Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

What's so great about the Bible?

The Bible is the best selling book in the world, so there must be something special in it. What is this specialty? Answer: The Bible is God's word - God's one and only message to the human race today. What evidence exists for this?

Thus the Bible is not a human product. Therefore, it must originate from God. Further:-

Some people are not convinced that the Bible is God's word but they still feel that the Bible is a good book. Such a position is self-contradictory:-

What do you think about the Bible? The Bible demands a response!

Where can I get a Bible?

The Bible is the most accessible book on our planet.

How does the Bible refer to itself?

The Bible does not contain the word "Bible". But it uses terms such as "word of the LORD", "scripture", etc. Although "word" literally means the word that God has spoken, that it includes the Bible is evident from the following:-
  • Certain passages of the Bible are explicitly called "the word of the LORD" (Isaiah 1:10, Jeremiah 46:1, Ezekiel 6:3)
  • Some books of the Bible are explicitly introduced as being the word of the Lord. See Hosea 1:1, Joel 1:1, Micah 1:1, Zephaniah 1:1, Haggai 1:1, Zechariah 1:1 and Malachi 1:1.
  • Paul used the word "scripture" for the entire Old Testament that Timothy read as a child (2 Timothy 3:15).
  • Luke refers to the entire Old Testament as scripture in Luke 24:27. The Lord Jesus implied that what was written in it had to believed (Luke 24:25).
  • Nowhere does Psalm 118 claim to be scripture, but Jesus calls it so when he quotes it (Mark 12:10)
  • Jesus cited Deuteronomy and the Psalms to Satan saying: "It is written [same Greek word as "scripture"]...". Now neither Deuteronomy or Psalms claims to be divinely inspired but Satan did not respond to Jesus saying: "How do you know that's God's word?" - he accepted it as authoritative, coming from God.
  • Paul refers to Luke as scripture (1 Timothy 5:18, Luke 10:7 - the same Greek word has been rendered "hire" in Luke and "reward" in Luke)
  • Peter refers to Paul's writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16)
  • In Psalm 119, we have repeated references to "thy [God's] word" being of great comfort and instruction to the Psalmist. Therefore it does not refer to some voice of God that may be reverberating in heaven, but something he had in his hands - the written word.
  • Man cannot live but by every word of God (Luke 4:4) so if the word is not something we can access today, it means that God is being unreasonable.
From the above it follows that terms like word of the Lord, etc include the Bible, at least as originally delivered.

Does the Bible have contradictions?

If you're sure that the Bible has contradictions, here are three of them for you.

In Exodus 25 onwards, God's directions for the construction of the sanctuary are outlined. In Numbers 4 onwards, the instructions for packing and moving the sanctuary are mentioned. Every item is dealt with, but one is missing: the laver. What do you think? Was Moses (or whoever else you think wrote the Pentateuch) careless?

Here's another one (the numerical kind that skeptics love): In Acts 13:18, we're told by Paul (who the Bible says was endued with wisdom from God) that the Exodus from Egypt was 40 years long. Then the judges ruled for 450 years till Samuel (Acts 13:20). This makes 490 years from the Exodus to Samuel. Then Saul ruled for 40 years, and so did David (1 Kings 2:11). This takes the total to 570 years. Thus the 4th year of Solomon should thus be around 573 years after the exodus from Egypt. But in 1 Kings 6:1, we're told that Solomon's temple construction started in the 480th year after Israel came out from Egypt, also the 4th year of his reign.

573 does not tally with 480!!

Here's another: Mark reports that Jesus healed one blind man on his last visit to Jerusalem, from Jericho (Mark 10:46). But the parallel passage in Matthew reports two blind men being healed (Matthew 20:30).
 
To those who insist that the Bible has contradictions: First let me know what you think of these three; take your position and defend it before me; then I'll respond to the contradictions you come up with. I hardly need mention that I have no sympathy for google junkies (people whose "research" consists of typing a few search words on google), plagiarists (that is, people who pass on lists of Bible contradictions written by others without reading the Bible for themselves), and self-proclaimed amateur Bible experts.

The Bible has so many absurdities and inaccuracies in it!

