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The Bible — Myth or Authority?

No other question is more fundamental.


WHAT is the Bible? Does it have a purpose? Can it be proved that the Bible is an inspired revelation from God for man of essential knowledge man could not otherwise discover by himself?

How can you be sure — if there be an original inspired revelation, given directly by God to his prophets and apostles — that it has been accurately preserved?


Theologians, Too, Have Erred

Today, theologians have joined ranks with atheists and agnostics in pronouncing the Bible as myth. Why? What are their motives?

The Bible is, in today's philosophy% the inspiring record of man's search for a concept of God — not the inspired record of God's revelation to man of essential knowledge man needs to know but would not otherwise be able to obtain!

The world's foremost theologians assume — without demonstrable proof — that the Bible has an essentially natural origin in human traditions! This conclusion subtly implies it is without genuine authority.

To acknowledge the authority of the Bible would mean preaching what it says! It would require one to reject the traditions inherited from pagans. It would mean letting the Bible correct where he or she is wrong. That goes against human nature!


What the Bible Really Is

The Bible authoritatively claims to be the written revelation of the Creator God for mankind. In it the Creator God speaks of absolutely vital knowledge that everyone needs to understand — but which would be inaccessible by any natural means.

In the Bible, God speaks with authority through its writers. The Bible, whether one wants to believe it or not, possesses supreme authority over our lives, since it comes from the Supreme Creator. The Bible repeats hundreds of times: "Thus saith the Lord." In Scripture, God speaks in the first person — "I" — and challenges us to test him to prove whether he speaks the truth (Isa. 44:6-9).

Without the Bible we can never fully understand the lessons of the past, the meaning of the present and the goals of the future!

Scripture, when rightly understood, gives a rational meaning for man's being here and the causes of this world's ills. It explains exactly why this world has wars, sicknesses and suffering. These are the penalties of a wrong way of life. There are hundreds of religious, political and economic cures in the world, but none of them touches upon the true causes of earth's problems. Only God's mind is great enough to know the answers to today's troubles. No book but his Bible can explain the laws that eternally regulate human life and human affairs — laws that, when violated, bring the penalties of sickness, war and death.

Only the Bible is able to point the way out of impending chaos! Yet men reject its solutions as out-of-date. Its truth they do not want to grasp. That's why "the Lord has a controversy with the nations" (Jer. 25:31). Ever since the beginning of human life, God has had a controversy with humanity. Humans reason that their ways are better. Man assumes that he knows more than God. Yes, "there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). For nearly 6,000 years humans have wanted to avoid acknowledging God as Supreme Ruler. And they hide their eyes from plain evidence in order to label Scripture as myth and tradition.


God Is Able to Preserve His Book

Some critics challenge the accuracy of copies of the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Can we be sure that the Bible has not been so corrupted so that it no longer is the revelation of God to man? Has it been so changed and corrupted by myth since the original writing as to be highly doubtful, if not altogether altered? Of course, the very idea is preposterous if there is a God who reveals himself in the written word.

Let the facts speak for themselves. For years the critics claimed the Hebrew Bible was of no authority. "A late and altered form of earlier Hebrew writings," they insisted.

Then came the year 1947.

In the summer of 1947 a sheer coincidence led to the discovery of the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible so far known. Among a collection of literary works found in a cave in Wadi Qumran on the north side of the Dead Sea, a 23-foot leather scroll was found to contain the complete text of the book of Isaiah in Hebrew. Expert examination of the document revealed beyond doubt that this Isaiah text dated from about 100 B.C.

This copy of Isaiah, now about 2,000 years old, is unique evidence of the reliability of the text of the Holy Scriptures that have been handed down to us. The text in all fundamentals agrees with what we have in our present-day Bibles. The only differences are minor spelling changes and misplaced words, changes that represent, the carelessness of unofficial sectarian scribes who copied that particular text of the book of Isaiah.

In other words, the present Masoretic Hebrew text, which is a continuation of the official Hebrew Bible, is far superior in preservation to the unofficial copy_ of Isaiah made 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, the ancient scroll of Isaiah, just like the printed copies of Isaiah in any modern-day Bible, whether Hebrew, Greek, English or German, has the same 66 chapters of our present-day text.

Until this find, the oldest and fullest manuscript in Hebrew was the Codex Petropolitanus, dating from about A.D. 916. All this makes clear how accurate the Jews have been in copying, generation after generation, the books of the Hebrew Bible. God has indeed given divine protection to the Book which contains his commands and revelations to man!

Between 1949 and 1951 additional manuscripts were located in other caves near the Dead Sea. In these scrolls were 19 books of the Bible — all telling the same textual story as the Isaiah manuscript!

