“HE TAUGHT THEM AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7: 29). The people who heard the Lord Jesus were astonished. They listened spellbound while He gave them a Word of power, of conviction and of truth that could not successfully be challenged. What had been a mark of the preaching of the great prophets of old was also evident in Him, yet in an even more convincing way. It was authority. What was its source? It was the Word of God (Mark 7:13; Luke 4:4; 8:11; 11:28). It was the Word which the Lord Jesus distinguished from the words of men (Matthew 15:3). It was called “the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). When He said, “It is written,” there was no doubt as to what He was referring. The holy Scriptures, or sacred writings, were continually in His mouth. This was truth (Daniel 10:21; John 17:17). Error was not in the Scriptures, but error came from not knowing them (Mark 12:24).
Authoritative Claims Of The Bible
“All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). The Scripture came from God as He breathed through men to produce the writings. “Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21 NASB). The Scriptures are giver “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13 NIV). The words are not said to have been dictated. The way in which God breathed them is not stated. Yet all Scripture was included and the words were those of the Spirit of God, not the product of the unaided intellect of man. Thus the Lord Jesus could refer to what “God said” (Matthew 15:4 NASB). The smallest flourish of a letter, indicating the most minute portion, could not fail (Matthew 5:18-19). Scripture could not be broken (John 10:35). It must be fulfilled, He said. How could it be otherwise when it came from “the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)?
The prophets were simply God’s messengers (Matthew 11:10). They were men “to whom the Word of the Lord came.’’ From Moses onward they repeated these claims (Exodus 4:10-16; Deuteronomy 4:2; Jeremiah 1:7-9; 9:12; Isaiah 40:5; 58:14; Amos 3:8; Micah 4:4). “Thus saith the Lord,” or variants, is used about 2600 times in the Old Testament. Succeeding writers acknowledged the authority of those who went before and were careful not to contradict them.
The New Testament repeatedly quotes the Old Testament as the Word of God or the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:2). Much of the New Testament, in fact, is made up of quotations from this source. Paul spoke in the same manner concerning his own writings (1 Corinthians 14:37). Peter supported Paul as writing Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). There was Divine authority for New Testament writing (Matthew 10:19-20; John 14:26; 16:12,15). The concluding book is attributed to God (Revelation 1:1) and ends with a warning against adding or subtracting to its words (Revelation 22:18-19). When the Bible speaks of the Word of God as “quick living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12), an “incorruptible” seed which generates new birth in a man (1 Peter 1:23), it is speaking of itself. Here is an interlocking of prophecy and fulfillment, of reference and cross-reference, of authoritative claim and authoritative acknowledgement. Here are 66 different books, written by over 40 men, over a period of 1500 years, fitted together like many stones in an amazing unity of testimony spread over the entire world, the greatest book ever given among men.
Transmission of the Bible
How can we be sure that we have the very words that God gave, and no others? Do we have the correct books and the correct text of those books as they were first given? Whatever God gave miraculously, He was certainly capable of preserving. The unity of our present Bible is itself a witness. The 66 books of our standard Bible today have been continuously received by communities of believers as being of Divine authority since their origin. Whenever men met to consider the subject, they sought to recognize what had already been accepted by believers generally. Their value and authority was not established by any decree of a church or vote of men. It already existed. The authors were men of leadership and standing. Such men of God in the Old Testament as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah and Jeremiah—or Paul, Peter, John and Matthew in the New Testament—were already accredited. The believers accepted their writings from the first, just as the Lord Jesus accepted the Old Testament (John 10:31-36; Luke 24:44) as that which came with divine authority.
In 1546 the Roman Catholic church added the 14 books known as the Apocrypha to the Old Testament books accepted by the Jews. This came in the midst of the Reformation controversy about whether the Bible or the church should be considered the final authority in matters of the faith. The very word “apocrypha” means “that which is of doubtful authenticity.” No book of the Apocrypha claims to be the Word of God. Neither the Lord Jesus nor any New Testament work quotes a single reference out of any of them. Today’s standard versions of the Bible, other than those of the Catholic church, use the same Old Testament books as those recognized by the Jews. The last book of the Old Testament was written before 400 B.C. and the accepted group, corresponding to our 39 books, was established no later than 200 B.C.