Skeptics claim that many passages in the Bible are absurd. This is not so, but certain passages in the Bible may seem absurd if you do not keep certain things in mind. Here are some of them:-

Miracles: Atheist skeptics find miracles absurd. A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. So let us ask a basic question: Why do the laws of nature hold? An atheist would say this is just the way the universe is, but that is hardly an explanation. Why should nature behave in such an orderly fashion, following beautiful laws expressed using abstract mathematics with awful precision? The Bible has the answer: there is a Law-maker and Law-enforcer who upholds the universe with His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3). Nature behaves according to laws because an intelligent, consistent, God so decrees it! This idea was crucial to the birth of modern science in Judeo-Christian Europe.That the laws precisely govern phenomena ranging from the sub-atomic to galactic proves that the Law Enforcer is extremely powerful. The same God who made the laws and enforces them has all the authority and ability to suspend or violate them when He sees fit. There is nothing absurd in that. It is also worth noting that atheists who complain about miracles in the Bible are being inconsistent because they also believe in miracles (see Example # 9 in this link).
 
Nuances of translation: The King James Version of the English Bible reports that the hare chews the cud (Leviticus 11:6). Well, the hare does not chew the cud. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, in which the expression used literally means "draw up again what is put down". This is what cows and sheep do when they chew the cud. What do hares do? They have two types of feces - one of which they eat. Thus, the statement in Hebrew is not absurd at all, although it looks inaccurate when translated to English.

Figurative or non-technical language: Critics look at Isaiah 11:12, notice the expression "Four corners of the earth", and rub their hands with glee: "See? The Bible was written by ancient primitive idiots who did not know that the earth is round!". Well, 21st century American author Tilly Bagshawe uses the same expression to describe a business empire in her sequel novel: "Sidney Sheldon's Mistress of the Game". What is your explanation for this? As another example, Psalm 93:1 says: "The world is established, that it cannot be moved." Geocentricity?! Well, the same verse also says that God is clothed with majesty and strength. You tell me how strength and majesty can be clothing, and I'll tell you how the world is stationary! 
 
Context: Different contexts call for different procedures or policies. There is nothing absurd in wanting toast for breakfast and pizza for lunch. So check the context of Biblical passages. In Leviticus, there are dozens of procedures and rituals that God prescribed for Israel. While many of these procedures have medical benefits (it is only to be expected that anything from God will have good "side effects"), the context clearly indicates that the purpose of these rituals is not medical but spiritual. They are symbols of spiritual realities. So, if someone says: "The Bible prescribes the application of blood as a cure for leprosy in Leviticus 14!", it is he, not the God of the Bible, who is being absurd. Leviticus 14:2-20 outlines symbolic rituals for a leper after he has been healed, not a medical procedure to cure leprosy!

Consistency: When you attack the Bible, be clear whether you're attacking its consistency or its veracity. In the former case, you ought to check the consistency of the Bible with itself, not your beliefs. As an example, atheists find miracles absurd. Well, if there is no God, and the universe functions according to inviolable rules, miracles are indeed absurd. However, if (as the Bible claims) there is a God who has ordained and who now controls physical laws, it is most reasonable that He can perform miracles, that is, suspend or modify the physical laws occasionally. Similarly, the Bible's claim that Cain, the third human being on earth, built a city and was afraid that someone who finds him would kill him seems absurd at first sight, but it is reasonable in the light of the Biblical narrative: When God first made life (and mutations had not accumulated), lifespans were long, and people had many children, so population would increase rapidly. In the latter case (where you claim the Bible is not factual), you need to prove the falsehood of the Bible, not merely claim that it seems absurd to you. This is because something can be true although it may seem absurd.
 
Feel free to report any Biblical absurdities, but I will entertain your submission only if you demonstrate that you're not making the above mistakes.
 
Further reading:
  • Geivett, R. Douglas, and Gary R. Habermas, eds. In Defense of Miracles. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997
  • Aalders, G. Charles. 1948. The Problem of the Book of Jonah. London: Tyndale.

Are there many Bibles? Which books are canonical (really make up the Bible)?

