Spencer D Gear
Part 1 of 4
This is the first part of a 4-part series. See also:
Why is it necessary for us in the 21st century to have to address a topic such as this, “Can You Trust Your Bible?” We’ve had this New Testament (NT) for close to 2,000 years and the first books of the Old Testament (OT) – Pentateuch: Gen.-Deut. & Job – for about 3,500 years. [Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Malachi, 1 & 2 Chronicles, concluded the OT canon [400-500BC]. We’ll consider some reasons in a moment.
This series will not deal with:
- Which English translation is the best? That would be an interesting topic. We’ll be dealing with the trustworthiness of the OT and NT in the original manuscripts.
- We will not be discussing, except in passing, how the books came to be selected for the OT and the NT. That’s the canonicity of the Bible and it will not be our focus.
- We also will be learning some general approaches to help with sharing the Gospel — including a defence of the trustworthiness of the Bible.
A. What are some of the reasons why we need to defend the Bible today?
For me, these are prominent reasons, but they are not in order of priority:
1. First, when you turn on the TV or radio, or read the newspaper at Easter and Christmas times particularly (but also at other times), you will be fed loads of doubt about the Bible and its truthfulness. In fact, much of this doubt is being driven by some from within the church who do not believe what the Bible says — liberal church men and women. We’ll look at examples as we go along.
2 Second, this mass media message is impacting on regular people in the church and we MUST provide answers. Shortly, I’ll give an example of a person who came to me very distraught after one of those TV programs.
We live in a mass media culture — and that includes the worldwide web.
Other worldviews can drown us and we MUST provide reasons for the Christian faith, especially for our young people.
It was about 500 years ago that the leader of the Protestant reformation, MARTIN LUTHER, said this:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every point of the Truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that point attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested. To be steady in all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if the soldier flinches at that point.”
That’s as relevant as if Luther preached it today. I’d rather be expounding the Scriptures for the people of God, but the Bible is under attack and we must provide answers for the people of God. It would be a disgrace if I flinched at this point.
3. There’s a third, and very important reason, why we must address a subject such as, “Can You Trust Your Bible?” The Bible requires that we provide a defence of the faith in EVERY age of history. We desperately need it today, but we evangelicals have become lazy. Apologetics is not a prominent theological discipline in the Bible colleges I have attended (3 of them plus 1 seminary). However, this is what the Bible states:
I Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV).
That phrase in the NIV, “give an answer” is too weak. It is better translated as in the ESV, “make a defense.” Make an “apologia” for the Christian faith. It’s too bad that our English word “apology,” derived from this word, gives the wrong idea for what this wonderful Greek word means for all believers. “Give an answer”, means “give a defense” of the Christian faith — all of us need to be prepared to do that.
This is as Paul did on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Athens, recorded in Acts 17:22ff. It was there that he used the Greek’s “unknown god” as a starting point for defending the faith (v. 23).
According to Acts 17:17, before Paul got to the Areopagus, he “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”
How we need Christians to be equipped for that today.
You know, “Thou shalt not think,” is NOT one of the 10 commandments.
4. There’s a fourth reason why a subject like this is needed today. I hear Christian parents saying to their teenagers about the Bible: “Accept it by faith. God requires you to just believe it. Faith is the answer to your doubt. Quit asking questions about the Bible. Just accept it.”
It is my prayer that after this 4-part series, you will never say that again. Here’s why:
a. You are probably familiar with what the Bible says about its own inspiration, but let’s look at these verses again:
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. (NASB) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” NIV)
Psalm 119:142, 151:
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
But you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true. (ESV)
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. (NASB)
b. But take a look at another “scripture” from another religion.
Many of us are not familiar with these words. They are words from the Muslim’s Koran (Quran):
[2:0] In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
[2:2] This scripture is infallible; a beacon for the righteous;
Three Categories of People
(1) The Righteous
[2:3] who believe in the unseen, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat)*, and from our provisions **to them, they give to charity.
[2:4] And they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you*, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are absolutely certain.
[2:5] These are guided by their Lord; these are the winners.
