Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Reliability of the Bible

Is it Reliable?by Dale Brown
A common criticism of the 66 books we call the Bible (the Book) is that is has been rewritten and translated so many times that it no longer contains a reliable record of the original events. If this is true, Jews, Christians and every off-shoot of these two monotheistic religions are to be most pitied. Even the fool who dates his check is acknowledging to some degree that something happened two-thousand years ago that affects how we look at time.
By taking this stand one has to ignore piles of manuscript evidence that is still available in museums and library archives throughout the world. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves of Qumran (1948) scholars were amazed to find manuscripts dating back to about 200 years B.C. that showed the text of the Old Testament has been reliably passed on to us. At the time of Christ the O.T. Was commonly written in both Hebrew and Greek. Both text origins can be compared. The Hebrew scrolls were those used in the temple by the religious leaders and there was the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek version that came about around 250 B.C. as a result of the desire to get all the wisdom of the world into the library of Alexandria, Egypt. Then, though of lesser value, there are the paraphrased Targums and Samaritan Pentateuch texts.  Some of the New Testament manuscripts that are available to us today are the Bodmer Papyrus, the Chester Beatty Papyri, the Codex Sinaiticus, etc., all of which date back to the first five centuries. The John Ryland Manuscript of John's gospel dates back to the first century.

THE DIGS  Archaeology is a great supporter of the authenticity of the Bible. In 1868 a stone was found, which has come to be called the Moabite Stone. On it was engraved (830 B.C.) a story in the language of Moab which paralleled the Biblical story in 2 Kings chapter 1&2 and 2 Kings 3:4-5, with reference to the “House of David” and the “vessels of Yahweh.”
Israel and the Levant is full of digs which prove many of the stories of the Bible. Some inscriptions, such as the one engraved into the wall of Hezekiah's Tunnel in Jerusalem validate Biblical stories. In fact, through the science of paleography (the study of language style and evolution) even the dates of events can be pinpointed to within a few decades.
FATHERS  There is ample evidence from the letters of the church fathers such as Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, Irenaeus etc, in the first two centuries to give us authoritative understanding of what was considered Scripture and what was not. Some argue that John could not have written both the gospel and the book of Revelation because the style is different. One might compare their term papers with their love letters to see the difference in style. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202) claimed that John wrote both. Outside of the church there are writings of early historians such as Josephus (A.D. 37 – 100) which bear record of the Biblical literature's credibility.
There is internal evidence to it's credibility such as the Biblical writer's reference to people and secular events in history which can be checked out elsewhere. For those who question the authority of Apostle Paul's epistles we can turn to the testimony of Peter who claimed that Paul's letters were Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15&16).

PROPHECY  The Bible is uniquely different than most all other religious books in that it is full of prophetic messages. Hundreds of O.T. prophecies can be seen fulfilled in history. It is not necessary to go to difficult apocalyptic books such as Revelations. Many of the prophecies of Jesus in the N.T. can be seen fulfilled such as the destruction of the temple and the scattering of the Jewish people in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke 21.

BUT JESUS DID NOT WRITE THE GOSPELS  It is far better from a legal standpoint that witnesses other than Jesus wrote the gospels. As He said, “If I alone bear witness of myself my witness is not true” (Jn. 5:31...36, Jn. 8:13).

IS GOD REALLY DEAD?  Many government leaders over the centuries have gone to great lengths to destroy the Bible yet is continues to be published at an alarming rate. God even has a sense of humor about it. Voltaire the French infidel who died in 1778 said that 100 years after his time Christianity would cease to exist. 50 years later the Geneva Bible Society was using Voltaire's house and printing press to print Bibles.

History has proven that countries which have taken a stand against the God of the Bible have suffered greatly. We have seen the Soviet Union and other communist atheistic countries humbled.
Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher who said God was dead, spent the last twelve years of his life an insane invalid.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:34).

