My God and My Neighbor

Apr 10, 2024

Will the Bible Survive?

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A survey from the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University found that only 46% of American adults trust the Bible as the Word of God. Faith in the book, once quoted by politicians and read in schools, is declining. Why? Decades of criticism have taken their toll. Will the book called the “Holy Bible” survive? This episode looks at the sources of criticism of the Bible and the kinds of attacks made against it. You will see that these assaults on the Bible are not new. The Scriptures have withstood intense trials and are still the most widely read in history!


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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible is not just another book, but the book. Join us in a study of the inspired word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

The Bible is under attack. Countless pages are being written against it. A shocking number of podcasts and videos are determined to destroy it. Satan has declared war on the written Word of God, and his followers are promising victory.

Surveys in recent years consistently show a decline in the number of people in America who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. Perhaps that decline is a result of these intense attacks. Or, maybe these statistics are simply a reflection of unbelief that was already there. In either case, the battle is on. Christian parents are losing their children to educated and articulate skeptics, and other parents are trying to help their children hold on to their faith. Even in what has been called the “Bible Belt” in a “Christian nation,” church leaders and parents are shocked to learn that some young Christians now regard the Bible as a book of contradictions and myths.

Where is the assault coming from? It’s important to know the answer so that we can defend the Scriptures. Here are some antagonists that are set on undermining faith in the Bible. 

  1. Atheists despise the Bible and look for ways to discredit it. This battle has intensified here in America during the last century. In the famous Scopes monkey trial in 1925, Clarence Darrow openly ridiculed the record of the creation in Genesis and the story of Jonah. Beginning in the 1960s the notorious atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair did everything she could to destroy religion in America. She once said in a television interview that the Bible belongs in a trashcan. In Europe, over two and a half centuries of skepticism have taken their toll. Atheism is rampant in a continent that was once deeply religious. Today atheists have declared victory in the western world. No intelligent person takes the Bible seriously, they tell us. The Bible in their view is a relic of medieval ignorance. 
  2. Deists believe in God, but they do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible. They may say some of its teaching is good advice, but they do not believe it is the inspired Word of God. Several of the Founding Fathers and leaders of the American Revolution were deists. For instance, Thomas Paine in his book The Age of Reason wrote, “I believe in one God, no more.” In that same volume he viciously attacked the Scriptures and claimed that the New Testament especially is full of forgery and contradictions. In our time, a recent study from the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University found that deism is growing in America. That study labeled it as “Therapeutic Deism.” This means people want a God they can pray to, but they do not want a book from Him that tells them what to do. So deists level some of the same charges against the Bible that atheists do. One of the reasons they have had a history of objecting to the Bible is because the church-controlled governments of Europe had misused the Bible to control people for centuries. Deism thus began as an overreaction to this abuse, and it continues today largely as a matter of having a “religion” that allows more personal freedom. So when the Bible limits that freedom, they strongly oppose it.
  3. Muslims believe the Bible was originally inspired of God. The Quran refers to the Bible as “the Book” and to Jews and Christians as “people of the Book.” However, they insist that Jews and Christians changed the Bible as it was first delivered. They tell us that the Bible is corrupt. The religion of Islam teaches the Quran is the final and perfect revelation from God. The Quran claims to correct the supposed corruptions of the Bible and supersede it. In Sura 10:57, the Quran says, “This Quran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book—wherein there is no doubt—from the Lord of the worlds.” The Quran also says, “Woe to those who write The Book with their own hands and then say: ‘This is from Allah’” (Sura 2:79). Muslims tell us the Bible does contain some truth, but only the Quran can tell us when it is true and when it is false. Tragically, close to 2 billion people on earth now have this view of the Bible. 
  4. Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah have also contributed to the hostility toward the concept of biblical inspiration. Obviously, they deny firsthand that the books of the New Testament are inspired of God. Since they reject Jesus as the Messiah, they argue that there are no prophecies of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. For instance, many Jewish scholars say the famous prophecy in Isaiah 53 is not a prediction of an individual Messiah at all. They tell us that Isaiah 53 is about the Jewish nation. But that will not work. For one thing, the Jewish nation was not “wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5). They paid for their own sins, but not the sins of others. There is much more that can be said about the Jewish view of Old Testament prophecy, but we’re simply pointing out their denial of Messianic prophecies at this point. Then there is the fact that Jewish theology often questions or denies the inspiration of the Old Testament. This should not be surprising. The Pharisees in New Testament times already had a well developed doctrine of oral tradition. As the New Testament shows and as the Mishnah reveals, the Pharisees put their traditions on the same level as Scripture and in some cases elevated them above the written law of Moses. The Talmud today has taken these traditions so far that the Old Testament carries little weight in Jewish belief. 
  5. Liberal higher critics insist that the Bible as we know it is not the divinely inspired Word of God. To them the Bible is an ancient collection of writings written and revised mostly by uninspired men. These so-called Bible scholars do not believe in the miracles of the Bible like the story of Jonah or the virgin birth of Christ. Since divine inspiration is a miracle that was done through the power of the Holy Spirit, they dismiss this concept rather dogmatically. They tell us that fallible men, not inspired men, wrote the Bible and, therefore, we cannot just quote it and say it is the truth. Yet all the while these “experts” claim to be “Christians”! Some of the most high-handed and severe assaults on the Bible come from this camp. But these are the ones who train ministers in seminaries and universities. They are the writers who publish religious articles, commentaries, and reference books. They are the ones atheists and skeptics quote to make their case against the Bible! The people who are regarded as experts on the Bible are sometimes its worst enemies.

