Last week we covered several introductory concepts to set the stage for this study. I attempted to build the case of why it is so important that the Bible is the Word of God:
In general terms I dismissed some of the Scriptural criticisms like the ones that say that the stories of Moses are just myths because there was no human writing at the time. Wrong. Or that the New Testament was fictional exaggeration of what happened, written a couple hundred years later. Wrong. It was clearly written before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
And then I argued that the Bible is one supernatural message from God, not really 66 books, and that the Old and New Testament should be understood as one book, not two separate volumes -- one supernatural communication from God to us. And I talked a little about the evidence that every letter was inspired by God, not just the concepts or even the words, but every letter, as supported by cryptological analysis; not that there are secret messages encoded in the Bible, but that the very structure of the original texts supports that every letter was inspired.
Divine Inspiration of the Originals:
One concept that I did not get to last week that must also be understood, is that the inspiration from God only applies to the autographs: the original texts as written by the penmen that God chose and prepared. Subsequent transmission by humans is subject to errors and losses. Man passes on, translates, and copies imperfectly. So there is introduction of error: (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 in the message. Much of the confusion about Bible translation has to do with the noise, the error that man has introduced into the various translations.
You may remember that last week I raised the question of something about some kind of canon. I was not really talking about the military piece, a cannon, with 2 n's; I am talking about a different kind of canon, with one n, because we use this word with regard to the Bible.
The word "canon" comes from the Greek word Kanon which means a ruler or a standard of measurement. So the fact that something was included in a canon meant that it lived up to the standard; it met the muster; it passed the test; it qualified to be in the collection.
The concept of canon began with the Torah, the five books of Moses. They were recognized as canonical, or from God, in Mosesí lifetime, by the fact that they placed the Torah in the Ark of the Covenant, as Godís words. They understood that the Torah was virtually dictated by God. And last week we argued that God gave it to Moses letter by letter.
†There are two convictions behind the concept of a canon of Godís message:
Prophecy and Probabilities:
Over and over, the Old Testament presents itself as Godís own words. † I ran across a way to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Bible is in fact Godís own words. Throughout the Old Testament we find specific details and prophesies about the Coming One whom we call the Messiah, centuries in advance. Not just a few, but hundreds of the details are given:
The reason that this is important to us in our question, ďIs this really the Word of God?Ē is this:
Here we have all these details about a life that is to be lived centuries later. And I will prove that the documents existed centuries before Jesus was born; and that the prophesied life is incredibility unlikely by human standards, not the least of which is a virgin birth and a crucifixion which I will come back to. And yet Jesus fits every one of the prophecies.
I will make the case that only a message from God could have done this. The fact that Jesus fulfilled all of these details authenticates who Jesus was: The Messiah. Once you have that authentication, then he, Jesus, the Messiah, authenticates the manuscripts of the Old Testament that were in hand at the time. That is the best authentication that you can have of those manuscripts.
I will show you that Jesus used the Old Testament, and which version of the Old Testament he used, and that by his use of it he validates it as the Word of God.
Do you see the proof? † The Old Testament prophecies about Jesus prove that he is the Messiah. Once you know that he is the Messiah -- (you have to get there first) -- then his use and quotations from the Old Testament validates that it is the Word of God.
The version used in Jesus' Old Testament quotes was the Greek translation, not the original Hebrew. (We will come back to that). This turns out to be important.
Just to give you some idea of the magnitude of this proof, according to some analyses, including a book entitled Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy by J. Barton Payne, in the Old Testament there are 8362 predictive verses covering 1817 predictions. I donít want to over-kill this question, but let me give you an idea of how I as an engineer look at the question.
There are hundreds of separate topics of prophecy about the coming Messiah. † But taking just 8 of the easiest prophecies, letís look at the probability of someone accidentally fulfilling them.
†But back to the Messiah dying by crucifixion. How many people have ever been crucified? Probably a lot less than 1 in 100,000 of all the people that have ever lived. Thatís 1 in 10 to the 5th power.
To show you how small:
†So you put a blindfold on a person and let them walk around Texas and randomly pick one of those silver dollars from the two-foot deep layer. The chance of its being the one marked is 1 in 10 to the 17th.
But what is manís role? From the standpoint of form, human writers contributed a lot to Scripture. They contributed style, they contributed aspects of the culture at the time. But theologically, from the standpoint of content, the Bible regards human writers as having contributed nothing.
Last week we talked about some of the things that support this case:
Jesus' Authentication of the Old Testament:
The very best authentication of the Old Testament is by Jesus himself. Remember the circular proof: the Old Testament proves that Jesus is the Messiah, then Jesus turns around and authenticates the Old Testament. He tells us that the Torah [the first five books of the Old Testament] was written by Moses. If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, you know who wrote the Torah. And it was not J, E, Q and so on that some of the liberal seminaries argue. Moses wrote it. Jesus said so. If you know who Jesus is, that problem goes away. If you donít believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the question of who wrote the Torah is the least of your problems. The New Testament quotes from the Torah over 165 times. There are over 200 allusions to the Torah.
One of the most interesting cases of Jesus referencing the Old Testament is the first thing he did after the resurrection: he conducted a 7-mile Bible study on the Old Testament with a couple of followers on the road to Emmaus. These two guys on a 7 mile hike ran into another guy they did not recognize, and talked about Jesus in the third person. Jesus asked about this Jesus guy, and told them all about Jesus in the Old Testament. † The Scripture says in Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Notice, it says all the Scriptures, not just a few favorite passages. On over 737 different matters, over 300 of these are about the Messiah. So the body of prophetic Scripture is very substantial.
Should we take the Bible literally? I recommend that we take it the same way Jesus took it. † Jesus told us how he took it in Matthew 5:17 - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
The King James says, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law."
A jot is what we would call an apostrophe, a little mark, [possibly the Hebrew letter yod]. A tittle may be a vowel point or a "serif" or a little hook on some letters. Jesus said that even the smallest parts of the letters will be fulfilled. † I call that literal. Jesus interpreted the Old Testament literally [to the letter]. I recommend that you do, too.
I want to talk a little about
Three weeks from now, on February 10, I have asked Dave Westley to fill in for me (while Pat and I are in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast) to talk about the translation process. In his case, he was translating from the Greek into a modern native Indian language in Mexico. But I think it will give you an appreciation of the difficulty of translation. I also find his experience with this translation very interesting, and something I think you will enjoy.