The Case for Christianity

Part 5

What did Jesus Believe about the Bible?

Introduction

This is our last installment in this series "The Case for Christianity." I have attempted to defend each of three premises in the historical case for the truth of Christianity. Premise one stated that the Bible is a trustworthy document of history. I explored the issues of how we know that the Bible has come down to us intact through history and how we know that what the biblical writers claimed really happened. Premise two stated that on the basis of this historical testimony it is reasonable to believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, viz., God in the flesh. Our last premise states that Jesus taught that the Bible was more than a trustworthy document of history, but was the very Word of God. Since Jesus is God and teaches that the Bible is His word, then it is His word. And since the Bible teaches Christianity, then Christianity is true.

In setting forth the defense of the last premise, I will examine several points, viz., what Jesus affirmed about the Bible (specifically the Old Testament), the authentication of the New Testament, and what the Bible says about itself.[1] Finally, I will give an example of how the overall argument might look in an everyday setting.

What Jesus affirmed about the Old Testament

The chart "What Jesus Affirmed about the Old Testament" shows how Jesus regarded His Bible.[2] There can be no doubt that Jesus regarded it as the Word of God. His use of Scripture indicates that He regarded it as inspired, authoritative, and infallible. For example, in Matthew 22:43 Jesus regards David's words as words he spoke "in the Spirit." His use of Scripture in Matthew 4:4,7, and 10 show the authoritative role it held in His mind. In John 10:35 Jesus says "... the scriptures cannot be broken." These and other verses show that for Jesus the Scriptures were more than merely historical documents but were the very words of God.


  What Jesus Affirmed about the Old Testament 

  The Nature of the Old Testament's Authority. It Has:

     A. Divine Inspiration -- Matthew 22:43
     B. Indestructability -- Matthew 5:17,18
     C. Infallibility -- John 10:35
     D. Final Authority -- Matthew 4:4,7,10
     E. Historicity -- Matthew 12:40; 24:37
     F. Factual Inerrancy -- John 17:17; Matthew 22:29
     G. Christ-Centered Unity --Luke 24:27, John 5:39
     H. Spiritual Clarity -- Luke 24:25
     I. Faith and Life Sufficiency -- Luke 16:31

  The Extent of the Old Testament's Authority. It Extends to:

     A. The Words -- Matthew 22:43; (cf. 1 Cor. 2:13)
     B. The Tenses of Verbs -- Matthew 22:32; (cf. Gal. 3:16)
     C. The Smallest Parts of the Words -- Matthew 5:17,18


The Authentication of the New Testament

Since Jesus' use of Scripture and what we can infer from His use of Scripture only pertain to the Old Testament, it is necessary, for the purposes of our argument, to show the authentication of the New Testament. I believe that two main passages in the Gospel of John lay the ground work for our understanding of the authority and inspiration of the New Testament: John 14:25-26 and John 16:12-15. In these passages Jesus says:

These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

Often these words of Jesus are taken to apply to Christians in general. I suggest that what Jesus is saying here is that his apostles were going to write what we now know as the New Testament. It is evident that Jesus knew His message to the world would depend upon the words of His apostles. In John 17:20 Jesus says "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word."

Jesus had many things to say to His apostles but they would have to wait until the coming of the Holy Spirit. Notice the three main things the Holy Spirit would do in His guiding them into all truth. First, the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all things Jesus said to them. Bear in mind that the apostles wrote about the words and actions of Jesus after the fact. Thus, it was important that the Holy Spirit enable the apostles to remember the facts. Second, the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of Truth, would teach them all things. Third, the Holy Spirit would show them things to come.

It is interesting that these three actions by the Holy Spirit in His directing the apostles correspond to what we have discovered to be the three divisions of New Testament Scripture; historical ("bring to your remembrance") which covers Matthew through Acts, teaching ("teach you all things") which covers Romans through Jude, and prophecy ("show you things to come") which covers Revelation. Thus, in these passages we have Jesus pre-authenticating the writing of the New Testament by His apostles.


  The Three Divisions of the New Testament 
                       John 14:25-26; 16:12-15

             "... bring to your rememberance all things
              I said unto you"

                    Matthew - Acts  (Historical)


             "... teach you all things"

                    Romans - Jude   (Teaching)


             "... show you things to come"

                    Revelation      (Prophecy) 


We can go on to show that each book of the New Testament is either written by an apostle of Jesus or is written by a contemporary of the events in proximity to an apostle of Jesus. The two passages from the Gospel of John above directly authenticate the apostolic authority of the books of Matthew, John, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Revelation since the writers of these books were a part of the original twelve to whom Jesus spoke these words.

We see from Acts 9:15; 26:17-18 and Galatians 1:11-19 that Jesus personally commissioned Paul as an apostle. Thus, the writings of Paul bear the authority of Christ. This authenticates the apostolic authority of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and possibly Hebrews. Paul's authority is also corroborated by Peter's testimony of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

... and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

Notice that Peter equates the writings of Paul with Scripture. Since Peter was one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus, his endorsement of Paul further establishes Paul as an apostolic authority.

Mark's authority stems from his proximity to Peter and Paul in Acts 12:12-19,25; 1 Peter 5:13, and 2 Timothy 4:11. Luke's authority stems from his proximity to Paul in 1 Timothy 5:18 and 2 Timothy 4:11. James' and Jude's authority stems from their proximity to Peter, John, and Matthew in Acts 1:14.

