Daily Archives: March 19, 2014

Questions about The Bible: Hasn’t the New Testament been changed since it has been copied and recopied throughout history?

 

A common misconception is that the text of the Bible has not come down to us the way in which it was originally written. Accusations abound of zealous monks changing the biblical text throughout Church history. This issue is of the utmost importance, since an altered text would do grave damage to the credibility of the story.

As F. F. Bruce says, “The historical ‘once-for-all-ness’ of Christianity which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems, which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance” (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 8).

Fortunately, the problem is not a lack of evidence. There are three different types of evidence that are to be used in evaluating the New Testament text. These are the Greek manuscripts, the various versions in which the New Testament is translated, and the writings of the Church fathers.

The New Testament was originally composed in the Greek language. There are approximately 5,500 copies in existence that contain all or part of the New Testament. Although we do not possess the originals, copies exist from a very early date.

The New Testament was written from about a.d. 50 to a.d. 90. The earliest fragment (p. 52) dates about a.d. 120, with about fifty other fragments dating within 150–200 years from the time of composition.

Two major manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus (a.d. 325) and Codex Sinaiticus (a.d. 350), a complete copy, date within 250 years of the time of composition. This may seem like a long time span, but it is minimal compared to most ancient works.

The earliest copy of Caesar’s The Gallic Wars dates 1,000 years after it was written, and the first complete copy of the Odyssey by Homer dates 2,200 years after it was written. When the interval between the writing of the New Testament and earliest copies is compared to other ancient works, the New Testament proves to be much closer to the time of the original.

The 5,500 copies are far and away the most we have of any ancient work. Many ancient writings have been transmitted to us by only a handful of manuscripts (Catullus—three copies; the earliest one is 1,600 years after he wrote; Herodotus—eight copies and 1,300 years).

Not only do the New Testament documents have more manuscript evidence and close time interval between the writing and earliest copy, but they were also translated into several other languages at an early date. Translation of a document into another language was rare in the ancient world, so this is an added plus for the New Testament.

The number of copies of the versions is in excess of 18,000, with possibly as many as 25,000. This is further evidence that helps us establish the New Testament text.

Even if we did not possess the 5,500 Greek manuscripts or the 18,000 copies of the versions, the text of the New Testament could still be reproduced within 250 years from its composition. How? By the writings of the early Christians. In commentaries, letters, etc., these ancient writers quote the biblical text, thus giving us another witness to the text of the New Testament.

John Burgon has catalogued more than 86,000 citations by the early church fathers who cite different parts of the New Testament. Thus we observe that there is so much more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament text than any other comparable writings in the ancient world.

F. F. Bruce makes the following observation: “The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.”

He also states, “And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt” (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 15).

Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, was one of the foremost experts on ancient manuscripts and their authority. Shortly before his death, he wrote this concerning the New Testament:

“The interval between the dates of original composition (of the New Testament) and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (The Bible and Archaeology, pp. 288-89).[1]


[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Questions about Difficult Bible Verses: Romans 1:26—Does this verse mean that homosexuals should not be heterosexual because it is unnatural to them?

 

Misinterpretation: According to some homosexuals, when Paul spoke against what is “unnatural” in Romans 1:26 he was not declaring that homosexuality was morally wrong but simply that it was unnatural for heterosexuals. “Unnatural” is used in a sociological, not a biological way. So rather than condemning homosexual practices, it is argued that this Romans passage actually approves of homosexual practices for homosexuals.

Correcting the Misinterpretation: When the Bible declares that homosexual practices are “contrary to nature” (Rom. 1:26 kjv) it is referring to biological, not sociological nature. This passage cannot be used to justify homosexuality.

Sexuality and sexual expression are defined biologically in Scripture from the beginning. In Genesis 1 God created “male and female” and then told them to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:27–28). This reproduction was only possible if he was referring to a biological male and female. Sexual orientation is understood biologically, not sociologically, when God said “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24 niv). Only a biological father and mother can produce children, and the reference to “one flesh” simply cannot be understood in any relationship except heterosexual physical marriage.