WHAT ABOUT THOSE MISSING BOOKS?  There are two sets of books that come to mind when the question of missing books arises. They are the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha.

THE CATHOLIC EXTRAS  The during the Council of Trent (1545-1563) in effort to defuse some the criticism of the reformation, the church of Rome canonized 12 additional books of the apocrypha (doubtful or hidden). They are also referred to as “deuterocanonical (second additional). Though they were around during the time of Christ (some were included in the LXX) they are placed in a lower category than the rest of the Bible for a number of reasons. The Jewish standard Massoretic text does not include them. Jesus referred to the books of the Law, Prophets & Psalms (Lk 24:44) yet made no mention of the apocrypha, therefore Protestants have rejected them as authoritative literature for doctrinal use. 1 and 2 Maccabees of the apocrypha do however shed some light on Jewish history during the Antiochus revolt (175 B.C.) and the celebration of Hanukkah. Hanukkah, or the Feast of the Dedication (Jn. 10:22) as it is called in the New Testament, was clearly practiced during the life of Christ.

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA  Forgeries by heretics & cultists (much like the Book of Mormon or Jehovah's Witnesses bible) seeking to validate their ideas gave birth to such books as the Gospel of Thomas, Ebionites, Peter, James, the Egyptians, Nicodemus etc. A collection of these Gnostic books called the Nag Hammadi text was found in Egypt in 1945 in Coptic form. One valid point established by these is that a counterfeit is the sincerest form of flattery. Some have mistakenly gone to these questionable books to critic the Bible. The Bible however should not be judged by what fanatics or heretics do or say.
1611 King James
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?  After examining some of the evidence for the reliability of the Bible we are confronted not with textual uncertainty (what does the text say?) but with hermeneutic and presuppositional issues (what does it mean). The same problem applies to us reading the constitutional laws of our country. The Constitution outside of its historical context is easily misunderstood. It is therefore important for the Bible student to make an effort to study a bit about the culture and context in which the literature was written. The Bible is not all that difficult to understand if one takes some time to read it with a few simple common-sense rules in mind.
Some of the Bible is written like a historical narrative or journal. Other parts are letters written for instruction, often addressing particular issues. The ones that get us into the most trouble are those that are poetic, prophetic or apocalyptic because of the unusual style. Some of the Bible, like most languages uses euphemisms that are unfamiliar to us. Though some of it is written in symbolic language the best rule for interpretation is to take everything literal unless the context suggests otherwise.

SO HOW DOES IT APPLY TO ME?  God has given us the Bible which is the most clear means by which to understand Him, his nature and how He deals with man. It is the Word of God given in the words of people in history. Within it one can learn spiritual laws that apply to our lives. It is the manufacture's handbook for living. It has been said that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.
The laws of God are much like the natural laws of the universe. One can say he does not believe in gravity but it is not likely he will want to jump off a tall building.

ARE ALL VERSIONS CREATED EQUAL?  It is true that some Bible translations are better than others. The traditional 1611 King James Version (KJV) is a good version but the style is difficult for most to read. A more modern English version such as the New King James (NKJ), the New American Standard (NAS), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) or even the New International Version (NIV) would be a better choice.

Paraphrased versions such as the Living Bible,  The J.B. Phillips, The Message, and the New English Bible are fun to read but are somewhat lacking in terms of literal meaning.  AVOID: the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation because it has been influenced by the heretical doctrines of the cult. The George Lamsa version based on the Peshitta Aramiaic (Syriac Bible) is one that is questionable because of it's Nestorian and anti-Greek bias. The Recovery Version because of its questionable commentary by Witness Lee. The Clear Word by the Seventh-Day Adventists has its share of problems as well.
The Geneva Bible

