Talking About The Bible

At our church we are about to release a series we are calling ‘Neighbour 2 Neighbour’. It’s encouraging and equipping members to talk about Jesus to the people the encounter during their day.

Here’s one of the first we’ve put together. What do you think?

What does the world say about the Bible?

Our secular culture does not hold much regard for God’s Word. There are many who would claim that the Bible is outdated, inaccurate, irrelevant, self-contradicting, and even fictional, and that it cannot be supported by logic.

In Western cultures, there has been a rise in a more overt atheism, mobilised to attack the Christian message in many areas, and most namely, the Scriptures. This influence has permeated popular culture. Along with a general decrease in knowledge of the Bible (compared with ages past), modern Australians tend to be suspicious of what the Bible has to say – even to the point of thinking the values it promotes are harmful to the Australian way of life.

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Bible claims to be God’s Word [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is living and active, able to speak to our hearts and change us [Hebrews 4:12]. It is written so that you may believe in Jesus and have life in Him [John 20:31].

The Bible points us to Jesus

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God [Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3]. In Jesus, we see the Word who became one of us, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-18]. Jesus explained that the Old Testament (made up of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms) pointed to and was fulfilled in Him [Luke 24:27,44]. In Jesus, we see all God’s promises finding their fulfilment [2 Corinthians 1:20].

The Bible claims to be historical

The Old Testament is an historical document containing narrative, cultural poetry, songs, wisdom for life, dialogue with God, and teachings about life with God, and prophecy; including promises about the coming Messiah and His age to come.

The New Testament Gospels claim to be historical biographies of Jesus’ life and ministry. For example, Luke’s opening statement demonstrates the carefulness and accuracy he used in researching who Jesus is and what He did [Luke 1:1-4]. The Gospels each record details about geography, political situations, and architectural descriptions that have been corroborated by centuries of archaeology and historical investigation. The rest of the New Testament documents likewise record real people, places, and events that mean we can read them with great historical confidence.

The Bible is understood by the Holy Spirit

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe, and it is only through Him that we may truly know and understand the truth [John 14:17]. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth through the Bible. Even though the Bible makes the most sense of our human experience, it requires the Holy Spirit to overcome the prejudice of human sinfulness that rejects God’s Word.

What can we say about the Bible?

The Bible is Historically Reliable.

There are a variety of archaeological, geographical, and sociological details found in the Bible that have been found to be both accurate and verifiable even today. Especially concerning the New Testament, there are parallel accounts from Roman and Jewish historians that all help to confirm the reliability of details found in the Scriptures.

Discoveries over the past century have contributed enormously in demonstrating its reliability and accuracy in its preservation. This has been seen particularly in the comparison with the Old Testament documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in a cave at Qumran in 1947).

The sheer quantity of fulfilled prophecy within the Bible’s pages speak for the reliability of God’s Word itself. God’s promises can be trusted, and His faithfulness is demonstrated page after page.

While we don’t have the original manuscripts that were directly inspired by God, we do have so many historically verifiable copies, that we can have total confidence that what we have today accurately reflects those original manuscripts. In fact, the authenticity of ancient biblical manuscripts surpasses all other ancient literature. The Bible transcends culture and language in such a way that it can be faithfully translated into any language with meaning and accuracy.

Australians desperately need the Bible!

If God really has revealed himself in such a way, then we ought to pay attention to it! Without this knowledge of God, we will never truly understand ourselves. We may be able to see the majesty and power of God through the created world, but we will never know God personally nor his redemption for us apart from His self-revelation in the Bible. Our deepest need is to know our Creator and Redeemer.

Contradiction #4 – Who was at the tomb?

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:1 – When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him

John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Answer – Luke 24:10. There were several other women with Mary. Leaving some of them out doesn’t classify as a contradiction.

While this is in my opinion a clear cut case. I will take some time to discuss the difference between biblical inaccuracy and biblical contradictions.

Let’s first start with biblical inaccuracy. Our first challenge is to acknowledge that as a result of living 1000’s of years removed from the biblical culture we will never fully appreciate the customs and traditions of our biblical heroes. This extends to not having an instinctive appreciation for the things that were primarily important to them. An example is ‘Hebrew Numerology’. In a 21st century context it is not considered important to put hidden meanings into numbers, like 7, 12, 14, 1000, etc. Yet these numbers are scattered through the bible because it was highly important to the author and original reader, these numbers hold a very significant meaning. The opposite of this also applies. In a technological, information crazed society we 21st century humans crave accuracy. We place a high emphasis of the grammar, format, spelling of a document. We are a precise and controlling society that demands perfection in everything that we see, buy and want. If we go and buy a new car, the tiniest imperfection will cause us to rethink the value. How can we expect an author, writing some 2-5 thousand years before us to be writing to accommodate us? Isn’t it a little absurd to expect Matthew, Mark and John to change their perspective of importance to meet our needs. Further, isn’t it a bit irreverent to expect God to rethink what’s important to Him when inspiring these people to write the bible.

Now jumping to the alleged contradictions. Using some material from BibleGateway.com I learnt that a contradiction is something that both confirms and denies the same thing at the same time. Eg. I say the apple is red, you say the apple is green. We have contradicting opinions.

This inaccuracy in the bible doesn’t point to a contraction. Rather it shows us what was important to the people of that day and age.

If you were sitting in a restaurant and a customer pulled out a gun and shot the chef. And afterwards you were interviewed by the Police. You would probably remember what the man was wearing. What colour his skin was. You might even be able to identify the gun. But would you be able to remember these same things about the people who were sitting at his table? If the police asked all the people in the restaurant about his table… do you think they would all answer the same?

To the disciples of Jesus; who was with Mary was not really important; what was important was that Jesus’s body should have been in the tomb, and it wasn’t. Just like what the people were wearing on the table isn’t important compared to finding the man who shot the chef. In order to understand the word of God, I encourage you to read it deeper than the surface. Look for the supporting evidence before looking for the contradiction.