YGOD #4: People of the Book, Part II

YGOD #4
People of the Book, Part II
Self-Evident Proof:   What the Bible says about itself.
Fr. Phil Eberhart
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Hebrews 4:12    "The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing down to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart."


A HOLY BOOK

The Bible is a special book; we've established that from the external evidence in our last lesson.  But there is also internal evidence, internal to the scriptures themselves and internal to us as believers.  One writer described the Bible as "an anvil that has worn out many hammers!"
It has always had opposition; we are not living in a time that is unique.  It is not about to become obsolete or "out-of-touch" with modern society and sophistication!  It is still the most relevant and up-to-date book there ever was, or ever will be.  It is a Holy Book and as such it commands our utmost attention.

The two words that are translated "word" most of the time in the Bible are "TORAH" and "LOGOS."  In the New Testament there is another word, "RHEMA" that can be translated word, but speaks to us of an applied and immediate spoken word, usually to a specific situation (Eph 6:17 this is the word used to describe the "word" which is the "sword of the Spirit.")  It is translated "word" 56 times in the New Testament, whereas LOGOS is translated "word" over 200 times! Jesus warning to Peter of his own denial of Jesus, is referred to as a "rhema" word.


THE LAW OF GOD

The word "torah" [tow-rah] designates the first five books of the Old Testament and is most often translated "law".  Other words used are "ordinances" or "statutes."  They are the legal representation of what a covenant-keeping God commands and expects of His people.  One of the best places to find wisdom about the "law" is in the Psalms.  Of note the very first Psalm:  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the wicked, or sit in the seat of scoffers;  His delight is in the LAW of the Lord and in that LAW he meditates day and night!"

Another Psalm of note is Psalm 19, which uses the several words that pertain to the Bible and outline what its power and use is in our lives.  

     "The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: 
          the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple."
     "The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: 
          the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes."
      "The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: 
          the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether."
       "More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: 
           sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."
       "Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them 
           [there is] great reward."
                                                          (Psalm 19:7-11)

And finally, the Psalm of the Word is Psalm 119, with over 30 uses of the word "law" and 30+ of the word "WORD" [Heb: "dabar"]  which make clear promises about what the application of the "word" or "law" will do in one's life:  cleansing; strength; hope; answers for reproach; restraint from evil; a lamp; a light; quickening; shield; and on and on.  The word dabar is used 
800 times in the Old Testament, many of which refer to the Word of the Lord.  The study of the Word of the Lord, His testimonies, statutes, commandments and judgements promises to be the best pursuit of an entire lifetime!


THE WORD

In his first chapter, actually a prologue to his gospel, the Apostle John appropriates a Greek thought construct that was coined nearly 600 years prior, referring to the Cosmic Intelligence behind it all, as the LOGOS. John brought this "God" down to earth in Jesus and using the language of LOGOS, identified this Jesus as the God who has revealed himself to us in the Incarnation - And the Word (LOGOS) became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. In other words, the WORD is a person - Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Incarnate.

In both John's gospel and his letters as well as Peter's letters it is abundantly clear that we are talking about first-hand, eye-witness accounts that are carefully written to preserve the essential, life-changing truths of the Gospel. 

          "We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. 
           We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life."
          "This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and 
           proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed 
           to us.  We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have 
           fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."                  
                                                                                                                                  (1 John 1:1-3)

           "... I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone."
           "For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the 
           powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
           We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and 
           glory from God the Father. 
           The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, "This is my dearly loved Son, 
           who brings me great joy.""
           "We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain."
           "Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed 
            by the prophets. 
            You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place--
            until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts."             (2 Peter 1:15-19)


What the disciples encountered in Jesus was life-changing at the very core of their being - destiny changing the course of their lives forever!  That is the power of the Word and the words of the Bible!  Before turning to some common objections I want to share only one more scripture:

          "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true 
                and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. 
           It corrects us when we are wrong and trains us to do what is right."
              "God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
                                                                                 (2 Tim 3:16-17)
                                  
Imagine a four-lane modern highway, with an exit ramp you've taken by mistake:
     Teaching is what happens on the highway as we drive on it.  But occasionally we take a wrong exit!
     Rebuke is what happens when we come to the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp!  STOP!!  WRONG WAY!
     Correction is the way back onto the highway.
     Training in righteousness is the continuing "alongside" work that the Word and the Spirit 
              does in our lives to produce the righteousness of Jesus Christ in us.


