Big Questions Section
This section includes answers to some big questions. We don’t claim to have the answers (only God has all the answers!) But we hope and pray this helps you and the young people you work with. These are not definitive and you may way disagree or be able to add more, but they hopefully act as an inspiration or starting point.
There are 18 questions answered here. We must credit “When Skeptics Ask” by Norman Geisler and “Cosmic Codes” by Chuck Missler, “It makes sense” by Stephen Gaukroger and the website http://carm.org/ (Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry). We’ve tried our very best to give easy answers to the questions and then more advanced / detailed answers and even further study.
Surely the Bible isn’t God’s Word?
The Bible tells us that all of the Bible was inspired and ‘breathed’ by God. Jesus always used the Old Testament and knew it very well. We don’t find Jesus quoting anything else except the Old Testament so we should follow his example in knowing the whole Bible. The Bible is also unique in that hundreds of things were written that would happen in the future. Hundreds of these have happened exactly. No other book or religious writing does this at all. 300 of these ‘prophecies’ were exactly fulfilled by Jesus. The Bible has 66 books written over 100s of years by at least 40 people but it is incredibly consistent all the way through. The New Testament has over 5000 copies of it which are accurate with each other 99.55% of the time with the only ‘mistakes’ things like typos and things easily explained! The Bible is very unique in that we know this is the written word of God. God says other things to us today by the Holy Spirit since the Bible was written, but the only guaranteed truth from God is the Bible and its God’s ultimate authority. Everything Christians believe must be tested against whether it is either found in the Bible or follows Biblical ways of doing things / Biblical principles. God knew what would be written in the Bible before time began and he lives outside of time. So the Bible is relevant for all of time. Like God, it is unchanging. This doesn’t mean God is stuffy and old, it means that we can always trust God and the Bible even when other things around us change.
It was written by humans over years. It was put together randomly by a group of people wasn’t it? It can’t be true. And besides, the gospels were written down years after Jesus died and the events happened… Right?
Many people make these kinds of claims – mainly through lack of knowledge or intentionally to try and make people think the Bible wasn’t really written by God.
First of all, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about the Bible! 2 Timothy 3.16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” Psalm 119.89-90 (Message) says this, “What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens.Your truth never goes out of fashion; it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever.”
God’s Word doesn’t go out of date!
We also have the words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit helped in the writing down and remembrance of the Bible from John 14.26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” So right from the off, the Bible tells us that the Bible was breathed by God. Humans wrote the Bible down, but they were clearly guided by God. This showed that Jesus believed the writing of the New Testament was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Second, let’s look at some of the facts. There are hundreds of things said in the Bible that speak about the future. Hundreds of those things happened, exactly. As one example, let’s look at a prophet called Isaiah, a guy called Daniel and a King called Cyrus. Isaiah spoke a word about the future in the year 711 BC (711 years before Christ). We find this in Isaiah 45.1, “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him…” A Jewish writer called Josephus wrote a historical record called ‘Antiquities’ which tells us that Daniel (who was the top government official) told Cyrus around the year 537BC about what Isaiah had written. So Cyrus (who knew nothing about God) read something written by a prophet of God well over 150 years before, where God mentioned Cryus by name (long before Cyrus was born). This impacted Cyrus as we read in another Bible book called Ezra (chapter 1 verse 1-4) that he allowed the Jewish people to leave his Kingdom and gave them money to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
There are also many incredible things about the Bible (such as hidden codes and truths behind the text through to amazing truths found in the Hebrew and Chinese alphabets through to the message of Jesus found in the names of Adam to Noah) that prove without a doubt that it is a supernatural book, written by the hand of God who created the world. Time after time, the 66 books of the Bible, written by over 40 authors over thousands of years show consistency between themselves that can only have come from the hand of God.
Third, Jesus shows that he gave great authority to the Old Testament. He quoted it many times, referred to figures and situations in the Old Testament (such as creation and the flood etc) and fulfilled Old Testament prophecies precisely. In John 10.35, he calls the Scripture the ‘Word of God’.
The Bible was put together (or ‘canonised’) on the basis of 5 different factors: Was it written by a prophet of God; was the writer confirmed by an act of God; does it tell the truth about God; does it have the power of God; was it accepted by the people of God? The books of the Bible that were accepted to be in the Bible were all ones that were already accepted by believers. Other books written were discarded because they did not fulfil these things / were inaccurate etc.
