You are about to begin a study of the most important book in the world:
the Bible. This first lesson deals with the divine origin of the Bible and its preservation.
I. THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BIBLE
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six (66) books written by approximately forty (40) authors. Nevertheless, 3,800 affirmations in the Old Testament (O.T.) strongly support the fact that the Bible comes from God. The New Testament (N.T.) also affirms the divine inspiration of the O.T., as well its own content. God inspired the Bible, not by writing it nor dictating its very words, but rather by guiding the thoughts of the authors so that they would write the truth. But, how can we prove that such a statement is the truth? Some evidence is seen in the following:
A. A REASONABLE EXPLANATION OF ORIGINS
Modern scientists are in agreement that our universe had a beginning because it’s heading to an end. The riches of the earth are running out: the sun is slowly dying; the stars are disappearing. What, therefore, was the great power that gave the universe its beginning? The first line of the Bible gives us the most reasonable explanation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But the atheist would ask: “Where does God come from?” The reply is the same as the answer to the following question: “Where does matter come from?” Frankly, something cannot appear from nothing; therefore, something has always existed. Christians believe what the Bible says about God creating the universe. It is possible that the atheist will ridicule such a belief, but his beliefs are also a product of faith. An atheistic faith believes that matter has always existed and that the universe exists purely by chance. The question we would ask is, “Whose faith is more reasonable?” Below you will find some evidence that supports the truth of the biblical account of creation.
Exodus 19:9; 20:1; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 1:3; Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; I Thessalonians 2:13; John 16:13; John 14:26; Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3
THE INTELLIGENT OUTLINE OF THE UNIVERSE
What would happen if someone found a fine watch in a field and exclaimed, “Look what matter has created by chance!”? Clearly, such a conclusion would be absurd. In the same way, it is equally unreasonable to infer that our universe came into existence only by chance. The earth and the planets that revolve around the sun form a complex mechanism that is more useful, efficient, precise, and long-lasting than anything created by man. The universe functions with such precision that the days, the seasons, and the atmosphere of the earth have remained unaltered throughout the history of mankind. Even the phases of the moon can be calculated down to the exact minute. Therefore, just as the fine watch implies the existence of an intelligent creator, the complex and intelligent design of the universe requires a divine architect.
THE APPEARANCE OF LIFE
The Bible reveals at the same time the order and the way in which life appeared on this earth. Genesis 1.1-31 shows that life appeared in the following order: plants, aquatic life, birds, land animals, and finally, man. The science of paleontology has “discovered” that during 500 million years life appeared in the same general order as described by the Bible. The Bible indicates that the creation was realized in six days. Surely our omnipotent God could have created the universe in six days of 24 hours each and at the same time have made the earth appear to be millions of years old. It is possible that trees only one day old, but created completely grown, had growth rings that made them appear extremely old. After one year of life on earth, perhaps Adam appeared to be 30 years old, or older. By accelerating nature’s processes, God could have rapidly formed the earth’s strata and fossils, thereby forming carbon, petroleum, and other subterranean formations beneficial to mankind.
THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE
The Bible says that God created all things so that they would produce “according to its kind.” By observing life around us, it is obvious that this is the case. There are some variations within species of animals, but the classes, orders, and basic families are always uniform. Modern science has not been able to adequately explain how mutations could develop a superior form of life. In effect, past experiences show that mutations usually harm the quality of life rather than improve it. Julian Huxley, the famous evolutionist, has admitted that the probability of favorable changes succeeding one another by means of evolution is one in one thousand millions. Nevertheless, thousands of millions of such mutations (changes) would be necessary if the theory of evolution were correct. This shows the total improbability of the theory of evolution, and the strong probability of divine creation.
Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:18-20; Genesis 1:11, 21, 25
Also the complexity of the intellect and personality of the human being, his esthetic sense in judging beauty, and his conscience to discern between good and evil, lead to the conclusion of the creation of man “in the image of God.” Is it reasonable to believe that the intellect and human personality were accidental developments of matter? Is it not more reasonable to agree with the Bible that a Supreme and Personal Intelligence created human intellect? Yes, the harmonious design of the universe, the appearance of life on earth and its complexity testify to the truth of what the Bible says about creation. Taking into account that the Bible (Genesis) was written some 3,000 years ago in the midst of an ignorant and superstitious world, its assertion that God created the universe undoubtedly indicates that the same Divine Potency revealed the truth about the creation of the Bible.
