Dec 052012

Interpret bibleSo far in this series we have looked at the reliability of the Bible, how it was put together, its authority, how sufficient it is for our lives and whether we can trust it or not. This week we turn our attention to how to interpret it. Understanding the Bible can be very confusing and can leave you in a muddle, especially with so many and varied views readily available simply by visiting the internet.

Here are 3 very good reasons why we have trouble interpreting scripture:

(1) We are living thousands of years after it was written.

(2) We live in a dramatically different culture.

(3) The Bible was written in different languages to our own.

But that doesn’t mean we should neglect trying to understand it as best as we can. The Bible itself says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”. (2 Timothy 2:15).

The study of interpreting the Bible is called ‘Hermeneutics’ and I would like to outline a number of principals that we should think about whenever we read our bibles, especially if we struggle to understand certain sections.

The Principles of Biblical Interpretation

These principles are embedded in the Bible itself. We do not need to go beyond the boundaries of the Bible to discover these principals; it is God’s wisdom after all and we must allow the bible to interpret itself.

Principle #1: Read it literally

We take the Bible at face value. We generally take everyday things in life as literal or at face value. This is a common sense approach. The golden rule of interpretation is “when the plain sense of the scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” Therefore, take every word at its primary, usual, meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.

Principle #2: Read it in context

Too many people take a favourite bible verse and use it out of context. We must look and consider the verses immediately before, after, and around the passage. We must consider the book of the Bible and the section of the Bible in which the passage occurs.

Principle #3:  Scripture Interprets Scripture

All essential doctrines are fully and clearly explained – either in the immediate context, or somewhere else in the Bible. You need to keep two essential ‘rules’ for applying this principle:

1)  The context of the two passages must be the same.

2) The plain passage must be used to guide our interpretation of a less clear passage – not the other way around!

Principle #4: Progressive revelation

Even though not all of the books in the bible are in the order they were written in, God has gradually unfolded His plans and purposes from the Old Testament to the New. He did not reveal them all at once and so the people of the Old Testament lived under a much different revelation from that which we have today. We must take this into account when applying God’s word to our lives.

Principle #5: We cannot understand an infinite God

God’s ways are so much higher than our ways; we need to understand this when reading the Bible. It is God the infinite communicating with man the finite. God is like a parent explaining things to a small child in ways that it can understand. For this reason we need to be careful when taking passages that describe God, especially ones which say that He has wings or other bodily parts. He is revealing to us truths in ways that we can understand but not necessarily expecting us to take them literally.

Principle #6: The Bible is in harmony

No part of the Bible should be interpreted so as to contradict another part of itself. We start reading and studying with the understanding that the bible is perfect and inerrant because it is God himself revealing to us His ways and His plan for salvation. Proper application of hermeneutical principles will resolve apparent conflicts.

Principle #7: Different styles (Genres)

The different books of the Bible were written in quite different styles. Some are historical books, some are poetry and wise sayings; some were for teaching and the application of doctrine and some, like Revelation, were written in a style that is not even used today called apocalyptic. And some were written in a combination of these styles. To interpret the Bible we need to take these different literary forms into consideration. Given they were written in different languages as well, the study of word meanings, grammar, and syntax of the original languages is important for a proper understanding of scripture.

Principle #8:  Historical background

The Bible was written in specific cultures at particular points in time.  While they are universal in application, the truths in the Bible can most fully be realised only when taking the surrounding culture and history into account.


To study the Bible properly doesn’t mean you have to study ancient Hebrew or Greek or have a detailed knowledge of ancient history and geography. A decent study bible will really help. I personally use the ESV study bible along with a few commentaries, in particular those written by Berkhoff, Grudem and Ryrie (although I don’t agree with everything in them by any stretch!!). There are a number of other tools available such as lexicons and bible dictionaries, but don’t get bogged down in these. All you need to do is read the bible, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and with a prayerful attitude hold the above principles in your mind. You will not fail to grow in your knowledge of God.

