Berean Bible Study Notes

Learning to be a Berean - Lesson 2

 



Today's study: Bible Apologetics, External Evidence

This Bible study will cover some "apologetics" for the Bible. "Apologetics" means defense. Christian apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. This is a huge and fascinating area. Many of today's best apologists began as atheists, working to prove that the Bible was invalid. Along the way they became convinced of the truth.

You would think that apologetics would be great for unbelievers, but it doesn't really work that way. They will explain it away almost to the point of silliness. There's a reason for that:

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory Christ, who is the image of God.

It's the Holy Spirit's work that brings a person to see the truth. The atheists who became believers didn't become believers through the facts they were uncovering, but because the Holy Spirit took away their blindness and helped them believe the truth of God's Word. Their writings are GREAT for believers, though, especially with all the recent attacks on the Bible in popular media!

Satan has been working to remove, obscure or change God's Word from the very beginning. The very first words from him were, "Did God really say. . .?" That's his first tactic - to cast doubt about what God has said. After he casts doubt, the second thing he does is to change the meaning of God's Word.

Genesis 3
The Fall of Man
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

 

What was true then continues to be true today. The Bible is being attacked from all sides - from atheists, from people of other religions, and worst of all, from so-called Christians, like those of the Jesus Seminar and former Episcopalian Bishop, John Spong:

You'll find the Bible being downgraded in everything from Social Studies texts (my daughter's text says that the "Torah", the first five books of the Bible, were not written until after the Babylonian captivity), to the Media, to movies and popular books:

There's a theme to many of these objections to the Bible - that we cannot trust the Bible that we have in our hands - that these are not really the words that God wanted recorded. They say that the Bible we have was not written until hundreds of years after the events. If they believe the Bible at all (and many don't), they pick and choose what they think was really from God and what wasn't. They say that many potential biblical texts were excluded on the basis of prejudice or wanting to limit "power" to a chosen few.

These objections are easily answered, and those that keep making them are either ignorant of the facts or are deliberately trying to deceive you. First of all, what does the Bible say about whether God preserves His Word or not?

Matthew 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Luke 16:17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

1 Peter 1:24-25 For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."

A quote from Isaiah:

Psalm 119

This whole Psalm is about the Word of God!

119:89 Your word, O LORD , is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
119:152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.
119:160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

So, either these words are true or they're not. God promises to preserve His Word. If that's not true, why should we believe anything else He promises? If someone is able to plant doubt in your mind about ANY of God's promises, they ALL start to erode for you.

The Old Testament

Let's begin with the Old Testament. The oldest book of the Bible is actually Job, probably written during the time when Noah's sons were still alive. The first five books of the Bible were written by Moses, in about 1440 B.C. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was written about 440 B.C. So, the Old Testament spans at least 1,000 years. There were people who were specially trained to make copies of the Scriptures - the scribes. They used a system of numbering where each section had a numerical value, once the values of all the letters were added up (each Hebrew letter had a numerical value). When they were done copying, they added up the values of the letters that they had just copied. If it didn't exactly match the original, the entire copied scroll was destroyed, and the scribe started over again. This was just one of the ways they maintained the accuracy of the text.

There were a series of empires that took over the nation of Israel: Babylon, then Persia, then Greece (Alexander the Great) then Rome. After Alexander the Great died with no sons, his lands were divided among his four generals. One of them, Ptolemy, got the land of Israel as part of the deal. He decided that all the great literary works of the peoples under his control should be translated into Greek. The Jews picked their 70 (or 72, some argue) best scholars and translated their Scriptures, and some other books, (called the "Apocrypha") into Greek between 300 and 200 B.C. The result was the Septuagint, the translation that was used by the New Testament writers (the translation that Jesus quotes from). Why is this important? Because it means that the Old Testament "canon" was set at least 200 years before Jesus was born. Although many of the books of the Bible were known as Scripture much, much earlier than that, even secular historians have to grant that it was certainly set by 200 B.C. [The Apocryphal books were included for their historical value, but were not considered Scripture by the Jews. Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote during the time of Jesus, lists the same books of Scripture that we include in our Old Testaments today. The Jews simply had them in a different order. For more information, you can check out The Apocrypha, Deutero-Canonical Writings, The Apocrypha and the Biblical Canon (scroll down - there are several articles) or do a search on Apocrypha, "Biblical canon" at Google.]

How accurately has the Old Testament been preserved? In 1947, there was an amazing discovery of ancient scrolls. They had been hidden in caves by a Jewish group called the Essenes before 68 A.D. These scrolls became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the scrolls were fragments of every Old Testament book except Esther, including a fully complete book of Isaiah. The scrolls dated from 200 B.C. to 68 A.D. at the latest. When scholars compared the text of Isaiah from the Dead Sea scrolls to the Hebrew of the Isaiah we have today, they were nearly identical, except for different spellings of about eight words.

