Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Bible

Why believe the Bible??

This question has risen several times among the children I teach at school. It is a very good question. If the Bible is not trustworthy, our faith is on very shaky ground.  I will give an outline of some of the reasons it can be trusted.

In  a basic sense, it is a history book. One hundred and fifty years ago, certain ‘scholars’ cast doubts about the historical accuracy of the Bible. Most of their objections have vanished as Archaeology and other discoveries have verified so many Bible records. I encourage you to research for yourself (Google?), the vast amount of evidence for biblical history as the most accurate continuous record of humanity in the Middle East. One of interest is the story of Hezekiah’s tunnel (2Kings 20.20). 2,700 years ago the King ordered a tunnel to be dug, to bring water into Jerusalem. Many thought  - how could it be! But sure enough a boy was digging around Jerusalem and the tunnel was unearthed and in the middle tunnel of the was an inscription about Hezekiah and how it was constructed starting from each end. It remains a mystery how they managed to meet in the middle, but here is evidence that the Bible record is accurate.
Did Jesus exist? This is verified externally by the Roman historian Tacitus, and Josephus the Jew. Both wrote of Him doing wonderful thing and being crucified. Some doubted the existence of Pilate the governor until archaeologists found an inscription with his name on it. Of course the many places mentioned in the Bible story can be visited today.

Besides historical evidence, there is a moral thread that is unusual. The story of humanity is told in the Bible with unusual honesty. Who would have recorded the failures of the founding father –Abraham. Why would you not hide the serious sin of the best King – King David? Who would want to sing and chant the so many songs (Psalms) that seem rather depressing. Why are the judgemental prophecies of Jeremiah recorded at length if they were unreliable? And in the New Testament , I would have skipped the denials of Peter if I wanted to present him as the prominent leader of the Christians. In fact the record of humanity, so often doing the wrong thing, hardly makes for some religious propaganda document.

The thing that is special is this. The book was compiled by many persons over some 1,500 years. (It is not the dream of one man), yet they all have a focus on one person – the coming of the promised Messiah, the Christ. Moses as the great lawgiver, spoke of the one greater than himself who would be raised up. Isaiah many years later prophesied of a Messiah who would suffer for the people. Then came the New Testament writings – four men wrote as recordering of the life of Jesus – some have criticised the supposed contradictions between these writers, but in reality these differences verify that the writers wrote independently from different standpoints and at different times. Dr Luke wrote his as a result of research. John wrote his record many years later, after the idea of who Jesus was had been tried and tested by persecution and Jewish contradiction. Much of the New Testament is written in letter form, from  real men to real, suffering people. It was not the product of some distant school of philosophical thought. It was real life teaching. (and interestingly gives real  life blessing today).

I pause here to ask my reader – have you read the Bible. I am reminded of the young man I worked with. He told me the Bible could not be believed, so I asked him ‘ have you read it?’.  The answer was ‘no’. So I asked if he would read it if I gave him one? He said ‘no’ – I pointed out how hypocritical it was to criticise a book he has never read. But the real point is that most criticism comes from an unwillingness to read about a God who calls all people to account.

I have read it, and the historical story of humanity,  makes sense of where we have come from and where we are at today. If we were  on some evolutionary progress to be better, the last one hundred years tell a very different story ( war, bloodshed as never before, greed and hatred overflowing etc).  In fact the recorded prophecies of the Lord Jesus, some fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled, seem to be happening before our eyes.

It is a very satisfying study to look into the unearthing of ancient scripture portions – fragments and copies of the originals. In terms of ancient literature, the Bible stands uniquely set to withstand critics. More than 5,000 fragments are held in different places (most viewable on the internet), some being very old and show  a continuity of content that is amazing. It is very interesting to compare the Greek /Latin New Testament with the distant Aramaic New Testament. They are so similar. This dispels  the notion that the Roman Catholic church  manipulated the scriptures.

Well I come the most important point. This history is a unique record of one God who set creation into motion, and then repeatedly interrupts and interacts with humanity. The coming of Jesus did leave and still leaves an undeniable impact on the whole world for good. The power of the book brings hope to so many in hopeless circumstances. The morals of the book remain an absolute that represents the character of a holy God. The thirst by so many millions for this book is continuing evidence of its supernatural source and content.

Peter put it so well – “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” 2Peter 1.21

Perhaps one could be convinced by the abundant evidence. The greatest proof is in the eating – “O taste and see that the Lord is good”

“it is the joy and rejoicing of my soul”

John McKee

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