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

 December 5, 2012  Posted by at 11:40 pm Bible No Responses »
Nov 282012

bible contradictionsIt is important that we stand firm on the whole bible as the inspired, breathed out ‘Word of God’, that it is perfect and without error. If we start to doubt any part of it, however small, it will start to erode our confidence in the rest of it. It would be like a tiny chip in a car windscreen that can hardly be seen, but if left untreated grows until the whole windscreen smashes the moment you hit a bump in the road.

Bible Difficulties and Apparent Contradictions

Bible difficulties, or apparent bible contradictions, do exist. The opponents of Christianity often use them in their attempts to discredit Christianity. Sometimes these attacks undermine the faith of Christians who either don’t understand the issues or don’t have the resources to deal with them. If somebody states that the bible is full of contradictions, when pressed they can rarely name any! You can be sure that bible difficulties have certainly not been overlooked. There are whole books given over to attempting to explain these difficulties and there is a reasonable explanation for all of them.

Opponents of Christianity will cite what they consider a bible contradiction or difficulty by comparing one verse to another (or more) as they appear to disagree with each other. In doing so, several verses are often referenced as being contradictory or problematic. To overcome these apparent contradictions it is important to study these verses through a decent translation, look at the conflict and then if still not fully resolved, go to the original Hebrew and Greek and see if the words (and meaning) have been translated correctly. A decent study bible will list any apparent anomalies with a satisfactory answer. I have compiled a few apparent contradictions below and a possible answer to each one. These have mostly been gathered from an excellent site called which has a much fuller answer if you want to delve deeper.

Has anyone seen God or not?

The following verses suggest people have seen God:

Has seen

“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1)

See also: Genesis 18:1, Exodus 6:2-3, Exodus 24:9-11, Numbers 12:6-8, Acts 7:2

Has not seen

“But He [God] said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Exodus 33:20)

See also; John 1:18, John 5:37, John 6:46, 1 Timothy 6:15-16,

It is evident above that God was seen. But, considering the “can’t see God” verses, some would understandably argue that there would be a contradiction. One explanation offered is that the people were seeing visions or dreams; however the problem with this is that the verses cited above state that people saw God, and that He appeared as God Almighty (Exodus 6:2-3).

At first this is difficult to understand. If these verses mean what they say, then we naturally assume we have a contradiction. Actually, the contradiction exists in our understanding, not in the bible (which is always the case with alleged biblical contradictions).

The solution is simple: All you need to do is accept what the bible says. If the people of the Old Testament were seeing God, the Almighty God, and Jesus said that no one has ever seen the Father (John 6:46), then they were seeing God Almighty, but not the Father. It was someone else in the Godhead. I would suggest that they were seeing the Word before He became incarnate. In other words, they were seeing Jesus.

If God is a Trinity, then John 1:18 is not a problem either because in John chapter one, John writes about the Word (Jesus) and God (the Father). In verse 14 it says the Word became flesh. In verse 18 it says no one has seen God. Since Jesus is the Word, God then, refers to the Father. This is typically how John writes of God: as a reference to the Father. We see this verified in Jesus own words in John 6:46 (above). Therefore, Almighty God was seen, but not the Father. It was Jesus before His incarnation. There is more than one person in the Godhead and the doctrine of the Trinity must be true.

Why are there different genealogies for Jesus in Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23 ?

Both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 contain genealogies of Jesus. But there is one problem–they are different. However, there is no discrepancy because one genealogy is for Mary and the other is for Joseph. It was customary to mention the genealogy through the father even though it was clearly known that in this instance it was through Mary. Breaking up genealogies into male and female representations was acceptable in the ancient Near East culture since it was often impolite to speak of women without proper conditions being met: male presence, etc. Therefore, one genealogy is of Mary and the other of Joseph–even though both mention Joseph. In other words, the Mary genealogy was counted “in” Joseph and under his headship.

It is absurd to think that the early Christians were unaware of this very obvious difference. They knew the cultural context and had no problem with it, understanding that one was of Joseph and the other of Mary.

A fuller explanation can be found in the CARM link above.

