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Can We Trust the Bible?

There are many reasons we can justifiably put our confidence in the Bibles we hold and read today as the Word of God. One of them would be that Jesus and His disciples trusted the Hebrew Scriptures wholeheartedly and used them often.

The Old Testament Scriptures were affirmed by Jesus—who often quoted from them—as authoritative and inspired. Jesus appealed to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 when teaching on the permanence of the marriage bond (Mark 10:6ff). He called David “inspired” (Mark 12:36) and declared that Scripture cannot be broken (Matthew 26:54; Luke 22:37; John 10:35). He fully understood that the prophecies of the Old Testament related directly to Himself (Luke 4:16-21,24-27,44-46; John 5:39). Jesus taught reverence for the Scriptures by His own example in reading from them (Luke 4:17,18). He appealed to them when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-10), and even declared that Moses and his writings were a more powerful witness from God than someone rising from the dead (Luke 16:31). His view of the Old Testament Scriptures should settle the issue for us. It did for Christ’s disciples: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along (Greek phero) by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:19-21 NIV).

As Jesus had done before them, the Apostles and leaders of the early church expressed their faith in the veracity of the Old Testament Scriptures with specific references (Acts 1:16; James 4:5; Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2). They were not preaching and proclaiming their dictums and rituals as the means of salvation and redemption but as signposts that pointed to Jesus Christ as the Messiah (Galatians 3:24,25; I Corinthians 10:11) who was indeed the means of salvation and redemption.

Writing in Revelation and the Bible, Roger Nicole claims to have counted in the New Testament 224 direct quotations from the Old Testament introduced by such definite phrases as “Scripture says,” or “it is written.” He lists many other occasions where a second quotation is introduced by “and,” or where a summary or paraphrase is used rather than a direct quotation.1 Of 260 chapters in the New Testament, 209 of them quote the Old Testament. All sections of the Old Testament were quoted from in the New Testament.

Many scholars hold that the Septuagint (LXX) was the Bible that was embraced by the early Christians. When the New Testament speaks of “the Scriptures” it may be to them that the reference is made, with the possible exception of II Peter 3:16 where it mentions “the other scriptures” (Paul’s writings were already recognized as “scripture,” and the reference probably alludes to earlier NT writings). We do know that it was from the LXX that the first five books in our present Bible got their names. Genesis is the Greek word for “beginnings.” Exodus is from the Greek word exodos, meaning a “going out.” Leviticus was so named because it refers largely to the work of the priests who were Levites. Numbers is the English equivalent of arithmoi, its name in the LXX. The book records two numberings of the people of Israel, one made at Sinai soon after they left Egypt, and the other in the plains of Moab before they crossed into Canaan. Deuteronomy is composed of two Greek words, deuteros (“second”) and nomos (“law”). The words meant that it was the second stating of the law of God for a generation that was not around when the law was first given to Moses at Sinai.2

Notes:

1. Carl F. H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), ch. 9.

2. Ralph Earle, How We Got Our Bible (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1971), p. 32.

(Adapted from The Book We Call the Bible by J. R. Ensey. To purchase your own copy and browse additional resources, go to www.advanceministries.org.)