Crisis of Faith: Why Should I trust the Bible? Part 1

    In week 1 of our new series, we spoke about the historical reliability of the Resurrection. You can listen to the sermon from your church here. Along with questions about the reliability of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, many people have questions about the historical reliability of the Bible in general. The following is content we used to include in our Midtown Class that discusses how confident you can be in the historical reliability of the Scriptural texts.

Why Should I Trust the Bible is Accurate?

Some people struggle in trusting the early copies of each original book of the Bible are trustworthy. To help bolster your confidence in the early copies I would like to simply compare the New Testament books with various other books that are widely read and accepted in Western literature. In so doing I want to show you how trustworthy the earliest copies of the Bible are because we have so many manuscripts, and those manuscripts are so close to the original writings of the New Testament. We will look at two general tests for determining the historicity of any ancient text: the bibliographical test (number and quality of manuscripts), and the internal test (the consistency of the text to not contradict itself).

You can find our blog outlining test #2: The Internal Test here.

Test #1 – The Bibliographical Test

   The bibliographical test seeks to determine the quantity and quality of documents, as well as how far removed they are from the time of the originals. The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, about 8,000 Latin manuscripts, and another 1,000 manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.).

*Taken directly from Ken Boa’s “I’m Glad You Asked” page 78

    The age of the biblical manuscripts is also excellent. Likely the oldest manuscript is a scrap of papyrus (p52) containing John 18:31–33 and 37–38, dating from AD 125–130, no more than 40 years after John’s gospel was likely written. A non–Christian scholar, Carsten Peter Thiede even claims that he has dated a fragment of Matthew to about 60 AD. By comparing the ancient manuscripts we find that the vast majority of variations are minor elements of spelling, grammar, and style, or accidental omissions or duplications of words or phrases.

    Only about 400 (less than one page of an English translation) have any significant bearing on the meaning of a passage, and most are footnoted in Modern English translations. Overall, 97–99% of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and no Christian doctrine is founded solely or even primarily on textually disputed passages.
    The Scripture quoted in the works of the early Christian writers (most 95–150 AD) are so extensive that virtually the entire New Testament can be reconstructed except for 11 verses, mostly from 2 and 3 John.

A Curious Discovery

    Critics of the accuracy of the Bible routinely claimed that it was, in fact, a series of fables and legends that had developed over hundreds of years because there were not enough copies of ancient manuscripts to alleviate their skepticism. Curiously, a simple shepherd boy dealt a deathblow to their criticisms in 1947. He wandered into a cave in the Middle East and discovered large pottery jars filled with leather scrolls of the Bible that had been wrapped in linen cloth. Amazingly, the ancient copies of the books of the Bible were in good condition despite their age and harsh climate because they had been well sealed for nearly 1,900 years. What is now known as The Dead Sea Scrolls are made up of some 40,000 inscribed ancient fragments. From these fragments, more than 500 books have been reconstructed, including some Old Testament books such as a complete copy of Isaiah.

    Simply, if someone seeks to eliminate the trustworthiness of the New Testament then to be consistent they would also have to dismiss virtually the entire canon of western literature and pull everything from Homer to Plato and Aristotle off of bookstore shelves and out of classroom discussions.

Dear Sisters Struggling to Have Children

Tiffany Beaver, the author of this post is a missionary member of our church and a teaching assistant at the University of South Carolina. She and her husband Benjamin live in Columbia.

Dear Sisters Struggling to have Children: 

When I was a kid, I thought God just planted babies in women’s tummies. So I didn’t understand why mom was so dumbfounded when she found out she was pregnant with my little brother–God just put him in there!

Growing up I knew my mom had two miscarriages. But aside from this knowledge, I didn’t spend much time trying to understand what it would be like to be pregnant or to lose a baby. Though I knew a few people who struggled to conceive or experienced miscarriages, it never hit close to home. I definitely never thought I would later find myself living through those same experiences.

The Beginning

After two years of marriage, my husband and I decided it was time to start trying to have a baby. Because we are both pursuing PhD’s, we thought it would be prudent if we could time things out for the baby to be born in the summer. If it didn’t work out we’d take a break and try again the following year. We were naïve enough to think that if we did the “right” things, getting pregnant would be easy.

