In a moment we'll address our next subject: Bible conspiracies. But first, a recap of the last unit. We offered several rejoinders to comments that minimize the Bible.
Minimizing scripture: Review
"It isn't relevant": This Bible is relevant. Human nature hasn't changed, and our spiritual needs are the same as ever. God's word is no more out of date than water or oxygen!
"It's all a matter of interpretation": The Bible requires careful interpretation, though not because it's ambiguous and up for grabs. There's only one other kind of interpretation -- careless. Agree that it is a matter of interpretation -- careful vs. careless.
"Men wrote it, so it isn't God's word": Scripture is the word of God and the word of man. It's not either/or, but both/and. Be aware when a critic is pressing you to make a false choice.
"It's the good book": No, the Bible isn't "the good book." The Bible is the best, in a league of its own. It isn't just literature. In the Bible we hear God's voice calling us to a radical decision. Reject back-handed compliments, since they attempt to dilute the unique demands of scripture.
Conspiracy theoriesCover-ups at the highest levels of government. Plots afoot in the Vatican. Terrorist intrigues. Conspiracies seem to be everywhere, and we're drawn to them. They're pored over on tablets, devoured on the big screen, and endlessly analyzed in coffeehouses or wherever else people converse about interesting things (Acts 17:21). Although there are scores of religious conspiracies, at this time we'll touch on just three:
Books have been removed from the Bible. Deletion of documents.
The Dead Sea Scrolls disprove Christianity. Suppression of evidence.
The true Bible (the King James Version) is under attack. Deliberate mistranslation.
O.T. & N.T. Apocrypha
First, what about the so-called missing books? Thousands of documents were written before, during, and after biblical times -- hardly surprising. So first off, we must be clear that ancient writings weren't "scripture" just because they dealt with matters of faith. The "candidates" are surprisingly few, falling into two main groups. (1) When some people speak of missing books they're thinking of the Apocrypha, intertestamental literature (200 BC-AD 50) that was highly valued by the ancient church. Much of the Apocrypha is valuable, and whatever your view as to its inspiration, you will benefit from studying it. (2) More recently it has become trendy to think that Christianity began with scores of competing apocryphal gospels, acts, letters, and apocalypses. This is easily disproved. Not one was ever part of N.T. (the New Testament). In fact, these sectarian documents were written a century or two (or even longer) after the N.T., canon closed (about 95 AD). These spurious documents frequently embellish, distort, or contradict the canonical N.T. I hope that, as a biblical Christian, you will be motivated to learn the facts about How the Bible came to be.
A second common notion is that the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), discovered 1947+ in (then) Jordan, disprove Christianity -- for which reason they've been suppressed by the Vatican. But this is nonsense! If you aren't familiar with the fascinating story of the DSS, here are the basic facts (which are always better than fiction). Even more material is a mouse-click away. True, these scrolls, some complete but most in fragmentary condition, were not quickly published. Yet not because of a perfidious plot, but because (1) translation work was difficult and laborious, (2) the principal translators kept dying, and (3) publication lags behind translation when there are so few academics familiar with the ancient languages who will read them. Since 1992, all DSS have been translated and made public. They shed considerable light on ancient Judaism (most of the DSS date to 200 BC-AD 68), and hence illuminate -- and often confirm -- Christianity and the N.T. The Hebrew DSS also give proof positive that the O.T. has been accurately preserved over the period of 2000-3000 years!
Our third conspiracy is popular among some ultra-strict Christians. They claim that the only English Bible authorized by God is the King James Version of 1611 -- the perfect translation. Yet this is lazy thinking, oblivious of the actual history of translation. There were many English Bibles before the KJV, each generation offering up fresher, more accurate translations. No single generation can stake its claim to perfect English, for ours is a dynamic language, changing continuously for over 1500 years! The KJV-only people also allege that liberal translators undermine the miracles and divinity of Christ, as modern versions (rightly) remove some words which crept into the text in the Middle Ages. No doctrine stands or falls on minor translation differences, anyway. To learn more about why the KJV conspiracy unravels, please listen to my recent podcast on this subject.
All three of these "conspiracies" fail on closer examination. Conspiracies are sometimes more juicy than historical truth, but as followers of him who claimed to be the Truth (John 14:6) we should always check our sources -- or else we become part of the conspiracy. Don't be mesmerized by the sensational. Because sometimes a conspiracy theory is just... a conspiracy.
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