Now, in recent weeks we have stated clearly and with great confidence the belief that the Bible is God’s revealed, inspired Word. The historic Christian faith is built upon the confidence that this book is God-breathed, and that particular point we have endeavored to establish now for several weeks. It is infallible; that is, it does not lead to error. It does not lead to wrong conclusions. It does not teach erroneous doctrine. It is also inerrant. That means in the smallest part, each word, there is no error in the original manuscript. And it is authoritative. That means what it says is binding on the lives of all.
And I’d like to add to that that it is trustworthy. The Bible is believable. The strongest objective support for biblical inspiration and authority is the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That’s the strongest objective testimony. The greatest witness to the truth of the Bible that ever lived was Jesus Christ. If Jesus said it’s true, it’s true. That’s the greatest support. There can be no more reliable witness to the nature of Scripture than the one who died and rose to be the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ rules His church by His Spirit and by His Word. This is the divine authority. He Himself has said so.
And recently, though, there has been a rather destructive heresy that has crept into Christianity, and that is the heresy that says the Bible contains errors. If something is taught in Scripture, they tell us, it may or may not be true. It may be true, but then again, it may not be true. In other words, Scripture isn’t really a basis for believing anything, it just might be a basis. And as we’ve said in the last several weeks, if you say that there are some things that aren’t true, then who judges what is and what isn’t? And once you’ve let the cat out of the bag, you’re finished. Because then men become the arbitrary deciders of what’s in and what’s out.
You see, in history past, we had an interesting thing. You study the history of the church, for the most part, and you find this: that in the history of the church in the past years, it was the skeptics versus the Christians. I mean, it was pretty clearly drawn. The skeptics said, “The Bible’s not true. It contains errors.” The Christians said, “It is true. It does not contain errors.” But recently, it’s the Christians against the Christians, and I use the word “Christian” in one sense, at least, advisedly. It’s the so-called Christians against the true Christians. And maybe some critics of Biblical inerrancy are really born again. That even adds greater dimension to the miracle of the new birth. But today we not only have to fight the skeptics outside theology, we’ve got to fight people who call themselves Christians and go around propagating the fact that the Bible has errors.
The very integrity of Jesus Christ rests on the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration; that is, that in total, this is the inspired Word of God, and in every word it is the inspired Word of God. That is the doctrine that Jesus believed in. And if Jesus believed it, His integrity is at stake. We either have a divine Savior and an infallible Bible or neither. Not a divine Savior and an errant Bible, because He said it was without error.
Now, the critics of inspiration usually bring up three areas of problems, and we’re going to look at the Word of God and see if we can answer them. Number one, they say the Bible is not inspired because it disclaims inspiration. In other words, at places in the Scripture, it denies that it is inspired. They say there are passages which clearly disdain inspiration. You say, “What passage?” The one they always point to is 1 Corinthians 7. Let’s look at it, and let’s see whether it disclaims inspiration. First Corinthians chapter 7. Now here, Paul, the apostle, distinguishes between his instruction and the Lord’s instruction. And at first glance, he seems to be perhaps saying that some of his writings are not inspired. But as you look closer, you’re going to find that just the reverse is true. Look at 1 Corinthians 7, verse 6.
First Corinthians 7:6, and here’s one of the disclaimers that the critics and modernists use. Paul says, “But I speak this by permission, not by commandment.” They say, “Now, you see, there Paul is saying that this is not something that comes authoritatively from God,” that “here he’s giving his opinion. It’s just a matter of his opinion. It is not anything that’s inspired of God.” Is that what he’s saying?
Look what he’s saying. “I speak this by way of permission,” is the literal translation, “not by commandment.” Now, what he’s saying is simply this: “I am permitting you to do something, but I am not” – what? - “commanding you to do it.” Now, that seems very simple. “I am speaking to you by way of permission, not of commandment. I am not commanding you to do something, I am simply allowing you to do it.” What is the something? Being married is the something.
Now, he’s talking here about marriage. He says in verse 2, “Let every man have his own wife and every woman have her own husband.” Now, if it stopped there, we’d be in trouble, because all the single people in the church would be living in open disobedience. So he says a little further down, “Now, folks, I want you to know that God wants to permit you to be married, but it isn’t something that you have to do.”
In fact, he kind of even backs off of it a little ways. It’s kind of interesting. He says, “I would that all men were even like I am, but every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner and another after that. I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, it’s good for them if they abide even as I.”
And Paul was single. You know, for him it was an advantage. Can you imagine if he had a wife at this point? He may have at one time, but the poor woman would’ve been driven to distraction by his absence. I mean – and she would have been worried to death because he was forever in a particularly difficult problem.
