"You have Scripture for a master instead of me; from there you can learn whatever you would know."
In all things we always have a basis for what we believe in. Whenever we’re engaged in an intense discussion over anything we would always invoke the basis or authority of our argument, we often say: ‘on whose authority?’ or ‘the basis of what?’ or do you have a reference upon which you would like to rest your case on?’ In other words, there’s always a burden of proof on our part about the things we believe. The same could be said when it comes to our belief in orthodox Christianity, we need to have a basis upon which our faith rests, for our belief is not a mere illogical transfer of our trust on someone or something but on God’s self revelation through the Bible.
Literally, Bible means “book”, which is referred to by the historic Christian church as the written Word of God. The first words of the book show that God is the leading character of this divine autobiography: ”In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1). Its pages show us God taking the initiative, giving us information about Himself, showing His purposes for us – His creation. 1
The Bible is God’s chosen instrument, God unfolds for us His true character upon which He tells us where we came from, what our ultimate destiny is, and the purpose of our lives. He gives practical instruction, heartfelt encouragements, warnings and divine wisdom. All from our Creator. Here God’s unrivaled power and integrity are also unveiled.2
In this study we will ascertain why the Bible is trustworthy of our faith and hope, because it is God’s written communication to us.
From the Greek term graphe, which literally means: “that which is written.” In other words, the sacred writings. When we rely on the Bible, we rely on that which has been written, which is very significant because it means that God didn’t simply think His message. He didn’t simply speak His message or reveal it in the clouds or through dreams to men and women in biblical times. No, He saw to it that His Word was actually written down. He put it in the language of the people so that people in all generations could read and grasp its significance. He “graphed” His Word. We’re grateful we have a book that contains the very mind of God – the Scriptures – in written form. 3
John 17:14-17 – “Thy Word is truth”.
Which basically means that our belief has basis in the veracity, and reliability of Scripture. This is not human counsel; it is truth – divine counsel. We are sanctified by truth in God’s Word.
We talk about the Word of God as truth. We are right to do so. But we have to acknowledge when we speak along those lines that the world of our day no longer strictly believes in truth. But here we have truth embodied in Scriptures…
Here the efficacy of the Word of God comes in: the fact that God really uses the Word to accomplish His purposes, whether men and women believe in the Word of truth or not. 4
Romans 3:2 – “the very words of God” in Scripture is entrusted to the Apostles which is related to the previous passage because the context of that passage relates to Jesus’ praying for His disciples who will carry out the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – these words are at work in us who believe, again we see that as John pointed it out we are: ‘sanctified in truth.’
Apostle Paul speaks of Scripture as “the very words of God.” Which means that early on in the Christian church believers equate Scriptures as God’s very words.
What the Bible characters liked Scriptures to
Ezekiel 3:3 – Honey to my mouth
Job 23:12 – spiritual food for the hungry ‘daily bread’
Colossians 3:16 – must dwell in us richly
Psalm 119:105, 160 – a lamp unto my feet (v.105) perfect and trustworthy (v.160)
Jeremiah 15:16 – the joy and delight of one’s heart
Jeremiah 20:9 – a fire that burns in one’s heart
Psalm 19:7,9-10 - more precious than gold
Hebrews 4:12 – sharper than a two-edged sword
"Scripture is not only man's word, but also, and equally God's word, spoken through man's lips or written with man's pen."5
2 Peter 2:20-21 – “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”
The Bible originated in the mind of God, not in the mind of man. It was given to man by inspiration. The Bible is not inspired as we say the writings of Shakespeare were inspired or the music of Bach was inspired. The biblical sense of inspiration means: “God so superintended the writers of Scriptures that they wrote what He wanted them to write, disclosing the exact truth He wanted conveyed. 6
2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
The term inspiration comes from Latin and English translations of the Greek word theopneustos, which literally means "God-breathed".
Inspiration establishes that the Bible is a divine product. In other words, Scripture is divinely inspired in that God actively worked through the process and had his hand in the outcome of what Scripture would say. Inspired Scripture is simply written revelation. 7
"Among those things which are said openly in Scripture are to be found all those teachings which involve faith, the mores of living, and that hope and charity which we have discussed." 8
III. Inerrancy and infallibility
Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrines or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences.9
Some scholars see infallibility as a less restrictive term than "inerrancy" in discussing the reliability of the Bible. The infallibility of the Bible means that it does not err or is incapable of error in all things that is of spiritual, religious or redemptive themes. Which makes what is testified of the Scripture about doctrines like the Personhood and nature of God and the salvific value of Jesus’ work on the Cross, certain and complete.
Matthew 5:18 - "not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen" - renders that all that is written as a truth that will ultimately be fulfilled
John 10:34-36 Jesus testified that Scripture couldn’t be broken in v. 34 quoting Psalm 82:6
Acts 1:16 - Testimony of a fulfilled prophecy in Scripture
Galatians 3:16 – Scriptures testify to the realization of God’s covenant with Abraham in Christ.
2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV) - And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16b
IV. Historicity and Preservation of Scriptures
Through the centuries Scribes worked with such precision and reverence that they wiped their pens clean each time before writing the name of God. We now have thousands of miraculously preserved copies, differing from each other only in minute ways. One scholar likened the differences to English spellings of honor and honour, both considered correct.