The ancient Jewish scriptures (the "law and the prophets") consisted of 22 books. The ancient people of Israel had no difficulty in deciding which books were truly God's message to man (see Ezekiel 33:33 for example and the Prophets page for more details). As proof of this, I offer two examples:-
  • Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders debated the Old Testament (Matthew 22:15, Luke 10:25, etc). The Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus using issues which they considered controversial. They were trying to show that the Old Testament is ambiguous, and so it was in their interest to claim that the canon of the Old Testament is not settled, but they did not. 
  • Josephus, the first century Jewish historian summarizes: "For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain all the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine...From Artaxerxes to our times a complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets" [Flavius Josephus, "Flavius Josephus against Apion, 1", Josephus, Complete Works, Translated by William Whiston, Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 1960, p8, p41].
Josephus goes on to list these books. Note that Josephus was not a Christian, and that he was not revealing a secret – just mentioning a well known fact about the Jewish nation. Note also how Josephus adds that Jewish writings post-Artaxerxes (400 BC) have not been recognized as scripture (messages from God).
 
Even today, the Jewish scriptures consist of the same books. In the fifth century AD, the Jews split Judges into Judges and Ruth, and "Jeremiah" into Jeremiah and Lamentations, making the number of books 22 + 1 + 1 = 24. In the Christian Bible, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles have been split into two parts each. The minor prophet book has been split into 12, and Ezra-Nehemiah has been split into two (Ezra and Nehemiah). Thus the OT consists of 24 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 11 + 1 = 39 books. The Christian Bible arranges these books in an order different from that used by the ancient Jews.

The Lord Jesus and the apostles frequently referred to these books (as we can see from the Bible), and no other
. These same books make up the Old Testament of the Bible. When Jesus mentions "Abel to Zacharias" (Luke 11:51) we recognize the Old Testament that Jesus approved of: the same 39 books, beginning with Genesis (in which we read of Abel) and ending (in the book order used by the Jews) with 2 Chronicles (in which we read of Zacharias).
 
In about 585 BC, a group of Jews decided to militantly disobey God and go to Egypt (see Jeremiah 42:1 onward). Thus, an (apostate) Jewish community was established in Egypt. God cursed them for their insistence on rebelling against Him. The Greek king Ptolemy Philadelphus tried to honor these Jews by translating the Old Testament to Greek (this translation is called the Septuagint). These Egyptian Jews also added varying numbers of Greek books by Jewish authors to their Greek Bibles. In 1546, the Roman Catholic Church, which is inconsistent with the Bible, decided that seven of these books should also be included in the Bible.
 
Apart from the Egyptian Jews, another apostate group was the Samaritans, who were not even Jews (see the answer to the next question below) but people who were deported to Israel after most of the Old Testament was written. They accept only the first five books of the Old Testament. Needless to say, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church and the Samaritans lack sound basis (if you're not sure, look again at the pink text above!). 
 
The New Testament consists of 27 books written by the disciples of the Lord Jesus. God gave some Christians the spiritual gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) to discern between spirits – one of the purposes was to distinguish between genuine books of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and spurious books. A couple of examples:-
  • Peter recognizes Paul's writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Note that this is the same Paul who had censured Peter (Galatians 2:11). Personal ego did not interfere with the recognition of scripture.
  • Paul recognizes Luke as scripture (compare 1 Timothy 5:18 with Luke 10:7 - the same Greek word has been rendered "hire" in Luke and "reward" in Timothy). Paul was a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5) while Luke was probably Greek. No parochiality interferes with the recognition of scripture.
Various other books appeared at the same time the New Testament was being written (first century AD) and later. But they did not receive any major acceptance because they failed to get recognition as divine revelation as shown above. Some of these books were lost in history and are being "discovered" in modern times. Those who claim that these books ought to be included in the Bible should note that the only thing that makes a book worthy of inclusion in the Bible is that it is divine revelation. If you think these "lost" books are divine revelation, are you obeying them and following them?
 
Thus, for those willing to face it, the canon of the Bible is unambiguous – the Bible consists of 39 books in the Old Testament (written originally in Hebrew), and 27 books in the New Testament (written originally in Greek).
 
Also see:
  • The Books of the Bible
  • Further Discussion
  • Patzia, Arthur G. The Making of the New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1995
  • Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988

Do the Bible manuscripts in the original languages agree with each other?

There are about 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, having a wide geographical and chronological spread. This makes it easy to distinguish the spurious ones from the genuine ones: If anyone changes a manuscript, the change will be isolated. This is exactly what we observe: about 90% of these manuscripts are virtual "photocopies" of each other, while the remaining 10% consist of deviants that do not agree with each other as well as the 90% majority. This identifies the 10% minority as corrupt.
 