So he said, “If you’re unmarried or a widow, that’s great. Stay that way.” But if they can’t have self-control, let them marry “for it’s better to marry than to burn.” Now, you can argue about what the “burn” means. I think the interpretation is to burn with passion. Some of us have to get married or we get in trouble. In other words, we’re made with needs that demand a partner.
So all Paul is saying in this passage is, “Look, when I said in verse 2, ‘Let every man have his own wife,’ and went on to talk about marriage, I am merely saying that this God allows, but it is not that I am commanding this, because if you’re single and God has that gift for you, terrific. You can be like I am, and you won’t have the encumbrances of life that a married person has. But, if you can’t have self-control, get married.” That’s practical. But if you look at it in the context, is it a disclaimer to inspiration? It has nothing to do with that.
They pull another one out of here, too. First Corinthians 7:10, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord.” Now look at verse 12. “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” Now, the critics say, “You see? In one verse he says it’s the Lord, in another verse he says it’s not the Lord, it’s just plain old me talking. So, you see, there are parts of Scripture that are not inspired.”
Now, if Paul laid a disclaimer on inspiration in verse 12, how do we know that that isn’t true of other places where he just gives his opinion? Now, do you want to know why it is that, for example, in major denominations, they can bypass all of the passages about women elders? There is no such thing as a woman elder, incidentally, because an elder has to be the husband of one wife, so there couldn’t be a woman elder. But there are in some churches. You say, “Well, how do they allow for a woman elder?” It’s very simple. That was Paul’s opinion.
I mean, if Paul gave his opinion in 1 Corinthians 7, he’d gave his opinion somewhere else, we’ll just take it as opinion and chuck it. Now, you see how convenient that is? You see, once you give in the ground here and agree that this is an opinion and not a commandment of God or that this is something less than inspiration, then you’ve really opened the door, and every time they don’t want to buy something, they just say it’s an opinion.
Why is it that in some of the major denominations you have some of the greatest movements of women to try to usurp authority in the church? Women priests, arguing and hassling about whether they have the right to preach and perform communion, et cetera, et cetera. You say, “Well, what do they do with the passages that say that that’s for a man, and a woman is not to usurp authority? That’s an opinion. That’s Paul’s opinion.”
See, once you allow for that, then it’s gone. And then you can say, “Well, that’s his opinion,” “Well, that’s his opinion.” Pretty soon you’ve opinionized the Bible away. And then all you’ve got left is the words of Jesus, and when He offers an opinion, it’s binding.
But what does it say? You say, “You keep talking, MacArthur, but you don’t tell me what it means.” All right, I’ll tell you what it means. First Corinthians 7:10, “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband.” What is he referring to? He’s saying that “I am telling you something that didn’t originate with me, it originated with the Lord, I’m quoting Jesus,” and he quotes right out of Matthew 5:31 and 32. “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband.”
And, of course, the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:31 and 32 is what he refers to. And what is the statement? I’ll read it to you. Jesus simply said, “It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement, but I say unto you that whosoever shall put away his wife except for the cause of fornication causes her to commit adultery,” et cetera. In other words, Jesus said, “Stay together.” And apparently it even was broader than that. And Paul is saying here, “I’m not telling you anything new. I’m merely restating to you what Jesus said. Stay married.”
You see, in the Old Testament, a divorce was relatively easy. And Jesus came along and said, “I’m telling you that if you allow for a divorce under any other grounds than adultery, you cause the wife to commit adultery,” and so forth. And Paul’s saying, “Now, when I say to you, ‘Stay married,’ it’s not just me, but it’s the Lord who commanded it.” Do you see what he’s saying?
Now, when you go to verse 12, “The rest speak I, not the Lord.” Now he says, “I’m no longer quoting Jesus. I’m speaking.” It is not that he’s saying, “I’m not inspired,” he’s just saying, “I’m not quoting Jesus.” Jesus had already taught that marriage was to be permanent. Divorce was permitted only for adultery. And now, beginning in verse 12, Paul adds his own inspired teaching to the teaching that Jesus had already given. He doesn’t say, “I’m just going to throw my opinion,” he says, “No, the Lord taught that. Now let me add to what the Lord said.”
Friends, not only is he not minimizing his teaching, he’s putting it on an equal basis with the teaching of whom? Of Jesus Himself. Paul said, “The Lord commanded that, now I’m going to tell you something. This isn’t something the Lord said. This is new revelation. If a brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman who hath an husband that believeth not, if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” This is something Jesus never talked about.
