Tomorrow morning you will awaken and you will prepare yourself to face what you must face…
· the grind, the responsibilities, the expectations,
· tragedy, fears, anxieties
Will you do so alone drawing solely upon your personal capacities or will you face tomorrow with the belief that there is one beyond you upon whom you can depend.
Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
Which handle will you grab?
I’m sure that many of you would respond with….well, I’d love to step out in faith…I’d love to know there is a benevolent being out there who can make sense of it all and give me something upon which I can rely but…
I wonder about a lot of stuff….
· Is there a God? Can I know there is?
· What is this God like?
· Is the Bible really authoritative?
· What about suffering and evil? Why is that here?
· Why are there so many different religions?
· Which one is right?
This month we are looking deeply into the deepest questions about faith…not as an intellectual exercise but because this stuff matters deeply…it’s kind of a big deal…
· because you are inescapably a creature of hope
o you look forward, you yearn for something more, something better…anything to give meaning, value and significance to your relatively short life.
· because you are inescapably a creatures of anxiety.
o you worry chronically, you have fears of despair, you fret over pain, and you agonize in your tragedies and losses both small and large…
o you wonder if there is some reason through all the pain
We hope, we fear, we wonder…our relationships, our morality, our lifestyles, our happiness, our careers, our destinies and what happens to us after we die…there isn’t an area of life that isn’t impacted by the answers of the deep questions of faith.
And of course the biggest question of all is: Is there a God? That’s where we began last week.
If you were not here I highly recommend you go back and watch it on line because what we examined were the evidences for God.
· belief in God is like skydiving…although skydiving is 99.993 % safe there is no 100% conclusive, hands down proof that you will definitively escape death or injury by jumping out of a plane. And so it is with faith in God…no definitive “mic drop” proof because:
§ he is invisible
§ he is not scientifically verifiable
· What you and I have to decide then… is there enough evidence from an array of sources (Philosophy, Psychology, Planetary science, Personal experience for instance) to allow you a calculated risk enough to jump into faith?
Again…You don’t need me to remind you how important that question is.
So let’s continue in this series by examining evidence from history, archeology, epistemology and textual criticism. Doesn’t that get you all excited?
But it is crucial we go to these places especially in relation to the Bible and to the person of Jesus. (The Word of God and the Word of God)
Let’s begin with the Bible:
· Is it God’s word?
· Is it authoritative?
It certainly claims to be…
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
This collection of 66 different writings by dozens and dozens of authors written over a 2000 year time span…is it the source of truth?...is it a source of the knowledge of God?
Let’s begin with epistemology – how we come to know things…or how do you know if something is true? The study of how people determine what is true.
· this is important for us because we are living in a time that most philosophers would call post-modern.
o or we are living in a day of post-modern epistemology.
· post-modernity – a way of thinking has a profound effect on art, literature, architecture, law, psychotherapy, science, history and of course …religion and matters of faith.
o MUCH of its application can be found in our centers of learning…schools…universities and all education.
o the origins of it are fuzzy…it’s name is fuzzy…it’s application is fuzzy…as a matter of fact that’s a good word to describe it – fuzzy
· Let me summarize it:
o nothing is universally true
o there are no moral absolutes
o absolute certainty is no longer possible
o there are no foundations upon which truth is built.
o truth is all relative – truth is created culturally and by individuals and not discovered by reason.
o Like I said: Fuzzy
You see why this is important don’t you? the Bible claims to be the source of moral absolutes, the foundation of universal truth, the words of the God of the universe. Very unfuzzy.
· If there is indeed a being beyond humanity who transcends time, space and matter…who was the originator of time, space and matter…one who is not invented by human beings but on the contrary created human beings… then there is a foundation upon which to build universal truth.
· Is there enough evidence to believe that?
· Is there enough evidence for you to jump…and take this book and read it with confidence?
o will it be enough to get you to read it believing you are hearing from God himself?
o will it be enough evidence to rest your life on its authority?
Let‘s take a brief look at archeology. (the study of human history through excavations of sites and discovery of artifacts)
· has enough been excavated over the years to provide evidence for the historical and sociological accuracy of the Bible?
· Are there enough finds to give us evidence that the stuff in the Bible really happened?
o For instance:
§ bible says A great deliverance occurred where 2 Million people were freed from Egypt around 1400 BC - did it really happen?
§ Bible says there was a king name David who was the greatest king in the history of the people of God 1000 BC – did it really happen?
§ Bible says that around 30 AD Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead – did it really happen?
If indeed none of these things happened…or many of the events, times, places and people of Biblical history are bogus then of course one could rightfully question the authority of the book. And thereby question the reality of God.
But if they could be verified then perhaps we might have enough evidence to jump!
So…here are just a tiny amount of illustrations of what has been found by archeologists:
· Was there a flood? The Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks , not just the Hebrews all report a flood in primordial times
· Did Biblical cities really exist? In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beersheba, Lachish,
· How about all those “ites?” Ammonites, Edomites, Amorites, Hittites? In 1906 archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital as well as its vast collection of Hittite historical records, which showed an empire flourishing in the mid-second millennium BC.
