The Bible – how do we know it’s not a fraud?

Bible

I have been considering the implications of Peter Enns’ suggestion that, in the light of the evidence, we should understand the Old Testament differently than we have done in the past. In a comment on the post Interpreting the Old Testament, Brisancian has asked a number of questions about how we can know what’s true.

I thought the questions were important enough to answer in a new post. Quotes from Brisancian’s questions are shown as blockquotes.

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Interpreting the Old Testament

Scribe

Previous posts on topics related to Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation: The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature and Variation in Old Testament teachings.

Finally, how Jesus and the New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament. It wasn’t the same way we do it today.

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The slippery slope?

Water slide

I’ve been looking at some ways that christianity is changing, including changing views of evolution and gay marriage.

But how much are christians free to change while remaining true to God and the Bible?

Many christians fear any change is a slippery slope that will lead them right away from being faithful to God’s revealed truth. Is change a slippery slope?

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The Bible: scholarship vs faith? (2)

Graduation

I recently wrote about how academics in christian universities and colleges in the USA are finding their professional conclusions coming into conflict with the faith statements of their colleges. But this is an issue that to some degree affects all christians.

How should we respond when secular learning seems to contradict traditional christian belief?

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Believing the Bible: the New Testament

John's Gospel

This is the tenth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.

We have seen that the Bible claims to be an authoritative scripture which reveals God. We have also seen that it doesn’t seem to claim to be inerrant or the very words of God himself.

So what can we honestly believe about the Bible, and how does this help us?

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Is the Bible inerrant – and does it matter?

Bibles

This is the ninth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.

Christians generally believe the Bible, and believe in the Bible, but what should we believe about the Bible?

Probably the strongest claim christians make about the Bible is that it is inerrant – it contains no errors. There are various limits put on this – e.g. it only applies to the original writings, it only applies to the meaning and intention of the writers – but within those limits it is perfectly accurate without the slightest inaccuracy.

Should we believe this? Does it matter?

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Word of God?

Holy Bible

This is the eighth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.

We have looked at what Jesus, the Bible and the Bible authors say about the Bible and how they used their scriptures. Now it is time to see what we can conclude about the Bible, and whether some claims about the Bible can be sustained.

First, is it correct to describe the Bible as ‘the Word of God’?

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A tale of two covenants

Bible

This is the sixth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century.

The Bible is divided into two ‘Testaments’. It is obvious that the Old Testament tells about Hebrew history and religion before Jesus, while the New Testament tells about the coming of Jesus and what happened next.

But is that all? Can the differences between the two Testaments tell us something important about the Bible and how we should read it?

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How Jesus and the apostles interpreted the Old Testament

Bible

This is the fourth in a series of posts on Understanding the Bible in the 21st century. We have seen that the Bible doesn’t claim as much for itself as some christians do.

Now I test these conclusions by examining how Jesus and his apostles treated their Bible – our Old Testament.

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Who wrote the Gospel of John?

Jesus

None of the four gospels explicitly states who the author(s) is/are, and the names given to them reflect the understanding of the early christians. So scholars are left to determine as best they can whether the names we have were indeed the authors.

Knowing the author probably doesn’t change all that much, but I have always found it an interesting question, especially regarding John.

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Post evangelical?

book cover

I don’t believe in labelling myself, apart from being a follower of Jesus – Paul points out the dangers of this in 1 Corinthians 1-3. But it remains true that my formative years as a christian were within a moderate, moderately reformed, evangelical church. And I am very thankful for that time.

But evangelicalism is under attack, not just from without, but also from within, as evangelical believers increasingly question its underpinnings. This well-written, absorbing and thought-provoking book (A Restless Faith: Leaving fundamentalism in a quest for God, by Keith Mascord) is another milestone along that path.

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Archaeological evidence for Bethlehem

Bethlehem bulla

Just a week ago I commented on the lack of archaeological evidence for Bethlehem at the time of Jesus – it was known only from about the fourth century on. I said:

“Archaeologists have found little that could identify the town of Bethlehem in the first century, leading a few to argue that it didn’t exist at that time. …. I don’t think this question has been resolved yet”

Sometimes a week is a long time in archaeology!

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