"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN" The Definition & Value Of Brotherly Love (3:16-24) INTRODUCTION 1. The apostle John has given us two reasons in 1Jn 3:10-15 for why it is necessary that we love the brethren: a. Along with practicing righteousness, it distinguishes the children of God b. It signifies a passing from death to life 2. But what does it really mean to love the brethren? And what benefits do we receive in return when we possess brotherly love? 3. These two questions are answered by John in 1Jn 3:16-24, which serves as the text of this lesson entitled "The Definition And Value Of Brotherly Love" [Beginning in verse 16, we find...] I. THE DEFINITION OF BROTHERLY LOVE (16-18) A. JESUS EXEMPLIFIES WHAT IT MEANS TO LOVE THE BRETHREN (16) 1. The word for love (Grk., agape), has often been described as "active goodwill" 2. In giving His life for our sins, Jesus certainly demonstrated goodwill in an active way 3. By meditating upon His example, we are "taught of God to love one another" - cf. 1Th 4:9 4. With Jesus' example, then, we come to understand what brotherly love is all about: sacrificially serving others! a. Therefore we should be willing to lay down our lives for one another b. In some cases, it may indeed involve "dying" for our brethren; but it can also be "living" for them through serving B. AN EXAMPLE OF FAILING TO SHOW BROTHERLY LOVE (17) 1. John uses the example of not helping a brother when it is within your power to do so 2. In view of Christ's love, how we can claim to have love if we are not willing to sacrifice for a brother in need? 3. This illustrates that brotherly love is not only being willing to "die" for someone, but willing to "live" for them as well, through active service on their behalf C. THEREFORE, AN ADMONITION TO "TRUE LOVE" (18) 1. An admonition prefaced by John's favorite term of endearment: "My little children" 2. To love, not just in words, but truly, through deeds! [We see, then, that "brotherly love" which 1) distinguishes the children of God, and 2) signifies one as having passed from death to life, must go beyond the spoken word or occasional hymn. Patterned after the example of Jesus, "brotherly love" is manifested by what one does, not just by what one says (cf. 1Co 13:4-8). The blessedness of such love is not only for the recipient, but also for the giver, as we learn beginning in verse 19...] II. THE VALUE OF BROTHERLY LOVE (19-24) A. IT GIVES ONE ASSURANCE BEFORE GOD (19-21) 1. Love of the brethren is an indication that one is "of the truth", just as it was an indication that one had passed from death to life (1Jn 3:14) 2. It is certainly not the only indicator (cf. 1Jn 3:10), but it does help to provide one with assurance of their salvation 3. The importance of such assurance a. If our own hearts condemn us... 1) Because we know we do not love the brethren as we ought 2) Certainly God, who is greater and knows all things, will know of our shortcomings in this area ("If conscience condemn us in known sin, or the neglect of known duty, God does so too." - Matthew Henry) b. But if our hearts do NOT condemn us... 1) Because we are loving the brethren as we know we should 2) This will make us able to approach God with joyful confidence! B. IT LEADS TO POSITIVE ANSWERS TO PRAYER (22-23) 1. Our prayers are more likely to be answered according to our requests 2. Because we are keeping the commandments of God (of which loving the brethren is one), and thereby pleasing Him 3. "Commandment-keeping" is a condition upon which God hears prayer, just as it is a condition upon which Christ promises His abiding love - Jn 15:10 C. IT ENSURES THAT ONE ABIDES IN CHRIST (24) 1. Abiding in Christ is contingent upon keeping His commandments (and loving the brethren is certainly one of His commandments) - cf. Jn 14:23 2. And how do we know that Christ truly abides in those who keeps His commandments? a. By the Spirit whom Christ has given b. He (the Spirit) is the one Who reminded the apostles of the key to abiding in Christ - cf. Jn 14:19-26 CONCLUSION 1. Aren't these three blessings what every true Christian desires...? a. Abiding in Christ, and He in us? b. God answering our prayers? c. Confidence concerning our standing before God? 2. For these blessings to be ours... a. We must allow Christ to teach us by His example what it really means to have "brotherly love" b. And then manifest such sacrificial service in our lives! "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Does the love of God abide in you?
