We are in a new series called “The Holy Bible” where we’re examining the greatest Book ever written. The number one best-selling book of all time. It’s hard to tell for sure how many, but research conducted in 2021 suggests that the total number of Bibles printed likely lies between 5 and 7 billion copies. Last week, we discovered some of us have contributed well to that number and have way more than Bibles in our possession than we can read at one time. Yet many of us take for granted how accessible the Word of God is to us, and set it aside and forget about or neglect reading it because we are just too busy, we don’t want to face what God is going to tell us in it, or we simply just don’t understand it.
Today, we’re going to look at the reliability of the Bible. Is it true? Can we depend on it? I think this is a question all of us should ask, not because I doubt the book. In fact, just the opposite. Questioning the Bible and researching it’s reliability is exactly how we discover the truth and really build our faith. Is this really the Word of God, or are the stories and words in here just the opinions of men? Today, I want to tell you how I know this book contains the truth.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Greek word for the term God-breathed is theopneustos (thee-op-new-stose). This a compound Greek word. Theos means God and Pneuma means breath or spirit. The Bible says of itself that all scripture is God-breathed, meaning it’s inspired by God. And it’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, for training. God’s Word will give you everything that you need to fulfill everything that God will call you to do.
The Bible is an incredibly interesting book. I’ll share some facts about the Bible to just how incredible it is. Fact number one, this book is the best-selling book in the history of the world. Fact number two, this book is also the most shoplifted book in the history of the world. Yes, that’s what I said. According to several sources, the Word of God is the most shoplifted book in the world. Talk about the Irony of “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”
When I read this, I immediately told my 15 year old and asked him why he thought this was the case. We just looked at each other kind of dumbfounded, so I did some research. Several reasons have been identified to explain why individuals resort to stealing the Holy Bible. First, many are taken from hotel rooms because many think everything in a hotel room should be taken, to which the Gideons say no problem, spread the Word. To their credit, some have the perspective that the Bible should be free and fully accessible to everyone. (And the Gideons are working on that.) Another reason the Bible is the most stolen book in the world is that
there are those who steal Bibles with the intention to sell them for a quick profit, taking advantage of their wide demand. Let alone Bibles, like study Bibles, can be quite expensive, making them tempting targets for theft.
Regardless of the reasons behind these actions, there’s some other cool facts about the Bible. It’s not just one book. It’s actually sixty-six different books wrapped up into one. It’s written by all sorts of different people. It was written by politicians, by statesmen, by farmers, by shepherds, by peasants, by musicians, by poets, even by tax collectors.
The Bible is also written from all sorts of different places. The Bible was written by Moses in the wilderness, by Jeremiah in the dungeon. It was written by Luke while traveling, Paul while he was in prison. It was written by John while he was in exile on the Isle of Patmos (Pat-moss).
This book was written from thirteen different countries on three different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, and it was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. And what else is amazing is, even though the Bible was written from people from all different walks of life over a span of fifteen hundred years, it has amazing accuracy and consistency when it comes to the message about the character and nature of God and His redemptive plan for mankind.
The Bible is the Word of God. Not only is it consistent, true, and inspired, but it speaks to so many different topics. Topics in scripture include everything from marriage, divorce, re-marriage, adultery, sex, lust, greed, guilt, materialism, generosity, healing, hope, forgiveness, parenting, prayer, friendship, pride, obedience, Heaven, Hell, lying, murder, suicide, rape, fears, doubt, miracles, love, hate, money, criticism, creation, government, submission, rebellion, peace, leadership, comparisons, joy, discontentment, sacrifice, delayed gratification, patience, faithfulness, enjoying life, self control, disasters, injustices, demons, angels, discipleship, disciplines, fasting, honor, mercy, caring for the poor, handling wealth, family…and that not the end.
