This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Biblical studies #1 - #6

            Welcome to class, please take out you bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value. You must first go though these first six basic lessons before going on to other areas of study here at the institute because the Bible is the rule and norm for all we say and do as Christians and is the basis for a sound and cohesive biblical worldview.

Lesson #1 How we look at Scripture 

            If we acknowledge God as; all knowing, ever present, all powerful and as the creator and redeemer of all that exist.  We then have a firm foundation from which to examine God’s word.  If I accept this truth then acknowledging the authority of His word makes sense because He and His word are one.  John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ESV  The Holy Bible does not contain truth (which could imply that some parts are not true)….It is truth!  So while we have the benefit of examining scripture from the position of knowing it to be God’s truth.  Lets approach His divine word with the rhetorical question “Is the Bible true?”  In order to answer such a question we must determine what the Bible claims and then examine those claims.

            I will here present that The Bible presents either History or Mystery.  Things that defy human logic and understanding, things that function outside the realm of what we would define as natural processes.  These are mysteries and as such are issues of faith.  However there are many supernatural things that scripture records that touch on the areas of history & science so that we can examine some of those claims as well.  To exclude the possibility of anything supernatural is to place ones faith in observable natural processes limited by mans ability to understand it, and I would rather lean on God than on my own understanding, to borrow a line from a psalmist.  On the other hand the Bible is also packed with Historical claims that can in many cases be easily examined for their accuracy.

            So if we are going to examine the truth claims of the Bible we should follow some basic rules or agreed upon principals to help us determine the validity of the claim.  (The validity of the claim is not in question for some Christians but it is for many Christians and more importantly God wants us to be ready to give an answer for the joy we carry in our heart.)  So, since the Bible uses words to express God’s truth we should first examine linguistic rules, I am not talking about grammar which is very important especially to our English teachers, I am talking about genre but not just genre we are talking about context. Not cultural context or even trying to determine what was on the mind of the “autograph” (a term for the person who wrote it).  Those are questions for another time. I am talking about linguist context and I would propose all of scripture falls in to 5 main contexts; Historic Narrative, Poetry, Letters, Parables, Prophecy. 

            Now these are broad categories, but they give us a starting place, When we read a Historic narrative, that type of writing has a format and we can identify that format and it can help us to know that while there may be some amazing things this text can reveal to us first and foremost it is an historical account.  Now God's word is versitile and im many places contain multiple contexts but for the most part Genesis thought Ester, the Gospels and Acts are written in the Historical narrative format.  When we think of Poetry or artistic writing we think of Job through Song of Songs. Letters or Epistles (Greek for letter), Romans through Jude, Parables, stories with a special and sometimes hidden meaning, these are contained in Matthew, Mark & Luke. And finally Prophecy: this is writing that speaks of things to come, found in Isaiah through Malachi and Revelation.

            There is a expensive word for is the study of interpretation theory called Hermeneutics and while understanding biblical hermeneutics is important for anyone who seeks to proclaim God’s truth as a pastor teacher, there is one of many important rules from this that we should all know and apply when reading God’s word.  "let scripture interpret scripture".  This means that God does not contradict Himself and if you derive a meaning in one part of God’s word that contradicts a clear meaning in another place in God’s word, then you have clearly derived an incorrect meaning.