Academia’s Asinine Assault on the Bible
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The professor, age 50, wearing casual slacks and a sport coat over a sweater, arrived at the lecture auditorium to teach his afternoon class, as some 350 students streamed in for Religion 202—one of the most popular classes on the campus of the large state university. Exuding an energetic, intellectually sophisticated manner, and projecting an endearing personality, the professor proceeded to propound a “problem” pertaining to the Bible. Pacing back and forth across the stage, he launched a ruthless but passionately eloquent tirade against the Bible’s alleged “anomalies,” “contradictions,” and “discrepancies.” It went something like this:
Entire stories have been added that were not in the original gospels. The woman taken in adultery is nothing other than a bit of tradition added by the Catholics 300 years after the New Testament was written. In contrast with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in the book of John Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, he did not tell any parables, he never cast out a demon, and there’s no last supper. The crucifixion stories differ with each other. In Mark, Jesus was terrified on the cross, while in John, he was perfectly composed. Key dates are different. The resurrection stories are different. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you find no trace of Jesus being divine, while in John you do. It’s time for you to think for yourself. You need reasons. That applies to religion. That applies to politics. Just because your parents believe something—isn’t good enough.
So it goes, week after week, a relentless, rapid-fire barrage of bombastic barbs intended to overwhelm, intimidate, and bully their young, uninformed, ill-equipped victims. This scenario has been repeated thousands of times over the past half century in universities all across America. The result has been catastrophic. One heartbroken mother’s recent remarks are typical: “My 22-year-old son just graduated from ________ University where he lost his faith in God and His Word. My husband and I did the best we knew how to raise him to love the church and God’s Word. But he has allowed the world to sway his beliefs.” Like toxic waste, sinister propaganda has been dumped on the youth of the nation by biased, dishonest professors who have no interest in allowing the so-called “academic freedom” they tout in the form of equal time for reputable rebuttal. As a result of their decades’ long labor, a liberal, anti-Christian academic atmosphere now thoroughly permeates the university system of America.
Never mind the fact that these guys have nothing new to say that has not already been said by skeptics over the centuries. Their claims are merely a repackaged version quickly seized upon by a complicit liberal media that eagerly creates instant credibility by thrusting the new “prophet” before a larger audience—as if what he is saying is fresh and newly discovered. The fact of the matter is that all their points have been made and answered long ago. For those who have taken the time to examine the evidence, it is readily apparent that their accusations are slanted, overstated, exaggerated, and transparently biased.
Observe that the above professorial tirade issues two charges: (1) the text of the Bible is tenuous and uncertain, and (2) the gospel records contradict each other. The latter claim has been soundly refuted in detail by biblical scholars over the centuries. The Apologetics Press Web site is loaded with articles and books that defeat accusations of alleged discrepancy (see, for example, Eric Lyons’ Anvil Rings 1 & 2). Regarding the former claim, Textual Criticism is a longstanding discipline that long ago yielded abundant evidence for the trustworthiness of the text of the New Testament. Over the last two centuries, the manuscript evidence has been thoroughly examined, resulting in complete exoneration for the integrity, genuineness, and accuracy of the Bible. Prejudiced professors refrain from divulging to their students that the vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not affect salvation nor alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. Even those variants that might be deemed doctrinally significant pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness is unobscured. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. When all of the textual evidence is considered, the vast majority of discordant readings have been resolved (e.g., Metzger, 1978, p. 185). One is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the Bible as God intended.
The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed this conclusion. Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum, whose scholarship and expertise to make pronouncements on textual criticism was second to none, stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, 1940, p. 288). The late F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1960, pp. 19-20). J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” (Brigance, 1870, p. 4), conjoined: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1956, p. 17). And the eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said:
Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed (1964, p. 564, emp. added).
Noting that the experience of two centuries of investigation and discussion had been achieved, these scholars concluded: “[T]he words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament” (p. 565, emp. added).
Think of it. Men who literally spent their lives poring over ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, devoting their lives to meticulous, tedious analysis of the evidence, conversant with the original languages, without peer in their expertise and qualifications, have concluded that the Bible has been transmitted accurately. Then a prejudiced professor of religion has the unmitigated gall to brush aside the facts and pummel students with a slanted, half-baked viewpoint that flies in the face of two centuries of scholarly investigation? It is nothing short of inexcusable and intellectually dishonest. It’s time for parents to rise up and make universities accountable, or else cease sacrificing their children on the altar of pseudo-education. [NOTE: Those who are fearful that the integrity of the text of the Bible is compromised by the reality of textual variants need to be reminded that the world’s foremost textual critics have demonstrated that currently circulating copies of the New Testament do not differ substantially from the original (see Miller, 2005a, “Is Mark...,” 25:89-95; Miller, 2010).]
