In very many ways the most basic questions of all about the Christian faith are questions about the Bible. For if the Bible really is an accurate and reliable revelation from our Divine Creator, then almost every other important question about life and truth (Is there a God? Who am I? How did I get here? What comes after this life?) is automatically answered. For this reason we have dedicated the first three issues of the Proclamation in 1997 to answering twenty-one leading questions about the Bible. Due to space limitations, our answers here are obviously not as thorough as they otherwise might be, but we believe that they are accurate, and we offer them with the convict-ion that even just a 'starter response' (so long as it is accurate) is usually preferable to no response at all. 15 What about all the versions of the Bible that are available today? Certainly one should understand that not all versions of the Bible even purport to be actual word-for-word translations from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Paraphrases, dynamic-equivalence translations, and other more colloquial-style renditions attempt to make the Bible more readable, but also make it absolutely critical to verify the soundness of the theology of those producing them. The King James Version (KJV & NKJV), the New International Version (NIV), and especially the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are all time-tested, very reliable, word-for-word, translations of the Bible. 16 How do we know that the method by which the canon was formed was reliable? The word canon means "cane" or "measuring rod", and refers to the standards a particular book had to meet in order to be considered part of the Bible. The Bible is comprised of 66 books (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament). The formation of both the Old and New Testament canons resulted from a careful and deliberate process on the part of believers as a whole through the years, not just some impulsive or arbitrary decision by a few. In 397 A.D. the Third Council of Carthage ratified what was already the unanimous judgment of the churches regarding the books of the New Testament. This judgment was confirmed by Reformation Protestants. On the basis of the evidence, Christians believe the entire process was superintended by God. 17 But aren't some of the books in the Bible questionable? No longer, not seriously, and never by the Church as a whole. The seven New Testament books which were challenged by a few at one time were all universally accepted as fully canonical by the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth. 18 What is Q? Hasn't it cast doubt on the authenticity of the Bible? "Q" derives from the German word "quelle" (source), and refers to a theory that there was once a mysterious but now-vanished source for the synoptic Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Once popular, this theory more recently seems to have run aground, in part due to the lack of any documentation for the existence of "Q", and a lack of agreement over what it might have said. 19 What effect have the Dead Sea Scrolls had on the Bible's credibility? The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 has greatly enhanced Biblical credibility by demonstrating that the Book of Isaiah, for instance, showed no significant variation in nearly 1000 years of copying. Sensational ploys to suggest otherwise, as was the case with the book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, usually come and go, sooner or later showing up for just what they are-a thinly-veiled highly speculative attempt by the authors to discredit the plain truth of Scripture. 20 Hasn't modern Bible criticism demonstrated that much of the Bible shouldn't be taken literally? On the contrary, modern Bible criticism has often looked very foolish for not having taken the Bible literally. One example would be the critics' contention that Cyrenius didn't become governor of Syria until 6 A.D., making Luke 2:1-2 false. More recently it has been discovered that Cyrenius was governor twice. 21 Isn't using the Bible to prove the Bible just circular reasoning? Using the Bible alone to prove the Bible might very well constitute circular reasoning. But in conjunction with many other respectable extra-Biblical sources, it is altogether fair and even critical to consider the Bible's claims in the process of validating those claims.
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