· Did Israel really end up in Egypt in slavery? A seven-foot slab engraved with hieroglyphics, boasts of the Egyptian pharaoh’s conquest of the peoples in Palestine, including the Israelites.
· Did Assyria really invade Israel? A baked clay prism found at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh describes Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC in which it claims that the Assyrian king shut Hezekiah inside Jerusalem “like a caged bird.”
· Did Cyrus the Great really let the Jews return from exile? a nine-inch clay cylinder found at Babylon from the time of its conquest, 539 BC, which reports Cyrus’s victory and his subsequent policy of permitting Babylonian captives to return to their homes and even rebuild their temples.
· Was the whole story of Jesus real? In November, 1990. Israeli archeologists discovered the family tomb of Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who presided at the trial of Jesus and delivered Him to the Romans to be crucified.
Of course there are many, many more…and every year a new find is reported. I cannot do justice to the vast array of evidence from archeology…so…google it!
Let’s move to textual analysis which is the study of the origins and original intent of the manuscripts of the bible. I’ll explain why this is important in a minute but first some background.
· there are 66 books in the Bible and we do not have any of the original autographs (those written in the authors handwriting)
· we do however have 10s of thousands of manuscripts or pieces of manuscripts that were copied by hand over several thousand years. Copied and recopied and recopied and recopied…
· So how do we know that it wasn’t a huge game of telephone? and that what we are reading is accurate or even remotely close to the originals?
o somebody makes a mistake accidently or deliberately and passes it on to the next copier…etc…
o if that were the case…this would be a joke.
So from analysis of the manuscripts we have here is what has been discovered:
· compared to other ancient texts the manuscripts of the Bible have no equal…in two ways, number of manuscripts and the span of time from original writing to first copy we have.
o Homer’s Iliad – 900 years after the original, Plato – 1200 years…NT 35-40 years – 350 years
o Plato – 7 manuscripts Tacitus – 20 manuscripts Bible 10s of thousands.
· Are there differences between the manuscripts – “transmission” errors – called variants ? Yes, absolutely.
o there are 400,000 copyist errors/variants NT alone (remember ALL hand written)
§ most spelling, letter repetition, accidental omission
§ only a few clear attempts to modify doctrine
§ 99% of the variants virtually unnoticeable
§ all of the differences put together only lead us to about a page’s worth of real questions as to what was most likely originally written.
· Then there is the greatest discovery of Biblical text of all time. the Dead Sea Scrolls.
o TheDead Sea Scrollsare perhaps the greatest archaeological find of our time.
o In 1947, shepherds discovered them quite by accident in caves northwest of the Dead Sea.
o They found 200 scrolls containing at least fragments of every book in the Old Testament except the book of Esther. Two entire copies of the book of Isaiah.
o This is important – they were written around 150 B.C.
o Until their discovery the earliest OT manuscripts we had were from 900 A.D.
o And when you compare them they are virtually identical!
§ handwritten…copied over and over…and identical
Look…none of this is foolproof. There are certainly very brilliant skeptics who would debate the reliability of the Bible. You can read it yourself if you’d like but again…do you have enough evidence to jump? To believe in God and in the authority of the Bible?
How about we look at one more area of evidence… the history of Jesus.
· The truth of the Bible rises and falls on the person of Jesus. Was he real? Was he the son of God? Or was he just a legend akin to Paul Bunyun or Zeus?
o First – did he exist at all?
§ 5700 manuscripts of NT most mentioning or about Jesus
· some within decades of the events – with no criticism or denunciation to speak of. No one said – no way – this guy never existed!
§ Corroboration by a dozen extra biblical sources
· Tacitus – Roman historian and senator
· Josephus – Jewish historian
· But was he just a dude? Was he a good prophet/religious guy who was turned into a divine god via a conspiracy?
Is Jesus the center point of one of the most massive conspiracies in human history…the hoax to end all hoxes… (like the moon landing conspiracy)
o Nope. In my humble opinion that idea completely stretches the imagination for several reasons:
§ Jews were militantly monotheistic – no Jew would ever invent a divine man / god-man, or the fact that God had a son …. they would never promote such a thing unless it was true!
§ Differences in the 4 prime stories which indicate they were not the product of a systematic attempt to make up a story line
§ Embarrassing material
· family thought he was crazy
· the disciples stupidity and lack of faith
· the crucifixion
§ Consider this: People are marveling at The Paris attacks- how highly “complex and highly coordinated” …in a day of communication like none other
§ In contrast - this massive conspiracy would have had to happen…
· few people could write (not even enough writing material!)
· communication was ridiculously slow
· this conspiracy dismantled the Jewish system and the Roman system and Greek philosophy system…NO WAY it would have survived if it was a hoax
· Where is the push back? Where are the fact checkers? Where is the evidence (from that day) that Jesus was NOT a real man who was the son of God and savior of the world?
Christianity was the most radical societal/religious/philosophical shift in the history of the world … a hoax has no such power.
What do you think? Was Jesus real? Is the Bible reliable? Is it the story of God?
What do you believe? At some point you are going to have to decide because you can’t fly around in the plane all day…someday you’re going to have to jump.
Your life depends on it.