**Since this lesson I have written a 30 page document on the Reliability of Scripture which I used to teach a Deeper Life class in my church – Click Here for Info
4) WHY DOES SCRIPTURE WARRANT OUR BELIEF?
We have seen that Scripture contains the words the original writers wrote based on the manuscript evidence; that those words are God’s words; that the NT writers believed Scripture and saw it as authoritative; and that Jesus also believed Scripture and saw it as authoritative.
• And now we are faced with the obvious question – Are there objective reasons to believe Scripture and treat it as it demands to be treated?
I need us to be realistic at this point.
• As mentioned in previous lessons, born again believers (those with ears to hear and eyes to see) need no further reason to believe Scripture beyond the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
• This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit to be a True and Uncorrupted testimony originating with God the Father as seen in our “chain of evidence” discussion.
• However, there do exist other valid reasons to believe Scripture.
• And though these reasons can’t definitively prove the Bible to a fallen world, they can be used apologetically, especially when taken together.
• And for the believer, they can be used to buoy our faith, give us confidence and remove worldly barriers that may cloud our thoughts and hinder our obedience.
Having said that, let us explore some of those reasons.
• According to Walter Kaiser, J. Barton Payne “itemized 127 messianic prophecies involving an amazing more than three thousand verses”.
• To get an idea of these fulfilled prophecies, see the Prophecy Chart.
• Obviously, when prophecies pronounced 400+ years before Jesus find their fulfillment in Jesus they warrant our consideration.
• BTW – we aren’t even considering here the fulfilled prophecies unrelated to Jesus.
Historical and Archeological:
From the beginning of the existence of the NT documents, investigations were made as to their authenticity.
• According to F.F. Bruce, Papias (a Church father) wrote the following around AD 130-140:
o “If ever a person came my way who had been a companion of the elders, I would inquire about the saying of the elders – what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples; and what things Aristion and the elder John, the disciple of the Lord, say. For I did not suppose that what I could get from books was of such great value to me as the utterance of a living and abiding voice”.
And archeological evidence has strengthened the reliability of Scripture.
• In the book of Romans (written in Corinth) Paul tells the Romans that “Erastus the City Treasurer greets you”.
o In 1929 a pavement stone was found with an engraving that stated, “Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense“.
o F.F. Bruce states that “it is most probable that the donor is identical with the Erastus who is mentioned by Paul”.
• F.F. Bruce also discusses many more archeological finds which confirm Paul’s words concerning the existence of a Corinthian synagogue; the Corinthian meat market; the town of Lystra’s fascination with Zeus and Hermes (in Acts the Lystran’s thought Paul and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus); etc.
• And for more examples please refer to the Archeological Handouts.
Mishnah and the Talmud:
• The Mishnah was the Jewish code of laws and the Talmud were rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah.
• “These references do at least show that there was not the slightest doubt of the historical character of Jesus” – F.F. Bruce.
• In them Jesus is described as “a transgressor in Israel, who practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people. His disciples, of whom five are named, healed the sick in his name” – F.F. Bruce.
The writings of Josephus:
• Even earlier than the Talmuds are the writings of Josephus.
o From Josephus we get confirmation of the existence of Pilate, Felix, Festus, Caiaphas, Ananias; confirmation of Gamaliel’s words in Acts concerning Judas the Galilean; the Jerusalem famine in Acts 11:28 ; the death of Herod Agrippa I from Acts 12; a record of the death of both John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus “the so-called Christ”; etc.
• There is also evidence that Josephus confirmed the following concerning Jesus Christ.
o “We have therefore very good reason for believing that Josephus did make reference to Jesus, bearing witness to (a) His date, (b) His reputation as a wonderworker, (c) his being the brother of James, (d) His crucifixion under Pilate at the information of the Jewish rulers, (e) His messianic claim, (f) His being the founder of ‘the tribe of Christians’, and probably (g) the belief in His rising from the dead” – F.F. Bruce.
Various Gentile writers:
• Julius Africanus writing about AD 221 when referring to the writings of Thallus who wrote about 52 AD stated, “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).”
o “From this reference in Julius Africanus it has been inferred (a) that the gospel tradition, or at least the traditional story of the passion, was known in Rome in non-Christian circles toward the middle of the first century; and (b) that the enemies of Christianity tried to refute the Christian tradition by giving a naturalistic interpretation to the facts which it reported” – F.F. Bruce.
• The British Museum contains a letter written by a Syrian after AD 73 that mentions the death of Christ.
o It states, “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?”
o And goes on to say that as a result of the death of Jesus, “the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion”.
• The Roman historian Tacitus writing around AD 110 when speaking of the burning of Rome by Nero says, “Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class of men…whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor…”
• F.F. Bruce details many more examples which we don’t have time for here.
Given the evidence contained in both Jewish and Gentile writings as outlined above, F.F. Bruce says, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar”.
• Acts 26:26 (ESV) — 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.
• Romans 1:19–23 (ESV) — 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
As Scripture declares, if Christ’s resurrection was an historical event, we have reason to believe in Scripture.
• John 2:22 (ESV) — 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
• 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
• Relevant to this point is the historical evidence for the resurrection as argued by N.T. Wright, Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig.
5) LESSON FOR US
Given all that we have learned about the reliability and authority of Scripture (even in Jesus’ life) and that there are very good reasons to believe it:
• Do we treat Scripture as it demands to be treated?
• And, as considered already, are we as immersed in Scripture as Jesus and the NT writers?
Examples of how it demands to be treated:
• Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
• Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
In Acts, we have yet another example of these admonitions in action.
Acts 17:11 (ESV) — 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
• Here, most likely, Paul was teaching that Jesus was the Christ and used the Old Testament to make his case.
• He commended the Bereans for exhibiting the “noble” trait of searching Scripture to verify the truth of his words for themselves.
• Given this example, it goes without saying, then, that we are also to search Scripture to verify the very words we speak to ourselves through our feelings, emotions and prayer life!
• We must make the Biblical case to ourselves.
• Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how to make much of God.
• Share Him
• Serve Him
• Search Him
Given our lesson today, we have a decision to make.
• If we have the words written by the NT writers
• If those Words espouse to be the very Word of God
• If Jesus viewed them as believable and authoritative
• And If we have more than sufficient evidence to believe all these things to be true
• Are we making much of God by Searching Him in Scripture thereby making His words “a joy and the delight of [our] heart[s]”?
And finally, if everything we have discussed with during the course of this series is true, it follows that any apparent contradiction within the Bible can be legitimately harmonized.
• This is exactly what we will do in our next lesson when dealing with John 1:35-42.
An important implication of this truth:
• Scripture can be tainted, even by the Christian.
• When we begin to look to the world around us to inform us of what is “right” or “true” or “just” we corrupt the chain of evidence and taint Scripture.
• Colossians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
• Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
• Mark 7:8-9 (ESV) — 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
• We must remember that it is Scripture that is inerrant, not the words of men and the world.
• “The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audience—except God” – John Piper.