Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Is the Bible really the Word of God? Part II: Authenticity

Going forward in examining whether or not the Bible truly is the Word of God (thus, confirming the validity of the Christian faith), it is important for us to look at a claim that some people make. This is the claim that the Bible has been changed over time. This idea supposes that the 66 books that we have in our Bible today are not the same as when they were written down thousands of years ago. While we know the historical accounts in the Bible are true, some argue that certain things about Jesus, and what he preached, and who he claimed to be, has been tampered with in the New Testament. If this is true, and the primary teachings from the Bible have been changed over time, we have a serious problem. If the Bible's main teachings and claims have not changed over thousands of years, then we see evidence that our God has protected his Word. If the Bible really is the Word of God, the evidence should reveal that the Bible is authentic, and has not changed over time.

We can easily see if a text has changed over time by comparing it to the autograph, or the original text. For example, we can know that the Declaration of Independence that we read online is the same as the original by comparing it to the actual Declaration of Independence from 1776. However, when we don't have the original of a text, more work must be done to verify its authenticity. Unfortunately, we do not have the originals of the Bible. However, this is not a serious problem. We do not have any originals of ancient works. So, how can we know that the Bible is authentic? Let's look at some facts.

When examining the authenticity of ancient works, we need to do a couple things. First we need to find out how many years went by between the date the text was originally written, and the earliest copy of that text that we have. Secondly, we need to see how many copies of the text have been discovered. The results are quite interesting. Let's take a look at a couple examples before we see how the Bible does (the New Testament specifically). 

Thucydides and Herodotus were both great historians, whose works are widely accepted by scholars. They both lived around 400 BC. However, the earliest copies of their texts date back to 900 AD. This is 1,300 years apart from when the texts were originally written, to the earliest copy we have. And, we have 8 copies of each text (McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, page 71). Only 8! Looking at that, a the highly regarded scholar F.F. Bruce said the following: "No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable)." 

Let's look at some more examples (McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

Aristotle (any one work): 7 copies found, with 1,400 years between original and earliest copy.
Plato Tetralogies: 49 copies found, with 1,300 years between original and earliest copy.
Homer's Illiad: 643 copies found, with 500 years between original and earliest copy.
Josephus's The Jewish War: 9 copies found, with 900 years between original and earliest copy.

Now let's take a look at the New Testament. Over 5,000 copies of the New Testament in the original language (Greek) have been discovered. Over 5,000! This is an amazing number, especially when we compare it to other ancient texts. This number does not include the thousands of Latin manuscripts, which would bring the number over 25,000! And, this number continues to grow as discoveries are made! What is the span of years between the original and the earliest manuscript of the New Testament? 50 years max. Simply amazing. Because of the many copies of the New Testament, we are able to compare them, and find out with great accuracy the authenticity of the New Testament that we have today. We can find out whether our New Testament is the same as when it was written 2,000 years ago. 

What do we find when we compare the ancient manuscripts? Bart Ehrman published a book nearly a decade ago on this subject called Misquoting Jesus. In this work, Ehrman discusses how there are many variances within the New Testament manuscripts. He estimates that there are between 300,000 to 400,000 variants within the manuscripts. At first glance, this is a serious problem! However, it should not be a big surprise that there are variances within New Testament manuscripts. The New Testament was copied by scribes, word for word, for many years! Another thing to consider is the large amount of manuscripts that have been found. With the thousands of copies, along with humans--who are prone to mistakes--copying them, of course there are going to be errors. 

However, we need to look at what these variances are. If they are minor, and nothing of doctrinal importance is violated, then we know God has protected his Word. If different manuscripts are teaching different things about who Jesus was, or what he did, then we have a problem. 

What we now know is that 75% of these variances are spelling errors (Komoszewski, Reinventing Jesus). Many of these were differences in spelling names. Even today the same names are spelled differently. This does not change the meaning of the text whatsoever. 

Another large chunk of these variances is the use of synonyms. Once again, these do not affect the meaning of the text whatsoever. 