Brigance, L.L. (1870), “J.W. McGarvey,” in A Treatise on the Eldership by J.W. McGarvey (Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publications, 1962 reprint).
Bruce, F.F. (1960), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York, NY: Harper).
McGarvey, J.W. (1956 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1978 reprint), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, NY: MacMillan).
A Subtle Argument for Inspiration
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
The Bible—is it God’s Word, or is it a mere human production? This is a question of supreme importance.
For many years this writer has made a special study of the various lines of evidence that substantiate the Bible’s claim of being a book given by God. There are numerous areas one may explore in confirming such an affirmation.
EVIDENCE WITHIN THE PAGES
There are many segments of information contained within the writings of Scripture that argue for an originating source that lies beyond human genius.
For example, the sixty-six documents that compose the Book are characterized by such a flow of continuity, and such an amazing harmony, that it is impossible that they could have been authored over a span of sixteen centuries by some forty writers, and then fortuitously flow together in the fashion now found. The Bible’s unity argues for a supreme, orchestrating Mind.
There are approximately 7,000 prophecies that adorn the pages of this body of literature. The fact that these fore-statements (dealing with nations, people, and events) were fulfilled in a precise way (e.g., the more than 300 that previewed the coming Messiah) is more than incredible.
One can only marvel at the uncanny accuracy of the Scriptures in the academic areas upon which they touch—whether history, science, geography, etc.
We have discussed this matter in detail in our book, The Bible & Science.
But there are other lines of evidence that add weight to the biblical claim of supernatural origin. Some of these are more indirect in nature.
For example, there are omissions in the Bible that are puzzling had its composition been directed by mere human impulse.
Why are there no descriptions of God or of Jesus Christ? Other volumes of religious literature abound with portrayals of the features of their divine characters.
Why were most of the biographical data of Jesus’ thirty-three years upon this earth passed over in silence? Why do we know almost nothing of the life-long labors of most of the apostles?
Writers guided by their own literary inclinations would scarcely have neglected such intriguing details. This is not a circumstance easily explained from a naturalistic vantage point.
Elsewhere we have dealt with this material in more detail.
In summarizing these two major points we may say:
- There are things in the BibIe that could not have been the result of mere human intellect.
- There are things not in the Bible that surely would have been there if the documents had been humanly engineered.
Now we will direct our attention to yet another class of data. We are prepared to affirm that there are incidents recorded in the Bible that would not have been placed there if mere human impulse had been the guiding force in its composition.
In this section we will restrict our discussion to material in the New Testament.
If a writer is attempting to perpetrate religious hoax by means of fabricated documents, he will make every effort to avoid controversial issues which would “turn off” those he hopes to persuade by his propaganda. In view of this well-recognized principle, one is shocked to note some very strange inclusions to the New Testament record—if the narratives were prepared by writers who knew Christianity to be a bogus system, yet, nonetheless, wanted to persuade first-century citizens to accept it. Consider some of the following cases.
AN OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTH
The New Testament record begins with the account of the birth of Jesus. Joseph, a Hebrew man of the city of Nazareth, was “betrothed” to a virgin girl named Mary. In Jewish custom, from the time of a woman’s betrothal, she was treated as if she were “married,” though the union had not been consummated. A betrothal could not be dissolved except by divorce, and sexual activity with another was treated as adultery (Edersheim, p. 148). At the very least Mary would have been disgraced, had Joseph “put her away,” when he discovered that she was with child (Matthew 1:19).
Now here is the significant point. If one aims to construct a religion that he hopes will find acceptance within the ancient society of Judaism, he would hardly begin it with the hero of the “plot” being born out of wedlock! Such was scandalous to the Jewish mind. Yet this is precisely the situation to which one is introduced—in both Matthew and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. The only reasonable view of this circumstance is this: the story of the birth of Christ is presented the way it is because that is precisely how it happened—as unappealing as that was to the Jews. The account has a significant sense of authenticity.
