In both the domains of nature and faith, you will find the most excellent things are the deepest hidden.”
[Desiderius Erasmus, “The Sage”]
I STAND ALONE, ON THE WORD OF GOD…
Is there anything more controversial in our culture than the Bible?
Maybe, but this book is up there for most arguments started and longest spectrum of views one can hold about it. Is it entirely “God’s Word”? Is it inerrant? Does it have some value but parts that must be discarded due to how they conflict with things like science and modern morality? Is it a series of disjointed fables to be ignored entirely? None of the above? Which parts are history? Which are literal? Which are figurative? The range of answers to these and other questions is innumerable in the present world.
The version of Christianity that I adhere to does not treat the Bible as if it were God. But make no mistake, I unashamedly believe that the Bible is historically reliable. I believe that it contains the words God wants us to have. I believe that it is the unique source for knowing God through Jesus Christ. I believe it alone is authoritative in the area of morality. The basis of my faith is in the resurrection of Christ. But there is no resurrection to be truly known outside of the Holy Bible.
There are so many angles in which the Bible nearly always has been, is and always will be attacked. I cannot imagine trying to cover them all, but in this short series of essays I will try to cover what I consider to be the main ones, and the ones that are most important for Christians to defend.
“WHAT IS TRUTH?” (PILATE, TO JESUS)
I have researched this topic for decades now because like many people, I have to know. I have to know if I believe the truth. If what I’ve been taught is correct. If I’m leading others to the same lie. I hope my Christians readers feel the same. I regularly see Christians–often on the internet–have their faith attacked and seem unprepared. Especially in this area.
So my goal is to get your interest piqued. I do not presume to be able to write a full length, scholarly type work on this topic. While I will cite numerous scholars who are experts in the areas I will cover, I aim to keep this at seven parts with each essay under 2,000 words. This is for social media, after all, and I know people are not on websites like ours to read a full length book. I hope that you will check out some of the books I cite and learn more. One of my goals as a pastor in my sermons and writings is to be the bridge between the deep scholarship and the people who are new to the Bible, or just want to learn more.
So what is the plan? Well here is what I want to do over the next six articles:
In Part Two of this series, I will talk about why my Old Testament has 39 books, and why I believe this is the right number. I will speak to why I do not think our Bibles should contain the Apocrypha or the Pseudepigrapha or anything some branches of Christianity consider to be deuterocanonical (if you don’t know what any of these words mean, please come back next week!) We will also talk about certain books that are in my Old Testament, but were put in despite great controversy.
In Part Three, we will examine the 27 books that make up the New Testament. We will talk about its formation over time, why Christianity needed a canon of Jesus’ and the apostles’ teachings and which criteria for acceptance rose to the top. We will talk about why we only have four Gospels instead of more, since there are popular works that have tried to convince us that there were way more than four Gospels, and why I don’t believe the alleged “Lost Christianities” are writings the early church should have considered Scripture.
In Part Four, we will examine why I think our Bibles today have the same content as the original copies of the Bible had in spite of the fact we do not have the original autographs (the original writings, i,e., Paul’s original letters to Timothy) and that copyists did make errors when copying the manuscripts we do have. We will talk about how far removed from the originals copies are our present copies, examine the area of textual criticism and why I am firmly convinced not having the originals of any Bible books is not a problem for my faith.
In Part Five, we will talk about translation. Since the Christian Bible was written entirely in Hebrew, Greek, and a few passages in Aramaic, to read it in English or any of the thousands of languages in the world that are not those three, we have to translate. And make no mistake, translation of Scripture has been an issue in Christianity for millennia, and especially for the last 400-500 years. We will answer questions about things like translation theory and which versions of the Bible Christians can trust.
In Part Six, we will talk about Biblical Interpretation. What does the Bible mean? No doubt this has confused legions of people down through the centuries and caused many to bristle at Christianity, because they see the Bible as misogynist and racist and God as a cosmic bully and bloodthirsty for vengeance. We will look at what I believe to be reasonable ways for interpreting a book written to a different language, culture and time period than my own. We will learn how to read it the way it was meant to be read and why I do not abandon the Bible even when its stories and teachings come across as offensive.
Finally, in Part Seven, we will look at the issue of applying the Bible and why, according to some, preachers commit more heresies applying it than they do interpreting it. We will talk about which parts of the Bible were meant only for the original audience it was written to and which parts are applicable for us today. Why do I believe sex outside of marriage is always a sin but I don’t always kiss people as a greeting?
So, it is my hope that you will join me for every step of this venture. We will be hearing from a lot of different historians and teachers and a lot of different resources, all from different Christian denominations, time periods, countries and cultures. It is my hope to utilize a broad scope of evidence sources, so that we can see clearly how Christianity is true for all people everywhere and not limited by culture or time.