The Mustard Seed
Modern critics will take the example of Jesus teaching on the mustard seed in Mark 4 as a factual error in the bible. Here are the verses:

“Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

Critics are very quick to point out the mustard seed is NOT the smallest seed on earth. In fact, there are many seeds that are smaller than a mustard seed. So how can Jesus, Lord and God over all, not know this?

Do we have a problem here? No!! It’s important to read the text carefully. Jesus is talking to a group of people who were living in an agricultural society. His listeners were farmers! He doesn’t say that the mustard seed is the smallest seed on earth. He says that the mustard seed “is the smallest seed YOU plant in the ground”. He is referring directly to the seeds that they were using in their day to plant their gardens: “it grows and becomes the largest of all GARDEN PLANTS…”

How did Judas die?
Let’s look at one more example of an apparent contradiction between the gospel accounts. Matthew records the way that Judas killed himself following his betrayal of Jesus:
“So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5)

This account seems to contradict Luke’s description in the Book of Acts:

“With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” (Acts 1:18-19)

Now if these accounts are taken very strictly, there does appear to be a contradiction. Did Judas give back the money or spend it to buy a field? Did Judas hang himself or did he fall to his death? Well, remember that whenever you see two ‘competing’ versions of an event, you need to ask yourself, “Am I reading two different perspectives of the same event? Is it possible that BOTH accounts are accurate and each eyewitness is only recording the part of the event that was of particular interest to him or helps him to make a specific point about the event?” When you apply this approach to the story of Judas, the differences fade away. First, you need to spend a minute doing a little research into the gospel of Matthew. The very next verse gives us a little more information:

“The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.” (Matthew 27:6-8)

Now things are becoming a little clearer for us. Put the two eyewitness accounts together and see what they say. Judas threw the money into the temple and left. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. Judas later went away and hanged himself in this very field that was purchased with HIS money. After he was dead, his body eventually fell from the noose and there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. There is no contradiction or error here. When you have two separate accounts of the same event, remember that just because one eyewitness only records a portion, it does not mean the writer is not aware of the other part!

The bible stands alone as a book that has stood the test of time and is still changing lives today. Next time I hope to cover how we interpret the bible and apply it to our lives.

 November 28, 2012  Posted by at 10:18 pm Bible 1 Response »
Nov 232012

InnerantYou can’t trust the bible though, can you? Isn’t it full of contradictions?

This is a very common argument put forward by sceptics of the Christian faith. If it is true that the bible contains contradictions, then how can we trust it to be God’s authoritative word?

Many people have a vested interest in not believing the bible as God’s inspired word; if it is, they are in trouble!

This is a very important subject and one that needs careful analysis and understanding.

I agree that there are many difficulties with the bible, however I don’t believe there are any contradictions. Personally I find some comfort in these difficulties. I would find it hard to believe a book written thousands of years ago by different writers over hundreds of years if it were too ‘clinical’. Something wouldn’t be right. If a number of different witness statements are identical, there would be a high probability of “evidence doctoring”. The bible is ‘messy’ and I find that strangely comforting. I am also aware that it was written by people of a completely different culture and mindset to us in our present day modern civilisation, who have a very different value system.

So using the example of a crime scene, let’s examine the evidence:

We start with the understanding that the bible is only claimed to be perfect in its original form as we don’t have the original documents. Even though these documents were painstakingly copied, over the centuries there have appeared a few copyist errors. Amazingly though it is still understood to be over 98% pure and the only discrepancies are minor mistakes (nothing that would alter doctrine).

Other things we need to be aware of are:

The bible was not written by writers who sat with a pen and paper while God dictated to them verbatim. They had their own distinctive styles, characteristics and perspectives and God wonderfully guided and inspired them.

