The Validity Of The Bible In An Age Of Skepticism – Part 4

This has truly been one of the most rewarding series that I have ever done. First, because of the fascination of the research, but second, I would truly have to say that it has strengthened my belief and my faith in the Bible and that to me it strengthens my faith that the Bible truly is the Word of God, God’s written revelation to mankind.  I don’t how many of you were here for the first three sessions, but just to make a quick remark about each of them. The first week was an introduction in where I introduced some of the critical information about the Bible, which most people are not aware of. The second session had to do with the Bible and history, and we looked at the accuracy of the Bible as an historical document and I also discussed how Christianity is the only word religion where spiritual truth depends on the veracity of historical events. And then the third session, which was probably the favorite for me of all that I’ve done, was on the Bible and science. We looked at three issues, the origin of the Universe, the origin of life on this planet and the origin of human life. If you have any interest in science as it relates to the Bible, I highly recommend it. And, by the way, CDs of those first three sessions are in the back. We have session one, session two, and session three if you don’t have a copy or you’ve not heard these messages and you have an interest, feel free to grab one and just take it with you. It struck me that what we’re trying to do, or what I’m trying to do, is to take pieces of a puzzle and put them together to answer this question, Is there good reason to believe that the Bible is the Word of God? You see, and I am convinced, that true faith has to have a foundation and the stronger that foundation, I think, the greater your faith will be. Because I think so many people think that Christians have blind faith but in reality, I think blind faith is worthless and some of you have heard me use this example, but I, for you that haven’t, I think it would be beneficial, to really understand what Biblical faith is, is to use this as an illustration. I have, I’m going to share with you, I have something in my pocket, and it’s in my right hand and I’m holding it right now. And for me to ask you what’s in my pocket, I mean, you would probably recognize it, and it could be a multitude of things. And you really have no idea. All you could do is guess what’s in my pocket. And that’s really what blind faith is. Coming to certain conclusions based on no evidence. Nothing to go on. Now, if I told you that in my pocket, in my right hand, I have a twenty-dollar bill, even though you can’t see it, you can believe it because I’ve told you. Because of my personal testimony. And then the issue becomes how legitimate am I as an individual. How trustworthy am I in sharing with you that information?  You see, this is what faith is. We put our faith in what we are told by the writers of scripture, by the prophets, by Jesus Himself. By the apostles. And so that’s what we’re putting our faith in. It’s not a blind faith. And so that’s why we have to ask the question, how trustworthy is the Bible?  How trustworthy are those who wrote the Bible? And what we have today has it been transmitted to us faithfully over the centuries? Now just to finish up the illustration. Once I take my hand out of my pocket and show you there is a twenty-dollar bill, you have now a true knowledge of what was in my pocket. And the Bible does tell us that one day we will see God as He really is and we won’t have to operate by faith. We will have a true knowledge of Him. Now, to start this morning, I want to share with you a story, and it struck me, I’m not really sure whether it’s true or not. It may just be kind of like a parable, but there’s a part of me that thinks that because of where I got it, it may be in fact, a true story. Just listen to it. A student was finishing up his PhD by writing his dissertation. He did not, however, like how dissertations were judged. In his paper, instead of using credible sources, he would make a profound statement and say, “as told to me by a waiter at a Fifth Avenue restaurant”. And then he would make a statement, “as told to me by a taxi driver”. All verbal references to someone he had talked to. His professor confronted him on this practice and said, “You can’t make statements like this in a dissertation. You have to have written references or footnotes. It’s got to be verified.” The student asked, “Well, why? Why do you have to have written references? Why does it have to be written if I got it from a waiter or taxi driver who spoke it to me?” He was trying to make a mockery of the dissertation process. The professor, said, “Well, that’s all right. If that’s the way you feel. I’m just trying to figure out where you’re coming from.” On the day of graduation, the professor informed him that he had passed him. “We’re going to award you your PhD”, he said, “but we’re not going to give it to you in writing.” He said, “You get no written diploma,” he said, “You just take my word for it.”  