You Asked For It #1: How Can I Trust the Bible?

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Here’s the audio for “How Can I Trust the Bible?” (January 10, 2010)

On Sunday, January 10, we launched our “You Asked For It” series with the first of eight questions: How can I trust the Bible?  The purpose of this post is to give you resources for further study and conversation as you explore this question more deeply on your own.   The message notes from Sunday’s sermon are also available.

Two great web resources that give an overview of the Doctrine on the Bible



A  good message that establishes the “Authority of the Bible” by Mark Dever (Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.)

We covered 6 topics during the message.  And under each topic is the highlight of that topic with some further discussion, links to great articles on each topic, as well as book suggestions for further reading.

1) Revelation

God’s self-disclosure of Himself, His character, His will, and His plan of salvation.

2) Inspiration

“Inspiration is that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit whereby the sacred writers were divinely supervised in their production of Scripture, being restrained from error and guided in the choice of words they used, consistently with their disparate personalities and stylistic peculiarities” (Carl Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1:25)

3) Inerrancy

Here’s a good definition of inspiration with inerrancy

“The inspiration of Scripture is the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit who, through the different personalities and literary styles of the chosen human authors, invested the very words of the original books of holy Scripture, alone and in their entirety, as the very Word of God without error in all that they teach and is thereby the infallible rule and final authority for the faith and practice of all believers. In all literally means all, which includes history and science” (Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner, Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, 104, emphasis mine).

Inerrancy, edited by Norm Geisler

4) Transmission

The term “transmission” describes the ancient process of copying the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to preserve them for future generations and to distribute them for greater use.  The 39 books of the OT were written between 1450 – 400 BC, and the 27 books of the NT were written between AD 40 – AD 90.  So let’s talk about how we get from the original documents that the Holy Spirit and the biblical authors wrote to the Hebrew and Greeks texts that we use today to translate our English Bibles

“Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?” (Probe Ministries)

A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tables to Modern Translations by David Ewert

5) Canonicity

The word “canon” means a measuring rod, much like a ruler. So when we use this word to explain how the books of the Bible were recognized as part of God’s Word, there was a rule and a standard that the books had to meet to be recognized as Scripture.  Note that I say “recognized” and not “decided upon.”  Semantics are very important here… the early church councils did not decide which books got in and which books didn’t.  They recognized which biblical books were already recognized affirmed within the community of faith.  Here are the standards and criteria that biblical books had to meet to be recognized as part of the Bible:

1. Authoritative.  Were they written by a prophet, king, judge or scribe of God in the OT or an apostle or based upon the eyewitness testimony to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the NT.

2. Consistent. Is the book consistent with truth about God presented within the context of what the rest of Scripture teaches?

3. Dynamic. Has the book demonstrated God’s dynamic life-changing power in the lives of His people?

4. Received. Has the book been universally received and accepted by the people of God as Holy Scripture?

If you’re wondering why our Protestant Bible does not include the Apocrypha (which the Catholic Bible includes), read this article:

6) Translations

Your English Bible has been directly translated from the Hebrew and Greek texts, which once again, we believe to be very accurate renderings of the original, inspired and inerrant documents.

Here are the different types of translations:

1. Word for word translations makes a special effort to carefully interpret each word from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. The NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV are word for word translations

2. Thought for thought translations attempts to convey the full nuance and idea of each passage while not paying specific attention to the word for word translation. The NIV is the best thought for thought English translation.

3. Paraphrase translations pay even less attention to specific word meanings in an attempt to capture the poetic or narrative essence of a passage.  The Living Bible and The Message are good examples of paraphrase translations.

12 Replies to “You Asked For It #1: How Can I Trust the Bible?”

  1. Thanks for diving in so deeply! I really feel that this sermon set a proper tone for the weeks ahead.

    Question: How do you feel about translations like the NRSV that do not translate non-gender specific pronouns as strictly male? I agree with your position on any translation that changes the gender of God, but feel that in many cases statements like “brothers and sisters” is more accurate.

  2. thanks steve… there are times when Paul will say “brethren” that I do believe the linguistic intent is not to segregate males from females… therefore, brethren can be translated as “brothers and sisters.” this is what the NRSV is doing… but in reality, it moves it further away from a “Word-for-word” to more of a “thought for thought” which is fine, but it gets us further away from the original Greek word.

  3. Jonathan,

    This is a REALLY impressive blog site. Its compact, yet provides as much detail as one wishes to engage. I’ll be back for more visits, during your series: “You asked for it”.

  4. Jonathan,

    You mentioned the “gender neutral” translations, and for us to be cautious. Where do we draw the line with popular translations, such as NIV, that are increasing their “gender neutrality” with successive editions? BTW, I am an ESV guy – I like the “essentially literal” translation that they provide.

  5. I’m diggin’ it, too, Jonathan. Being a Catholic (and a happy one, at that), I especially appreciate the Protestant insight into bible history. I have been thinking a lot about this topic for the past few years, and these resources and discussions directly address my questions.

  6. Wow that was like a tornado Sunday morning. Great stuff!!!!! Presented very well, you are a brave man to attempt to do all of that in one sermon. RIGHT ON!!

  7. Thanks for the response, Jonathan! I tend to go back and forth between the ESV and the NRSV. I have yet to find a passage in the NRSV that I think strays from the path.

    Of course, anyone that has studied another language knows that there is no such thing as a true word-for-word translation!

  8. Very interesting and informative sermon. I would only comment that the ideas of Revelation, Inspiration and Inerrancy all hinge on just how legitimate the Bible is so the discussion of Transmission, Canonicity and Translation and historical evidence are something of a foundation for the former. For example, Mormons will argue that the Book of Mormon is inspired revelation and is inerrant. The historical evidence of its creation and events it describes, however, do not bear that out. We do, however, have millions of people – not only Mormons – that put the Revelation, Inspiration and Inerrant cart before the Transmission, Canonicity, Translation and historical evidence horse.

  9. I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!! Thank you so much for the extent that you go to to prepare your sermons and help us do further study with the attached articles to your blog. We could not be at church the Sunday you presented this material but I’ve spent the morning reading your blog and the articles attached. Nothing like getting a mouthful of meat in both your sermons and these articles. I found it very helpful to get the information from the article by Don Closson on the progression of theology from the time of the early church fathers to postmodernism. I found the article by Erwin Lutzer very enlightening also. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO FEED THE LORD’S HUNGARY SHEEP and inspiring us to “dig deeper”!!! Trixie Gear

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