Christian Apologetics Free Course 04, Lesson 06
The Reliability Of The Canon
The Evidence From
Christ’s Use Of the Old Testament
The way in Jesus Christ looked at the Old Testament provides additional insights into the question of inerrancy. Not surprisingly, our Lord used historical incidents in the Old Testament in a manner which evidenced His total confidence in their factual historicity.
He acknowledged that Adam and Eve were created by God, that they were two real living human beings, not merely symbols of mankind and womankind, and that they acted in specific ways (Matt. 19:3-5; Mark 10:6-8).
He verified as historical events connected with the flood of Noah’s day; namely, that there was an ark and that the flood destroyed everyone who was not in that ark (Matt. 24:38- 39; Luke 17:26-27).
On two different occasions, He authenticated God’s destruction of Sodom, and the historicity of Lot and his wife (Matt. 10:15; Luke 17:28-29).
He accepted as true the story of Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:40) and acknowledged the historicity of Isaiah (Matt. 12:17), Elijah (Matt.17:11-12), Daniel (Matt. 24:15), Abel (Matt. 23:35), Zechariah (Matt. 23:35), Abiathar (Mark 2:26), David (Matt. 22:45), Moses and his writings (Matt. 8:4; John 5:46), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; John 8:39),
Christ did not allude to these as mere moral stories, but He authenticated the events in them as factual history to be completely trusted. These events include many of the passages of the Old Testament against which radicals have raised, controversies like Creation, the Flood and major miracles including Jonah and the giant sea-monster.
Obviously, our Lord felt that He had a reliable Bible, historically true, with every word being trustworthy. If we find that He used or taught only in a general way about the Bible, then we must conclude that He believed in its reliability only generally. On the other hand, if we find that He relied on the minutiae of the Bible as accurate, then we must conclude that He believed it to be inerrant down to its minutest details.
Some Concrete Biblical
Evidences For Inerrancy
1-the Evidence of Matthew 4:1-11: The account of the temptation of our Lord reveals some important matters concerning His view of the Bible.
First, Jesus accepted the plenary inspiration of the Bible; when first approached by the devil to turn stones into bread, our Lord replied that man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4 quoting Deut. 8:3). He did not say “some words” but “EVERY word”. If Scripture is breathed out from God (II Tim. 3:16), then all Scripture must be included in what sustains man. Not merely parts of Scripture but all of it.
Second, Jesus’ response to Satan’s attacks negates every view of errancy. He said, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4,7,10). He did not say, “It witnesses”. He relied on statements from the Bible to convey truth in and of themselves and to convey it accurately.
2-the Evidence of Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished”. The verse is not only a statement of fact, but also a promise about the Bible made by the Lord Jesus Himself. Several things should be noticed.
First, what is the promise? It is that the Law and the Prophets will NOT be abolished, but be fulfilled. Christ is guaranteeing that the all the guarantees and statements of the Bible shall surely be fulfilled.
Second, what all in included in this promise? The “Law and the Prophets” included all of the Old Testament, our Lord’s Bible. “Law” in verse 18 means the same thing (compare the use of “Law” in John 10:34 where it includes more than the Mosaic Law).
Third, in what detail will all the promises of the Old Testament be fulfilled? The Lord said we can count on all the Old Testament promises being fulfilled down to the very jots and tittles (KJV). An explanation of “jot and tittle” would be helpful to the non-Hebrew readers.
THE JOT: The jot is the Hebrew letter titled YODH. It is the smallest of all the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. It would occupy proportionately about the same amount of space that an English apostrophe takes up in a line of English type. Actually, the Hebrew letter looks very much like an English apostrophe. Though it is the smallest of the Hebrew letters it is an important as any other letter, for letters spell words and words compose sentences and sentences make promises. If we spell a words one way, it is that word; if we spell it another way, even with only a single letter differently, it is a different word. For example, “Tough” means strong. One letter changed spells as “touch”. One letter added makes it “though”. Single letters are enough to change words. Thus our Lord promised that not one jot would fail. Every promise will be fulfilled exactly as it has been spelled out.