The Old Testament… There is a huge amount of other historical evidence that shows the truth of the Old Testament writings. They also agree accurately with the Septuagint (a Greek translation) created in the 2nd and 3rd century. Finally we have the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ which when found, showed itself to be identical with the Hebrew words in our Bible 95% of the time. The remaining 5% were just things like typos!
The New Testament… These were created from a massive 5,366 manuscripts! Some of these date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This is way beyond the amount of ancient texts used to put together other classics that people readily accept (Homer’s Iliad, 643 copies, earliest copy around 500 years after / Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, 10 copies, earliest written 1000 years after / Aristotle, 49 copies, earliest copy 1400 years after). The earliest New Testament manuscripts were written just under 100 years (some say 70 years) after the events. There are only 40 times where we’re not quite sure which text has the right precise reading. So we have 100% of the New Testament and are sure of 99.5% of it. The Gospels also show a remarkable level of consistency between them. Where there are differences, these can easily be explained by the author’s perspective of it or the point they were focusing on from an incident. The New testament gospels don’t mention the destruction of the temple in AD70 (70 years after the death of Jesus) showing (among other things) that they were recorded under 70 years after the events in them happened. The gospel writers are also referred to in other Jewish writings.
But the Bible is an old book isn’t it, surely God is still working so why do we need the Bible?
There is a real difference between the fact that God is still working in the world and doing new things, and the fact that the Bible (alone) is definitely the word of God. Jesus constantly affirmed the Old Testament (although God would have said and done many other things through his people. But Jesus quoted only the Old Testament (the ‘Law’ as he called it). He promised in John 16.13 that the Holy Spirit who would be sent when Jesus rose and went back to heaven would, “…guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” So Jesus affirmed the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding the writers of the New Testament (and us in our Christian lives today if we let him). New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament, and the words of Jesus. Notice that they didn’t quote anyone else.
Other people have great wisdom and are inspired by the Holy Spirit. But the Bible alone is the written Word of God. God always brings fresh ways of working (eg the internet is a new tool compared to 2000 years ago anyway!) But the Bible alone is the complete written word of God given to us. Of course there is much more to God, as the Bible is only the written counsel of God that he knows we need. But there is so much in the Bible that you could spend a lifetime looking at the Bible and not begin to understand it.
It is also worth remembering that the Bible was written outside of time. God is outside of time. When we die, there is no eternity; there is only a place where there is no time. So when God had people write and assemble the Bible, God saw the end of time from the beginning. The Bible is not ‘old’ or ‘out of date’ in any way. It is God’s Word written by humans, but inspired by God outside of time. So it’s as relevant in 2012 as it was in 212 and as it will be in 2212.
The Bible has a huge number of prophecies in it, many written hundreds of years before they happened. All of the prophecies written about up to this time have been fulfilled perfectly. However, there are many prophecies that are still to be fulfilled in the future. The fact that prophecies written hundreds of years before perfect fulfilment proves the Bible is totally accurate. If you think about the fact there are prophecies not yet fulfilled, it shows us that the Bible is both contemporary and for the future!
Finally it’s important to remember that John 1 tells us that Jesus is the ‘Word’ of God. Instead of being the written Word, he was the living Word. He was like a walking and talking Bible (but more than this because he was God and so had the whole counsel of God in him). So if we want to know Jesus (the life of a Christian is this) then we must also know the written Word given to us to lead us to God.
But surely if it was written by men, they’re bound to have made mistakes?
There are some occasions in the Bible where things seem a bit confusing or where two accounts appear to give different interpretations. So for example one of the Gospels may talk about one person in an incident and another Gospel talks about two people in an incident. But depending on your perspective, you would give a different account of the same situation to someone else’s account, right? Thinking about this it’s awesome that 95% of the New Testament lines up with itself.
But the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. Here’s what 2 Peter 1.20-21 says, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.“
This is letting us know that the writers of the Bible were led and totally inspired by the Holy Spirit (who is God). Prophecy and the Bible has nothing to do with man’s thoughts or ideas. Despite being human, the prophets spoke from God as they were led by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not the work of man alone. It is man, inspired by God. That is why the Bible is so accurate with life, prophecy and with itself.