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Considering the Authors, Recipients, and Distribution of Sacred Literature as Evidence of Inspiration

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Can a person quote the Bible to “prove” the Bible? While quoting the Bible to “prove” the Bible would typically be considered circular reasoning, I think it would be impossible to give evidence for the Bible’s inspiration without considering its content. As it turns out, there is much internal evidence for Stack of old booksinspiration within the pages of the Bible as we consider its authors, the original recipients, and its message. The Question of Bible Inspiration If people were to believe a book or a collection of books were from God, then we could reasonably expect the authors of such books to make the claim. The authors of the Bible, indeed, frequently claim to be speaking or writing the words of God. In fact, the words “says the Lord” are found 495 times in the New American Standard Bible. The apostle Paul wrote concerning the Old Covenant Scriptures, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16). So is the Bible the word of God? Well, it at least claims to God’s word. Christians stoutly affirm that the Bible is God’s word. Biblical inspiration seems to be the first principle of Christianity. Why? Because all faith and works for Christians are based upon the Bible. “Jesus loves me this I know…” How do you know it? “For the Bible tells me so.” The fact of the matter is you can’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible, if you don’t believe what the Bible says about Jesus. Every bit of our faith rest upon what we believe about the Bible. As Rene Pache wrote, “If the Scriptures are truly of God, clothed with His authority and put entirely within the reach of man, all revealed religion has a solid foundation on which to stand. If, on the other hand, inspiration is uncertain, partial, or varying according to the experience and opinion of the reader or the preacher, everything totters.” (The Inspiration & Authority of Scripture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 7. The authors of the Bible claim to speak and write the words of God. Christians believe these claims. But is it true? Is the Bible the inspired word of God? And, if so, how do we know it is God’s word? In order to answer these critical questions one cannot go to his or her feelings alone as evidence. People from scores of different religions have made truth claims based upon their feelings without objective evidence. Therefore, to discover if the Bible is the word of God, the Book and its history must be examined. The Eye Witness Accounts of Inspiration Parts of the Bible are written in the first person because the writers were witnesses of the things they wrote (e.g. I, we, our, us). Many of the writers of the Bible averred to be eyewitnesses of supernatural events. The apostle Peter confirmed, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18). The apostle John, likewise, emphasized firsthand experience, writing, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life…” (1 John 1:1, the “Word of life” being Jesus–-John 1:1, 14). The emphasis in these two verses go against the idea or claims of “hear say” or “legend”. These men claimed to be witnesses. Peter and John were not writing about things that they heard had happened, but were writing about things that they had seen, heard, and touched. They were first hand witnesses to the supernatural things that Jesus did: walking on water, calming the storm, raising from the dead, and ascending to heaven. Miraculous Confirmation Not only were they eyewitnesses to supernatural works, it is written in the Bible that they, too, performed supernatural works. Mark testifies about the apostles, “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed.” (Mark 16:20). The miracles that are recorded by the eyewitnesses were performed to confirm that they were speaking (or writing) the words of God. Hebrews 2:1-4 points out that the word of salvation was confirmed by those who were sent by Jesus, “God bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.” Signs, miracles and wonders accompanied their truth claims. Investigative Confirmation Luke, the physician (Col. 4:14) and noteworthy historian, wrote of the miracles that he had seen and heard through his thorough investigation. In his report to Theophilus , Luke wrote: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4). Apparently, Luke was not naïve or gullible in any way. He “investigated everything carefully” as did others in the New Testament (i.e. Thomas). He searched things out and spoke to eyewitnesses to confirm the truth. He researched the facts; he tested them for accuracy; and he wrote an orderly account. In Luke’s second report to Theophilus (Acts) he wrote of many of the things that he had seen himself. For example, in Acts 20:7-12, he wrote of Paul raising a young man named Eutychus from the dead after he had fallen from a windowsill. In Acts 28, Luke wrote about witnessing Paul being bitten by a viper and suffering no harm from the deadly venom. In the same chapter he witnessed Paul heal the father of Publius from “recurrent fever and dysentery” by praying and laying his hands on him. The eyewitness account of Luke seems to be credible. Men who had supernatural powers that only could have come from a higher power wrote the Bible. Eyewitnesses of the works of Jesus and the apostles wrote the Bible after receiving from them the spiritual gift of inspiration and prophecy. The apostle Peter later wrote regarding inspiration, “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 by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Is there a sufficient reason to doubt the Apostles and Prophets? The Recipients of Bible Books and Their Recognition of The Books The people and churches that received writings from the apostles or those whom worked with the apostles regarded their writings as inspired. This fact should not be overlooked when questioning inspiration. In Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonian Christians he wrote, “[W]e also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God…” (1 Thess 2:13) Paul also wrote to the churches of Galatia, “[T]he gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11-12) The Apostle Peter wrote to remind other Christians that they “should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:2) How would the Christians remember the words spoken by the apostles? By writing them down and keeping their writings for further study, which is exactly what happened with the compilation of the Bible. Why would some one write a letter to a group of people claiming to speak or write the word of God Money? Fame? Power? The apostles received none of these