*2:1 These initials remained a divinely guarded secret for 1400 years. Now we recognize them as a major component of the Quran’s mathematical miracle (see Appendices 1, 2, 24, and 26). The meaning of A.L.M. is pointed out in Verse 2: “This scripture is infallible.” This is incontrovertibly proven by the fact that the frequencies of occurrence of these three initials in this sura are 4502, 3202, and 2195, respectively. The sum of these numbers is 9899, or 19×521. Thus, these most frequent letters of the Arabic language are mathematically placed according to a superhuman pattern. These same initials also prefix Suras 3, 29, 30, 31, and 32, and their frequencies of occurrence add up to multiples of 19 in each one of these suras.
I put it to you, the Bible says “all Scripture is inspired by God.”
The Quran says, “This Scripture is infallible.”
Which one are you to believe? If you accept the Bible and reject the Quran, why do you do that? Both books say that they are “inspired.” If you accept both, you are in for massive conflict because the Quran says that:
For the Muslim, Allah is the only true God;
It is blasphemous to believe in the Trinity;
Jesus Christ was a prophet for His people, in His day, but he is not the Son of God or God himself (Sura 4:171);
The prophet Muhammed supersedes Jesus Christ;
Jesus Christ did not atone for anyone’s sins, although Jesus was sinless;
Jesus did not die on the cross;
Many Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was taken bodily into heaven without having died (Sura 4:157);
The Muslim God is unapproachable by sinful people;
Sin and salvation in Islam are associated with works and fate (kismet);
Some Shiite Muslims are restoring Holy War (the Jihad) as a condition of faith — it is their sacred duty to murder anyone who will not embrace the one true faith. (Surely that is what we are seeing with the suicide bombings in the Middle East now).
The Bible says that it is the infallible, God-breathed Word of God.
The Quran says that it is infallible.
How are you going to validate the Bible as a trustworthy word from the Lord Almighty; or the Quran as the infallible Word from Allah?
It will not do to say, “Accept the Bible by faith.” We need some verification to prove that the Bible is the trustworthy word from the Lord almighty.
Take a read of one of the students on a seminary’s Bulletin Board [no longer available to the general public]:
I agree that they were fallible humans, but can the infallible God speak to us, give us a message to give to others, and still keep that message infallible. The whole question of infallibility of scripture is one of faith.
I won’t speak for anyone but me. If the outcome of eternity is based on the relationship I have with God, requires that God give me the message in a way I can understand, and trust. If you look at other historical writings, and how the OT and NT were written over thousands of years, by so many different writers, God’s hand must have been on it. Greater minds than mine have argued this question, and I have to stand with those who hold to infallibility.
For me, when the church Canonizes the scripture, it wasn’t so we would worship, but so would have a final authority. Something that we could all agree on. As I look on every church body that has pulled away for scripture as final authority, they have fallen away from belief, to the point that some do not believe in God at all (Bishop Pike). The struggle to canonize scripture, was long and hard; yes man did it but I believe God’s hand was there helping. Now can I prove anything I just said. No! But that’s the wonderful thing about faith, I don’t have to. If you don’t hold to scripture as the final authorty, than you have to look to the mind or logic; logic will lead you to humanism or to a God who wants to speak to us. Francis A. Schaeffer’s book, He is there and He is not silent, is a very good book explaining this process.
B. Here’s where I am going in these four messages with you.
I’m grateful for the brief time I studied under one of the world’s leading apologists, Dr John Warwick Montgomery. I am deeply indebted to his approach to defending the faith and establishing the trustworthiness of the Bible, especially the Gospel records. He taught me this outline (with some changes) and this is where we are going in these teaching sessions.
A criticism that is often made against the Bible is that Christians argue in circles. The charge goes like this: Christians claim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and to prove it, they quote a passage from the Bible that says so.
This kind of argumentation is known as begging the question or circular reasoning. Nothing is proved by it. It is based on assuming something is true, but using that assumption as fact to prove another assumption.
But there is no need to do this. Instead of assuming the Bible to be the Word of God, we can begin by:
1. Demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable historical documents.
2. In these documents, Jesus claims to be God in human flesh, and he bases His claim on His forthcoming resurrection.
3. We examine the evidence for the resurrection in this historic document and find that the arguments overwhelmingly support the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead. This demonstrates that He is the unique Son of God that He claimed to be. If He is God, then He speaks with authority on all matters.
