What the Mechanic said
About the Bible
We’ve all heard of the Bible, The Holy Bible that is. It is without a doubt the most recognized book in the world. Most religions have their own book, books, or writings which guide their leaders and followers in the proper way to understand their beliefs, guide them in their faith or direct them in their religion. Islam has the Quran, Hinduism Has the Vedic scriptures, Buddhism has Tripitaka among others, Sikhism has Guru Granth Sahib, and Christians have The Holy Bible. Pretty much anything we do from basic personal hygiene to brain surgery, relationships to emotions has a stack of books a mile high telling you what it’s about and how to do it. The Bible is about our relationship with God. It tells us who he is, who we are, and how to relate to him and each other.
Studied and investigated more than any text ever written, the Holy Bible has been accepted by Christians as the authentic Word of God since it was assembled in the 4th century A.D. from the various Jewish and Christian writings available. Unbelievers and skeptics of all kinds have questioned and doubted its validity as the Word of God for a variety of reasons throughout the centuries, but lately it seems to be brought into question even by some proclaiming to be Christian. The motives and decisions about what writings to include and what not to include, the possibilities of messages lost in translation, even the wording and message itself has been brought into play as our culture tries to assimilate itself back into the Bible. The fact that the Bible is an authentic ancient text has even been brought up, suddenly attempting to cast doubt on the fact that the Bible is even old enough to be remotely authentic after 2000 years of common knowledge of its existence.
A lot of sayings, directives and beliefs are credited to the Bible, which are never stated anywhere in it. Many of them likely began as part of a good sermon, others are slight variations on what is scriptural but have taken on the position of representing actual scripture due to their common usage. They sound Biblical and have been perpetuated because they make have been made useful. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” has been used by many a parent to get their children to bathe or wash for dinner. “God will never give you more than you can handle” gets quoted to everyone during hard times. “The lord helps those who help themselves” is used to get people to take responsibility for their life and as an excuse to avoid helping those in need. “Money is the root of all evil” puts the blame for sin on an inanimate object. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a catch all for things we don’t understand. All these frequent quotes and many more attributed to the Bible are in fact, not what the Bible says and often, directly contradict the Bible.
The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions.
We live in a very knowledge based and highly critical time. But somehow we have gone the way of trusting the most superficial knowledge and joining the side of unwarranted popular criticism. The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions. As our society creeps further away from traditional Christian values, it has become more acceptable to twist the wording and meaning of the Bible, more common to dismiss it as man-made or corrupted. Our worldly desires conflicting with what many know as moral standards compels us to change the standard rather than face our immorality. “It isn’t sinful, the Bible was misinterpreted”, “there is no such thing as sin, the Bible was made up to control people”. We find it harder and harder to justify our society’s behavior within our understanding of the Bible, so rather than reign in our society, we distort or attempt to discredit the Bible to avoid facing potential judgement, not only from society at large but also from ourselves and from God.
There are many common misconceptions about the Bible, where it came from and what it says, who wrote it and why. Though a great deal of direct information is available, much of it is unknown by most people, and without ever committing to investigate or even read it, assumptions are made and positions taken without any actual knowledge at all. It’s these false assumptions, misconceptions and innocent ignorance which present some of the biggest challenges to acceptance of the Bible as an authentic ancient text and as divinely inspired scripture.
A look at the origins and history of the Bible confirm the legitimacy of The Holy Bible we know today as an authentic ancient text. When compared to other ancient records, writings and texts, the Bible stands out strongly as having vastly more proof to its authenticity. Arguments that it has been changed and edited to suit various Popes and kings simply don’t stand up to the evidence. The thought that meanings are changed to suit translation are untrue. Proof of painstaking accuracy over millennia has been found. Distinctly divided into the Old Testament and New Testament, the Bible is not a single book written in a single time. It is the collection of writings by Jewish and Christian prophets and leaders from across hundreds of years, put together to preserve and clarify the teachings of God. As we find more and more pieces of older and older copies of the individual writings, the more solid the case for the integrity of the Bible we know today.
The writers of the Bible come from a wide range of time. The earliest writers lived millennia before the last, and the difference in time from original writing to known copies varies widely as well. While the oldest copies of many books of the Bible are over 2000 years old, they are still separated by decades to over a thousand years from the originals. This isn’t at all unusual in the world of ancient writings. Most of the ancient writings we have are dated by the earliest reference to them by others because there is no original dated works to confirm their age.
Finding the earliest written versions of the books of the Old Testament is not likely to happen. It was tradition to burn worn editions rather than preserve them. The Masoretic texts are the culmination of the first Jewish scholars to add vowels to the original ancient Hebrew writing of the Torah, with the oldest known copies dating to 930 A.D. is consistent with the modern Torah. The oldest copies of the Old Testament scriptures from a collection commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, some scrolls dating from the second century B.C. are again, remarkably consistent with the modern Torah and Old Testament. A Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint is known to have been started in roughly 247 B.C. with portions remaining which date to roughly the same period. The most remarkable thing is that these 2000+ year old scriptures have remained nearly unchanged until today. The greatest differences occur in the Masoretic and descending Torah having differences which make Jesus less obviously the prophesied Christ. Overall, the consistency and accuracy with which they have been copied and passed down is unmatched in the world of literature.