The Romans passage says that “men committed indecent acts with other men.” This clearly indicates that the class of sinful act condemned was homosexual in nature (Rom. 1:27). What they did was not natural to them but was “exchanged” for “natural relations” (v. 26). So the homosexual acts were pronounced unnatural for homosexuals too. Homosexual desires are also called “shameful lusts” (v. 26). So it is evident that God is condemning sexual sins between those of the same biological sex. Homosexual acts are contrary to human nature as such, not just to a heterosexual’s sexual orientation.[1]

 


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: a popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (p. 210). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Questions about Angels and Demons: Is the King of Tyre Prophecy in Ezekiel 28 Referring to Satan?

 

At first glance, the prophecy in Ezekiel 28:11–19 seems to refer to a human king. Tyre was the recipient of some of the strongest prophetic condemnations in the Bible (Isaiah 23:1–18; Jeremiah 25:22; 27:1–11; Ezekiel 26:1–28:19; Joel 3:4–8; Amos 1:9, 10). Tyre was known for building its wealth by exploiting its neighbors. Ancient writers referred to the city of Tyre as a city filled with unscrupulous merchants. Tyre was a center of religious idolatry and sexual immorality. The biblical prophets rebuked Tyre for its pride brought on by its great wealth and strategic location. Ezekiel 28:11–19 seems to be a particularly strong indictment against the King of Tyre in the prophet Ezekiel’s day, rebuking the king for his insatiable pride and greed.

However, some of the descriptions in Ezekiel 28:11–19 go beyond any mere human king. In no sense could an earthly king claim to be “in Eden” or to be “the anointed cherub who covers” or to be “on the holy mountain of God.” Therefore, most Bible interpreters believe that Ezekiel 28:11–19 is a dual prophecy, comparing the pride of the King of Tyre to the pride of Satan. Some propose that the King of Tyre was actually possessed by Satan, making the link between the two even more powerful and applicable.

Before his fall, Satan was indeed a beautiful creature (Ezekiel 28:12–13). He was perhaps the most beautiful and powerful of all the angels. The phrase “guardian cherub” possibly indicates that Satan was the angel who “guarded” God’s presence. Pride led to Satan’s fall. Rather than give God the glory for creating him so beautifully, Satan took pride in himself, thinking that he himself was responsible for his exalted status. Satan’s rebellion resulted in God casting Satan from His presence and will, eventually, result in God condemning Satan to the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:10).

Like Satan, the human King of Tyre was prideful. Rather than recognize God’s sovereignty, the King of Tyre attributed Tyre’s riches to his own wisdom and strength. Not satisfied with his extravagant position, the King of Tyre sought more and more, resulting in Tyre taking advantage of other nations, expanding its own wealth at the expense of others. But just as Satan’s pride led to his fall and will eventually lead to his eternal destruction, so will the city of Tyre lose its wealth, power, and status. Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre’s total destruction was fulfilled partially by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:17–21) and ultimately by Alexander the Great.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about The Bible: How Do We Know That The Bible Came From God?

 

We know that the Bible came from God for one very simple reason: Jesus told us so. It is on His authority, as the God of the universe, that we are sure that the Bible is the Word of God. He confirmed the Old Testament’s authority in His teaching, and He promised an authoritative New Testament through His disciples. The Son of God Himself assures us that the Bible is the Word of God.

Jesus Confirmed The Authority
Of The Old Testament

Jesus spoke of the whole Old Testament (Matt. 22:29), its central divisions (Luke 16:16), its individual books (Matt. 22:43; 24:15), its events (19:4–5; Luke 17:27), and even its letters and parts of letters (Matt. 5:18) as having divine authority. He called the Scriptures the Word of God (John 10:35). He said that they had been written by men moved by the Spirit when He said, “David himself said in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 12:36) and refers to events “spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15). In such statements He confirms the authorship of the most often disputed books, like Moses’ writings (Mark 7–10), Isaiah (v. 6), Daniel, and the Psalms. He also refers to the very miracles which critics reject as historical events. He cites the Creation (Luke 11:51), Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4–5), Noah and the Flood (24:37–39), Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 10:12), and Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:39–41). He said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the letter of the Law to fail” (Luke 16:17). The fact that He considered the Scripture to be the final authority is seen clearly in His temptations, when He defends himself from Satan’s attacks three times with the phrase, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4ff).

