Friday, January 29, 2010

Basic Bibliology: What Do You Say that You Are?

The study of bibliology is a complex one, and there are a number of places I'm sure we could start. I think that a natural place to start is with the Bible's self-testimony. That is, what does Scripture say of itself? What does the Bible claim itself to be? This is by no means the end of the discussion; as we'll see, thanks to the great points raised by a new reader (and old friend), there are many questions which must be asked, many issues which must be examined. And we won't neglect them.

Nevertheless, we must start somewhere, so we might as well start here. Jesus once asked Peter, "who do you say that I am" (Matthew 16:15)? Similarly, how does Scripture respond when we ask, "What do you say that you are?" We'll discover that the consistent testimony is that it is the very words breathed out by God, not the product primarily of human will; that by virtue of being His words it must be true; and that His words endure forever.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Basic Bibliology: The Study of the Bible

An old friend of mine discovered my blog recently and sent me an email which has inspired me to start a new series. In the email my friend asked a great question:

"I have a question for you...and I think you subscribe to the theory of the inerrant bible. Why do we believe the bible is inerrant. I know I'm supposed to believe that, but I don't understand why I'm supposed to believe that when the only one telling me that are people that believe it but don't know why...

Thanks for helping me work through this very important issue...As you know, Church's discourage opening up 'settled' issues and unfortunately that has lead church leadership to not have the answers to these questions because no one dared ask them in seminary lest they be run out on a rail!"

This is an EXCELLENT question, and I would agree with my friend that many churches do sort of brush this question aside as having been "settled." I would also agree that many who hold to biblical inerrancy--as yes, I do--cannot articulate why they do so, and yet insist that Christians agree. I believe this is why in recent years an increasing number of Christians hold to a more liberal view of the Bible's "inspiration," one in which the overall message of the Bible and certain doctrines drawn from it are "infallible," meanwhile acknowledging that there are nevertheless factual and historical errors and contradictions that can't be denied.


"Bibliology" is simply the study of the Bible. By that I don't mean that it is the study of what the Bible teaches, but rather what the Bible is. It is the study of its nature, of its origin, of its history. When we study bibliology we ask questions such as: Is the Bible inerrant? Or is it merely infallible? What is the difference? What does the Bible say about itself? What is the canon, and how was it decided upon? And so on and so forth.

Note that this is not the same thing as "bibliolatry". Bibliolatry is the worship of the Bible, and is typically an accusation leveled at those like myself who believe Scripture is inerrant. Let me be clear: with the exception, perhaps, of some rare pseudo-Christian sects of which I'm completely unaware, Christians do not worship the Bible. That's true of Christians across the bibliological spectrum, as it were, including myself and those like me. That we believe the Bible contains the inerrant Word of God does not mean we elevate it to an object of worship like God Himself.

My initial answer to this question is quite simple: If the Bible contains any errors, how can I possible know whether or not anything it says is erroneous? Of course this does not even come close to fully addressing the many, many issues some have with biblical inerrancy. But I do think my answer makes it clear that there are consequences to our stance on this issue. The moment one accepts that there were any errors in what the authors of Scripture originally wrote is the moment at which one hands over the ability to discern truth from error to one's emotions, to one's leaders, to one's community or to any other fallible human being or group of fallible human beings. That's a concession we must not make lightly.


So with all that having been said, I'm excited to introduce this series in which we will study the nature, origin and history of the Bible. In his email my friend raised many great points, and over time we'll look at all of them and more. If we're going to call ourselves Christians, and if we're going to look to the Bible at all as the source for our world view, we ought to examine this question and grapple with "Basic Bibliology."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Silencing Skepticism: Contradictions in Conversion

In "One Donkey Or Two?" we looked at a common objection raised by skeptics, claiming that Matthew's account of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem contradicted those of the other gospel writers. Whereas the former misinterpreted an Old Testament prophecy and depicted Jesus riding astride two donkeys simultaneously, Mark, Luke and John interpret the prophecy correctly and record only one donkey. We learned, however, that Matthew did not misinterpret the prophecy, nor did he contradict the other gospel authors, and instead merely included a detail the other authors left out.

The number of such seeming contradictions skeptics allege occur throughout the pages of Scripture is enormous, and though I believe they are all easily answered, responding to each one blog post at a time would take more time than I am capable of comitting to the endeavor. As such, when it comes to these alleged contradictions I'm going to try and pick up the pace a bit, and answer more than one at a time. However, I will always include additional resources so you can research more deeply if you so choose.

Today we'll look at three alleged contradictions in Scripture surrounding Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. First, in the book of Acts Luke records his account of Paul's conversion in which his companions did not hear Jesus, and also records Paul's descriptions of the event later, in which he says his companions did hear Him. Second, in Luke's account Paul's companions stand speechless, but in Paul's they fall to the ground. Third, we're told by Luke that Paul didn't see Jesus on the road, but in his letter to the Corinthians Paul claims he did see Jesus.

As we'll see, skeptics' objections notwithstanding, Luke did not contradict himself. A close examination of the original Greek words penned by Luke reveals that Paul's companions heard the voice speaking to Paul but did not understand the words it spoke. Luke's wording does not require that Paul's companions were standing, only that they were "rooted to the spot." And Paul does not contradict Luke when he says in his letter that he saw the risen Jesus.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Silencing Skepticism: One Donkey or Two?

In "Contradiction in Creation" we learned that skeptics point to the first and second chapters of Genesis as an example of contradictions they claim appear throughout Scripture, thus casting doubt on its overall reliability, let alone its inerrancy. We discovered, however, that the first and second chapters of Genesis are not, as the skeptics claim, two contradictory accounts of creation. Instead, whereas the former gives an outline of the creation week, the latter zooms in, temporally to day six and geographically to the garden of Eden, and neither contradicts the other.

Another alleged contradiction pointed to by skeptics is as follows: In Matthew's account of the "Triumphal Entry," the gospel writer misinterprets biblical prophecy and tells us Jesus sent His disciples to fetch a donkey and its foal and rode into Jerusalem upon them both. Mark's, Luke's and John's gospels, on the other hand, depict Jesus as riding into Jerusalem upon a single donkey, interpreting the fulfilled prophecy correctly. This is a clear example of two mutually exclusive accounts, and therefore one or both accounts must not be the inerrant Word of God some Christians claim it is, right? No. As we'll see, Matthew did not misunderstand the prophecy he claimed was being fulfilled, and his account does not contradict the others; he merely chose to relate details the other authors omitted.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ministering to Mormons: The Great Apostasy

In "A Pattern of Prophets" and "The Restoration of the Priesthood" we learned that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes their church is the one true church led by God because it, unlike the rest of Christendom, is led by leaders holding the restored positions of prophet and priest. They claim to have members who hold the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, by whose authority they lead God's people.

We discovered, however, that the Bible teaches that the Church was founded upon the message of prophets and priests from the past, but that Jesus Christ is the infinite, everlasting servant of the superior ministry that replaced the old one, His Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian, revealing truth. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that the Levitical (or Aaronic, as Mormons call it) priesthood has been ended, and that the only One capable of holding the Melchizedek priesthood which replaced it is Jesus Christ Himself. The LDS Church teaches contrary to the plain words of Scripture.

But these peculiar LDS doctrines share as their foundation a related one, which deserves special scrutiny.