When we come against someone who is opposed to Christianity, there is usually an attack on the Scriptures involved.  Often our first response should be that of the ALPHA Course, "That is a very interesting perspective!"  "I'd love to talk with you at more depth about that."  When the person accepts that challenge we should ask first, "What are the particular discrepancies you've encountered in Scripture?"  9 of 10 people will not be able to cite any particulars about the Bible, but will repeat something they heard on TV or from someone else.  We will include a catalog of simple difficulties from the Gospels and common objections to the Bible below for your further study, but it is often useful to simply ask the person to read a Gospel (any Gospel will do) and to mark it with their questions as they read.  Promise to meet with them again, to answer their real questions about what they've read.  We can resource you to do that task.


APPENDIX OF COMMON OBJECTIONS

     GOSPEL CONTRADICTIONS:

     CASE 1:  What were the actual words above Jesus on the Cross?  Every Gospel says something different!
            Mt. 27:37 -  Mark 15:26  -  Lu 23:38  -  John 19:19

     CASE 2:  How many angels were at Jesus' tomb after the Resurrection?
            Mt. 28:2  -  Mark 16:5  -  Luke 24:4

     CASE 3:  How many blind men greeted Jesus outside Jericho?
            Mt. 20:30  -  Mark 10:46  -  

     CASE 4:  How many demon-possessed men did Jesus meet in the region of the Gadarenes?
            Mt. 8:28  -  Mark 5:2

     CASE 5:  How many donkeys did Jesus ride on as he entered Jerusalem?
            Mt. 21:7  -  Mark 11:7 or Luke 19:35

     CASE 6:  Did the Centurion outside Capernaum ask Jesus to heal his servant, or was it someone else who  
            came to Jesus?
            Mt. 8:5  -  Lu 7:3-6

     CASE 7:  How did Judas die?
            Mt. 27:5 - Acts 1:18

What are your conclusions?  The potential answers will be posted on the Blogspot this week.
Source book:  The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask!  

      BIBLE MYTHS:

1.   "The Bible is very old and was written by gullible, illiterate people; therefore, we can't trust it."

2.   "The Bible was written too far after the events actually happened to be considered reliable."

3.   "Even if it was accurate at first, the Bible was copied and translated so many times that it surely has been corrupted."

4.   "The Bible has stories that sound like myths; maybe there is truth in there somewhere, like in Aesop's Fables, but you certainly can't call it "true" in a historic sense."

5.   "The New Testament consists of carefully chosen books, banning others that shed light on the 'real' Jesus of history."

6.   "How can one religious book be right and all the others wrong?  Isn't it more likely all contain some truth, and all contain some error?"

7.   "Since ancient mystery religions taught tales of dying and rising gods, isn't it likely Christians borrowed those ideas and invented a Jesus who claimed to do similar things?"

8.   "Since you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say, why should we give it any special credence?  Doesn't it all come down to subjective opinion, anyway?"




     THE POSITIVE CASE:

1.   THE NEW TESTAMENT IS, AT MINIMUM, A RELIABLE HISTORICAL RECORD.

2.   THE HISTORICAL RECORD PRESENTS JESUS AS THE UNIQUE SON OF GOD.

3.   JESUS, THE SON OF GOD, TAUGHT THAT THE BIBLE IS THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD.



     TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE BIBLE:

>   When people question the Bible, don't take it personally, and do not get defensive.  God welcomes legitimate inquiry - in fact He commands it. (1 Thess 5:21)

>   Point out that not understanding something in the Bible means you are in pretty good company!  Even Peter admitted he couldn't understand some of what Paul wrote! (2 Pet 3:15-16).

>   The Bible is about 750,000 words.  No one has mastered it all.  Admit it when you don't know an answer, and commit to them that you will get back with them.

>   Some questions are very intimidating.  Just remember there have been questioners from the very beginning of time (the Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers!)  It is certain that the information you need/seek is out there.  Do the research or pass the question on to other experts.

>   Suggest that questioners start with one book in the Bible, Mark or John perhaps.  Give them a modern translation like the New Living Translation.  As questions arise, jot them down in a notebook and meet together to work through the questions.  People will be engaging directly with the message which is, according to Paul, "...the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes."  Don't underestimate the power of the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit!

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Reference:  Mittleberg, Mark;  The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask: (with answers);  Tyndale House Publishers, 2010

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