The bible is the primary source document to tell of Jesus’ life.
But how do you use a document you don’t believe to be true? And to prove a divine Jesus you don’t believe to be true?
That is the problem. Fake histories are manufactured all the time, and true histories are twisted because they only tell the perspective of the victor. It could be a human-constructed document to circulate a fake Jesus, a book created to uphold and perpetuate a certain worldview. It could have been changed over time, becoming a human construct.
But it also could be what it claims to be – the unceasingly applicable word of God written through heavenly inspiration over millennia of time that strangely unites to tell one solitary story of love and redemption.
The bible is seen as inconsistent and controversial. Many don’t believe it to be true. Even some attending church regularly are unconvinced of the bible’s authority. There are two choices: believe it can be trusted to tell the truth, or believe it is a misguided history for a misguided religion. Here are some reasons to refute it can be trusted.
It has so many writers; they must have added their own knowledge and perspective.
Many perspectives make the essence of scriptures truth. When needing to discipline a child at school or home I always ask the others what happened; their perspectives prove or disprove the event. Jewish law needed the proof of 2 or 3 witnesses before someone could be put to death. The bible far exceeds this.
Since the last book, Revelation, was added to the scriptural cannon, nothing else has been added. Nobody has new revelations, new chapters, new lessons. It is unchanging. Other world religions will accept new revelation and prophecy, and add them to their cannon of truth. Christianity will not; any prophecy must be held to the message and essence of scripture to be proved true or false. Nothing is to be added to scripture. Prophecy in Christianity is often a revelation of biblical truth in a form that the current culture can understand it – humans need to hear something multiple ways for them to learn it and understand. God extends this grace to us and is committed to helping us learn what the bible says.
The bible condones genocide and slavery and misogyny.
It was a book written to a specific culture at a specific time, that also mysteriously relates to us. We need to remember to read with a lens of critical thinking, bringing the perspectives and culture and knowledge of that time into our interpretation. Part of the bible is history, part is poetry, part is prophecy. Each style needs to be read critically and understood within that style. That said, I don’t understand everything either. I really don’t.
I would think that if Jesus didn’t come at the point in time that he did two thousand years ago and he chose to incarnate his Deity into the tiny box that is Humanity right now, today, we would have the same questions. Just because we have portions of history written down in a sacred book, we tend to think those people should all act sacredly as well.
If Jesus dropped down into your town as he did Bethlehem and Jerusalem, what cultural, societal, religious, economic, political, power-stratified background would he be confronting? Would leaders accept or oppose him and why? Who would be available to join his discipleship team? What characteristics would he want to change? What institutions would he oppose?
And to go further, what did your town look like a couple hundred years ago? I’m guessing your hometown’s culture would, like mine and ancient Mesopotamia’s, have a history of genocide and slavery and hints of misogyny. First Nations. African Americans. Racism towards Asians and Eastern Europeans. Witch Trials. Antisemitism. Women’s Rights.
And keeping your frame of reference there as parallel to the Old Testament, what culture and its vices would God be speaking through? Who would God have as societal leaders? What divides would that society have? What crimes against human rights would have been accepted as permissible? Who would God use as prophets? In comparison to the rich testimony of Jesus’ grace, humility and equality, I should think that any point of the world’s history should seem insufficient and open for question.
Just because God used a specific point in history to tell a sacred story, it doesn’t mean that the culture itself was sacred.
The very nature of the good news of Jesus’ life and resurrection is that even people and cultures who perpetuate hate, those who murder, enslave, and deceive can be renewed to become good.
It doesn’t answer all my questions. In fact, the bible makes me have more questions.
The bible is a book that invites conversation. Its design is that there are many layers that can be seen depending on your situation. I’m part of a bible study where I am the youngest by almost thirty years. All of them are grandmas. One is a pastor’s wife. Many have taught Sunday school and bible studies for decades. We get together and discuss, verse by verse, what the bible actually says. It is comforting that the shared wisdom of the room is 520 years and they still have questions. They still learn. And they are still surprised when they read a verse or story in a way they had never seen before. It is literally the best part of my week. The beauty of Jesus and the bible is that though we know them, we cannot comprehensively know them. That there is a book written that cannot get boring if you are reading to learn, and cannot learn it all in one lifetime even if you try, is strangely alluring and satisfying. The immensity of content, for me, points to a divine author and editor.
I can’t take the bible as fact.
Then read it as a story. People get hung up debating syntax and discrepancies in isolated verses. They are missing the point by treating it solely as history. Change your mindset, suspend disbelief, and read the bible as a storybook. Read it the same way you would a fiction book in high school. Read for plot. Read for themes. Read for characters, morals and motifs. Summarize it in your own words. See what kind of Jesus you discover in the storybook of the bible.
Still doubt? That’s okay. I do. Leaders do. Pastors do. We all do. But the beauty of doubt is that it invites proof for it to be either true or false. Challenge yourself to read it with an open mind and see what the bible becomes for you.