The bible can be inerrant and still allow the following features:

  • Approximations. Was the feeding of the five thousand exactly that number? Could there have been 4,999? The writer was not intending to be precise, therefore an approximation like this would still be truthful. The same applies to measurements where distances are not given precisely.
  • Everyday Speech. The bible was not written as a scientific textbook so phrases such as ‘the setting of the sun’, while not being factually accurate, are perfectly understood. Scientists who are fully aware that the earth travels around the sun still use this phrase today.
  • Loose Quotations. In our culture we have a tendency to quote people exactly, whereas for many cultures in bible times it was only necessary to convey a correct representation of what a person said, rather than their exact words.
  • Different (but not contradictory) accounts of the same event. We only have to take a look at the different accounts in the gospels to see that people saw events in different ways. This does not make them incorrect (just as long as they are not contradictory).

Inerrancy allows for these features and others such as; vague and imprecise statements, unusual grammar, popular expressions and the repetition of untruths for the purpose of correcting them (phrases such as “There is no God” in the Psalms).

God has ‘breathed out’ scripture through human authorship and we should not accept human error as inevitable. Jesus was human and yet was without sin. The bible in the same way was written by humans guided by God to write His perfect words.

“When anyone looked at Jesus they saw a man.  He did not glow or have a halo around him.  He looked like an ordinary human being.  But in the transfiguration, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus in his divine glory.  In his mighty resurrection he also manifested his divinity.  In the same way, the Scriptures look like ordinary writings, no different from any other.  But they are more–as Jesus himself was more than a mere man.  As Jesus, the Living Word, is both divine and human, the Scriptures, the Written Word, are both divine and human.  Human beings were the agents of God’s Word.  But behind the human agents is God himself.  The Word is God-breathed, with the same breath that God gave life to Adam in Genesis 2.7.  His breath is life itself.” (Don Samdahl).

This is an important subject therefore I am not going to rush through it. Next week I will continue with some examples of apparent contradictions and show you how they can be interpreted and understood. In fact if you know of any such apparent contradictions that have troubled you, please feel free to put them in the comments section below and I will investigate them for you.

 November 23, 2012  Posted by at 7:40 am Bible No Responses »
Nov 152012

sufficiencyIn my last blog we looked at the authority of scripture and how God’s word directs us in regard to how we should lead our lives. Even though the bible is a large book it obviously doesn’t cover in detail every situation or challenge that life throws our way. This then begs the question “is the bible sufficient for us?”. Is the bible in itself enough, or are there other books, experiences or revelations that are necessary for us to understand what God’s will is for our lives?

If we are to consider this question logically and consistently we would have to answer “yes”. If God is consistent in His desire to communicate with us, to reveal what he is like and to ensure that the words of scripture are protected even through fierce opposition, then we have to believe that the bible contains everything He wants to say to us; that it is sufficient to lead us successfully through life and to experience His wonderful salvation.

We would also have to conclude that the Israelites at the time of Moses and just after, had all that they needed with the Pentateuch (first five books of the bible), but that we at our time in history need the full canon of scripture, as has been revealed by God through his plan for salvation. I will quote Wayne Grudem again from his excellent Systematic Theology:

“The sufficiency of scripture means that scripture contained all the words God has intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.” (Wayne Grudem).

It is clear from the bible that no subsequent revelation should be added to it and that nothing should be taken away from it either:

“Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.  Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19).

There are many ways that God can guide us outside of scripture, for example through prophecy, through our church leaders and by the counsel of godly people, but whatever is said should always be tested against scripture and must never contradict it.

Other thoughts to consider when looking at the sufficiency of scripture are:

· Nothing is sin that is not forbidden by scripture either explicitly or by implication.

· Nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in scripture either explicitly or by implication.

· In our doctrinal and ethical teaching we should emphasise what the bible emphasises and be content with what God has told us in scripture.

· God does not require us to believe anything about Himself or His plan of salvation that is not included in scripture.

The bible itself promises many good things for those who read it and obey it. I would recommend reading and meditating on the following passages:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:13)

As we read and meditate on the bible, God works in us. As we read it and as the Holy Spirit breathes upon it we are changed; our love for God grows, our desire to follow and become more like Jesus increases and our motives change. It truly is a life transforming book!

