Sunday, March 9, 2014

P2 - A pastor gives six reasons why you can know that today's Bibles are God's word

Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (NASB)
Introduction: The words that are my life                                                                     
As a pastor, I am constantly pouring over the text repeatedly, prayerfully and studiously asking the following questions: What is it saying? What does it mean? Where is Christ in this text? And how do I apply it to my life? The words of the Bible are my life, because they connect me to the life, voice and Person of Jesus Christ. Spiritual and physical life hang upon whether the words before me are words of God or words of men.

With the above introduction, I aim to offer six reasons as to why you can believe and trust that the English version or translation you are studying, reading or applying are the words of God. Yesterday we focused upon

the following three reasons:
1. Jesus said so
2. Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls
3. Amazing agreement between the ancient copies and versions of the Old Testament.

In today's post we will focus on three more reasons as to why you can know that today's Bibles are God's word.

1. The Historic Christian position on the scriptures has been that they are the inerrant and infallible Word of God

Here is a demonstration of how the historic Christian Church from the very beginning has held to the flawless character of the scriptures (i.e inerrancy) as rooted in the flawless character of God who cannot lie:

1. Clement of Rome: “The utterances of the Holy Ghost” (95 A.D)

2. Clement of Alexandria “Receive from God through the scriptures” (150-211 A.D)

3. Origien notes that the authorship of the Holy Spirit precludes mistakes of the human authors (185-250)

4. Irenaeus “Scripture is the perfection of God’s words” (200 A.D)

5. Polycarp “Scripture is the voice of the most high God” (65-155 A.D)

6. Tertullian “writings and words of God” (160-225 A.D)

7. Samuel Rutherford “Bible is surer than a direct oracle from heaven” (1600-1661)

8. Luther notes that the “scriptures are the throne upon which Christ presides over His church” (16th century)

9. Richard Baxter (1615-1691); Calvin (1483-1546); Knox (1509-1564); Wesley (1714-1770) all affirm this doctrine.

Many of the above ancient and more recent Christian leaders have notes in their commentaries where they cite knowledge of different readings and the process they undertook to determine which words were most likely the original. Having personally read many of their writings, it is very interesting that these men arrive at the conclusion that not one doctrine or truth has been lost in the 1500 year hand-copied transmission history of the New Testament (or the even longer transmission history of the Old Testament).

2. The overall agreement between the copies and translations of the New Testament.
In comparative studies of ancient documents, if one can attain even 90% agreement between hand-copied manuscripts and find dozens of such documents for a given writing, there is a general good feeling about the reliability and preservation of the writing of that philosopher or sage. In the case of the Old Testament we have roughly over 3,000 manuscripts of the Hebrew text alone, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% agreement. 

In the case of the Greek New Testament and its ancient versions, we have 15,000 to 20,000 examples (this includes nearly 5700 Greek manuscripts stretching from the 2nd century all the way into the post-reformation period).1 However through the science of textual criticism, we can determine well within 99% certainty what the original text looked like. Furthermore, not one doctrine of Christianity is compromised or altered. Hence we can say with conviction that the Bibles we have today carry the authority of infallibility and inerrancy that would had been the original autographs.

3. God cannot lie, which is why we state that the original manuscripts were without error. This point is important, being that whenever we say a document is God’s word, we are saying every word, and every part of that document is always true and trustworthy (stating of inerrancy and infallibility in positive senses). (Titus 1:2) You cannot derive reliable, trustworthy copies from error laden originals. Too often hostile critics point out the variants in manuscript copies as proof that the original texts had to had been error filled themselves. However their hasty generalization lies in the fact that those differences derive not from the original sources, but the process of copying itself. Furthermore, variants of spelling and word order do not equal factual and reporting error on matters of history, personages or general scientific facts. Would not the textual stream of both Old and New Testament reflect far less stability if that were the case? The remarkable stability of the textual streams of Old and New Testaments in comparison to other documents of antiquity demonstrate that the source documents were indeed reliable and without error.

More tomorrow....
1. Furthermore, even between a manuscript such as Codex Siniaticus (325 A.D), which is considered part of the older Alexandrian textual tradition, versus, say Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, based upon available Byzantine Greek manuscripts of the middle ages, there is only 2% difference. The differences and variations between the thousands of Greek manuscripts (5688 as of this writings) are expected for hand-copied texts.

No comments:

Post a Comment