The New Testament Is Inspired (II)
In the preceding article published last month, attention was given to the canonicity of the New Testament books. In this article on the inspiration of the New Testament, we wish to study with you another equally important field--the credibility of the books. This area of study asks and answers the question |"Can one depend upon what is found in the New Testament books?" The subject in this article is being approached from the historical viewpoint.
Arguments for Bible's Credibility
First, the books were published in a time and country in which the events took place. One who was recording false accounts would be in the greatest danger of being exposed.
Then secondly, early quotations from all sources give evidence of the books' credibility. The use of them by reliable historians shows they believed them to be authentic and credible.
Thirdly, the credibility can be seen from the fact the witnesses had the means of knowing of what they wrote. It is a rare occasion when the eye witness is the historian. This is history of the first class, but this is precisely the kind we have in the New Testament.
The witnesses gave factual reports of what they saw and heard, and not inferences and theories. Examples of this would be the record of the first miracle of changing the water to wine and also the resurrection of Christ. There are no theories or inferences as to what might have happened or may have been. They simply stated the facts. Furthermore, these witnesses were able to know of what they were writing for it was not a complicated history.
The fourth evidence is the number of witnesses. This fact often loses its force because the books are bound into one volume. However, in this one volume we have the testimony of the writers, the early converts (there were thousands), and the harmony of the gospels. Let me remind you that these things were written during the lifetime of the most of these witnesses, at a time when they could have denied any part that was a false account.
The character of the witnesses is the fifth evidence. They were people of great moral worth. They were men with a record of honest testimony. Even when the facts were against themselves they spake the truth. The times of doubting of Peter and John the baptizer objectively are recorded. Also their willingness to suffer extreme suffering for what they taught is proof of their honesty.
Sixth, the perfect account of geography, customs, and political history shows the book is accurate in its testimony. References to the many places such as Jerusalem, the Temple, Solomon's porch, beautiful Gate, Gethsemane, Palestine and its cities and natural objects, the references to the Roman government, are all faultlessly accurate. The geographical accuracy of the gospels is so minute that even a skeptic like Renan confessed when he visited Palestine that the whole New Testament account began to take on a new historical vividness.
Finally there are incidental facts in the New Testament that are also recorded in profane history. Herod put John in prison (Mk. l6: l 7); Herod married Herodius; Agrippa as king (Acts 12:1); Herod's death at Caesarea (Acts 12:1); Felix and his wife Drucilla (Acts 25:24) and numerous other historical facts are verified by secular historians.
All of this establishes the New Testament's credibility and assures us that we can depend upon its words as historically accurate. This goes a long way in establishing its inspiration.
In addition to the things previously stated, we mention five more things, which show the inspiration of the New Testament. The first of these is credibility. The credibility of the book is evidence of its inspiration, and we can trust what it says as truth!
Second is the allowance of its claims by its contemporaries. One of the greatest evidences of the credibility of a writer is to compare his writing with that of another author. In the New Testament there can be found no error of facts, no discrepancy between it and other reliable histories, and no inconsistencies between the books themselves.
Third is the absence of all contradictory phenomena about the writings themselves. All so-called contradictions can be understood with careful examination of the text.
Fourth is the nature of the New Testament. Let me examine this a little more carefully than the previous ones. The Bible was written by forty men over a period of approximately fifteen hundred years. These forty men wrote sixty-six books and yet these sixty-six books are one in reality. These books have one doctrinal viewpoint, one moral standard, one plan of salvation, one program for the ages, one world view.
In relation to science and history, the Bible is not intended to be a textbook on either, yet it always speaks truthfully when dealing with either field. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed and continue to confirm its historical accuracy. Such persons as Hammurabi, Sargon II, Belshazzar, the Hittites and others who once were thought by unbelievers to have been myths of the Old Testament now are known to be actual characters of history.
There are also many prophecies of the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament, such as the prediction that the ruler should come out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), the virgin birth (Isa 7:14), the scene of the crucifixion (Ps. 22), and others.
Then there is the record of supernatural information. Mark boldly declares what happened to Jesus after he disappeared in heaven. The gospel writers tell of Jesus' experience in the wilderness though no one was there.
They relate the prayer of Gethsemane. The amazing thing about such accounts is that the authors boldly state such facts, without defending their statement, declaring their source, or even suggesting any possible error. There is nothing in the field of literature to compare with it.
There is also the character of the narrative as evidence of inspiration. The accounts as recorded are both simple and brief. Compare this biography of Christ with that of men like Lincoln or Napoleon. We have a brief and compact volume. What was it that held them back? "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).
It is also obvious that they left out a description of Christ's physical appearance, discouraging image worship. And there is no evidence of malice from the authors toward Judas, Pilate, or Herod Antipas. This is a humble confession of their own errors and unfaithfulness.
The fifth, and what I feel to be the greatest evidence of its inspiration, is the claim of the New Testament itself. With the credibility of the book established, we can face the subject of inspiration with full confidence that in any of its statements we shall find nothing but truth. If the Bible speaks the truth on all other subjects, then why not on the subject of its inspiratiori?
The New Testament first makes its claim of inspiration in general statements such as Rev. 1:1, 2, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the Word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." Or as in Heb. 1:1-2, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; " I can think of no better scripture on the subject of general inspiration than I Cor. 2:10-13: "But Got hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit, which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." In this passage we not only find the New Testament claim to inspiration but also the claim for verbal inspiration.
Not only are there general claims of inspiration, but there is also the claim of inspiration for the words spoken by the apostles. Paul said, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). Peter adds his testimony in 2 Peter 3:2, "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior."
Yet, there are still claims of inspiration for what was written. "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord..." ( 1 Thess. 4:15). And "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 4:37). Again, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read. ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:3-5).
We can say with firm conviction, from the afore mentioned facts; "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16, 17).
Truth Magazine VII: 12, pp. 15-17