What happens when one member of the family gets saved? Paul says stay together “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Else were your children unclean, but now they’re holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Now, there’s a potent statement. Jesus said you will not be allowed to be divorced on any other grounds than what? Adultery. Did you realize that Paul added another ground? If an unbeliever wants out, let him what? Depart. You’re not in bondage in such cases.
You say, “You mean Paul added to the words of Jesus? You mean Jesus made a qualification and Paul added to it another qualification on an equal basis?” Absolutely. There are two grounds for divorce in the New Testament: adultery and an unbeliever who will not live with a believer, who wants out, he has the freedom to go, and you’re not under bondage in such cases. Because God has called us to peace. God knows that if you’re a Christian and there’s no way that that partner is going to come to Christ and he makes your life brutally miserable, that it’s better for you to be separated because God has called you to what? Peace. And so Paul actually adds a word to the Word of Christ Himself.
And, incidentally, I’ll say something else. Do you know that in the Old Testament, in Ezra 10:11 – in Ezra 10:11, the Scripture said, “Separate yourselves from foreign wives”? Did you know that it said that in Ezra 10:11? That the Jews were commanded at that point to separate from foreign wives? Now, Paul here is stating something totally opposite, isn’t he? It’s a new dispensation. It’s progressive revelation. And Paul is saying, “I’m telling you, stay with an unbeliever unless that unbeliever absolutely rejects and wants out of the relationship. If he departs, let him go.” So Paul actually reverses a statement in the Old Testament and adds to a statement of Jesus.
Friends, this is not – this is not minimizing Paul’s opinion, this is putting his opinion on an equal basis with all Scripture, Old Testament and the Word of Christ Himself. So rather than disclaiming divine authority, he actually places his own commands on an equal basis with Old Testament Scripture and equal to the words of Jesus. And you have to remember that things are qualified as we go through the Scripture. It’s progressively revealed.
Let me give you another one. Look at verse 25. And here again they say the same thing. “Well, see, here’s his opinion.” “Now, concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment.” And you say, “See, he’s just giving his opinion again.” That is not his opinion. He is simply saying, “Jesus didn’t say anything about this area, but I will speak. I don’t hesitate to speak. Though Jesus never said a word about it, I hasten to give my judgment.”
You say, “It’s just your opinion.” Look at verse 40, at the end of the verse, he concludes this whole discussion with this statement: “I think also that I have” – what? – “the Spirit of God.” This is not opinion, friends. This is divine revelation. Paul does not give his opinion. He reveals the will and the mind of the Holy Spirit. And he concludes the whole section with that statement.
So the disclaimers are not disclaimers at all. They are actually the opposite. And instead of disclaiming inspiration, Paul puts his own statements on an equal level with Old Testament Scripture, even superseding the principle of the Old Testament in Ezra 10:11 and on equal basis with Jesus Christ, even adding to the qualifications for divorce that our Lord Himself gave.
Let me give you a second area. The critics secondly say, “Well, the Bible is full of errors because of transmission trouble.” Now, some of you know about transmission trouble, but it isn’t this kind. “The Bible has problems in its transmission. You see, they might say, “Well, you fundamentalists are right that the original autographs maybe were perfect.” And that’s what we’re saying. When we say the Bible is verbally inspired and without error in its words, in every detail, we mean in the original autographs, the original copies.
And so they say, “You see, that’s fine if you want to say that in the original. But do you realize that the original were written thousands of years ago, and all down through the years people copied, copied, copied, copied, copied, copied, and there are all kinds of mistakes in there, and we don’t know what we’ve got in this Bible? I mean, this thing is so far away from the original, it’s ridiculous. What gives us the idea that this is accurate, like the original was?”
And, incidentally, there are no original manuscripts left. Do you know why? Because somebody’d put them up somewhere and bow down to them, believe me. They’re gone. So the critics say, “We have no accurate manuscripts.” This was a hue and cry a few years back. “The preservation and circulation of Scriptures cannot be guaranteed. We don’t know whether they are accurate. How do we know that this Bible we hold in our hands that’s written in English has any relationship to the original thousands of years ago? Scribes may have messed it up all the way down the line.” That’s a good, fair criticism, if it’s a criticism, indeed.
Let me just add a few thoughts to that. The Bible was written originally by its writers. Then a process of copying began. The original scrolls were copied by scribes. That’s what scribes were, copiers. And scribes believed that they were copying the Word of God, and they were super careful. They had specially trained and dedicated men who took on them the copying process. They had principles of checking and rechecking. Long and painful work, a demanding, extreme care was their lot for their lifetime. And they were lifetime scribes.
It is said of Ezra, who was a scribe, that he could recite the Old Testament word perfect from beginning to end. And they knew it as God’s Holy Word, and they wanted it reproduced as such. Christian scholars even in the Christian era have taken to the study of manuscripts with as great an intensity, perhaps, in many cases. The scribes were careful because they believed the very words they dealt with were the words of God.