 November 15, 2012  Posted by at 6:21 pm Bible No Responses »
Nov 082012

bible authorityLast week we looked at the canon of scripture and how the various books came to be included in the whole canon. Now the books are there, we will look at the whole subject of ‘authority’. One of the dictionary definitions of authority is “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behaviour”. (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

In his excellent Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem makes a very strong point about the authority of scripture with implications about the seriousness of ignoring what it says:

The authority of scripture means that all the words in scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God”. (Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology pg 73)

So how do we know that the bible is God’s word?

Scripture claims it for itself

The phrase “thus says the Lord” and “the word of the LORD came saying”, along with other similar expressions, appear more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament alone. This is not to say that every word in the bible is God speaking, but rather that God allowed all the words to be included.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. (2 Timothy 3:16)

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”. (2 Peter 1:21)

While Moses was the bringer of the law, God was its author according to scripture. In fact the scriptures declare that God wrote on the tablets of stone himself:

When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

The fulfilment of prophecy

Throughout the pages of the bible, various events are predicted many years and sometimes centuries before. When these are fulfilled (many times with astonishing accuracy) it adds validity to the bibles’ claims. In fact God prizes prophetic fulfilment so highly he challenges unbelievers on four separate occasions in the book of Isaiah to match prophetic fulfilment:

Present your case,” says the Lord. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable.” (Isaiah 41:21-24)

I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Isaiah 42:8-9)

This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:6-8)

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)

As Christians we are convinced by reading the bible

The Holy Spirit confirms in our spirits that the words we are reading are God inspired. I have had many instances where the words seem to jump out of the page and I know that God is speaking to me.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

Jesus spoke about this as well, in John 10:27 it says:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.


The bible is historically accurate, internally consistent, contains prophecies that were fulfilled hundreds of years after being proclaimed. The bible has continued to radically transform lives throughout history and shows no signs of stopping.

We know that scripture is true because God cannot lie and so His words can be trusted.

“.. in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”. (Titus 1:2)

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.” (Hebrews 6:17-18)

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19)

Therefore we can trust scripture.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The word ‘truth’ here is a noun. Not simply that it is ‘true’, but it is ‘the truth’.

God has created for us His book, the bible, because it is His words and His message. It carries the same weight as if God was speaking to us personally. So the next time you pick up your bible, read it expecting the author to speak to you and communicate His will. Read it with faith.

 November 8, 2012  Posted by at 8:23 pm Bible No Responses »
Nov 012012

books-oldWhere did we get all the books that make up our bible from? And out of all the ancient writings, how did they decide which ones to include and which ones to leave out? And who are ‘they’ anyway?

I’m glad you ask these questions; they are very important when we consider how much we can trust that the canon we now have really is God’s word.

The word Canon is from the English word ‘cane’ or ‘reed’. The reed was used as a measuring rod and the word means ‘standard’. When applied to scripture it means “an officially accepted list of books”.

The New Testament Canon

I’ll start with the New Testament due to the fact that there was a lot more debate about this. For a book to be included in the canon it would need to pass certain considerations:

· Apostolic origin – was it written by the first Apostles or someone closely associated with them

· Was it authoritative – e.g. “thus saith the Lord”

· Was it prophetic – written by a ‘man of God’

· Was it dynamic – clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit in that it changed lives

· Was it received, collected, read and used

· Did it have universal acceptance by the Church body at large (Eastern and Western traditions)

· Was its message and doctrine consistent with the other books (not contradictory)

The early church did not create the canon, it simply recognised the books that were inspired from their inception. They were inspired by God when written.

When at last a church council – The synod of Hippo in AD 393 listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity” (FF Bruce)

There were 3 main reasons why a New Testament Canon was established:

1. A leading heretic by the name of Marcion (AD140) had his own ideas and the church needed to determine what the true canon was in order to counteract his teaching.

2. The Eastern churches especially were including unrecognised (dodgy) books.

3. The Edict of the Roman emperor Diocletian (AD 303) ordered all books to be burned. The early Christian Martyrs would not be prepared to die to protect nothing more than just a religious book.

