Why do I believe the Bible? Why do I believe in a book that was written by 40 independent authors, living in ten countries during a period covering in excess of 1500 years? Why do I believe in a book that has a cast of over three thousand characters living in over 1500 places?
Why do I believe in an ancient book that some say is a book of legends, myths, fables, and ancient history? Of what benefit or gain is it to me to say that I believe the Bible?
This same book has shaped the destiny of many people to a large degree, over many centuries of time, and it continues to do so today. And yet to many, it remains a book on the shelf, gathering dust. A book that is seldom opened, and a book without any relevance to today's living.
But to me, that same book is vital, completely relevant to today: exposing the weaknesses of our present times, setting out the remedies for the world's many ailments, and accurately forecasting the path of the future world to be established in the foreseeable future.
Why do I believe the Bible? For several reasons.
Because I believe that it is a book uniquely written by the inspiration of God. I have many reasons for believing this to be so, and I shall elaborate a little later on this aspect.
Because the Bible has a message that is an important one to us today, in establishing an honest, decent, caring, and pleasing lifestyle from which each one of us can benefit in real terms. A life style unaffected by the concerns around us of environmental catastrophe, global mismanagement, or threat of nuclear warfare.
Because the Bible has a message of the future: an assurance of a far, far better environment of the future, when all aspects of war, of violence, of fear, of moral decline will cease, and the world will be a perfect place to spend what would be an eternity of time.
On the first aspect, what is it that makes me believe that the Bible is a book with a true and vital message? Perhaps in common with many other people, I find that there is not just a single reason, but a number of reasons. Each reason in itself is able to provide sufficient evidence in itself in order to support the proposition that the Bible is truly believable, but the ability to gain these evidences from completely different starting points, considering completely different aspects, fuse together to re-inforce one's confidence in the Bible. We need this confidence, for when we possess it, then the key to the Bible's message is available to us, and we can benefit directly now, and infinitely more so in the future age to come. You see, if the Bible is just another book written by a variety of people, then it is limited by the knowledge and skills of those who wrote it. But if it can be demonstrated that the writers of the Bible had a higher source of information, then the relevance of their message becomes altogether vastly more important.
The Word of God.
It is true that the Bible claims to be the Word of God. It makes this claim in several ways:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16 [All quotations are from NIV unless otherwise stated.]
"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:21
But neither of these quotations prove that the Bible is the Word of God, as they are merely claims made in the Bible that the Bible is the Word of God.
Similarly, the Old Testament writers made the claim that God spoke to them, and they wrote what was demanded of them. On hundreds, perhaps thousands of occasions, the writers made exactly this claim.
Take, for instance, the prophet Ezekiel at the beginning of chapter 29:
"In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophecy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: " ' " Ezekiel 29:1-3a
This again does not, in itself, contribute towards making the Bible believable: anyone would have been free to make a similar claim, and who would be able to refute it, especially a long time later?
So how can I demonstrate to you why I believe the Bible? One way would be to examine some of the portions of the Bible, with a particular question in mind. Did the writers have a source of information that was above their normal human ability and knowledge? If we can show that they did, then what was the source of that information?
Let's look firstly at the one of the aspects of the Bible that stands out as quite extraordinary: the uniformity of theme. It is very generally accepted by a weight of evidence that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, and there is little dissent that the apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible. So between these authors lies about 1500 years. Thirty-nine books written before the time of Jesus Christ, and twenty seven after the time of Jesus Christ. They were sixty-six books written by men of very diverse backgrounds and experiences. Few had any contact with each other. And yet what they wrote showed a remarkable degree of unity.
Consider for example, the attributes ascribed to the Supreme Being, God. All the books agree to the characteristics of God being a single God, a supreme authority who has no equal, the Creator, His unlimited power, His sovereignty over mankind, His judgements against sin, His mercy, his love, His ability to be in all places at all times. Every writer is in agreement as to the origin of sin, its inescapable presence in human nature, and the need for mankind everywhere, and in every generation, to turn in direction and return to God's way. Every writer foresees that salvation is possible for mankind, through a mediator, who was anticipated in the books written before Jesus Christ, and fully described in the books following Jesus Christ. There is no other example in the varied fields of knowledge that has been able to pursue such a concept of unity over such a long period of time. Such is foreign to every field of knowledge, whether history, science, arts, sociology, psychology, or education. For example, I studied psychology at university level in the early 1960's, and again at the end of the 1970's. In that time interval of fifteen years, theories had changed quite remarkably. And some recent involvements in that same sphere in recent months have revealed still further modifications and changes in thought. To me, as a Bible believer, the writing of a person who lived some 2500 years ago was aptly summarising the information of today, when he wrote:
"I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself; Nor is it in man to direct his steps."
