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The Bible - Fiction or Fact?

Selwyn Stevens, M.C.R.; Ph.D


http://www.jubilee.org.nz/

What is the Bible? Is it really the written Word of God?


First we will look at what this book is and how it came about.
The Bible is a collection of 66 separate books which together make a unique
and powerful book. The word Bible comes from the Greek 'biblia' which simply
means 'books.'
The Bible is usually called "The Holy Bible." Holy means to be 'set apart by
God.' So The Holy Bible is the Word of God; it does not merely contain the words
of God.
It is different from all other religious books because God, through the Bible,
enjoys letting people know about Himself. The unique design of the Bible is one of
the best proofs of its divine inspiration. Many different men at different times
wrote their part of this book, without any contradictions. This can only be
explained by the Master Author's guiding hand.

Divine Inspiration
According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is equally inspired. The New
International Version says "All Scripture is God-breathed...". This refers to the
work of the Holy Spirit in His creative capacity.
We do not know the actual 'How' of inspiration, but Christians believe that
each writer had liberty to use his own personality, education and experience within
certain limits. Paul's educated and logical mind is evident in books such as Romans
and Galatians. The Holy Spirit watched over every thought, phrase and word to
preserve accuracy.
Writings were accepted only when the writer was proven to be a True
Prophet of God. That means no false prophecies had been spoken by him. This is
quite different from unfulfilled prophecies.
The Old Testament was completed by 400 BC. The translation into Greek
was done by 70 learned scholars from Alexandria, Egypt. This was known as the
"Version of the Seventy" or the "Septuagint."
It was in common use during the time of Christ and the Apostles, and was
frequently quoted in the New Testament. The other main version of the Old
Testament is called the "Masoretic Text."

How did the New Testament come about?


The New Testament completes the true written Word of God for all people
and for all time.
This means that the Bible is the standard by which we must judge all
teaching, doctrine and belief.
The Old and New Testaments together are sometimes referred to as the
'Canon,' which means 'standard.' Irenaeus of Lyons, an Elder of the early church,
said in 180 AD, "The Scriptures are perfect, inasmuch as they were uttered by the
Word of God, and His Spirit." (note; Jesus was often referred to as 'The Word of
God,' see John 1:1). .
Along with many others, Irenaeus used both Old and New Testaments as
'Scripture' without distinction.
The early Church held a number of councils to make decisions on which
were divinely inspired writings that could be commended to the growing church.
Most New Testament books received official recognition within 100 years of
being written. The last few were confirmed at the Council held in Carthage in 393
AD.
Each was accepted because of its link to the Apostles and its considered
divine inspiration. It is both reasonable and fair to suppose that He who inspired
the New Testament writers also participated in the formation of it. We may
confidently believe that we have in our hands the Word of God, complete and
undiluted.
Some of the New Testament books were written to individuals, some to
churches or groups of churches. Their self-evident authority and value caused them
to be copied and recopied for an ever-widening public. By the year 90 AD, many
churches had copies of Paul's letters, and by the early second century they had all
four Gospels as well.

The Apocrypha
Before closing this section we should look briefly at the Apocrypha. This is
a collection of pre-Christian Jewish writings of a spiritual nature, written between
250 BC and the early Christian era.
While the Apocrypha was known to Jesus and His disciples, it was never
quoted as authoritative Scripture. The Council of Trent in 1546 finally gave it a
degree of acceptance, but only the Roman Catholic Church continues to print the
Apocrypha today. Their main versions are the Douay and Jerusalem Bibles.
What does the Bible say about itself?
The writers of the Bible insisted over 3,000 times that their words were the
Word of God. The words of Jesus plainly show that many of His arguments and
teachings were based on quotations from almost every Old Testament book.
As I have studied what the Bible says about itself, a very clear message is
evident. It is best summed up in this passage; "Do not add to what I command you,
and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I
give you," (Deuteronomy 4:2 NIV).
Nowhere does any Scripture even hint at disagreeing or disputing with any
other part. This theme goes right through to the end of Revelation, where there is a
warning that those who add to the Bible will bring upon themselves all the plagues
and curses written in the Bible, and those who subtract from it will find themselves
removed from the 'Book of Life' (God's record of those who are saved), and they
will miss out on all of the Bible's promised blessings..
Numerous Old Testament writers spoke of the Lord touching their tongue
and putting His words in their mouths to speak to the people. For example 2
Samuel 23:2, and Jeremiah 1:9. Many of the Psalms of David and others spoke of
the Words of the Lord being pure words which He would preserve for all
generations. "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God
stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8).

