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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 38 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: The Bible is Reliable *
Introduction: Each week we have been building an argument about why
humans should pay close attention to the word of God. In all of this
our assumption is that the Bible is God's word. Do you know how we
came to have the Bible? Some people talk as if the complete text, in
the King James version, fell out of heaven and humans accepted it and
reprinted it. The truth is far different. Recently, the pagan world
has begun to make a direct attack on the composition of the Bible.
The popular book and movie, the Da Vinci Code, claims that certain
books that should have been in the New Testament were left out.
Books left out? What is that about? Let's dive into our lesson and
find out more!
- Adding and Subtracting
- Read Revelation 22:18-19. Why does John, the writer of
Revelation, refer to his writing as a "book of prophecy"
as opposed to "the last section of the Bible?" (Because it
was not a part of the Bible when it was written.)
- What was John concerned about? (That someone would
tamper with the text and add or remove something.)
- This warning tells us something about John's thoughts
about the authority under which he wrote the book.
What is it? (He clearly believes God is involved in
- Read Deuteronomy 4:1-2. What warning does Moses give us
about what he has written on behalf of God? (He does not
want anyone adding or subtracting from what he has written
on God's behalf.)
- Should these two great writers of the Bible have been
worried? Is this adding or subtracting issue a problem?
- As you look at your Bible today, what are the issues that
go into the question of whether what you have in your
hands is reliable? (Let's start from the top and drill
down. First, is my translation accurate? Did the
translator do a good job? Second, was the translator
working on the right original language text? If people are
tempted to add or subtract from the text of the Bible, how
can I know my translator was using accurate text? Third,
how can I know if the books that appear in my Bible are
the right ones? Don't Catholics have more? Doesn't the
DaVinci Code say some books that should be in the Bible
are not there?)
- What Books Constitute Scripture?
- Read 1 Timothy 5:17-18. What is Paul referring to when he
says these words come from "Scripture?" (Paul had
something that he was calling the Bible.)
- Read Deuteronomy 25:4, Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7.
Who or what is Paul quoting? (He is quoting Moses and
Jesus. Thus, we know that the early church considered
the writings of Moses and Jesus to be Scripture. The
early church considered at least the Old Testament
and the words of Jesus to be "the Bible.")
- How did we get the rest of the New Testament? (Volume 5 of
the SDA Bible Commentary at pages 123-132 and an popular
article by C. Hansen found at
http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter/2003/nov7.html (see "Fax from Heaven?")outline the historical
process by which the early church made a judgment on which
of the books and letters written by the apostles and early
leaders were to be considered part of the New Testament:
The New Testament was the good news
concerning Jesus Christ, and
Christians naturally believed that
the most authentic presentations of
this message were those written by
men who had been with Jesus.
Consequently only those works were
accepted ... that were the products
of an apostle or of a companion of an
apostle writing in the apostolic
period. (5 SDA Bible Commentary 132)
- Is the Text Accurate?
- Scholars believe that Revelation, the last book of the
Bible, was written about 90 A.D. Are any originals of any
New Testament books or letters still around? (No. The very
oldest fragment of a copy of a book of the New Testament
is a few verses of John 18 which are believed to date back
to 100-115 A.D. (P.W. Comfort, Early Manuscripts & Modern
Translations of the New Testament, p. 4 (Tyndale 1990))
- If there are no originals, but merely copies of copies,
how can we know that the text of what we call the Bible is
accurate? (We have a lot of copies. There are nearly 4,500
manuscripts of the Greek New Testament known to exist. (5
SDA Bible Commentary 112)
- When I was young, almost everyone used the King James
version of the Bible. On what is the KJV based? (The King
James and the New King James versions of the New Testament
are based on a group of copies of the New Testament called
"Textus Receptus." These included copies of copies of New
Testament books and manuscripts dating from as recently as
700-800 A.D. (5 SDA Bible Commentary 116-119, 140-142) The
reason for this is that the KJV translation was first
written in 1611. Most people do not realize the KJV was
the 8th major English translation of the Bible. (5 SDA
Bible Commentary 128(see chart), 142.) According to P.W.
Comfort, in the last 100 years we have found almost 100
New Testament manuscripts from the sands and ruins of
Egypt that go back to 200 A.D. (Comfort, pp. xvii, 27)
Within the last year, the Smithsonian hosted an ancient
manuscript exhibit in which I saw a fragment which dated
back to about 125 A.D.!)
- Why is it that the King James translation has sections in
it that do not appear in more modern translations like the
New International Version? (As we discover more and
earlier sections of the Bible, the scholars look to see if
there is agreement in those copies. For example, if all of
the copies of a section of the book of John which are
dated before 250 A.D. do not contain a certain verse, then
it seems logical to conclude that some scribe added his
own comment later - and scribes coming after him who were
copying from his copy, thought it came from the original.
In that way, the recent discovery of more ancient
fragments and copies gives us a more accurate view of what
was originally written.)
- Should you be worried about missing verses? Worried about
something important left out or something unwanted added
to your Bible? (All of the commentators that I have read
agree that we are talking about a small percentage of the
New Testament that is disputed - and nothing that involves
a major doctrine of the Christian faith. We have great
evidence for the reliability of our New Testament -
regardless of which translation you use.)
- Admissions Against Interest
- Think of the times you have told a story about yourself.
Did you make yourself look better or worse in the story?
- Read Galatians 2:11-13. How would you describe Peter's
conduct? (Inconsistent, hypocritical. He was eating with
the Gentiles. But, when some Jews from the "home office"
showed up, he stopped eating with the Gentiles.)
- Why does the Bible include this story about one of
the great followers of Jesus?
- Is Paul telling this story so the Gentiles will like
him better than Peter? (Perhaps, although that seems
unworthy of Paul. A better explanation is that this
is common in the Bible. The Bible does not hide the
character flaws of God's great followers.)
- What can we conclude from the fact that the Bible
tells the truth about its heroes? (When you are
testifying in an American courtroom, you are normally
not allowed to repeat what someone else said outside
the courtroom. Reason is that those words cannot be
tested for accuracy by cross-examination. There are
some exceptions to this rule, and one of them is when
a person outside of court says something that is
damaging to himself. This is called an "admission
against interest." These statements are considered to
have passed the truth test because a person is
generally telling the truth when he admits something
bad about themself.)
- Friend, you can rely on the Bible! Will you determine
today to buy a Bible that you can easily understand, and
then start reading it?
- Next week: When the Rocks Cry Out.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.