Is the Bible true?

 

When people ask us whether the Bible is true, we need to begin with the essential nature of Scripture itself. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

The older translations use the words “inspired” or “inspiration.”

Inspiration is that process by which the Holy Spirit came upon the authors of the Bible (without suspending their own personalities, intellects, or circumstances) and superintended their writing so that what they wrote represented the very words of God Himself.

William Lane Craig uses the word confluence. The word “con” means “together,” and “fluence” or “fluency” has to do with flow, as in the flow of words.

We can turn to 2 Timothy 3:16 and say, “These are the words of the apostle Paul.” Or we could say, “These are the words of God.” In either case, we would be correct. There is a confluency in the process of inspiration that caused this Book to be the one and only book in the world that has joint divine-human authorship. It is a Miracle Book.

This is not unreasonable. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing we would expect if, in fact, there is a Creator-God. We would expect Him to want to communicate with His creation and to do so in a way that is objective, unique, enduring, personal, and life-changing. If the Bible is breathed out by God, we would expect it to be truthful. We would expect it to be accurate. That is just what we find. Let me deal with four objections I often hear—miracles, errors, contradictions, and inaccuracies.

Miracles: Many people disparage the Bible because of its miracles. If you’re an atheist, then, by definition, there is no possibility of a miracle. But if you accept the first four words of the Bible – “In the beginning God” – then it is plausible, even reasonable, to expect God to accomplish things beyond the ordinary. If there is a God, by nature of the definition of who He is, there is the potential for the miraculous.

 Errors: When skeptics locate errors in the Bible, it’s usually the skeptic who has erred. A month ago, for example, headlines claimed the Bible had gotten it wrong about the Canaanites. DNA tests in Lebanon showed that 90 percent of the Lebanese people have descended from the ancient Canaanite tribes described in Scripture. The newspapers said, “The Bible says the Israelites wiped out the Canaanites, but now we know they were simply driven northward into Lebanon. The Bible is wrong.”

But the journalists are wrong. The Bible does not claim the Israelites wiped out the Canaanites. It says the opposite. It says that the Canaanites continued to occupy the land after the Conquest, that Israel drove some of them out, but that the Canaanites were never erased from history or from Scripture or from the land.

National Geographic said, “No archaeological evidence for the widespread destruction of Canaanite settlements described in the Bible has yet been identified.”[1]

The Bible does not claim the Israelites destroyed widespread areas of Canaanite settlements. It says the opposite. It’s National Geographic that has it wrong. The DNA findings from Lebanon have confirmed what the Bible said all along—that the Israelites drove some of the Canaanites from the land; and since they couldn’t go to the south because of the Philistines or to the west because of the Mediterranean, they went northward, into Lebanon, and their descendants are there to this day.

Contradictions: I’ve tried to study these contradictions, but I have a hard time finding them. For example, Matthew 27 says Judas Iscariot hanged himself. In Acts 1, Peter said Judas fell headlong into a field and his body burst open and all his intestines had spilled out. Which was it?

Differences do not necessarily represent contradictions. They can often be harmonized. It’s reasonable to assume Judas hanged himself, his body swelled up in the sun, and when someone cut the rope or it broke, Judas tumbled to the ground and his body ruptured. When we find differences in the accounts in the Bible, they are almost always capable of being harmonized.

Theologian Kenneth Kantzer once learned his friend’s mother had died, but the news came in bits and pieces. Kantzer first heard the woman had been standing on the street waiting for a bus, and another bus had stuck her. Then he heard she had been in a car wreck and had been thrown from the car and had killed. Later he learned the full story. The woman had been struck by a bus and someone lifted her into a car to rush her to the hospital. But the car collided with another car and she was thrown out and died instantly. Both accounts were true, and with more information they were harmonized.[2]

When you read different accounts in the Gospels, it doesn’t mean the writers got it wrong. It means they are writing from their own perspectives. This actually reinforces the accuracy of the Bible, for it means that the Gospel writers did not collude with one another in developing their stories.

Inaccuracies: Critics claim they can find a lot of inaccuracies in Scripture, but these so-called inaccuracies often reflect on the bad hermeneutics of the skeptic. For example, in Mark 4, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which, He said, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth but grows into the largest herb. But we know there are smaller seeds and larger herbs.

Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point, as many teachers and writers did in those days and even now. Hyperbole is a perfectly accepted literary device in which someone uses an obvious exaggeration to make a point.

Sometimes people ask me, “Do you think the Bible is literally true?” My answer is, “I think the Bible is totally true; and the parts of the Bible that are to be taken literally are literally true. But not all the Bible is to be taken literally. Some of it is hyperbole. Some of it is symbolic. Some of it is poetic. Some of it is parabolic. We have to interpret the Bible wisely and fairly.

I can’t say I can fully resolve every single difficulty in the Bible, but the more I study the Bible the fewer difficulties I find and the smaller those difficulties appear to be. Some of them are simply minor transmission errors that have crept into the text over time and which pose no challenge to our belief in inspiration.

I’m fully persuaded that the Bible is infallible and inerrant in its original autographs (manuscripts) and that the Bibles we hold in our hands are remarkably accurate, as no other book on earth. It’s capable of anchoring my soul, lifting my spirits, filling my heart, and engaging my mind. For…

All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, that the servant of God may be fully equipped for every good work.

 

 

[1] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/canaanite-bible-ancient-dna-lebanon-genetics-archaeology/

[2] www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s2-7. I’m grateful for Dr. Craig’s insights that helped inform this blog.

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