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THE WORD OF GOD

THE BIBLE consists of 66 books written during a period of about one thousand five hundred years. There were many writers ranging from peasant to monarch and the books were written in a number of different countries-Israel, Egypt, Babylon and Italy. In spite of these features and contrary to the statements of many people there is complete harmony throughout the Bible. The Old and New Testaments are inseparably linked. The following figures illustrate the point.

 

In the writings of

 

Paul

James

Peter

Direct quotations from OT

132

4

10

OT incidents mentioned

38

3

5

O.T. references - not exact quotations

13

1

8

The first verse of the New Testament is as follows:

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

Then follows a genealogy in which a number of well known Old Testament names occur.

The foregoing facts can be explained if we accept the Bible as a whole as Divinely inspired, ie, the writers all being guided by the Spirit of God. In early Christian times both New and Old Testaments were accepted in this way as Divinely inspired. Paul wrote that he thanked God without ceasing "... because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe". [1Thess 2v13] This of course refers to matters recorded in the New Testament, but the apostle is equally definite about the Old as is shown elsewhere. [2 Tim 3v16-17] If the Bible is opened at almost any page in the second half of the Old Testament, which contains the writings of the prophets, chapter after chapter begins with words like:

"Hear the word of the Lord"
"The word of the Lord came to me"

The Bible claims to come from God: it claims to be inspired. The word inspired is connected with 'breathing' so that when Paul wrote, "Al1 scripture is given by inspiration of God" it means 'All scripture is God-breathed' or 'breathed out by God'. In this short phrase is the astounding claim of the Bible to be the Word of God.

INSPIRATION AT WORK

Jeremiah was one of the prophets of Israel and one of the longest books in the Bible bears his name. He was sent to rum the people of Israel from their wicked ways back to God, who said to him:

"Thou shalt go to all that I [God] shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak ... Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, 1 have put my words in thy mouth." Jeremiah 1v7,9

Jeremiah had a very hard task in front of him; the people were unresponsive and antagonistic to his message. He suffered greatly and expressed his troubles to God in the following words:

"O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long." Jeremiah 20v7-8 [NIV]

Jeremiah was a lone voice for God amongst a wicked people and he confesses to the Lord that, in the past, he had decided to act as his messenger no more:

"But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot" Jeremiah 20v9 [NIV]

Jeremiah was the chosen instrument of God and despite the unpleasantness he was experiencing and his own desire to speak no more in God's name, Jeremiah was powerless to cease; his work continued.

Think of that definition of inspiration we mentioned earlier-'God-breathed', how true this is of Jeremiah's words and writings; he was one of those prophets Peter had in mind, a man carried along by the Holy Spirit an instrument in God's hands speaking His words to the people.

REASONS FOR BELIEF

How can we be sure that the Bible is God's word? God does not ask the impossible. He always gives us sound reasons and strong evidence for belief.

There are a number of lines of evidence which can give us confidence in the Bible and we have already drawn attention to its unique construction and honest portrayal of events. The Bible is historically accurate down to the smallest details, an accuracy which has been repeatedly tested by the science of archaeology.

Another unique feature of the Bible record is its many and varied prophecies - the ability to chart accurately the affairs of men and nations, often centuries in advance. This is not the stuff of fairy tales but sober fact. This ability to foretell future events even down to the 20th century is one of the hallmarks of the Bible, stamping it as a Divine record.

In order to whet your appetite for further reading and study we will consider two lines of evidence, historical accuracy and prophecy.

EXAMINE THE TEXT

Let us look at the text itself and note some examples of its accuracy which it is possible to prove. From the New Testament we have chosen the following words of the apostle Paul:

"In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." Ephesians 2v13-14

Paul is declaring that through Jesus, Gentiles had been brought within the scope of the Divine purpose. There was now no difference between Jew and Gentile. [Galatians 3v26-29] In the past the distinction had been very marked, so much so that Gentiles were forbidden on pain of death to go inside the inner court of Herod's temple at Jerusalem. On one occasion the Jews saw Paul with an Ephesian and thought he had been taken into the temple. This caused a considerable stir. [Acts 21v28-29]

Along the balustrade between the two courts was a notice in Greek forbidding Gentiles to go within the sanctuary on pain of death. Excavators have discovered in the temple area one of these notices, and there is a cast in the British Museum-the original is in Constantinople. So the reference of Paul to the 'middle wall of partition' was not only apt, but it was accurate and has been confirmed. Examples of such accuracy can be multiplied.