Let me add this: It is exciting to realize that in the opinion of most scholars today, aside from a few skeptics who haven’t checked it out, in the opinion of most scholars, the text that you hold in your hands right now is practically identical to the original. That’s no problem for me. If God is powerful enough and intelligent enough to write it, He certainly can take care of it.
Do you realize that your Bible that you hold in your hand, though it is an ancient book, has been established with greater certainty than any other ancient book in existence? The Bible has more manuscript evidence. And by that, I mean this: They have found copies of the Bible on scrolls and parchments and papers all over the place, and the more they find, the more agreement they find.
And they find a scribe over here in one century, cranking it all out, and they find that parchment. Here’s another one over here in – and another parchment. And they bring them together, and they’re identical. And out of two different cultures in two different time periods by two different men who never met. And they say somewhere the source has maintained its purity, because everybody’s coming up with the same copies. That’s a powerful point.
A.T. Robertson, who’s a great scholar, said this, and I quote: “There are some 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin, and at least 1,000 for the other early versions. Add to that 4,000 Greek manuscripts, and we have 13,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament. And all 13,000 essentially agree.” That’s exciting. God has preserved it. This shows the pure preservation of Scripture. Thirteen thousand manuscripts – written in different periods, different origins, from all different areas and by all different men in all different periods of time – agree.
In the New Testament, for example, textual scholars who study all these manuscripts find there are certain areas of human errata. That means error, mistakes. And the scribe copying may get a letter wrong or there may be some kind of an inverted word order or something like that. They have found that there are certain things. But it is less than one word in every thousand. In fact, one out of every 1,580 words in the Old Testament has any kind of configuration that varies with another one in another manuscript.
Listen to this: Quoting from Morris, “Although there are varying readings in the manuscripts, over 99 percent of the variations are spelling.” Spelling. I mean, we can understand if a guy didn’t spell too well. Over 99 percent of all the errors are spelling mistakes. Friends, that’s exciting. Less than one percent of anything in here is a true error. And that’s after centuries and centuries and centuries.
What about Old Testament manuscripts? Why, for the Old Testament, we have the Masoretic text, a group of scribes who lived around 500 A.D. We have the Septuagint. Incidentally, the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was done before Christ. And it’s quoted frequently by, particularly, the writer of Hebrews. We have the Latin Vulgate by Jerome. We have the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac version, and then the greatest discovery of all is what? The Dead Sea Scrolls.
You know, I can’t help but go to Israel and go in that Dead Sea Scroll place and just get goose bumps all over me, you know, and if you don’t know what’s going on, you say, “This is really a musty old thing. What is all this?” And you just look up there, and there is the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it’s exciting.
And you go down to Qumran and they tell you about a little kid who was trying to chase a sheep out of a cave, and he threw a rock in there and he heard a piece of pottery break, and he went in and found the whole thing. You say, “What was it?” It’s a manuscript of the Old Testament. You say, “What’s so important about it?” Those Dead Sea Scrolls go back past the New Testament, past the time of Christ, past – way back, and they slide right up against the Old Testament.
You know, there’s 400 years between the end of the Old and the beginning of the New, and the Dead Sea Scrolls slide right up to the end of the Old Testament. That’s exciting, folks, because they’re the whole Old Testament almost. And you know what’s really exciting? The manuscripts that were put together in 500 A.D. are essentially identical to the Dead Sea Scrolls of perhaps as much as eight or nine hundred years before. I mean that’s exciting. I stand there and look at those Dead Sea Scrolls and realize those very scrolls were being read by people who wanted to discover the Messiah before the Messiah even came.
And what really thrills you is we’ve been having a Bible in our hands that came from some scrolls and some manuscripts that were put together in 500 A.D., and they found some nearly a thousand years older that agree exactly with them. Now, if God can preserve it through that period of time, He can preserve it for all the time, can’t He? That’s why the Dead Sea Scrolls are so important.
When the Dead Sea Scrolls showed up, a whole lot of critics should’ve gone right back into the caves that the Dead Sea Scrolls came out of. It is practically the entire text of the Old Testament. The scholars tell us any variation in the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Masoretic text is so minute it isn’t worth any significance. God has preserved His Word.
No, when somebody comes along and says, “We’ve got transmission problems,” I say, “Forget it. The same God who put it together preserved it.” Yes, Jesus said, “My words shall not” – what? – “pass away.” And listen, friend, part of the fulfillment of that prophecy is that the manuscripts stayed true. Now, there are some manuscripts that are really faulty, but it’s obvious. We can tell. Because we have the good ones, the true ones.