4. Since Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-18; 15:1-3) and the soon-to-be written New Testament.
Jesus “promised His disciples, who either wrote or had control over the writing of the New Testament books, that the Holy Spirit would bring all things back to their remembrance (John 14:26).” So, “we can insist, with sound and accurate logic, that the Bible is God’s word. This is not circular reasoning. It is establishing certain facts and basing conclusions on the sound logical outcome of these facts. The case for Christianity can be established by ordinary means of historical investigation.”
5. If we have time, I’ll put the Quran to the same tests that we apply to the Bible.
C. By way of explanation, I need to say that I will be using tests to establish the trustworthiness of Scripture from within the Bible and from outside the Bible.
I have known Christians to get a bit upset with me when I say that I will be using tests from outside of the Bible to prove the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible. It’s necessary to do it this way.
Those who study the original languages of the Bible (Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew) have to do this all the time. Nowhere in the Bible do you find the rules of grammar for understanding Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I had to learn my Greek grammar to interpret the Bible, from outside of the Bible.
For example, we know that the Bible says, “God so loved the world” and NOT “the world so loved God” because of Greek grammar that dictates the translation into English. The Bible in the original language has to be interpreted by learning Greek grammar and syntax from OUTSIDE the Bible.
We have to do the same kind of thing when we set out to prove the trustworthiness of a historical document.
D. Let’s look at some books from history
- Here’s a biography of John Macarthur (John Macarthur, M. H. Ellis), not the American preacher, but a famous Australian (1767-1834). MacArthur was the “squire” responsible for bringing “to Australia the first authenticated pure merinos [sheep] and persuaded the British Privy Council that wool would be the basis of future greatness of the colony of New South Wales.”
The author of the biography says, “though the author has worked as far as possible from original documents, he has applied his reference notes wherever it has been feasible to a source more accessible to the ordinary student.” How do I know these original documents by John MacArthur are reliable and trustworthy?
- Here’s the book, The Five Gospels (Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar) and read p. 5: “Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you…. Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him.” How do we decide if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are 82% wrong with the words of Jesus OR the 4 Gospels provide an accurate picture of the life and death of Jesus Christ?
- Here we have The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus He was a wealthy Jew who wrote this history in which he “tried to justify Judaism to the cultured Romans by his writings.” He also mentioned James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ. . .” Is Josephus writing reliable history? If so, how do we know?
- Then I pick up my Bible and read, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Also, “All Scripture is God-breathed.. .” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Is God’s Word truth and reliable OR are we dealing with myth-making where 82% of what Jesus said is WRONG? How can be test these documents to see if they are trustworthy? Most of you will never read these books, but the content of them is driving what you are hearing on the mass media today about Jesus.
If I say that I believe the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God, and without error in all that it affirms, no news reporter will show up to interview me.
But the response is totally different if a group of high profile theologians rolls the coloured beads to decide which of the words of Jesus are true. They come up with only 18% of his words in the Gospels are what he said and the rest are inventions by the early church — the mass media will be along in droves. And that’s exactly what is happening. You watch what happens around Easter and Christmas!
We must have answers. Our young people must not be allowed to drown in this sea of attack on the word of God at school and university. We have good answers and we must provide them.
E. Let’s Vote on Jesus
Starting in 1985, a group of Bible scholars got together to decided if the words of Jesus in the Gospels were authentic. “At the close of debate on each agenda item, Fellows of the Seminar [that’s what they were called, male & female] voted, using colored beads to indicate the degree of authenticity of Jesus’ words. Dropping colored beads into a box became the trademark of the [Jesus] Seminar . . .”
This is what they found:
Pink bead: Sure sounds like Jesus.
Grey bead: Well, maybe.
Black bead: There’s been some mistake.
[Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover & The Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (Macmillan, 1993, p. 37)]
- A red slip meant that “Jesus undoubtedly said this or something like it.” In brief: “That’s Jesus.”
- A pink slip indicated that “Jesus probably said something like this.” In brief: “Sure sounds like Jesus.”
- Grey: “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own.” In brief: “Well, maybe.”
- A black slip meant “Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition.” In brief: “There’s been some mistake.”
If we are to be Christians of substance, I am convinced that we need to accept the Bible in its entirety as the Word of God. How can we do that? Listen to some thinking from those associated with the church.
