can prove that the Gospels and the Epistles were written before 70 A.D., the year that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, because they could have exploited that event in their writings.
Inspiration of Scripture:
Paul says that all Scripture is God-breathed. And when he says this, he has more than just the Old Testament in his hand. He already had the Gospels and many of the letters -- his own letters. "God-breathed" is a lot more than some innocuous statement that the Bible contains the word of God, or that God’s ideas were included in what some men wrote. If you make the statement that the Bible contains the word of God, how do you decide which parts are God-breathed, and which parts are not? Suddenly you (a human) are the editor, and the one to decide what is valid and what is not.
It makes life a lot easier, because we get to pick what we like, and leave out what we would rather ignore. Big mistake. This is a trap, not obvious until you think about it. But recognize that that is a trap. Every word is God-breathed, in every book.
This leads to a great “Ah Hah!” -- one of the great discoveries that you can make, and one that each of you needs to make individually. It is one that I talked about several times as we spent those 57 weeks in the Book of Genesis.
The Integrity of the entire package:
But it is a single integrated supernatural communication from God to you individually. It is one message. Every part ties to every other part.
It is interesting how Peter, in 2 Peter 3 ascribes Paul’s writings on the same plane as the Torah. Peter is a Jew. The Torah is the highest communication from God. And Peter puts Paul’s writing on the same plane. Peter is writing to dispersed Jews at the time he is facing martyrdom:
Peter already understands that Paul’s writings are to be equated to the Torah.
Similarly, Paul cites Luke 10:7 alongside Deut 25 in First Timothy 5 and in First Corinthians 9. He cites Luke beside Moses. Paul’s mindset is that they both are authoritative. There are verses throughout the Bible that indicate that the writings are from God. It is internally self-supporting. That is one of the things you should be sensitive to.
In the discourse in the upper room, just before his crucifixion, Jesus pre-approves the New Testament by pre-approving what the Holy Spirit will teach them. He validates the Old Testament; that is quite dramatic, and we will spend time on that. But he pre-validates what the Holy Spirit will give them after he is gone.
First, men were specifically chosen by God, and prepared for the task of writing down his Word. Many of the writers allude to their being chosen and or prepared:
Paul alludes to the same concept in Galatians 1:15-16:
But the key concept, and the one I want to propose to you and try to support, is that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to, for his communication through them to his people and to the entire world.
By the way, that was the belief and teachings of the early church, and in seminaries for centuries. Only in relatively recent times have many seminaries decided that that is not true. And we have discussed some of the reasons for that. They do not want to face up to what God tells us. Many want more freedom to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong.
There is a fascinating field of Bible text research that has gone on for centuries: first the hard way, by hand, and more recently an easier way, by computer. That is the idea that the Bible is written in such a way and in such minute detail by God, that if it is changed, we can tell that it is altered.
Let me explain the concept of Bible Codes.
The concept has nothing to do with hidden messages in the Bible, or secret prophesies that are hidden if you listen to it backwards or any of those kind of things. So don’t tune me out here. I think this is pretty dramatic proof that the Bible is exactly what God wanted us to hear.
In military applications, if an army wants to communicate with another part of the force, and has to transmit a message to them, they encode the message. That is, they send a message that looks like garbage to anyone who does not know how to decipher the message, a sophisticated form of Pidgin English. Then in order for the remote force to be able to be sure they got the correct message, a macrocode is structured into the message.
For instance, maybe every paragraph will start with a certain letter. Or maybe it will start with a predetermined sequence of letters that spell something. You get the idea. It is a way to determine that they got the entire message, and that the message had not been altered. If the macrocode does not exist in the received message, you know that it has been altered, or that is not from the sender you thought it was.
It is the study of this macrocode concept, applied to the Bible, that is amazing. The study supports our claim that the original Hebrew and Greek texts are perfect messages and they have not been altered. Not that there is a subliminal message, but proof that the message is as intended, as God delivered it, unaltered.
Since I am neither an expert nor do I depend on this for my belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, I will not explain or prove the macrocode concept. But at the highest level, it concerns adding up the numerical value for all the letters in a part of the message.
Both Hebrew and Greek have numerical values for each letter of its alphabet. And for centuries, scholars of those languages actually used that numerical system.
If English had a system like this perhaps A would equal 1, B would equal 2, etc. Then you would take a message and add up the values of all the letters. For example, Larry would have a value of:
L = 12
a = 1
r = 18
r = 18
y = 25
Larry = 74
What is shocking is that many such analyses of Biblical structure, pass this very test. Exactly.