Lesson #2 How we got the Bible

            Welcome to class, please take out you bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            How did we get what we today call the Holy Bible?  Besides the clearly revealed truth that all scripture is God-breathed and God used more than 40 individuals and their personalities to give us His Word.  In its current form containing 66 books produced over about 1600 years, Job the oldest around 1500 BC to the latest of the new testament books none later that around 95AD.  This amazing Book has one consistent story line, one ultimate author and it is clearly with out error
            Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) would have you believe that we are simply deluded, mindless followers of a long list of interconnected manipulating monarchs and their oh so obedient clerics.  But a simple comparison of their claims and the facts show them to be either dishonest, uniformed or some combination thereof.  Dan brown claims that some 80 gospels precluded what we now have as four, when the four we have were never historically in question and you would be hard pressed to find more than 7 or 8 Gnostic gospels which the church dismissed as heretical for good reason over 1900 years ago.  This was no secret club that made these decisions, what they dismissed and why (based on rules of I mentioned previously) has been published and is available for all to read in documents by early church fathers like:  Clement, Origen, Athanasius and many others.  While I could spent 2 or 3 lessons pointing out the errors of the critics lets move on to more positive evidence.
            In 1976 a liberal Scholar, Anglican bishop, and Dean at Trinity College in Cambridge England, wrote a book titled “Redating the New Testament” Even this liberal New Testament scholar after seeking to show the New Testament was written hundreds of years after Christ, discovered something quite different.  He claimed in His book that all 27 books of the New Testament must have been written before AD 70.  He had many reasons for this but one of his main reasons was simply that, from a purely historical prospective it is hard to believe that anything originating in or around the region of Jerusalem by people of Jewish descent would not carry one mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70AD.  This was such a large even historically that many writers after that date sited the number of years from that event to date what they wrote of.
            God used real people to produce His Holy Word; divine inspiration does not mean they functioned as mind numbed robots moving the pen in some disconnected mindless way.  2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  God used their personalities which are evident throughout their writings, Matthew the tax collector concerned with the detail of what he records, Luke the physician is concerned with the personal aspect of the same accounts, Paul the Pharisee writing in a highly educated form of Greek and a clearly fluent knowledge of Hebrew as well.  People today also have different writing styles based on professional jargon, are they writing a technical document, a legal document, their vocabulary, their level of education, their method of constructing sentences all come through in the way they write.  You do not have to see the handwriting to recognize that what you are reading seems clearly like something I would say.  (or you may have even heard me say)  In the same way Greek Scholars do not have to see the original documents to say that the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts clearly had a similar if not the same writhing style, similar education, similar vocabulary.  These are accepted methods in these fields of study even outside the study of scripture to determine if 2 different documents may come from the same author.  As a mater of recorded fact many ancient documents are identified this way it is simply noted whether or not the traditionally ascribed author of a piece of work has his name actually on the document or not.
            So if you want to determine whether or not something is true then we must identify what the claim is and weigh that claim against the evidence.  The witnesses we can call to our court to see if the claims are true are: Scientist and their discoveries, Archeologist and their discoveries, Linguistic Scholars and their discoveries, the Writings if Early church fathers and any ancient historian, and of course Scripture itself.
            For example many critical biblical scholars claimed that there probably was never a King Sargon as mentioned in Isaiah 20:1.  But in 1843, French archaeologist Paul Emile Botta discovered his 25 acre palace complex near the small village of Khorsabad, Iraq.  This is the story with archeology over and over again it affirms scriptures historical accounts.  There is currently not one solid example of physical evidence that contradicts scripture, a coincidence. I think not!      

Lesson #3 How we got the Bible #2
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            In the last lesson we talked about a King that did not exist, let’s talk about an edict that did not exist.  We all know about the biblical account of the Roman census that sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.  Well, until a papyrus was discovered which called for a census of Egypt in AD 104, critics claimed that no emperor would ever call for such a ridiculous census that moved people all over the place.  Guess what the Roman census of Egypt in AD 104 called for….people to go to the town of their birth. Hmmmm…sounds familiar.  Since they can no longer dismiss the edict as impossible, they now are quibbling over the date being a few years off.  Since scripture always seems to be proven correct when ancient discoveries are made, I will lean on the biblical dates—not my own understanding or the understanding of any other fallible human critic of Holy Scripture.

            As I stated earlier, Scripture itself is the most reliable witness to its authorship and time frame of writing.  However, let’s look at some early historical witnesses and what they have to say about what we today call the Holy Bible.  Let me first introduce to you an early church father by the name of Irenaeus of Lyons.  This man studied under Polycarp who was martyred in 155AD, and it is traditionally held that Polycarp was a student of the Apostle John.  So Irenaeus was only one generation from the original writers of Scripture.  This makes him a very reliable witness.  Irenaeus is one of the earliest and greatest defenders of Scripture’s divine inspiration.  In his writings from around 180 AD, he quoted over 1000 scripture passages from all but 5 books of the New Testament.  (That he did not site Philemon, 2nd Peter and others is no wonder as they are very small.)  Irenaeus himself called them “the Scriptures” given by the Holy Spirit.  Similar claims of divine inspiration can be cited in the 3rd century by the early church fathers, Clement and Origin of Alexandria.  They too cite Scripture as a fixed number of writings with divine authorship. Origin is the first to mention all 27 books of the NT in 240 AD. Let’s look at one more church father—Athanasius of Alexandria. He too cites 27 NT books in 367 AD, and he wrote the following words: “These are the fountains of salvation, that whoever thirsts, may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them.  In them alone is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them nor take anything from them.” You may think these witnesses are biased and they probably were, but their bias does not invalidate their witness.  Their credibility is not historically in question, so their witness is of great value.

