Can We Trust it?

THE BIBLE FOR GROWN UPS

CAN WE TRUST THE IT?

Many people’s faith are being called into questions, mostly because of where their faith was placed.  For many christians, their faith is place in: ‘BECAUSE THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.’  But the answer is becoming so hard to give.

Life circumstances:  “Why Does God allow…”  “Why is this happening to me?”  Questions about its historical accuracy.  Questions like: “is it just a religious text?”  Questions about possible contradictions.

Many people are walking away from the faith today because they may know the stories in the bible, but have never learned the story of the bible.  And that is a very important distinction to make.

THE REASON WHY SO MANY PEOPLE 

ARE LOSING THEIR FAITH 

IS BECAUSE THEIR FAITH 

WAS TIED TO A BOOK.

First off, we do not place our faith in the book for the book’s sake.  

Our faith is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain… 

…For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…

…But now Christ has been raised from the dead…He has put all things in subjection under His feet….

So after a message like last week’s; this is a great follow up message. Let’s start with a couple of questions:

So what about the bible?   Do we need?  Should we read it?  Should we follow it?  Can we trust it?  The answer is, yes!  But why?  How can we trust it?  What should be our approach?

For those that want to bring the Bible, Jesus, Christianity in general into question:  They may start with something like this:  All of our claims are only found in the Bible.  And this is the purpose or intent of their question.  To those that want to tear down the faith, they approach is this, if I can bring one part of it down then the whole thing will crumble.  But that is not true! This is about how and why we can place our faith in the bible.  

Now, many try to use Bible verses to prove that can trust it.   Who have heard:

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God

But this is like using the word in the definition.  It’s like saying because the bible tells me so.  This is The Bible for Grown-Ups.  Before we get to application of Paul’s instruction to Timothy, we need to work on our approach to these books we find bound together as the Bible.

To begin, we must ask ourselves:  Why were these letters and instructions that we call the Gospels and the Epistles written in the first place.  And the reason was not to be the Bible.  The writers original intent was not for a religion’s sake or purpose.  Setting aside for a moment how we use these words, today; the original intent was to give an to give account, to encourage, and to instruct.

Luke would tell us as much:

Luke 1:1-4

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Luke tells us purpose of his writing is not to be religious text, but rather, it is a historical text. (This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t inspired; only referring to the purpose and the writing style.)

Luke tells us that many people are writing about this Jesus Christ.  Many people are writing about the events and the things that have happen.  And they are researching it.  They have gone out and asked those that were present and heard and seen him.   He is saying:  “I am doing/ I have done the same thing.  Letting you know what I have seen and what I have gathered from eyewitnesses.  And now, I give you an orderly account.”

  

And if this is true we should be able to find more  accounts about the life Jesus in external sources.  If we want to prove that these words we refer to as the gospels as true, then we should be able to prove this line.  

The great news is we do!  We find this to be true. Let’s start with External Evidence.

Can we find Jesus and these events outside of the bible?  YES!  And more than one place, too!

Tacitus—(55/56–c. 118 C.E.)—was a Roman senator and  historians writes this:

Neither human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered by Nero. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christ had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate … Suppressed for a time, the deadly superstition erupted again not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city [Rome], where all things horrible and shameful from everywhere come together and become popular.

Tacitus’s statement about “Christ” clearly corroborates the New Testament on certain historical details of Jesus’ death.  He was executed by the Roman governor of Judea; and the time of his death was during Pontius Pilate’s governorship of Judea, during the reign of Tiberius. (Pilate governed Judea in 26–36 C.E., while Tiberius was emperor 14–37 )

Writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. On two occasions, in his Jewish Antiquities, he mentions Jesus. One reference describes the condemnation of one “James” by the Jewish Sanhedrin. This James, says Josephus, was “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.” This agrees with Paul’s description of James in Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.”

There are clear references to Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings.   On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald … cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”

The passage also tells us why Jesus was crucified. It claims He practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy! Since this accusation comes from a rather hostile source, we should not be too surprised if Jesus is described somewhat differently than in the New Testament. But if we make allowances for this, what might such charges imply about Jesus?