In the analysis of the Bible, the agreed base number seems to have been 7, which has been the number of God from ancient assumptions of early Rabbis. When scholars and computers analyze books, and lists, and many different divisions of the Bible, inevitably, if the best original text is used in the Greek and Hebrew, the totals are divisible by 7, and lists are of 7 names or multiples of 7.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of analyses of the best original texts, which again and again pass the macrocode test. The importance of this is that it shows that the Bible was inspired, letter by letter. The count is by letter. The inspiration is letter by letter. Not just concept by concept, or word by word, or chapter by chapter, but letter by letter.
Defeating the Enemy's Jamming:
While we are on this issue of proving the authenticity of the Bible, there is one more idea that supports the absolute authenticity of the Bible. The Bible is a single message, designed to prevent jamming.
Again from a military example: every army knows that when radio signals are transmitted to their other units, the enemy will try to jam the radio signals to prevent the message from getting through.
(By the way, we do the same thing to them. We have planes in the air for that very reason: jamming signals for messaging, or for defense.)
Since you know that the enemy will try to jam the signal, there are several ways that I know of to get the signal through anyway. (There are probably many more that I do not know of.) One is to send the message more than once, and on different frequencies, assuming that one will get through the jamming, even if the others do not. There is an enemy in the spiritual world trying to prevent God’s message to us from getting through. He is Satan. God knows that he is going to try to jam the message, so God sends us the Gospel time and time again, in different forms, through different writers, on different channels. The Gospel is prevalent throughout the Old Testament. It is repeated again and again in the New Testament. The Bible is designed to prevent jamming.
There is another jamming solution. Send the message in parts through many channels, and then put the parts back together, almost like the internet sends packets of information, and our computers just put the pieces back together again, and we get the message.
Parts of God’s message are scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. The real message is the sum of all the parts throughout both parts of this one book.
Another solution to jamming is to use broad bandwidth to send it over channels with a lot of different frequencies, so that if one frequency is jammed, the message will get through on another. God used the wide bandwidth solution also, by sending by many different authors, the same message, and at many different time periods, and in many different styles:
The Bible is designed by God to be jam-proof, in spite of anything Satan can do to prevent the message from getting through. Subsequent transmission by humans of God's message is subject to errors and losses. Man passes on, translates, copies imperfectly. So there is introduction of static, noise, in the message. What we have to do is make sure we hear the signal, and ignore the noise, the static that human error has introduced into the message. So as we search for the signal with the noise, God’s message in the Bible, there will be noise, because humans are involved.
A fun thing to have done for this series of lessons would have been to put a notice in the bulletin that we are going to tear out the pages in the Bible that are unnecessary, in fact wrong. That would have filled the room, and probably have gotten a new teacher for this class. Again, how would you know which pages to tear out?
This is one book, one message from God to you and to me, individually:
And yet it is an integrated design, a single message. Not just conceptually, but down to every word and every letter in the original.
"The New Testament is in the Old Testament, concealed;
And the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed".
And the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed. The New Testament explains what the Old Testament is really about. You will never understand the Old Testament if you don’t understand the New Testament. The book of Revelation alone contains over 800 references and allusions to the Old Testament -- a single book, by a single author.
One way to think about the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, is to think about macros as we use them on computers. If I know that I want to end every letter that I write with a salutation, my name and address and my email address, I can set up a macro and just hit one key, and all that is entered. Or if I have a letter that I send out a lot of copies of at different times and to different people, I can set up a macro, hit one key and that whole letter is created.
God used macros in the Bible. He knew that he was going to send us the books in the New Testaments. Some of the Old Testament books are precursors, sort of a macro for the New Testament book. The Old Testament Book is anticipatory of the New Testament book to come. Abraham’s offering of Isaac -- a father offered the sacrifice of his son. Two thousand years later, the Father did sacrifice his Son, on the same mountain. Abraham knew he was acting out prophecy, and he named the place accordingly: Jehovah Jireh -- God provides (the lamb).
The book of Ruth anticipated Revelation Chapter 5. If you do not understand the Book of Ruth, and the concept of the kinsman redeemer, you will not understand Revelation Chapter 5.
Structurally, the book of Joshua is a precursor to the book of Revelation.
If you know what to look for, you will discover that the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit are all over the Bible.
This is more than a mere collection of well-intended religious writings.
We will start to look at the history of the Old Testament texts:
Then we will do the same for the New Testament.