Is the Bible Trustworthy, Part 2 – Answering the Skeptics

Intro: Read the words to # 435 (How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts) “Thy word is everlasting truth, How pure is every page”

Do you believe that about the Bible you own? How much confidence can you place in the scriptures? Can you trust the Bible? Our discussion of the faithfulness of God this month, led us to a further study of the trustworthiness of God’s book, the Bible. Last week we discussed the Bible’s claim of inspiration.

  • The Bible claims to be the very words of God. That is either true or it is not true. If the Bible is not the product of God, then it was the literary product of deceitful or at best delusional men. If it is the word of God as it claims then we cannot take what it says lightly. It demands our meditation and obedience.
  • Last week we looked at the apostle’s declarative statement concerning the inspiration of scripture in 2 Tim. 3:16-17. But notice the preceding statement in verse. 14-15 – 2 Timothy 3:14-15 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Paul says that the Holy scriptures are the source of true wisdom; the wisdom that will save us. The apostle was speaking in reference to the canon of the O.T. scriptures that Timothy had been taught since he was an infant. Those scriptures spoke of Jesus. Timothy could trust what he had been taught because scripture is inspired of God. And God is faithful.
  • Note: in a moment we are going to invite those in our audience who are not Christians to declare their allegiance to Jesus through confession and baptism. We believe what the scriptures reveal about Him and we know that you cannot be saved without obeying Him.
  • But let’s discuss the Bible. Can you trust it? What do people think of the Bible?

I. Do We Trust the Bible? Do most people in America believe that the Bible is the word of God (as we have been discussing it)? Has public perception changed?

  • Back in 1963, two out of three Americans asked by the Gallup polling organization said they believed “the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.”
  • But now, Gallup polls show that less than one in three believe the same thing—an alarming drop!
  • Bible skepticism is now as equally prevalent as Bible engagement. A Barna research group conducted a study this year (2014) that indicates a significant increase in skepticism toward the Bible. For the first time since tracking began, Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement. The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible—who believe that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice”—has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years. This is now equal to the number of people who are Bible engaged—who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God. 2/3 of Bible skeptics are 48 or younger.
  • Bible skepticism increases with increased exposure to secular education. Those who study under today’s college professors and are exposed the modern educational experience are more likely to become Bible skeptics. This corresponds inversely to those who attend church services and are active in their study of the Bible. Our society does not produce individuals who respect or believe the Bible.
  • Beyond that, in a somewhat recent poll of 10,000 U.S. “clergymen” (or church leaders) when asked if they believed that the Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant Word of God in faith, history, and secular matters: 95% of Episcopalians said “No.” 87% of Methodists said “No.” 82% of Presbyterians said “No.” 77% of American Lutherans said “No.” 67% of American Baptists said “No.”

A. Why Don’t People Believe in the Bible? Here are some of the mot common allegations against the Bible:

        • The Bible is just a book of stories (not a trustworthy or accurate document)
        • The Bible is filled with contradictions.
        • The Bible is outdated.
        • The Bible is scientifically inaccurate. None of these allegations are true, yet they are accepted without question by many.

II. Evidence In Support of the Bible: There is abounding evidence that the Bible is a reliable and trustworthy guide – both internal (from the Bible itself) and externally (from other sources). We will consider both. There are some things about the Bible that are undeniable.

A. The Bible is Unified. By that we mean that the message and content of the books of the Bible consistently agree.

1. Amazing agreement: Who wrote the Bible? All together about 40 different authors were involved in both the O.T & N.T.

            • These men were from different cultures and countries and spoke different languages – Moses, a political leader, trained in the Egypt; Peter, a fisherman; Amos, a herdsman; Joshua, a military general; Nehemiah, a cupbearer; Daniel, a prime minister; Luke, a doctor; Solomon, a king; Matthew, a tax collector; Paul, a rabbi.
            • How long did it take them?Traditional chronology says about 1500 years. To put this in perspective, if were going to create a set of documents on the history, religion and culture of a people in the same way today, the authors would have begun their writing about 500 A.D. or just after the fall of the Roman Empire. Who could believe that these authors would maintain a unity of thought or purpose? That they would maintain the same moral perspective and conclusions?