Outline of Argument for the Bible

God exists (chap. 2).

The New Testament is a historically reliable document (chaps. 7, 9).

Miracles are possible (chap. 5).

Miracles confirm Jesus’ claim to be God (chap. 6).

Whatever God teaches is true (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5–6).

Jesus (= God) taught that the Bible is the Word of God by confirming the Old Testament and promising the New Testament.

Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God.

What Jesus Taught about the Old Testament

1.   Authority—Matthew 22:43

2.   Reliability—Matthew 26:54

3.   Finality—Matthew 4:4, 7, 10

4.   Sufficiency—Luke 16:31

5.   Indestructibility—Matthew 5:17–18

6.   Unity—Luke 24:27, 44

7.   Clarity—Luke 24:27

8.   Historicity—Matthew 12:40

9.   Facticity (scientifically)—Matthew 19:2–5

10. Inerrancy—Matthew 22:29; John 3:12; 17:17

11. Infallibility—John 10:35

“Here,” Jesus was saying, “is the permanent, unchangeable witness of the eternal God, committed to writing for our instruction.” Such it appears to have been to Jesus’ inmost soul, quite apart from any convenience to Him in controversy. In the hour of utmost crisis and at the moment of death, words of the Scripture came to His lips: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34, niv) “Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Ps. 31:5; Luke 23:46, niv).

Jesus Promised The New Testament

Jesus told His disciples just before He left them, “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:25–26). Jesus added, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (16:13). These statements promise that the teachings of Jesus will be remembered and understood, and that additional truths would be given to the apostles so that the church could be established. They set the stage for the apostolic era which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) and continued until the last of the apostles died (John, about a.d. 100).

During this period, the apostles became the agents of the complete and final revelation of Jesus Christ and He continued “to do and teach” through them (Acts 1:1). They were given the “keys to the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) and by their hands did believers receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14–15; 19:1–6). The early church built its doctrines and practices on “the foundation of the apostles” (Eph. 2:20). It followed the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) and was bound by decisions of the apostolic council (Acts 15). Even though Paul had received his apostleship by a revelation from God, his credentials were confirmed by the apostles in Jerusalem.

Some of the New Testament writers were not apostles, though. How can we explain their authority? They used the apostolic message which was “confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb. 2:3). Mark worked closely with Peter (1 Peter 5:13); James and Jude were closely associated with the apostles in Jerusalem and were probably Jesus’ brothers; Luke was a companion of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11) who interviewed many eyewitnesses to produce his account (Luke 1:1–4). Paul’s writings are even equated with Scripture by Peter (2 Peter 3:15–16). In each case (with the exception of Hebrews; we don’t know for sure who wrote that book), there is a definite link between the writer and the apostles who gave them information (cf. 2:3).

Now if Jesus, who was God in the flesh and always spoke the truth, said that the Old Testament was the Word of God and that the New Testament would be written by His apostles and prophets as the sole authorized agents for His message, then our entire Bible is proven to be from God. We have it on the best of authority—Jesus Christ Himself.[1]


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Brooks, R. M. (1990). When skeptics ask (pp. 142–144). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

7 signs your church could be backsliding

A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Is your church following the Word and ways of the Lord and abhorring all that is otherwise? Is the fear of God, the love for truth and for God’s glory, and the desire to walk according to all God’s commandments prospering among the believers? When a church begins to slip it loses track of that which it must hold to firmly, it gradually and steadily drifts. Here are a few signs your church could be backsliding….

1.When [a] church begins to backslide, the first visible sign is usually an increase in worldliness. In everyday lives, in conversation, and even in dress and fashion, the spirit of the world begins to infest church circles. What crept ashamedly into the church before begins to walk in freely, often covered or overlooked instead of exposed and admonished. The black and white line separating godliness and worldliness becomes increasingly grayer.

