How Do You Know the Bible Isn’t Propaganda?

Today we began a series called “How Do You Know?” John Burke shared insights in response to the question: “How do you know the Bible isn’t propaganda?” Here is some of what he shared:

“Smart people vehemently attack the Bible; and incredibly smart people who were once atheists or agnostics have become convinced it’s of Divine origin. Our society is filled with references to the Bible, but has the authority of the Bible been dethroned for good? Or in fact, is the reason it’s the most widely translated, widely read, widely quoted book of history because there is something Divine about it? How do you know?

God claims to have revealed Himself through Scripture.

In Genesis 12, 4000 years ago,: The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’

No other sacred scriptures speak to all people’s of all cultures, but this God says he’s creating this nation, the Jewish Nation out of 2 people, for the express purpose of blessing the whole earth. How? In two ways: This nation would preserve His Words—and He gave explicit instructions for a class of people (the scribes) who did nothing but this, and through this nation God would come in the form of a man to reveal Himself and restore all willing humans to right relationship with their Creator.

1. The Bible has been amazingly well preserved. 

  • We don’t possess the original autograph copy of any ancient work, but the more copies we have, the science of texual criticism can determine its accuracy. We posses 24,000 copies of the New Testament—more than any other work of history (the second closest is the Iliad with 643 copies).
  • Bruce Metzger, New Testament Scholar says of the 20,000 lines of the N.T., 40 are in doubt. 40 out of 20,000 sentences. This means 99.5% of the New Testament you read textual critics are confident was what original authors wrote.
  • What about the Old Testament? Prior to 1947, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew OT (Masoretic Text) had been copied in 916 A.D, but in 1948, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found parts of 38 of the 39 books of the Old Testament dating from 300 B.C. to 150 B.C. (so all Messianic prophecies predated Jesus).
  • So the big question, how much copy error had crept in over 1000’s of years? Notre Dame professor Eugene Ulrich, who did an Oxford series on the Dead Sea Scrolls said, ‘The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly accurately preserved for over 2,000 years.”
  • The nation of Israel didn’t play the phone game. All the laws and classes of scribes and lawyers were created for the very purpose of preserving what they believed to be God’s word, revealed through the prophets.

2. God’s been foretelling what he’s doing in real, verifiable history.

A study of the top 10 psychics predictions over a 3-year period found that 98% of their predictions were totally incorrect! Humans just aren’t real good at predicting how history will unfold. But God is!

God alone lives unbridled by time. God alone can proclaim what is to come, and remarkably incorporate our choice into his eternal plan. God says to Moses 3500 years ago, here’s how you’ll know: ‘The LORD said to [Moses]…. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him… You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken’. – Deuteronomy 18:17-22 (1500 B.C.)

The 66 books of the Bible, written over a 1500 year period by 40+ prophets, contain over 1,800 individual predictions concerning over 700 separate subjects.

From 1000 to 400 BC, God sent prophets telling specifically of this Messiah who would bless all nations. Copies of all these books were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which predated Jesus. Here are some of the prophecies:

  • The Messiah will be God’s Son and all nations will be his inheritance. (Psalm 2:7-8, 1000 B.C.)
  • All his bones will be out of joint as villains pierce his hands and feet and divide his clothes (Psalm 22:14-18, 1000 B.C.)
  • He will be born a child, live near Galilee, be called Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:1-7, 780 B.C.)
  • He will not only restore Israel, but bring salvation to all the nations (Isaiah 49:5-6, 780 B.C.)
  • He will be so disfigured, no one will recognize him (Isaiah 52:14, 780 B.C.)
  • He will bring Good News to the poor, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free (Isaiah 61:1-2, 780 B.C.)
  • He will suffer and die to pay for our sins, he will be buried, but will rise again to see the light of life and bring many children to God (Isaiah 53, 780 B.C.)
  • He who existed from eternity past will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, 750 B.C.)
  • A messenger will come before him (John the Baptist) then the Lord will come to His temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1, 470 B.C.)

These are just 9 of 61 prophecies foretelling Jesus’ coming. Without God’s miraculous intervention, how else could you get 40 writers to pre-write accurate history before it happens?

Jesus is mentioned in history books not included in the Bible. In fact, From non-Christian, extra-biblical sources, we can conclude:

  • A man named Jesus, of the town of Nazareth in Galilee, lived during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
  • Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist, a prophet who attracted a large following among the Jews and was beheaded by Herod.
  • Jesus had a brother named James who became a leader among the Christians and was martyred for his faith in Jesus as Lord, God and Messiah.
  • Jesus was recognized as a wise teacher who accurately predicted future events, lived a virtuous life, challenged the teaching of the respected Jewish religious leaders, and attracted a large following among the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
  • Jesus performed miracles (Jewish Talmud).
  • Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.
  • His crucifixion was overshadowed by a great darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour.
  • After His death, His disciples continued to proclaim Him as the Messiah, worshipping Him as God, and claiming that He had appeared to them as risen from the dead.
  • The impact of Jesus’ life upon His disciples was so great that within 16 to 80 years after His death, vast numbers of His followers were willing to die for their conviction that Jesus lived, died and rose again on their behalf.

This is not mythology. This is not religion. This is history – God’s story foretold.

The question remains: what are we going to do with the Scriptures?

To the religious leaders who killed him, Jesus said, ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me… How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’

Jesus says the real problem is that we get so caught up in seeking praise from other people that we get distracted from pleasing God.

The Bible is God’s Word, God’s History, God’s Love letter. Do you seek God through the Scriptures?

If you are not sure that you believe, read Luke or John’s eyewitness account and ask God ‘If this is really you, help me have eyes to see.’ If you seek him honestly, watch how he meets you.

If you claim to believe but make no real effort to seek God regularly in his Word, get on reading plan, jump into a small group, and/or ask for others to keep you accountable to do so.”

If you want to watch or listen to the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

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