THE BIBLE

What is in the Bible?

The Holy Bible is a collection of books. These are arranged in the Old Testament (before Jesus Christ) and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the same books as the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, and consists of 3 or 4 main sections:

  • The Law (Torah), called the 5 Books of Moses. These are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These tell about creation, the patriarchs, the miraculous way that God broke the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and more.
  • History. These tell how God has intervened, interacted, and taught people through history. God's mixture of justice, mercy, and love are clearly seen in these books.
  • Wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs), also called the poetic books include prayers, great wisdom, and some prophesy. Many of the things written in the Psalms were fulfilled by Jesus, the Messiah. The history and wisdom literature books combined are referred to as "The Writings" (Kethuvim).
  • The Prophets (Nevi'im). These contain God's Word to His people, both in terms of current activities and in predicting future events.

The New Testament consists of 4 sections:

  • The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell about Jesus' life and teaching.
  • Acts records the history of the early church and some of the miracles done by the Holy Spirit.
  • The Letters (also called the Epistles) contain important teaching for those who follow Jesus Christ.
  • Revelation is a book of prophesy that tells about what is going to happen, as well as sending some warning messages to the current assemblies of Christians.

The Bible is the account of God's action in the world and his purpose with all creation. The writing of the Bible took place over sixteen centuries and is the work of over forty human authors. It is a quite amazing collection of 66 books with very different styles all containing the message God desired us to have.

This compilation of booklets contains an astonishing variety of literary styles. It provides many stories about the lives of good and bad people, about battles and journeys, about the life of Jesus along with letters written to groups of Christians that met in homes. It comes to us in narratives and dialogues, in proverbs and parables, in songs and allegories, in history and prophecy.

The accounts in the Bible were not generally written down as they occurred. Rather they were told over and over again and handed down through the years before someone finally wrote them down. Yet the same themes may be found throughout the book.

So along with the diversity there is also a remarkable unity. So what is the Bible? Well, in addition to all the above, the Bible is this:

·         It is a guide for living life to the full. It gives us a road map for the perilous journey of life. Or to put it another way, on our voyage through life's ocean, we find our anchor right here.

·         It is a storehouse of wonderful stories for children and grownups. Remember Noah and the ark? Joseph's coat of many colors? Daniel in the lion's den? Jonah and the fish? The parables of Jesus? In these stories we recognize the triumphs and failures of ordinary people - and we may even see ourselves!

·         It is a refuge in trouble. People in pain, in suffering, in prison, in mourning, tell how they turned to the Bible and found strength there in their desperate hours.

·         It is a treasury of insight as to who we are. We are not meaningless robots, but we are magnificent creatures of a God who loves us and gives us a purpose and a destiny.

·         It is a sourcebook for everyday living. We find standards for our conduct, guidelines for knowing right from wrong, principles to help us in a confused society where so often "anything goes."

"What are some interesting facts & stats about the Bible?"

Books in the Bible: 66
Books in the Old Testament: 39
Books in the New Testament: 27
Shortest book in the Bible: 2 John
Longest book in the Bible: Psalms
Chapters in the Bible: 1189
Chapters in the Old Testament: 929
Chapters in the New Testament: 260
Middle chapter of the Bible: Psalm 117
Shortest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 117
Longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119
Verses in the Bible: 31,173
Verses in the Old Testament: 23,214
Verses in the New Testament: 7,959
Shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35
Longest verse in the Bible: Esther 8:9
Words in the Bible: 773,692
Words in the Old Testament: 592,439
Words in the New Testament: 181,253

"Who were the authors of the books of the Bible?"

Ultimately, above the human authors, the Bible was written by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible was "breathed out" by God. God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that while using their own writing styles and personalities, they still recorded exactly what God wanted to be said. The Bible was not dictated from God, but it was perfectly guided and entirely inspired by Him.