Many people (influenced by the radical theologians) believe and teach that Biblical writers were inspired only with ‘concepts’ and that inspiration did not extend to the words used by the Biblical writers. We must observe here that Christ does not start with concepts and then allow for optional words to be used to convey those concepts (contrary to what proponents of “concepts-inspiration” teach). He begins the other way around. The promises are based on the words as spelled out in the Holy Writ and those words can be relied on fully and in detail.
Neither did our Lord say that the promises would be fulfilled provided they were culturally relevant at the time of fulfillment. In some theological circles it has become fashionable today to say that promises and commands of the Bible are to be culturally reinterpreted. This is a subtle attempt to invalidate the original promises as spelled out in the Old Testament.
THE TITTLE: A “tittle” is even more MINUTE than a Jot. Whereas a Jot is a whole letter, a “tittle” is only a PART of a letter. The presence of a tittle forms a certain letter, but its absence causes that letter to become a different one. For example, the Hebrew letter BETH and KAPH look very similar. The only difference between the two letters is that the bottom horizontal line on the BETH extends slightly to the right of the vertical line, whereas no extension appears on the KAPH. That extension (not the entire bottom horizontal line but only the part of it that extends to the right of the vertical line) is a tittle. If it is present then the letter is a BETH; if it is absent, it is a KAPH. And whether you use a BETH or a KAPH will decide what word it would ultimately be. According to the Lord, even such tiny differences were there by God’s ordinance.
There are many other places where the presence or absence of the tittle makes a difference. While it is easy for an ordinary copyist to overlook the presence of the tittle, the Lord made it very clear that it is an important part of the inspired scriptures. The Lord’s affirmation was that all of the promises of the Old Testament will be fulfilled precisely as they were spelled out, in their minutest details.
3-the Evidence of John 10:31-38: Often minute things do make a difference. Towards the end of His earthly ministry the Lord again reaffirmed His total confidence in the reliability of the minutest elements of the Scripture. At the temple celebration of the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah (instituted in 165 B.C to commemorate the cleansing and reopening of the temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanus three years earlier), the Jews asked Jesus to tell them plainly if He is the Messiah (John 10:24).
His answer was, “I and the Father are One.” The words “one” is neuter, “one thing”, not “one person”. In other words, He did not assert that He and the Father are identical but that He and the Father possess essential unity together, that He enjoys perfect unity of nature and of actions with His Father. The Jews had asked if He were the Messiah. His answer was more than they had bargained for, for in it He claimed also to be equal with God.
This was certainly the way they understood His claim, for immediately they prepared to stone the Lord for what they considered to be blasphemy. In order to restrain them the Lord appealed to Psalm 82. He called this portion of the Old Testament “the Law” (John 10:34), as He did on two other occasions (John 12:34 and 15:25). In that Law, He said the judges of Israel, human beings, were called “gods” by virtue of their high and God-given office. Then, He concluded, if that Psalm can apply the term “gods” to human beings, then certainly the term “Son of God” may be rightly applied to the One whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world. In other words, if the title Elohim is applied to men, how much more appropriate it is to apply it to Himself, since He does possess essential unity with the Father.
Though this argument is highly sophisticated, certain claims Christ made here about the Bible can clearly be deduced, such as
The Bible is verbally inspired: He pointed the Jews to what had been written. God’s Word came in written prepositional statements, not merely in concepts, thoughts, or oral tradition. It is the written record that was inspired and that can be relied on.
The Bible is inspired even in what looks as minor statements: Psalm 82 is not what would be considered a major Old Testament passage. It is not a psalm of David nor a messianic psalm. This is not said to demean the psalm in any way for, of course, it is equally inspired with all other parts of the Bible, but it is to emphasize that the Lord did not pick up an outstanding passage on which to base His argument. Indeed one might say, without being disrespectful, that He chose a rather ordinary, run-of-the-mill passage. Of course, He could not have done so if He did not believe that even such passages are God’s inerrant and inspired Word. Furthermore, from that ordinary passage He focused on a single word, “gods”. He could not have done so unless He believed in the verbal inspiration of the minutest part of the Bible and also on any word in any part of the statement.