B. THE IRREFUTABLE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE
It has been found that biblical teachings agree with the best principles in every field of modern study. The Bible is the most powerful moral guide in the world, and no one has been able to improve upon it. Psychology, a modern science, has recently” discovered” one of the mental health principles that the Bible has taught for centuries. Countless books analyze the biblical description of the methods of Jesus, recognizing him as the pre-eminent Professor and Sociologist. Archaeological discoveries continue to prove the historical accuracy of the Bible with regard to hundreds of cities, nations, kings and ancient incidents. Even the story of Flood9 is recorded in ancient Babylonian writings. Each geographical fact mentioned in the book of Acts has been verified as true by a scholar who, in an effort to refute them, became convinced of their veracity. Also biblical theology, especially the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners, is considered the deepest of all religious thoughts. How could the men that lived 1900-3400 years ago write such profound truths as those found in all fields of modern study mentioned above? How was it possible for carpenters and ignorant fishermen of Galilee to surpass the most educated men of their day, revealing the most profound theological thought in the history of mankind? Is it possible that the Bible can be so accurate in many areas of human knowledge and lie concerning its own character as the word of God? Is it conceivable that the best moral guide in the world can also be the worst impostor? In reality, the truths revealed in the Bible testify to its divine inspiration.
C. THE UNITY OF THE BIBLE
The Bible, though written by about forty men over some 1,600 years, is marvelous for its unity and consistency. The Old Testament even predicts the coming of the New Testament. The sixty-six books of the Bible were written by kings, prophets, pastors, farmers, fishermen, tax collectors, doctors, the rich, and poor, the educated and uneducated. They wrote about the great themes of God, of man, morality, salvation and eternal life. However, their writings have a harmony that would be impossible without the unifying guidance of God.
Genesis 1:2; Genesis 6; Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:6-13
D. THE INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF THE BIBLE
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”11 The Bible has suffered more attacks than any other book that the world has known. A Roman emperor Diocletian (301-304 AD), while persecuting the Christians, made a determined effort to destroy the Bible. Ironically his large tomb was used by the church for their meetings for over a thousand years! The famous French agnostic Voltaire said in the eighteenth century that the Bible would be a forgotten book in a hundred years. Subsequently, the Geneva Bible Society occupied the house of this unbelieving man, and now the Bible is the best-selling book worldwide. In 1861 the French Academy of Sciences listed fifty-one “facts” that supposedly disproved the Bible. None of these “facts” are considered to be true today. Many other efforts have been made to destroy the Bible. It has been discussed, criticized, and severely attacked by many, but time and new discoveries continue proving that every attack is unjust, false and in vain. “But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
E. THE PRECISE PROPHECIES OF THE BIBLE
The prophecies of the Bible emphasize the coming of Jesus Christ. The following outline lists some of them. Note that almost every aspect of the life of Christ had been foretold centuries before he came. For example, the prophecy of Isaiah 53 prophesied in verse 3 the rejection of Christ; in verses 4 to 6, his sacrifice for the sins of others; in verses 7 and 8, his judgment; in verses 8 and 9, his death with the wicked (the two thieves) and his burial with the rich (in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea); and the prophecy is developed in the other verses of the chapter. How could Isaiah write such a description of Jesus, so beautiful and complete, some 700 years before his birth? This is just one example from the outline. Only direct revelation can explain the fulfillment of these predictions. And of course, the Bible contains many prophecies about other topics.