            But if one must marginalize the church fathers, then maybe you might take the word of a Jewish historian at least with regard to the Old Testament.  Josephus is accepted world-wide as one of history’s earliest historians.  He refers to sacred scriptures divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah; thirteen books of the Nevi'im, and four other books of hymns and wisdom. Since there are 24 books in the current Jewish canon instead of the 22 mentioned by Josephus, some scholars have suggested that he considered Ruth part of Judges, and Lamentations part of Jeremiah.
“The Jewish Canon has only 24 books because of the combination of books like Kings & Chronicles their 24 contain the same information as our 39.  So let’s see what he had to say about our Old Testament.  In about 90 AD, Josephus wrote the following words: “for we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have] but only twenty-two books, which contain all the records of all the past times, and which are justly believed to be divine.” 

Lesson #4 How we Got the Bible #3
                        Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            Last month we met Josephus and heard what He had to say about the Old Testament (OT).  So let’s briefly look at the OT—39 books written between 1446 BC to around 433 BC.  It constitutes the solid foundation upon which the New Testament stands, and points to Christ in its entirety.  All of Hebrew scholarship is in agreement as to what constitutes the TANAK, The Torah or (Law); Genesis, through Deuteronomy, Neviim or (Prophets); Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets, The Kethubim (writings); Psalms Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ester, Daniel, Ezra & Nehemiah, Chronicles.  This Old Testament Canon has been accepted as the divine Word of God by His people for two thousand four hundred and forty two years.  And since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we lack only the book of Esther in having copies of OT text that range in age from 2100 to 2300 years old.

            A brief note on the Apocrypha:  You can learn all you desire about the Apocryphal books by visiting Wikipedia (online), and for some of us, a hard-bound encyclopedia may be necessary.  There are four different Catholic lists of Apocryphal books:  Roman, Eastern, Syrian, and Ethiopian.  They are all similar for the most part, varying in size from 15 to 25 books.  However, it is worth noting that all of Catholicism considers them to be Deuterocanonical, which means secondary to the other 39 OT books that all of Christianity agrees on.

            Trinitarian Christianity and all of biblical scholarship find full agreement on the 27 books that constitute the New Testament, written between 45 and 95 AD.  The earliest list is the Muratorian Canon from 150 AD listing 24 books.  Origen of Alexandria listed all 27 in 240 AD, and by 397 AD Eusebius, Athanasius, and the Council of Carthage had all listed the 27 books we call the New Testament.

            Now you might ask: Why did it take them so long, some 150 to 300 years to identify these 27 books?  Well, that would be a very good question and here are some very good answers.
            - Over half of the NT is letters that were spread all over the Roman Empire, The Gospels were also spread throughout the early church.  These obviously took time to be brought together and for their authorship to be verified.
            - The “technology” of the day was not conducive to large collections of books: scrolls which can only hold one or two books.  Scrolls were replaced by what is called a Codex or “books with pages” and these did not start being produced until the second and third centuries.
            - The first century Christians probably did not see the need for a collection of books because they thought Christ’s return would be very soon, but “soon” for us and “soon” for our eternal God are very different.
            - Heretical writings existed, like the Gnostic gospels, and other “pseudepigraphalbooks—spurious writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.  These texts were written between 200 BC--200 AD and were easily identified by the early church as fraudulent because of their clear contradiction to the rest of the canon.  But excluding these fraudulent works also took time.

            Now many say that centuries of copying to replace old worn-out text would introduce many errors.  Well, let’s look at all the errors introduced into the book of Isaiah between the Dead Sea Scroll copy (from about 100 BC) and the earliest copy we had available (before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered) known as Codex Leningradensis (1000 AD).  I have read many descriptions of the differences introduced between these two texts over that 1100 year period, and here are how they are described: changes in the style that a particular letter is written, changes in the way words are spelled, changes in the way sentences are constructed, changes in prefixes or suffixes.  It seems that over time as the language changed, God’s word grew to communicate the same truth.  So while grammar and spelling have changed, God’s word has not.  Here is an example of the vast difference that 1100 years of copying introduced in Isaiah 53:3.  A letter in the Isaiah scroll from 100BC that is not in the Masoretic text from 1000 AD is a suffix meaning “him”—so this is the great difference that was produced.  The reading of the Isaiah scroll is “and despised him,” while the Masoretic text is “he was despised.” (in 1000 AD)   This is one of the greater differences and most are much less, affecting only grammar and spelling.

Lesson #5      External witnesses
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….

            We have been digging very deeply into the historic, linguistic evidence of biblical truth over the past six months. As we have explored much of how we got what is the Holy Bible, I would like to summarize this aspect of our study with some observations on what exists in physical evidence in the form of the ancient written word.

