I’ve never been a highly inquisitive person. What I mean is, I’m not the personality who hears or reads something and immediately questions its validity. I tend to process things slowly and deliberately over time. Therefore, I don’t jump onto things with lots of questions right away. That is, until recently.
With the proliferation of social media and a multitude of news outlets, we’ve been trained over the years to doubt or question nearly everything. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to the Bible, I think the biblical authors gave us many threads of evidence and proofs in their narratives to help us build confidence in the words we read and in the God they point us to. In the time the Bible was authored, and since then, I believe our sovereign God has given us a trail of evidence that helps to build our faith and trust in his Word and promises.
The 13th century friar and theologian, Thomas Aquinas, “In order that men might have knowledge of God, free of doubt and uncertainty, it was necessary for divine truth to be delivered to them by way of faith, being told to them as it were, by God himself who cannot lie.”
Aquinas made this observation by studying the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who said thatreason comes from sensory data: What we can see, touch, feel, hear.
Aquinas said while reason can lead us to believe in God (as we can observe that there is a Creator of this universe based on what we experience in science and nature), revelation is necessary for us to know God and his divine truth.
You’ve heard from a co-worker, or a friend at school, or a family member make this statement. Maybe you’ve said it yourself: We can’t believe everything in Bible because we know that it has been changed over time. There’s a legitimacy to that statement. We should know that we can trust what we say we believe.
The ancient Jewish culture passed down their narratives largely through oral tradition. They didn’t see the need to keep old records. In fact, when scrolls got too old, they were destroyed and new ones made. But make no mistake, they took their written history very seriously. Scribes didn’t just copy texts, but they took great care to copy line by line, column by column, and had profound reverence for the texts destroying any copies that had mistakes. This was true of the Old Testament books as well as the New Testament books written within 60 years of Jesus’ death.
There were several things in the mid second century AD that changed the need for oral vs. written records.
In 140 AD a man named Marcion developed and propagated his own books which he believed should be considered Scripture.
Missionaries began taking the Gospel message all over the world and the need for translation was increasing.
The Edict of Diocletian in 303 AD called for the destruction of all sacred Christian writings.
Therefore, it was important to collect the writings which were the true Word of God.
In the mid 300’s AD church leaders sat down not to determine which books they would allow into the Bible… but to consider which books had, over the course of time, already been considered and trusted to be the sacred Scripture inspired by God.
These were some of the questions they asked of each text:
Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? – often through miracles.
Did the message tell the truth about God? -- not contradictory to the His nature.
Was the message accepted by the people of God? – was it accepted by contemporary believers of the time it was written and those after?
For the New Testament: Was it written by or by those who knew the original followers of Jesus?
It boils down to this: Written over 1500 years and through 66 books, the common theme and hundreds of prophecies converging in one man, Jesus Christ, is completely astounding.
The Word of God is trustworthy and true. At the end of the day, it isn’t proof that saves. It’s faith. Keep this careful truth in mind as you read and study: These words, unless they transform our hearts and compel us to faith and love put into action, do little good to save.
Reading it and living it with you,
Don’t forget to sign up for one of the How to Read My Bible Workshops on either Feb. 21 or 23. You can register by clicking below.
Lead Pastor, White Oak Christian Church