“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (NIV)
NCFCA Apologetics questions challenge student’s theology in a constructive environment. God’s Word, given to us in the Bible are God’s “Basic-Instructions-Before-Leaving-Earth” and contain numerous eye-opening truths for those who are willing to seek (Matthew 7:7-8).
For those who do not know me, my name is Zachary (Zak) Kos. I competed in Apologetics for four years in high school. During my senior year, I ranked first in the nation until after nationals. Before you read any further, allow me to pass on a crucial lesson: While competing in Apologetics, it is more important to learn from God than about God. In Jesus’ days, the Pharisees had all the head knowledge, but failed to have a relationship with Jesus. Far too often, competitors have the knowledge to compete and be successful in Apologetics, but fail to have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. Do not miss a relationship with the God you defend!!
Today, I want to provide a solid foundation for the following questions that pertain to Scripture:
- What is the purpose of Scripture?
- What is the biblical canon and why is it significant?
- What is Scripture’s inerrancy and why is it significant?
- What is Scripture’s divine inspiration and why is it significant?
- Why does the Old Testament God seem different than the New Testament God?
- What evidence supports the historical reliability of the Old Testament?
- What evidence supports the historical reliability of the New Testament?
- Respond to the person who says, “The Bible is full of contradictions.”
- What evidence supports the historical existence of Jesus?
- What evidence shows that Jesus believed in the authority of Scripture?
In order to build a solid foundation for these questions, allow me to provide a broad range of information that is central to any questions regarding Scripture and the Bible. I will do this through three key aspects of Scripture:
- What is Scripture?
- How did we get Scripture?
- Why does Scripture matter?
What is Scripture?
Let us start with a definition from the Oxford Dictionary: Scripture is “the sacred writings of Christianity contained in the Bible.” When we talk about Scripture, it simply means the Bible. Ok…so what is the Bible? The Bible is a book of sacred writings God’s prophets passed on through oral tradition, wrote down, and stored the writings for future use. Romans 15:4 goes on to describe why this was the tradition, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
One concept about Scripture that must be understood is the doctrine of biblical inspiration. “Good ol’” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines inspiration as “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.” Applying this to prophets and the apostles/their scribes, the Holy Spirit influenced the apostles’ writings how He wanted them (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is the only book that claims to be written by the “God” figure at the center of its religion. Even though the Bible was written by more than 40 authors, it has one united theme, Jesus Christ. Theologian Gary T. Meadors once described this unity as such, “The Bible has one heartbeat [sic]. It is an organic unity because an infinite God orchestrated its production.”
As Christians, it is crucial to understand the words of pastor Daryl Wingerd, “The Bible is a sufficient source of truth and direction for salvation and for all significant aspects of life.” Once this becomes a reality in our lives, what can we do other than reading, studying, and diving deeper into the truth contained within the Scriptures?
Now that we understand what Scripture is, how did we get our current versions of the Bible today?
How did we get Scripture?
Reading the New Testament as Christian Scripture by Constantine R Campbell and Jonathan T. Pennington in chapter two contains a heading that sums up everything you are about to read in this section: “From Speaking to Manuscript to a Book.” Simply put, that is how Scripture started and what it has become.
In ancient times, a written language was not common. As a result, oral traditions were used to pass on the stories of each tribe and nation to the next generation. Most of the Old Testament was passed on by word of mouth until scribes became commonplace. We see a title for individuals who would share a new piece of the story in the Bible as a “prophet.” Once keeping records became a privilege, kings, priests, prophets, apostles, and sometimes their disciples would write down onto scrolls parts of the Bible we have today.
