Friday, February 20, 2015

P9 - Why the Bible is the only Trustworthy and Inerrant Word of God - reasons to trust it

2 Timothy 3:15-16 "and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

As we continue on in this series "Why the Bible", we noted yesterday where this particular blogger comes from when it comes to teaching, preaching or writing about the Bible. In unfolding the doctrines of revelation and inspiration in that post, the stage was set for what we will be looking at today, namely reasons to trust the Bible as being the only trustworthy word of God. Today's post will consider three reasons why we can trust the Bible as the only trustworthy Word of God. Notice first of all that the Bible was/is....

1. Perfectly written (inerrant). 2 Timothy 3:15. 
When Paul wrote to Timothy regarding the "sacred" writings or scriptures, he was refering to their character as being "pure", "holy" or "set apart". In an earlier post in this series we explored at at length the meaning and significance of this term "sacred" and "holy". Paul in effect is saying that the Bible's authority as God's Word is due to the fact that is without error as originally revealed. That absolute quality as describing the original manuscripts or autographs is the base for the Bible's authority. Moreover, such authority carries on down the stream of every copy and translation that stays true to the wording of the originals. 

As scholar Dr. Wayne Grudem has noted in His Systematic Theology: “For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts. Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99 percent of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are exact copies of the originals. Furthermore, we know where the uncertain readings are (for where there are no textual variants we have no reason to expect faulty copying of the original).” So the Bible is the only trustworthy Word of God due to the fact it is perfectly written or without error, both in fact of its original production and inasmuch as the copies and translations are faithful to those words. But notice a second point....

2. Preserved down to today. 2 Tim 3:15. 
This closely related truth is significant, in that the words in our Bibles today are claiming to be the same as those originally written. When comparing all of the manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, the tedious and technical science of textual criticism has aimed for the past two centuries to recover what the original wording would had been like, since we don't possess the original documents of the Old or New Testaments. 

Keeping all of these details in their proper perspective can enable specialists and non-specialists alike to avoid the extreme skepticism of those scholars that doubt the reliability of the Bible. Paper trails, whether in the world of banking, housing or Biblical studies gives evidence and proof of authenticity and reliability of the documentation. Even within the manuscripts themselves, as time went forward, the knowledge of variants between the manuscripts prompted scribes to preserve all of them. Why? To have a paper trail and to assert the belief that not one of God’s words had been lost in the copying process. Much like the paper money in wallet, whereby the one using it has confidence in the reliability of the money they use despite never having seen the original mint plates from whence they were made, such is the case with the Bible. We can trust that the inerrancy of scripture that originally made up the autographs of the Old and New Testament carries down in the doctrines, details and words preserved and faithfully translated in accords with those documents.

It always amazes this writer how easily skeptics will accept other writings of antiquity with no issue and yet level unwarranted criticism at the Old and New Testament writings. How does the Bible stack up in the time between its original production and copies, as well as the rate of accuracy? Dr. Randall Price, Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at Liberty University, notes the following:

Author      Approx.     Earliest     Time     Number
                 Date           Copy        Span      Copies
Caesar     100-44bc     900 ad     1000 yrs   10
Livy         59bc-17ad   350 ad      400 yrs     27
Plato       420-347bc   900 ad      1200 yrs   7
Thucydides  460-400bc  900 ad   1300 yrs    20
Tacticus      5-120 ad    1100 ad  1000 yrs    3
Suetonius   6-140 ad    950 ad     800 yrs    200+
Herodotus  484-425bc  1st cent.  400 yrs     75
Homer       900 bc        400 bc     500 yrs    643
New Test.  40-95 ad   100-150 ad  25-50 yrs 6800     
Concerning the rate of accuracy between the copies of ancient manuscripts, scholarship applauds if there is anything approaching 90%. All the non-biblical ancient manuscripts above never get higher than 90%. Yet the Hebrew Old Testament, having some 3,000 Hebrew copies plus translations, averages over 95% accuracy and the New Testament boasts an over 99% accuracy rate of copying among its 25,000 plus manuscripts and ancient translations. 

So with manuscripts with admitted differences between them, did that mean then that the Word of God itself, as well as its authority as the inerrant, infallible rule and standard of faith and practice cease to exist? Jesus didn't think so (Matthew 5:18; 24:39), nor the apostles (2 Timothy 3:15). The quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament stem from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Moreover, of church history records statements by Christian leadersregarding how they viewed the Bibles of their day:

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. Origen 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.

Like us today, the Christians and church throughout the centuries understood that they still had the words of God, even though they, like us, worked with copies or translations of the scriptures. This issue is peristently attacked today by extreme skeptics, and yet when compared to the evidence, there is no good reason to deny the trustworthiness of the Bible as God's Word when it comes to its perfect writing (inerrancy) nor it preservation. Now lets consider one final area... 

3. Clearly revealed to be understood (and thus lived out in our daily lives). 2 Tim 3:16. 
We have already explored in more depth in previous posts the exact meaning and significance of Divine inspiration. Inspiration refers to the writing down of God's revelation by the Prophets and Apostles. Inspiration tells the reader about the "event" of the production of sacred scripture, even though we are not privy to its exact details. (see 2 Peter 1:20-21) The word in 2 Timothy 3:16 that we are interested in today's post is the word translated "profitable". When something is profitable, it has within it the quality of being clearly understood as being so. This of course does not mean that all scripture will be as easy to understand as other scriptures. However, as the scripture is studied and as other scripture is brought to bear in shedding light on other portions, the meaning of the scripture will be made clear by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 1 John 2:20,27). As Paul lays out to Timothy the profitability or clear applicability of scripture:

1. For teaching, which tells me what is right

2. For reproof, to alert me when I'm not right

3. For correction, to show me how to get right

4. For training in righteousness, to show me how to stay right

Then 2 Timothy 3:17 notes - "so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." The word translated "equipped" refers to someone being "well put-together". Only a book that is made clear by the Holy Spirit and having been originally inspired by Him could perform all the functions explained in this post. 

Closing thoughts
Today we looked specifically as to why anyone should trust the Bible as the only Trustworthy Word of God. We labored to show three reasons:
1. Perfectly written
2. Preserved
3. Clearly revealed to be understood, and thus lived out in our daily lives

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