You know, there’s something about the inscripturation process that’s very important. You see, documentation is crucial when it comes to history and truth proposition, which really, in fact, is what the Bible is. And this is why the Biblical documents have been handed down to us with such great care with the passage of time. And yet, nevertheless, there are many people, many modern people, maybe you, you find yourself in this situation, who wonder about the relevance of it. Because they, the Biblical documents are so ancient and have been probably dramatically changed and altered with the passage of time. So today, what I want to talk about is ancient documents and the Bible in comparison with all other ancient literature that’s been passed down to us. And I believe what I’ll be sharing will be very meaningful if you’ll pay close attention to all the details I’ll lay out. I’m going to tell you, of all of the parts of the series, this is probably the most tedious. It’s very interesting but you have to listen closely. I want to start by sharing with you a statement by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi is a teacher and philosopher and he’s one of the smartest guys that I’ve ever heard speak and he says this, and I quote, “The ancient Biblical documents have withstood the most scrutinizing analysis ever imposed upon any manuscript and they have emerged with compelling authenticity and authority. No other ancient literature demonstrates such a high degree of accuracy.” That’s an interesting statement and this morning, I hope to demonstrate that these words are true. Now, generally speaking, in the field of ancient history, you will find no original manuscript. In other words, you will not find an original manuscript that was actually written by the author. What you have is copies of the originals. You see, this is the only way ancient written documents could survive but I would point out that this is not an issue that is unique to the Bible but all other documents that have come down to us from antiquity. You see, up until the second century A.D., all literature, all written material, was primarily put on material called papyrus, which was made from a plant or reed, and they would kind of glue them together like you would plywood. And this paper-like product was then rolled around these wooden cylinders to form what they called scrolls. The problem with papyrus, as you can probably imagine, is that they weren’t real reliable. They would disintegrate over time pretty easily because they were very vulnerable to moisture. But then papyrus, over time, was replaced by what they called parchment which is made from animal skins and was much more durable. But the problem, it was much more difficult to produce parchment and therefore, it was really scarce and rather expensive. And so, it ended up being used almost exclusively for documents, which they considered to be of great importance. But by the fourth century A.D., almost everything written was on parchment and it became the primary material that scholars used. And some of the oldest books that we have in our possession today were written on parchment. Now, over the centuries, ancient documents were copied and recopied as they were   passed down from one generation to the next, and as you probably know from your history classes, in 1438, Gutenberg invented the printing press, which changed everything. But what most people don’t know was, at that time, when the printing press was invented, that there were only around 30,000 books, if you want to call them books, that existed in all of Europe. And I say Europe because the majority of the educated world at that time was Europe and therefore the majority of the books. And what’s interesting is that nearly all of these 30,000 works were Bibles or Bible commentaries that had been recorded meticulously by monks over the centuries. You know, most people are stunned to hear this because most people don’t even study this. But there is a reason for it. And so, just bear with me and I’m going to give you a quick little history going back to the Roman Empire. You see, between the second and fifth centuries, the Roman Empire was in decline. Everybody probably knows that. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Now, during that period, it was very vulnerable to attack by outsiders. And then, as you may well remember, in 395 A.D., the Roman Empire split into. You had the Western Roman Empire and then you had the Eastern Empire, which was called the Byzantine Empire. Now, about 100 years later in the 5th century, as you probably remember from your history classes, the Barbarians invade and leave the Western Roman Empire in shambles. In fact, what’s so hard to believe, and really hard to fathom in your mind, is that this very civilized part of the Empire was completely disintegrated. Their cities were reduced to ruins and there was nothing left in the Western Roman Empire, of Roman power and society and culture. It was just gone. And it triggered a 500-year period that historians call the Dark Ages. Now, I don’t know about you, I was thinking about this, it’s hard to picture in your mind. That this part of the world that had been so ruled by law, and there was such great intellectual pursuits, and there was such great order, was just, it was kind of anarchy. The Dark Ages. And it was during the Dark Ages in this part of the world that there were no academic pursuits, except for work done by