A DESPISED TAX COLLECTOR
Let us reflect upon the fact that one of the apostles of Christ was a Hebrew named Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-28). He is the only apostle whose individual call is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. By occupation, he was a publican (tax collector) who worked on behalf of the Roman government. Barclay has noted that “there was no class of men in the ancient world more hated than tax gatherers” (1959, p. 59). Ancient writers—both pagan and Jewish—put tax collectors in the same category with harlots, robbers and a variety of other scoundrels (Green, et al., p. 805). Even the New Testament associates publicans with the most disreputable people (cf. Matthew 21:31-32; Mark 2:15; Luke 15:1). The Jews distrusted the publicans so intensely that they “declared them incapable of bearing testimony in a Jewish court of law” (Edersheim, p. 57).
These facts being the case, who can imagine that forgers, contriving to put together the New Testament documents in order to provide a rationale for the success of Christianity, would have invented the character of a “publican” as one of Jesus’ apostles?
To compound the matter, this “tax collector” is the writer who is reputed to have composed the gospel record that was specifically designed to present the case of Jesus, as the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecy, to the Hebrew people! The selection of Matthew, as one of the apostles, has the “ring” of absolute truth.
A VOLATILE MIXTURE
Add to the foregoing situation the fact that there was another controversial figure in the apostolic band. In Luke’s writings he is called Simon the Zealot, the latter expression signifying his political persuasion (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Palestine had come under Roman domination in 63 B.C., and the Jews “choked” on that reality. Accordingly, there developed a band of the most radical patriots imaginable. They eventually became known as the Assassins, the name being derived from sica, a small, curved dagger which they concealed beneath their robes. With these weapons, when opportunity arose, they dispatched their enemies into eternity. Needless to say, the Zealots hated the publicans (considering them traitors), and the publicans feared the Zealots. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely combination in the apostolic company, than Matthew the publican, together with Simon the Zealot. Who, in the name of common sense, would have invented this scenario in attempting to explain the astounding success of Christ’s apostles? It is a mark of authenticity.
THE “WOMAN” ISSUE
Some of the movements of Jesus, among the different elements of Hebrew society during the days of His ministry, utterly defy explanation on naturalistic bases. Think about these episodes for a moment.
Jesus once accepted an invitation from a Pharisee (the strictest sect of the Jews) to dine at his home (see Luke 7:36ff.). During the course of the meal, a woman (widely known as a “sinner,” i.e., likely a prostitute) came into the house. Immediately, she went to the Lord’s feet. She kissed the Savior’s feet profusely (so the Greek indicates), and her tears of joy bathed them. She used her long hair as a “towel” to gently dry them. Simon, the host, mentally criticized Christ for permitting this disreputable lady to touch Him in this fashion (vs. 39). Jesus, however, censured His Pharisaic host, yet commended the woman! Christ is placed in a bad light from two common vantage points.
First, Jewish men normally did not associate with women in public (cf. John 4:27). The Jewish attitude towards women was less than ideal. While the Old Testament afforded significant dignity to womanhood (cf. Proverbs 31:10ff.), the Hebrews, over the years, had imbibed some of the attitudes of paganism. Many a Jewish man started his day with prayer to God, expressing thanks that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman! Hebrew men did not talk with women “in the street”—not even with a mother, sister, daughter, or wife (Lightfoot, 3:286-287). According to the most liberal view of Deuteronomy 24:1, a Hebrew husband could divorce his wife if she was found “familiarly talking with men” (Edersheim, p. 157). William Barclay tells of a segment of the Jews known as the “bleeding and bruised” Pharisees; when they saw a woman approaching, they would close their eyes; hence, were running into things constantly (1956, 1:142-143). Jesus broke this mold.
Second, the tarnished reputation of the dear soul would intensify an already smoldering atmosphere. This episode, therefore, is hardly one that would have enhanced the gospel record with the Jews of the first century. It is an unlikely event to be incorporated into the biblical narrative by an imposter.
A MEDICAL PROBLEM
One of the dreaded diseases of the first century was leprosy. (NOTE: The Greek term lepra is generic, embracing a number of scaly skin diseases, e.g., psoriasis, lupus, ringworm, etc., and possibly including the modern malady known as Hansen’s disease.)
There are several instances recorded in the gospel accounts wherein Jesus had contact with lepers. For instance, following the sermon on the mount, a man “full of leprosy” encountered Christ, and fell at the Lord’s feet, worshipping Him (cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14). Jesus had compassion on the man (Mark 1:41). All three writers agree that Christ “touched” the poor soul. Contrast this with the general rabbinic custom. A rabbi would not eat an egg that was purchased on the same street where a leper lived. Occasionally rabbis would throw rocks at lepers to insure that these unfortunate souls kept their distance (Elwell, 2:1124-1125).