Jeremiah 10:23 NASB
What gave the authors the remarkable unity of thought? There can be only two explanations.
The first is, that each author thoroughly researched all that had been written, before putting pen to paper. To do this, he would have had to start with the writings of Moses (and particularly the first book, Genesis), and then from that point to progressively develop the themes established in a particular way that would enable subsequent writers to continue on with the task. And not only that, but he would need to take great pains not to disagree with any point that a previous writer had made. For this explanation to be valid, Moses, for some reason, would have started the ball rolling, and for some unknown reasons, others have leapt on the bandwagon, researched all previous writers, and have gone on to write only matters that endorse the previous writers! Such an explanation is clearly unrealistic, if not impossible. Why would they risk their lives in such an action (as some did), if it was merely for novelty?
But the argument is fatally flawed. For evidence is convincing that the first collection of the books of the Bible into a unified edition occurred in the time of Ezra in the 5th century BC, and by this time all the Old Testament books, with the exception of three, had already been written. So those authors prior to the 5th Century BC would not have had prior access to the earlier writings! And again, in the New Testament, the writers of the twenty-seven books did not have access to the writings of their fellow authors, since they were almost always writing personal letters or memoirs, unaware that at a subsequent date they were to be incorporated under the binding of a single book. They were all dead before their books were regarded as part of the Bible.
Bible has unity of thought.
So how did all these people achieve an amazing unity of thought, even though each was being obviously compelled to write by a very strong inner motivation, and to write what they each felt was so important that their own safety could be jeopardised?
The second explanation for the amazing unity of the Bible is that all sixty-six books had a common origin. If God has chosen the Bible as the means of conveying his message to mankind, then in a very real sense the Bible has one author rather than a multitude of authors.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16
"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:21
This does not mean that the writers were robots in the hands of a supreme God, but that each wrote the message of God in the words of their own vocabulary. Each writer preserved their own human style, but each wrote in accord with the Divine plan and principle.
Is there any way we can confirm this?
Yes! There are several ways for confirming this, and each depends on the demonstration of the writer's knowledge being knowledge quite beyond what would be normally expected.
Take, for instance, the prophet Isaiah, who wrote in the period 739 BC to 681 BC His writing is alluded to over 250 times in the New Testament, and directly quoted at least fifty times in the New Testament. Why is it so popular in the New Testament?
If we look at the most famous segment of Isaiah, 52:13 to 53:12, we find it quoted ten times in the New Testament (Matthew 8:17; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:32, 33; Romans 10:16; 15:21; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:22,24,25). The passage begins with the disfigurement of a servant beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14); he is rejected, he suffers death, is buried, and he is said to be a sin offering, and to see life once again. The servant's sufferings and death, followed by a new lease of life are exactly those things that are written in the New Testament as experiences of Jesus Christ. If the New Testament record is correct, and we will examine this point briefly a little later, then how did Isaiah know of it about 700 years earlier? Or was the book of Isaiah merely a fabrication put together after the death of Jesus Christ? The latter option can safely be rejected, since a copy of the complete book of Isaiah was located amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls and dated at 150 BC The book of Isaiah most definitely pre-dated Jesus Christ.
Well, perhaps it was the story about Jesus that was the fabricated part! Perhaps some Jewish people had read the passage from Isaiah and decided to invent a fulfilment, and so made up several narratives on a mythical character called Jesus Christ. Perhaps the whole New Testament was an elaborately contrived hoax! After all, it is well known that some Jewish fanatics did exactly that with other historic characters such as Moses and Enoch.
Evidence for Jesus.
What evidence is there that Jesus actually existed? That what was written about him was factual, and historically correct? For a concise summary of this aspect I would refer you to the article titled "Who Was Jesus?". But right at the moment, give consideration to a particular verse in one of the New Testament letters. The city of Corinth in the first century A.D. was a city of well-known reputation. The Greeks had a word for it: "to Corinthise", which meant "to live life to the full, with all scruples and principles thrown aside, every desire indulged in to the full". It was one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean area. It had a very mixed population with a very large number of travellers. It had for hundreds of years been the centre for worship of the goddess of love (Aphrodite & Venus).
With this background, consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Paul had stated a list of repulsive sins that the people had sunk to, when he suddenly writes "and this is what some of you were"! What made these people experience such a fundamental and dramatic change in life style? Was it that Paul was a personable man? He himself comments elsewhere that people belittled his presence.
"For some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.' " 2 Corinthians 10:10
No, it would not have been Paul! Could it have been Jesus Christ if Jesus had been a myth, or even a religious con-man? It would seem that something very unusual had happened, and was happening. The most unlikely people had been converted by something!