The amount of variances which affect the meaning of the text are less than one percent. And, even these are all footnoted in our Bibles. And to be honest, none of these affect any doctrine of importance. Look for yourself in you Bible if you don't believe me.

So, what is the conclusion we have come to today? The Bible we have today is authentic. We know that the Bible has not changed over time. While there are slight variances that have been found, God has protected his Word. The main message of the Bible, and the main teachings of Jesus and the Apostles has not been tampered or changed in any ways. We can read our Bibles with confidence, knowing that God has protected his Word, and we are reading the same message Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the rest of the disciples preached. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Is the Bible really the Word of God? Part I: Historical Accuracy

Is the Bible really the Word of God? Is it inherent? Infallible? Completely without errors? If the Bible truly is the inspired Word of God, we must realize what this means. This would mean that Jesus really is the ONLY path that leads to salvation (all other religions would then be obsolete), that Jesus is God who came in flesh, and that we as people need to repent of our wickedness. These are just a few of the bold claims that the Bible makes. 

Therefore, before we get into whether or not the Bible is the Word of God (which we will explore in future posts), let us first ask: is the Bible historically accurate? 

The short answer is: yes, very accurate. Both the Old and New Testaments have been proven historically accurate through both archaeology and from what we know from other texts or inscriptions that date back to Biblical times. 

For example: the Old Testament talks about several ancient cities and nations, and sometimes gives names of the leaders of those cities and nations. We can match what archaeologists have found with what we read in our Bible. What do we find when we do this? That the Old and New Testaments are incredibly reliable, historically speaking. I will give you a couple specific examples as to the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Sir William Ramsay was a very well known archaeologist. He doubted the historical accuracy of the Bible. However, he thought that he would test what the New Testament said, specifically the book of Acts, which tells the history of the early church. After he came to a conclusion, he said this: "I began with a mind unfavorable to it...but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, p. 189)." He later said this: "Luke [the author of Acts] is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, p. 222)." Ramsay discovered that Acts was extremely accurate, and without error, historically speaking. He was so convinced that he was actually converted to Christianity!

Another example of Biblical accuracy is not only historical, but also implies proof of divine intervention. We all remember the story in Sunday school of God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites, and how He closed the parted sea on top of the Egyptians, killing every one of them. In the 1990's an interesting discovery was made in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is part of the Red Sea. Chariot wheels and axles covered in coral were discovered, along with a gold plated chariot wheel which matches what historians and archaeologists know chariot wheels of the Pharaoh looked like during the time of the exodus. The bottom of the sea looks like an ancient battlefield, with various coral growing on objects all over. This shows that the event we read in Exodus really did take place.This also implies that a "divine being" intervened, leaving the Egyptian army to rest at the bottom of the sea.

I could go on and on about the historical accuracy of the Bible. There have been thousands of discoveries that verify the Bible as historically accurate. However, many claim that while the Bible is in fact historically true, it is wrong in what it teaches about God and Jesus. Many even claim that over time the Old and New Testaments were changed, and what we have today is very much different than what was originally written down. If the Bible truly is the Word of God, would our omnipotent God not protect it? Of course he would. We will dive into this topic next week, to discover whether or not the text of the Bible has been altered over time. But for now, we can know that the historical component of the Bible is reliable and accurate.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Is God Really Real? Evolution

When discussing the validity of the Christian faith, the topic of evolution must be looked at. Many teachers and professors in middle schools, high schools, and universities often teach evolution as a fact. However, the THEORY of evolution is increasingly being exposed. We know more today than Charles Darwin did when he first published: On the Origin of Species, in 1859. Today I want to share a couple important things that we know, and the scientific data that we have, that Darwin did not have access to. But, first, what is evolution, and what evidence is there for it?

Intro to Evolution

Darwin theorized that the organisms and living things that the earth has today are the result of millions of years of natural selection. Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands to observe the unique animals. He was especially intrigued by the finches. He observed that the finches each had different beaks, and they used them for different reasons and in different ways. This led him to the idea that organisms adapt over time, in order to survive. Life is the "survival of the fittest." It is natural selection. The animals with the ability to live survive, while the others die.When a certain organism is able to survive they reproduce, and pass those survival traits on to their offspring. What is interesting is that we did not learn about genes until the early 1900's. This part of Darwin's theory was proven to be true--that organisms pass down traits to their offspring.

