6/13/17 Jeff about 40
Ever play the "telephone game"? You know, where you pass a message from one person to another and see how it changes over time? That's how a man named Jeff, about 40, dismisses the Bible. I was talking with him at the train station, and he told how he believes the Bible to be just another man-made religious book like all the others. Like the message in the telephone game, he believes the Bible has changed over time as it has been passed on from one person to another. And he isn't alone. This is probably the most common assumption people make about the Bible. But the telephone analogy really shouldn't be applied to the Bible.
The telephone game starts with one message that changes as it is whispered from person to person, many of whom think it is fun to change the message or who don't take it too seriously and forget much of what they heard. They aren't allowed to verify the message if they didn't hear it whispered correctly, and the fun of the game is to see how the message morphs into something completely different.
But the scribes of the Bible were serious about their work, accountable to God for its accurate transmission, which was done in writing and through multiple lines of transmission that could be checked against each other. They usually took care to double check their accuracy with earlier copies, and now as Biblical scholars research the some 25,000 ancient biblical manuscripts known to exist, most are amazed at the accuracy of its transmission. And the books of the Bible that we now read in English are only one or two languages removed from the original languages.
Jeff asked a second classic question about the authority of the Bible - "Isn't it just a collection of teachings picked by church authorities to control the masses?
The problem with this "buffet table" view of the Bible is that the selection process for what is in the official "cannon" of scripture didn't have the luxury of choosing individual teachings. They really only verified what had already been recognized as scripture over generations of Christians, and each book was verified on an all or nothing basis. These were books or church letters that were often long and covered a range of historical and theological topics, which would likely disagree with each other were its authors not inspired by God.
Jeff wondered, "So if the books of the Bible were already recognized as Holy Scripture, why did they have the verification process at all?" He told of some conversations he's had with friends who are Mormons who, of course, believe their Book of Mormon to be inspired. And that's just the point. The Bible isn't the only religious text out there. Earlier heretical writings began to emerge with claims of authority, and more have appeared throughout the centuries including The Quran of Islam, The Book of Mormon, and the New World translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, all which contradict the Bible and remind us why it is wise and necessary to have an official cannon of scripture.
For me, I have to believe that if God miraculously inspired the writing of Scripture, he also miraculously transmitted it down through the ages to the point that when I read it, I believe I am only one or two languages away from hearing the very words of God. I might not hang my theological hat on the interpretation of individual words from Greek or Hebrew by one scholar or another, but the messages of chapter and verse throughout the Bible ring loud and true. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."