So, the Old Testament was both set at least two hundred years before Christ and accurately preserved through the centuries. What about the New Testament? Liberal scholars and people like Dan Brown insist that a) It wasn't written until many, many years after the events b) It was never seen as "Scripture" until hundreds of years later c) It hasn't been accurately passed down through the ages and d) there were many writings that should have been included but were rejected.

 

When was the New Testament written?

In many, many places, the New Testament writers claim to be eyewitnesses of the events recorded. Either they really were, or they were liars:

Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Rather than re-write a bunch of stuff, I'm going to quote part of the following page: The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection

Author

Date Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span

Copies (extent)

Secular Manuscripts:

Herodotus (History)

480 - 425 BC

900 AD

1,300 years

8

Thucydides (History)

460 - 400 BC

900 AD

1,300 years

?

Aristotle (Philosopher)

384 - 322 BC

1,100 AD

1,400 years

5

Caesar (History)

100 - 44 BC

900 AD

1,000 years

10

Pliny (History)

61 - 113 AD

850 AD

750 years

7

Suetonius (Roman History)

70 - 140 AD

950 AD

800 years

?

Tacitus (Greek History)

100 AD

1,100 AD

1,000 years

20

In comparison, we have copies of the NT which date approximately 15-20 years after the authors of scripture originally penned the autographs.

Biblical Manuscripts: (note: these are individual manuscripts):

Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26)

1st century

50-60 AD

coexistent(?)

 

John Rylands (John)

90 AD

130 AD

40 years

Bodmer Papyrus II (John)

90 AD

150-200 AD

60-110 years

Chester Beatty Papyri (NT)

1st cen.

200 AD

150 years

Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels)

1st cen.

200 AD

150 years

Codex Vaticanus (Bible)

1st cen.

325-350 AD

275-300 years

Codex Sinaiticus (Bible)

1st cen.

350 AD

300 years

Codex Alexandrinus (Bible)

1st cen.

400 AD

350 years

Dr. Carsten Thiede did this with an electron microscope. He compared these fragments with other fragments of known early dates from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The latest date for the Dead Sea Scrolls is 68 A.D., because the Essene community was destroyed by the Romans at that time. The scrolls in their possession had to have been hidden before that time.

So that was a lot of information there. What does it all mean? It shows that the earliest manuscripts (which were themselves copies) of the New Testament dated to within just a few years of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. That means that the original writings really were eyewitness accounts, made while other eyewitnesses (including potentially hostile ones who would have refuted the writings if they could) were still alive.

We also know that the New Testament was written early because of quotations from it by the Early Church Fathers. Quoting from that same page,

Some people have said that the entire New Testament could be reconstructed simply from the quotations of these early church fathers.

The following article has good information about the value of the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Extraordinary Evidence About Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls

More interesting articles:

The Magdalen Papyrus

The Magdalen Fragments 

 

When were the New Testament writings seen as Scripture?

From the Bible itself, we know that much of the New Testament writings were seen as Scripture immediately.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

2 Peter 3:16 (Paul) writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Paul cites Luke 10:7 alongside Deut 25:4:

1 Tim 5:18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,"(Deut. 25:4) and "The worker deserves his wages."(Luke 10:7)

1 Thessalonians 5:27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

In this last verse, you can also see that the New Testament writings were making the rounds of the churches while the apostles were still among them.

Most of the New Testament books were accepted as Scripture by the second century, as evidenced by the many quotations in the Early Church Father's writings. There were some that were in doubt, such as Hebrews and Revelation, primarily because their authorship hadn't been established with certainty.

On the Formation of the NT Canon

 

The idea that the New Testament books were not seen as Scripture until centuries after they were written can be proven false from the Bible itself. The accounts were written by apostles who were eyewitnesses to the events or those very close to eyewitnesses (like Luke) and they were seen as Scripture immediately. There is much more that you can read about this. Here are just a few of many, many articles available:

The Bible delivered to us today

How did we get the Bible?

The Bible: An Extraterrestrial Message (audio messages)

 

Were the New Testament documents transmitted accurately through the centuries?

Some liberal scholars and other critics try to make a case out of the variations between the various manuscripts. Even very conservative Christians will emphasize the variations in their attempt to put one translation ahead of others. (We'll get more into that in another Bible study). Yes, there are variations (as there will be anytime something is hand copied many times), but they are slight, and they are not necessarily "errors." In the 24,000 manuscripts available, there are supposedly 200,000 "errors." That sounds like a huge number, but you have to know how they're counted, and what they are talking about. Anytime there is a variation of ANY kind, it is counted as a variant reading or an "error." For example, if one word in one verse is spelled with just one letter different, and that variation appears in 2000 manuscripts, it's considered 2000 variants. Even with these slight variations, 99% of the text is unaffected. There are very few that change any meaning, and even those that do don't affect any doctrine. The texts that have "missing" information have that same information elsewhere.