F. What Some Theologians Are Saying
Some theologians are leading the push to make Jesus fit into the trendy modern mold of what our modern secular culture wants.
1. Former Episcopalian (Anglican) Bishop John Spong (USA)
In his book, Born of a Woman [please note, the book is not titled, Born of a Virgin, and that is deliberate. Spong makes the outlandish suggestion that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived Jesus illegitimately. The early church as a cover-up invented the virgin birth.
In talking about the birth story of Jesus in Luke 2, Spong asks: “Is it true? . . The answer is, of course, no! . . There was no biologically literal virgin birth. . . In all probability Jesus was born in Nazareth in a very normal way either as the child of Mary and Joseph, or else he was an illegitimate child that Joseph validated by acknowledging him as Joseph’s son. All that can be stated definitely is that the echoes of the status of illegitimacy appear to be far stronger in the text then the suggestion that Jesus was Mary’s child by Joseph.”
2. Barbara Thiering (Australia)
In her book, Jesus: The Man, she claims that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. He was poisoned and then revived. He married and raised three children.
3. Roman Catholic biblical scholar, John Dominic Crossan (USA)
Please understand that when these liberal theologians like Crossan speak of “the historical Jesus,” they are:
- NOT speaking about Jesus as he lived in history;
- They are using a technical term, a reconstruction of Jesus;
- The “historical Jesus” is the one who can be explained in scientific, historical, purely human categories;
- Anything miraculous is myth because supernatural events defy history and cannot be called history. They are mythological.
- So, in reality, their so-called historical Jesus is the unhistorical invention of these critics. They are creating Jesus in their own image and calling him “the historical Jesus.”18]
I am convinced that Charles Colson is correct when he states that:
“Taken together, books like these can create a widespread climate of opinion that the Bible is simply a collection of myths and errors. Even evangelical Christians may gradually accept the same principle and begin to separate faith from facts. The Bible is true in its spiritual message, they say, but full of errors in its history.”
There was an SBS television series here in Australia in 1999. It was called, “From Jesus to Christ,” and presented the views of people like those from the Jesus Seminar. After watching one episode of that program, a Christian came to me, utterly devastated. She said something like:
- “Have I been deceived?
- Have I believed a lie all this time?
- The biblical scholars on that program said that the words of Jesus couldn’t be trusted as accurate or truthful.
- In fact, they are saying that about 80% of the words that the NT puts in Jesus’ mouth DID NOT come from him at all. The early church inserted them in the Bible because the church wanted us to believe that.
- I need some answers. Is this true that the early church put words in Jesus’ mouth? These scholars say it is.”
In the Bible, faith can never be separated from historical facts. To talk about the “Jesus of faith” vs. “the Jesus of history” is nonsensical. Remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 15? “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so it your faith . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (vv. 14, 17). If Jesus was not raised from the dead–historical fact–your faith is worthless.
Besides, if we accept the premise that the Bible is wrong, we become butchers. We start the chopping job. How are we going to decide what is believable and what is to be chucked out? If we start tampering with the Bible, we will be trying to make Jesus to fit what we want. Our prejudices will make Jesus into the image we want him to be.
I’d like to introduce you to a rather different approach to judo.
G. The Judo Technique
Often as you begin presenting the gospel, the person will say something like, “I don’t believe the Bible. You’ll have to convince me some other way than referring to the Scriptures.” Many people are devastated by this objection. What happens to them? Their attempt to share Christ fizzles.
This need not be the case. I want to encourage you to use this objection as a springboard into the gospel itself. The Apostle Paul, when he preached in Greek cities that had no background in the Bible, appealed to the Scriptures even though the people who listened to him did not believe the Bible.
He proclaimed to them and the Holy Spirit used the proclamation to save some who then came to believe the Bible to be true. When we witness, our primary function is to proclaim the gospel, not defence of the Bible. BUT when people object to the Bible, we DO NEED good answers to respond. And there ARE EXCELLENT answers.
The judo technique works like this. The objection, “I don’t believe the Bible,” is quite an easy one to deal with. Don’t use the approach of a boxer who meets the blow head on and tries to overwhelm the opponent with counter punches. Instead use the technique of the judo expert . The force of the opponent’s blow is used to throw the opponent.
