Oswald Chambers wrote, “We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals.” As I read these words this morning, I immediately thought about people I have met who discount the Christian faith because of perceived corruptions in the translation and preservation of the Bible. While those are certainly important considerations, I think it is perilous to ignore the offer of salvation because of questions regarding the messengers who are holding it out. As though everything God touches were expected to take on his perfection. We are told that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), not that it comes to us in a form that is completely clear and perfectly understandable by all. Perhaps we were meant to work at this a little bit.
Make no mistake: the Bible appears to outshine every other ancient document when it comes to authenticity, accurate translation, etc. Much has been written about this subject, but I can’t resist mentioning a few highlights. Josh McDowell reports in his book Reasons that there are over 24,000 extant manuscripts (surviving texts are one of the chief methods of evaluating the authenticity of an ancient document), as compared with the next best competitor, Homer’s Iliad, of which there are 634. According to Harvest Bible Chapel’s Dr. James McDonald, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, a fully intact copy of the book of Isaiah was found that was nearly 900 years older than what existed before. When comparisons were made, it was discovered that over those nine centuries of monks hand-copying manuscripts by candlelight, 17 letters had changed (I’m not making this up), and none of them had altered the meaning of the text. There is plenty of additional evidence available, but the argument could carry on until Armageddon and there would always be room for doubt.
How often have people dismissed the truth in response to imperfections in the messengers or the medium of communication? It’s astonishing how much what we see is influenced by what we want to see (or don’t want to see). This is the human heart corrupting all our other faculties. If your house is on fire and you think you see a fireman off in the distance as you look out your living room window, are you going to let your house burn because the windows are grimy?
Mark Twain humorously commented that after having read the Bible, it wasn’t the parts he didn’t understand that bothered him, but the parts he did understand. By the same token, anyone who is questioning the reality of Christ because of things in the Bible that don’t make sense is putting his emphasis in the wrong place. There is more than enough truth there that is readily accessible. Jesus is bigger than the book that makes him known to us.