My family has been life-long Newsweek subscribers. The latest edition is always in the bathroom off the living room for reading material. As an adult, after moving back to the United States, I have continued the tradition. And much to my amazement this week, the company has released their latest publication with the cover story attempting to discredit the Bible the very week after the entire nation (and much of the world) celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ! What a way to bring in 2015, folks!
The catchy title reads, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin”, flaunting an authority of Biblical understanding and condemnation of Christianity today. The satirical piece attacks Christians for not reading or understanding their Bibles, the Bible itself for having been translated and copied numerous times, and attempts to affirm Biblical inconsistencies within the Scriptures as we have them.
I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar, I studied the languages only to the extent required to receive a Master’s of Divinity. I have never held the ancient texts in my hands or worked alongside archaeologists to determine the breadth of consistency within the oldest manuscripts. I have, however, studied and marveled at the vast majority of ancient manuscripts that have been found and studied and the consistency therein. It is not my intention to argue point-for-point with Kurt Eichenwald (for that would be a massive essay and a fool’s errand), but I would simply like to state the fact that people have sought to disprove and discredit the Bible and Biblical testimony since before it was compiled into a book, and that to no avail. After Jesus had been raised from the dead and met with the women at the grave, this record is accounted in Matthew’s Gospel:
Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
– Matt 28.11-15
There never was nor has been empirical proof to discredit the bodily resurrection of Jesus. There never was nor has been empirical proof to discredit any of the Scripture, though it has been hunted for centuries. Not only that, but our entire system of historical knowledge is based on ancient writings and artifacts that historians and archaeologists discover. We write history books and understand the ancient world on tidbits of information gathered here and there. We rely on parchments found in jars, and occasionally a headline will announce a discovery that completely changes how we understand history.
Josh McDowell writes,
“The history of Thucydides (460-400 BC) is available to us from only eight manuscripts dated about AD 900, almost thirteen hundred years after he wrote. The manuscripts of the history of Herodotus are likewise late and scarce. And yet, as F. F> Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, concludes, “No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.”
Aristotle wrote his poetics around 343 BC and yet the earliest copy we have is dated AD 1100 (a gap of almost fourteen hundred years), and only forty nine manuscripts exist.”
He continues to note text after text and author after author upon who we rely for our basic understanding of history – those which are never questioned by scholars for accuracy or authenticity. If we trust Aristotle’s work to be true on 49 copies written over 1100 years after his death, why would we doubt the more than fifty six hundred (5600) Greek manuscripts of the Bible, some of which have been dated to within Jesus’ generation?! These manuscripts are primary sources.
Jewish scholar Jacob Klausner said,
“If we had ancient sources like those in the Gospels for the history of Alexander or Caesar, we should not cast any doubt upon them whatsoever.”
An honest, journalistic study of the historical trustworthiness of the Scriptures leaves no room for discussion, if we believe any history that is documented for us and taught in grade school.
But the article was not written as a journalistic work. It is an attack on Christianity. And one of its foundational arguments is that the average Christian in the pew is not well-read, Biblically. Is this true? Possibly. Probably. But my ignorance, and yours does not disprove the validity of Scripture or Jesus’ work and intention to save sinners, nor does it discredit the legitimacy of the Scriptures.
The real issue here is the unashamed attack on Christianity. We, once again, preach tolerance and slaughter those who disagree with us. Newsweek magazine has attacked Christianity. But we are guilty, too, dear Christian. Eichenwald’s resentful introduction reads:
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.
Do we tolerate nonbelievers? Or do we crucify those who are spiritually dead for not acting morally righteously? We must learn from these attacks. We must humble ourselves and discern if people hate us because they hate Jesus, or if they hate us because we are hateful.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
– John 15.18-20
The world will hate us. But let’s not give them extra ammo. Let us study our Scriptures and the history of the Bible so that we will not be tossed around by arguments like the one Newsweek published. But let us respond in love and wisdom. Crying out, “that’s not true” and protesting, “you are being intolerant of us” is not the answer. Let us turn the other cheek. Let us love. Let us rest confidently in our faith, the historically solid foundation of the Scripture and the inspired Word of God, let us know that the world will hate us on account of Jesus, but let us make known our faith by our love. Let us proclaim the trustworthiness and historical foundation of the Scripture and teach others, in love. We are educated. We are well read. We are not looking for a crutch. But we know that apart from Christ we are hopelessly lost and we rely on Him for salvation, life and joy.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
– John 13.35