The earliest New Testament book was written about 45 A.D. and the last (Revelation) prior to 100 A.D. By 95 A.D. all of Paul’s epistles were collected. By 150 A.D. the four Gospels were collected. By 170 A.D. the New Testament in its present form was settled, except for a final agreement about 2 Peter. Other books were considered to be helpful but not divinely inspired (/ and 2 Epistles of Clement, Barnabas, the Didache). Some were rejected (Gospel of Thomas). Some were plainly labeled as forgeries (Gospel of Peter). There are no “lost books of the Bible.” The New Testament today contains the accepted 27 books of those days and no other.
Have the texts of these books been altered in any substantial way since these days so that they are not reliable? No, the Lord has guarded His Word. In 1947 there was a discovery of Old Testament manuscripts dating from 125 B.C. among documents called the Dead Sea Scrolls. The texts confirmed the reliability of our present versions. They were in accord with an extremely careful Hebrew version of 900 A.D. called the Masoretic text. This particular copying effort from earlier manuscripts required that each word and letter be counted and compared with the original. An Old Testament textual specialist, Dr. R. Laird Harris, says, “Except for trivialities, not one part in a thousand is in serious doubt and we have no objective evidence to make us think that doctrinal differences or substantial matters are involved in the whole process of Old Testament copying.”1
New Testament specialists have available to them over 4500 Greek manuscripts (some partial) of the New Testament, including fragments as old as 130 A.D. Substantial parts of the New Testament could be reconstructed from quotations by early church leaders of the second Century. Complete Bibles in their original form, dating from the Fourth Century, are available in museums. “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established,” said Sir Frederick Kenyon, former director of the British Museum.2
It is obvious that multitudes of copies agree as to the correct Bible text. But what about the original writings? It is notable that we do not have any original copies of works by such ancient writers as Plato, Cicero or Herodotus, but no one seriously questions the texts of their writings. Bible documents are dated closer to the originals than any other ancient writings and there are many more of them. Caesar’s Gallic Wars have only 10 old manuscripts, the earliest dating 900 years after the original, according to Dr. F. F. Bruce.3 The same is true of many other classics. The New Testament copies are within 100 years of composition in fragments and within 250 years in substantial sections. There is no valid basis for skepticism about our copies.
Testimony Concerning the Bible
The Bible is a book of history, not just of philosophical speculations. It is filled at the proper time period with references to ancient world empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome). World leaders of those periods appear on its pages (Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Sennacherib, Cyrus, Herod and Roman emperors). Cities, tribes, place names, titles and events occur from beginning to end. Customs, trade practices and other items of culture are intertwined with one another in the text. There were countless opportunities for inaccuracy at every step if the writers were making up stories at later dates or giving us mere legends or myths as critics often try to prove. Repeatedly attacks have been made upon certain statements as errors, only to be reversed by later evidence. The existence of cities (Ur of the Chaldees), peoples (the Hittites), personages (listed in Genesis 12-14), rulers (Belshazzar) and skills (writing in the time of Moses) have been denied and then reversed by later evidence. Critical bias and antagonism against the Bible has no precedent; other ancient writings are not treated this way. Yet despite word-by-word examination and historical investigation for centuries, it has stronger confirmation than ever, seemingly growing with each new Middle Eastern discovery. It is more impressive to consider the mammoth accumulation of positive evidence of truth rather than the trifling and minute things still being questioned.
Biblical archaeology is presently a separate division of this field of study, due to its development. The growth of confirmatory material over the past 100 years, unavailable in the past, is amazing. The foremost names in this field, including those who make no profession of being committed believers, have brought out detailed evidence in their books, confirming Biblical statements.