What is the Scripture for?


Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, said during the Temptation: "It is written,
man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth
of God." (Matthew 4:4).
Later on in Matthew 24:35, Jesus said very specifically that heaven and
earth would pass away, but "My words will by no means pass away." That is a
statement indicating His Deity, for He is clearly stating that His word is the Word
of God. .
The writers of the New Testament tended to explain more than the Old
Testament writers what Scripture was for. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in
righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16). "For the Word of God is living and powerful,
sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit,
and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the
heart," (Hebrews 4:12). "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any
private interpretation (or origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man but
holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," (2 Peter 1:20,21).
I was interested to come across one Scripture which I hadn't noticed before
which says that the Scriptures will be the standard of judgment on the last day. "He
who rejects me and does not receive my words has that which judges him, the
word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day," (John 12:48).

What about the many versions?


There are many versions or translations of the Bible available, to suit every
level of understanding and education.
Since the major revisions of the Bible in the 1880's, over 100 new versions
have become available. There have been several good reasons why new versions
have been needed.
One of the most important has been the changing use of words. Some of the
versions available, such as the 'Good News' and the 'Living Bible,' are not actual
translations but paraphrases. The intent is not to stay with the original meanings of
words, but to use word pictures to get the same message across. This has especially
benefited those for whom English is a second language.

New finds of old manuscripts


The other main reason why new versions have been required has been the
increasing number of old manuscripts discovered containing significant portions of
the Bible. Scholars have now sorted through the many thousands of pieces and
whole manuscripts, and they have seen an overwhelming pattern of agreement with
the original wording.
One major example is the Dead Sea Scrolls which were found in 1947.
About one-third of the scrolls were portions of the Old Testament, mainly Psalms,
Deuteronomy and Isaiah. These were about one thousand years older than other
known copies, and showed how accurate most of the more recent ones have been.
Even though copiers of manuscripts had made some errors, these do not
affect the Bible's reliability, according to Dr. Rene Pache of Lausanne University.
He states "The errors affect no more than one one-thousandth part of the Biblical
text, so we believe them far too insignificant to shake our faith in the inerrancy of
the original manuscripts."

The English Bible


Historically there were two major steps taken in the translation of the Bible
into English. First, the Authorized Version was commissioned by James the First
and this was published in 1611. This was based strongly on previous translation
work by Wycliffe and Tyndale.
Although there were some copying errors in the 1611 version (which were
mostly corrected with reprints), the version has stood the test of time as a
masterpiece of English literature as well as one of the most accurate versions of its
time.
The second significant event was supposed to be nothing more than a minor
update of the 1611 edition and its reprints. This revision of the English Bible in
1881, led by Professors Hort and Westcott, produced nothing short of a new
translation, with over 36,000 changes on the previous text. These changes were
deemed necessary because of two new manuscripts known as Codex Sinaiticus,
and Codex Vaticanus, which were claimed to be older and apparently more reliable
than all other known writings available. .
Most translations and paraphrases printed since 1881 have come from this
'Revised Version.' However, there has been a large and growing number of scholars
who have challenged the accuracy and reliability of these two manuscripts. The
main argument has been that these two manuscripts were accepted as reliable while
at the same time over 2,700 other proven manuscripts were rejected.
The changes which Hort and Westcott made resulted in their version having
a significant bias against the Deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. As far as I
can tell from my reading and research, the only versions of the Bible seemingly
unaffected by this bias are the reprinted King James, New King James, and the
New International Versions; the latter covers the issues with footnotes.

God can and does use other versions. In summarizing the issues involved in
the multitude of versions and translations, I would say this; God can never be
limited. Even a mis-translation of a version can still be used by God to touch
people and to convict them of their sin and to show them their need of a Saviour.
There is no evidence that shows God hid His true word for 1800 years and
has only allowed this to be found in the past few decades. God's Word is eternal,
and no man or government will thwart God's purposes. There used to be a bumper
sticker around in the early 1980's which read "God said it, I believe it, and that
settles it." It would be more accurate to read "God said it, and that settles it,
whether I believe it or not."