Humanly speaking, the Bible was written by approximately 40 men of diverse backgrounds over the course of 1500 years. Isaiah was a prophet, Ezra was a priest, Matthew was a tax-collector, John was a fisherman, Paul was a tentmaker, Moses was a shepherd. Despite being penned by different authors over 15 centuries, the Bible does not contradict itself and does not contain any errors. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Few of the books of the Bible specifically name their author. Here are the books of the Bible along with the name of who is most assumed by Biblical scholars to be the author, along with the approximate date of authorship:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy = Moses - 1400 B.C.
Joshua = Joshua - 1350 B.C.
Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel = Samuel / Nathan / Gad - 1000 - 900 B.C.
1 Kings, 2 Kings = Jeremiah - 600 B.C.
1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah = Ezra - 450 B.C.
Esther = Mordecai - 400 B.C.
Job = Moses - 1400 B.C.
Psalms = several different authors, mostly David - 1000 - 400 B.C.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon = Solomon - 900 B.C.
Isaiah = Isaiah - 700 B.C.
Jeremiah, Lamentations = Jeremiah - 600 B.C.
Ezekiel = Ezekiel - 550 B.C.
Daniel = Daniel - 550 B.C.
Hosea = Hosea - 750 B.C.
Joel = Joel - 850 B.C.
Amos = Amos - 750 B.C.
Obadiah = Obadiah - 600 B.C.
Jonah = Jonah - 700 B.C.
Micah = Micah - 700 B.C.
Nahum = Nahum - 650 B.C.
Habakkuk = Habakkuk - 600 B.C.
Zephaniah = Zephaniah - 650 B.C.
Haggai = Haggai - 520 B.C.
Zechariah = Zechariah - 500 B.C.
Malachi = Malachi - 430 B.C.
Matthew = Matthew - A.D. 55
Mark = John Mark - A.D. 50
Luke = Luke - A.D. 60
John = John - A.D. 90
Acts = Luke - A.D. 65
Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon = Paul - A.D. 50-70
Hebrews = unknown, best guesses are Paul, Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos - 65 A.D.
James = James - A.D. 45
1 Peter, 2 Peter = Peter - A.D. 60
1 John, 2 John, 3 John = John - A.D. 90
Jude = Jude - A.D. 60
Revelation = John - A.D. 90

When was the Bible written?

The Bible was not written in one specific year or in a single location. The Bible is a collection of writings, and the earliest ones were set down nearly 3500 years ago. So let's start at the beginning of this fascinating story.

The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses and are commonly called the Pentateuch (literally "five scrolls").

Moses lived between 1500 and 1300 BC, though he recounts events in the first eleven chapters of the Bible that occurred long before his time (such as the creation and the flood).

These earliest accounts were handed on from generation to generation in songs, narratives, and poetry.

In those early societies there was no writing as yet and people passed on these oral accounts with great detail and accuracy.

The earliest writing began when symbols were scratched or pressed on clay tablets. The Egyptians refined this technique and developed an early form of writing known as hieroglyphics. The Bible tells us that Moses was "educated in all the learning of the Egyptians", so he would have been familiar with the major writing systems of his time. We also read that God gave Moses "two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God"(Exodus 31:18). All this leads to the conclusion that the earliest writings in the Bible were set down around 1400 BC.

The writings of the thirty or so other contributors to the Old Testament span a thousand years! They recount the times and messages from Moses' successor, Joshua, to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, who wrote his little tract around 450 BC.

Then there is a 500-year period when no writings were contributed to the Bible. This is the period between the testaments, when Alexander the Great conquered much of the world and when the Greek language was introduced to the Hebrews. Indeed, they began to use Greek so much that the Hebrew language was replaced by Greek and by another language, Aramaic, which was spoken all over that area of the world at that time.

The New Testament was written during a much shorter period, i.e. during the last half of the first century AD.

·         It was the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, which ignited the flame that produced the New Testament, as the new faith swept across the Near East and then westward to Greece and on to Rome.

·         Half of the New Testament books were contributed by one man, the Apostle Paul, in the epistles he sent to groups of new Christians and to his assistants Timothy and Titus.

·         The Bible closes with a majestic book of visions and dramatic views of the future. It was penned by the aged Apostle John around 95 AD and describes the new heaven and the new earth when God's kingdom will embrace the universe and all rebellion and death will be a thing of the past.

In looking at all these dates, the important thing to remember is that when the Bible was written is not as important as what was written. However, the when is important also as we sense how God's presence persisted through the centuries and gave us "in the fullness of time" the full-orbed revelation of salvation and hope through his son Jesus Christ.

"Old Testament vs. New Testament - What are the differences?"

The Old Testament lays the foundation for the teachings and events found in the New Testament. The Bible is a progressive revelation. If you skip the first half of any good book and try to finish it, you will have a hard time understanding the characters, the plot, and the ending. In the same way, the New Testament is only completely understood when it is seen as a fulfillment of the events, characters, laws, sacrificial system, covenants, and promises of the Old Testament.

If we only had the New Testament, we would come to the gospels and not know why the Jews were looking for a Messiah (a Savior King). Without the Old Testament, we would not understand why this Messiah was coming (see Isaiah 53), and we would not have been able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah through the many detailed prophecies that were given concerning Him, e.g., His birth place (Micah 5:2); His manner of death (Psalm 22, especially vv. 1,7-8, 14-18; Psalm 69:21, etc.), His resurrection (Psalm 16:10), and many more details of His ministry (Isaiah 52:19f.; 9:2, etc.).

Without the Old Testament, we would not understand the Jewish customs that are mentioned in passing in the New Testament. We would not understand the perversions that the Pharisees had made to God's law as they added their traditions to it. We would not understand why Jesus was so upset as He cleansed the temple courtyard. We would not understand that we can make use of the same wisdom that Christ used in His many replies to His adversaries (both human and demonic).