So, let’s talk for a few minutes about the reliability of the Bible. Is the Bible trustworthy, true, and accurate, or is it just the opinions of a bunch of different people? In 1952, there was a historian named Steve Sanders, who came up with three specific tests to evaluate the authenticity of historical writings. Let’s put the Bible to these three specific tests.
The first test is known as the INTERNAL TEST. The internal test wants to answer the question, “Do the writers of the Bible claim that their writings are true?” Basically, do the people who wrote the Bible say, “It’s just a story. I just made it up,” or do they say, “I was there. I saw it, witnessed it firsthand and therefore this is accurate.” Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, said in his second letter to the Church…
2 Peter 1:16
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.
John, another of Jesus disciples, says this in one of his letters. 1 John 1:1
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.
In other words, “I was there. I saw it. What I’m telling you, is absolutely true because I experienced Him first-hand.” Luke even gives us insight to the eye witnesses and even though he was not an eye witness himself, he does his homework and puts together the eye witness accounts that he heard first hand, in two books, Luke and Acts.
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
The New Testament was written between 47 and 95 A.D., so there were plenty of first-generation believers alive, who saw first-hand all that the Bible is talking about, and they could have at any time refuted scripture and said, “No, that’s not true,” but they didn’t. These authors couldn’t have made this all up as the accounts fit too well together, let alone, if they were just writing made up stories, they would have never written many of the things they did, often making themselves not look so good. Clearly, across the board, everyone would say, “Yes, the Bible passes the internal test.”
Let’s talk about another very important test. This one is called the EXTERNAL TEST. It wants to answer the question, “What does the outside evidence say about the Bible?” In other words, what do non-Biblical sources say about the Bible? Do they confirm Biblical stories, or do they say, “They aren’t true”?
First, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the history of Jesus Christ is incredibly well established. You can read all sorts of non-Biblical writings about Jesus. You can read Roman writers, Greek writers, and from Jewish sources, where people affirm the life of Jesus Christ.
Not only that, but the first century historian, Josephus (Joe-see-fuss), wrote about Jesus, John the Baptist, James, and all sorts of other leaders that we read about in the book of Acts. So we’ve got other historical writings that affirm so much of what happened in the Bible, but what about archeology? Well, truthfully for years, many Bible critics discredited the Bible because they said, “Archeological discoveries didn’t support enough of scripture,” and in many
cases, they had a valid statement. But, in the twentieth century, with all sorts of archeological finds, all of these claims to discredit the Bible have been reversed.
Now, while we can’t accurately say that archeology completely proves the authority of the Bible, it is fair to say that archeological evidence has provided external confirmations for literally hundreds of Biblical statements. Over and over and over again, we are finding archeological discoveries that confirm the truth of what scripture says.
The third test is called the BIBLIOGRAPHIC TEST (Bib-lee-uh-graphic). Sorry if this is giving you flashbacks to high school tests. The Bibliographic test wants to find out how well were the original documents translated to today. For example, there’s only one original manuscript, then people made copies of them. Sometimes, they’d make tons of copies. Sometimes they wouldn’t make very many copies at all.
First, let’s talk about how copies of the Old Testament were made. There were very few copies because they would either wear out or they’d be ceremonially buried, or they’d be destroyed if there were any imperfections found. After a whole manuscript was complete, if they would find one mistake anywhere at all, they would destroy the whole copy.
So, because of this, for centuries, the most reliable and well-respected Hebrew manuscript was known as the Masoretic Text (Mass-or-et-ic). This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th century A.D. in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures, but to transmit to future generations the authentic Word of God. To this end they gathered manuscripts and whatever oral traditions were available to them.
Now, here’s the amazing part of the story. In the year 70 A.D., so 500 years earlier, the Romans were attacking the Jewish people trying to destroy their culture, and especially their religious heritage. So the Jewish people took their scrolls of scripture and put them in bottles and hid them in caves. And for 1800 years, these historic writings, the Biblical scrolls, remained completely hidden. Then in the year 1947, a Bedouin (Bed-uh-win) shepherd stumbled upon some old bottles. Inside, he found what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was a huge find! In fact, archeologists then went and discovered eleven other sources of these ancient scrolls. And what’s amazing is, when you compare the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Masoretic text, the accuracy is actually stunning.