We also must differentiate between micro evolution and macro evolution. Micro evolution is adaptation within a kind. A perfect example would be Darwin's finches. They adapted in order to survive, but they remained finches. They never turned into mammals, or any other kind of organism. They stayed finches. Macro evolution teaches that over millions of years all the species we have today came from a common ancestor--that common ancestor being a single cell organism. While micro evolution has proven itself to be true, macro evolution lacks any real evidence.

Evidence against Macro-Evolution

One of Darwin's main concerns with his theory of evolution was the lack of transitional fossils. Transitional fossils are the "in-between" forms of organisms. For example, the organism that would be in between a fish and an amphibian. Here is what Darwin said: "Why, if a species has descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms (On the Origin of Species)?" Darwin saw that there was a lack of transitional fossils to support his argument. He thought, however, that over time transitional fossils would be found, and that his theory would be proven. However, we sit here over 150 years later, and still have a difficult time coming up with any transitional fossils.

A second argument against macro-evolution is our current knowledge of cells. We know much more today about cells than Darwin did. Darwin thought a cell was a very simple blob of living goo. However, we now know how much is going on in a single cell. It is like a mini factory! There is a nucleus, mitochondria, vacuoles, ribosomes, cytoplasm, and much more. Each of these parts has a specific job. Our bodies are made up of trillions of these complex cells. Amazing! Life is extremely complex, and we know that now. Darwin did not know the complexity of life as we do today. Because of the complexity of even a single cell, Darwin's theory that everything evolved from one living cell become unlikely. Especially considering the question: How did that first cell receive life? If cells and life are simple (as Darwin thought), life could theoretically derive from certain conditions. However, knowing what we know about cells and life, the possibility of this is highly unlikely. Scientists have been trying to create life from non-life for over a century, yet they have failed. So, if scientists can't even create life in a lab how could a life-filled cell come naturally and by chance?

A third argument has to do with the complexity of cells. There is something called a flagellum, which is an amazing machine that enables a cell to move. A flagellum is extremely complex. It is made up of 40 protein parts which all work together for the purpose of moving the cell. However, if you take out any one of those 40 protein parts, the flagellum does not work. It become useless. Macro-evolution teaches that organisms evolve slowly and over time. It would be impossible for all 40 protein parts to randomly assemble themselves into a fully functioning flagellum. And, according to evolution, the cell would not randomly assemble protein parts, unless it had a function. Therefore, evolution is shown to be highly unlikely because of the flagellum. This is called irreducible complexity. It is when we find something that could not have evolved over time, but must have been created.


Darwin had certain things right in his theory. Micro-evolution, or adaptation within a species, has been proven to be true. A parent passing down their traits to their offspring has also proven to be true. However, macro evolution has no evidence. There is even evidence against it when we view the complexity of the cells. However, when someone comes to the conclusion that evolution is not true, they have to accept the fact that organisms were created. The naturalist explanation of everything is suddenly invalid. They then have to accept the fact that there is a creator, someone or something bigger them themselves. Many people do not like to face this reality.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is God really real? Moral Argument

There is something that all people have in common. There is something that is recognized by Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, and everyone in between. This recognition by all people is the idea that there is evil in the world. This is evident to all. It is hard to find a sane person who looks back at the holocaust, and does NOT admit that it was a horrible, evil, and wicked event. It is difficult to find a sane person who likes the idea of a neighbor being brutally murdered. Evil is in this world, and we as people recognize it. For this very reason, many are convinced that there is no God. This was an idea held by C.S. Lewis. He was at one point an Atheist. He looked at all the evil in the world, and did not think a God could exist if there was so much evil in the world. However, the fact that there is evil eventually led Lewis to a belief in God.

We as people are able to recognize evil. We can distinguish between good and evil. We as the human race have a moral code written on our consciences. However, where do these morals come from? How are we even able to differentiate between good and bad? Many people say that human beings have evolved over millions of years to what we are today. Where then did we as humans get consciences and morals? How did we evolve the ability to differentiate from right and wrong? How are we able to recognize something as evil?

