Matthew R. Perry

Why Do Christians Hold to Such an Old Book? (Part II: Rooted in History, Not Mystery)

In Culture on September 26, 2007 at 1:19 pm

(You may listen to this sermon in its entirety by clicking here. This was preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on 23 September 2007.  You may also read the Introduction and Part I as well.)

One of the objections about the Scripture is that it is simply a collection of stories and myths that promote an agenda by those who wrote them. Not only that, but some question whether the Bible can be understood as it was originally intended at all. Some will say, “Yeah, the Bible was written in one language, but it’s gone through so many translations, there’s no way we can really know what it says.” Others will say, “The Bible has too many contradictions. You Christians just trust the Bible by faith — but you won’t deal with the problems the Bible has.”

What we want to show you now is what theologians call the perspicuity of the Bible. The Bible is clear, able to be understood. First of all, the Bible bends over backwards to use as roadmarkers actual events in history to give every story a context. For the most part, the events described in the Scriptures happened in real places with real people in real life situations. Look with me at Luke 2:1-4

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

In Luke 3:1-2:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, [2] during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Notice in these two instances the people, places, events, and timeframes. In fact, no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted anything in the Scriptures. It’s as if the Bible wants you to dig in and see its truth by going back and looking at these events and places. One writer said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself — men reject the Bible because it contradicts them.” With all the animosity against it, no one has ever been able to downplay that it’s historically accurate.

Why is this important? This helps us rely on the Scriptures even more. People who try to downplay the accuracy of the Scriptures are likely doing so because they cannot abide by the claims of Christ or the commands and precepts outlined by God. If the Bible is historically accurate, then there is a possibility in their eyes that it’s all accurate — the existence of God, his creation, our sinfulness, Christ’s death, burial and resurrection — and that He is coming back.

What about the translations? If I were to take a poll right now, I would guess that at least six different translations are used. We have pew Bibles on the back of the pews which are King James Version. I preach and many of you read out of the English Standard Version. Some have the New American Standard, the Holman Christian Standard, the New International Version, the New Century Version, the New King James Version — and so on and so forth. Skeptics look at us and say, “How can you know what the Bible says with all those translations?”

It’s a valid question. First of all, we are thankful that we have so many manuscripts from the original sources which help us know what the Apostles wrote for sure. In fact, we have over 6,000 manuscripts of the New Testament which were made very close to the timeframe of the originals. So when we translate the Bible, we are translating it from the original Greek and Hebrew sources.

But they say, “Why so many translations?” We will talk more about that tonight — but each publisher has a certain philosophy for translations. Some versions go about translating it word-for-word from the original languages. Other versions take the thoughts and ideas from that time and try to translate those ideas into modern ideas in the language and vernacular of the people. While some of these publishers understand that there is money to be made in this, others realize how important it is to have a reliable translation that represents what God’s authors wrote of his inspired word — not simply what is more readable to our day and has the prettiest packaging!

Do you see the Bible as a mystery? Do you see the Bible only as just a collection of spiritual words of comfort having nothing to do with real life now? I would say that if you feel that way, you may have never really read through the Scriptures and taken them on their own terms. Yes, the Bible brings comfort, but it also penetrates our lifestyles and mindsets to deal with us honestly and realistically.

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