HOW RELIABLE IS THE BIBLE
APRIL 18, 1999
My grandfather was confined to a wheelchair. He sat in a Lazyboy in a tiny den in Laurel, MS with a smile on his face just talking and being with the people who would frequent his home. Like many who are physically challenged, he had stuff stacked all around him; medication, cards, different books and periodicals. But his Bible always was on the top. He never let anyone put anything on top of the scripture. He wouldn’t even entertain the thought of taking his Bible and stacking it in his stuff. He always had it on top. The pages of this book meant the world to him. He built his life, his marriage and his family on these principles. Where is the Bible in your life? Is it stacked in stuff or on top?
You can say what you want to about it, but there is no book like the word of God. Its inspiration is divine. Its information, transformational. And its claims, unprecedented. It has been studied by theologians, researched by historians and picked apart by skeptics and modernists. It is the best selling, most widely read and, might I add, most misinterpreted piece of literature of all times. But I have got to ask you the question again. Where is the Bible in your life? Is it stacked in stuff or on top?
Several days ago, the camera crew and I hit the streets of this area to find out what people are thinking about this best selling, most widely read and misinterpreted book. Check out the side screens and you will see what I am talking about.
(VIDEO OF ED YOUNG INTERVIEWING PEOPLE ABOUT THE BIBLE – VIDEO SHOT AT LOCAL CHIC-FIL-A)
Oh, you never know where we are going to show up. But you have got to try the freshly squeezed lemonade at Chic-fil-A, there is nothing like it.
The Bible is utterly unique. I have said two or three times now, is the Bible stacked in stuff or on top? I want to talk to you about why the Bible is the top book. The Bible is utterly unique in its translation. It is the most translated book in the history of the world. It has been put into over 1,200 languages. And teams of translators, right now, are putting it into more and more languages. Think about it. Authors salivate to have one book on the best seller list just for a little while, yet the Bible has been on the top since they have been recording the best sellers. It is unique in its translation.
The Bible is also unique in its orientation. It was written over 1,500 years, spanning 40 generations, by 40 different authors on 3 different continents. And these authors came from a wide range of backgrounds. Some were scholars, others were capitalists, still others were billionaires, city folk, country folk. They wrote the scripture. Yet it is supernatural. Take a step back and think of how all of these authors wrote on hundreds and hundreds of controversial subjects with a common thread, with a focus that could only come from God, Himself.
The Bible is unique in its translation and in its orientation. It is also unique in its preservation. It has survived burnings and bans and people trying to tear it apart. Men and women have given their lives for it. And in our world today some are being tortured right now for their belief in it.
About this time in the message some of you are saying to yourself, clap, clap, clap. “That is great, Ed. Amazing stuff about the Bible. It is the top book. Cute little acrostic there. TOP: translation, orientation, preservation. I didn’t know all of that. But can you really trust the Bible as an ancient piece of literature? Is it really a documented source? Come on, let’s get real. Surely it has been tweaked over time. I know the Bible is plagued with problems and inconsistencies. I have a hard time accepting the Bible as a truth source. The Bible. Come on, give me a massive break.”
I have some great words for you today. The Bible passes the historicity test with flying colors. For example, think about the Old Testament. There was a group of people know as the Hittites. Turn to your neighbor and say Hittites. Don’t you love those names? Well, the Bible talked about the Hittites but historians had a major problem because they said they couldn’t find any record of this nation. So, historians say, anhhh, “We have got to question the Bible and the validity of the Old Testament documentation and accuracy.” However, in 1906 some archeologists were digging around and unearthed the capital city of the Hittite nation. They kept on digging and they found 40 different Hittite cities. Oh, no, choke, choke. The historians had to do a 180 and, “Well, we were wrong. The Bible was correct.”
In Daniel 5 there was a king of Babylon mentioned by the name of Belshazzar. Turn to your neighbor and say, Belshazzar. We are on a roll, aren’t we? That would be a great name for your little one. Come here, Belshazzar. Historians said that he didn’t show up in ancient Babylon and that something was wrong. They said that the Bible was not historically accurate until 1956. Archeologists started digging and they unearthed three stones with inscriptions. They said the King of Babylon during that day decided to join his troops in a far away place for a far away battle and before he left he took his son, Belshazzar and put him on the throne and made him the king for awhile. Choke, choke. The historians had to admit that they were wrong again and the Bible right.
There have been over 25,000 archeological discoveries that substantiate the validity of scripture. Archeology and Bible prophecy and Biblical, historical accounts are on the same page. They move in concert together.