In a similar fashion, the New Testament Gospels and Acts of the Apostles record many of the fulfillments of prophecies that were recorded hundreds of years earlier in the Old Testament. Many of these relate to the first coming of the Messiah. In the circumstances of Jesus' birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection as found in the Gospels, we find the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that relate to the Messiah's first coming. It is these details that validate Jesus' claim to be the promised Christ. And even the prophecies in the New Testament (many of which are in the book of Revelation) are built upon earlier prophecies found in Old Testament books. These New Testament prophecies relate to events surrounding the second coming of Christ. Roughly two out of three verses in Revelation are based on Old Testament verses.

Both the Old and New Testaments contain numerous lessons for us through the lives of its many fallible characters who possessed the same nature as we do today. By observing their lives we can be encouraged to trust God no matter what (Daniel 3) and to not compromise in the little things (Daniel 1) so that we will be faithful later in the big things (Daniel 6). We can learn that it is best to confess sin early and sincerely instead of shifting blame (1 Samuel 15). We can learn not to play with sin, it will find us out and its bite is deadly (See Judges 13-16).

We can learn that we need to trust and obey God if we expect to experience His "promised land" living in this life and His paradise in the next (Numbers 13). We learn that if we contemplate sin, we are only setting ourselves up for committing it (Genesis 3; Joshua 6-7). We learn that our sin has consequences not only for ourselves but for our loved ones around us and conversely that our good behavior has reward for us and those around us as well (Genesis 3; Exodus 20:5-6). In the New Testament, we have the example of Peter to learn from—that we dare not trust our own strength or we WILL fail (Matthew 26:33-41). In the words of the thief on the cross, we see that it is through simple, sincere faith that we are saved from our sin (Luke 23:39-43). We also see what a vital New Testament church should look like (Acts 2:41-47; 13:1-3, etc.).

Also, because the revelation in Scripture is progressive, the New Testament brings into focus teachings that were only alluded to in the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews describes how Jesus is the true High Priest and His one sacrifice replaces all of the sacrifices that were mere portrayals of that sacrifice. The Old Testament gives the Law which has two parts: the commandments and the blessing/curse that comes from obedience or disobedience to those commands. The New Testament clarifies that God gave those commandments to show men their need of salvation and were never intended to be a means of salvation (Romans 3:19).

The Old Testament describes the sacrificial system God gave the Israelites to temporarily cover their sins. The New Testament clarifies that this system was an allusion to the sacrifice of Christ through whom alone salvation is found (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:4-10). The Old Testament saw paradise lost; the New Testament shows how paradise was regained for mankind through the second Adam (Christ) and how it will one day be restored. The Old Testament declares that man was separated from God through sin (Genesis 3), and the New Testament declares that man can now be restored in his relationship to God (Romans 3-6). The Old Testament predicted the Messiah's life. The Gospels primarily record Jesus' life, and the Epistles interpret His life and how we are to respond to all He has done and will do.

Again, while the New Testament is the "clearer" picture, the Old Testament is nonetheless important. Beside laying the foundation for the New Testament, without the Old Testament we would not have a basis for standing against the error of the politically correct perversions of our society in which evolution is seen to be the creator of all of the species over millions of years (instead of their being the result of special creation by God in a literal six days). We would buy the lie that marriages and the family unit are an evolving structure that should continue to change as society changes (instead of being seen as a design by God for the purpose of raising up godly children and for the protection of those who would otherwise be used and abused—most often women and children).

Likewise, without the Old Testament we would not understand the promises God will yet fulfill to the Jewish nation. As a result, we would not properly see that the Tribulation period is a seven-year period in which He will specifically be working with the Jewish nation who rejected His first coming but who will receive Him at His second coming. We would not understand how Christ's future 1,000-year reign fits in with His promises to the Jews, nor how we as Gentiles will fit in. Nor would we see how the end of the Bible ties up the loose ends that were unraveled in the beginning of the Bible, restoring the paradise that God originally created this world to be in which we would enjoy close companionship with Him on a personal basis as in the Garden of Eden.

In summary, the Old Testament lays the foundation for, and was meant to prepare the Israelites for, the coming of the Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for their sins (and for the sins of the world as well). The New Testament shares the life of Jesus Christ and then looks back on what He did and how we are to respond to His gift of eternal life and live our lives in gratitude for all He has done for us (Romans 12). Both testaments reveal the same holy, merciful, and righteous God who must condemn sin but who desires to bring to Himself a fallen human race of sinners through the forgiveness only possible through Christ's atoning sacrifice as payment for sin. In both testaments God reveals Himself to us and how we are to come to Him through Jesus Christ. And in both testaments we find all we need for eternal life and godly living (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Is the Bible true? If so, how can I know it is true?