Interestingly, both accusations have close parallels in the canonical gospels. For instance, the charge of sorcery is similar to the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus cast out demons “by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

But notice this: such a charge actually tends to confirm the New Testament claim that Jesus performed miraculous feats. Apparently Jesus’ miracles were too well attested to deny. The only alternative was to ascribe them to sorcery! Likewise, the charge of enticing Israel to apostasy parallels Luke’s account of the Jewish leaders who accused Jesus of misleading the nation with his teaching.  Such a charge tends to corroborate the New Testament record of Jesus’ powerful teaching ministry. Thus, if read carefully, this passage from the Talmud confirms much of our knowledge about Jesus from the New Testament.

Jesus existed.  Many people wrote about him.  History is proves this.   Now, can we trust these gospel writings.  Are they authentic?  And if the what we call the gospels (but to them just letters) were written by the people we ascribe them to; can we find proof of it?

Now the questions becomes: Can we trust the gospels?

The gospel accounts can be held to be true in different ways.

Traditional Paths

Older strategies that support the historical reliability of the New Testament often begin their case by pointing out that the New Testament documents enjoy superior manuscript evidence. 

There more than 5500 copies and partial copies in Greek and other languages, while most ancient classical Greek and Roman texts have fewer than 10 each. Moreover, there is comparatively little significant variation between these manuscripts, even when they are derived from different textual families. The more copies available (this is before printing press) the earlier they documents would have to be in existence.

The earlier known copies are dated within 100-150 years of the original dates.  Unlike the other classical writings from that time period in which the earliest know copies are dated 700 years after the origin date.

This enormous difference significantly closes the distance between the authors and the earliest copies, placing the dates of the New Testament copies much closer to the events themselves. This makes it at least possible that the biblical writers were in a better position to know what actually occurred.

The Principle of Dissimilarity:

Dissimilarity is difined as difference or variance.

Through the gospel we find that Jesus’ designation for himself is “Son of Man.”  He, in many cases if I can say it like this because we are reading about the man Christ Jesus, never over played his divineness. And even though “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite self-designation in the Gospels, very surprisingly, none of the New Testament epistles attribute this title to Jesus even a single time.

Free of Other Theologies

The Gospels are altogether free of Gnosticism and of the other aberrant theologies that pervade many writings from the second century.

Gnosticism was a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity and that Christ was a person sent on a secret mission from the supreme divine being.  But only a small number of people would ever understand their doctrine; they said.

In the familiar four Gospels, we find no traces of the heresies that flourished during the second century. The absence of such traces, is further evidence that the canonical Gospels originated in the first century.

The Gospels mention details of place, culture, and politics that could have been known only to contemporaries of Jesus.

Next, let’s talk about the books themselves.

Let’s remember, and this is a very important thing to remember, that the bible was not written to be the bible.  These were individuals writing.  They did not come together to write different books of the Bible.  This is important because that means we deal with each book individually. 

If someone was to call out one part, one verse, one possible contradiction out; the whole house doesn’t fall. 

Gospel of Matthew:  

It comes with a parody.  A parody is an imitation or when someone else is coping the work.  The parody, written by a rabbi known as Gamaliel, was written about A.D. 73 or earlier.  That is very significant and very important, because that validates the legitimacy of Matthew’s Gospel.  It confirms the truthfulness of the biblical account in Matthew and confirms the truth of what Jesus did.  The earlier the Gospel was written, the more likely eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life would still be alive.  The fact the parody exists and the date when it was written undercuts badly ‘biblical critics’ claims that the Gospel of Matthew was written at a late date of A.D. 85-90 or later.

Something else important about the book of Matthew is that it was originally written in Hebrew.  Papias, The Disciple of John  Papias was a Greek Apostolic Father, Bishop of Hierapolis, and author who lived 60–163 said that:  “Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able.”  (refer to Shem Tov’s Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew.)

This is so important because of how many times Matthew writes:  has it is written or makes references to O.T. scripture.

Luke and Acts 

It is generally agreed that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same author, and they are often referred to as a single work called Luke-Acts. The most direct evidence comes from the prefaces of each book. Both prefaces were addressed to Theophilus.

What is important to note about  these two works, as it relates to timing, is what is missing.  And it is missing Nero’s Rome. The great fire (70AD) in which the temple is burned, essentially bringing the end to Judaism in that time.  

This is so significant in the timing of everything.  This is dealing with a time where things are shifting to a new way.  Not a graduated Judaism; but Jesus was preparing them for something new.  And the early church struggled with this.  More on this next week, but look at Paul’s writings and read the book of Acts.  Many of the situations that are being dealt with in the church is regarding trying to blend OT Judaism to this NEW TESTAMENT WAY. 