during their time. Instead they received persecution, poverty, and imprisonment. Paul wrote about his persecutions for the things he taught concerning Christ, “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). If money, fame, and power, were not his rewards, but instead persecution, hardships, and hunger, what could have been his motive? Here is an even better question: Why would a group of people, e.g. Romans, Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Ephesians, etc., keep a letter from a man claiming to be inspired unless they were convinced that he was writing the words of God? The answer is simple: they would not. The original recipients of the epistles and gospel accounts believed that these were the words of God. Something convinced them of this belief. There are not many people who would be so bold as to send a letter to a group of people claiming to speak or write the word of God unless he or she could back it up. And there are not many people who would see the need of keeping such a letter unless they were convinced that it was the word of God, which is the case with the writings of the Bible. As R. Laird Harris wrote, “The Early Church placed the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, in a class totally by itself because Christians were fully persuaded it was the truth of God.” (Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), 45. Christians living today can also be fully persuaded. It is also interesting to note that the writers of the Bible acknowledged the inspiration of other inspired works. For example: In 2 Peter 3:14-16, Peter puts Paul’s writings in the genre of “Scripture”, a word used to denote sacred writings. And in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul writes, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” The first Scripture that Paul cites is written in Deuteronomy 25:4, by Moses. The second Scripture that Paul cites is found in the New Testament in the book of Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7. Thus Paul recognized Matthew and Luke’s writing as Scripture, inspired writing. Which means early Christians already had a group of New Testament writings, Scripture, considered inspired of God while the New Testament was still being written! The Distribution of Sacred Writings The congregations not only recognized the letters that they received from apostles as inspired, but they also recognized the letters that other congregations received from apostles as inspired. The churches would often exchange letters and books with one another: Paul told the church at Colossae in Colossians 4:16, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” Paul also wrote a circular letter that was to be shared among the churches of Galatia. (1:2). Galatia was a region with many congregations. The book of Revelation was written to the seven churches that are in Asia (Rev. 1:4). An epistle written by an apostle to one congregation was just as authoritative and binding to other congregations. Why would the churches share these writings unless they were convinced and regarded them as the word of God? Clearly, during the first century, during the time while the apostles were still living, the church was beginning to recognize certain documents as inspired. But what books were considered inspired and why? The Canon The books that were considered inspired would make up what is called the canon of the New Testament. According to The New Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the canon of the Scriptures means, “the collection of books which form the original and authoritative written rule of the faith and practice of the church. The word ‘canon’ is properly a reed or straight rod for measuring and later ‘rule,’ as in the ‘rule of the church’ or ‘of truth.’” In establishing the canon of the New Testament the church did not declare the books to be inspired or cause them to be inspired; the churches recognized what was already true and accepted by early congregations. For example, if I say that the USA flag is red, white, and blue, I have only stated what is already accepted as being true. In his book Christianity Through the Centuries, A History of the Christian Church, Earle E. Cairns wrote, “[T]he various church councils that pronounced upon the subject of the canon of the New Testament were merely stating publicly…what had been widely accepted by the consciousness of the church for some time.” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 118. In order to make the canon of the New Testament, it looks like each book would have to pass a series of questions (Test of Canonicity). First of all: Authorship. Did an apostle or some one who was a close affiliate with one write the book? Apostles wrote twenty-one of the books of the New Testament (Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter). The rest were written by close affiliates of the apostles: Luke with Paul, Mark with Peter, James was the brother of Jesus and was closely affiliated with the apostles (Acts 15:13-22), and Jude, the brother of Jesus and James (Jude 1) . Although the author of the book of Hebrews is uncertain, many believe that Paul or Luke could have written it, and it has a long history of being regarded as an inspired book. The second test of inspiration: Acceptance. Has the book been accepted by the churches in the past as an inspired writing? If there was any doubt to this question the writing was ruled out of the canon. Finally: Consistency. Was it consistent with the rest of the inspired writings and teachings? If the book being considered could answer affirmatively to these questions, then it was accepted into the canon. If not, then it was rejected as an inspired work. The books that are in the New Testament of today have been considered inspired since the day they were written. Christians can have confidence in this fact. When was the Canon of the New Testament Recognized by the Church? There is some debate over the above question. The church does not seem to have had an “official day” when they made it known what books were considered inspired and which ones were not. Some time between 340-400 A.D. in a document called Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, some one claiming to be Clement of Rome (who lived parallel with the apostles) wrote, “Let the following books be esteemed venerable and holy by you, both of the clergy and laity…[O.T.]