Mark 13:31; 1 Peter 1.25
Predicted THE PROPHECY Fulfilled
Genesis 49.10 From the tribe of Judah Matthew 1.1-3
Jeremiah 23.5 From the lineage of David Matthew 1.1, 6
Micah 5.2 In Bethlehem Matthew 2.1-6
Isaiah 7.14 Of a virgin Matthew 1.18-23
Isaiah 9.6, 7 Divinity and authority John 1.1; Ephesians 1.20-22
HIS TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
Zechariah 9.9; Matthew 21.1-9
Isaiah 53.3; John 19.14, 15
Psalms 22.16 By crucifixion John 19.16-19
Isaiah 53.9, 12 With evildoers Luke 22.37; Matthew 27.38
BURIAL WITH THE RICH
Isaiah 53.9; Matthew 27. 57, 60
CASTING OF LOTS OVER HIS CLOTHES
Psalms 22.18 ;John 19.23, 24
Psalms 22.6-8; 1 Peter 2.21-23
HIS SACRIFICE FOR THE SINS OF OTHERS
Isaiah 53.4-6; 10-12; 1 Peter 2.24, 25; 2 Cor. 5.21
Psalms 16.10; Acts 2.24-32
HIS ASCENSION TO THE THRONE OF GOD
Psalms 110.1-4; Acts 2.33-36
PROPHECIES ABOUT CHRIST
All these prophecies were made between 1400-400 BC, and were completed during the life of Christ. There are many other evidences for the divine making of the Bible, for example: the universal attraction and influence of the Bible, its description of the perfect character and work of Jesus, and the fact that its message about Christ is the only adequate solution for the problem of sin. The cumulative weight of such evidence for the divine origin of the Bible is overwhelming.
II. THE PRESERVATION OF THE BIBLE
Now we will study how the Bible has come to us carefully preserved through the centuries. The Old Testament began to be written about 1400 years before Christ, and was written in Hebrew, the ancient language of the Jews. The last part of the Bible, the New Testament was written in the first century after Christ in ancient Greek. However, you have in your possession a copy of the Bible in your own language, translated by competent scholars of these ancient languages. How do we know if the Bible we have today is the same message from God that inspired writers wrote more than 1900 years ago?
A. ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS
We know we have the Bible preserved correctly because we have manuscripts of it that are more than 1500 years old, written in the original language. Three of the most famous are: the Codex Sinaiticus, written in about 340 AD, now kept in London, the Vaticanus, written in about 350 AD , now kept in Rome, and the Alexandrinus, writing in the fifth century, and today kept in London. Three other manuscripts of the fifth century are called the Ephraemi, the Bezae and the Washingtonensis. Also, thousands of other ancient manuscripts and parchments of the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek attest to the accuracy of our Bible.
Also many older translations of the Bible verify both the accuracy of the manuscripts mentioned above as well as the text of the Bible today. One is the Vulgate, the official Roman Catholic version, a translation into Latin by Jerome in 405 A.D. Other translations exist in languages such as Syrian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Ethiopian, and Armenian. All were made between the third and sixth centuries A.D. There are other translations too, and hundreds of copies of them are very old. The Bible may be reproduced today, using only these translations.
C. QUOTATIONS IN ANCIENT CHURCH LITERATURE
The writings of various church leaders in the early centuries are currently accessible. They quote freely from the Bible, some of them possibly quote from the original writings of the New Testament. Biblical scholars say that if the New Testament was completely destroyed or lost, the entire contents of this sacred book could be replicated by the quotations made by these early writers. Having manuscripts, ancient translations and quotations, there is more evidence on the text of the Bible than for any other ancient writing. That is why the Bible has remained substantially unchanged through the centuries. As evidence of this, a copy from the first century BC of the book of Isaiah was found in some jars near the Dead Sea in Palestine. When compared with the book of Isaiah in our modern Bible, its contents are virtually identical. So, by the providence of God, “the word of the Lord endures forever.”
The study of the origin of the Bible is a moving experience. Divine inspiration is seen in its reasonable explication of the creation, in its true teachings, in its unity, in its indestructibility and in the fulfillment of its prophecies. It is the inspired message of God, which has been preserved through all generations in thousands of ancient manuscripts, translations, and quotations. Through continuing your study of the Bible, you will find that its content is even more moving and richer than the study of its origin.
1 Peter 1.25