Renowned Jewish archeologist, Nelson Gluck, wrote these words. “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.” Isn’t that something? Look at the next quote by one of the world’s greatest archeologists who is not with us anymore, William F. Albright. He states, “There can be no doubt that archeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.” So we have got a book that passes the historicity test. And it passes it with flying colors. It gets a big A plus on it. It excites me. It thrills me.
And when you have some problems between history and the Bible, as time rolls on, the problems and the inconsistencies are shrinking rather than growing.
Now for you trivia buffs, there are 184,540 words in the New Testament alone. Scholars only have a problem with 400 out of those words. And the 400 words they have a problem with only concern grammar and spelling and some other little issues. These 400 words do not change any major doctrine whatever. God has supernaturally preserved His word. I have got to ask you once again, where is this book in your life? Is it stacked in stuff or on top?
I love what Josh McDowell said about the Bible. He said, “The Bible compared with other ancient writings has more manuscript evidence than any ten pieces of classical literature combined.” He goes on to say this. “After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the scripture….” Let me stop here. Josh McDowell. He tried to disprove the validity of Christianity and the Bible and the resurrection and I highly recommend his book, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT. We have it available in our bookstore. Please pick it up. It is a classic, classic text. He said, “…I came to the conclusion that it is historically trustworthy.”
Now let me change gears a little bit here. How many of you have ever heard of Plato and Aristotle? Will you please lift your hands? OK, let’s get really honest now. How many of you have read the complete works of these towering, literary and philosophical giants? Will you please lift your hands? How about the cliff notes? I was a cliff note guy, too, now and then. Their historicity, their reliability, their accuracy has never been questioned. Take a stab at how many ancient documents there are of the works of Plato and Aristotle available today so we can compare regarding their accuracy. Well, I will tell you. Less than ten. Now, take a guess at how many ancient documents we have of the New Testament alone to compare with their validity? Would you feel good if the New Testament had about five? Maybe ten would give you some more faith. How about twenty, thirty? Try 14,000 ancient documents of the New Testament alone that we can use today to compare and see the authenticity of, the infallibility of the word of God. One more time, God has supernaturally preserved His word.
You heard it in the song earlier. There is truth, there is love in those letters because they were God-breathed, God-given. The same cannot be said of other truth sources of other major world religions. We have a truth source backed up by history and archeology but the other major world religions don’t have that.
This past fall I had the opportunity to speak in San Diego, CA. I was driving down one of the major freeways there and I saw a beautiful Mormon temple. I was thinking what a gorgeous work of architecture it is. I wondered how much it must have cost. Then my heart quickly saddened because the Book of Mormon has major, major problems in it. And I use the word major in a conservative sense. You see, the Book of Mormon says that a vast civilization lived in the Americas from 600 BC to 400 AD. The Book of Mormon talks about all of these specific things of this civilization such as mountain ranges, lakes and rivers. But, there is not a scientist outside the Mormon religion or inside the Mormon religion who has ever found one shred of archeological or scientific evidence to substantiate any word in the Book of Mormon, not even one word. And most Mormons, sadly, buy the Book of Mormon lock, stock and barrel. They believe it, but it is not true. We serve a God who has preserved His word supernaturally and this word is true. It is truth. And it is God’s word to you and to me. It talks about our lives. It talks about our marriages. It talks about our parenting skills. It talks about our future. We need to know it and own it and understand it and live it out. The Bible is a unique book from a historical perspective. It is like no other truth source.
Now some of you might be saying, “Ed, how about the miracles? I have a hard time with the Bible talking about the miracles. All these miracles: arks and floods and chariots of fire and resurrections and this and that. I have a hard time saying something is historically accurate if it has all these miracles in it.” Well, you have got to understand something. Doing miracles for a holy God is just a hobby. It is not a stretch or a reach for God to do the supernatural. It is no problem. You have got to think about God in that way. God is infinite. We are finite. So, the writers of the Bible recorded facts through their personalities and their giftedness and they recorded many, many miracles. Take the New Testament, for example. When these miracles started happening there was not a big gap of time that separated the miracle from the writing of, let’s say, the gospels. The gospel letters were circulated and if they had been just a bunch of bunk and a bunch of lies and a bunch of tabloid stuff, the culture would have said, “Ehhh, you’re lying. That is not true. That is a joke. That didn’t happen.” But the deal was that so many people had seen the miracles. People said that they saw Jesus after the resurrection. They saw the healings. They saw the events. So the Bible, the New Testament specifically, began to spread like wildfire. Why? Because it was true and it could be supported through the witnesses.