Here’s how it works in presenting the gospel. The person who objects, “I don’t believe the Bible,” usually has some university education, or has been exposed to some course in the Bible, or biblical criticism or something like that.
There is often some intellectual pride that says or infers something like this: “I used to believe those fairy tales when I was in kindy, but now I am an educated person and am far above believing those things.” It is this intellectual pride that can be used to turn this objection into an opportunity for presenting the gospel. I suggest this kind of dialogue with the person who objects.
“You don’t believe the Bible, John? That’s very interesting and it certainly is your privilege not to believe it, and I would fight for that right on your part. However, if the Bible is true then obviously you must accept the consequences.
“But I would like to ask you a question. The main message of the Bible, which has been unquestionably the most important literary work in human history, is how a person may have eternal life. So what I would like to know is: What do you understand that the Bible teaches about how a person may have eternal life and go to heaven?”
He may say that he does not believe in eternal life. To this you might say, “I’m not asking you what you believe, but I am asking you what you understand. It would be a rather unintellectual approach to reject the world’s most important book without understanding even its main message, would it not? What do you understand that the Bible teaches as to how a person may have eternal life? What is your understanding about what the Bible teaches on this subject?”
My experience is that over 90% will respond by saying that it is by keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule or imitating the example of Christ, doing good, or something like that.
You might respond something like this: “That is just what I was afraid of, John. You have rejected the Bible without even understanding its main message, for your answer is not only incorrect, but it is diametrically opposite to what the Bible teaches. Now, don’t you think that the more intellectual approach would be to let me share with you what the Scriptures teach on this subject and then you can make an intelligent decision whether to reject or accept it?”
Now the tables have been completely turned. Instead of being superior to the Scripture and even above listening to it, he now finds himself ignorant of even its basic message. Now he must decide whether to listen to the message of the Scriptures or be found to be not only ignorant but also some obscure person who opposes intellectual advancement — and wants to remain in his ignorance.
This is the last thing in the world that his intellectual pride will allow him to be. So, very often he will give you permission to tell him the gospel. It is at this point that you pray with vigour that the Holy Spirit will take the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, and use it to awaken him from the deadness because of sin.
If he persists that he will not discuss anything further with you until you deal with his objection I suggest the following pre-evangelism approach (apologetics):
H. You need to begin with the existence of God
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) states. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Will you please think through how you could present a case for the existence of the Almighty God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ – to somebody who doesn’t know the Lord?
What would be your starting point?
 Retrieved on May 7, 2002 from http://www.submission.org/suras/sura2.htm The Glorious Quran, An Authorized English Version: Translated from the original by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, Ph.D.
Note: The four points in McDowell & Stewart seem to be an abbreviated version, taken from John W. Montgomery’s points for the “crux validation” of the New Testament:
a. On the basis of accepted principles of textual and historical analysis, the Gospel records are found to be trustworthy historical documents — primary source evidence for the life of Christ,
b. In these records, Jesus exercises divine prerogatives and claims to be God in human flesh; and He rests His claims on His forthcoming resurrection.
c. In all four Gospels, Christ’s bodily resurrection is described in minute detail; Christ’s resurrection evidences His deity.
d. The fact of the resurrection cannot be discounted on a priori, philosophical grounds; miracles are impossible only if one so defines them — but such definition rules out proper historical investigation.
e. If Christ is God, then He speaks the truth concerning the absolute divine authority of the Old Testament and of the soon-to-be-written New Testament. [John Warwick Montgomery, The Suicide of Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1970, n. 58, p. 306. Montgomery wrote that this summary was based on his book, Shape of the Past, n. 26, pp. 138-39.]
 R. W. Funk, R. W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company (A Polebridge Press Book), 1993, p. 34.
 George Eldon Ladd in The New Testament and Criticism makes some of these point. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967, p. 195. Ladd was particularly speaking of Rudolf Bultmann, but the application is strong to the Jesus Seminar conclusions.
 Based on ibid., pp. 15-16.
Australian Edition published by Evangelism Explosion Ministries Australia, PO Box 1686, Wollongong 2500, 1983, pp. 84-85.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 July 2016.