Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Bible- the Word of God or a bunch of fairy tales?

The Bible is the world's best selling and most popular book, selling over 40 million copies a year. It was written by a team of 40 writers, working independently, living in ten different countries, over a period of about 1600 years. However, though millions vouch for its historical and scientific accuracy, the majority see it as just a bunch of fairy stories, which science over the last few hundred years has shown just can’t be true, so its not relevant in today’s sophisticated 21st century culture (apart, maybe, from some elements of Jesus Christ's teachings). As a Christian, I personally believe that the Bible is God breathed and is His Word, so I have every faith in its accuracy and relevance. Here are some reasons why:

(a) Jesus Christ quoted from Scriptures and claimed them to be accurate. We read in the Gospel many examples of Christ quoting from the Old Testament, for instance in Matthew 22 v44 Jesus quoted Psalm 110 v1 in a theological conversation with the Pharisees over whether the Christ was the son of David. The Pharisees were silenced and Matthew goes on to state that no-one dared to ask him any more questions.

(b) The living witness of Christians who abide by it. The power of the Bible to sustain individuals is well illustrated by the experiences of many who managed to thwart communist brainwashing by mentally repeating scriptures during their ordeals. Among those who proved this was Geoffrey Bull, who in his book When Iron Gates Yield , graphically related how when under brutal mental torture in communist China, he found he could frustrate his torturers and prevent himself from cracking up, by concentrating on memorised passages from the Bible.
Also the Scriptures have a power to transform individuals. For instance the Malagasy Bible was completed in 1835 by the London missionary society before they fled for their lives. In the following 25 years without missionaries present in Malagasy that translation resulted in a growth from handfuls to thousands of believers in thriving churches.

(c) Archaeological proof. Nelson Glueck, a Jewish archaeologist once said that “It may be stated categorically that no archaeology discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.” The earliest existing manuscripts of Plato’s work were written 1300 years after his death. The earliest existing manuscript of the New Testament was written late in 1st century AD- around 40/50 years after the death of Christ. A man called John Burgon has catalogued more than 86,000 citations of the New Testament in the writings of the early church fathers who lived before AD325. It is illogical that those who doubt the validity of the New Testament would never query the authenticity of the writings from ancient Greece.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were dated 250BC to AD68 have also revealed the accuracy of the Jewish scribes when they copied the earlier Hebrew texts. The 14 copies of Isaiah found produced only about six agreed changes of a minor nature to the text as previously known.

(d) The fulfilment of prophecies. For instance there are about 300 in the Old Testament concerning Jesus, which were written about 700 BC. They were all fulfilled during His time on Earth, seven hundred years later. One example concerns the prophetic writing in Psalms 22 16-18, hundreds of years before the crucifixion of Christ: “Dogs have surrounded me. A band of evil men have encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I count all my bones: people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” St John reported the fulfilment of this prophecy in his Gospel, saying that when Jesus was hung up on the cross, the soldiers cast lots for his clothing.
There are many other fufilled prophecies in the Bible concerning other historical events. For instance, in 538BC Cyrus the king of Persia decreed that the Jewish exiles taken captive by the Babylonians could return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple. Remarkably well over a century previously, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied this in Isaiah 44 v24 in such detail that he even mentioned Cyrus by name.
Even in our own lifetime we are seeing prophecies fulfilled. It has been estimated that out of approx 650 prophecies concerning things of the future in the Bible all but around 40 have come about. The prophet Zephaniah for instance promises the scattered Jews “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home:" And of course, after 2,000 years, in 1948, the Jews returned from all four corners of the earth to their homeland-Israel.

