Is the Bible a Reliable Source of History?

We know with great accuracy what the books of the Bible originally said.

It amazes me that I still hear people claiming “the Bible has been retranslated and rewritten so many times. We cannot really know what it originally said.”  The example of a game of “telephone” is given, as if the Bible was translated from Greek to Latin to German to French to English in a series of translations that each may have substantially altered the meaning.  Those who make this argument reveal their ignorance.

The truth is that all of our newest translations have been translated directly from manuscripts in the original languages.  For the Old Testament, this is predominantly Hebrew with some sections of Aramaic.  For the New Testament, this is Koine Greek. Modern translations are produced by large teams of linguists and scholars from various backgrounds in order to accurately convey the ideas of the original authors.  The Bible has been put through no game of “telephone.”

In fact, our manuscript attestation for the New Testament is far better than that of any other work of antiquity.  To throw out the Bible on claims of unreliability and remain consistent we would have to throw out… every single historian and piece of literature in antiquity.

The Bible is consistent and historically accurate.

Many of the supposed historical inaccuracies in the Bible that were once concerning have been debunked by emerging historical knowledge.

Take for example the discrepancy between Daniel 1:1, which states that Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and Jeremiah 25:1, that states that it was the 4th year. Much was made of this problem until scholar R. Thiele highlighted two different systems for counting reigns in the Ancient Near East: the accession year system and the non-accession year system. Jeremiah counts the king’s accession year, Daniel doesn’t.

Take for another example the existence of the Hittites. Though mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible, there was no archaeological evidence of their civilization until a series of discoveries beginning in 1876.  Until that time, their inclusion in the Biblical narrative was used as proof of the fabrication of much of the historical narrative of the Israelites.  We now know that the Hittites were a prominent Near Eastern civilization in the 15th and 16th centuries B.C.

This example highlights the fact that proof for Biblical claims may not always be readily available, but this does not mean that the Bible is in error. Instead, man is.

Another popular example is that of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, who set out for Asia Minor in order to prove that the historical details in the book of Acts were fabricated. After decades of research and archaeological discovery, Ramsay concluded that the details in the book were completely accurate. He recorded his findings in a work entitled The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament.

The truth is that the Bible is historically accurate in every detail. This is a feat that is humanly impossible, and demonstrates one of many unique and perfect qualities that the Holy Spirit has embedded in the word of God.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Love”

What are the Biblical words translated as love? Do some describe a more noble love than others?

Old Testament –
‘ahab
= to have a strong emotional attachment or desire for someone or something.
Genesis 22:2 – Parent to child
Exodus 21:5 – slave to master
1 Samuel 18:1 – close friendship
1 King 5:1 – unflagging loyalty

New Testament –
Agapao/agape – “this love is selfless and therefore selfishness is the negation of love. Love does not occur because the one we love is loveable or worthy. It is a decision of the will.”
John 17:26 – God to His Son
John 3:16 – God to us
John 14:21 – God to His people
John 13:34-35 – Fellow Christians
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – Christians towards all people
1 John 4:8 – essential nature of God
1 John 3:17 – expressed through outward actions
Galatians 5:22 – fruit of the Spirit
John 14:15 – expressed through obedience to God

Phileo/philanthropia
– to approve of, to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend
John 5:20 – God the Father for the Son
John 11:3 – Jesus for his friend
John 16:27 – the Father for us as His children
Matthew 10:37 – people for their families
Mark 14:44 – it is also translate to kiss!
1 Corinthians 6:22 – we must have this love for God, or be accursed
Romans 3:19 – God disciplines us because He has this love for us

Eros
is not mentioned in the Bible.

Storge is not mentioned directly in the Bible. Romans 12:10 mentions a derivative when it tells us to have brotherly love and affection for each other.
Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 – the lack of it is mentioned as a bad thing and translated as “heartless.”

Ludus is not mentioned

Pragma is not mentioned in this sense

Philautia is not mentioned

It would seem that Agape is the word often used to refer highest form of love, since it is the word chosen to describe God’s essential nature, and because it is understood to be unconditional.

But we should be careful not to build theologies out of speculation on the meanings of various Greek words.  For instance, it is not accurate to say “the Bible teaches that there are four kinds of love.” Only two words for love are mentioned with any frequency, and only three are mentioned at all.

