”Lest Thou Be Like Him”
Vol: 98 Issue: 28 Saturday, November 28, 2009
I was talking to a guy the other day about the state of affairs this world finds itself in and of course, we eventually got around to the Bible.
“What?” my friend exclaimed. “You’re kidding!” He looked at me as if I had just admitted I’d been abducted by aliens.
(Or, more accurately, the way I would have looked at a guy who said he was abducted by aliens. In this case, had I claimed an alien abduction, he probably would have wanted to know all the details.)
But when I admitted to believing the Bible, he really did think I was kidding. (Billy isn’t actually a friend exactly, but rather, the twenty-something son of a friend. I was having a coffee with him while waiting for his dad to come home when the discussion began.)
Our discussion started over politics and economics. Billy had been reading about the Federal Reserve, the Money Trust, and how government works and decided that capitalism is evil and that he is a Marxist/socialist.
He had lots and lots of information, but no context in which to understand it. I was trying to put it into context when the Bible came up.
Suddenly, Billy was not only an economist and politician, now he was also an authority on the Bible.
“How can you believe the Bible when it is filled with errors?” he asked me. “Everybody knows it’s just a book written by men. It’s been changed and edited more times than you can count.”
Billy had obviously never heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls refers to the collective discovery at Qumron in 1947 of documents and artifacts hidden in caves by the Essenes who had a settlement nearby.
The Essenes were a sect of Jewish zealots that appeared in Jewish history about the 2nd century before Christ through to the 7th decade of the 1st century AD.
The Essenes were the third largest sect at the time after the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is widely believed that John the Baptist was a member of the Essenes.
Essenes lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, and abstinence from worldly pleasures.
Josephus records that Essenes existed in large numbers, and thousands lived throughout Judæa. When the Jewish Uprising began in AD 66, many of the Essenes fled to Qumron near the Dead Sea in the Judean wilderness.
The settlement at Qumron was sacked by the Romans in AD 68. Knowing the Romans were coming, they hid their scriptures and their artifacts in the surrounding caves before being massacred.
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls was found a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah dating to about 100 years before Christ, or about 500 years after Isaiah penned it.
Isaiah is one of the Major Prophets of the Old Testament. He prophesied the coming of the Messiah, His virgin birth, even His suffering and death.
The Book of Isaiah reaches beyond the First Advent all the way through to the Millennial Reign.
The Qumron copy is, according to the scholars that have examined it, essentially identical to the modern Book of Isaiah, a fact made that much more remarkable, given that many of Isaiah’s prophecies are in the process of fulfillment in this generation.
Only people who know nothing of either history or Scripture could argue that it is riddled with errors. It has proved itself accurate in every case where there is comparative evidence.
Even more astonishing is the fact that not one single word of Scripture has ever been conclusively disproved. Why is that ‘even more astonishing’?
Think about it. In every generation in Church Age history, believers and skeptics have debated and argued and parsed pretty much every jot and tittle recorded.
Proving Scripture false has been the Holy Grail of critical philosophy since the very first philosopher that learned of the Bible’s self-proclaimed inerrancy.
The name of philosopher, historian, doubter or skeptic that conclusively disproved a single claim of Scripture would be as famous as Moses the Lawgiver. Can you name this famous thinker?
Neither can anyone else.
My friend’s son was ready for me with a list of perceived errors and contradictions to support his position that the Bible is an ancient book of myths.
He began his argument where most skeptics do, assuming the Bible is myth until proved true is as flawed as assuming someone is guilty until proved innocent.
If one applied that same reasoning across-the-board, then one would have to assume traffic signs were not telling the truth until proved true. If the sign says ‘sharp curve ahead’ it is a good idea to believe it.
What about the labels on cans and packages? We don’t assume that the label that says ‘peas’ is false until we open the can to prove it true.
There are signs on the doors to washrooms designating men’s and women’s facilities. Who assumes the signs are lying until after they check for themselves?
Who assumes that the historical account of the Lincoln administration is false until proven otherwise? Or the historical account of the life and times of George Washington?
I asked Billy if he believed in the theory of evolution. “Of course,” he said, as if I had asked him an inordinately stupid question.
So he automatically trusts the premise that the story of a frog turning into a beautiful princess is true, given the addition of uncountable billions of years. But the fact the Bible has withstood thousands of years of constant attack by the best minds of every previous generation he found unconvincing.
If one wants to find contradictions and errors in Scripture, one can find them, even when they aren’t there. Billy was ready with his list, probably gleaned from some atheist website.
“Where did Cain get his wife?” is the kind of stuff atheists think is just dazzling. Given the extended life-spans of the time, the solution to this so-called ‘problem’ is childishly simple.
First off, the Bible doesn’t say how old Cain was. He could have been fifty years old or five hundred. The Bible isn’t the only ancient record of extended lifespans – ancient Greek and Egyptian sources also reference humans who lived hundreds of years.
Obviously, since the human race began with a single pair, he could only have married a close relative. This isn’t complicated.
Cain could have married a sister, a niece, a cousin, a second-cousin, third-cousin, grand-niece – such was not forbidden until the giving of the Law of Moses some 3400 years later.
That is pretty much the template for all so-called Bible ‘contradictions’ or ‘errors’. The error isn’t in the Scripture, it is the result of an assumption by the reader.
In this case, the assumption that Cain and Abel were Adam’s only children. Genesis 5:4 says that Adam “begat sons and daughters.”
There are thousands of similar ‘errors’ in Scripture that aren’t errors at all. But if one begins from the premise that the Bible is ‘riddled with errors’, then error is what one will find.
But it isn’t because the errors are in the Scripture. The errors are in the heart.
In my discussion with Billy, I forgot that basic truth and instead, fell into the trap of debating the truth of Scripture with a determined skeptic.
Grant Jeffrey once told me privately (using an analogy I now claim as my own) that “debating the Scriptures with a skeptic is like debating the circumference of the earth with a member of the Flat Earth Society.”
It’s a brilliant analogy (which is why I stole it). If you believe the earth is flat, then your argument rests on the fact the earth doesn’t have a circumference. So before one can even begin to discuss the earth’s circumference, one must first establish that it exists.
That is the same difficulty with debating Scripture with a skeptic. The skeptic is not constrained to facts in making his argument. The believer is. The skeptic can quote any authority with equal gravity – the believer must stick with the Bible.
The believer must first prove the earth is round – the skeptic is under no such limitations. One can produce a globe, but the skeptic is free to counterclaim that just because the globe is round doesn’t necessarily mean the earth is.
The next thing you know, you’ve fallen into a carefully laid enemy trap. But don’t count on God to get you out of something that you got yourself into by ignoring His Word.
For most believers, how to deal with a determined skeptic is something of a mystery. The gift of grace unto salvation is a gift beyond measure; it is a pearl of incalculable value.
In addition, it is our Great Commission. It is our responsibility to share it — not to compel somebody to accept it.
I should try reading Scripture more and debating it less. If I had, I would have taken the time to study the Great Commission in context. When Jesus sent out His disciples, two by two, it was with the following instructions.
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew 10:14)
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)
I ignored that advice. Soon, I was as frustrated with Billy as I would have been debating with a flat-earther. Before I knew it, I was sputtering like a tea-kettle – and making just as much sense.
I finally stormed out before I said something I couldn’t take back. Nice witness.
The truth of Scripture is proved by the truth of Scripture.
The Scriptures also say, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like him.” (Proverbs 26:4)
I sure proved the truth of that one.