Heresies Ancient and Modern


The Bible records that Satan tried to tempt Jesus into worshipping Him.
Interestingly, Jesus used three passages of Scripture to cause Satan to
withdraw. The fact that Satan cringes before the power of Scripture is
demonstrated time and time again by his incessant attacks against the Bible. He
shudders before this book in which the world's Saviour is announced and Satan the
deceiver is unmasked. He hates the Bible, for it shows him as defeated from
Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 20:10. Satan has caused men to burn the Bible, and
others to ban it. At least twice in history he has also tried to corrupt it.

Early heresies
A significant portion of the letters of the Apostles could be described as
Apologetics - that is not apologizing for our faith - but plainly stating the reason
for our faith in Jesus Christ. A few of the early churches did adopt some ideas
about Jesus which were anti-Biblical, and that is a significant part of the reason
why some Epistles were written - to put those churches right on issues of doctrine.
Despite these letters from the Apostles, false teachings still arose, and in the
4th century probably the most serious heresy surfaced through a man called Arius
of Alexandria in Egypt. He proposed that Jesus was only a created being, and that
even though He had existed before His physical birth and God had probably used
Him to help create the world, that He was only the highest creature, and could be
called 'a' god or a 'Son of God', but not God Himself.

The Arian Heresy and the Jehovah's Witnesses


This heresy did influence some of the early churches including some of the
churches in Greece due to the surrounding culture worship of the many gods. This
false teaching is commonly called the Arian heresy, and it has resurfaced in the
past 130 years through the Unitarian churches and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Witnesses even published a King James Version of the Bible in 1920
with a list of over 2,000 verses and words which needed to be crossed out because
they were no longer acceptable. "Let each... go through his Bible, pencil in hand,
and mark out these words, then read... and note the improvement." The excuse for
this mutilation of God's Word by the Watchtower Society was to save people the
expense of having to buy another Bible. It also showed without any doubt that they
reject both the Deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
This practice of crossing out wording with which they disagreed doesn't
seem to have been very successful, for shortly after this the Watchtower Society
commissioned a German spiritist named Johannes Greber to re-translate the Bible
and to make the amendments to fit their teaching. This they called the 'New World
Translation.' No reputable Hebrew or Greek scholars have yet agreed with their
changes, and many hundreds of scholars have rejected it outright as a fraudulent
mis-translation. One of the more blatant changes is John 1:1 stating that Jesus is 'a'
god. Every other translation in the world shows Jesus as 'God'. Sadly the Jehovah's
Witnesses claim they took their lead from the revision in 1881 by Hort and
Westcott. So the Jehovah's Witness' translation fulfils the prophetic Scripture: "The
(Holy) Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith,
giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons," (1 Timothy 4:1). .

Other counterfeit Scriptures


Two other groups who also fulfill this prophecy are the "Holy Spirit
Association for the Unification of World Christianity" and the "Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints."
The first is more commonly called the 'Moonies' or the 'Unification Church.'
Its founder, Sun Myung Moon, claimed a divine visitation by Jesus Christ in 1936
commissioning him to complete the work left undone by the unfortunate event of
Jesus' death. Moon later claimed that both Buddha and Mohammed endorsed this
work. Moon, who regards his book 'Divine Principle' as more important than the
Bible, was involved in spiritism at an early age.
The second group mentioned, the 'Latter Day Saints' or 'Mormons' was also
begun by a person involved in spiritist practices, one Joseph Smith Jnr. Smith
claimed a vision around 1820 from the 'Angel Moroni,' the so-called son of
Mormon. Both of these men experienced visitations which they claim were
divinely inspired.
These visitations fit more closely with the Scripture which says, "No
wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising,
then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness," (2 Corinthians
11:14,15 NIV).
The 'angels' which both Moon and Smith claimed to see were nothing less
than demonic spirits. These men, along with the founders of many other cult
religions, failed to apply the tests of Scripture on what they experienced. The result
is that they became deceived and passed their deception on to others.