The next question is: How do these opponents of Scripture argue against it? 

They often attack the text of the Bible itself. Their reasoning is: “Who knows what Moses or Isaiah or Paul actually wrote? We don’t have the original manuscripts. All we have is a bunch of old handwritten copies, and those copies don’t agree with each other. How can you Christians have confidence in a book that is so prone to errors?”

The fact is that the Bible is remarkably well preserved, especially for an ancient book. Consider the New Testament. There are about 5,800 manuscripts of New Testament books! These copies vary in the amount of material they contain. Some are a complete book or several complete books of the New Testament. Some contain most of the New Testament books. Some are fragments of a manuscript that was written on papyrus. But taken as a whole, the amount of manuscript evidence is staggering, especially in contrast to other books of the same period. F. F. Bruce wrote about this comparison to other ancient documents in his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? How could someone complain of a lack of manuscript evidence of the New Testament when that same person accepts other writings from the same or an even earlier period without much question?

These manuscripts are very old. Many are 1,000 years old. Some are even older. A manuscript fragment known as the John Rylands papyrus of a section of John chapter 18 dates back to the 100s A.D. Many believe it comes from as early as 120 A.D. That is very close to the lifetime of the first disciples of our Lord. This is a piece of ancient physical evidence of the existence of the even earlier text of the book of John!

Did scribes make mistakes when they made copies of Bible manuscripts? Of course they did. Sometimes they misspelled words. Sometimes they added or omitted words. Sometimes they left out lines of the manuscript they were copying. But because of the sheer number of copies available, a comparison of the different manuscripts identifies the mistakes in the vast majority of cases. 

In his book Thy Word is Truth, Edward J. Young gave a simple yet powerful illustration of how textual or lower criticism works. He said suppose a teacher of children writes to the President and to her surprise he sends her a letter—a hard copy—in response. She is so excited that she wants every student in her class to make a handwritten copy of the President’s letter. Yet suppose, Young writes, that she loses the original letter the President sent. Would anyone doubt that she has the words of the President? Little Susie may have left a word out and little Johnny may have misspelled several words, but by comparing the copies of over thirty students the teacher could easily identify the original text. Compare this to thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament!

But these manuscripts are not the only evidence. Ancient Christians toward the end of the first century and continuing through the fifth century often quoted the Bible when they wrote. We have many of their books. These men are called “Church Fathers” or “Patristic” authors. They cite so many Bible passages that most of the New Testament could be reproduced just from their quotations!

Here’s an example of the importance of these ancient books. Many Bible critics point to the ending of the book of Mark. Some old manuscripts, they tell us, do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Some Bible translations have a note at this section which says, “The most reliable ancient manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.” But this is where the quotations of church fathers can shed light. Irenaeus, who lived from 120-202 A.D., quoted Mark 16:19 over a century before these manuscripts! In his book Against Heresies Irenaeus wrote,“Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God” (3.10.5). The King James Version of this verse reads, “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” 

This is just one of hundreds of examples. It is true that these ancient writers sometimes quoted verses of Scripture from memory and made mistakes. Sometimes they just paraphrased a passage of Scripture. But taken as a whole the evidence they left behind is invaluable. In the case of Irenaeus quoting from Mark 16:19, there should be no question.