One of the foremost Jewish investigators, Nelson Glueck, has written: “No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”4 The greatest scholar of the western world in this field, Dr. W. F. Albright of Johns-Hopkins University, has written, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”5 Other names and volumes of proofs could be added as reinforcement.
Prophecy in the Bible
Prophecy is a prediction, in the form of an inspired utterance, concerning the future. It may be true or false. It may come from a man of God or from a deceiver. No stricter test for verification could be laid down than by Scripture itself. “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:22). In other words, anything less than 100% fulfillment cannot come from the God of Truth who knows all things, including the future. It is God’s method whereby we may verify the one who speaks for God and bears His word. This area is one of the most impressive evidences of God’s hand upon the Bible. Efforts have been made to destroy this argument by late-dating prophecies or by other devices, but many individuals are still brought to faith by the evidence.
A few simple guidelines demonstrate where the Bible prophecy differs from heathen imitations or those of modern spiritists, astrologers or fortune tellers. True prophecy must be:
1. Beyond Human Foreknowledge or influence. Normal means could not project the result. An example among many would be Daniel 9:24-26. Fulfillment began in 444 B.C. with the decree of King Artaxerxcs to rebuild Jerusalem. It was climaxed with the death of Jesus the Messiah 483 years later.
2. Detailed, Specific Predictions to rule out chance in terms of mathematical odds. The series of rulers in Daniel 11:1-35 and their histories is so matched with later history during the second and third century B.C. that critics insist it was written after the events. The destruction of Tyre by Alexander the Great exactly fulfilled Ezekiel 26:12.
3. Not Ambiguous, or capable of more than one interpretation. The prediction that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea is precise (Micah 5:2) as is the Lord’s betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).
4. Exactly Fulfilled, as in the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-2) when not one stone was left upon another of the temple.
The strongest and most obvious area of fulfilled prophecy is in the predictions about Messiah in the Old Testament, fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are but two of hundreds of passages that spell out predictions pointing unerringly to Him. The national history of the Jews, reaching to their present condition as a reestablished nation in the midst of hostile neighbors, is another vivid example. There are scores of other fulfillments for which naturalistic explanations are most unsatisfactory.
Difficulties in the Bible
The Bible tells us that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “The sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7 NIV). Man does not reject the Bible because he has carefully investigated it, with a willingness to submit to the God and Savior there revealed, and then been unable intellectually to accept the evidence. Rather his prejudice and rebellious spirit have led him to study the propaganda of unbelief or to accept the casual misstatements of the uninformed.
Any fair mind would admit there are difficulties in the Bible. However, our minds are corrupted by sin and secular pressures. We have little knowledge of ancient history and customs. We may never have seriously studied the Scripture, unhindered by biased criticism. It is a wonder that we ever come to read and believe its pages at all. If it were not for the grace and mercy of God we would not. Keep in mind the following factors before deciding that a difficulty prevents you from believing God’s Word.
1. Historical Questions have been raised repeatedly, only to be overcome by later evidence. Lysanias is named as a ruler in the times of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1). For a time, the only Lysanias known reigned 60 years before. Critics said the Bible erred until the later Lysanias was proved to have ruled in John’s time.
2. Bible Statements May Seem To Be In Conflict. The superscriptions on the cross of Jesus are recorded differently in the four Gospels. Yet each writer emphasized what was important to his own purpose. Were there two blind men or one outside a city when Jesus healed them? Obviously He met and healed the blind several times and on different occasions.
3. Errors In Interpretation are made. Jesus said that “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). He was not speaking of those then living. He was speaking of the race or stock of the Jewish people. “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18) does not oppose Genesis 32:30. This statement refers to the essence of God, not manifestations in certain forms.
4. Differing Aspects Of A Certain Doctrine Or Word are puzzling. God does move in the hearts of men according to His own will. Yet man is responsible to God and has a genuine choice to make. Both are true. God does not tempt man to do evil (James 1:13). He does test man as to faith (Genesis 22:1).
