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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!

  1. Adding and Subtracting


    1. 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.)


      1. What was John concerned about? (That someone would tamper with the text and add or remove something.)


      2. 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 the writing.)


    2. 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.)


    3. Should these two great writers of the Bible have been worried? Is this adding or subtracting issue a problem?


    4. 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?)


  2. What Books Constitute Scripture?


    1. 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.)


      1. 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.")


    2. 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)


  3. Is the Text Accurate?


    1. 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))


    2. 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)


    3. 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.!)


    4. 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.)


    5. 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.)


  4. Admissions Against Interest


    1. Think of the times you have told a story about yourself. Did you make yourself look better or worse in the story?


    2. 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.)


      1. Why does the Bible include this story about one of the great followers of Jesus?


      2. 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.)


      3. 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.)


    3. 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?


  5. 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.

© 2014 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Website by Blake Cameron, M.D.
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