You might expect us at International Bible Society to say, "Yes, the Bible is true." Who could blame you for being a bit skeptical; I can hear you say, "Of course, they claim it's true! It's their main product!" Yes, that's so, but we'll do our best to bring you to our heartfelt conviction: the Bible is the truth! In the end, of course, only God himself can lead you to confess, as Jesus did in John 17:17, "Your word is truth."

Many brilliant people deny that the Bible is true, so obviously sheer intelligence is not the key to faith in the Bible. Jesus gives us an insight when he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32, NIV) That sense of freedom in your soul which Jesus mentions is one way to gauge the truth of the Bible. That is, you'll be free from the horrible compulsion that you have to earn God's approval. You'll be free from fear about your eternal destiny, and free from the grip of slavery to your pride. In other words, the results in your life will demonstrate the truth of your faith! Mere intelligence alone can never give that freedom.

But let's look at what we mean by "truth" in talking about the Bible. Some scholars have a field day describing how archaic and out of date the Bible is. Here are some typical examples of what these scholars claim the Bible teaches:

·         the sun revolves around the earth,

·         historical data and many statistics are inaccurate,

·         polygamy, slavery, and anti-Semitism are condoned,

·         women are demeaned,

·         pillaging the environment is of minimal concern.

Notice that these issues are of two kinds. First, there is the matter of factual accuracy. While this does bother some scholars of a scientific bent, we need to remember that the Bible's intention is not to instruct about scientific data, but rather about God's plan and the salvation of people. So, for example, we do not expect that the Bible will tell us if the days of creation were exactly 24 hours long or covered much longer periods (the Hebrew word for day, "yom", permits either reading). Such matters are outside the intent of what the authors (and the Holy Spirit who inspired them) wanted to communicate. It is unreasonable to expect that authors writing three thousand years ago would write in the terminology and categories of the 21st century.

The other kinds of issues are moral ones, such as slavery, which is not specifically condemned in the Bible. However, the moral tone of the Bible is such that slavery would fade away as the standards of love and justice proclaimed by Christ are upheld. The place of women, aliens, prisoners, and the disabled, is elevated in Scripture. The worship of one God in a world of many deities stands out as a call to people to turn away from idols and temple prostitution to purity and a consecrated life.

So indeed there are factual difficulties in the Bible - as we remember that it was begun over three thousand years ago and took sixteen centuries to complete. What is truly amazing is that there is a deeper unity of purpose and message throughout the entire book! God's plan for his people and the universe is clearly spelled out. His love and purpose are unmistakable. On the very deepest level this is ageless truth. We are called upon to confess with John, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 NIV) This is the truth that answers our heart's cry. And how can you know it's true?

Again this answer is on two levels.

The first is the reliability of the underlying documents. On this level the evidence is utterly astonishing. No other volume in the world has even a small percentage of ancient manuscripts, parchments, papyri, and other documents which antedate the printing press. They number over five thousand! In the terrible days of persecution by the Roman emperors, many of the precious copies of the Scriptures were destroyed by imperial edict. Yet several were kept in secret and so God's Word was preserved throughout the centuries. It is also remarkable that the thousands of underlying documents agree to such a surprising extent. We may be sure that even today we have the authentic Bible.

But there is another level of our acceptance of the truth of the Bible. This is a faith issue, and it is interwoven with all of God's work in our lives. There is a way in which God's call on our lives nudges us toward faith and life. We can resist and object. We can listen to the dozens of doubts and objections the Enemy puts before us. As Dr. Bill Bright has said, for those who do not believe the Bible, it is not because they are unable to believe, rather they are unwilling to believe. But as we are open to God's voice, we hear his mandate growing more clear as he calls, "Believe!" This is a level beyond mere factual analysis. It is the level of faith where we finally respond, "I believe! Help my unbelief!"

So as we promised, we would try to tell you about the truth of the Bible, even though we are believers. But we haven't trivialized the issue for you, either. We've told you the truth. Now the ball is in your court. How will you respond to God and his Word? In it you will find the truth - for time and eternity!

"Why isn't the Bible in chronological order?"

The books of the Bible are primarily divided by the type of literature. For example, Genesis through Esther are primarily historical, Job through Song of Solomon are poetry, Isaiah through Malachi are prophecy. Similarly, Matthew through Acts are historical, Romans through Jude are letters to churches or individuals, Revelation is prophecy. Within the type of literature, the books of the Bible are in basic chronological order. For example, Isaiah's prophecies occurred before Jeremiah's prophesies.

The Bible not being in chronological order can sometimes make studying the Bible difficult. That is why chronological Bibles can come in so handy. A chronological Bible actually puts the content of the Bible in chronological order. As an example, Isaiah ministered during the times of the kings. So, a chronological Bible puts Isaiah’s prophecies in the appropriate place in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. A chronological Bible also takes the four Gospels and attempts to put all of the events in order.

"How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God, and not the Apocrypha, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.?"