a. Yet from Genesis to Revelation, the major themes never change (love, faith, obedience, mercy) The nature of God is consistent throughout. This unity is unique in the world’s literary history.

b. Obvious lack of cultural misconceptions: Consider, Moses. Although a Hebrew by birth, he lived in a thriving Egyptian culture. He was reared in Pharaoh’s court and “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). We would expect his writings to be heavily influenced by Egyptian thinking (such as current thoughts on medicine). One medical doctor writes: “From the record we discover that Moses had so much faith in God’s regulations that he did not incorporate a single current [Egyptian] medical misconception into the inspired instructions … The divine instructions were not only devoid of harmful practices, but had many detailed positive recommendations” (Dr. S.I. McMillen, None of These Diseases, 1972, p. 10).

c. One of the foremost Bible scholars of the past century, F.F. Bruce, wrote: “The Bible is not simply an anthology [a collection of books]; there is a unity which binds the whole together … Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible” (The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible, 1984, pp. 88-89).

B. The Bible is Accurate: One of the striking differences between the Bible and other ancient writings is the absence of myths and legends in the historical account. Other creation accounts in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America include such mythological scenarios as gods feuding and cutting up other gods to form the heavens and the earth. The religious works of the Greeks described the earth being held up by the god Atlas, while in India, the Hindu religion pictured the earth as supported on the backs of eight huge elephants.

1. Yet the Bible describes God hanging the earth “on nothing” (Job 26:7). This was written millennia before Isaac Newton discovered the invisible laws of gravity that showed the earth truly is suspended “on nothing.”

2. The creation account is presented in terms that accord with all known scientific laws. In Genesis 1, the continents are lifted from the seas, and each living thing reproducing “after its own kind”.

3. The Bible is Historically Accurate: No archeological evidence has ever disproved a Biblical reference. Nelson Glueck, a specialist in ancient literature, said: “It can be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”

4. For many centuries, the Old Testament stood as the lone historical record of numerous events, places and people of the ancient world. Many of these records were once publicly ridiculed by skeptics of the Bible as being inauthentic and incorrect. It was reasoned that since no mention of them had been found in any other historical writing that this proved once and for all that the Bible was incorrect. Recent archeological discoveries, however, have proven the Bible to be correct in great detail and those who opposed it to be false.

            • In Genesis 11:31, for instance, Abraham (Abram) is said to have lived in the city of Ur. The existence of this great city was often scorned until recent archeological diggings uncovered its ancient ruins. Temples, houses, and even the king’s and queen’s tombs have been discovered.
            • The ancient Egyptian city of Pithom – Ex 1:8-11 – Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses The city of Pithom was considered a mistake for generations. But the ruins have been uncovered and storehouses fitting the description of those built by the Israelites have been found, the lower portion containing brick with straw and the upper portion containing brick without straw. (See Exodus 1:11; 5:7), confirming the Bible’s account of the events preceding the Exodus.
            • The mummy of Neneptah II, widely believed to be the Pharaoh of the exodus, has been discovered. A hymn to him mentions Israel and the inscription tells of the death of his young son, possibly the one mentioned in the last plague (Exodus 12:29).
            • In Genesis 14, the Bible speaks of Abraham’s victory over Chedorlaomer and five Mesopotamian kings. For years, the critics stated that these accounts were fictitious and many people discredited the Bible. In the 1960s, however, the Ebla tablets were discovered in northern Syria. The Ebla kingdom was a powerful kingdom in the twentieth century B.C. The Ebla tablets are records of its history. Thousands of tablets have been discovered. What is important is that many of these tablets make a reference to all five cities of the plain proving the Genesis 14 account to be accurate.
            • For many years the skeptics cast doubt on the story of the fall of Jericho in Joshua. But 1930 the city’s ruins were unearthed, and the walls were shown to have fallen outward rather than inward.
            • The Hittites – mentioned from Gen. 15 through the book of Nehemiah. At one time the only knowledge the world had of the Hittites was that found in the Old Testament. This led many to doubt or deny the existence of such a people. Some charged the Bible with error because it mentioned a people of which the historians had no known record. But by 1906 the Hittite capital near modern Turkey was being excavated. Courses in Hittite civilization are now offered in major universities.
            • the House of David – although a major person in O.T. history, until 1993 there was no mention of a King David in any archeological inscription. Many discounted the references to David as a Jewish legend or mythical character. In 1993 a stele was discovered in the city of Dan that mentioned a certain king’s victory over the “king of Israel” and “the house of David”. The skeptics were proven wrong.