God sovereignly guarded and protected the copies of the original text.10
The Old Testament
1. The abundance of manuscripts
As early as the 1700s Benjamin Kennicott published 615 OT manuscripts, and a few years later Giovani de Rossi published 731 manuscripts. Furthermore, beginning around 1890 around ten thousand manuscripts were discovered in Cairo Geniza. In addition to these manuscripts, more were discovered in the caves by the Dead Sea at Qumran in 1947, also known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The largest collection of manuscripts in the world, the Second Firkowitch Collection in Leningrad, contains 1,582 items of Bible and Masora or Masoretic texts (manuscripts from the 6th-9th century AD) text, plus twelve hundred Hebrew fragments.11
Most of the OT manuscripts in our possession are dated between A.D. 800-1100. However, due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating as far back as the third century B.C., the accuracy of these later manuscripts has been attested.
2. Their accuracy
In evaluating the evidence there is both internal and external evidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide the best external evidence and show that the later manuscripts that we possess were in fact preserved through close to 1,000 years. We can be confident that the texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls were used to transmit the text that is found in the later documents. Comparative studies have been made and the results reveal a word-for-word identity in some 95% of the text. Due to the help of the Septuagint (also known as the LXX), we can also crosscheck the accuracy of the transmission of the texts. Through internal evidence we can view the duplicate passages we have in the OT (i.e. Isaiah 36-39 and 2 Kings 18-20; Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 25, and others) and realize that they are accurate as well.
3. The reliability of the authors
The authors of the OT present real history, about real people, and in real locations. Much of this has been proven through the finds of biblical archaeology. World-renowned archaeologist William F. Albright states, "There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition (Albright, Archaeology and Religion of Israel, p. 176). Nelson Glueck adds that, "As a matter of fact... it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail statements in the Bible (Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31). The biblical authors told the truth, and biblical archaeology has confirmed this without error.
The New Testament
Christianity is "built upon the foundation of faith in the historical Jesus who is revealed by the historical New Testament documents. It is of utmost importance that these documents show themselves to be trustworthy and reliable since they are the primary documentary sources substantiating the object of the Christian faith, who is Jesus Christ. Unlike other religious systems, which simply express a code of ethic, morality, and philosophical ideas, the Bible claims to be God's divine revelation for all of mankind and it verifies its claims through historical evidence. As New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce notes, "And this Good News is intimately bound up with the historical order, for it tells how the world's redemptive God entered into history, the Eternal came into time, the Kingdom of heaven invaded the realm of earth, in the great events of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ." Given the extraordinary historical events that the Bible records, it is crucial to determine two things: (1) The reliability of the New Testament documents and (2) The reliability of the New Testament witnesses. If we cannot establish the reliability of these sources, then we have no objective way to evaluate the historical sayings, deeds, and claims of Jesus and his disciples." 12
Conclusion: Sola Scriptura
Scripture alone (from the Reformation slogan Sola Scriptura) is the teaching that Scripture is the Church's only infallible and sufficient rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines. While the Bible does not contain all knowledge, it does contain that which is necessary for salvation. Indeed, if something is not found in Scripture, it is not binding upon the believer. This view does not deny that the Church has the authority to teach God's Word. Furthermore, while tradition is valuable, it but must be tested by the higher authority of the Scriptures. 13
Why is this important? Because in the end we would come to a point when we’ll have to ask ourselves as to what is our final authority in life. For us Christians there is a growing question of relevance especially in the theological truths that we hold-fast to.
There can be no more reliable authority on earth than God’s Word, in the Bible. This timeless, trustworthy source of truth holds the key that unlocks life’s mysteries. It alone provides us with the shelter we need in times of storm.
In a world of relativism, (which is best described in terms of ‘constructed realities’) the Bible talks in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no, true and false. In a world where we’re encouraged to do it “if it feels good,” the Bible addresses that which is sinful and holy. Scripture never leaves us with a bewildered look on our faces, wondering about the issues of life. It says, “This is the way it is. That’s the way it ought to be. This is the way to walk; do not walk there.” It tells us straight. It provides us the kind of solid foundation that you and I need. 14
Pragmatic trends in theology also short-changes us into focusing on the immediate practical benefit of Scripture, which is the popular approach of treating the Bible as a mere guidebook or manual for pious living, which is not bad in principle but is somewhat short sighted especially since Scripture also testifies that Jesus in His earthly ministry did not merely focus on the immediate and practical benefit of His ministry, whenever He sought those whom He healed and told them: “your faith has healed you.”
Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:50, 17:19, 18:42
Paul Little once told of the story of his student who once told him: “When I read the Bible, I fall asleep.”
Perhaps he overlooked the fact that it was the God of the universe. Who spoke these words. When this gets into the marrow of our bones, the words fly off the pages to us and are nothing short of life-changing. 15
1 Little, Paul – Know What Your Believe p. 7
3 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Life p. 58
4 Boice, James Montgomery– The Marks of the Church, p. 80
5 Packer, J.I. The Origin of the Bible, p. 31
6 Loc cit
8 Augustine, On Christian Doctrine trans. by D.W. Roberston, Jr. (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1958) 11:9.
10 Loc cit
11 Geisler, Norman - Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 439
12 John Rosser