When we didn’t get pregnant during the “ideal” months, we decided to trust God’s timing would be better than our own and continued to try. We kept trying month after month for a year. We experienced frustration. Friends and family who weren’t even trying got pregnant. It didn’t seem fair. Some people just looked at each other and got pregnant. But we couldn’t. After a year, I went to the doctor, who encouraged us and also ordered some tests for us. One was a routine pregnancy test.

Strangely, although the test came back negative, I was, in fact, unknowingly pregnant.

We found out after several confusing weeks filled with numerous symptoms that conflicted with the test that said I wasn’t. We were, of course, extremely excited. Along with a sense of success after trying for a year, the timing seemed perfect. The due date was right after the Spring semester and we would have all summer to figure out how to be parents. On top of all that, my brother and sister-in-law were expecting within a few weeks of us. The thought of two cousins so close in age was especially thrilling.

Then on October 13, sitting in a church gathering, a pastor spoke from Ecclesiastes 3 about how we all want to think we are in control of our lives, but this is merely an illusion. There is a season for everything – including weeping and mourning. These seasons are inevitable. One phone call or conversation can change everything. I remember thinking “I hope this sermon isn’t meant specifically for me.”

The Conversation that Changes Everything

The next morning of October 14, my husband and I experienced that “one conversation that changes everything.” We watched an ultrasound screen zoom in on an image that will forever be burned into my mind. She said “there’s your baby…” and then silence. After a pause, she spoke the words I so greatly feared, “I’m looking really hard, but I can’t find a heartbeat.” They hit like a ton of bricks. It was as if in that moment, all of our hopes were shredded to pieces. The image lingered on the screen, our baby that we will never have the privilege of knowing. The following day I had surgery to remove the baby’s body from inside mine.

My overall emotions over the next weeks were mostly sadness, grief and disappointment. I wasn’t really angry so much as hurting. About a week after the miscarriage, I wrote a blog post to process what I was thinking and feeling. You can read the entire post here but here are some excerpts:

  • Deeper than the grief, I cling to the goodness and the grace of a Heavenly Father who grieves with us and mourns with us, and who sees the big picture of eternity even when the tiny corner of the picture I’m seeing is blurred from tears…
  • For some reason, He has allowed this particular sorrow to be a part of my story. I not only hope, but I fully believe, that in some way the loss of this child will bring glory and fame to Jesus. I don’t know how yet, but that’s just how Jesus works…
  • He left Heaven to inhabit this world, and He made a way for broken people to join His family. He is working to restore what has been broken. But the restoration isn’t yet complete…
  • As for me, as I continue to trust in the goodness of God, I will echo the words of Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)

Even knowing all of this truth, things haven’t been easy. The holidays were difficult, as family members were expecting babies. There was a period where it seemed like everyone was telling me they were pregnant. As much as I wanted to be overjoyed, I just wasn’t. Each announcement was like a stab – a reminder we lost our baby. Well-meaning people who said things like “Next time will be better” made things worse…because God never promised us there would be a first time…and he never promised there would be a next time. Facebook was incredibly difficult. It seemed like every other post was someone announcing they were pregnant, revealing the gender of their baby, or announcing the birth of their child. I wanted to be excited for these friends, but I couldn’t.

Jesus is Enough

Yet in the midst of all of this, even when tendencies to be angry or bitter finally started to emerge, I was reminded that Jesus is enough. Even if I never have children, Jesus is enough. No matter what the Lord gives or the Lord takes away, Jesus is enough.

To my sisters struggling to have children, please rest in the knowledge that Jesus knows your heart. He knows your fears, your disappointments, and your longings. And even on the days when it’s really hard to believe it, He truly is enough. Please don’t long for children more than you long for Jesus. All of the children in the world cannot replace the love He has for you and the relationship He wants with you. And no matter how it goes, He never promised we would be spared from pain, but He did promise that we never have to face the pain alone. He’s here with you in the pain. And you can rest in Him.