Let me give you a hypothetical situation. If I decided to write a book called THE HOAX OF KOSOVO by Ed Young and I said that there was not a civil war going on over there, that everything seen on the media is not taking place but is just a media hoax being played out by actors and actresses, do you think Random House would give me a big contract? No, they wouldn’t. Why? You probably know people, perhaps you even have a son or daughter over there. You have seen the reports. We have witnesses here and over there. It wouldn’t fly, it wouldn’t work. THE HOAX OF KOSOVO by Ed Young would be a joke. It would be a farce. The same would have been true with the writers of the New Testament if it was a hoax. The witnesses of the Bible.
The Bible says that it is an inspired book. Now when the Bible uses the word inspiration, it is different than when a modern songwriter claims to be inspired to write a song, which is pedestrian in comparison. We are talking about a different realm. Let me show you. The Bible says in II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is God breathed.” And the Bible does not just contain the word of God; it is the word of God. He used the authors of the Bible, their personalities and their giftedness, to record His word to you and me. Now the writers did not record the words like this. John didn’t say, “OK, God. John 3:16. For God, what is the next word? So…” It didn’t happen like that. The Bible says in II Peter 1:21, “For prophesy never had its origin in the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Over 3,000 times Biblical writers say, thus says the Lord. If I had time I could give you a great argument for the inspiration of scripture just based on fulfilled prophesy alone.
Remember I said earlier, the Bible was written over a 1,500 year time frame. A lot of these people went out on a limb and recorded prophecies that were fulfilled hundreds and hundreds of years later. For example, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, fulfilled 300 prophecies. He fulfilled how He was actually born, how He ministered, how He died and how He rose again. All of that was a fulfillment of prophecy. And no other world religion, no other truth source from any other cult can make those claims.
I want you to read along with me what Peter Stoner, a scientist in the area of mathematical probability wrote in his book SCIENCE SPEAKS THESE WORDS. “If we take just 8 of the 300 prophesies concerning Christ we will find the probability of their coming to pass is 10 to the 17th power.” Now stay with me. Stoner goes on to illustrate it this way. He said that if you took 10 to the 17th power silver dollars and spread them across the state of Texas, they would cover this great state two feet deep. Are you with me? He added that if you took one of the coins, marked the back of it, threw it in the mix, mixed them all with a giant mixer, then blindfolded someone, droped him or her off from a helicopter with instructions to pick up only one coin, what would be the chance the marked silver dollar would be chosen? The same chance that Jesus would have had if He would have fulfilled only eight of the 300 prophecies. That is just eight. We are talking about something supernatural, something otherworldly, something that is inspired, something that separates this book from all other writings.
Ruber Smith who compiled a personal library of 25,000 volumes wrote, “Mohammedism cannot point to any prophesies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling an appearance.” Wow. The Bible is reliable.
And I will tell you another way the Bible is reliable. It is reliable concerning me and what it says about my condition. I have never read another book that cuts through my veneer. I have never read another book that gets in my face. I have never read another book that talks to me so specifically like the Bible does. Have you? I never have. Many times when I open the Bible I am scared to read its pages because I know it will confront me. It will cut to the marrow. It will get down to areas of motivation, to real sins. I know the Bible is unique in that realm.
So today I decided to do something personal, very, very personal to illustrate what I am talking about. I brought for you two books that are on my bedside table, two books that I read regularly over the last couple of months. The first one is THE TESTIMENT by John Grisham. Have you read THE TESTIMENT? I highly recommend this book. John Grisham is a Christian. I didn’t know if you knew that. I don’t know him but I have heard he is a great guy and read articles about him. This next one is really near and dear to my heart. It is called FLY FISHING IN SALT WATER by Lefty Craig. Lefty Craig is one of the greatest fly fishermen of all times. He is legendary in his demonstrations and his casting ability. He is a master of one-liners. Everyone loves Lefty Craig.