If a leper approached the average Jew in biblical times, the Hebrew, being fearful of becoming “unclean,” or even of being seen in proximity with the afflicted victim, would flee the area (Hendricksen, p. 391). How very unlikely, then, would it have been that a sympathetic biographer would write that Christ was on familiar terms with such wretched folks. It is not an association that would endear the Lord to the Jews.
A similar example is seen in Jesus’ attitude toward the Samaritans. In his gospel account, John makes the simple remark that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (4:9). The Hebrews did not even regard Samaria as a part of the Holy Land; rather it was merely a strip of foreign territory separating Galilee from Judaea (Edersheim, p. 12). Quite frequently, Jews would not even go through Samaria—when traveling from one end of the country to the other. The common route was to cross the Jordan and avoid the dreaded territory altogether.
While there was some casual mingling between Jews and Samaritans (see John 4:8), the hostility between the groups was often quite bitter. One rabbi (Eliezer) said that “he who eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one who eats the flesh of swine.” Another saying suggested that the daughters of the Samaritans were “unclean” from the cradle (Morris, p. 229). And one cannot but recall that on one occasion even James and John asked the Lord if he would like for them to call fire from heaven to consume some inhospitable Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56).
In spite of the gulf that existed between Jews and Samaritans, it is incredible that the New Testament elevates some of these people to a very noble status. In a well-known parable, it is a Samaritan who becomes the compassionate and generous hero, while a Jewish priest and a Levite are represented as uncaring villains (Luke 10:25ff.). And when Jesus miraculously “cleansed” ten men who were afflicted with leprosy, only one was grateful enough to turn back and, glorifying God, give thanks to the Lord (Luke 17:11ff.). It was a Samaritan who was commended for his faith (vss. 16,19).
Jesus’ attitude toward the Gentiles was similarly unusual. In the early days of His ministry, when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, He read from the book of Isaiah in the local synagogue. The text was from Isaiah 61:1ff., which proclaimed a host of spiritual blessings in the distant future. Christ declared that those promises were in the process of being fulfilled as He spoke. The Lord then suggested that, generally speaking, these folks would be unlikely to receive His teaching—due to their familiarity with Him. “No prophet is acceptable in his own country” (Luke 4:24). Jesus then shocked His people by citing two examples of faith in the days of Elijah and Elisha—Naaman and the widow of Zarephath—both of whom were Gentiles. Clearly there is an implication regarding the character of the Jews at that time. The allusion so infuriated the citizens of Nazareth that they attempted to murder the Son of God (vs. 29). This act of Christ, in complimenting Gentiles, combined with the frank description of the rejection He would receive from His hometown folks, is hardly the sort of information that would be included in a record designed to woo the favor of the first-century Israelite people.
Anyone familiar with the tactics of politicians is painfully aware of how they generally tailor their programs to what their constituents desire, rather than what is in harmony with the will of the sovereign Creator. Such was not the case with Jesus Christ—He “cut across the grain,” teaching what was right, not what was popular.
Jesus declared that families would be divided over loyalty to Him; He insisted that to be faithful to Him one must be willing to sacrifice everything if necessary, bearing His “cross” (a term of great reproach) daily (Matthew 10:34ff.; cf. Luke 9:23). Christ laid down a rigorous law enforcing the stability of marriage. Only an innocent victim of marital infidelity would be able to divorce and subsequently remarry (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). He demanded that His followers subordinate material possessions to spiritual interests (Matthew 19:16ff.; Luke 12:13-21). He peeled back the hypocrisy of religious charlatans whose hearts were light-years away from God (Matthew 6:1ff.; 23:13ff.).
Who would have expected any success in his mission by making demands like these? This is not the level of dedication that appeals to most people; it is not a philosophy that man would craft. Of the Christian system it aptly has been said: “Man could not have invented it if he would; he would nothave fashioned it if he could.”
Then there is that matter of the conciliatory ideology of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) with reference to His enemies. When men look for heroes, they generally want rugged men—those who will not stand by and take abuse from evil adversaries. The exploits of military leaders dominate the literary historical terrain.
In 63 B.C. the renowned Roman general Pompey swept through Palestine and the Hebrew people came under the dominating heel of the imperial throne. Fuelled by the Zealots, the Jews developed an intense hatred for the Romans. The oppressors must be overthrown! Following the miraculous feeding of a great multitude, many of the Jews felt that Jesus just might be the leader to accomplish this ambition. They were on the verge of forcing Him to be their king, but He would have none of it (John 6:15). A poet has well described the situation. “They were looking for a king to slay their foes and lift them high. Thou camest a little baby thing—that made a woman cry.”
Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be oppressed and afflicted, and yet He would humbly submit to His enemies (cf. 50:6; 53:7,9). In the course of His trial, Jesus amply demonstrated the accuracy of those predictions. He taught His disciples not to resist their persecutors with violence; rather they were to love (agape—act in the benevolent interest of) their foes (Matthew 5:38ff.; cf. Romans 12:17ff.). The difficulty of this challenge is highlighted by the fact that, even today, some Christians resort to fanciful modes of textual manipulation in order to escape the force of the instruction.
Our continuing argument, then, is this. Christ’s example, and His demanding admonition to His followers regarding their enemies, would never have been the basis of a doctrinal platform conceived by men with the design of attracting great throngs to the Christian Way. The rigors of the requirements provide evidence of divine origin.
The authenticity of Christianity, as set forth in the New Testament, is supported by many lines of converging evidence—from the most obvious to the brilliantly subtle. Only those who have not carefully studied the matter, or who are steadfast in their willfull resistance of the evidence, can remain unconvinced of the genuine nature of the religion of Jesus Christ. Those who have probed the theme in depth are increasingly awed by the sanctity of the Scriptures.
Barclay, William (1956), The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Westminster).
Barclay, William (1959), The Master’s Men (New York: Abingdon).
Edersheim, Alfred (1957), Sketches of Jewish Social Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Elwell, Walter (1988), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker).
Green, Joel, Scott McKnight, Howard Marshall (1992), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity).
Hendricksen, William (1973), Exposition of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker).
Lightfoot, John (1979), Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and the Hebraica (Grand Rapids: Baker).
Morris, Leon (1995), The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
A Prosecutor Looks at the Bible
|by||Robert C. Veil, J.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: A.P. auxiliary writer Robert Veil, Jr. formerly served as a district attorney for the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office (Maryland), and previously maintained an active private law practice. He currently preaches in Martinsburg, West Virginia.]
The Bible is the most unusual and remarkable book we have ever encountered. It is unusual in that it claims to be the product of divine inspiration. And this book has had a remarkable influence, felt around the world for centuries. The book is morally good and pure, but upon examination we see that it is much more than a good book. Surviving countless attacks and criticisms, continuing as the world’s best seller, the Bible has been examined and cross-examined far more than any other book ever written.
As a prosecutor, I was required to examine cases with a critical eye, preparing them for presentation to a jury. All cases had their strengths and weaknesses. They had to be examined carefully and a decision had to be made concerning their prosecution. It had to be decided whether each case had merit, and whether there was a reasonable likelihood of success in proving it to a jury if necessary. If the case lacked merit, it was not proper to proceed. And this decision had to be made based upon the strength of the evidence, not upon personal preferences, political considerations, or even the level of certainty or commitment of the police officer who initiated the charges.
When I look at the Bible, I see a strong case for its inspiration. The evidence is not only compelling, it is overwhelming. The fact that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, as opposed to merely a work of man, can be established in several ways. It can be established from a philosophical standpoint inasmuch as the derivation of truth and knowledge from God Himself is consistent with an inspired revelation of His will. It can be established from a logical or rational series of arguments, or an historical study, or a survey of nature itself—which reveals God as well. But as a prosecutor, I am also impressed with the evidence of inspiration within the Bible itself. When I look at the Bible carefully, I notice several things which strongly argue for its inspiration by God:
1. When I examine the Bible, I see that the Bible claims to be inspired by God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The literal meaning of the Greek word translated “inspiration of God” is breathed out by God or God-breathed. This claim is unique and sets the Bible apart from the vast body of world literature. Except for a few later imitations, other books basically account for their own origin through purely natural means. But throughout the Bible, it claims to be from God.
I recognize that critics will object that the Bible’s own claim of inspiration cannot be considered on the ground that “you can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible.” But such an objection would be overruled, for it ignores standard and accepted practice in other proceedings. We routinely allow the accused in criminal cases to speak for himself, although in this country he is not required to do so. Even in civil cases, where the burden of proof is much lower, we allow the defendant to speak in his own behalf when his character is called into question. If the Bible is to be accorded a fair trial, its own claims of inspiration must be carefully considered along with all other evidence.