It is also the case the agape, like most words, can stretch in its definition more that we readily admit. For instance, in the Septuagint, agape is used to describe and instance of rape.
And in John 3:19 – men have agape for the darkness.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us not to have agape for the world or the things in the world

Consider the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21 and the two different words used. Is there any significance here?

What is a Biblical definition of love?
Love is a bond of relationship.
It motivates outward action (John 3:16, 1 John 3:17, John 14:15).
It does not appear to be given or withheld based on the recipient meeting pre-existing conditions of worthiness – 1 John 4:19 says we love Him because He first loved us – Romans 5:8 says because of His love while were still sinners Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 13 gives a beautiful definition of love.

Love is the unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another, with the goal of maintaining a healthy relationship with them.

 What is the hardest thing about love in your opinion?

 What does it mean that God is love?
God has it within His nature to love us in the way that the preceding definition describes, He has proven this by His actions of love towards us.

To say that God is love indicates that this is an eternal aspect of His nature. Perhaps it has been eternally manifested in the love shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other?

Since love forms a bond, it is in His love that He, through Christ, holds all things together – Colossians 1:17

Indeed, without love, things cannot hold together – Galatians 5:14-15

This explains why eternal life is the result of God’s love towards us, and our responding in love to Him.

 What is your favorite verse about love and why?

What does it mean that love never fails?
1 Corinthians 12 talks about many spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of “a more excellent way” and describes love. After love is described, it is contrasted with the prophesying, speaking in tongues, and special revelations of knowledge that will soon cease. In this context, it appears that “love never fails” means that when other spiritual gifts cease, love continues throughout human history and eternity.

In the description given in 1 Corinthians 13, it is said that love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. In this sense, love never fails because it never gives up, even if it is not always reciprocated.

 If God is love, why would he send anyone to hell?
The bible is clear that many will go to hell – Matthew 7:13-14 – wide is the way that leads to destruction

Remember that love, as we have defined it, is an unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another. The only way that God could be love and people still go to hell is if a) they have the ability to override His will with their own and b) they choose to rebel against Him.

Claiming that people go against God’s will is not blasphemous, 2 Peter 3:9 states that he does not want anyone to perish, yet the Bible also teaches that some will. This is because they rebel against Him.

So, does God “send people to hell”? In a sense He certainly will, Matthew 25:41. But that does not mean that this action is what He wanted for them. Rather, it is what they have insisted upon.

 How can we grow in love?
Hebrews 10:24 – consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.

 

Scriptures and thoughts about: “Word”

Our church is embarking upon a weekly study, with a particular word being the focus of each week.  The second word we devoted our attention to was: “creation.”

We have had several requests to make the scriptures and brief notes from these studies readily available online.  Hopefully this can be a helpful resource.

Question/Discussion topics in bold: scriptures and thoughts follow.

Psalm 33:6-9 – words had power to create
John 1:1-5, 14 – Jesus is Word
John 5:21-24 – Words give us life
John 12:44-50 – Words Judge us
Revelation 12:10-12 – Words overcome the accuser

Inspiration:
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is inspired by God (God breathed)
2 Peter 1:19-21 – not of private interpretation, men were moved by Spirit
Ephesians 6:17 – and the sword of the Spirit; is the word of God
John 14:26 – Holy Spirit will remind you of all I said
Deuteronomy 18:18 – I will put my words in His mouth

Jesus as the Word:
Philosophical History of term Logos
Philosopher quotes
John 1
Colossians 1:19

Do we have the original words of the Bible?
Thousands of manuscript at CSNTM.org

Why Koine?
Widely spoken over a huge area, the common language of the day uniting countless cultures. Also, very highly inflected and specific language.

Why use men to write His words?
Colossians 4:16 – They provided a means of circulating it.
1 Corinthians 16:21 – I Paul, with my own hand – lend credibility

Power of Words
Acts 2:24-27 – God said, so it had to be
Hebrews 4:12 – sharper than a sword

Jesus’ literal words recorded?
“Talitha Cumi”
Mark 15:34 – “Lama Lama Eli Sabacthani”
Consider Inspiration by Spirit, sent by Jesus – John 14:26

Most powerful words?
John 19:30 – it is finished!
Genesis 1:3 – Let there be light!
Matthew 11:28 – Come and I will give you rest

“Words are ambiguous!”
1 Corinthians 14:33 – Not a God of confusion
2 Peter 1:19-21 – not of private interpretation, men were moved by Spirit