In a book published posthumously, Carl Sagan wrote, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
Have we actually been consigned to grope blindly in moral and spiritual darkness without any ray of light? Are we shut up to our own powers of reasoning and our puny intellects? Are the philosophers of our day and the talk show hosts our beacons of light amidst the darkness?
With all deference for Mr. Sagan’s brilliance, we are not in cosmic darkness, and help has come from “elsewhere” to save us. Others might provide volumes and title them as Guidebooks to the Universe, but we have a book, written by a far more capable Author, which is our unfailing guide and light for all of life’s needs.
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, that the inspired Word of God is “able to make wise unto salvation … that the man of God might be … throughly furnished unto all good works.” It is absolutely adequate for our every need. In the context of 2 Timothy 3, it is able to take a child (v15) to the maturity of a man of God (v17). We read that it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (v16). Someone has helpfully noted:
Doctrine – to tell us what is right;
Reproof – to show us if we are not right;
Correction – to help us to get right;
Instruction – to keep us right.
Every trial we face will find its comfort and direction in the Word of God; every dilemma we encounter will find its guidance in the Book. There is no difficulty or decision we will ever face for which God has not provided principle or precept in His Word. Our great deficiency is insufficient knowledge of the Book to discover those answers. The problem is never with the Word of God; it is always with us.
The adequacy of the Scriptures is due to the fact that they are God-breathed revelation, reliable, and relevant to each of us. To approach the Scriptures with a mindset that there are things we face in the 21st century for which the Scriptures have no answer is to call into question the wisdom and foresight of its Author.
Elders, husbands, wives, gospel workers, teachers, businessmen, and workers, will all find instruction to guide them in life within its covers. It is absolutely adequate for everything.
It is obvious that, if we are to know God, He must reveal Himself to us. Our darkness and self-occupation as sinners, our distance and direction away from God, and our disinterest and defilement mean that there is no way we could ever attain to the knowledge of God if left to ourselves (Job 11:7; Rom 3:11). But the great wonder and mercy is that we have a self-revealing God, a God Whose eternal intention has been to reveal Himself to and to communicate with us. This was not based upon a need to be known, but on a desire to make known His heart to His creatures for our joy and blessing.
As the “Word” from eternity past, from “the beginning,” Christ has ever been God’s ultimate media for communication to humanity. It has ever been His purpose to communicate through that “Word” to us. In His Son, we have the incarnate Word; in the Scriptures we have the inspired Word. God speaks through creation to all of humanity. In the coming of the Lord Jesus, God spoke with clarity and finality; and in the written Word, God has spoken to us in a written, permanent manner. How thankful we are that there is a written, permanent record of the mind of God as revealed in His Word.
The Scriptures allege themselves to be nothing less than the revealed truth of God. Often, the terms verbal and plenary are applied to the concept of inspiration. These terms mean that, when the original manuscripts were penned by “holy men of God” under the control of the Spirit of God, they were word for word, in their entirety, the complete and accurate message of God to humanity.
Books have been written on the subject of the reliability and accuracy of the Word of God, so it would be impossible, and unwise, to try and give a detailed defense of its reliability in the short space of this article. A few highlights will have to suffice, and the interested reader can research the myriad resources available on the subject. Consider first that we are not dealing with “scientific” evidence, since the essence of the scientific method is the ability for predictable “replication.” We are in the realm of historical and literary evidence. That does not mean that our conclusion is not as valid. It simply means that scientific methods of proving accuracy do not apply in the authenticating of something which is historical. It is akin to a court case in which evidence is presented until there is no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. Consider then, as evidence:
The Scripture Itself
We don’t have the originals as we would have made idols out of them. But we do have an abundance of manuscripts, some dating back to only a little over a century from the time of the apostles. This dwarfs the period of time between most of the classic works of ancient history to which no objection is raised by scholars. This would include the works of Plato, Homer, Thucydides, and Pliny the younger.
There are over 5000 manuscripts of the Word of God. Once again, this is far greater than any of the ancient writings of history. These manuscripts have come from sites in many different places so as to refute any idea of collusion.
If you are in university or exposed to those who challenge the Bible, you will at some point hear that there are over 200,000 errors in the manuscripts available to examine. These are not errors, but differences between the manuscripts. The vast majority of these differences (99%), are minor and are of the nature of whether it should say “a” or “the” or a similar minor change. No passage or doctrine is significantly changed when all these alleged “errors” are taken into account. They actually confirm that there was no collusion or attempt to deceive.
The Testimony of the Savior
In a court of law, a person is allowed to testify for Himself, and that testimony is then either upheld or refuted by others as they witness to His truthfulness, accuracy, and character. The Lord Jesus viewed the Scriptures as the Word of God. His emphatic “It stands written” was a testimony to His insistence that the Scripture comes from God.
The Lord Jesus quoted from Genesis through Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and the Prophets. He stated that it was truth.He pointed to His death and resurrection as being the testimony of Scripture. The fulfillment of those events attests to the reliability of Scripture.
The Testimony of the Spade
Archeology has consistently and repeatedly affirmed the accuracy of Scripture. Caution is needed here, as this does not prove inspiration – it only attests to its accuracy. But proof of its accuracy in the face of its many detractors goes a long way toward upholding inspiration. Consider the following:
Sodom and Gomorrah: Thought to be a myth but then records of all five cities were found, and the area was rich in bitumen or brimstone. Evidence of burning of this was found on top of Mount Jebel Usdum (Mt. Sodom).