Christian monks in monasteries. And it was these monks who preserved the scriptures and a great deal of classical literature that we have available today. But then what happens over time, Christian schools, libraries, monasteries begin to grow and flourish, particularly under the patronage of King Charlemagne from 742 to 814. And what he did during his reign, he strengthened the church, he placed intense effort on copying and preserving all the ancient documents they had and, as you probably know, if not, Christianity places great emphasis on wisdom and knowledge, and therefore, preserving these documents was of great importance. And therefore, classical literature owes its survival today to Christianity and the Church. Now, if you go to the Eastern part of the Empire, what is known as the Byzantine Empire, this was a highly advanced society. It was very much Christian and existed for more than a thousand years. And Christianity not only preserved the Bible over these centuries, but also Greek and Latin classics and a lot of the Jewish literature that we have today. And what you’re going to see and what I want to demonstrate hopefully today is that the accuracy with which these ancient documents have been transmitted over time is remarkable. But I think a question, and I encounter this often, that many people have, and it’s a legitimate question and maybe it’s a question that you have, and it’s this – how do we know that what we read in the Bible today conforms to the original documents, particularly when we do not have any of the original documents to examine. We have nothing but copies. Well, scholars that study ancient history literature will tell you that in order to test the validity of any ancient literary work you have to consider two criteria. The first is that you need to look at how many manuscripts exist, and when I say manuscripts, I’m talking about any written document, hand-written document that was copied prior to the printing press. And so you look at the number of ancient manuscripts we have in our hands today, manuscripts that you can look at and examine today. Let me give you some examples. You take Plato. My closest friend in college is a political science professor and he teaches political philosophy. And one of the things that he has in one of his basic courses is he has his students read Plato’s Republic. And he will tell you that there is no scholar alive that questions the validity of that work.  And yet, when you look at Plato, all we have is seven manuscripts. Seven. And then you have Aristotle. We have 49 of his manuscripts. And then Homer. I’m sure many of you have read either The Iliad or The Odyssey or both. We have 643 copies. But then, the New Testament, just the New Testament alone. We have 5,300 manuscripts written of the entire New Testament in the original Greek. We have over 10,000 Latin manuscripts of the entire New Testament and we have 9,300 portions, meaning maybe books of the New Testament, not the entire New Testament, 9,300 portions of the New Testament. In other words, we have over 24,000 manuscripts. But then you have to add this; you have to give this thought. This comes from James Agresti, who wrote a remarkable book, which I’ll come back to called Rational Conclusions. And he says, this, I’m going to read this, it’s just a paragraph or two, and then I’m going to make a comment. He says, “Early Christian writers from the second century onward quoted from the New Testament so profusely that even if there was not a single New Testament manuscript in existence today, the vast majority of it could be reconstructed from the manuscripts of the early Christian writings.” Do you hear what he’s saying? He says we have so much written material, particularly from the first, second, and third centuries, of the Christian fathers, the Christian leaders who wrote profusely and they quoted consistently from the New Testament, and just from their writings alone you could reconstruct the whole New Testament. Now you may ask, well why is the number of manuscripts so important. Dr. Bruce Metzger, who was a Greek New Testament scholar and taught at Princeton Theological Seminary, he was a real authority on the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament said this, that when you have a large number of manuscripts from different geographical areas and different languages, you can cross check them and figure out what the original documents were like. And he says, you can also compare a manuscript, say that if it was copied in 300 A.D. with one that was copied in 900 A.D., and see if they are the same. Are they the same documents, are they the same thing, do they use the same wording? John Wenham, another Greek New Testament scholar and author of the highly regarded book, The Elements of New Testament Greek, said if you compare the great diversity of copies of New Testament manuscripts, you’d find them all to be relatively homogenous. All to be relatively the same. And this is why Bruce Metzger believes that the resulting text we have today is 99.5% accurate to the originals, and that that .5% in question does not affect a single doctrine. This is why, again, James Agresti, the guy that I mentioned a minute ago, he wrote an unbelievable book called Rational Conclusions. It’s the most well