How about the New Testament? How accurate are those copies? Well, let’s compare the Bible to another historical writing. For example, in high school you might have had to read The Iliad (ill-lee-ad) by Homer, a Greek poem written in the 8th century B.C. The Iliad by Homer is the most accepted non-Biblical historical writing around. How many copies from that time do you think we have of The Iliad? We have 643 copies of The Iliad, and that’s a lot. Other historical
writings have 5-10 copies. How many copies do you think we have of the New Testament? It’s not 643, not a thousand, but over 25,000 copies of the New Testament. There are approximately 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and 9,300 manuscripts in other languages. When you compare that against any other historical writing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Bible stands alone and unquestionably passes the Bibliographic(Bib-lee-uh-graphic) test with flying colors.
How many of you like watching movies? How many of you like predicting what’s going to happen in the movie? When I read scripture, one of the things that amazes me most is to see the Old Testament predictions. We call them prophecies. In the Old Testament, prophets would get messages from God and prophesy what would take place either in the New Testament times which was hundreds and thousands of years later, or even in centuries well after the New Testament times, in modern times. People would say, “This was going to happen,” and then it actually would.
The Old Testament contains over 400 prophecies about the coming Messiah alone, and Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled every single one of them. Do you know what the odds of that happening are? Think about it: one single man fulfilling every prediction about the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world.
A professor named Peter Stoner worked with 600 students to figure out what the probability would be of just eight (of the over 400) prophecies being fulfilled in any one person who had lived up to the present time. They put them together and said, “What are the odds of these eight specific things happening to one person?” The result: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. (100 quadrillion) (That’s 17 zeros.)
Lee Strobel, an atheist-turned-Christian, performed some calculations to try to figure out what this would look like in real life. Lee notes: “I imagined the entire world being covered with white tile that was one-and-a-half inches square—every bit of dry land on the planet—with the bottom of just one tile painted red. Then I pictured a person being allowed to wander for a lifetime around all seven continents. He would be permitted to bend down only one time and pick up a piece of tile. What are the odds it would be the one tile whose reverse side was painted red? The odds would be the same as just eight of the Old Testament prophecies coming true in any one person throughout history!”
I want to show you a few of the prophecies that God fulfilled in the life of Christ. And I want you to feel the power, the emotion, and pay very careful attention to the words that were prophesied hundreds of years before it actually happened in the life of Jesus.
· Isaiah 7 prophesied that Jesus would be born of a virgin. “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son.” In Matthew 1, it was fulfilled.
· Micah 5 prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and it was fulfilled in Matthew 2.
· Isaiah 11 said Jesus would be anointed by the Spirit. It was fulfilled in Matthew 3.
· Psalm 41 said Jesus would be betrayed by a friend. “Even my close friend whom I trusted has lifted his heel against me.” And in the Matthew 26, this prophecy was fulfilled.
· Isaiah 50 said that Jesus would one day be beaten and spat upon. Matthew 26 showed this horrible prophecy coming true.
· Concerning Jesus, Psalm 22 said they would one day cast lots for his clothing. And in John 19, it was fulfilled.
· Psalm 118 showed that one day He would rise again. “I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” And Mark 16 shows that’s exactly what Jesus did.
We’ve looked at some facts about the Bible. We’ve looked at some tests about the Bible. We’ve looked at some prophecies that actually came true. Now, let’s look at some prophesies from God’s word that have yet to be fulfilled. Open your Bibles to….
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Hold your Bible in your hands. There is power in these Words. This is God’s Word, living and breathing. It is used to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives, to correct us and teach us to do what is right. We must never forget scripture’s purpose: to equip us to do good work, Christ’s work in the world. It is meant to strengthen our faith and lead us to do good.