This was part of an interview conducted on June 2014 as part of a paper on my responses to an atheistic worldview. I hope that they are of edification value to the body of Christ; for the believers, to realize that the faith we stand on is the most solid foundation and that in Jesus Christ we have all we need for life and godliness; as well as an inheritance that can never spoil or fade (2 Pet. 1:3 ;1 Pet. 1:3-5). If there may be any errors, I pray that you may extend grace.

___

Interviewee: A normal book, filled with stories, moral perspectives.

Response: The presuppositions in the interviewee’s response are that 1) the Bible is an ordinary book, and 2) the Bible contains stories that are not reliable and only beneficial for morality. In the following sections I shall argue for the uniqueness and the reliability of the Bible, as The Book necessary for the restoration of man.

The Uniqueness of the Bible[1]

In the uniqueness of it’s continuity, the bible: was written over a 1500 year span; was written over 40 generations; was written by more than 40 authors, from every walk of life, including kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen and scholars (Peter a fisherman; Amos a herdsman; Joshua a military general; Daniel a Prime Minister; Luke a Doctor; Solomon a King; Matthew a tax collector; Paul a Rabbi; Timothy an Asian); was written in different places (wilderness, dungeon, palace, prison, travel and island); written at different times; written in different moods; written on the different continents of Asia, Africa and Europe; written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) yet permeating world cultures; subject matter includes hundreds of topics and even controversial ones. Yet despite this diversity, the biblical authors spoke with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation, about one unfolding narrative: God’s redemption of man. At the very least, “any person sincerely seeking truth would at least consider a book with the above unique qualifications.”[2]

In the uniqueness of its circulation: It has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book in History. In its translation, the Bible was the first major book to be translated (Septuagint: Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, ca 250 B.C.[3]). The Bible has been translated and retranslated, and paraphrased more than any other book. Encyclopedia Britannica says that “by 1966 the whole Bible has appeared . . . in 240 languages and dialects . . . one or more whole books of the Bible in 739 additional ones.”[4] Three thousand translators were at work between 1950 and 1960 translating the scriptures.

An exhibition at the Vatican contained Bibles that had survived extreme conditions. A correspondent of the Christian Post Europe reports that “In the first room, glass cases holds rare scrolls, among them a Jewish Old Testament scroll dedicated in Poland in 1934, not long before the Nazis invaded and began a campaign of extermination against the Jewish population there. Another scroll is one of only a few to have survived the Spanish Inquisition.”[5] Voltaire had noted that the Christian community would be swept from the existence of History, yet the irony is that centuries later, the translation of the Bible continues. Ironically ‘only fifty years after Voltaire’s death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and his house to produce stacks of Bibles.”[6] The scholar of renown, Bernard Ramm adds “No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology or belles lettres of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet?”[7] Surely, none. The fact that the Bible has survived this long is a mystery as if it were carried along by Divine Providence.

The Reliability of the Bible

The Bible stands heads above other popular pieces of literature in its reliability. Geisler observes that there is more abundant and accurate manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other book from the ancient world – Elsewhere, the New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger counts 76 papyri, 250 uncials, 2,646 minuscules and 1,997 lectionary manuscripts. This would total 4,969.”[8] No other book in antiquity comes close to this. For instance, Homer the famed Greek literature has 643 number of copies (95% accuracy) as compared to the New Testament’s 5,000 with a 99+% accuracy.[9] Further, the Bible surpasses many other books in terms of early dating. “The New Testament has about 20,000 lines. Of these only 40 are in doubt (i.e. about 400 words). . .”[10] while the Iliad, the national epic of India has suffered extensive corruption. Plato’s works for instance only account for 20 copies.[11] Aristotle’s works were written over a timespan of about 60 years with only 49 manuscript copies accounting for it. The New Testament evidence far surpasses all other works of antiquity in clarity, accuracy and reliability.