True, minor and on occasion significant variations occur. But remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls were not copied by the official scribes of the Jewish community. Jesus never recognized the Dead ea sects as having any authorilW over the true Hebrew text, commonly called the Masoretic Hebrew text.

The Dead Sea Scrolls plainly show Samaritan and other influences. Between the time of Alexander the Great and the second century B.C. the Samaritans tried their best to influence the Jewish community and alter the inspired scriptures. They failed. The minor variations that do occur in the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls are added proof that the standard Hebrew Masoretic text is the official Bible text God has preserved.


What Jesus Revealed

Through whom has God preserved his authoritative written word accurately?

Jesus said: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).

Has this happened? Was Jesus right? Or has the Law — the Hebrew Bible — been hopelessly lost and corrupted?

Luke quotes Jesus as saying, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). Modern critics assume Jesus was wrong. They think the Old Testament has not been accurately preserved. But they are wrong!

Jesus also announced, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (See Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33)

Jesus' words — the very words recorded by the apostles in the New Testament — shall not pass away!

Of course the modern critics prefer to quote Jesus as saying, "Heaven and earth cannot pass away, but my words shall pass away!" But these critics are wrong! Jesus is right. His words have not passed away. The critics have merely been unwilling to look for his words where he said they could be found! They have, instead, looked elsewhere so that they would not find Jesus' words.

Notice where we ought to look for the authoritative text of the Bible. Read it from the Revised Standard Version which the modern critics have themselves translated: "Then what advantage has the Jew?"

Yes, what special duty did God give to the Jews? Notice:

"Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written, 'That thou mayest be justified in thy words . . .' " (Rom. 3:1-4, RSV).

To whom were the oracles of God, the written record of God's revelation delivered through Moses and the prophets — the Hebrew Bible — committed? To the Jews!

But what if the Jews did not believe and did not practice the things written in the law, the prophets and the psalms? What if the Jews have become divided into Orthodox, Reformed and other schools of thought? Does their rejection of some of the truth nullify the faithfulness of the written word of God, which they are required to preserve from generation to generation?

"God forbid," declared the King James Version. "By no means," reiterates the Revised Standard Version.

So the Jews — by these very words of the theologian translators of the Bible into English — are seen to have preserved the Hebrew Bible faithfully!

Now consider the New Testament. It was offered first to the Jews. But the Jews, as a nation, rejected the New Testament — though many individual Jews did accept it in the first century. What did God, in his wise foreknowledge, do? He revealed his word to the gentiles, specifically the Greeks, for a very great purpose.


Greeks Preserve New Testament

Notice Paul's statement. The Jews originally had the advantage over the Greeks because the Jews received the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1-4). Now, however, declares Paul, "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him" (Rom. 10:12). No difference? Why?

The answer is found in verses 14 and 15: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? . . ."

The Greeks, too, received "the word of God." God sent to them a special apostle — Paul. Paul went almost exclusively to Greeks. He spoke to other gentiles only as they were found in the Greek-speaking world. Paul wrote to Greek-speaking churches, not to Ethiopian-, Chinese-, German- or Persian-speaking churches. There was a very special reason.

Let us read further — Romans 10:19-20: "But I say, Did not Israel know? [That is, did not Israel recognize God's message? But they refused it, as a nation, and were in part blinded spiritually.] First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation [the Greeks were then a foolish nation, filled with vanity of mind] I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me."

Notice that Paul applied these prophecies to his day — the New Testament period.

When the Jews, as a nation, rejected the message of Jesus Christ, God raised up the apostle Paul to go to the Greek-speaking world with that same message. The Greeks would hear! They did hear! They received the oracles of Jesus Christ — the New Testament — even if most of them were never converted! And they have preserved it! Jesus declared: "My word shall not pass away" — and it has not passed away. The Greeks alone of all peoples copied, generation after generation, the New Testament in the very language God inspired it to be written! No other people did it! The Samaritans corrupted it, the Latins and Egyptians translated and sometimes altered it. Only the Greeks have accurately copied it in its original language.

Today about 4,500 examined Greek manuscripts confirm the integrity and purity of the New Testament text. In 1935 a fragment of John's gospel in Greek, dating from the time of Emperor Trajan, A.D. 98 to 117, was discovered in Egypt. The fragment was part of a codex or book, indicating that the entire New Testament IN PROPER ORDER was circulating within a score of years following the death of the last apostle. This and other fragments and texts witness to the accuracy with which the Greek New Testament has been preserved through fire and sword.

But what about minor variations in the Greek New Testament?