Lack of time prevents us from looking at the text of the Old Testament text. But these brief facts about the New Testament of Jesus Christ ought to reassure us of the promise of our Lord in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Another line of attack comes from the field of “higher criticism” we mentioned earlier. Modern Bible critics not only question the integrity of the biblical text—in other words, what is written in the Bible—but they also question who actually wrote it and when. These critics may or may not have an interest in how ancient scribes copied the text and passed it down to us. But the main concern of higher critics is the authorship, the timeframe, and the circumstances of the writing of Bible books. 

Why do we say that so-called higher critics are often enemies of the Bible? Because this field has been dominated by liberal theology for many years. Because many higher critics do not even believe the Bible was inspired to begin with. Because higher criticism is based largely on conjecture and changes from generation to generation. 

Let’s look at two examples. The Bible records the creation in Genesis 1. Then Genesis 2 gives a condensed account of the creation and expounds on some key elements such as the creation of man and the institution of marriage. Modern critics say this shows there were two different writers. Now bear in mind that most of these so-called experts do not believe that whoever wrote Genesis was inspired.They just look at the records and insist that one person wrote Genesis one and someone else wrote chapter two. What is their proof? They tell us that the creation stories are just too different to have been written by the same person. The details are different. The wording is different. Most notably, the Hebrew word for God in Genesis one is elohim. For instance, in Genesis 1:1 the Bible says “In the beginning God (elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” But in Genesis 2:7, the Bible says “And the Lord (yahweh or Jehovah) God formed man of the dust of the ground…” So, higher critics tell us that there must have been two separate writers. Now they have never been able to tell us who these writers were. But one thing almost all higher critics agree on is that Moses did not write both of these chapters, and quite a few would argue that he wrote neither of them. 

Another example of liberal higher criticism is the book of Isaiah. These scholars tell us that Isaiah chapters 1 through 39 are much different from chapters 40 through 66. The first 39 chapters record events that took place in the lifetime of Isaiah. The last 27 chapters address Jews that lived about 200 years later toward the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon. How could Isaiah have written these latter chapters? After all, he was dead. And why would he have written them for Jews to read during his lifetime? What purpose would that have served? The last section comforts Jews who had been in Babylon for many years and assures them they will return home. 

Years ago higher critics suggested that someone else must have written chapters 40-66. They gave their theory the name “Deutero-Isaiah.” But, not surprisingly, other scholars eventually said there must have been three writers of the book of Isaiah, and so it was called the “Tritso-Isaiah” theory. Today most of these critics have taken this theory even farther and tell us that an unknown number of scribes were involved in writing this book of the Bible. These scholars say various editors revised the text for centuries in some cases. Now they cannot tell us who they were, but they argue as if they are certain that Isaiah didn’t write all of it. And, more importantly, they completely leave out the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of these Scriptures. 

The arguments of these higher critics are unbiblical, unsubstantiated, and sometimes just plain absurd. It is true that in inspiration the Holy Spirit employs the personality, the experiences, and the writing style of the human authors of the Bible. But how does the fact that the Bible uses two names to refer to God prove that there were two separate authors? How does the fact that Genesis one gives an ordered list of the creation days while Genesis 2 condenses that account prove that these chapters were written by different persons? And in regard to Isaiah, higher critics completely leave out the fact that God knows the future. Isaiah chapters 40 through 66 address future generations of Jews because of the foreknowledge of God. Remember, higher critics usually scoff at the idea of verbal inspiration and the foreknowledge of God. 

Jesus sure didn’t buy into this theory. In John 12 he quoted from both sections of Isaiah and attributed each of the passages to one inspired writer—Isaiah! In verse 38 He said these things were done “that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” That quotation is from Isaiah 53:1, the second section of Isaiah that higher critics say could not have been written by Isaiah.Then the Lord quoted Isaiah again—this time from the first section in chapter six! “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them. These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him’” (vv. 39-41). Jesus said the same Isaiah who wrote the verse in the first section also wrote the verse in the second. So much for liberal higher criticism to anyone who takes Jesus’ words seriously! There is much more to be said to refute the claims of higher critics. In this brief discussion we are simply pointing out the danger that they pose.