All right, a third area. The critics attack on the area of the fact that the Bible makes disclaimers to inspiration and, secondly, on the area of transmission. Thirdly, they attack on the area of difficulties. I call it difficulties, they call it errors. But I like difficulties better. They say that if you’re going to say the Bible is inspired, how do you account for all the mistakes in the Bible? I mean, there are mistakes everyplace.
Paul Rader, you remember him? Paul Rader, back in 1930, offered a thousand dollars to anybody who could come up with one single proof that the Bible contradicts itself. He said anything in history, geology, archaeology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, ethnology, et cetera. Nobody ever claimed the thousand dollars. The errors in the Bible are very elusive. They aren’t errors. You know what they are? They are difficulties, masquerading as errors.
You say, “Well, why did God allow difficulties? I mean, why are there parts of the Scripture that are hard to harmonize?” And there are. Why isn’t it just easy? I know why it’s hard to harmonize. I can give you some reasons.
Number one, it disproves collusion. You know, the critics would like to push all the dates of the Bible way up and have all the Bible writers sort of in the same little glob, writing, and that way they could explain how come they all said the same thing. But the very fact that there are difficulties to harmonize shows that they didn’t really get together, that it isn’t a forgery.
Because if the Bible is a fraud and it was forged and it was cranked out of collusion, it’s going to agree with itself, right? I mean, if you wanted to write a book that would be believable, man, you’d make everything whack together, wouldn’t you? And the fact that there are any difficulties at all is a good indication there wasn’t any collusion in the writing.
I can give you another reason for difficulties. I think there are difficulties here because it forces you to do what? You got it. Study. And I think that there are difficulties in the Bible because we have to close so many gaps. “What do you mean by that?” I mean there are gaps. For example, some things are difficult to us because we don’t understand culture, right? We don’t understand the culture in which it was said. Other things. We don’t understand the geography. We don’t understand the history of the times. We have a terrible language problem. We’re trying to figure out what Hebrews meant when they used Hebrew words several thousand years ago. You see, by having to face all these huge gaps, there is difficulty.
One other thing. Difficulty is always the product of brevity and summary. You know, when you get a whole historical incident reduced to five verses, man, you’ve got a lot left out, right? And when there’s anything left out in summary or brevity, it’s difficult.
So I believe that God allowed these difficulties to disprove collusion, to force us to study, and that they are there because there’s just difficulty in closing all the gaps and that they are there because they are the products of brevity and summary.
One other thing. I’m glad there are some totally insurmountable, absolutely beyond-conquest kind of problems because that means God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, and it speaks of a divine author.
In 1800, the French Institute in Paris issued a list of 82 errors in the Bible, and the French Institute announced that this would destroy Christianity. Today, none of the 82 remain. Neither does the French Institute. The critics claimed a host of errors in 1850, and they were all recanted in 1950.
Second Peter 3:16 is interesting. It says in all of Paul’s epistles, “speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood.” The Bible agrees. It isn’t easy. Second Peter 3:16, “in which are some things hard to be understood.” Peter’s kind of – really kind of cute to hear Peter say this. He says, “You know that Paul, he’s awful hard to understand.” Peter is a lot easier than Paul. But there are abbreviated stories. There are gaps of culture, gaps of language, gaps of geography, gaps of history and gaps of custom. And it’s difficult. It’s not error, it’s difficulty.
Well, let me give you some of the things they say, and I’ll try to answer them. Number one is, “Where did Cain get his wife?” That is so easy to answer. He married his sister. You say, “But that’s not right.” But the definition of that came later. I mean, if you’re going to have everybody coming from one family, somebody’s got to marry somebody in the family.
In fact, did you know that in Genesis 5:3 and 4, it says that Adam lived 930 years and begat many sons and daughters? And over a period of 930 years, you’d better believe that those sons and daughters also begat many other sons and daughters. In fact, one man figured out that Cain could have chosen his wife from 35,000 people.
Now, let me show you another one that they bring up. Joshua 10, the battle of Gibeon. Remember this one? And this is where they criticize the Scripture as being unscientific. The Lord won the battle, verse 10 says. But verse 12, “Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said, in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hastened not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before or after it.”
Now, you see, the people say, “Oh, isn’t that funny? You see, they had the idea that the sun went around the earth. You see their erroneous scientific information here. They thought the sun was going around the earth. Oh, isn’t that terrific? ‘Sun, stand still.’ Technically, he should’ve said, ‘Earth, stop revolving,’ if he was a scientist.”