There is one quintessential fact that must be understood. The books of the Bible were originally written separately, but were collected into a single book, the Bible, over time. Why was it necessary to piece all 66 writings together into one authoritative list? The answer: a crack down on false teachings. What the Council of Nicea, for example, determined to be sacred “Scripture” and worthy of being in what we now call the Bible was based on the teachings that were accepted by the early church. Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary Dr. Bruce Metzger describes this further, “…the canon is a list of authoritative books more than it is an authoritative list of books. These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together. The early church merely listened and sensed that these were authoritative accounts.” Simply put, the Biblical canon we have today resulted from what early Chirstians knew was true and accurate to the life of Jesus based on the testimony of eyewitnesses. (I strongly encourage you to research how the early church determined which sources of information were credible. Let me start you on the right path with this word: inspiration)
Before we move on to the importance of Scripture, let us discuss translating the Bible from its original language of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into other languages. Think about it like this: Oral→ Written ( typically Hebrew, Greek and/or Aramaic)→ Latin (Vulgate)→ English (King James Version). The scribes that wrote and translated Scripture took great care in their work. Philo of Alexandria, a Jew and a contemporary of the apostles, is credited with stating, “The Jews would die ten thousand times rather than to permit one single word to be altered of their Scriptures.” There are plenty of quotes out there that describe how meticulously Scripture was written, copied, and passed down.
Overall, the story of how we got the Bible is awe-inspiring and truly God ordained. Take a moment and consider this: for two thousand years, Christians and the Bible have been persecuted, and yet, still survives to this day. Matthew 24:35 was right, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my [the Lord’s] words will never pass away.”
Why does Scripture matter?
Scripture contains a collection of God’s letters to humanity. Every piece of information in Scripture has been preserved by God for a purpose. All information an aspiring Christ-follower needs to know pertaining salvation, Jesus Christ, and their relationship with God is rooted in the Bible. Apologist and speaker Don Stewart affirms, “In the Bible alone, God has given humankind all things that are necessary for the proper understanding of who God is, who we are, how God has acted in the past, and what God expects from us.” If you are ever struggling, doubting, or losing faith, the Bible is the first place to find help. Of course, not all subjects are specifically addressed or mentioned in God’s Word, however, with guidance, prayer, and discernment, a proper decision can be made.
Keep in mind, the Bible is a historical document pertaining to real events in history. The Bible sums up how the world was spoken into existence, destroyed by a flood, and redeemed by Chirst’s death. I would go as far as to say the Bible is the quintessential historical document that should be read, studied, and taught. Yes, it may not cover everything that ever happened (especially after A.D. 100), but it gives us the picture of “B.C.” before Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension. There is plenty of archaeological and geographical evidence to confirm the Bible’s historical accuracy.
The story of Scripture covers the highs and lows of God’s chosen people the Israelites and their continuous cycle of obedience, blessing, disobedience, punishment, and restoration. Under the Old “Testament” (covenant), the Israelites had to follow strict rules and guidelines in order for God to take care of them. Throughout the Old Testament, humans seeking after God’s own heart continue to fail these standards time and time again. Why would God allow so much failure? First of all, the idea that God’s blessing of free will. More importantly, God uses Scripture to reveal our utter dependence on God for salvation. No matter how hard we try, we can never meet God‘s perfect standards. However, the good news, the Gospel, is that we don’t need to be perfect to receive access to eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Ultimately, Scripture points us to the One who matters most: Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Author and pastor Max Lucado (whom I hope you have heard of) asserts, “The purpose of the Bible is simply to proclaim God’s plan to save His children. It asserts that man is lost and needs to be saved. And it communicates the message that Jesus is the God in the flesh sent to save His children.” Without the message of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, ministry, trial, death, resurrection, ascension, and promise of return in the Bible, Christians remain hopeless, humanity loses salvation, and the universe remains without a cause. The Scriptures matter because it relates to our brokenness and, yet, shows us the path to salvation and eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Messiah.
I leave you with my favorite quote from outside the Bible:
“You Christians look after a document [the Bible] containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.” – Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi
Let us no longer think of the Bible as another story, but as the living and active Word of God!
P.S. Feel free to use any of the verses, quotes, or references mentioned in this article.
If you have any comments, questions, or thoughts about this article, feel free to reach out via the comment section, email, or Discord.