We'll talk more about translation issues in another Bible study. For now, please know that the Greek and Hebrew texts that modern translators have available to them have been accurately preserved through the centuries.

Here is another good article with a bit quoted below:

The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection

Were texts left out that should have been included?

You're going to run into people or books that say this. You'll see titles like "The Lost Gospels" and other such things. When the apostles started to preach the good news, there were immediately people who started to twist their message - the Gnostics. Many of the epistles in the Bible speak against these ideas and false teachers who were trying to creep in. Many of the writings of the Early Church Fathers were against these same heresies. The Gnostic ideas were clearly recognized as heresy from the very beginning. There were very good reasons why their writings were rejected!!

Gnosticism (What is gnosticism)

 

Peter's second letter shows his feelings (and God's!) about these people:

2 Peter 2
False Teachers and Their Destruction
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.

Why the 'Lost Gospels' Lost Out

The philosophy behind Gnosticism is seeing a tremendous revival right now, even in Christian churches. They won't call it Gnosticism, of course, but this idea that you can experience God directly through certain techniques is spreading like wildfire. I have a page on it here, and many others do also, such as this one on Neo-Gnosticism.

  

Archeology and the Bible

There has not been one archeological discovery that has disproved the Bible. On the contrary, new findings support what the Bible says to be true. The following information is from this link:

Archeology and the Bible

Archeology and the Bible

More Archeology and the Bible links

 

A good book:

“The Stones Cry Out” by Randall Price, Harvest House Publishers, 1997. Available at Amazon, but I can't link directly due to the rules of this free site.

 

Science and the Bible

Can the Bible stand up to modern science? Absolutely! Part of the problem is that we think we understand something (the world is flat or whatever) and then later we understand it better. For example, the speed of light is a constant. We even have equations based on that idea. But, is it? For more than twenty years, a Christian scientist in Australia has been presenting evidence that the speed of light is slowing down. Although they're going kicking and screaming, secular science is starting to agree.

Why have they been resisting? For one reason, it is VERY strong evidence of a young earth, just as the Bible says. One of the reasons that scientists cling to an old earth model (besides needing billions of years for the evolutionary theory to have any validity) is that it takes a very long time for light to travel from the stars. If a star is 14 billion light years away, then it takes 14 billion years for the light to reach us, right? Wrong, according to the new evidence.

What if light is slowing down? What if at the Big Bang (as the secular scientists suppose) or at Creation (as the Bible says), the speed of light was much, much faster - maybe 10 x 1010 faster (as the secular scientists are now suggesting and which would fit the biblical model - "Let there be light")? It would mean that it wouldn't take billions of years for light to reach us from those stars. It would mean that when God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky" that their light was there, instantly. When man sinned, a curse was put on creation, and decay began. That decay could also apply to the speed of light.

Is Light Slowing Down?

Speed of light slowing down after all?

Speed of light slowing down articles

 

The problem with science and the Bible, is that science is still catching up. While the rest of the world was still coming up with ideas of the world riding on a turtle's back and other such things, the oldest book of the Bible understood about empty space:

The Bible told us that the air itself has weight - a discovery of relatively recent times.

The Bible knew long before modern medicine caught up that "blood letting" was not a good idea

The Bible understood water vapor long before science did:

The Bible knew about the undersea vents long, long before science finally discovered them just recently:

So, when someone tries to tell you that science disproves the Bible, you can just tell the person, "Your science will eventually be outdated."

 

Science and the Bible

Dinosaurs in the Bible

More Science in the Bible articles

And still more

Some good places to go for information against evolution:

Institute for Creation Research

Answers in Genesis

 

 

Signs from China

The oldest passages of the bible in Chinese signs Amazing stuff!



Just a few of the hundreds of web sites with good apologetics

Some good books:

More than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell, Tyndale House Publishers, 1977 (Short, easy to understand)

Examine the Evidence, Ralph Muncaster, Harvest House Publishers, 2004 (Great book - belongs in every home)

A Skeptic's Search for God: Convincing Evidence for His Existence, Ralph Muncaster, Harvest House Publishers, 2002 (Best book of its kind that I've read)

Unleashing God's Word in Your Life, John MacArthur, Nelson Publishers, 2003

Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Randall Price, Harvest House Publishers, 1996

The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell, Nelson Publishers, 1999

The Signature of God, Grant Jeffrey, Frontier Research Publications, 1996

The Jesus Papyrus, Matthew D'Ancona, Galilee Trade, 2000

Tapes:

How We Got Our Bible, Chuck Missler, Koinonia House

 

In the next lesson, we'll continue our study of apologetics for the Bible. We'll be taking a look at internal evidence.



Learning to Be Bereans Bible Study



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Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11



© 2010 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 9/17/2010. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.

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