HISTORICAL ACCURACY

You will be familiar with the record of Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who travelled from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The gospel writer Luke gives us the reason why that long journey was undertaken. He wrote:

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child." Luke 2v1-5

These verses clearly show that Joseph's family originated from Bethlehem and in order to obey the Emperor's decree they travelled the many miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The record reads as sober historical fact but critics of the Bible found fault with the record. They seized upon this historical aspect concerning the census and dismissed it as complete fiction, arguing that there was no census in the Roman Empire at that particular time and no decree for the people to return to their family home. For good measure, they also stated that Cyrenius was not governor of Syria at that time.

Like so many other critics of the Bible record, those who found fault with Luke's account have subsequently been proved completely and utterly wrong. Archaeology has proved the Bible record right in all its detail; discoveries have shown that the Romans did have a regular enrolment of taxpayers and held a census every 14 years, taking place first in the reign of the very Emperor mentioned by Luke-Caesar Augustus.

Archaeologists have also shown that Cyrenius was governor of Syria about the time of Christ's birth; this information is based on an inscription found in Antioch. It appears that Cyrenius was twice governor and the critics of Luke's account knowing only of his later governorship around AD 6 dismissed Luke as an inaccurate historian. They should have been more careful.

Finally a papyrus found in Egypt which contained direction for the conduct of one such census agrees with Luke that registration in the family home was required.

Sir William Ramsey, one of the great archaeologists of the last century made the following conclusion after 30 years' study of Luke's writing:

'Luke is a historian of the very first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.' [The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Sir W. M. Ramsey]

This conclusion is not surprising is it? After all, the author is God; Luke, like the rest of the Bible writers, was only recording His words. If we can trust the Bible record in such small details we can have confidence in the record as a whole.

ARCHAEOLOGY

Turning now to the Old Testament we can find very many instances of historical narrative which are confirmed by archaeology.`

The following is recorded about Hezekiah, King of Judah, for example:

"And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? " 2Kings 20v20

"This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David." 2 Chronicles 32v30

An inscription was found in Jerusalem in 1880 in the reputed Pool of Siloam. It is agreed by all recognised authorities that this Siloam Inscription (a cast of which is in the British Museum) has reference to the above-mentioned water supply and its construction. The following is a translation:

'(Behold) the excavation! Now this had been the history of the excavation. While the workmen were still lifting up the axe, each towards his neighbour, and while three cubits still remained (to cut through), (each heard the voice of the other who called to his neighbour, since there was an excess in the rock on the right hand and on the left). And on the day of the excavation the workmen struck each to meet his neighbour, axe against axe, and there flowed the waters from the spring to the pool for a thousand two hundred cubits; and ... one hundred cubits was the height of the rock over the heads of the workmen.'

Confirmation like this serves to strengthen our belief in the Bible, and as there have been many such cases, there can be no doubt about the reliability of the accounts.

The Book of Chronicles quoted above is one of the historical books of the Bible. The first Book of Chronicles contains no less than sixteen chapters devoted to genealogical particulars, family and personal details, extensive lists of names tracing pedigrees back to the sons of Jacob, Levitical families and the allotment of cities to priests in their distribution throughout the rest of the tribes of Israel, Levitical orders in the service of the temple, etc.

How did such statistical documents come to be written? They must have been written in the first instance because of facts which it was desirable to record facts about the land, the people and their transactions. Just as we can refer to our registers of such things and confirm past happenings, so these writings in the books of Chronicles and elsewhere in the Bible prove the 40 years in the wilderness, the exodus from Egypt, the work of Moses, the accounts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is thus in general, the historical foundation on which the Bible stands.

PROPHECY

Finally, let us look briefly at Bible prophecy, the most fascinating of subjects; if you are familiar with the Bible at all you will know that the history of the Jews forms a large part of the record. For reasons that we cannot pursue now, they are the chosen people of God and they are the subject of many prophecies in the Bible.

The most amazing prophecies concern the dispersion of the Jewish people from their land in the first and second centuries AD and their subsequent return after centuries of wandering and persecution.

Israel today is a nation constantly in the news and a military power to be reckoned with. Their re-emergence as a national force is a living witness, firstly to God's existence and secondly to the truth of the Bible record.

Jesus Christ himself predicted the day when they would be driven from the land:

"And they [the Jews] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Luke 21v24

These words were fulfilled in AD 135 when the Roman armies again attacked Jerusalem and the Jews were taken into exile.

Their regathering has also been on record for thousands of years. Here are two examples of many taken from the prophet Jeremiah:

"For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." Jeremiah 30v3

"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." Jeremiah 31v10

These prophecies deserve your study; they are remarkable and have been fulfilled in the twentieth century. Israel is a living miracle; the Bible makes it clear that when Israel is regathered as a nation then the Kingdom of God will soon be established on the earth.

Prophecy is beyond the power of man, there is only one satisfactory answer to these things and it is the answer already quoted:

"Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2Peter 1v21 [NIV]