Today”s lesson continues to focus on the issues surrounding the authority of Scripture in the life of the church and the believer. This week”s lesson does not ask a question, but makes an important statement, the Bible is reliable. While few Christians would disagree with this statement, what does it really mean? In what sense is the Bible reliable? Is it a reliable guide to bridge building, or for reconstructing the history of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, or for mapping the ancient world? The answer to these questions is, obviously, no. The Bible makes no such claims. When we talk about the reliability of the Bible, we are talking about the basic question of its message. Can we be relatively certain that the words we have in our Bibles today are what was originally written? Can we be relatively certain that the Bible is not just a bunch of clever stories invented by a handful of creative Jewish authors? Do the stories in the Bible make sense together, or do they disagree and conflict with each other? It is to these types of questions that this week”s lesson is directed.
Questions for Discussion:
- Many critics of the Bible claim that it is not reliable because many of its stories contradict each other. An example of this is the accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2. After carefully comparing the accounts, how would you reply to critics who see these passages as undermining the reliability of the Bible? Do the two chapters offer two contradictory accounts of creation?
- The ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not agree on how the book ends. The oldest, and, in the opinion of many, the best manuscripts end after verse eight, the majority of others include verses 9-20 (Mark immediately after verse eight, and one Latin manuscript adds after verse eight, “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” In light of such differences, we will never know with 100% certainty how Mark ended his gospel. Do differences like this in ancient manuscripts undermine the reliability of the Bible? Once again, you will need to define what you mean by reliability.
- One of the key texts used by Bible critics to claim that the Bible is full of contradictions is the number of angels or women who were at Jesus” tomb (Mark 16:1-8; Mat 28:1-10; Lk 24:1-10), and the words that were written on the plaque that was nailed to Jesus” cross (Mark 15:26; Mat 27:37; Lk 23:38; Jhn 19:19). After carefully comparing the accounts, how would you reply to critics who see these passages as undermining the reliability of the Bible?
- Belief in the resurrection of Christ is ultimately a statement of faith we can’t “prove” it happened with absolute certainty (i.e., no one filmed it, all we have is the testimony of the Bible). In this age of skepticism, why do you trust the testimony of the Bible?