Instead of walking in…

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Caring Enough to Wonder if What Just Happened, Happened (Re: Mark Driscoll’s recent apology)

driscollMark Driscoll’s recent apology has provided for some thoughtful and edifying discussion.

And as we discuss, it’s best for us to remember a few things: We need to love and pray for him. We need to remember that we’re not omniscient. And we need to hope for the best and pray accordingly.

And in doing so, the church as the opportunity to grow from this. Questions are being raised. Ideas are being circulated. But there have been too many erroneous assertions and objections in the mix.

Here are a few categorically unhelpful ideas buzzing throughout evangelicalism regarding the Driscoll apology:

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Is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Real?

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome- have you heard of it? I hadn’t, until I read Reba Riley’s post on Patheos describing her own struggle and eventual self-diagnosis of this spiritual condition. What is PTCS?

According to Reba, PTCS is “a severe, negative — almost allergic — reaction to inflexible doctrine, outright abuse of spiritual power, dogma and (often) praise bands and preachers.” She lists both emotional and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal from all things religious, failure to believe in anything, depression, anxiety, loss or desire to walk into a place of worship. Physically, sufferers of PTCS may have sweats, nausea, heart palpitations—as she notes, “the symptoms are as varied as the people who suffer them.”

In her article, Why I Stopped Going to Church, Jennifer Maggio echoes these ideas. She felt judgment from her Christian community after having two children outside marriage, and the pain she felt drove her away. She writes:

“My excuses were many:

The church is full of hypocrites.

I don’t fit in. There’s no one else like me.

I have a close relationship with God and don’t need church.

I study the Bible on my own at home.

The church will judge me.

The longer I stayed away from church, the easier it was for me to continue to do so. And the truth is, my journey back into God’s house was a long, hard one. It was only after examining my life at a very dark and lonely time that I made the decision to return. Even then, the urge to withdraw was strong.”

Eventually, Jennifer did make her way back to the Church and now has a thriving ministry for single mothers.

So, what should you do if you think you suffer from PTCS? I appreciate Thabiti Anyabwile’s thoughts in his article, Should We Stop Saying, ‘The Church Hurt Me’? He counsels those who have been hurt in the church to remember that it is sinful, flawed people who have hurt them, and to not give up on God and his plan for the Church. He writes, “Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not “all the same.” Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 Cor. 1:3-5).”

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What Will Happen When The ‘Big One’ Hits California?

On Monday, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake threw the city of Los Angeles into a bit of a tizzy. The ground shook, people screamed and news anchors ducked under their desks. But it was just a 4.4 magnitude earthquake. So what would happen if the “Big One” hit California? What would happen if an earthquake hundreds of times more powerful than the one that we saw on Monday hit Los Angeles or San Francisco? We don’t really know what would happen, because nothing like that has happened in modern times. Fortunately for us, we have been living during a time of extremely low seismic activity in California. But scientists assure us that will change at some point, and some of them are now warning that when the “Big One” does strike that the devastation could be far worse than people have been imagining.

If you want a good laugh, check out the video that I have posted below. A couple of news anchors at KTLA literally dove under their desks when the earthquake started shaking their studio, and their reactions are (Read More…)

Government Agency: If 9 Substations Are Destroyed, The Power Grid Could Be Down For 18 Months

What would you do if the Internet or the power grid went down for over a year? Our key infrastructure, including the Internet and the power grid, is far more vulnerable than most people would dare to imagine. These days, most people simply take for granted that the lights will always be on and that the Internet will always function properly. But what if all that changed someday in the blink of an eye? According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest report, all it would take to plunge the entire nation into darkness for more than a year would be to knock out a transformer manufacturer and just 9 of our 55,000 electrical substations on a really hot summer day. The reality of the matter is that our power grid is in desperate need of updating, and there is very little or no physical security at most of these substations. If terrorists, or saboteurs, or special operations forces wanted to take down our power grid, it would not be very difficult. And as you will read about later in this article, the Internet is extremely vulnerable as well. (Read More….)

The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Possessing the Treasure

By Mike Ratliff

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what…

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