documented book I believe I have ever read with over 2,500 footnotes. It has so many footnotes; it’s not in the book. You have to go to a website to read the footnotes. And I’ve done it, and they do exist. This guy was a, he designed jet engines. And he was a staunch atheist for many years. He doesn’t say why, but I guess he was challenged to read the Bible and he took a year of his life, and in his spare time, read the Bible and he studied the objective evidence for its accuracy and he eventually became a Christian. And he’s written, like I said, an incredible book, I recommend it, called Rational Conclusions, and in it, he says, “In summary, the evidence for the textual accuracy of the New Testament books is overwhelming. With the exception of about two paragraphs in the entire New Testament, the manuscript evidence is so strong, there is no rational basis for any kind of uncertainty over the substance of the text.”  And then Dr. Norman Geisler, who I have had the opportunity to hear speak, one of the most brilliant philosophers I have ever heard, got his PhD from Loyola University, he’s written over 60 books, says this, and I quote, “The New Testament documents have more manuscripts, earlier manuscripts, and more abundantly supported manuscripts, than the best ten pieces of classical literature combined.” So, guys, the number of ancient manuscripts we have in our possession today is important. But there is a second critical criterion, or a test, that helps also to validate classical literature. And that’s this. That is determining the time span between the writing of the original manuscript by the original author with the oldest copy that we have in our hands today, usually in some kind of museum. And the shorter that time gap, the more accurate the manuscript is considered. For instance, if, let’s say I wrote something in 100 A.D., and the oldest copy that we have available today was copied in 500 A.D. That would be a 400-year time gap. Now what they’re saying is that the shorter that time gap, the more accurate the manuscript is considered to be. Now let’s go back to the four examples that I used a minute ago. Plato. Plato lived between the years 427 and 347 B.C. And he probably did most of his writing, I’d say, the last 20 years of his life. The oldest copied manuscript we have in our hands today was copied in 900 A.D. So we have a 1,250-year gap between the original work and the oldest copies we have in our possession today. Twelve hundred and fifty years! Aristotle lived between 384 and 322 B.C. The oldest copied manuscript we have in our possession today were copied in 1100 A.D. A 1,400-hundred-year gap between the original work and the oldest copies we have available today. Homer, who was clearly the most widely read author in antiquity, he wrote The Iliad in around 900 B.C. and the oldest copy we have in our possession today was copied, quite ancient, was copied in 400 B.C. So you only have a 500-year time gap there. So you have Plato, a 1,250-year gap, Aristotle, 1,400 years, and Homer, 500 years. Now, the 27 books of the New Testament were written between 40 A.D. and 100 A.D. They weren’t all written at the same time. And then people will often ask, and I’m going to take a minute to do this, and I hope I’m not going to lose you, but how do we know this? I mean, how do we know that’s when they were written? Well, there are a number of ways to know this and let me give you a couple real quick. For instance, the early Church father, Clement of Rome, a well-regarded historian, wrote a letter to the Corinthian church in 95 A.D. It’s dated, 95 A.D. where he quotes verses from the four gospels, he quotes the book of Acts, the book of Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, and Hebrews. And we have several of these types of letters that indicate that the entire New Testament was written in the first century A.D.  And then Amy Orr-Ewing wrote a book called, Why Trust the Bible? Now, give me a second just to share this. I didn’t really know much about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., which was an unbelievably historic event. So just bear with me for just a second and see if this isn’t meaningful. She says, there is, of course, other internal evidence for a first century date of the writing of the New Testament. The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul in prison awaiting trial. That’s Acts chapter 28, verses 30 and 31. And it’s likely that Luke wrote Acts during this time before Paul finally appeared before Caesar which would be about 62 or 63 A.D. when he was executed. You know the Bible doesn’t speak of his execution. Meaning that Acts and Luke’s gospel were written within the ministry and death of Jesus. But further evidence of this is that there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Although Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ prophecy that the temple and the city would be destroyed within this generation – and you can see this in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 – it says, “No New Testament book refers to the events as having happened. Therefore, it is likely that letters written after A.D. 70 would have mentioned this fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.” You see this is something I learned. In 70 