But, friends, the Bible is written from the human perspective. It is written in not scientific language, but human language. You get up in the morning, you throw your curtain up and you look out and you say, “Oh, what a lovely earth revolving.” No, that is a sunrise. You say, “Oh, that isn’t very scientific.” Of course it isn’t. You’re looking at it from the human viewpoint. In the evening, when you look out to the west and you see above the layer of ground the layer of red, and you say, “What a lovely earth revolving” – no, it’s a sunset.
We talk about the four corners of the earth. We don’t believe it’s square. We talk about the fact that the North Pole is on the top, and we say Australia is down under. And the old scientists used to laugh when somebody said the earth was round, because they said, “Isn’t that stupid, to imagine men going around hanging like some sort of suspended creatures by their feet?” You see, they couldn’t think those thoughts.
When the Bible gets into scientific areas, it speaks from the human viewpoint. It is not intended to be a textbook on science. It is just as accurate for Joshua to say what he said as it would be for you to say that it’s a lovely sunrise, because in his view that’s exactly what happened. The sun stayed right where it was. And that’s the simplest way to describe it. We still do it.
You know, I could give you some other illustrations. If Daniel escaped the lions’ den, he didn’t escape the critics’ den. The critics have always taken liberties with Daniel. They called the whole book a forgery. They did it for a long time, you know. They said this whole thing was a forgery, and then somebody discovered the Elephantine Papyri, which was a particular archaeological discovery that historically makes Daniel totally credible, and all the critics’ mouths were shut.
Let me give you another illustration. Second Kings 18, and here’s another one that they used to criticize. Second Kings 18:14. Now, the great king of Assyria was a man named Sennacherib, and the king of Israel was a fine man by the name of Hezekiah. And there was a war. And I want you to notice, as we look at verse 14, “And Hezekiah, king of Judah, sent to the king of Assyria, to Lachish, saying, ‘I have offended. Withdraw from me. That which thou puttest on me will I bear.’ And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah, king of Judah, 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.”
Now, Hezekiah was commanded by Sennacherib to pay 300 talents of silver, 30 talents of gold. Archaeologists digging found most interesting information in regard to this very battle. In fact, they found the records of the transaction between Sennacherib and Hezekiah. But what was interesting was it was Sennacherib’s own official account that they found. And when the archaeologists found it, Sennacherib’s account said, “800 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.”
So there was a discrepancy, and so they said, “See, here again, the Bible is in error.” They never thought Sennacherib could make a mistake. Plus the fact they were dealing with later manuscripts and they did find the original record of Sennacherib.
Want to know something interesting? Archaeologists continued to dig, and the more they dug about Assyrian life, the more they found out, and recently they have discovered that the standard of calculation for gold in Judea and Assyria was the same. So 30 talents of gold in Judea, that would be the way they would say it; 30 talents of gold in Assyria, that’s the way they would say it; but the standard for calculating silver was different. And, in fact, they have discovered that it took exactly 800 Assyrian talents to make 300 Jewish talents. The Scripture was right to the very number.
You see, folks, these aren’t mistakes, it’s just that we need further information. Do you understand that? Further insights.
Well, what about theology? Well, they’re always saying that Paul and James disagreed. Look at Romans 4. In Romans 4, Paul talks about Abraham. They say, “The Bible not only makes mistakes numerically, scientifically, et cetera, et cetera” – and, as I’ve showed you, all of them are not mistakes at all – but they say “theologically it makes mistakes.”
It says in chapter 4 of Romans, verse 1, “What shall we say, then, that Abraham, our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” In other words, what particular works were beneficial to him? “For if Abraham were justified by works, he had something of which to glory, but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Now, in verse 4, he says, “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” So here it says Abraham didn’t get his salvation by what? By works. He got it by faith.
Now go to James 2:21. And in James 2:21, it says, “Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he had offered Isaac, his son, upon the altar?” Now, you see, they say you have right here a disagreement, an absolute contradiction. You have justified by grace and faith in Romans 4; in James 2, justified by works.
But, friends, if you study the passage, you find something very interesting. Paul is referring to Genesis 15. James is referring to Genesis 22. Paul is referring to the time that Abraham actually was redeemed, actually was termed righteous, in Genesis 15, when he believed God. James is referring to the time when Abraham offered Isaac as a visible indication of the reality of his faith.
Paul is saying you’re saved by faith. James is saying, “And your true salvation will become visible by what you do.” There is no disagreement. One is a corollary to the other. Yes, Abraham was justified by faith, but his faith validated his salvation in chapter 22 when he showed how he really believed God, and that’s all James is saying. He’s saying, “Of course you’re saved by faith, but I’ll you one thing. If your life doesn’t reveal your faith, there’s no faith there.” Right? That isn’t a contradiction at all.