One of the oldest and most common ways of denying the Bible is to say that they are contradictions in it. For many, this is a simpler form of argumentation. It doesn’t require studying textual criticism or the authorship and dates of Bible books. People who say the Bible contradicts itself usually don’t concern themselves with what the text was in its original form or who wrote it. They just say regardless of who wrote it, it contradicts itself! In fact, those who use this line of attack may prefer to say that Moses or Paul did write the books of the Bible often attributed to them. Why? Because to them their case against Christianity is even stronger if they can show that some of the leading figures in the Bible didn’t know what they were talking about.

Many have said that the account of Judas Iscariot’s death in Matthew 27 contradicts the account in Acts 1. Matthew wrote, “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.’ And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day” (Matt. 27:5-8). The record in Acts 1:18-19 says, “Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.” 

Skeptics point out that Matthew says Judas hanged himself but the record in Acts says he fell and his insides gushed out. But skeptics would have to prove that both could not have happened before they could make a case. This they cannot do. It is possible and reasonable that Judas hung himself and then fell. The rope could have broken. If he used a tree, the limb could have broken. Or, the rope or piece of cloth could have come untied. He could have died by hanging and later fell when his body began to decompose. We don’t know the details because the Bible doesn’t tell us. But this is no contradiction. If Matthew had said that Judas hanged himself and his body did not fall because some men passed by and took his body down while he was still suspended in the air, that would have been a contradiction. But the fact that different writers give different details of his death is not a contradiction. 

But what about the Field of Blood? Matthew says the chief priests bought it with the thirty pieces of silver Judas gave back to them. However, the book of Acts says that Judas bought that field. But both statements are true. Judas did, in a sense, buy this field. He bought it indirectly, not personally, because it was his money that was used to buy it. He purchased it through the chief priests in that way. The chief priests were the ones who actually made the transaction, so Matthew’s record is true. They personally and directly bought the field. Again, there is a difference in point of view, but not in the facts.

Sometimes people say the Bible contradicts itself in the numbers it states. For instance, in Numbers 25:8 the Bible says “those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” But when Paul refers to that calamity, he said “in one day twenty-three thousand fell” (I Cor. 10:8). Which was it? 23,000 or 24,000? In the first place, Paul gave the number of people who died in one day. The record in Numbers does not tell us how long the effects of the plague lasted. It is possible that 23,000 people died the first day of the plague and an additional 1,000 died afterward. But even if both the record in Numbers and the passage in I Corinthians give a total amount, there is still no contradiction. Isn’t it common to give round numbers for such things? Does anyone claim it is a lie to say that 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center attacks on 9-11? We need to remember that the Bible is a concise book that speaks in the way ordinary people converse. There was no need to give an amount in I Corinthians or in Numbers like 23,017 or 23,945. There are times when the Bible gives a specific number, but often this is unnecessary when it is incidental to the main point of the record.

Many so-called contradictions arise because people fail to see that words can be used in different sense in different contexts. One old example is how the Bible talks about seeing God. The Bible says, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). However, in Genesis 32:30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face.” But John 1:18 is talking about the essence of God. No man can see God in that sense because God is spirit (John 4:24). No human being can see God with physical eyes because God is spirit, not material. He is invisible to human eyes (I Tim. 1:17; 6:16). But God did appear in physical forms at times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. That is how Jacob saw God—not God in His spirit form, but in a physical manifestation as a man. The same thing happened when Jesus, the eternal Word who was with God the Father in heaven—became flesh (John 1:14). 

Sometimes Bible readers think the Bible contradicts itself because they try to force their ideas on the text. Martin Luther, one of the main leaders in the Protestant Reformation movement, did this with the book of James. Because he was trying so hard to show that the Catholic Church was wrong on the subject of works and salvation, he went to an extreme. He believed the book of Romans not only taught salvation by faith, but salvation by faith alone. That led to a problem when he considered the book of James, since that book says,”You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). How did Luther harmonize that verse with his view of salvation by faith only? He didn’t. He said that James “flatly contradicts” the teaching of Paul! This caused him to say that the book of James is not inspired! He said it was a good book to study, but it was not written by an apostle. In fact, he said the book of James is a “right strawy epistle”!

But James does not contradict Paul and Paul does not contradict James. In the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul is addressing the Jewish mindset which put so much emphasis on works that it left out faith. In James chapter two, James is correcting the idea that faith by itself without works saves (James 2:14-26). In Romans Paul teaches that works alone cannot save because no one has perfect works. But works of faith and with faith is necessary. That is what James plainly says. The only contradiction is between Luther’s preconceived idea and what the Bible actually says.