5. Miraculous Events Seem Beyond Possibility. Could a man live for three days in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1:17)? Seamen have had such an experience for shorter periods even in the last century. But a God who created the universe would not find this difficult, any more than raising the dead, which Jesus did, as also did the apostles.
6. Ignorance Of The Facts Or Background create a number of problems. Many times, questions are answered when we find out more information. Proofs that we can understand are greater than matters which we do not understand.
Lives Submitted to the Authority of the Bible
Heathen religions often leave their followers in a state of degradation. One considers the effect of Hinduism in India, animism in Africa and Asia and witchcraft in many places. The effect of the Bible upon the lives of those who conscientiously live according to its moral precepts is evident historically in nations or tribes and in the lives of people. Here is a spiritual message that liberates people from the tyranny of drug abuse, crime, gross immorality and savage practices. What person would not live a better life if he followed the Ten Commandments or lived by the teachings of Jesus? Yet beyond this, the Bible has a message about the way of eternal salvation through faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross. It answers the great questions which cannot be answered by philosophy, psychology and science. Where did I come from? Why am I here? What should I be doing with my life? How can I live eternally? Who is God and how can I know Him?
The source of the authority of the Bible is the God who has given His Word. The focus of that authority is the Lord Jesus Christ to whom the Father has given all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The moral authority of the Bible effectively will control my life when I am under the authority of the Lord Jesus. We truly believe the Bible when we submit to God, to His Word and to Christ.
Authority Of The Bible
1.Since the Bible was written by men, critics doubt its authenticity (truthfulness) and its inerrancy (lack of error). What do the following writers indicate about the origin of their words?
Joshua - Joshua 1:1 Jeremiah - Jeremiah 1:1-2; 2:1
David - 2 Samuel 23:2 Ezekiel - Ezekiel 1:2-3; 2:1; 3:1; 6:1
Isaiah - Isaiah 42:5; 43:1 Paul - 1 Corinthians 11:23
2.What does Peter say about the authority of the Word? (2 Peter 1:21)
About his own writings (2 Peter 1:16-19)?
About Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15-16)?
3.How did Christ lend His authority to the validity of the Old Testament?
4.The Genesis account of the creation of man, as well as other supernatural events described in the Bible, are being attacked by those who wish to discredit the Bible. Still others “spiritualize” the events, making them allegorical rather than literal. What attitude does Jesus take toward such events recorded in the Old Testament?
Mark 10:6 (Compare with 1 Corinthians 11:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:13)
5.The authority of the Word of God is often subtly attacked by the argument that certain Scripture has local application only, and therefore “does not apply to us today.” This argument is especially used against Pauline teaching regarding the role of women, for example.
How does Paul emphasize to the Corinthians that his teachings are not limited to them only (1 Corinthians 14:36)?
How might you answer the argument of some that Paul’s writings reflect merely personal opinion or cultural bias (1 Corinthians 14:37)?
6. What are four things that Scripture is good for (2 Timothy 3:16)? Explain what you think each one means.
You may wish to refer to the NOTES in answering 7, 8 and 9.
7. How would you respond to the statement, “I really don’t think the Bible is completely adequate for a lot of issues that we face today. I think that the church and individual Christians have to use other resources for some of the problems we face today.”
8. How would you respond to the criticism that modern study has proved that the Bible has errors?
9. How would you respond to the question, “How do you know the Bible is true?”
10. What practical difference does it make in your life whether or not the Bible is inspired of God?
Read Appendix A, “Personal Evangelism Packet,” and begin memorizing one verse per week (odd numbers: A-l, A-3, etc.).
1 Can I Trust My Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), p. 132.
2 The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1940), p. 289.
3 The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, 111: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), p. 16f.
4 Rivers in the Desert (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1959), p. 31.
5 Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1942), p. 176.