…But our sacred books, that is, those of the New Covenant, are these: the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; two Epistles of Clement; and the Constitutions dedicated to you the bishops by me Clement, in eight books; which it is not fit to publish before all, because of the mysteries contained in them; and the Acts of us the Apostles.” Obviously some of the books in this list were rejected; they didn’t pass the test. In the last half of the second century there was a list of books written by Caius, presbyter of Rome, sometime between 180-217 A.D. It is called the Muratorian Fragment. Neil Lightfoot wrote concerning this document, “Its name is derived from L.A. Muratori, who first discovered the list and published it in the eighteenth century.” (How We Got the Bible, 2nd. Ed. [Grand Rapids: Bakers Book House], 109). In this fragment the following books are mentioned and legible: Luke (which is referred to as “The third book of the Gospel”), John, Acts of all the Apostles, Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, the Apocalypse, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy, Jude, and two epistles to John. A few other books are mentioned that did not pass the test of canonization, but the fact that these New Testament books are listed here shows that the Bible had already been compiled by the churches by the second half of the second century. Remember that they didn’t have a printing press, post office, or phone like we do today, so the process of acceptance would be a slow, gradual one. As early as 367 A.D., a man by the name of Athanasius, who was the bishop of Alexandria, also listed as canonical the same twenty-seven books that we now have in the New Testament. Since that time it has been almost undisputed among the churches of Christ as to which books belong in the present canon. Conclusion As we look over the historical evidence of the inspiration of the New Testament, we cannot help but be impressed by the evidence in favor of the New Testament. The authors of the books of the Bible did not have any ulterior motives and nothing to gain from their testimony for God. Their words were often confirmed by miracles, which they performed before many witnesses who also went out and told others about the word and works of the apostles and prophets. These words and works were written down by the apostles and prophets and have been circulating among the churches of Christ since the day the letters were written. Eventually, the sacred writings were combined together to make up the books of the New Testament. Christians can be confident that the Bibles that they own and read and live by are the same writings that were being written and read by the disciples in the first and second century. Don’t let the fanciful speculations of bored men seeking fame and fortunes undermine your faith. Trust the written Word of God. “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Works Cited “Apostolic Constitutions,” Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved Cairns, Earle E., Christianity Through the Centuries, A History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981). Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992). Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition 1994. Gardner, Lynn, Christianity Stands True, A Common Sense Look At the Evidence (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1994) Geisler, Norman L., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999). Harris, R. Laird, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957). House, H. Wayne, Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981). Keener, Craig S., The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993). Lemmons, Reuel G., The New Smith’s Bible Dictionary, 1966 ed., (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.). Pache, Rene. The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969). Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 5, Fragments of Caius (Grand Rapids: W.M.B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company). Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 7. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. (Grand Rapids: W.M.B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company). Roper, Coy. Notes on the New Testament (Florence, AL: Heritage Christian University). Walton, Robert C., Chronological and Background Charts of Church History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986).

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1 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "My previous comment is not meant to deride the New Testament, it is merely an explanation that when we say that something has an "eyewitness account", unless we know the eyewitness, the testimony would not be acceptable for use. If someone is being convicted of a criminal charge, we can't say that "Johnny" saw the crime and then not know who Johnny was. Johnny needs to be a person who is recognizable to the people who are prosecuting the case. So too, with respect to proof of God, we can not take someone's word for it written 2,000 years ago and then claim they are eyewitness accounts. They may be, but they also may not be. Faith is something that we choose to believe for personal reasons, not because we have absolute proof as no religious belief in existence can ever stand up to that level of scrutiny."
2 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "The New Testament proclaims that those not of God can Prophecy and perform miracles: Matthew 7:22 - Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’Miracles and wonders were commonplace in ancient Egypt. The scriptures records numerous places where evil men performed signs and wonders in an effort to prove they were more powerful than God. If miracles were the test of "truth", then we have groups today which can perform witchcraft and magic which is a much more powerful sign than what any Church or Synagogue can perform today. This, at least in my mind, is not a powerful statement of why to believe in the New Testament."
3 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "Marshall Applewhite convinced a hundred people to murder themselves in a suicide pact based on a claim that aliens told him to do that. David Koresh claimed that he was a prophet and the Messiah and convinced 75 men, women and children to hole themselves up in Waco Texas only to be murdered after a 51 day standoff.Sun Myung Moon, claimed that Jesus cam to him at 16 and asked him to finish the work he started by creating the Unification Church. Today the church has hundreds of thousands of members all believing in the testimony of Sun Myung Moon.L. Ron Hubbard created a new religion based on aliens and spaceships... you may have heard of it. The Church of Scientology now boasts 15 million members worldwide. This belief has spread much faster in a decade than Christianity had over the first few hundred years.There are dozens and dozens of examples all throughout history of people who made these claims and backed it up in letters to groups of people. Again, the "inspired" claims of New Testament are not new, nor are they unique.Belief is based on faith, not proof."