Think for a moment about the following plot, and, using your Sunday School knowledge, try to identify who you think the Bible character is:
“A young Hebrew male goes to a foreign kingdom in bondage, receives a new name, and rises from servitude into a position of great prominence and authority because of his ability to interpret the king’s dream.”
Think it over for a moment before reading onward! Do you think you know who it is?
Did you answer Joseph? Or maybe Daniel? Perhaps both came to your mind! You can see, when you boil Joseph and Daniel’s lives down to a condensed plot, they both share many characteristics.
These similarities were the topic of one of my essays for a Bible as Literature class, during my final year at Armstrong State University. Now, by the time we had to write essays on an Old Testament topic of my choice, the professor and I became acutely aware of each other’s beliefs. Namely, as the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, I held to the Bible with a more literal and conservative view than did he, a literature professor at a liberal university.
The professor allowed the whole of the Old Testament to choose an essay topic from, but I chose the similarities of Joseph and Daniel’s lives for my essay because of a troubling quote printed in the preface of the Bible translation the professor required for the course. The liberal translation read: “The stories about Daniel in chs. 1-6 have a legendary character and are clearly fictitious.” In other words, the professor, and the author to this preface argued that the book of Daniel was made-up, and was intentionally copied from the narrative of Joseph, as a way to give the Jews in Babylonian captivity hope, because Joseph too was once in captivity but still succeded in overcoming his circumstances. As we talked about this topic at length in his office one day, he said something very interesting that caught my attention: “If the book of Daniel were fictitious, would it then be meaningless for a Jewish reader in that day?” The implied answer was “No!” Afterall, have you ever treasured a novel or poem to be powerful and potent with meaning.
This, however, was the first time I was confronted with such a position, that many people think the Bible is meaningful, just not necessarily true. Again, just recently I was reading another post that argues”the Bible contains both factual and symbolic truth—but not everything is true.” One commenter on the article was quick to say: “One who espouses inerrancy creates many atheists.” And finally, the author of the article also wrote in the comments: “my relationship is with Jesus–not the Bible.”
So, are Christians doing a disservice to the ministry of the gospel when we defend the Bible as inerrant, divinely-inspired truth?
As you can see, this will be no lightweight topic, but it certainly is an important one I felt the need to address. There are many good arguments that break down the details of the Bible to prove the accuracy of its prophecies, historicity, and the like, but that is not my aim here. Perhaps it is circular logic, but I wanted to see exactly what the Bible had to say about itself.
Letting the Bible defend itself, I see several clear points as to why Christians should NOT devalue the importance of Biblical inerrancy. Christians do not have to be shy about trusting the scriptures. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Jesus defended the inerrancy of scripture, down to the smallest detail.
In Matthew 22 (as well as other synoptic gospels) there is a very telling verse where Jesus addresses a group of people called the Sadducees. In our terms, these were the theological liberals of that day; verse 23 tells us the Sadducees viewed the Bible metaphorically, but not literally. Specifically, they believed there to be “no resurrection,” or we might say, no afterlife. Jesus responds to their ridiculous question and then says this:
But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God… But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Matthew 22:29,31-32 NASB
The meat of this passage, in as much as I am concerned, is that Jesus defends the reality of an afterlife/resurrection by referring to the TENSE of a single word in an Old Testament quote. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead, God would have said “I was the God of Abraham…” But because they lived in the afterlife, God rightly states, “I am the God of Abraham…” Just a few verses later, the account in Matthew says this answer “silenced the Sadducees.”
The source of the Sadducees error was that they did not understand the Scriptures, as Jesus criticizes, nor the power of God. A common criticism is that the Bible cannot be consistently true because of how many authors, how much time, etc. were put into its creation. Don’t be tempted to underestimate what Scripture says as true, or for that matter that God has the power to inspire a true Bible over many generations and authors. The scriptures and the power of God should be easy things to trust.
Along the same lines as the verses above, consider this one quote here, also from Jesus:
“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
As long as heaven and earth are here, we can know according to this verse that God’s word stands true. Moreover than this, we can rest knowing the smallest letters, the strokes of the pen, and the very jots and tittles were all chosen by God with care.
2. God’s word has pure power. More specifically, the power to save lives.
Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” … So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
John 18:3-5a, 6 NASB
Such is the power of the words that roll off the lips of Jesus; the hundreds of men who came to arrest him were pressed to the ground at the sound of his voice. The very words, the very breath of Jesus carries pure power.
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:11 NASB
This passage quoted above is clear that the word of God has the power to change the world and accomplish the plans of God. Isaiah said it WILL NOT return to God empty or void. As his word goes forth, it seeks to accomplish his will to save men from sin (see 1 Tim 2:4 in conjuction with the above verses). We should expect that the word of God plays a crucial role to our salvation. Afterall, the saving grace we need from God comes to us through faith, which in turn comes to us from the word of God. (See verses below)
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
Ephesians 2:8 NASB
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Romans 10:17 NKJV
It is not until God speaks that we have a chance to believe that His words are true. It was impossible for Noah to have faith that an ark could save his family until he heard the message from God about a coming worldwide flood. Likewise, it is impossible for us to believe the good news that God himself saved us from sin, unless we have a chance to hear that good news, found on the pages of Holy Scripture. The Word of God, the Bible, plays a vital role in the process to lead men and women to the saving grace of God.
When God speaks, lives are changed. The apostle Paul very famously says in the first chapter of Romans that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
3. Jesus himself is “The Word”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth… For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
John 1: 1-5, 9, 14, 17 NASB
In the opening verses, the Apostle John hearkens back to the opening verses in Genesis, writing “In the beginning…” From there though, John will introduce Christ as “Light of Men,”and “the Word.” These attributes attest to His sinlessness and His authority.
Another verse where we see both the imagery of the word and a light comes when the Psalmist says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NASB) The word of God instructs us about what is right, admonishes us about what is wrong, and encourages us to repent and make those changes in our life. A life of sin is consistently compared to darkness, and a life that reflects Godliness is compared to light. Look no further than Romans 1 to see many examples. The word therefore is filled with crucial instructions for the growing lifestyle of Christians. The ultimate goal is to live a life like Christ, to be his ambassadors. Since His life is our ultimate standard, I think it no coincidence that He is therefore called “The Light” and “The Word,” in John 1.
Though it is not inspired, many translations will still print the words of Christ in red, out of reverence. Christians would do well if we also treated the whole of the Bible with equal reverence, and as I’ve said above, I see good reasons in the Bible as to why we should.
The Bible… read it in, write it down, think it through, pray it over, store it up, live it out, and pass it on.
If you’re reading this, and you’ve not yet found that saving grace, but you’d like to, then know that today, you can trust in the salvation offered through Jesus, and have that rewarding relationship with God! If that’s something that resonates with you, you can read about becoming a Christ-follower here, or you can listen to this excellent audio/video resource linked here. As always, if you desire clarification about something I’ve written, something in the Bible, or if you just need prayer, let me know and I will do my best to aid you in those ways. God bless.