Scientifically speaking, and assuming that evolution is true, is there such thing as morals? Is there such a thing as evil? Is it even possible to differentiate between right and wrong? Could an ability to see what is evil and what is good somehow evolve through natural selection?

C.S. Lewis discusses this idea of morals in the first portion of Mere Christianity. Lewis was once an Atheist. After further thought he was led to believe that there was a God, and he eventually became a Christian. He came to the conclusion that there was a God after he began to think about evil. He knew it existed, and he didn't like it. But, just the fact that he knew that there was evil in the world, showed him that there has to be an outside source that put the idea of good versus evil inside of him. This source must be a higher power of some sort.

If there is no higher power, then we would not have the ability to even see evil, if evil was even real. Because, everything would be based off of survival. There would be no natural or moral law. The only law would be survival of the fittest.

The idea of morals, and the ability to differentiate between good and evil, is something that points to a higher power. If you would like to learn more about this thought, and in more detail, I would encourage you to read Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis does a much better job than I do in detailing this argument.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Is God really real? Teleological Argument

In our journey to explore the validity of our Christian faith, I continued with our students the idea of a supreme being. Do we have any evidence to support the idea that there is an intelligent designer behind creation? This is a summary of the discussion and the main points of it:

In discussing the possibility of a supreme being, or an intelligent designer, it is important to look closely at the world around around us. Look at the universe, look at our solar system, look at our planet, look at ourselves. Now let's ask this question: is our universe one of order, or one of disorder? Do things appear to be guided and set in place? Or does everything seem to be going about at random? If our universe was created and set into place by a higher power, then there would definitely be evidence for this. Just as a building reflects the builder, so our universe would reflect the creator. But, if the universe came into existence by chance, or by random occurrence, then it would be just that; random.

What does science tell us about our universe? Let's take a look at our planet. We know that the earth is the perfect distance from a perfect sized star that we call the sun. If the sun was any bigger, or if we were a little closer to the sun, our planet would be too warm for life to exist. If the sun was any smaller, or if we were further from the sun, our planet would be too cold for life to exist.

The rotation of the earth is also very interesting, and something we must consider. The earth makes a full rotation in 24 hours. It takes the same time to rotate each day. This is obvious, considering the length of our days stay the same. It would be odd if one day was long, and the next was suddenly and unexpectedly short. Instead we see a reflection of amazing order.

The revolution of the earth around the sun is also quite remarkable. It takes 365.25 days for the earth to make a full revolution around the sun (the .25 is the reason for leap years). The Earth must travel about 585 million miles to make a full revolution. The time it takes for the earth to do this always remains the same. The earth's orbit around the sun does not change. Once again, amazing order is reflected.

Let's take a look at the human body. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells. Molecular Biology tells us a lot of the complexity of cells. Each cell is like a little factory, with many parts, and specific jobs for each of those parts. The things that are going on in our body at this very moment are absolutely amazing. Our bodies are not a reflection of disorder, but of order.

Through what we discover through science we are able to see the systematic, planned, and order that we are able to observe all around us. Now considering this, let me give you an example that one our students shared this last Sunday, as we discussed this topic: Do we ever see a building or a structure come from an explosion? When a bomb goes off does the debris and shrapnel ever come together perfectly to create a structure of any sort? It never has, it never does and it never will! It would be ridiculous to suggest that this would be possible.

So, is it possible that the universe we see today (including ourselves) resulted from a "big bang" which took place billions of years ago? Is it possible that such an event of disorder, such as the big bang theory suggests, resulted in a universe of incredible order? It is evident and logical that some other power, being, or person was behind the creation of the universe. This higher power is the one who put everything into place. Let's not be ignorant of the order around us. Instead, let's observe it and come to the rational conclusion that our universe is not random, but planned and designed.

This is known as the Teleological argument. In summary, our universe is one of order. The idea that what we have today came from a random explosion is absurd. The more we look deeper the more we find order, and the more we find the work of a supreme being.