The question of which (if any) religious text is the true word of God is of utmost importance. To avoid circular reasoning, the first question we must ask is: how would we know if God communicated in the first place? Well, God would have to communicate in a manner that people could understand, but that also means that people could make up their own messages and simply claim that they came from God. So, it seems reasonable to think that if God wanted to authenticate His communication He would have to verify it in a manner that could not be duplicated by mere humans - in other words, by miracles. This narrows the field considerably.

Beyond the evidence for the Bible's correctness (manuscript evidence) and its historicity (archeological evidence), the most important evidence is that of its inspiration. The real determination of the Bible's claim to absolute inspired truth is in its supernatural evidence, including prophecy. God used prophets to speak and write down His Word and God uses miracles like fulfilled prophecy to authenticate His messengers. For example, in Genesis 12:7, God promises that the land of Israel was to be for Abraham and his descendants. In 1948 Israel was returned back to the Jewish people for the second time in history. This may not seem so astonishing until you realize that no nation in the history of the world has been scattered from its homeland and returned! Israel has done it twice. The book of Daniel predicts with accuracy the coming of the four great kingdoms from Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Greece, to Rome centuries before some of those kingdoms came on the scene (a time span of over 1,000 years!) with details concerning how they would rule and be broken. This includes the reigns of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanies.

In Ezekiel 26 we can see in astonishing detail how the city of Tyre was to be destroyed, how it would be torn down, and how its debris would be thrown into the sea. When Alexander the Great marched on that area, he encountered a group of people holed up in a tower on an island off the coast near there. He could not cross the sea, so he could not fight those in the tower. Rather than wait them out, the proud conqueror had his army throw stones into the sea to build a land bridge to the tower. It worked. His army crossed the sea and overthrew the occupants of the stronghold. But where did he get so much stone? The rocks that were used for the land bridge were the leftover rubble from the city of Tyre . . . its stones cast into the sea!

There are so many prophecies concerning Christ (over 270!) that it would take more than a few screens worth of space to list them all. Further, Jesus would have had no control over many of them such as His birthplace or time of birth. Second, the odds of one man accidentally fulfilling even 16 of these are 1 in 10^45. How many is that? For comparison, there are less than 10^28 atoms in the entire universe! And Jesus, who affirmed the Bible as the Word of God, proved His reliability and deity by His resurrection (an historical fact not easily ignored).

Now consider the Quran - its author, Muhammad, performed no miracles to back up his message (even when he was asked to by his followers - Sura 17:91-95; 29:47-51). Only in much later tradition (the Hadith) do any alleged miracles even show up and these are all quite fanciful (like Muhammad cutting the moon in half) and have zero reliable testimony to back them up. Further, the Quran makes clear historical errors. Muslims believe the Bible is inspired but with some errors from editing (Sura 2:136 as well as Suras 13, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 25). The question they cannot adequately answer is: "When was the Bible corrupted?" If they say before 600 A.D. then how can the Quran admonish believers to read it? If they claim it was after 600 A.D., then they have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, for we have absolutely no doubt as to the accuracy of biblical manuscripts from at least the 3rd century forward. Even if Christianity were false, the Quran still has an insurmountable problem because it makes judgments against Christians for believing things that they do not (nor have they ever) believed. For example, the Quran teaches that Christians believe the Trinity is the Father, the Mother (Mary), and the Son (Sura 5:73-75, 116), and the Quran also teaches that Christians believe that God had sex with Mary to have a son (Suras 2:116; 6:100-101; 10:68; 16:57; 19:35; 23:91; 37:149-151; 43:16-19). If the Quran is really from God, then it should at least be able to accurately report what Christians believe.

Joseph Smith, the author of the Book of Mormon, tried to do some miracles such as prophecy (a test for a true prophet in Deuteronomy 18:21-22) but failed several times. He foretold of Christ's second coming in History of the Church (HC) 2:382. Joseph Smith preached that the coming of the Lord would be in 56 years (about 1891). The second coming did not occur in 1891, and the Mormon Church does not claim that it did. Nor has it occurred since. He also prophesied that several cities would be destroyed in Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 84:114-115. New York, Albany and Boston were to be destroyed if they rejected the gospel according to Smith. Joseph Smith himself went to New York, Albany, and Boston and preached there. These cities did not accept his gospel, yet they have not been destroyed. Another famous false prophecy of Joseph Smith was his "END OF ALL NATIONS" in D&C 87 concerning the rebellion of South Carolina in the war between the states. The South was supposed to call on Great Britain for aid, and as a result war would be poured out upon all nations; slaves would revolt; the inhabitants of the earth would mourn; famine, plague, earthquake, thunder, lightning, and a full end of all nations would result. The South finally did revolt in 1861, but the slaves did not rise up, war was not poured out upon all nations, there was no worldwide famine, plague, earthquake, etc., and there was no resulting "end of all nations."