So, you see, with careful study, with any kind of scholarship, with the findings of archaeology, the difficulties melt away, and the Bible stands under all the assaults. That’s defense. The Bible can defend itself.
What about offense? Let me just give you some quick thoughts, and this is just a brief thought or two. Can the Bible positively testify to its authority? As well as defending itself, can it attack? It’s got a good defense, what’s its offense like? Let me give you several thoughts.
I think the Bible is trustworthy because of its uniqueness. I mean let’s face it, folks. There’s no book like this in existence. And, as I said last time, if you don’t believe God wrote it, you have a problem. Who did?
Professor Monier Williams, the former Boden professor of Sanskrit, spent 42 years studying Eastern books, and this is what he said. Quote, “Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table, but place your own Holy Bible on the right side, all by itself, all alone, and with a wide gap between them. For there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever.” He said after 42 years of studying Eastern sacred books, they don’t belong in the same place with the Bible.
For example, just take the Hindu Bible. In the sacred writings of the Hindus, you find such fantastic nonsense as this: “The moon is 50,000 leagues higher than the sun and shines by its own light. Night is caused by the sun setting behind a huge mountain several thousand feet high located in the center of the earth. This world is flat and triangular and is composed of seven stages, one of honey, another of sugar, a third of butter, and another of wine. And the whole mass is borne on the heads of countless elephants which, in shaking, produce earthquakes.” That’s the sacred writing of the Hindus.
You read the Koran and you’ll find out that the stars are nothing but torches in the lower heavens and that men are made out of baked clay. The most gross kind of errors abound. Errors regarding the material world are common in – mostly common in Homer, in Greek and Roman mythology, in the wild, disordered books of the Hindus, the traditions of the Buddhists and the Muslims. The greatest geniuses even of ancient philosophy, such as Aristotle, Plato, Pliny, Plutarch, Lucretius, and others, wrote such absurdities that if one such absurdity was found in the Bible, it would totally and forever discredit its inspiration. But there’s not one of them in the Bible. Not one.
James Orr, speaking of the Moslem, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist Scriptures, said this, and I quote: “It is the simple fact that there is nothing that can be properly called history in these other sacred books of the world. They are, as every student of them knows, for the most part, jumbles of heterogeneous material loosely placed together without order, continuity or unity of any kind.” End quote.
The Bible is unique. It has been read by more people, published in more languages – at least 1,280-plus languages – studied, criticized more than any other book. God wants it circulated, and it’s getting circulated. The first major book ever published was the Bible, wasn’t it? On Gutenberg’s press. By 1932, the London Bible Society says there were one and a half billion Bibles in print – 1932 – and nobody knows how many billion there are now.
It’s the only book that gives the account of special creation. It’s the only book that gives a continuous historical record from the first man to the present era to the future. It’s the only book of ancient history that gives history a purpose. It is by far the purest religious literature with the highest moral standards. It is the only book of antiquity containing detailed prophecies of events to come accurately. And it is the only book which has proven to convict men of sin and lead them to salvation. There is no book in the world like the Bible. It’s uniqueness.
Second, I think the Bible is true because of its unity. Whenever you see the unity of the Bible, you have to see one author. Sixty-six books, 40-plus human writers, nearly 16 hundred years, all the way from Moses, who wrote the first one in your Bible, to John, who wrote the last one, and you’ve got unity through the whole thing.
One man wrote in Syria, another in Arabia, another in Italy and Greece. They wrote in the desert of Sinai, the wilderness of Judea, the cave of Adullam, the prison at Rome, the barren island of Patmos, the palaces of Zion and Shushin, the rivers of Babylon, et cetera, et cetera, in three languages, different lifestyles, different occupations, locations, events. Poetry, history, theology, proverbs, parables, allegory, and on it goes, and every bit of it is one harmonious whole. A master mind controlled it all. It’s not pell-mell. It’s not scattered.
You ever thought about the Bible? It’s a fantastic book. Do you realize that just if you lay out the pattern of the Bible, there are four themes in the Bible (revelation, history, devotion and prophecy) and both Old and New Testament follow those themes?
In the Old Testament, what are the books of revelation that God reveals? The Pentateuch. Then comes history, Joshua to Esther. Then comes devotion, Job to Song of Solomon. Then comes prophecy, Isaiah to Malachi. The New Testament, revelation, the disclosure of God, the gospels, history, the book of Acts, devotion, the epistles, prophecy, the book of Revelation. The same format.
Just to show you how the Bible is done, let me show you this: In the Old Testament, you have salvation prepared. In the gospels, salvation effected. In the Acts, salvation preached. In the epistles, salvation explained. In the Revelation, salvation fulfilled. Perfect historical continuity. It’s going from somewhere to somewhere else, and it gets there.