Most New Testament books are only 30 to 150 years between fragments of copies and estimated original writing or beginning of oral tradition. Very close in historical terms and quite amazing considering the difficult times experienced by the early church.
The oldest copy of the entire Bible, which contains all of the books of the modern Bible plus two more in the New Testament and seven in the Old Testament, was copied in approximately 350 A.D. Known as the Codex Sinaiticus, it is dated to very near the time the Bible was first assembled from the known Jewish and Christian religious writings of the time. By the end of the first century A.D. the church had already designated a simple three tiered hierarchy for leadership among the believers of Christ. As the church grew, differing and often opposing theologies began to develop, mostly between regional churches, based on the teachings of the leaders among each respective church community. In a successful attempt at uniting the church in 325 A.D., Roman emperor Constantine ordered the leaders of the Christian world to meet, to confirm the authentic doctrine of Christian faith and to begin the process of compiling a single book containing the necessary divinely inspired writings applying to Christianity required to convey the true teachings of the Lord.
The Bible we know today has been painstakingly translated from the whole of known early texts. None of the original versions is known to exist nor will they likely ever be found. What we do have is over 2000 years of remarkably consistent copies and translations. The popular belief that it has been lost in translation is simply not true and all the evidence points to the entirety of the Holy Bible being faithful to its original form. The reliability of the Bible as a written work has been exhaustively researched and verified to be of truly ancient origin. This fact alone begins to answer the bigger more important question as its position as the Word of God, is the Bible the authentic message from God to his believers? What about the Bible would make a person believe or not believe it is the Word of God? What separates a great and historic book from a divine book?
If you name all the prophets who are commonly known or have a significant following in modern society, the list is very short. The same is true of known prophesies of unknown prophets. Astrologers, Mayan astronomers, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce are the ones most people think of when referring to predicting or knowing future events. Among them they have several predictions seemingly made. When compared to the number of predictions they made and the argument over whether or not the predictions actually came through as told leaves the world outside the Bible with few things that could be called prophetic. Even among other religious writings, accurate prophecy is strikingly absent.
The Holy Bible on the other hand is packed with prophecy. Both fulfilled and as yet unfulfilled, foretelling of the future begins in Genesis and ends in Revelations. Several books are nothing but prophesy. Were it not for the Bible fulfilling it’s prophesies consistently, it would surely have been dismissed long ago. Throughout the pages and ages of the Old Testament, prophets told the Israelites what was going to happen. Both good and bad outcomes of the things that would happen to them were foretold to them again and again. Each time they followed an order from God to do what they thought to be impossible they succeeded. Each time God presented a choice to Israel, they were told what would be the result of their choice. Though the results changed based on the situation, the choice was always the same, follow God or don’t follow God.
Despite the repeated warnings and promises fulfilled within their time, Israel continued to ignore or misinterpret the prophets sent by God. From rebellion in the desert leaving Egypt to failing to recognize Christ when he came, God’s prophets again and again proved themselves. It was the truth of these warnings and acknowledging the prophesies that brought them back to the Word of God and gave them the lasting fortitude to keep it protected.
The birth of Crist was foretold throughout the Old Testament and even among groups outside the people of Israel. The foreign wise men who brought gifts alerted the priests of Israel about Christ’s birth who confirmed the match with prophesy. The confirmation was so striking, the King of Israel killed all the children born for a two year period in an attempt to protect his position from the awaited everlasting king. Christ and his disciples made many statements of prophesy that were thought laughable at the time, and others which were quite direct but misunderstood or disbelieved until fulfilled.
Nearly every religious text has some good messages in it somewhere. Bits of wisdom and direction we can all learn from are everywhere. The Bible’s message is love, forgiveness and a direct relationship with God. Yes, its loaded with other things, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, love your enemy for to do otherwise makes you no better than he, Love your God with all your heart, mind and soul…notice a theme here? A few specific sins are pointed out, around 120, all of them essentially falling under the 10 commandments. It doesn’t offer us any set of religious practices or call us to holy places. It offers only two things which could be considered ritualistic by anyone. To believers, these are not religious practices, they are Holy Sacraments; baptism and the Eucharist. Baptism is our accepting of God and is only to be done once in a lifetime. The Eucharist is a reminder of the tortured flesh and flowing blood that was the direct result of, and penance for our sins.
The effect that the Bible has had on society as a whole is another great testimony of its divinity. No other piece of literature, or principles of faith have had as large, lasting or positive an impact on humanity as Christianity and the Holy Bible. Societal standards of decency and morality are based on the teachings of the Bible. Though twisted at times to support political and personal agendas countless times throughout its history, the Bible represents and encourages all that is good among mankind and calls out and condemns all that is evil.