The Bible claims its own inspiration forthrightly. It makes no apology, and shows no hesitation in stating that it and its central figure, Jesus Christ, are from God. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:22-23,32). So as a starting point, we note that the Bible claims to be of divine origin.
Sometimes people will deny that the Bible is from God, arguing that it is merely a “good book.” I recall one of my early school teachers telling the class that the Bible was written by “a good man” long ago. On the contrary, if the Bible is not truly the product of divine inspiration, it is not good, and it was not written by good people, because they steadfastly contended that it is. They would be more accurately described as deceivers or liars, because their amazing claims were false. It is also noteworthy that even the most radical Bible scholars do not argue that the book was composed by a single author. Although there is considerable debate about specifically when and by whom some of the various books of the Bible were written, it is universally admitted to be the product of a number of writers over many years, a point to be developed further below.
2. When I examine the Bible, I observe that, the critics’ claims notwithstanding, the Bible is amazingly consistent with itself. There is a grand procession throughout. This fact is actually very compelling when it is recognized that the Bible consists of 66 separate books written by approximately 40 different writers with varying and diverse backgrounds. These writers included fishermen, a tent maker, a tax collector, a shepherd, kings, prophets, historians, social activists, statesmen, etc. Most of these writers never knew each other personally, making collusion in the composition of the Bible impossible. They could not “get their story straight” before writing. Further, each of the books were originally written in one of three different languages, from three different continents around the world. It was written over a period of approximately 1,600 years, yet consistently develops one main story—a central theme, without contradiction or inconsistency.
The development of a grand theme, with contributions made thereto in the earliest books of the Bible, gradually unfolded, and completed throughout the latter books, is an amazing accomplishment, and unexplainable without divine intervention. For example, in the earliest books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the writer introduces the concept of the Passover lamb, with its many similarities to Jesus Christ. The male lamb was to be spotless and without blemish, a perfect specimen. It was to be killed by the shedding of blood, and the blood was to be applied to the dwelling houses of those to be saved from the final plague (Exodus 11ff.). The Passover feast itself contained remarkable similarities to the Lord’s Supper, though instituted hundreds of years earlier. These attributes are interwoven with the manner in which the lamb was to be killed, the actual shedding of blood, and the application of it to the houses of a selected people. How could these characteristics have been devised without a knowledge of what was to come? That is, how could the invention and detailed description of the Passover appurtenanceshave been accomplished by someone completely unaware of how these details would later align with the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world?
Bible students call this phenomenon “typology.” It involves the pre-figuring of places, things, and events by Old Testament “shadows,” which look forward to and foretell future fulfillment. The Old Testament “types” are sometimes extremely detailed, and they have astonishingly appropriate applications in the New Testament “antitypes.” From an evidentiary standpoint, they are unexplainable without divine guidance of the Bible writers. No human author, without assistance, could have foreseen the application and fulfillment of the detailed types they described. The operation of random chance can no more explain this occurrence than the dropping of the pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle from its box onto a table could yield the completed result. The finished picture becomes visible upon examination of the various New Testament writings. Added to this is the fact that these New Testament writers had no control over the work of the Old Testament writers who foretold these matters. How is this explainable absent divine intervention?
3. When I examine the Bible I see objectivity. Although perhaps not totally inconceivable, this is surprising if the writing of the book was not superintended by God. The Bible relates both the good and the bad concerning its heroes. That is not typical of human works, although it can sometimes be accomplished with concerted, strained effort. But given the multiplicity of Bible writers, it would be difficult to explain how all of them succeeded in such objectivity.
The Bible often includes information which seems, at first, to argue against its point. It includes “challenging” passages, which might have been easily omitted. For example, in Job 2:3 the Bible quotes God as saying to Satan, “And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” It is not surprising that Bible critics have seized upon this passage in an effort to disparage the God of the Bible, and to deny its inspiration. They claim the verse teaches that God personally set Job up for failure. Indeed, the verse on the surface seems to say this, and it is only upon deeper study of the verse with its immediate and more remote context that the true meaning appears. But why was the verse included in the first place? It would have been easy, had the work been of mere human origin, to avoid this and other difficult statements. Had we, in our limited wisdom, been composing the Bible in an effort to palm it off as the work of God, would we have included such statements? The fact that these difficult passages appear in the text is strong evidence that it was not written by humans unconstrained by a higher influence. There is an over-arching hand which gives to the text a higher meaning, understandable only upon a reading of the work as a whole. The ancient Bible writers, who were not always privy to these other, clarifying passages, would not have written this way, but for the control of inspiration. In other words, since most of the Bible writers did not have access to the other portions of the Bible as they wrote, it is not likely that they would have inserted statements understandable only upon comparison with those other portions. If they were writing with only their own uninspired wisdom, they would have omitted such passages altogether.