Jericho: Excavated in 1930-36; Garstang showed that the walls fell outward. The city was not plundered, but burned. It occurred in harvest time, as Joshua says.
Sargon: His name was unknown outside of the Bible, and men denied he existed (Isa 20:1). His palace in Khorsabad was discovered in 1843 by a French archeologist. As well, the inscription on fragments of a stela found in Ashdod in 1963 (now in the Israel Museum) confirms the Biblical details of his capture of Ashdod in 711 BC.
The Babylonian chronicles: Now in the British Museum, they cover a period from 615-539 BC and detail the fall of the Assyrian empire and Nineveh, as Nahum and Zephaniah had predicted and as Jeremiah recorded. They confirm, as well, the attacks on Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
Belshazzar: Many denied his existence, and thus the reliability of Daniel. But in 1854, a Babylonian inscription was unearthed which told how Nabonidus entrusted the kingship to his eldest son Belshazzar. Thus Daniel could only rise to the third ruler in the kingdom.
Politarch inscription: In Acts 17:6 and 8, Luke refers to city officials in Thessalonica as Politarch. Prior to 1853, no mention of this could be found in Greek literature. However, in 1835, an arch in Thessaly revealed the title Politarch with a list of rulers’ names.
The Testimony of the Seers
It has been estimated that there were about 60 prophecies fulfilled in the life and death of Christ. Even if we take a look at only eight over which He had no influence in fulfilling, it is remarkable: the place of His birth; time of His birth; manner of His birth; His betrayal; manner of His death; treatment He received (spitting, mocking, derision); piercing of His hands, feet, and side; His burial.
The chance that one man could fulfill all by accident or coincidence is 1 in 1017. Add to these the fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament: Daniel’s seventy weeks; Cyrus named before birth; the movement of nations in Daniel and the succession of empires, and the chances are slimmer still.
The Testimony of Sinners
One of the greatest tributes to any literary work is when a person credits it with changing his or her life. Books of this nature are rare; and lives changed by these books are rarer still. Yet heaven and a coming universe will be filled with individuals who will attest that the Word of God changed their lives and their eternity.
The Testimony of its Survival
The Bible has withstood the passage of time, the prophecies of its enemies, and persecution from its foes. How many books written more than 25 years ago survive? They are called the “classics” for their longevity. How many survive 100 years? And rarely, a small fraction of a percent of books endure 1000 years. The Bible has withstood changes in culture, thinking, nations, and societies. The passage of time has not dulled its message or silenced its voice.
Critics have attacked the Bible at every turn. This became an art form in the 1800s with the form critics who attempted to deconstruct the Bible and deny its claims. Attempts have been made to deny its inspiration and the reliability of its historical record as well. Men have guaranteed that the Bible would be a forgotten book. Voltaire attacked it and promised its demise. The critics tried to deny Moses’ authorship on the basis that writing was not known in Moses’ time. Then someone discovered the “black stele” with writing on it from the laws of Hammurabi – three centuries before Moses.
In the Old Testament, Manasseh must have tried to destroy the Scriptures, as one copy was hidden in the temple and found by Josiah. Antiochus Epiphanies plundered Jerusalem in the 2nd Century BC, forbidding the Bible to be read and destroying every copy he could. During the first three centuries, Roman emperors sought to destroy the Bible. In AD 303, Diocletian unleashed his 10 persecutions, issuing an edict to destroy the Bible.
Wycliffe translated the Bible into English from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate edition in 1320 which sold for $200 a copy. Forty years after his death, his bones were dug up, burned, and strewn along the river.
In 1450, the invention of the printing press enabled the Bible to be published. A copy of that first Bible is in the Library of Congress and has been valued at over $1,000,000 – not bad for a book which is supposed to be nonexistent today.
While the tactics of the enemy have now changed from attempting to destroy the Bible to discrediting and marginalizing it, it continues to speak to generation after generation. The Bible has survived.
The Testimony of the Stone
The ultimate proof of the Word of God is the open sepulcher and silent, yet eloquent, stone. The Savior attested to the authenticity of the Scriptures. He said that He would rise from the dead. His resurrection testifies to His truthfulness and thus, the truthfulness and accuracy of the Scriptures. Resurrection verifies all that Christ said and taught.
Someone might argue that this is circular reasoning. We are claiming the Bible is true and reliable because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead; yet that account of His resurrection is in the Bible which we are trying to prove. Keep in mind that this is historical evidence. The crucifixion of Christ is an attested fact in history. The preaching of a band of apostles who testified to His resurrection is a fact of history. Every attempt by unbiased legal minds to disprove the resurrection on the basis of the evidence has failed.
Finally, the issue of its relevancy must be faced. Many books are authoritative and accurate, dealing with everyday life needs such as fixing a car, finding a destination, or making a purchase. They would be relevant if you were in need of the information which they provide. They would not, however, be relevant to a large number of people, much less the entire human family. The Bible, however, is. It addresses and answers the deep questions of life. Why am I here? Where am I going? How can I be sure? It gives direction for the great quest of life. How can I find meaning, security, and significance? It lifts man from the quagmire of life: the helplessness of his sin and eternal doom. It supplies to each of us a quality of life that is described as eternal. No other book even attempts to promise these things.