The New Testament has 4 main divisions:

  1. Gospels – Matthew to John
  2. History – Acts
  3. Epistles (letters) – Romans to Jude
  4. Prophetic – Revelation

These gospels and letters were either written or authorised by the Apostles.

Even though the events were not necessarily written down at the time, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would inspire and remind the Apostles of what needed to be written.

But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:13-14)

The Apostles were also aware that they and others were writing scripture:

He (Paul) writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3: 16)

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.””(1 Timothy 5:17-18)

The quote about not muzzling the ox is from Deuteronomy 25:4 in the Old Testament; the quote that follows it about the worker deserving his wages is from Luke 10:7. Both are referred to as scripture.

The Old Testament Canon

Compared to the New Testament, there was very little controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognised God’s messengers and accepted their writings as inspired of God. The Jewish Old Testament Canon is the same as ours but just set out in a different way. The Jews didn’t split their books (e.g. 1 & 2 Kings) and they counted the minor prophets as one book.

The Law (Torah)

The Prophets (Nebhiim)

The Writings (Kethubhim)

Genesis a. Former prophets a. Poetical books
Exodus Joshua Psalms
Leviticus Judges Proverbs
Numbers Samuel Job
Deuteronomy Kings b. Five Rolls (Megilloth)
b. Latter prophets Song of Songs
Isaiah Ruth
Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Esther
The twelve Ecclesiastes
c. Historical books

Jesus himself in the New Testament fully accepted the canon of the Old Testament. And In the following passage he even acknowledges the 3 sub-divisions:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” “(Luke 24:44)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

There are many quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament.


There can now be no more possibility of any further books being added to the bible. The final chapter in the last book of the New Testament, written by one of the last Apostles, says:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

We can be sure that we now have the full canon of scripture, the words of God, based on His faithfulness. It is entirely within God’s nature as a loving Father to give us exactly what we need; He would not hold anything back from us:

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

 November 1, 2012  Posted by at 11:24 pm Bible No Responses »
Oct 252012

bible-scroll-logo_thumbLast week I said how the bible was ‘God’s book’ and how by reading it we can get to know God’s opinions on a wide variety of subjects and also discover His will for our lives. But how can we be sure we can trust it, especially with life’s biggest decisions? How accurate and trustworthy is the bible we hold in our hands?

We can be confident in the bible because of the various tests it is subjected to, alongside all other ancient manuscripts.

Test 1 – How many manuscript copies are there?

Important ancient texts are copied many times. The more copies there are, the more confident we can be that they are almost identical to the original. The bible (especially the New Testament) has an unprecedented amount of copies, which have been found in numerous occasions at different times and in different languages. These can all be compared with each other.

We can see in the table below a comparison between some of the other ancient manuscripts and the New Testament. The results speak for themselves


When Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span

No. of Copies

Homer (Iliad)

900 BC

400 BC

500 years


Ceasar (The Gallic Wars)

100 – 44 BC

900 AD

1,000 years


Plato (Tetralogies)

427 – 347 BC

900 AD

1,200 years



384 – 322 BC

1,100 AD

1,400 years


Herodotus (History)

480 – 425 BC

900 AD

1,300 years



480 – 406 BC

1,100 AD

1,500 years


New Testament

50 – 90 A.D.

130 AD

30 years



You must also bear in mind the meticulous detail the Jewish scribes went to in copying these manuscripts. They would check and double check, counting the words and letters forwards as well as backwards. If even the smallest error was found the whole thing would be destroyed and they would start again.

You will also note in the table above the short time span between when the original was written and the earliest copy discovered. This too is very important.

Test 2 – The Internal test

What does the bible claim about itself? Many of the books are historical documents of actual events. The books are also written by eye-witnesses who witnessed the amazing events themselves. Have a look at these verses; John 19:35, 1 John1:1-3, 2 Peter 1:16, Acts 2:22 and 1 Peter 5:1

Even though the bible is a collection of different books, many of the authors quote or refer to the other books within the canon of scripture. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter refers to Paul’s writings as ‘scripture’ and one of my favourite verses is 2 Timothy 3:16 which is a bold quote indeed.