A.D., there was this huge war. It had gone on for several years between the Romans and the Jews. And it culminated with Rome, the Roman army, attacking Jerusalem. And it was so historic because over a million people died, a million people died in the siege of Jerusalem. And as you probably know, Rome prevailed. And then they completely destroyed the city. Completely destroyed the temple. Josephus, who I quoted in session two, called it the greatest war of all time. In fact, historians will tell you it was an unprecedented national human, economic, and religious tragedy. And Jesus predicted it. But the destruction of Jerusalem is never mentioned in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament speaks of Jerusalem, and the temple, and the activities associated with them still intact at the time of the writing. It will be an example like this. If you read a book about the great buildings of the world and in there, there was a portion on the World Trade Centers. And the portion on the World Trade Centers ends with these words, “These are two of the greatest and most impressive buildings in the world today.” If you read that book, you would know that it was written prior to September 11, 2001. And that is why so many scholars believe the entire New Testament was written before 70 A.D. Now I know I took a lot of time to explain that but a lot of people want to know, how do you know when they were dated? Some liberal scholars think that the New Testament wasn’t written for hundreds of years after Jesus. But, with that being said, the oldest copies we have of the New Testament, we have what’s called the Rylands papyrus, which is a major part of the book of John that was copied in 130 A.D. We have an entire copy of the New Testament that was copied in 200 A.D. So using 70 A.D. as the completion of the New Testament and the Rylands papyrus being 130 A.D., you have a 60 year gap. A 60-year time gap between the originals and the oldest manuscripts we have in our possession today, which has led prominent scholars to make these comments. The historian and lawyer, John Ward Montgomery said, “To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity. For no documents of the ancient period are as well-attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” Princeton scholar Benjamin Warfield said, “If we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must declare it to be marvelously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied, a care which has doubtlessly grown out of true reverence for its holy words.” And probably the most important quote that I’ll read to you comes from Sir Frederic Kenyon. He was the director of the British Museum in London for many years, a very prestigious position. And in the last few decades before he died, you had numerous papyri portions of the New Testament documents discovered that were written at the end of the first century. And evaluating these discoveries just before he died, he’d kind of been a skeptic for a long period of time, but just before he died, this is what Kenyon concluded. He said, “The interval then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to become, in fact, negligible. And the last foundation for any doubt has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.” Now, I realize I focus almost entirely on the New Testament. Now let me make a comment on the Old Testament because you may wonder what about the Old Testament because that is a major part of the Bible. We don’t just jettison it. It’s a major part of the scriptures. But this is where the Dead Sea Scrolls are so important. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls. I know they had some of them in Mobile a couple of years ago but the, just so you’ll know, the story of the discovery, it’s a pretty fascinating tale.  Back in 1947, there was this Bedouin shepherd boy whose name was Mohammed and he’d lost one of his goats so he’s searching for his goat, he’s walking around, he’s throwing rocks, you know, you can see a kid doing this, and he throws a rock into a hole he sees and he hears this shattering and so he broke something with the rock that he threw. And, as he goes down and kind of digs into this hole, he discovers this amazing site.  He’s all excited, he thought he’d found a buried treasure. But he looks in and he sees on the floor these jars. And he doesn’t know what’s in there, and he gets all excited and he goes and gets some of his friends and they go, they dig in there and they find all of these sealed scrolls in these clay jars and they were in unbelievable condition and they had been there for nearly 2,000 years. They figure they were placed in there in about 68 A.D. And then they, when I say they, you can imagine what happened. Archeologists and all kinds of people gravitated to there and they excavated, for nine years they excavated everything in that area. And in the process, they found numerous scrolls, thousands of manuscripts, all these different little fragments, all well-preserved in airtight clay jars, and they’d been placed there, ironically, by a Jewish monastic society called The Essenes. And most people believe, most scholars believe, that they were hidden in these caves during the Jewish revolt that I mentioned a minute ago. And they probably put all of these