Well, do you think that 7,500 people would show up this weekend to hear me teach on fly-fishing in salt water? Do you think 7,500 would show up to see a drama about this stuff, hear songs about this stuff? Now I love these books, but these books have not changed my life. There is nothing supernatural about these books. Yet, when someone opens the word of God, whether it is in one of our small groups or before a basketball game here at the Fellowship Church or in one of our student ministries, or whether it is in Children’s Church or preschool, suddenly things happen. Suddenly something supernatural takes place. And every weekend people come up to me and say, “Ed, have you been reading a mail? Have you been talking to my boss? Have you been talking to my spouse?” No, no, no. It is the Holy Spirit. They may be my words, but it is God talking through His word and using my voice box to talk. Oftentimes I have sat under a teacher, like a Preston Mitchell, like a Randy Draper, like my father, like Bill Hybels and thought that I was the only person in the place. They were just nailing me to the wall and it is just what I needed.
I have been praying for a man in this community for eight years. I have been praying over and over again that he will become a Christ follower. But he is not. He shows up here now and then. He has a great wife and nice family. He is smart and articulate. But he is not a believer. And he boldly tells people that his problem is intellectual, that his problem is with the Bible. I have talked to him and his problem is not with the Bible, his problem is that the Bible points out his problem. So when people tell you that they have an intellectual problem with the Bible, that it has been tweaked, changed, is only one of the truth sources, know that more then likely they are afraid. They are afraid of the Bible. They know just enough about the Bible to steer clear of the Bible so they send up smoke screens. They are afraid that their lusts will be exposed. They are afraid that their greed will come out into the light. They are afraid of their motivations and their desires that are under the carpet where no one can see them. That is why I laugh when people say, “Christianity is for those people who need a crutch. It is for those people who are weak. The church is full of hypocrites.” Give me a break, don’t give me that weak stuff. That is pathetic. If you are saying that, you don’t have anywhere near the guts that a Christ follower does. At least a Christian has enough guts to admit the truth about themselves and let the Bible speak to them. So don’t even bring that stuff to God.
If you want to ask questions, God says, “Come on. Come on, big boy, ask the questions. Come on, thinking girl, Harvard MBA, dissect it, pick it apart. Go ahead.” Our church is here for you. We welcome your questions. But don’t say you can’t accept it intellectually when you have not studied it. You have taken a two or three hour course in some college or some university and come to the conclusion about the most important book in the history of the world. It claims to be divinely inspired and it is a dangerous decision on your part to turn your back on it without studying its validity. But I am going to tell you something. It will penetrate your heart and life. It will expose problem areas and it will change you. It has changed me and it is changing me. That is the kind of God we serve. That is the kind of Bible we operate under. The Bible is our truth source. This church, the Fellowship Church, is under the authority of this infallible book. That’s why we are here. That’s why I do what I do. And that is why you are here today, to learn and apply what the scripture says.
Well, let me give you some homework. I have shared a lot of facts with you and we have read a lot of things. We have talked about all of the evidence. Let’s talk about homework. I want you to do a couple of things. First, I challenge you to orient your life so that you can be here over the next several weeks when we will be addressing some issues that you desperately need to understand. Secondly, I want you to apply the 30/10 principle. For the next thirty days I want you to read the Bible ten minutes a day and I want you to start in the book of John. Here is what I want you to do when you read the book of John. Get a Bible that you can read easily like the New International Version or the New American Standard or maybe a paraphrase like the Living Bible. After ten minutes of reading, stop and ask yourself two questions. One, ask yourself what John was saying. Two, ask how you can apply that in your life. Just write down a couple of thoughts. Let me tell you what will happen. As you begin to take the Bible and move it out of stuff that has been stacked up in your life and put it on top for the next thirty days, some great things, wonderful things, transformational things will occur in your world relationally, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. Things will happen. You won’t believe what will occur.
Awhile back, about six months ago, I went out of the country with a close friend of mine. Every time you travel outside of the country it is a little bit scary because there is no place like America. When I got to my hotel room, I was taking stuff out of my suitcase and I saw a note in my suitcase. I recognized the writing. It was from my lovely wife, Lisa. It was a love note. So I picked it up and read it. After I read it I thought I might slip back on a plane and fly home. I put it back in my suitcase. The next day, I picked the letter up and read it again. I read the letter for three or four straight days. It was Lisa expressing her love for me by the written word.
The Bible is a bunch of love letters to you and to me. The Bible says that we matter to God. And the stuff talked about here is not talked about in any other book. Read the love letters. Read them and make them a part of your life.
If this book is the word of God, you need to know what it says. You need to understand it and know what it says about the most important things in life. Especially you need to understand what it says about the subject matter we will talk about next weekend, eternity. Eternity. But one last time I will ask you this question. Where is it in your life? Is the Bible stacked in stuff or is it on top? It is a choice that you have to make.