The collection of writings that Protestants call the Apocrypha (hidden writings), Roman Catholics call the deuterocanonical (later or second canon) books. These books were written between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D., the Intertestamental Period between the inspired writings of God's Prophets in the Old Testament and those of the Apostles and their contemporaries in the New Testament. These were "infallibly" accepted into the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 at the Council of Trent. Now the Apocrypha would be covered under the evidence for the Bible if these writings were truly inspired - but evidence seems to indicate that they are not. In the Bible we find prophets of God whose messages are ratified by miracles or prophecy that comes true, and whose message is immediately accepted by the people (Deut 31:26; Josh. 24:26; 1 Samuel 10:25; Daniel 9:2; Col. 4:16; 2 Peter 3:15-16). What we find in the apocrypha is just the opposite - no apocryphal book was written by a prophet; in fact one book specifically states that it is not inspired (1 Maccabees 9:27)! None of these books were included in the Hebrew Scriptures. There is no ratification of the authors of any apocryphal book. No apocryphal book is cited as authoritative by later Biblical writers. There is no fulfilled prophecy in any apocryphal book. Finally, Jesus, who quoted from every section of Old Testament Scripture, never once quoted from the apocrypha. Neither did any of His disciples.

The Bible so far outshines every competing source for being God's revelation that if it is not God's Word, it would seem impossible to choose among the leftovers. If the Bible is not God's Word, then we have been left with no clear criteria by which to know what might be.

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

In 1947 in an obscure cave west of the Dead Sea, Bedouin shepherds discovered some scrolls carefully placed in ten tall jars. They did not know what they had come upon, but they sold the scrolls to a nearby dealer. This was the opening chapter to an astonishing archeological find; eventually some 800 different manuscripts would be found in eleven caves near the valley called Wadi Qumran. In all, some 60,000 fragments, portions, or complete scrolls of these 800 manuscripts were retrieved, covering many subjects.

Many of the documents contained biblical texts. Either fragments or complete copies were found of every book in the Old Testament except Esther. They had been placed in these caves around the middle of the first century AD, and the amazing fact is that they had lain there undisturbed for 1900 years! But why are these Dead Sea Scrolls so important for us? The reason is that before this discovery the earliest manuscripts of biblical texts dated from the ninth century after Christ. They were copies of earlier copies which were long lost.

But now, for example, we have a scroll of the complete book of Isaiah dating from the second century before Christ. It is a thousand years older than any previous Hebrew Scripture document that we had before 1947.

So as these scrolls were painstakingly unrolled and translated, biblical scholars and Christians everywhere wondered what the results would be. Would the new finds provide contradictory texts, quite different from the text of our Bibles? Would the Bible have to be altered or expanded?

Even though not all of the scrolls are unrolled and translated more than half a century later, the answers are coming clear. The texts are amazingly similar to the documents we already have. The variations are less than two percent, and not a single teaching or doctrine of the Bible we have is altered. Rather than posing a threat to the Christian faith, the Dead Sea Scrolls have, in fact, provided convincing support for the genuineness of God's revelation as given to us in the Bible.

Nevertheless, Bible scholars are having intense debates about some of the texts. For example, some new Bible translations have added approximately 70 words to the end of 1 Samuel 10. The passage tells us that a certain king Nahash gouged out the eyes of the Israelites. While the text itself is of little consequence, it raises some very basic questions. Are new parts of the Bible still coming to light? Don't we have God's complete revelation? How is this possible?

Such questions need a forthright answer, and that answer is to trust in God's provision. This trust embraces our faith in His plan for the universe, and in His sending of His son to our needy world. Therefore, it also certainly embraces our trust in His revelation. If we trust Him with our destiny, we can trust His provision of exactly what we need to know and receive from Him.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided enormous light for Bible translators. The Scripture text we have today is clearly reliable and substantiated from these ancient scrolls. The challenge we face in responding to this marvelous find is to place our faith in God's Word and in His provision of light on our path for time and eternity.

Is the Bible still reliable and relevant today?

Sure, the Bible was relevant once upon a time, in that long-ago era of shepherds and scribes. That story of how the Hebrew people emerged from their centuries of slavery in Egypt is a gripping account, but does it have any connection to my world of lightning fast e-mails and jet travel? The problems of a fish swallowing a disobedient prophet named Jonah and how to get Daniel out of a den of lions seem pretty far removed from fixing my transmission or resurrecting my crashed hard drive. For a soccer mom racing to get her kids to the dentist, is there any relevance to the story of how Elijah saw to the killing of 400 prophets of the god Baal? Can we relate at all to such strange and mystifying events today?