The Bible is authoritatively inspired: In the midst of His sophisticated arguing the Lord threw in almost incidentally the statement: “and the Scripture cannot be broken”. What does this mean? Simply that the Scripture cannot be emptied of its authority. The only way it could fail to have complete authority would be if it were erroneous, but Christ said that here it is both authoritative and inerrant. Christ was here staking His life on the reliability, accuracy, and authority of just one word of Scripture when His enemies were about to stone Him.
4-the Evidence of Matthew 22:23-33: Just as in John 10:34 in the present passage also he based His argument on the written Word: not upon general concepts, but upon specific written words. Specifically, He based His case on how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush: ” I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matt. 22:32). That proves, the Lord went on to say, that God is the God of the living, which means that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive though they had died long before.
How does that identification prove the doctrine of life after death? Simply by the use of the present tense, “I am”. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died several hundred years before God spoke this way to Moses. Yet God said that He was still their God at the time He was speaking to Moses. This would not have been possible if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ceased to exist upon their death. It was only possible if, contrary to the Sadducees’ doctrine, death does not end it all.
The difference between “I am” and “I was” is only a matter of verb tense. This argument was based on a present tense to support the doctrine of resurrection. The difference is only in the tense of the verb used similar to we had or we have or I was their God or I am their God.
This interpretation of Christ has many ramifications, and let us observe carefully some of them here:
1-He assumed as true the historicity of God’s appearance to Moses.
2-He assumed that God’s revelation came in a prepositional statements, not merely through non-verbal ideas.
3-He assumed that every word of that statement could be trusted to be precisely accurate.
4-He assumed that doctrinal truth has to be based on historical accuracy. The Bible cannot be inaccurate in matters of history and yet be accurate in doctrine.
5-He assumed that one could use even seemingly insignificant passages of Bible and trust their accuracy.
5-the Evidence of Matthew 22:41-46: Later that same day, when the Pharisees had joined the crowd of antagonists, the Lord became the aggressor, asking a straight-forward question to them: “About the Christ, whose son is He, (Matt. 22:24). Theirs was an immediate answer: “The Son of David”. The answer was correct but incomplete. Christ is the son of David as far as His humanity is concerned, but He also is the Son of God, and the Lord wanted the Pharisees to acknowledge this as well. So He asked them, “Then how does David address Him as Lord. He quoted Psalm 110:1. In that Psalm “the Lord (that is, the Father) said to my Lord (the Messiah who was David’s Lord): ‘Sit at My right hand (the Father’s) until I (the Father) put Thine (the Messiah’s) enemies beneath thy feet’.
How could David call Messiah his Lord if Messiah were only David’s son? The only answer is: because Messiah was also David’s God. In other words the Messiah had to be both God and man. As man He was David’s son; as God, David’s Lord. The pronoun “my” links David to his Messiah-Lord.
Natural procreation links Messiah to David as David’s descendant. The pronoun “my”: in Psalm 110:1 links Messiah to David as David’s Lord God. And the pronoun “my” is simply a YODH that smallest of Hebrew letters, attached to the word “Lord”. We learn several things about the Scriptures from our Lord’s attitude toward the Bible:
1-The spelling of words can be trusted completely, and not one promise will be fulfilled in any way different from how it was spelled out.
2-The only way the Scripture can lose its authority is if it contains errors, but Christ taught that the Scripture cannot be broken. Thus He must have believed it did not contain errors.
3-The Lord built sophisticated arguments on single words and even the tense of a verb.
None can say he fully follows the Lord without accepting His teaching concerning the inerrancy of the Scriptures?
The word of God is not only alive and powerful, but is also infallible and inerrant. Thus in the original writings produced by the forty writers, even the words used came there by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration gave such an integrity to the original text that even the smallest jot and tittle was there by God’s guidance.
Doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility apply only to the original autographs of the Bible. Using tens of thousands of manuscripts that archaeologists have discovered, scholars have been able to get very close to the original autographs of the Bible. All what we said in this chapter applies to the original autographs.