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Richard J. Mouw on Mormons

The commentary of Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary about Mormonism in the TriCity Herald 11/25/11 was revealing in deed. Though he admits that Mormonism is not orthodox he cannot quite use the “cult” word to describe them. Yet, he admits they claim (as their prophet did) all other Christian creeds are “an abomination”. Because they have grown however to be a large media savvy sect that promotes political figures, they are now OK? He suggests that us evangelicals should “cast aside old suspicions”. So a small fire might burn you, but a forest fire is good for the U.S. economy. Him using the John F. Kennedy/Catholicism illustration is like comparing apples and oranges. Our Catholic friends do not believe Jesus is the spirit brother of the devil as do our Mormon politicians. Nor do they believe they can become gods. We have one God watching over us, thank you. When Mormons throw out all of their revelations from Joseph Smith, then we can “cast aside old suspicions” but until then we might keep the dust from piling up on our history books, and not buy everything the Mormons put on a billboard or TV commercial.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Glenn Beck, Israel and the Mormons

Radio and television talk show host Glenn Beck has many hoodwinked, at least in the realm of politics. Appealing to the conservative sentiments of evangelicals and national pride he uses Christian words that speak of God and country. The question however is, which God? He is a poster boy for the Mormon Church who has shared publicly of his "faith" and is even found on Youtube trying to prove the Book of Mormon. In spite of all this he was invited to speak at Liberty University's Commencement in 2010 (one of America's largest Christian universities). They downplayed his Mormonism by claiming to look for things that unite us. I guess being an American is all it takes, never mind that Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer and their god lives near a star named Kolob. The Mormon prophet is still recorded in their "scripture" as claiming that all other creeds are an abomination and their professors are all corrupt. Sounds like we have a lot in common. If Beck cannot see the problem with Mormonism why should he be trusted with anything requiring critical analysis of facts.

Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) even covers Glenn Beck's Restoring Courage rally in Caesarea, Israel. Rather strange that a "Trinity" company would get anywhere near a spokesman for the Mormon cult, while Beck is quick to use Israel as a means to gain support among evangelicals. We must remember however that the Mormons have an extension of BYU in Jerusalem, so they have a vested interest there. The Marriott's (Mormons) have a hotel in Jedda, the gateway for Muslims on their annual trip to Mecca for the haj. So, the Mormons have no shame, they will use the Arabs as well as the Jews for the sake of building their empire. A book of Mormon is placed in every room of the Marriott hotels, but probably not in Jedda where only the Quran is allowed.

For some people all one needs to classify as a Christian is to carry money that claims "in God we trust", never mind that many of those dead presidents portrayed on our bills were no more Christian than Glenn Beck. They could quote the party line while attending the Masonic lodge, or in the case of some, the Unitarian Church. It is rather odd why David Barton (Wallbuilders) would tour on speaking engagements with Beck as though they stood for the same gospel. Then, we have Mike Evans, the chairman of the Corrie Ten Boom center in Israel, and John Hagee speaking with Beck as well. The bible clearly teaches that those who teach a gospel contrary to that of Scripture are not of God. (Galatians 1:6-9, 2 John 9-11

Must we be reminded that the devil believes in both God and Jesus Christ but he certainly is not submitted to the authority of Christ as Lord. (James 2:19, Acts 19:15)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gospel Music