5. It is astounding that the Bible is flawless in its references to people and places. The New Testament alludes to the names of some 30 different people, between 40 and 50 countries, about the same number of foreign cities, and 36 Syrian and Palestinian towns. The majority of these have been eventually identified. There are 44 Old Testament and 17 New Testament persons for whom archaeological confirmation exists with an additional 11 cited in literary sources for a total of 63 biblical figures historically authenticated.

a. McGarvey aptly summarizes the evidence: Whether its writers speak of their own or of foreign lands, they always speak with faultless accuracy, so that their angus-eyed critics for two thousand years have not been able to detect them in an error. This accuracy extends not only [to] the relative location of places, and to the points of the compass, but to the most minute details, even to the relative elevations of places mentioned in the narratives.

C. The Bible Tells the Future: It boldly proclaims specific historical events to come in the future. No other ancient sacred book dares to deal with time in this way with unmatched results. Norman Geisler states.. “No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfulfilled … Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophecy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible” (Norman Geisler and William Nix, 1986, p. 13).

1. One incredible example of prophecy is found in the book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah was written from 767 – 686 B.C. (“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” )

a. Yet, in Isaiah 44, God reveals to Isaiah a coming ruler who would permit Jerusalem to be rebuilt after its destruction—although in Isaiah’s day Jerusalem was still standing!

b. God not only tells of the ruler’s arrival, but gives Isaiah his name! Isaiah 44:24-2824 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; 25 Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, And drives diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness; 26 Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited, ‘To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places; 27 Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; 28 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”‘

c. 150 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, the Persian ruler Cyrus came to power and allowed the Jews to return.

              • Adam Clarke points out that “This Cyrus should say to the temple: “Thy foundation shall be laid.” Not-thou shalt be built. The fact is, only the foundation was laid in the days of Cyrus, the Ammonites having prevented the building; nor was it resumed till the second year of Darius, one of his successors. There is often a precision in the expressions of the prophets which is as honorable to truth, as it is unnoticed by careless readers.”

2. There are over 300 prophetic references in the O.T. to the Messiah; 90 of these O.T. prophecies about Jesus are quoted in the N.T. What are the chances that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies by chance (just a coincidence)?

a. Peter Stoner in his book Science Speaks, has chosen only eight of these Messianic prophesies and has calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling all eight of these prophesies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power (1 x 1017). How large is that number?

              • You take that number of silver dollars and place them in Texas. It would cover the whole state 2 feet deep. Mark one and ask a blind man to pick that one dollar. The odds of the man picking the marked dollar would be the same as the odds of all eight of these prophesies coming true in any one man.
              • What are the chances that Jesus fulfilled only half of the O.T. prophecies that are mentioned in the N.T. as being fulfilled by Him?
              • Stoner later considers 48 Messianic prophesies. The odds of them all being fulfilled in any one man is one in 10157!

Conclusion: Those who choose to discount the Bible or consider it a book of myths are exercising an enormous amount of blind faith. The evidence points in the other direction.The question we are considering is both fundamental and personal. You must make a choice about the Bible. You must make a choice about Christ.