In the early 16th century Dutch scholar Erasmus and others published a Greek New Testament based on the 90% majority of Greek manuscripts. This text came to be called the Textus Receptus. 

The Old Testament text was copied by Hebrew scribes called Masoretes. The various Masoretic manuscripts agree with each other. One well known Masoretic text manuscript was prepared by Jacob Ben Chayyim, a Jewish Christian in the 15th century. It was published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1524.

There are deviant manuscripts for the Old Testament as well:-

  • The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 276 BC: it is rejected because it is a product of apostate Jewry (see answer to previous question above). Besides, the earliest copy of the Septuagint available is the revised version of the Alexandrian scholar Origen, which dates about 200 AD.
  • The Samaritan Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament): The Samaritans were Persians and Mesopotamians whom the Assyrian king Shalmaneser deported to Israel (2 Kings 17:24). They were not Jews; they opposed the Jews in building the Temple (see Ezra 4:1 onwards). The exposure of the Samaritans to Jewish scripture was merely a coincidence due to the policy of an Assyrian emperor. Thus, the Samaritan Pentateuch has no credibility.
Thus, these deviant manuscripts do not raise any serious questions about the veracity of the Masoretic Text. I mention this as a matter of principle - it is another matter that there is hardly any difference between the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Masoretic Text. A similar situation holds between the Textus Receptus New Testament and the deviant Greek manuscripts.
 
To summarize: there is no ambiguity about the true original-language text of the Bible. It consists of the Hebrew Masoretic Old Testament and the Greek Textus Receptus New Testament.

Is the Bible anti-science and anti-scholarship?

This website endorses the Bible and also quotes from several books and research papers. At the same time, I reject some scientific theories and some scholarly theories about the Bible. So I need to clarify:-

I welcome all facts - scientific and scholarly facts included. No fact known to man contradicts the Bible. I reject speculation, even if it is scientific or scholarly. A lot of speculative theories disagree with the Bible. A few examples:-

  • The laws of physics (the conservation laws, the law of gravity, the laws of motion, the uncertainty principle, the law of radioactive decay, etc.) are examples of scientific facts. They have been and are being verified by thousands of experiments all over the world. They do not contradict the Bible.
  • The existence of archaeological artifacts is an example of scholarly fact. These artifacts can be seen not just on the internet, but in the museums of the world. As shown in the archaeology section, these artifacts confirm and complement the Bible.
  • When a scientist doing radioactive dating assumes that all the lead in a rock is radiogenic, he is indulging in scientific speculation.
  • When scholars insist that there were no domesticated camels in the Middle East before 1200 BC and therefore conclude that the Bible is not authentic (see Genesis 24:10), they are speculating. They were not present in the ancient Middle East. 
  • The greater similarity of the Biblical books Matthew, Mark and Luke to each other than to John is an example of fact. The "scholarly" term synoptic gospels has been applied to the first three.
  • When "higher critics" of the Bible claim that Matthew, Mark and Luke (three biographers of the Lord Jesus in the Bible) copied from a common "Q" source, they are speculating.

Atheistic theories of origins, such as the Big Bang theory and the theory of organic evolution are speculative, as are secular attempts to date the earth. Also see:

Are there many versions (translations) of the Bible today? Which is the correct one?

Not everyone speaks Hebrew and Greek - and the Bible is the message from the Creator - not a parochial book - so there is nothing sacrosanct in the original languages per se. So it is only fitting that the Bible is the most translated book in the world (in terms of number of languages). But this raises a question: What if people make translations that distort the Bible? After all, this is a free world - there's nothing to stop anyone from making a new translation of the Bible - keen businessmen will surely recognize a money making opportunity in translation, given that the Bible is the best selling book in the world.

The solution is unexpectedly simple:-
  • The original Bible consisting of the (see answer to previous question) Greek Textus Receptus and Hebrew Masoretic Text (as well as their English transliterations) are in the public domain
  • Hebrew-English and Greek-English dictionaries are also in the public domain
  • The King James Version of the English Bible follows the above two texts closely, and has served the English speaking world superbly for the last four centuries. If you speak English, you don't need to bother with anything else.
This website does not endorse the hundreds of English Bible versions that exist - most are out of use now, but new ones keep coming.

Thus: There is no ambiguity in the English text of the Bible. The KJV is suitable for everyday use, and when necessary, can be crosschecked with the Masoretic and Received Text.