Test 3 – The external test

What Does Outside Evidence Say About the Bible?

Because the Bible is a collection of documents written within history, it contains references to history which can be verified by archaeology. It is interesting that before the 20th century, many critics of the Bible discredited it, due to lack of evidence for certain biblical claims. Yet, in the 20th century, many archaeological discoveries have shown that indeed the bible was correct after all. Archaeology cannot prove the Bible, but every new find gives more weight to the historical accuracy of the Bible.

The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus made specific references to John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and James in his ‘Antiquities of the Jews’. In this work, Josephus gives us many background details about the Herods, the Sadducees and Pharisees, the high priests like Annas and Caiaphas, and the Roman emperors mentioned in the gospels and Acts. There are many other mentions besides his that are ‘outside’ the Christian faith.

Many people have tried to discredit the bible over the centuries but it has stood the test of time, even scholars who have set out to disprove the bible and cast doubt on it simply do not have enough evidence. They desperately want it to fail, because if it does, they don’t have to face up to the truth about what it says. We can be confident that we have God’s word. He won’t let the truth die, he has a vested interest in all mankind knowing the truth so that we can be set-free and get to know Him as He first intended. He wants us to read the ‘makers instructions’ and not be so proud that we can work it out for ourselves.

Until next time – keep reading!!

“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.” (C.H Spurgeon)

 “Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed… Let it not only inform you, but inflame you.” (Thomas Watson)

 October 25, 2012  Posted by at 11:41 pm Bible No Responses »
Oct 192012

OpenBibleI love the bible. If you look through any of my blog posts, you will more than likely find that I have quoted many verses from the bible to support what I am saying.

The bible is such a precious book to me, it has shaped my life and influenced just about every decision I have ever made because it contains such wisdom. I am not the only one. As a Christian I believe the bible to be set apart from every other book that has been written because it claims to be directly inspired by God Himself. It is the makers’ manual. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read; “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”, literally breathed out by God. Isn’t that amazing?

I thought I would start a new blog series on ‘God’s book’ looking at how it was put together, addressing some of the controversies and even looking at the differences between the various versions.

Bible facts

The bible has been read by more people and published and translated into more languages than any other book. It is a collection of 66 books compiled into two ‘testaments’ (meaning covenants); the Old and the New. The Old Testament has 39 books and the New Testament has 27.

Some other facts about the Bible:

· The Bible was written over a 1600 year span.

· It was written by over 40 authors from a wide variety of backgrounds including fishermen, herdsmen, doctors and kings.

· The various books were written on 3 continents; Asia, Africa and Europe.

· It was written in 3 languages; Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

· The first translation of the English Bible was initiated by John Wycliffe and completed by John Purvey in A.D. 1388.

· The Bible was divided into chapters by Stephen Langton in around A.D. 1228.

· The Old Testament was divided into verses by R. Nathan in A.D. 1448 and the New Testament by Robert Stephanus in A.D. 1551.

The bible is unique in the following:

Teachings Its claims as the inspired Word of God.

Prophecy An astonishing 668 prophecies have been fulfilled (some given centuries before) and none have ever been proven false (three are as yet unconfirmed). No other world religion can make this claim. An honest study of biblical prophecy will compellingly show the divine authorship of the Bible.

History Covers 1600 years of ancient history.

Personalities It is unique in that it doesn’t gloss over peoples’ failings – even the writers themselves can be seen “warts and all”. (e.g. David & Bathsheba).

Influence on surrounding literature

Survival Roman emperors and political systems such as communism have sought to destroy it completely, without success. It has been criticised heavily throughout history but has stood the test of time. If this book had not been ‘The book of God’ men would have destroyed it long ago.

I hope to cover quite a bit in the next few weeks but if you have anything specific you would like me to cover, drop me a line or leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it. I will also post links to some good bible study plans which will help you read the bible systematically.

 October 19, 2012  Posted by at 4:44 pm Bible No Responses »