            First, in the world of ancient documents, Scripture stands above all others.  We have Full Old Testament canons, with some books only a few hundred years from the original.  In regard to the New Testament, we have full copies less than 300 years from the originals.  When you compare this to Josephus’ “Jewish Antiquities” (earliest copy 1300 years from the original), Tacitas’ “Augustus to Nero” (earliest copy 800 years from the original), or Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” (earliest copy 900 years from the original)—you can see that in comparison to ancient texts of a similar period, we have many more copies much closer to the original than all others.  These surpass the number of copies by hundreds and thousands, and they get closer to the original date by hundreds and in many cases, over a thousand years.  So in the realm of linguistic studies, and in studies of the ancient written word, God’s Word has no peer in authenticity and sheer volume.

      As mentioned earlier, there are almost 25,000 ancient texts, some as old as 2250 years.  So let’s take a quick look at some examples of these early texts.  Of the thousands of Greek texts, one of the oldest full copies of the New Testament is “Codex Sinaiticus,” given this name because it was found in Saint Catherine's Monastery, at the foot of Mount Sinai.  This text is dated to around 350 AD.


            Let’s look at some of the ancient fragments that our papyrologist brought to class today.  There is a collection of 15 New Testament books discovered by a Mr. Chester Beatty, and this papyrus collection is dated to around 200 AD.  There are 5 verses from John 18 discovered by Mr. John Ryland that date from 125 AD.  One of the oldest fragments we have is a Qumran fragment designated 7Q5.  This fragment is from what appears to be Mark 6:52-53. (It is hard to tell as it is such a small fragment.)  This little piece of papyrus was discovered in 1955 and was in a jar that was sealed in 68 AD, only decades after Christ walked the earth.


            As we come to the end of our study of God’s Word from the perspective of the study of ancient languages and texts, let us briefly remind ourselves why we can be so sure that God’s Word is a clearly defined set of writings, divine in origin and universal in their authority, by consulting the text itself for assurance: 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed…” and we can be sure that He who is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent can and will give us His Word, without flaw or error.  But do not take my word for it; take His word: Proverbs 30:5-6 "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”             

Lesson #6 Burning up their straw men
            Welcome to class.  Please take out your Bibles and prepare to take copious notes as the information that follows is of great value….
            Contradictions… That is what many have said the Bible contains when I have pointed out its divine inspiration and authority.  It goes something like: “How can I believe a book that contradicts itself?”  My first and favorite response to such a statement is: “Oh really…(hand them a Bible); show me one please.”  In the majority of cases I have discovered that I am talking to a parrot, because they are just repeating what they have heard someone else say.  They typically do not or have not read the Bible.  Then they say something like: “Well, everyone knows they are in there.” 
            The most common example of a contradiction in the rare case that I get one is: “The Old Testament says ‘eye for an eye, tooth for tooth’ and the New Testament says ‘turn the other cheek.’”  This would be a contradiction if the context were the same. However, that pesky 4th grade grammar tool “context” clearly shows two different contexts.
            “Eye for an eye” is taken from Leviticus 24:20. You can clearly see (if you read…say 7 whole verses equaling one paragraph) that the context indicates the punishment should fit the crime.
            “Turning the other cheek” which Matthew 5:39 never really says, but implies, is clearly (if you read the chapter) a list of loving responses to those who sin against us.  Once we have been forgiven, it makes no sense for us to seek retribution against others for whom Christ also bled and died.                   
            Some argue that the New Testament overrides the Old Testament, but that is a complete contradiction of Christ’s words.   Matt 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (ESV)   The greatest example of the truth that He came to fulfill the Old Testament is the over 300 prophesies that he fulfilled in His 33 years on earth.  Most of the aspects of His birth, lineage, life, ministry, death and resurrection were written 1200 to 500 years before His birth.  While there is debate on when they were written, even the most liberal of theologians will have to concede that most of these prophesies were written at a minimum of 300 to 400 years before His birth.  The statistical impossibility of Christ accidently fulfilling even as few as 8 of these prophesies has so many zeros after the decimal point that no statistician would claim it to be anything other than impossible!

            But with God, all things are possible, especially the things that He reveals in His Holy word.  Instead of giving you a long list of contradictions and prophecies, I decided to give you homework this month.  Take a few moments and Google these two phrases and the lists and biblical answers will astound you: #1 “Supposed or Alleged Bible contradictions;”  #2 “Prophecies fulfilled by Christ.”  These two phrases or some variation of them will lead you on a long and interesting read.  If you find yourself wondering who is correct, I suggest leaning on God’s truth and not on your own understanding or any explanation of any fallible man.  

Thanks for attending S.M.B.I. …class dismissed J

No comments:

Post a Comment