Emperor Nero sent General Vespasian to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish revolt.  And they do by destroying everything, including the temple. And with the OT, no temple, no worship, no religion,  It ends!

But Acts and Paul’s writings are still dealing with Judaism. So they have to be written before then.  

John

The Gospel of John is likewise imbued with an accurate knowledge of circumstances. The author was obviously a Jew, for he had a thorough understanding of Jewish laws and customs. He was a Palestinian, for he had a good grasp of traveling routes and location of sites.  For example:

John 4:3-5

3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Others include Bethabara, Galilee, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Cana of Galilee, Capernaum, Judaea, Aenon near Salim, a place of “much water,” an allusion to the many springs found there (John 3:23), Samaria, Sychar, Joseph’s field, Jacob’s well, “this mountain” in Samaria—that is, Mount Gerizim, the Pool of Bethesda, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, the Mount of Olives, the treasury of the Temple, the Pool of Siloam, Solomon’s Porch, Bethany, Ephraim, the brook Cedron, the garden where Jesus was arrested, the “palace” (better, “court”) of the high priest, the door of the same court, Pilate’s hall of judgment, the Pavement, the place of a skull, or Golgotha, the garden where Jesus was buried, and finally, the Sea of Tiberias—another name for the Sea of Galilee.

The author of John must have resided in Palestine before the wholesale destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for in describing certain buildings that were later obliterated, he notices specific details. For example, he says that the Pool of Bethesda had five porticos and that Pilate held court at an outdoor platform called Gabbatha in Aramaic.  AFTER AD 70, thanks to Nero and the great fire, all of this is burned.  It doesn’t exist.

Furthermore, the author of John was most certainly a contemporary of Jesus, for as he sketches the political environment of the Crucifixion, he furnishes information missing from the Synoptics. He tells us that in the year of Jesus’ death, Caiaphas, the high priest, shared power with Annas, his father-in-law. Luke, the only other Gospel writer who mentions Annas, says only that he was a high priest along with Caiaphas. The additional facts that John supplies are corroborated to some extent by Josephus’s history of the period. Josephus, the great Jewish historian active in the late first century, records that Annas was a high priest with no less than five sons who succeeded him to the same office.

BOOK OF MARK

Papias, c. 60 – 130, who and a disciple of the Apostle John, Papius says “Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that [Peter] mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ; not, however, in order. For he was neither a hearer nor companion of the Lord; but afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his teachings as necessity required, not as though he were making a compilation of the sayings of the Lord. So then Mark made no mistake, writing down in this way some things as he [Peter] mentioned them; for he paid attention to this one thing, not to omit anything that he had heard, nor to include any false statement among them.” 

There was no attempt to cover their embarrassment.

The principle of embarrassment, negative report, or surprise is indicated by the presence of disparaging remarks made by the author about him/herself, another individual, or event concerning which the author is friendly and has a vested interest.  The point is that, in normal circumstances, most people need a sufficient reason to report very negative things about something which they deem valuable, or someone they love dearly. This would appear to be the case especially where the purpose of the writing was to instruct the readers in holy living.

The gospel makes no attempt to cover their:

-the unbelief during miracles

-falling into the water

-fleeing after the arrest

-embalming the body of Jesus after the crucifixion

-the women being the first to go the tomb, though they could never testify in court about what they saw

-their unbelief about the resurrection at first

From all of this we have to draw the conclusion:

THERE IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THESE WRITINGS…

When we can see that each of these books are historically written when and by the people whom we have ascribed them to; we know there is something different about the words in here!

When we can prove the books were written in the time to be eyewitnesses of Jesus and when these writings tell us with historical accuracy the political climate;  we know that there is something different about this book!  

So if these words tell me of a resurrected savior; I will trust it!

Because what we have is this, not a bible, but what we have is this::  Their written testimony!  

And we overcome by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB!  His death burial and resurrection!  And we overcome by the word of THEIR testimony!

Because he is alive, I can read their testimony and apply it to my life:

2 Timothy 3:14-17

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 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. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Doctrine or Teaching:  I can read and study this to learn what to believe!

Reproof:  If I need to, I can test it again and again and it will always be found true!

Correction:  I can use it to learn about what needs to change in my life!  My turning away from sin!

Training in righteousness:  Righteousness is integrity, virtue, purity of life.  Not only can I use these words to turn from sinful actions, I can use it to live a better life!  


Leave a Reply