Sermon #2 – Errors 3-7: The Authority of Scripture
Pastor Wes Johnson April 30, 2006 Selected Scriptures
Error #3: “You can’t trust the Bible … it’s only a human book.”
Dan Brown has his character Sir Leigh Teabing claim that the Bible was “hodge-podged” together over time and is not trustworthy:
Teabing cleared his throat and declared, “The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.”
“I beg your pardon?” [Sophie asked]
“The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.” (DVC, Paperback, pp. 250-251)
Answer: God moved holy men to write what He intended.
It is true that the Bible did not arrive by magic from heaven. Rather, God moved selected writers over a period of 1500 years to write what he intended. The result has been nothing short of miraculous.
“The Bible is the greatest work of literature, history and theology ever written. In its production, preservation and proclamation, and product, (changed history, changed lives) it stands as the most unique book in existence. It is a unity out of a diversity of authors, time span, and literary forms. The Old and New Testaments smoothly blend to create a bold sweep from eternity past to eternity future, from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell. In these sixty-six books, we discover our past, understand our present and attain hope for our future.” Bruce Wilkinson, Kenneth Boa, Talk Through the Bible, pg 1.
2 Peter 1:20-21
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 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 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God inspired the Bible. It is his message to mankind. It is not the creation of religious teachers or philosophers.
Alex McFarland writes, “If men wanted to create a new religion, they would never choose one with a God-man as its central figure and a resurrection from the dead as its foundation. (1 Corinthians 15:14, Ephesians 2:20). Further, if men had produced Christianity, it would be man-centered, as are all other religions. In other words, man would earn his way into eternal bliss through his good deeds. Thus, man would get the glory. In stark contrast, the Bible uniformly declares that man cannot work his way to God. There must be a substitute that is acceptable to God according to His holy standard — perfect righteousness. Jesus Christ is that perfect substitute — the one and only way to God. Therefore, God gets all the glory. (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18). Alex McFarland, The Top 10 Errors Found in ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ http://go.family.org/davinci/content/A000000061.cfm
Error #4: “The original meaning of the Bible has been lost through countless translations and revisions.”
“The Bible … has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.” (DVC, Paperback, pp. 250-251)
The Bible has been extensively rewritten and revised. Therefore, its original meaning has been lost. The Christian Scriptures “evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions.” (DVC, p.231)
We have one spiritual answer, and two scholarly answers, for this point.
Answer: The Lord who gave his Word has preserved his Word.
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
The word of the Lord will stand. It has been his purpose not only to reveal his word, but to protect his word through the ages.
Answer: The Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Hebrew Old Testament was remarkably preserved.
Teabing says regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950’s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean Desert . …The scrolls highlighted the glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda—to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use his influence to solidify their power base.” (DVC, Paperback, p. 254)
Facts about the Dead Sea Scrolls:
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. At that time, the earliest dated manuscript we had of the Old Testament was the Masoretic Text, which dated to about the tenth Century AD.
The Dead Sea Scrolls contained no gospels, nor any reference to Jesus. They contained portions of every Old Testament book except Esther, commentaries on the Old Testament, some extrabiblical works, secular documents and business records.
Scholars compared the writing in the scrolls to the writing in the Masoretic text, and found that it to be remarkably unchanged for more than 1,000 years of copying. You can have a high degree of confidence that the Old Testament that we have today is very close indeed to the ancient text as it first came down to the Church.
Answer: Scholars confirm the reliability of the New Testament.
Daniel B. Wallace is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He made me [Pastor Wes] suffer through New Testament Greek. He has written an online article entitled, “Has God Preserved His Word?”
The original writers of the New Testament wrote in Greek. Paul and Peter and John and James wrote their letters, Mathew Mark, Luke and John wrote their Gospels, and these circulated throughout the churches. Copies were carefully written and preserved. Today we have over 5,600 manuscript copies of the Greek New Testament, more than for any other ancient document. In addition we have thousands of copies in Latin, Coptic, Syriac and other ancient translations. But there are variances between the copies. Some copies have differences in spelling. Some have differences in word choice that involve synonyms. These do not affect translation. Some copies have meaningful differences, but under study and scrutiny, the differences do not hold up.
Dan Wallace states, “There are about 20 copies of the average ancient Greek author’s writings. Altogether, the manuscripts of the New Testament are approximately 1,000 times more plentiful than the copies of the average ancient Greek writer. The New Testament manuscripts stand closer to the original and are more plentiful than any other Greek or Latin literature.”
Remarkably, of all the variant readings, there is not a single viable one that alters a fundamental of the Christian faith. Why, if we didn’t know better, we might be tempted to think that God’s providence was somehow involved!
“The deity of Christ is affirmed in the earliest manuscripts just as it is in the later ones; He rises bodily from the dead in all the Gospel manuscripts; and salvation is always by grace alone. We may not know the original wording in every place, but we can have confidence that no fundamental truth has been tampered with. In spite of those who make outlandish claims otherwise, the evidence is all on the side of the truth. What you have in your hands today is essentially what was written back then.” 2 Daniel Wallace, “Has God Preserved His Word?” http://go.family.org/davinci/content/A000000061.cfm
(2 For a detailed examination of the claims of The Da Vinci Code that the New Testament text has been tampered with, see J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, not yet published).