It is no wonder that John Warwick observes:

“To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no document of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”[12]

Support from Archaeology & Secular Sources

Archaeological and also secular testimony to the accuracy of the Bible abounds. The Jewish Historian Josephus in his works illustrates reference of figures to the New Testament readers. Greek Satirist, Lucian in the second century alludes to Christ in his writings.[13] Roman Historian Suetonius (c.f. A.D. 120) made references to Christ. In the Life of Claudius he writes: “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chestus [another spelling of Christus or Christ], he expelled them from Rome.”[14]

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls affirms the reliability of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. The Scrolls are made up of some 40,000 inscribed fragments. From these fragments, more than 500 books have been reconstructed. The oldest Hebrew manuscript possessed before the scrolls were from A.D. 90 and on the discovery of the scrolls the reliability of these manuscripts have been confirmed: “One of the scrolls found was a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of Isaiah. It is dated by paleographers around 125 B.C. this manuscript is more than 1,000 years older than any manuscript we previously possessed”[15]

Many other places and persons have been confirmed by archaeological evidence – For instance the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7-11); Luke’s correct usages of official titles; the judgement seat at Corinth (2 Cor. 5:10) and other inscriptions. Hence, the Bible is not just a normal book with moral perspectives, but a historically reliable book with a redemptive plan for man.

Jesus Christ

Interviewee: I guess a man who lived in the distant past who taught a great deal, but over time was put on a pedestal so serve a social purpose.

Response: The fact that this response is not based on any researched, rational arguments does not give credit to the proposition of the statement. The presuppositions are: 1) Jesus was just a great teacher; 2) Jesus was subject to man’s socio-political purpose. In the following section I shall defend my viewpoints from a Biblical concept, by expounding on the truth claims made by Jesus himself as well as his ministry, foretold in the Old Testament and lived out in the new, and their bearing on us.

Truth be told, Jesus Christ was a great teacher, in fact the greatest of all, but that is only a fragment of the entire picture – much more similar to reducing the complexity of the universe to the well designed details of a sports car. However, based on the engineering design of a Ferrari for instance, we may be able to infer by causality, the intricate designs of the universe as well as the designer.

In Surprised by Joy C. S. Lewis was restless in the pursuit of joy, because all along he had looked at it from an idealistic and subjective sense. He ponders,

“But this brought me already into the region of awe, for I thus understood that in the deepest solitude there is a road out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object or senses, or anything whereof we have a biological and social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. Far more objective than bodies, for it is not, like them, clothed in our senses; the naked other, imageless (though our imagination salutes it with a hundred images), unknown, undefined, desired.”[16]

And so, here we see a portrait that Jesus is not to be pursued as an idea, but eventually we understand Him best as a person and through His claims of who He is. Ravi Zacharias agrees,

“Once we understand Jesus in his own words and measure his claims and promises against our deepest needs, we will be surprised at just how personal and magnificent he really is – the way the truth and the life (John 14:6) –  rather than being merely the focus of deviously rendered fictitious story lines.”[17]

So having seen that the Bible is a historically reliable document, and since through the Bible Jesus makes claims of His Deity and Authority, this section shall survey some of these truth claims. As a starting point, we have seen the references made about Jesus by early secular writers, giving credence to the historicity of Jesus. Among these writers are Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Flavius Josephus, Suetonius, Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Younger, Tertullian, Thallus, Phlegon, Mara Bar-Serapion as well as writings in the Rabbinical teachings.[18]

Jesus’ claims to be Jehovah (YHWH), God’s self proclamation to Israel, are seen in the New Testament. God had revealed himself as Jehovah, God’s self-designation, to the Israelites in the Old Testament. An instance is “I AM who I AM” in Exodus 3. He proposed to them that only He was to be worshipped (Ex. 20:5); that He was the first and the last (44:6); that only He was to be given the glory due to God (Is. 42:8, 48:11). Jesus then makes such claims in the New Testament, the most profound being “truly truly, I say to you, before Abraham I was.” (Jn. 8:58, see elsewhere, Mt. 25:1, 31; Jn. 5:27; Jn. 8:12)