Power of the Gospel or the Power of the Sound-System?
The style of church music and worship can obviously differ from one congregation to another, depending on age, ethnicity and tradition. In the past, those raised up in a tent revival experience, where the preacher had no amplified microphones, had to develop a booming voice that could reach the back row. This style has carried over into some groups who still think that when the veins are bulging in the preachers neck, and he is shouting at the top of his lungs, he is really preaching under the anointing. One must realize however that an empty wagon makes a lot of noise.
Some people tend to talk the loudest when they do not have good reason for what they are saying. Therefore talking over their opponent becomes their line of defense.
Noise Pollution
We live in an environment where we are blasted with music in restaurants, while we pump our gas, and often when we are sitting on the toilet. In some churches the presentation is more like a rock concert with mood lighting which appeals to the carnal nature of an audience that has been used to the entertainment mode of gatherings where a performer stirs up the emotions of the crowd for the sake of self-admiration and glory. In these kind of church gatherings the only one with the “anointing” is going to be the person with the loudest microphone. Therefore instead of the body of Christ being able to function as a unit, the congregation becomes a target of whatever is blasted from the sound-system. The power then is not necessarily that of the Holy Spirit but that of amps and watts. Young naive people are easy prey in these kinds of situations. They become convinced that the higher one jumps or waves their hands the more God is pleased. We run into those whose lives are falling apart because their spirituality is the product of a fake and plastic reality. Usually these people have a shallow understanding of apologetics as well.  They might be compared to someone whose bible reading has been limited only a few psalms but totally void of any instruction from the gospels or epistles.
Big Thunder but No Rain
As a musician now over 60 years old, I run into those in the studio environment that have such impaired hearing from years of exposure to noise that when I mix down their songs they have no clue what a proper mix is. There are certain sounds that they can no longer hear. Those that spend much time as a talk-show host under headphones eventually discover that they become dull of hearing as well. Listening to a song with fresh ears a day after it has been mixed will reveal things that one might have tuned out the day before.
Exposure to loud Christian music is no different and can be just as damaging as the blast of the .357 magnum or a screaming power saw, and I for one will not subject myself to it. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and if we do not take care of it we can only blame ourselves. Should the message of the gospel, of love and sacrifice, cause one to loose ones hearing? Those that do not learn these lessons early on will certainly learn them through the school of hard knocks.  We are living sacrifices for the gospel sake, but I have never read that we must blow out our hearing as our first offering. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Labor Pains on Planet Earth

As we watch the news today and see all the things that are happening, famine and earthquakes worldwide, volcanoes erupting, unusual weather almost everywhere, wars and unrest, it seems that things are happening at such an increasing rate, it is a wonder that the media can keep on top of it all. Airplanes falling out of the sky, some because of mechanical failure, others with the help of terrorist bombs and military rocke fire, makes one stop and think for a minute. What in the world is going on?
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these are merely the beginning of birth pangs." (Matt. 24:7&8) These were the words of Jesus in response to a question asked by his disciples as they stood admiring Herod's temple about two thousand years ago.

As labor pains go, we know that as the time approaches the birth of a child, these pains get closure and closer together until they seem to all run together, and finally all attention is focussed on the event that controls everything, the birth of a new life. If this just the beginning, then what have we to look forward to? Let us back up a bit and look at a few other things that Jesus said.
He had already told them that the temple they were standing in front of would be levelled to the ground (Matt. 24:2, Lk. 21:6) which happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman emperor Titus destroyed the whole city of Jerusalem. He had also proclaimed judgment upon Capernaum, "...for it the miracles had occurred in Sodom which accurredin you, it would have remained until this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you" (Matt.11:23 & 24). Capernaum no longer exists.
He said the people would fall by the edge of the sword, and would be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem would be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the limes of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Lk. 21:24). This has all happened, and now as we are reaching the close of the age of the Gentiles, the Jews, after nearly two thousand years have gone back to their home land.

We can see just from a very few examples that Jesus is true to his word.

Along with the labor pains he warded us that there would be many false Christs and false prophets who would arise and show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24:5, 11, 24).
"And there will be signs in sun, and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among the nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Lk. 21:25 & 26).
"Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation (idle or frivolous amusement or diversion, indulgence;) and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things tha tare about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Lk. 21:34-36). "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (1 Thess. 5:2 & 3).

You may be going through a stuggle this very moment and you recogniz the birth pangs,and you fell that you have to make a decision. That is good because the Bible tells us that the Spirit of God will not strive with man forever (Gen. 6:3, 2 Thess. 2:11 & 12). Today is the day of salvation. You do not know if you will get another chance.
You may be like the people that Peter was speaking to a Pentecost, "they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethern, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them. 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts. 2:37 & 38).
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Act 4:12).