Error #5: “The Bible as we know it was compiled by a pagan Roman Emperor.”
Answer: Constantine was a Christian — and he did not compile the Bible.
Facts About Constantine: Although the jury is out as to whether Constantine was a true follower of Christ, he was not a pagan. He converted to Christianity (regardless of his motives for doing so). And he did not collate the Bible. The Old Testament was compiled even before the time of Jesus. The New Testament began to be recognized by the end of the 1st century. By the 2nd century, church leaders were inserting quotes from the four Gospels into their writings. Athanasius recorded the earliest list of New Testament books in 367 A.D.
“Constantine is perhaps best known for being the first Roman Emperor to freely allow Christianity. Christian historians ever since Lactantius have adhered to the view that Constantine ‘adopted’ Christianity as a kind of replacement for the official Roman polytheism. Though he was not baptized until he was on his deathbed, his conversion, according to the sources, was the immediate result of an omen before his victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, on October 28, 312. Upon seeing this vision, Constantine is said to have instituted a new standard to be carried into battle called the labarum. This vision seen by Constantine was made up of two events. Firstly, while marching with his soldiers he saw the shape of an ambigram cross with the words “in this sign you will conquer” in front of the sun. After seeing that he had a dream instructing him to put a new sign as the standard. It is said that after this event Constantine was immediately converted to Christianity.”
“Constantine is best remembered in modern times for the Edict of Milan in 313 and the Council of Nicaea in 325, which fully legalized Christianity in the Empire for the first time; these actions are considered major factors in the spreading of the religion. His reputation as the ‘first Christian Emperor’ has been promulgated by historians from Lactantius and Eusebius of Caesarea to the present day; although there has been debate over the veracity of his faith because he was baptized only on his death bed, this was in fact a reasonably common practice at the time … ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_of_the_Roman_Empire
Error #6: “The Church compiled the Bible at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.”
The Da Vinci Code asserts that because Jesus wasn’t recognized as the divine Son of God until the Council of Nicea (a huge error—see Sermon #1), the emperor had to change the Bible to get this view across.
“The twist is this,” Teabing said, talking faster now. “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed, chronicling his life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in church history.” Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie. “Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (DVC, Paperback, p. 254)
Answer: Jewish scholars agree that the Old Testament books were completed 400 years before Christ (725 years before Nicea).
“At the council of Jamnia in 90 AD, the Old Testament books were ratified… The authentic books had proved their worth; the wheat had been separated from the chaff.” Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, The Da Vinci Deception, p. 86)
Answer: The Council of Nicea never discussed nor voted on the list of New Testament books.
“Historical works on Nicea give no evidence that Constantine and the delegates even discussed the Gnostic Gospels or anything that pertained to the canon (the list of NT Books)….Twenty rulings were issued at Nicea, and the contents of all of them are still in existence; not one of them refers to issues regarding the canon.” (Lutzer, p. 19)
Rather, God’s people at large confirmed the authenticity of the New Testament Scriptures.
Answer: As early as the first century, the Church recognized certain writings as bearing the stamp of the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 3:15-16
15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He 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.
The church recognized certain writings through the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit confirmed to Peter that what Paul wrote was indeed Holy Scripture. By the year 180 AD, the church was quoting freely from the four gospels. Three basic tests determined if a writing was Scripture or not:
1. Did an apostle or his representative write this document?
2. Is this writing consistent with the Old Testament prophets and the teaching of the other apostles?
3. Has this writing been widely and continually accepted by the churches of Christ?
Error #7: “Constantine excluded over 80 gospels from the Bible that show that Jesus was only a man, and not divine.”
Teabing paused to sip his tea and then placed the cup back on the mantle. “More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them.” (DVC, Paperback, p. 251)
Answer: There were actually 52 Gnostic gospels, and they present Jesus as more spiritual than human. None of them were ever considered for inclusion in the Bible.
The gospels to which Brown (through Teabing) refers are the Gnostic gospels. They were written from about 250-350 AD, hundreds of years after Christ lived, to reinterpret the life and teachings of Christ, based upon Gnostic philosophy (see endnote). There were never as many as eighty, and they were never considered for inclusion in the New Testament.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were accepted in the first century based upon their authorship and their use in the early Christian centers of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome.
Answer: God Himself validates His Word.
Jeremiah 23:21, 28-29
21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.
28 “Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the LORD.
29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
And the best validation of all is what happens to you when you read it, discover it, pray it, apply it. Your life will change forever. Your eternal destination will change from hell to heaven. Your heart will change from dark to light.
If you want to know God, invest the strength of your soul in this Book of Books.
It will transform you.
ENDNOTE: Christian Teaching vs. Gnostic
Salvation All who put their faith in Christ Those who attain secret “Gnosis” (knowledge)
The Cross Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humanity Jesus did not die on the cross … a phantom or subsitute died on the cross
Old Testament Christ was God in the Old Testament … who entered humanity (John 1:18) The God of the Old Testament is a demon who has trapped spirit beings in physical bodies
Jesus’ Existence Jesus was God from eternity past, dwelling in flesh Jesus came into existence from All-father and Sophia (goddess)