The Book of Mormon - is it Scripture?


Smith claimed a 'new revelation' from some gold plates given to him by
Moroni. When translated into English, he claimed they became the 'Book of
Mormon'. Since its first printing, this 'Inspired Word of God', and 'The most correct
of any book on earth' has needed over 8,400 amendments, mostly to cover up
Smith's prophetic words which time has proved false.
Experts in many fields including archeology, anthropology and linguistics
have all discredited the Book of Mormon. The Smithsonian Institute in
Washington, D.C., in 1979 issued the findings of their extensive investigations into
the many claims in the Book of Mormon. They stated that on scientific and factual
evidence the Book of Mormon was a work of fiction. Despite this the Mormon
Church refuses to allow any independent testing of the evidence they claim would
prove the book true.
The truth about the Book of Mormon is that it was originally written by a
Congregational minister, the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, who was Joseph Smith's
Sunday school teacher. Spaulding used to write what he termed 'romances,' fairy
stories, including about Jesus visiting America after his resurrection. Smith must
have stolen a copy of Spaulding's manuscript. After adding 28 chapters from Isaiah
and parts of Malachi (a total of 25,000 words from the Old Testament) plus some
of his own fanciful prophecies, Smith then published it as his own work.
An original copy of Spaulding's manuscript has been checked against
Smith's Book of Mormon, and the similarities are painfully obvious. Even after all
this, the Mormon missionaries knocking on your door will still try to convince you
that this is the 'divinely inspired Word of God.' Perhaps their acceptance of this
deception is because their leaders have never dared tell them the truth. Whatever,
the Book of Mormon is a myth and a forgery. It is not a divinely inspired book at
all. Neither are "Doctrines and Covenants" and "Pearl of Great Price." These books
don't even agree with each other on key doctrines..
The warning of the Bible on adding to God's Word is clear, and those who
do are in danger of losing their salvation, if it was ever theirs. "See to it that no one
takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on
human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ,"
(Colossians 2:8 NIV).

God's Inspired Word to Us


We have looked at what the Bible is, and how it came together. We have also
seen how the many versions were developed. Books which cult groups have
claimed as equal or superior in divine inspiration to the Bible have been clearly
shown to be heretical, and not even worth reading. In Matthew 7:24, Jesus says,
"Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, is like a wise man who built
his house on the rock." For the Christian, the options are limited to obedience or
disobedience, for Jesus said "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word..." (John
14:23a).
Measuring revelations by the Bible, God may speak to His believing people
through prophetic words, visions, dreams and other revelations: but God speaks to
all His people most surely through the Bible.
All forms of revelation should be weighed against the Bible. These should
be put aside if they don't measure up with the Scripture. Our leading for guidance
and direction is best summed up by "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise
prophecies. Test all things: hold fast to what is good," (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
So the Scripture - the written Word of God - is the supreme standard by
which everything else should be judged and tested.

The Bible explains 'Why!"


Science may have answers to many questions, but that does not make the
Bible irrelevant. Scientific explanations answer questions such as 'How?' But the
ultimate question is 'Why?' and science cannot answer that. Science has many
unproven theories which may differ from Scripture, but the God who created our
world also wrote His Word truthfully.
Many historical facts recorded in the Bible are now beginning to be proved
by new finds in archeology etc. There are those who teach that the church (or at
least their denomination) is the final authority on matters of doctrine and life. All I
can say is that the Word of God is infallible and trustworthy, and it is older and
more accurate than any denominational church. The Bible is completely reliable
and worthy of our reading, believing and obeying.

The Bible is not an idol.


The Christian's only desire is to worship and glorify the Lord the Bible
reveals. The key to understanding the Bible is Jesus Christ. The unbeliever has
difficulty understanding the Bible, and may remain untouched by its message of
life and salvation.
The Christian believer accepts the supernatural character of Scripture - it is
self-evident. We meet God through its pages, and find pardon, new life and the
assurance of eternal salvation. God's Word is true, and "...a lamp to my feet and a
light to my path," (Psalm 119:105). If you have never read the Bible you may not
be aware that God wants to speak to you through its pages. You have nothing to
lose, and everything to gain.