Little wonder then that the French philosopher Voltaire said that in a hundred years from his day the Bible would have passed into the mists of history as people became more liberated and enlightened. And today a group of people known as the Jesus Seminar tell us that huge sections of the New Testament are not genuine but were concocted by writers who weaseled their own thoughts into the canon. Others have attacked the names and dates and events and numbers in the Bible, and proclaim that the book is riddled with errors. People who accept human evolution out of some primordial soup ridicule the very idea of creation as a throwback to an age of barbarians and illiterates. And, of course, priests and preachers will keep their jobs as long as they can continue to make you believe in the Bible!

Such attacks on the reliability and relevance of the Bible can be very persuasive. Yet as far as reliability is concerned, it's only fair to note that the Bible contains the best documented text of any volume in human history. Perhaps the most amazing support comes from the Dead Sea scrolls which were discovered in 1947 after lying in the Qumran caves for nearly 2000 years. Here were literally thousands of pieces from the Old Testament, and some were nearly a thousand years older than anything we had before. And yet there is a 98% similarity to the texts that are in common use. Both Christians and Jews were confirmed in their faith in the trustworthiness of the text handed down through the centuries. The attempts to tamper with the text have basically failed, and our treasure of God's revelation has come down to us intact.

But is the ancient book really relevant to the issues of our frenetic, post-modern world of microscopes and satellites? This is a question asked by those who are racing through life with little time for reflection on their destiny or why they are here. But for those who are unexpectedly slammed onto a hospital bed, life takes on a much different quality! Suddenly in the long, agonizing hours punctuated only by the clicking of a heart monitor, there is time to reflect on a new set of questions, timeless questions which have not changed much through the centuries. Does anyone really love me? How did those stars a billion miles away get there? Is there any hope for me? How do I get in touch with God right now?

It is then that these questions about the relevance of the Bible tend to fade away. The comfort and the hope embodied in the Bible suddenly become totally relevant. Its diversity touches every age, every situation. There are wonderful stories for children, deeply emotional psalms and confessions, discourses to engage the deepest philosophical questions, and the sayings of Jesus confronting the issues of life and death and the eternity ahead.

For some, there is a terrifying sense of guilt gnawing at the bone. It's time to deal with it, to recognize how you have slapped God in the face and hurt others. But the Bible does not just leave you there, sitting in your remorse! The very heart of the Bible is that there is a way out. God does not, however, just wink at your failures and let justice slide. In fact (and this is what the coming of Jesus Christ is all about), he did stand in my place to take the punishment due to me and to millions like me. He did suffer in my stead, he did hang on that cross at the center of history on my behalf, and finally he did die my death. Then on that first Easter he stood up from the grave as God gave that divine stamp of approval on all that he had done.

Christians do find that relevant! For us, life is not simply an empty journey, a trip to acquire more toys until eventually it's all over. From the pages of the Bible we read about our role in God's design and kingdom, and how our lives are touched with purpose and meaning. And at the end there is more than a gloomy extinction at the conclusion of a hectic life, but a great reunion where I plan to meet Jesus face to face.

Along the miles of concrete I traverse every day, I have a guide, a beacon. It's not in the form of a dead book, but it's a living guide for the journey. By the way, Voltaire is dead now, but the book he derided is today more widely read and pondered than ever. The house in which Voltaire lived later became a distribution center - for Bibles.

The Bible Stands Alone

Compiled by Jordan and Justin Drake

In 1889 a schoolteacher told a ten-year-old boy, "You will never amount to very much." That boy was Albert Einstein. In 1954 a music manager told a young singer, "You ought to go back to driving a truck." That singer was Elvis Presley. In 1962 a record company told a group of singers, "We don’t like your sound. Groups with guitars are definitely on their way out." They said that to the Beatles. Man is prone to make mistakes. Those who reject the Bible should take the time to look at the evidence before they come to a verdict.

1.     It is unique in its continuity.

If just 10 people today were picked who were from the same place, born around the same time, spoke the same language, and made about the same amount of money, and were asked to write on just one controversial subject, they would have trouble agreeing with each other. But the Bible stands alone. It was written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 40 writers from all walks of life. Some were fishermen; some were politicians. Others were generals or kings, shepherds or historians. They were from three different continents, and wrote in three different languages. They wrote on hundreds of controversial subjects yet they wrote with agreement and harmony. They wrote in dungeons, in temples, on beaches, and on hillsides, during peacetime and during war. Yet their words sound like they came from the same source. So even though 10 people today couldn’t write on one controversial subject and agree, God picked 40 different people to write the Bible—and it stands the test of time.

2. It is unique in its circulation.

The invention of the printing press in 1450 made it possible to print books in large quantities. The first book printed was the Bible. Since then, the Bible has been read by more people and printed more times than any other book in history. By 1930, over one billion Bibles had been distributed by Bible societies around the world. By 1977, Bible societies alone were printing over 200 million Bibles each year, and this doesn’t include the rest of the Bible publishing companies. No one who is interested in knowing the truth can ignore such an important book.

3. It is unique in its translation.

The Bible has been translated into over 1,400 languages. No other book even comes close.

