(Excerpt from Owner’s Guide to Using Your Bible)
SAMPLE CHAPTER – Chapter 1: Your Purchased Car
… [cont’d] the Bible is inspired by God. All of it is the product of His breath. Although it was written by human authors, 2 Peter 1:21 tells us these men were “moved by the Holy Spirit” to write down the Scriptures and they “spoke from God.” Though these men had free exercise of their natural abilities, emotions, thoughts, and vocabularies, whatever they wrote was authoritative and infallible because of this divine control.
This means the Bible isn’t an optional book. You can’t take it or leave it as you choose. It requires your utmost attention and diligent obedience.
Unfortunately, most people today don’t look at the Bible that way. According to Pollster George Barna, more than 90% of American adults do not believe that the Bible contains absolute moral truth. Thus they live without a biblical worldview. Even among those who claim to be “born again Christians” less than one out of five (19%) look to the Bible as the final authority on how to live.1
The final issue in respect to your Bible is whether or not you see it as the authoritative Word of God. If it is, then accept it. Let God use it to speak truth into your life. If you reject it, then you are left alone in the troubled waters of humanistic reasoning.
“The Bible,” D.L. Moody said, “is the traveler’s map, the soldier’s sword, the Christian’s chart. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.”2
One of the most interesting studies you could do is on the topic of the Bible’s reliability. Is the Bible we have today really God’s Word? Is it accurate? Has it been added to? Can you trust it? In my own study I have found three primary things that point to its reliability: its transmission, its translation, and its confirmation.
Your Bible is regarded by theologians and historians as one of the most accurately transmitted texts of all times. The original copies of the Old Testament date back to the time of Moses (1405 BC) through the time of Malachi (400 BC) which gives us grounds for confidence that today’s Bible is an accurate translation. In 1947 a number of scrolls were discovered near the Dead Sea that date back to the second and first centuries BC. These scrolls, which contained portions of all the books of the Old Testament except Esther, were found to be extremely accurate.3
In addition, the Hebrew text we have today has been checked with the Septuagint translation (a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating to the middle of the third century), the Aramaic Targums (paraphrases and quotes of the Old Testament, quotations in early Christian writings), and the Latin translation of Jerome (AD 400) which was made directly from the Hebrew text of his day. All of these, when compared, give us confidence that the Hebrew text we have today of the Old Testament is indeed accurate. 4
The New Testament is the best attested document of all ancient writings. More than 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament exist today;5 at least 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate (common Latin versions of the New Testament);6 and more than 36,000 quotations of the New Testament in the Church Fathers (translations dating from the third century).7
Some fragments of Bible manuscripts date to as early as AD 130.8 These facts, coupled with the scholarly work that has been done to check the accuracy of the texts, assure us of the reliability of the Bible.
As you probably know, your Bible is a translation of the original writings. It wasn’t originally written in English! The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (except for small parts in Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek. Thanks to qualified translators, we are able to read the Bible in many different languages today. A few of the more popular English translations in print today are:
Each of these versions of the Bible seeks to translate the Greek or Hebrew text exactly as it is written, word by word. Although scholars may question the meaning of a word here or there, each of these can be trusted as a reliable translation of God’s Word.
Others have published Bible paraphrases in the simple speech of our everyday life. In a paraphrase, the premium is on readability. Instead of translating words exactly, the focus is on translating thoughts or ideas. Although a paraphrase is very helpful for devotional times of Bible reading, I would not recommend it for serious study. The more a translation moves in the direction of a paraphrase, the greater the danger for distortion of the text. A few examples of paraphrases are:
Sandwiched between word-for-word translations and paraphrases is a third set of Bibles usually referred to as Dynamic Equivalents. These versions of the Bible endeavor to balance textual accuracy and readability. Here are a few versions that fit into this grouping.
A third factor supporting the Bible’s reliability is the confirmation of archaeology. Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”9Millar Burrows of Yale adds, “On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record.”10
For example, in Greek, Acts 17:6 uses the title politarchs to refer to the civil authorities of Thessalonica. It was assumed by some at one time that Luke’s reliability as a historian was questionable because politarch could not be found in classical literature. However, in recent years archaeological finds have uncovered at least nineteen inscriptions that make use of this title. In fact, five of these inscriptions are in reference to Thessalonica.
Archaeology has further substantiated the reliability of the New Testament. Sir William Ramsey, who is regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists to ever have lived, said of the book of Acts, “As an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor, it was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative shared marvelous truth.”11
Thanks to transmission, translation, and archaeological confirmations, the Bible we have today can be trusted as reliable in communicating God’s Word to us. Your Bible is an invaluable book meant to be read and studied so that God might change your life.
Other topics covered in the book include:
- How to get your way around
- How to interpret the scriptures
- Making sense out of passages that don’t seem to make sense
- Popular systems for studying the Bible
- How to use outside resources