(e) The Survival of the Bible. The French sceptic and writer Voltaire forecast that “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” In fact 100 years after his death, the house in which Voltaire did most of his writing became the publishing house for the Geneva Bible Society.
In centuries past the reading of the Bible has often been outlawed. For instance in medieval Britain, the common man was forbidden to read the Bible himself. The Archbishop of Canterbury Arundel said of John Wycliffe’s English translation of the Bible in 1382. "That pest, lent and most wretched John Wycliffe of darnable memory a child of the old devil and himself a child or pupil of antichrist, who while he lived, walking in the vanity of his mind with a few other adjectives, adverbs and verbs which I shall not give crowned his wickedness by translating the scriptures into the mother tongue." It was dangerous to possess or even be found reading Wycliffe's New Testament and many of his followers were arrested and their Bibles destroyed. Some were burnt themselves with their Scriptures round their neck. This didn’t prevent the common man from wanting to read the Bible. When in 1540 at Archbishop Cranmer’s request, Henry VIII authorised that the Coverdale Bible be bought and read by all his subjects, there was a tremendous widespread excitement. So much in fact that the king was forced to draw back and issue regulations restricting the reading of the Bible to wealthy merchants and aristocrats. The historian GM Trevelyan says of the publication of the 1611 authorised version of the Bible. “For every Englishman who had read Sidney or Spenser, or who had seen Shakespeare acted at the Globe, there were hundreds who had read or heard the Bible with close attention as the words of God. The effect of the continual domestic study of the Bible upon the national character, imagination and intelligence for nearly 3 centuries to come, was greater than that of any literary movement in our annals, or any religious movement since the coming of St Augustine.”
Today, in many communist and Islamic countries where the Bible is outlawed, Christians continue to hang on to their Bibles, treating it as a precious possession, despite the risk that entails. Why would they do this this if its just a bunch of fairy tales?

(f) As a former accountant I’m fascinated by the numerology of the Bible. Traditionally Greek and Hebrew numbers all applied to a letter (Alpha =1, Beta =2 etc). Also in the Bible numbers have a meaning, for instance 8 =resurrection. Interestingly if you convert the letters that make up the word ‘Jesus’ and add up the numbers they come to 888-the resurrection number. Additionally there are 8 examples of resurrection in the Bible. Another example is that 7 in the Bible is traditionally known as the divine number. And in the scriptures the sentences are made up of an abnormally high amount of combinations of 7s. No normal man could write a ‘story’ with such a high combination of 7s.

(g) The accuracy of the science in the Bible. Unlike the many magical and folk medical treatments being used by the rest of the world, the ancient Hebrews used innovative health techniques given to them by God based on science, milleniums before the nature of contagious diseases was understood. In the Book of Leviticus, for instance, one reads that a person with an infectious disease was instructed to wear torn clothes, let their hair go unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out “unclean, unclean.” They had to live alone away from anyone else, the first ever example of quarantine. These innovative rituals were to prevent others coming near and catching any contagious diseases for fear of starting an epidemic. About 3,000 years later at the time of the renaissance it was noticed how the Jews seemed to be less prone to falling sick to plagues. It was then that the rest of the world caught up with the fact epidemics could be prevented by quarantining anyone with an infectious disease.

(h) 40 different writers wrote the Bible over a space of 150 years- yet it flows and remains consistent with the same message containing the remarkable numerology and fulfilled prophecies.

I will conclude my case for the bible with a quote from Abraham Lincoln. “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this book for what reason you can accept and take the rest on faith and you will live and die a much better man.”


Ellen said...

(I found your blog while doing a google search on John Wycliffe!) I enjoyed reading this post. It was well written and interesting.

Have you ever heard of Voddie Baucham, Jr.? He is a Christian apologist and here is his summary of why he believes the Bible (I've adopted this one as my own):
"The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events which took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies. They claim that their writings are divine rather than human rather than human in origin."
Thank you again for writing something like this post during a time when Christians mostly respond to "why do you believe the Bible?" with something along the lines of "uhhh... well... I tried and it worked for me..."

Pvae said...

Thanks for your comment Ellen. That's an interesting quote from Voddie Baucham, Jr. I must admit I've not come across him before.