4. It is unique in its survival.

In ancient times, books were copied by hand onto manuscripts which were made from parchment and would decay over time. Ancient books are available today only because someone made copies of the originals to preserve them. For example, the original writings of Julius Caesar are no longer around. We know what he wrote only by the copies we have. Only 10 copies still exist, and they were made 1,000 years after he died. Only 600 copies of Homer’s The Iliad exist, made 1,300 years after the originals were written. No other book has as many copies of the ancient manuscripts as the Bible. In fact, there are over 24,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts, some written within 35 years of the writer’s death.

5. It is unique in withstanding attack.

No other book has been so attacked throughout history as the Bible. In A.D. 300 the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered every Bible burned because he thought that by destroying the Scriptures he could destroy Christianity. Anyone caught with a Bible would be executed. But just 25 years later, the Roman emperor Constantine ordered that 50 perfect copies of the Bible be made at government expense. The French philosopher Voltaire, a skeptic who destroyed the faith of many people, boasted that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth. Voltaire died in 1728, but the Bible lives on. The irony of history is that 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his former house and used his printing presses to print thousands of Bibles.

The Bible has also survived criticism. No book has been more attacked for its accuracy. And yet archeologists are proving every year that the Bible’s detailed descriptions of historic events are correct. See Matthew 4:4 and 1 Peter 1:25 footnotes.

Contradictions in the Bible—Why Are They There?

The Bible has many seeming contradictions within its pages. For example, the four Gospels give four differing accounts as to what was written on the sign that hung on the cross. Matthew said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37). However, Mark contradicts that with “The King of the Jews” (15:26). Luke says something different: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38), and John maintains that the sign said “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19).

Those who are looking for contradictions may therefore say, “See—the Bible is full of mistakes!” and choose to reject it entirely as being untrustworthy. However, those who trust God have no problem harmonizing the Gospels. There is no contradiction if the sign simply said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”

The godly base their confidence on two truths: 1) “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); and 2) an elementary rule of Scripture is that God has deliberately included seeming contradictions in His Word to “snare” the proud. He has “hidden” things from the “wise and prudent” and “revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21), purposely choosing foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).

The Bible and All it Contains

A young man once received a letter from a lawyer stating that his grandmother had left him an inheritance. To his astonishment, it was $50,000 plus “my Bible and all it contains.”

The youth was delighted to receive the money. However, he knew what the Bible contained, and because he wasn’t into religion he didn’t bother to open it. Instead, he put it on a high shelf. He gambled the $50,000, and over the next fifty years he lived as a pauper, scraping for every meal. Finally he became so destitute, he had to move in with his relatives. When he cleaned out his room, he reached up to get the dusty old Bible from the shelf. As he took it down, his trembling hands dropped it onto the floor, flinging it open to reveal a $100 bill between every page.

The man had lived as a pauper, simply because of his prejudice. He thought he knew what the Bible “contained.”

"Didn’t men write the Bible?"

Absolutely. When you write a letter, do you write the letter, or does the pen? Obviously you do; the pen is merely the instrument you use. God used men as instruments to write His "letter" to humanity. They ranged from kings to common fishermen, but the 66 books of the Bible were all given by inspiration of God. Proof that this Book is supernatural can been seen with a quick study of its prophecies. See Psalm 119:105 footnote.

"Isn’t it blasphemous to call the Bible ‘God’s Word’ when it makes Him look so bad?"

I am going to tell you some things about my father that will make him look bad. He regularly left my mother to fend for herself. I was once horrified to hear that he deliberately killed a helpless animal. Not only that, but he hit me (often). Here’s the information that’s missing: The reason he left my mom during the day was to work to earn money to take care of her and their children. He killed the animal because it had been run over by a car and was suffering. He regularly chastened me because he loved me enough to teach me right from wrong (I was a brat). Portions of the Bible that "make God look bad" merely reveal that we lack understanding. I never once questioned my dad’s integrity, because I trusted him (see Mark 10:15).

"I’ve tried to read the Bible, but I can’t understand it."

The Scriptures tell us that the "natural man" cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. Most Americans would find it difficult to understand the Chinese language. However, a child who is born into a Chinese family can understand every word. That’s why you must be born again with God’s Spirit living within you (John 3:3). The moment you become part of God’s family, the Bible will begin to make sense.

"When the Bible says ‘an eye for an eye,’ it encourages us to take the law in our own hands by avenging wrongdoing."

Matthew 5:38 is so often misquoted by the world. Many believe it is giving a license to take matters into our own hands and render evil for evil. In reality, it is referring to civil law concerning restitution. If someone steals your ox, he is to restore the ox. If someone steals and wrecks your car, he is to buy you another one...a car for a car, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The spirit of what Jesus is saying here is radically different from the "sue the shirt off the back of your neighbor" society in which we live.