manuscripts in there between 66 A.D. and 73 A.D. as a protection against the Roman attack. Now, when these manuscripts were first discovered, those who discovered them, as I said, were very disappointed. You know, it would be kind of like, you were on a treasure hunt, and you go and you find this cave, and you go in there and it’s full of a bunch of books. That’s what they found. A bunch of manuscripts. But then they realized that people would pay money for them. And fortunately they sold them to very credible people who value them; you know, wanted to put them in universities, and museums and wanted to study them. You know, one of the documents was the great Isaiah scroll. It was an ancient copy of the book of Isaiah and they dated it to be copied in 100 B.C. Now this is significant, guys, because prior to that, the oldest copy they had available was like, had been copied in like 1100 or 1200 A.D.  It was a, up until that point, there was like a 1,300 or 1,400-year time gap and this discovery shortened that just dramatically. And the people who now own the manuscripts were trying to find out exactly what do we have here and they contacted the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. And there was an employee there by the name of John Trever, he had just received his PhD but he also happened to be an excellent amateur photographer. And so he took this great Isaiah scroll and he took photographs of them. It was 24 feet long and 10 inches high. And he took these photographs and he sent them to Dr. William Albright, who was considered probably one of the greatest Biblical archeologists that ever lived. And ironically I gave a talk on this years ago and afterwards a young lady came up and says, Dr. Albright was my uncle. I had quoted from him. She says that he had just recently died. And she said there was a big write-up about his life in Time Magazine. That just shows you how prominent and well thought of he was. Anyway, Albright took these photographs, studied them, and said this is the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times. He says, “what an absolutely incredible find. There can happily not be the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript.” And he dated the scrolls approximately 100 B.C.  Jeffery Sheler who is a journalist with U.S. News and World Report wrote a book, really good book, called, Is the Bible True? He writes extensively about the Dead Sea Scrolls. He said this, I quote, “If scholars carefully examine the fragile parchment scrolls and assemble hundreds of brittle fragments into page after page of Biblical text,” he said, “the scholars were astonished at what they discovered.” He said, “Not only did they bridge the time gap by a thousand years, but how accurate these ancient writings when compared to the Old Testament we read today.” Notre Dame professor Eugene Ulrich, who was an editor of this series called Discoveries in the Judean Desert, says this, he says, “The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly and accurately preserved for over 2,000 years.” Now let me give you one example and then I’m going to wrap this up. An example from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament. They again, one of the best things they found was this great Isaiah scroll of the entire book of Isaiah. It’s 2,100 years old today and Norman Geisler says, for instance, take one chapter of what he considers to be most important chapter in the book of Isaiah. It’s the 53rd chapter. Now I will just say that if you’re not familiar with the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah, I would encourage you to go home today and read it. It’s written about a suffering servant who would be pierced through for our transgressions, who would bear the iniquity of the world, and I know many of the Jewish men and women who have become Christians because of that one chapter in the Bible. But Geisler says take that one chapter, it’s 166 words, if you take that old scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls, he says there are only 17 letters in question. Of these 17, 10 are simply a matter of spelling which does not affect the meaning, four letters are minor stylistic changes such as conjunctions, and the final three letters in question comprise the word light, which was added in verse 11, yet which does not impact the meaning of the passage. Geisler says this, “Thus, in one chapter, of 166 words, there is only word, three letters in question, after 2,000 years of transmission, this does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.” And he says it demonstrates the great care that was given by those who copied it. And just for your interest, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, you find portions of every Old Testament book except the book of Esther. So you can see the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls as it relates to the Old Testament, particularly as James Agresti points out, “One of the primary facts revealed by the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the traditional text of the Old Testament as we read it today has been transmitted very accurately over 2,000 years.” I want to conclude with this one final illustration story. I think I really don’t remember, I think that I’ve mentioned that an individual that I’d used as a primary resource in all of my research is the work of Lee Strobel. It’s been very helpful. He’s written a number of books. Let me tell you about Strobel in just a little more detail. He graduated from Yale Law School; he became the legal affairs editor of The Chicago Tribune. He described himself and his life; this was his description, as “decadent atheist”.  