These are just some of the charges made against the Bible. But the Bible has stood the test of time. The Scriptures endured many attacks long before our time. Did you know that there have even been attempts to physically destroy the Bible over the past 2,600 years?

One of the stories is in the Bible itself in Jeremiah 36. God spoke words to Jeremiah and told him to write them on a scroll. Jeremiah told Baruch the scribe to write them down and then go and read them at the temple. This was a dark time of apostasy and Judah. When word reached king Jehoiakim about this public reading which denounced the idolatry and corruption in the nation, he had one of his men to read it to him. It was winter and the king was sitting before a fireplace. What happened next shocks us as Bible believers. “And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jer. 36:23). 

This indicates why many people hate and want to destroy the Bible today. It condemns their lives. It rebukes them for their sins. There are many other books that actually are full of lies and contradictions, but Bible critics don’t hate and attack them like they do the Scriptures. Why? Because they don’t feel threatened in their sinful life by those books. The motive behind these attacks is rebellion against the law of God.

But king Jehoiakim’s rage against the Word of God was futile. He burned the scroll, but God told Jeremiah to get another scroll and write the same words. In the end, everything that God warned about in the scroll that the king burned happened. 

Satan wants to destroy the Bible today. He doesn’t use fire most of the time to destroy physical copies of it. Instead, he ignites the flames of unbelief in the hearts of uninformed souls. Jehoiakim used a penknife and a fireplace, but Bible enemies today use a book, an article, or a video. Still, the Word of God will survive just as it withstood the wrath of this long forgotten king.

Another powerful ruler who destroyed copies of the Bible was a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV. His self-proclaimed title was Antiochus Epiphanes, which means the illustrious one. He reigned over the Seleucid Empire from 175-164 B.C. The land of Judah was part of this kingdom. Antiochus was the ruler of “fierce countenance” Daniel foretold four centuries earlier in Daniel chapter 8. 

The book of first Maccabees, one of the historical books of the Jews known as the Apocrypha, records his persecution of the Jews in Jerusalem in 167 B.C. It says his soldiers: 

“[54] …built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah,

[55] and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. 

[56] The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. 

[57] Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. 

[58] They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities. 

[59] And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. 

[60] According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, 

[61] and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (I Maccabees 1:54-57).

It is difficult to imagine how these Jews felt. The temple had been desecrated, their Scriptures had been burned, and even women and children were slain because of the rage of one man. But in just a few years after this campaign of hate, the Jews restored the temple in Jerusalem. And, as for the Scriptures, there were many other copies that survived intact. The devil lost again.

About three centuries after Jesus was born another powerful ruler tried to destroy the Scriptures. His name was Diocletian, a Roman Emperor who persecuted Christians in the years 303-304 A.D. In his book Ecclesiastical History, a writer named Eusebius wrote about what happened when Diocletian poured out his wrath on Christians. Eusebius lived during this wave of persecution. In Book eight, chapter 2 of this book, he wrote: 

“1. All these things were fulfilled in us, when we saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and the shepherds of the churches basely hidden here and there, and some of them captured ignominiously, and mocked by their enemies…

4. It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, in the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, when the feast of the Saviour’s passion was near at hand, that royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, and ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, and that the household servants, if they persisted in the profession of Christianity, be deprived of freedom.

5. Such was the first edict against us. But not long after, other decrees were issued, commanding that all the rulers of the churches in every place be first thrown into prison, and afterwards by every artifice be compelled to sacrifice.”

In chapter three he wrote:

“1. Then truly a great many rulers of the churches eagerly endured terrible sufferings, and furnished examples of noble conflicts. But a multitude of others, benumbed in spirit by fear, were easily weakened at the first onset. Of the rest each one endured different forms of torture. The body of one was scourged with rods. Another was punished with insupportable rackings and scrapings, in which some suffered a miserable death.”

But this period of persecution, as horrible as it was, ended rather soon and became the last of the major Roman persecutions against Christians. Yes, Bibles had been burned once more, but far more copies survived and the devil lost again.

Peter wrote, “But the word of the Lord endures forever” (I Peter 1:25). The feeble attempts of human beings to destroy the Bible will never succeed. Skeptics and other enemies of the Scriptures can never win this battle. The victory was declared before the war began. The Bible has always survived and it always will.

Thank you for listening to my God and my neighbor. Stay connected with our podcast on our website and on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Tennessee Bible college providing Christian education since 1975 in Cookeville, Tennessee offers undergraduate and graduate programs.

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