Further, it is a mark of authenticity to include negative or undesirable traits about the people held out as heroes. It is not typical for human witnesses to volunteer weaknesses or undesirable concessions about themselves in their own case. If the Bible writers were liars trying to convince us to follow them, it is inconceivable that they would contradict that aim by making themselves look bad. Most people want to bolster their position, and we generally tend to minimize or omit information which detracts from our message or makes us look bad. But the Bible does not do this. It delivers both the positive and the negative, the good and the bad about the characters used to tell its story. Peter, for example, is presented as the strong right hand of the Lord Himself, a pillar in the early church. Yet, in other passages he is presented with the most embarrassing of human foibles. We are given his impetuous nature, his lack of faith or conviction, his racial bias, and even his denial of Jesus Christ. David, an undisputed hero of God and his people throughout the history of Israel, and a forefather to Jesus Himself, is described as indulging in the most humiliating of sins, including sexual perversity and murder. Would these salacious facts be included had the writing of the book not been superintended by God?
4. Upon examination of the Bible, I notice what J.W. McGarvey called the “restraint” of inspiration.There are many examples; it is a fascinating characteristic of the Bible and unexplainable if it is the work of mere man. Essentially, we have people and momentous events, of great interest to our human curiosity, disposed of in brief sentences leaving us longing for more. This, too, is unlike the work of uninspired men, who tend to run on and on about matters in which they have a great interest. One would think, for example, that the biblical character of Samson, whose exploits have been of keen and thrilling interest to millions, would have been accorded more than three chapters (Judges 14-16). Or, to use McGarvey’s example, the death of James, one of the apostles, would have been described in great detail, instead of only 11 words (Acts 12:2).
How are we to account for this circumstance? The matters which seem less interesting, and yet in the grand scheme of the book as a whole have greater significance, are given more attention. Whereas the matters which appeal to our human curiosity, but in reality have minor import in the overall story, are passed over quickly. Does this not show the guiding force of a superior wisdom in the composition of the entire Bible?
Those new to Bible study are often confounded by the insertion of genealogical records. The names are sometimes difficult to pronounce, and one at first wonders why they are included at all. The Bible contains about 24 genealogical lists, strategically distributed throughout its pages. Many of them include supplemental historical information in addition to the names themselves. Taken together, they amount to a progression of generations leading to the Messiah. Further, they place Him into a human history or framework. Surely, the original writers could not have foreseen the significance of these records. It is only upon closure of the final pages of the New Testament that their significance begins to dawn upon us. Their evidentiary value in connecting the Messiah to human events is meticulously established. No other person in all of human history is so carefully documented from a genealogical perspective. And while the individual writers of the Bible may not have seen the importance of including such laborious and tedious details, the God who inspired the overall work obviously did.
5. Upon examination of the Bible, I see that it is uncanny in its accuracy. Like the old anvil which withstands the blows of countless hammers, it proves to be correct time and time again. I recently watched as a nationally known atheist and Bible critic debated the existence of God. Although referring to the many embarrassing errors within the Bible, he produced none. I suspect he knew that such alleged “errors” have been put forth time and time again, only to be capably answered upon closer examination. No other book has been subjected to such treatment and withstood such attacks.
6. I see in the Bible the most enduring of books. It has long outsold all others, and has been treasured and preserved through the centuries as a priceless work of wisdom and guidance. Countless generations have largely ordered their lives from its principles. It has been translated and proclaimed at great personal risk. Men have given their lives in its proclamation. Even in our own country, the Bible provides support for our founding principles, continues to be revered by many, and is made readily available upon demand. In our transient and disposable culture, this is no small feat.
What do I see when I examine the Bible? I see a book that I would not hesitate to take before any reasonable trier of fact. I would be willing to submit it in a fair comparison against all others. I would not shrink from relying upon it. I am confident in its power and dependability. I see the marks of inspiration upon it and the hand of God within it. I see consistency, objectivity, restraint, accuracy, and endurance. In short, I see the inspired Word of God.