That’s who they were and that’s the way they lived. And he says, and then one night, everything changed. He said, “My wife Leslie stunned me by declaring that she had become a Christian.” I want to read to you Strobel’s own words as his reaction, he said, “And I rolled my eyes and braced for the worst, feeling like the victim of a bait and switch scam. I had married one Leslie, the fun Leslie, the carefree Leslie, the risk-taking Leslie, and now I feared she was going to turn into some sort of sexually repressed prude who would trade our upwardly mobile lifestyle for all-night prayer vigils and volunteer work in grimy soup kitchens. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, even fascinated, by the fundamental change in her character, her integrity, and her personal confidence. Eventually, I wanted to get to the bottom of what was prompting these subtle but significant shifts in my wife’s attitudes. So, I decided to launch an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding the case for Christianity.” He said, “Setting aside my self-interest and prejudice as best as I could, I read books, I interviewed experts, I asked questions, I analyzed history, I explored archeology, I studied ancient literature, and for the first time in my life, I picked apart the Bible, verse by verse.” He said, “I plunged into the case with more vigor than any story I had every pursued. I applied all of my training from law school as well as my experience as legal affairs editor of the Tribune and, over time, the evidence of the world of history, of science, of philosophy, of psychology, began to point toward the unthinkable. Maybe this is true.” And then, he really traveled all over the country interviewing scholars, and he records them in several of his books. But when he got to the place to study ancient manuscripts, which is what we discussed this morning, he went to what he considered the top authority in this field, and it was this guy Bruce Metzger, who I’ve quoted once today, who taught seminary at Princeton. He was 84 years old at the time. He was incredibly well-educated. He has a Master’s and PhD from Princeton. He has another Master’s from Princeton Theological Seminary and he’s been awarded with five honorary doctorates from five different colleges. He’s written scores of books and this is what Strobel says about him, he says, “If you scan the footnotes of any authoritative book on the text of the New Testament, the odds are that you’re going to see Metzger cited time after time. His books are mandatory reading in universities and seminaries around the world. He is held in the highest regard by scholars from across a wide range of theological beliefs.” Well, Strobel spends several hours with Metzger. And he’s finished, I think he recorded everything they said, and then he said, it’s time for me to go. And he said, I got up to leave and we had this final exchange. He said, “As we stood, I thanked Dr. Metzger for his time and expertise. He smiled warmly and offered to walk me downstairs. I didn’t want to consume any more of his Saturday afternoon, but my curiosity wouldn’t let me leave Princeton without satisfying myself about one remaining issue. All these decades of scholarship, of study, of writing textbooks, of delving into the minutia of the New Testament text, what has all this done to your personal faith, I asked. ‘Oh,’ he said, sounding happy to discuss the topic. ‘It has increased the basis of my personal faith to see the firmness with which these materials have come down to us, with the multiplicity of copies, some of which are very, very ancient.’ So, I started to say, scholarship has not deluded your faith? He jumped in before I could finish my sentence. ‘On the contrary,’ he stressed, ‘it has built my faith. I’ve asked questions all my life, I’ve dug into the text, I’ve studied this thoroughly and today I know with confidence that my trust in Jesus has been very well-placed.’ He paused while his eyes surveyed my face. And then he added for emphasis, ‘Very well-placed.'” Guys, next week, I’m going to talk about why the written word, why does God not use other means to communicate with us, and plus, we will take maybe 20 or 25 minutes, and this is really interesting, and look at the archeological record, which, again, all of this is crucial pieces to a puzzle that when you put them all together, I think makes a very strong statement for the validity of the Bible.

Let me close with prayer. Father, thank you for this time together. We’re grateful for just all that you have given us. We thank you for our minds, and our ability to reason and to think. We also thank you for just the sound foundation that we have in the scriptures. I pray that you will bless – – –  (recording ended here)

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Reflections on the Existence of God


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