The Bible identifies this spectacular something as person named Jesus. In the Old Testament he was the anticipated Messiah [Hebrew: anointed]; in the New Testament he was called the Christ [Greek: anointed]. The Bible is not alone in its reference to Jesus Christ. His existence was recognised in the writings of Tacitus (about 85 A.D.), Pliny [the Younger] (about 110 A.D.), and Josephus (about 100 A.D.). Further evidence in support of the historic existence of Jesus Christ is provided by the New Testament itself. The Gospel of Mark has long been held as one of the earliest books of the New Testament, being dated about 64 A.D., which is a little over thirty years from the date of Jesus' death. However, in 1955 some fragments were found in Cave 7 at Qumran, on the western coast of the Dead Sea , though their true significance was not recognised until 1972, when they were identified as being part a copy of Mark 6:52-53. The significance of this find was enormous, for it showed that the Gospel of Mark was in existence within twenty years of the crucifixion, that is, when eye-witnesses were still very plentiful. The story could not have continued to exist unless it had been authentic and genuine. The critical scrutiny and comment of eye-witnesses, Jews, Christians, Romans, and Greeks, must have accepted them as being accurate. So the inevitable conclusion must be that Jesus Christ was a real person, and that the record that was written about him was reliable and genuine.
The Jews are certainly heavily involved in the main thrust of the Bible. I would draw your attention to just one prophecy contained in the Bible concerning the Jews, from the hundreds available. It is to be found in the writings of the prophet of Isaiah.
"In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from lower Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth." Isaiah 11:11,12
This passage emphasises a second gathering of Israel from the nations. Both history and the Bible record the first restoring of the Jews to the land. It took place from 536 BC when Cyrus, ruler of Persia, conquered Babylonia where the Jews had been held for seventy years following their being taken into captivity from their land by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.
They subsequently again lost their territory to invaders, and were dispersed to foreign lands following the overthrow of the Romans in A.D. 70. Then in 1948, a remarkable thing happened, in that the territory of the Jews was returned to them as the re-established country of Israel. Since that date the Jews have been returning to Israel in very large numbers, and particularly from Russia during these last few months. How was it that Isaiah could speak of this situation about 700 BC - one hundred years before even the first regathering of Israel!? Someone must have told him. It must have been God.
Some of the other reasons I have for believing the Bible are more personal. One example, for instance, is the conditional promise in the Bible that prayer will receive Divine attention.
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3
"Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you... If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 1:7, 11
When I was a teenager, I had a response to prayers when my father was very ill with a brain tumour. The manner of response was sufficient to know that it was not imagination; though the relief was only of a temporary nature each time. Nevertheless, it was to me a great consolation to know that there was a Supreme Power able to listen to me, and to provide visible results. Since that time, prayer has continued to be a part of my life, providing the assurance that what was written in the Bible was true even in today's world.
In believing the Bible, I found myself turning to it for guidance in how to live in the world of today; for the Bible has within its pages some absolute gems of wisdom. For if it indeed has been written under the inspiration of God, then it is logical that it contains information that is not only 100% trustworthy, but may contain advice that has yet to be endorsed by today's sociologists etc. Read thoroughly, for example, the book of Proverbs, and see whether or not you are duly impressed by the jewels of wisdom contained in it. For you will find that it is not a theoretical book but a series of practical statements that, if implemented by mankind, would completely change the face of humanity. Certainly it has the potential to change your life. And not only does the book of Proverbs have this potential, but almost all the books of the Bible.
Jesus as Messiah.
The Bible is no ordinary book. It makes a unique claim that it is the Word of God. It carries a tremendous spiritual message. For every book within it confronts the reader with the reminder that we are all sinful characters, and that we need deliverance from that state. It presents the remedy, and it calls for action. The prophet Isaiah had the following message for the people of his day, and the message would not need changing even today:
" 'Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord " 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' " Isaiah 55:6-9
The key to understanding life is contained in the Gospel of John;
"If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." John 7:17
So ultimately, to fully appreciate the Truth of the Bible, one must commit ones'self to Jesus, and in so doing, as Jesus says, you will find out that what he says, and what he promises, are absolute Truth. What is needed on your part is an unhesitating, and enthusiastic commitment to Bible Truth. The Bible writers were intelligent men, not fools! Peter wrote,
"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty." 2 Peter 1:16
The Bible message for salvation is that Jesus is soon to return to set up God's Kingdom on this earth. And you can have a part in this kingdom, if you genuinely accept the Word of God and endeavour to live according to the principles set within its pages. Eternal life could be yours; eternal death is the only alternative. Its surely worth thinking about. An anonymous author once wrote:
"The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, and the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are unchangeable.
"Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is a traveller's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.
"Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth."
John recorded the following words of Jesus Christ:
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 3:36
The choice is yours. I believe the Bible - do you?