The authority of James is further manifested in how James presided over the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and how the apostles Paul and Peter regard him during that council. James' authority is also corroborated by Paul where we see Paul recognizing him as an apostle (Galatians 1:19) and as a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9). In addition we can see James' authority in that when representatives came from Jerusalem to Antioch to address a theological issue, they were said to have come from James (Galatians 2:12). It is noteworthy also to see that Peter, as an apostle, reported to James (Acts 12:16-17).

The New Testament book that poses the greatest challenge is Hebrews since its authorship is in question. Many scholars believe that Paul wrote Hebrews, in which case its authority would be established. Others suggest that Barnabas might have written Hebrews. If this is so, we can establish Bamabas' apostolic authority by Acts 14:14 where Barnabas is referred to as an apostle in his work with Paul.[3] With this we have every book in the New Testament accounted for regarding its apostolic authority. Each writer can be linked directly to Jesus or to someone who is linked directly to Jesus. Since we have established from premise two that Jesus is God, then those writings authenticated by Him are the words of God.[4]

What Scripture Says, God Says

The chart "What Scripture Says, God Says" shows the Scriptures' testimony of itself.[5] These verses indicate that the words of the writer are sometimes called the words of God, and the words of God are sometimes called the words of the writer. For example, the words of David in Psalm 2:1 are said to have been said by God. We see then, as far as the Bible is concerned, the notion of Scripture is interchangeable with the words of God Himself.


          What Scripture Says, God Says

        God Says                       Scripture Says 
        ========                       ==============

        Genesis 12:3                   Galatians 3:8
        Exodus 9:16                    Romans 9:17


        Scripture says                 God Says 
        ==============                 ======== 

        Genesis 2:24                   Matthew 19:4-5
        Psalm 2:1                      Acts 4:24-25
        Psalm 2:7                      Hebrews 1:5
        Psalm 16:10                    Acts 13:35
        Psalm 95:7                     Hebrews 3:7
        Psalm 97:7                     Hebrews 1:6
        Psalm 104:4                    Hebrews 1:7
        Isaiah 55:3                    Acts 13:34 



How might the argument work?

Suppose you were in a discussion about a moral issue such as abortion. You express you belief that abortion is wrong. A conversation could proceed this way. Notice how the argument is woven into the conversation, albeit in reverse order.

"Conclusion"
"Why do you think abortion is wrong?" your friend asks.
"Because it is murder and I believe that murder is wrong." you respond.
"Why do you believe that murder is wrong?"
"Because the Bible teaches that murder is wrong, and I believe the Bible."
"Why do you believe the Bible?"
"I believe the Bible is the Word of God."
"Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?"

"Premise C"
"Because Jesus believed the Bible is the Word of God and I believe Him."
"Why do you believe Jesus?"
"Jesus was the Son of God."
"How do you know Jesus was the Son of God?"

"Premise B"
"No one could do and say the things Jesus said who wasn't the Son of God, including predicting and accomplishing His own resurrection from the dead."
"How do you know that these things happened?"

"Premise A"
"Because we have the historical testimony of these things."
"How do you know that this historical testimony is reliable?"
"Because by the standards of analysis historians use the Bible is shown to be reliable history."

As I have laid the argument out in its entirety here, it might look so detailed that one could never employ it in a general conversation. The argument is designed, however, to be applied according to the need of the investigator. Many you encounter may already believe that the Bible is historically reliable but have never considered the possibility that it is divinely inspired. Others may seriously consider the claims of Christ if only they could be confident that we have a reliable historical witness to His words and deeds. Thus, you can employ the argument at whatever level is appropriate for the need of your hearer.

Conclusion

Let us remind ourselves of the words of 1 Peter 3:15. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." Wisdom dictates that we engage others in a discussion of the claims of Christ and present unto them the case for Christianity so that they can confront the Jesus of the Bible. Whether they believe or not is not up to us. Our task is to declare and defend the Gospel. As the apostle John says:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.[6]

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.[7]


Notes
[1] The charge is sometimes made that we are arguing in a circle when we set forth what the Bible says about itself. Several points can be made in response. First, in a court of law the defendant is allowed to testify in behalf of himself. His testimony is not precluded just because he is making it on his own behalf. The Bible certainly deserves no less consideration. Second, there is no doubt in my mind that if the Bible made no claims of divine inspiration the critics would have championed this point and would have accused us of going beyond what the Bible claims about itself. Thus, if the Bible claims to be the Word of God and we point that out the critics exclaim "You are arguing in a circle!" and if the Bible did not claim to be the Word of God and we argued that it nevertheless was the critics would exclaim "Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? It doesn't even claim to be the Word of God!" They cannot have it both ways.
[2] The chart "What Jesus Affirmed about the Old Testament" is adapted from Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986); From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974); and Norman L. Geisler, Decide for Yourself: How History Views the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982).
[3] For discussions on the authorship of Hebrews see, Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, reprint ed. (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1953): vol. 11, 341-366; and F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964): xxxv-xlii.
[4] Though I have not argued it here, I would claim that since the time of the apostles has passed it is not possible for there to be any more scripture written. No one after the time of the apostles can claim apostolic authority.
[5] The chart "What Scripture Says, God Says" is adapted from class notes from Norman L. Geisler's Introduction to Apologetics, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas, 1983.
[6] John 20:30-31
[7] 1 John 5:11-13


Copyright 1994 by The Issachar Institute. All rights reserved. Displayed here with permission.

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