When I came back to Christianity as an adult, I came across many different versions of bibles. I could not understand why they were written in so many different styles and ways if it was the one true word of God. As many people were illiterate thousands of years ago, how could it be that the bible was written in so much detail and in so many interpretations? Where is the proof that events in the Old Testament existed – some of the stories in there seem to be so far-fetched and unreal, especially events such as people living for hundreds of years which, despite modern science and healthcare, they can’t even do now? How do we know that such words were spoken by Jesus, the disciples or others whose speech is recorded in the bible, and over what time-span? What historical evidence do we have that any of the bible contents actually happened apart from having faith that they did? I still do not know the answers to many such basic questions and it would be good if Graham could enlighten me with knowledge in these areas.
Carol your question is a very relevant one concerning the validity of the Bible as a historical religious text and as a source of guidance for personal worship and Godly living. In a modern age that contains fake news, which is nothing new, there has always been a challenge that the Bible is not historical or true and yes certain texts are difficult to believe and may be considered to be far-fetched!
The creation narrative in Genesis had been accepted as a starting point for human existence and living for many years. However, since the Renaissance (15 -16th century) and Enlightenment (17- 18th century) culture, art, science and many others humanities have placed the important of humankind over the centrality of God in modern living and so challenged biblical teaching and its authenticity on many fronts.
There is the argument that if aspects of the Bible are not proven scientifically then it cannot be believed at all! At this point we have to understand that science and faith are different mind-sets and will clash but also can sit side by side respectfully. In our daily living we have to realise that theory, fact, faith and fantasy are woven together in all our thoughts.
From the beginning of time stories of creation and spiritual guidelines have been shared orally and in a written form. For the Christian the main source for their faith is found in the Bible that includes the Old and the New Testaments. All world religions have some form of holy writings that have come from an individual or collective group that seeks to offer an understanding about creation, forgiveness, holy living on earth with a hope of eternal life to come. Those who do not follow any religious pathway will certainly embrace another form of guidance for earthly living as represented in humanistic and political ideologies.
In the Old Testament we read about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses and how the nation of Israel came into being. Such stories recorded in Hebrew, may be considered as being far-fetched but there can be no denying the historical existence of an ancient and modern Israel. We read about the historical kings such as Saul and David living in Jerusalem and the development of ancient Israel. There are many prophets and individual writers that have shared wisdom literature and have referenced how different kingdoms within the Old Testament have lived and faded. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls it has given weight to other manuscripts, textual criticism and archaeological findings to affirm the authenticity of the bible.
In the New Testament Jesus cannot be disputed as an historical figure yet many would doubt his claim to be the Son of God and that his death and resurrection enables believers to experience the forgiveness of sins before a Holy God. When we read the quoted words of Jesus in the gospels we may wonder if each one is totally true. Overall the aim of the writers would have been to convey the truth and meaning of his words. Over the years various methods of translation from Hebrew to Greek and then into English have taken place resulting in different versions of the bible. Such forms of communication and translation include: Word for word, Literal, Faithful, Semantic, Flexible, Idiomatic, Adaptive and Free communication all seeking to ensure that original words are translated into modern understanding.
There was a special relationship between God and the people of Israel as witnessed in their covenant love. However, it was often broken and so through the life and ministry of Jesus a new covenant was established that included the Jewish nation and all none Jews who are known as Gentiles. The church represents that new community and all the New Testament writers offer instruction, on the basis of Jesus’ teaching, about how best to engage in worship, fellowship and community living.
So can we trust the bible we read today?
In Hebrew 4:12 it gives us an indication that the bible is big enough to defend itself and be considered trustworthy, not in a scientific manner, but from a point of personal faith and belief, ”the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,”
In Isaiah 55: 9, it says “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. Then from verse 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”.
So Carol whether we believe that the Bible is true or false we have to consider that it is a body of literature that represents God speaking directly to the world about personal worship and devotion and offers a basis for Godly living for the enjoyment and care for the world and its environment.
For further reading check out my site insights from the bible