One of the most beautiful tributes to the Bible was paid by Billy Sunday. This is what he said – I want to read you this, it’s really beautiful. “Twenty-nine years ago, with the Holy Spirit as my guide, I entered at the portico of Genesis. I walked down the corridor of the Old Testament, in the art gallery where pictures of Noah and Abraham and Moses and Joseph and Isaac and Jacob and Daniel hung on the wall.
“I passed into the music room of the Psalms, where the Spirit sweeps the keyboard of nature until it seems that every reed and pipe in God’s great organ responds to the harp of David, the sweet singer of Israel. I entered the chamber of Ecclesiastes, where the voice of the preacher is heard, and into the conservatory of Sharon and the lily of the valley, where sweet spices filled and perfumed my life.
“I entered the business office of Proverbs and on into the observatory of the prophets, where I saw telescopes of various sizes pointing to far-off events, concentrating mostly on the bright morning star which was to arise above the moonlit hills of Judea for our salvation and redemption. I entered the audience room of the King of kings, catching a vision written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then into the correspondence room, with Paul and Peter and James and John and Jude writing their epistles.
“I stepped into the throne room of Revelation, where tower the glittering peaks, where sits the King of kings upon his throne of glory, and I cried out, ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name. Let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all.’” The Bible is unique, and it is united.
Lastly, I think the Bible vindicates itself by its indestructibility. You see, the Bible is God’s Word, and because it is God’s Word, it partakes of God’s nature, right? And God is eternal, so it is what? Eternal. Psalm 119:89: “Forever, O Lord, thy word” – what? – “is settled in heaven.” You know, throughout history, Satan has attacked the Bible. Celsus tried with his brilliant genius and failed. Porphyry tried with the hammer of philosophy and failed. Diocletian, the Roman emperor, tried the most concerted attack ever against the Bible. He tried to destroy Christians.
That’s right, he was a real killer of Christians, but he also attacked the Scripture. In 303 A.D., 300 years after Christ, he brought to bear against the Bible all the military and political power of Rome. He issued proclamations that every Bible had to be burned, every manuscript. Naturally, Christians didn’t do it. So the imperial government then demanded that the Scriptures be given up, and anybody who didn’t give them up would be executed. Murdered. That failed. He killed a whole lot of Christians, burned a whole lot of Scripture manuscripts. The penalty of death was carried out. Many Christians died.
In fact, he burned so many Christians, and burned so many manuscripts, that he finally erected a column. You know, they used to – whenever they’d get a great victory, they’d put up a big triumph arc. You know how many arcs of triumphs there are, and how many great columns of victory there are in ruins around the world? Well, he put up a great, huge triumph column, and it was called “Extincto Nomine Christianorum” – which means the name of Christians has been extinguished – and they built this huge thing. You know something? Twenty-two years later, the first church council met at Nicaea and enthroned the Bible as the only infallible judge of truth in the world, 22 years after he erected his column.
Pseudoscience has tried to laugh the Bible out of existence. Two hundred years ago, Voltaire said, quote: “Fifty years from now, the world will hear no more of the Bible.” In that very year – that I’m going to mention in a minute – the British Museum paid the Russian government a half a million dollars for one copy of one Greek manuscript. And in that very year, the first edition of Voltaire’s book sold on a Paris bookstore counter for less than eight cents. It wasn’t very many years until his book was worth eight cents and one New Testament manuscript, one, Sinaiticus, was worth a half a million.
Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, 200 years ago, presented his genius. And I mean he was smart. He was one of the geniuses of his age. And he presented his genius as an attack on Christianity and, boy, he really went after it. He felt his arguments would destroy forever the Bible. He predicted that in a few years the Bible would be out of print.
On returning to America, he boasted, and I quote: “When I get through, there will not be five Bibles left in America.” Fifteen hundred years after Herodotus wrote his history, there was only one copy. Twelve hundred years after Plato wrote his books, there was only one copy. We’ve got 13,000 manuscripts of the Bible. Oh, by the way, going back to Voltaire, 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his house and his press to print Bibles.
Oh, incidentally, going back to Diocletian, 25 years after his efforts, Constantine commissioned Eusebius to prepare 50 copies of the Bible at the expense of the Roman government. H.L. Hastings says, “Infidels, with all their attacks, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the pyramids of Egypt. When the French monarch proposed the persecution of Christians,” says Hastings, “in his dominion, an old statesman said to him, ‘Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.’”
So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. Praise the Lord for His Word. Amen? What a book, united, unique, indestructible. The grass withers. The flower fades. The Word of God abides forever.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.