The reaction of the Jews left no doubt as to how they understood his claim. They knew he had claimed not only pre-existence before Abraham but also equality with God . . . Jesus had clearly claimed to be the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14 that refers to Jehovah alone. The claim was either blasphemy or else an indication to Deity. Jesus left no doubt as to which interpretation he wished them to take. The claim to be “I AM” is repeated in Mark 14:62 and in John 18:5, 6.[19]

Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies of the coming of the Messiah or Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14). In this title “Son of Man” we see both the glory and shame of the universe and all the transcending uniqueness that underscores the essence of every human being, cutting across gender . . . we are reminded of the significance of humanness. By identifying himself with humanity, what dignity and nobility Jesus has given us.[20] In short, the Old Testament predicted the Messiah and when Jesus claimed to be a fulfilment of the Old Testament Messianic passages (cf. Luke 24:27, 44; Mt. 26:54) he laid claim to possessing the deity these passages ascribed to the Messiah.

Jesus additionally ascribed to himself the authority that was due to God. He speaks with the authority of God in Mt. 5:18, 21-22; Mt. 28:18-19; Jn. 12:48, 13:34. Jesus additionally requested men to pray in His name in Jn.14:1 and Jn. 14:13-14. Not only did the disciples pray in Christ’s name but also prayed to Christ cf. 1 Cor. 5:4 and Acts 7:59.

Throughout Jesus’ claims several important points emerge. First, there is no question that Jesus often accepted and sometimes even encouraged the applications and attitudes appropriate only for God. Second, Jesus himself unquestionably affirmed by words and actions these characteristics and prerogatives appropriate only to deity. Third the reaction of those around him (the disciples, the Jews and the high priests) manifests that they too understood him to be claiming deity. . . it should be clear to the unbiased observer of the New Testament record that Jesus claimed to be equal to and identical with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.[21]

John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life is the light of men.” Elsewhere, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . He is before all things and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15-17) Here we see Jesus Christ’s pre-existence as God. In the fullness of time, “The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) We see that as foretold by the prophets (1:6-7) “he came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (1:11). Through his death, he satisfied the requirement of the Law for the sake of forgiveness of sin and enables us to receive the righteousness of God when we believe in Him (Rom. 3:22-25). His resurrection is the basis of our faith, without which it is futile and makes us deceivers (1 Cor. 15:12-17). All this is in accordance with scripture: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

In summary, as the interviewee has claimed, Jesus has often times been painted both within and outside the Church as only a great teacher. It is true from the annuls of history, that both those who have claimed to be Christian and those who have not, have used the name of Jesus for political, economical and intellectual imperialism, to manipulate their own agenda. However, a right understanding of Jesus remains crucial. Whether or not I think the ocean is black whereas in real sense it is blue, does not change the fact that it is really blue. Through Jesus, all barriers of race, culture and position in life are laid low, and we find our freedom as human beings. Through Jesus, a way to God is guaranteed – a way that is not based on our own insufficient efforts and finite understanding, but one that has already been charted with the blueprint of God’s love, in order for us to be restored. To be restored to our image of God, with our sin and guilty conscience taken care of through His sacrifice (Rom. 8:1-4); for indeed, nothing good can come without a sacrifice. In his resurrection, Jesus Christ shows his power over death and sin, therefore guaranteeing us a life beyond the grave (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

___

End Notes

[1] Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1993),26

[2] Ibid., 29

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Christian Post, Bible Exhibit in Rome Accessed on 26th June 2014

[6] Josh McDowell, 30

[7] Ibid., 31

[8] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 307

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 308

[11] Josh McDowell, 25

[12] Ibid., 30

[13] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 323

[14] Ibid., 324

[15] McDowell, 51

[16] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002), 257

[17] Who is Jesus? in Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Grans Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 17

[18] See more details of the writings in chapter 18 of Josh McDowells, A Ready Defense, 198-203

[19] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 331

[20] Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You?, 35

[21] Ibid., 334

 

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