Basic Christianity – Session 1
                                                                                                                                                            Introduction to the Bible

Christianity looks to the Scripture as our sole authority for faith (what we believe) and practice (how we act). So, it is appropriate for us to begin this study of basic Christian beliefs by addressing some basic questions about the Bible. Any one of these questions could be the basis for weeks of study, but we are just going to address them briefly.

1. Obvious answer is “The Bible is God’s Word.” Certainly wouldn’t disagree with that but it doesn’t tell us much! That’s kind of like saying “The Bible is the Bible.”
2. Definition: The Bible is the record of God’s self-revelation in human history. As the record of God’s revelation, the Bible also reveals God. In a future session we will focus on the nature of God. One thing we will see in that session is that it is the nature of God to make Himself known. The Scripture tells us how God did that.

WHY SHOULD WE BELIEVE THE BIBLE? – The Bible makes some rather incredible claims about itself. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul describes the Scripture as being “inspired by God...” The word translated “inspired” is “theopnuestos.” It comes from two Greek words, “theos” meaning God and “pnuema” meaning wind or breath. The basic meaning of “theopnuestos” is God-breathed. Just as God breathed into Adam and made him a living being, so God has breathed into the Scriptures and made them living words. And while Christians may disagree over the method of inspiration (precisely how God did it), it is clear the Bible claims to be a God-inspired or God-produced book. And if that is true, it certainly deserves our attention! But how do we know that is true? Is there any evidence to support the belief that the Scripture is inspired by God? And the answer is a resounding yes!
Think about this. The Bible was written—
    1. Over a period of about 1600 years from about 1400 BC to 90 AD
    2. By approximately forty (40) different authors from all walks of life—shepherd, farmer, king, preacher, fisherman, doctor, prisoner, and more...
    3. In various parts of the world from Babylon to Rome...
    4. In three primary languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
But despite those differences, God directed the process so that the Scripture focuses on a central message (God’s plan for our redemption) and a central person (Jesus Christ).
For those who care to do the study, you will find an abundance of evidence to support the inspiration of the Bible. Among the evidence is the following:

Textual Evidence - “The New Testament documents have stronger manuscript support than any other work of classical literature, including the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, and Tacitus.” [Hank Hanegraaff, quoted by Lee Strobel and Garry Poole in Exploring The Da Vinci Code, p.45]
o More than 5000 Greek manuscripts in whole or part have been found of the New Testament. In comparison to other major works of the same era, that is an astronomical number. By way of comparison, only about ten manuscripts have been found of Caesar’s Gallic War and only two manuscripts exist of the Histories of Tacitus, both of which were composed about the same time as the New Testament. [F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents]

o Even more impressive, the existing manuscripts of the New Testament date much closer to the time of the original writings. Two complete manuscripts date to about 350 A.D. And some partial manuscripts date to about 150 A.D. By way of comparison, the surviving manuscripts of Caesar’s Gallic War and the Histories of Tacitus date back to only about 1000 A.D. [Ibid]

o And even more impressive, the nearly 5000 New Testament manuscripts agree on over 98.5% of the text. The more ancient ones agree with the less ancient ones. And where there are variations, the variations do not have to do with major beliefs but with minor grammatical differences or copying errors. [Scott Weber, Is the N.T a Reliable Witness of Jesus?]
Archeological Evidence - “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. [Nelson Glueck quoted in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell, p.65] “To date, over 25,000 sites in biblical lands have been discovered, dating back to Old Testament times, which have established the accuracy of innumerable details in the Bible.” [Ron Rhodes, Crash Goes The Da Vinci Code]

o One famous example of that has to do with this stone. [show picture of “The Pilate Stone”] I took this picture on one of our trips to Israel. This is actually a replica of the famous “Pilate Stone” which was discovered when a team of archeologists was excavating an ancient Roman theater in Caesarea in 1961. The actual stone is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The inscription of the stone reads in part, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” There was a time when many scholars questioned the existence of Pontius Pilate whom the Bible says was Governor of Judea in the 1st century. Because prior to 1961 no concrete evidence had been found that Pilate existed. Therefore, the assumption by many was the Bible must be wrong in identifying Pilate as the Governor of Judea. Of course, after the finding of the famous Pilate Stone, their opinion, at least on this issue, changed dramatically.

Lives of the writers - Those who wrote the New Testament claimed to be eyewitnesses of the events they were reporting. And they obviously believed in the truth of their writings. How do we know? Because according to sources and traditions outside of the New Testament, many of them became martyrs rather than renounce their written testimony. Their deaths are a powerfully convincing argument for the truth of the New Testament. Either they saw and heard what they claimed to see and hear, or they did not. But the fact that many of them chose to face a brutal death rather than recant their testimony, is certainly credible evidence that they, at least, believed what they wrote. Why would they knowingly die for something that was not true? They had nothing to gain by doing that and everything to lose. 

Influence of the Bible - And millions of people, including many of the world’s great thinkers and leaders, have professed belief in and commitment to the Word of God. And while some misguided people have distorted the Bible and done horrible things in its name, the over-all impact of the Bible on the world has been tremendously positive.