The Bible – Is It Divinely Inspired?

Its Preservation Through The Ages

Part 7


Dr. John Hoole



When I hear a sermon - any sermon - my mind is programmed to take in the information in two different ways.


• as a Christ-follower


• as a Bible-teacher


As a Christ-follower, I am asking, "How will these truths help me to follow Christ more closely?  As a Bible-teacher, I am asking, "Has the speaker done his or her homework"  “Will what is said bring home the important truths of Scripture to others?"  "Will what is being said cause the listeners to get more into the Word of God?"


As you can see by what I have already said, I am most often in the Bible-teacher mode.  I am also asking myself, "How can I take what is said today and include it, in my own word," in a future lesson?"  What would I add or change that would make it something I could handle well?


In the fall of 1970, Marshall University's football team had just lost a closely fought game to East Carolina University, 17-14.  The players climbed aboard their chartered plane for the flight back to West Virginia where family and friends waited.  But they never made it home.  The plane crashed and everyone on board was killed:  36 football players, the coaches, team physicians, booster club parents...everyone.


The campus community of Marshall University grieved deeply.  And then they began to rebuild their football team from scratch.  They had a hard time recruiting a head coach, because nobody wanted to coach a team made up with mostly college freshmen.  But they eventually found a guy who was crazy enough to take the job.  And he recruited high school seniors from around the country.  The reason I said that most of the team players would be freshmen was because of an NCAA rule that freshmen could not play on the varsity team.  So, they were not on the plane when it crashed.  But in this case, the NCAA helped by giving special permission for freshmen on the Marshall University Thundering Herd to play varsity.


So, Marshall University had a coach and they had players, but they lacked one essential ingredient for building a football team - a playbook.  The old playbook wouldn't do.  They needed a playbook that could transform a group of inexperienced freshmen into a varsity team.  They needed a playbook that would be basic and uncomplicated, but effective.


Somebody mentioned that a neighboring school, West Virginia University, had a basic and uncomplicated playbook.  Maybe they would share it with Marshall?  Yeah, right!  How many coaches would be willing to loan their playbook to another team.  Well, in this particular case, West Virginia University had a generous coach who was willing to do just that.


His name was Bobby Bowden, and he later became the winningest coach ever.  He coached for 40 years, 32 of them at Florida State University.  Bobby Bowden's playbook was foundational for rebuilding.  Marshall University's football team. It was foundational for transforming a group of raw recruits into real players.


God also has a playbook.  And God's playbook is foundational for transforming us into real players on His team.  God's playbook is called the Bible.  That title comes from a Greek word that simply means "book."  The Bible is God's book, and God wants us to build our lives upon it.


The writer of the old hymn "How Firm a Foundation" captures this truth in the opening line of this song.  "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!"


In your life, God wants you on the field and in the game.  God has gifted each of you to fill a specific position on His team.  God isn't looking for us to always be fans — He wants players.  He has put you in the game, and He has given you the playbook — His Playbook.


Tragically, over the past century and a half, many pastors, theology professors and laymen have lost their faith and confidence that the Bible is truly the inspired and reliable Word of God.  With the emergence in the middle 1800s, there developed what is called "Higher Criticism."  And many liberal theologians began teaching this as the only way to approach the Bible.  And within it, the divinity of Christ and the authority of the Scripture are brought into question.  Along with them any miracle in the Bible is doubted.


I want to quote a Regius Professor at Cambridge University.  A Regius Professor is a university professor with a royal patronage or appointment.  That means the royal monarch has recognized their work and given them the Regius acclaim.  It is a prestigious pronouncement.  You will find this mostly in the British Isles.  The University of Glasgow currently has the most Regius professors.


I quote Regius Professor Dr. Benjamin Kennedy, who warned of the relentless battle over the authority of the Bible.  The professor was a professor in the Greek Language:  "The inspiration of Scriptures will be the last battle ground between the Church and the world"


Unfortunately, many in our churches and seminaries today have abandoned this battlefield too easily and have accepted defeat at the hands of skeptics that hate the authority of the Word of God.


This widespread rejection of the truthfulness of the Scriptures reveals the folly of men who have followed what is described in Jeremiah 2:13.


Jeremiah 2:13 NKJV


13 For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.


The prophet Jeremiah wrote those words 25 centuries ago.


In this series on the reliability of the Word of God, we have tried to show many evidences that would indicate the divine inspiration of the Bible.  Thus far we have investigated these evidences:


•  The Bible Unity

•  One focus — Jesus Christ

•  The Bible ascribes for itself a divine origin

•  It contains knowledge beyond human origin

•  The Bible is historically accurate

•  Archeology continues to back what is found in the Bible

•  It contains fulfilled prophecy


There are four more pieces of evidence that are important in this study.  And the first for us to address today is "Its preservation through the ages."


Preservation Through the Ages


The survival of the Bible through the ages is very difficult to explain if it is not in truth the Word of God.  Books are like men -- dying creatures.  A very small percentage of books survive more than twenty years, a yet smaller percentage last a hundred years and only a very insignificant fraction represents those which have lived a thousand years.


Among all the world's ancient literature, the Holy Scriptures stand out like the last survivor of an otherwise

extinct race, and the very fact of the Bible's continued existence is an indication that like its Author it is indestructible.


Not only has the Bible been the most intensely loved Book in the world, but it has also been the most bitterly hated.


One of the claims which the Bible makes for itself is that it can never be destroyed.  The abundance of copies of the Scriptures now available in abundance gives testimony that it has made good its claim.  In many passages of the Bible its indestructibility is pronounced.


1 Peter 1:24-25a NIV


24   For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,

25   but the word of the Lord stands forever."


The Word of God will never cease to be.


Matthew 24:35 NKJV


35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.


Isaiah 40:8 NKJV


8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."


The Word of God will last through the judgment, for it is by the Word that a person is judged.


John 12:48 NKJV


48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.


No other book has been so persistently attacked by its enemies. Yet, the Bible has always remained victorious.  The Bible has withstood vicious attacks of its enemies as no other book.  Many have tried to burn it, ban it and outlaw it from the days of Roman emperors to present-day atheistic- countries.


Biblical antagonists have a long and violent history as they have sought, frequently by force, to eliminate the sacred Scriptures from public access.  Listen to the following examples of malevolence toward the Creator and his Word.


When the noble Hebrew king, Josiah, was killed in battle, his son Jehoahaz came to the throne.  He reigned but three months before Pharaoh-Necho (Bible reads Neco) of Egypt put him in chains and transported him to the land of the Pyramids.  His brother, Eliakim, was placed upon the throne; his name was changed to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim began to reign when he was twenty-five years of age.  He strayed from the Lord and immersed the nation in idolatry (2 Kings 23:28-37).


The prophet Jeremiah was commissioned by Jehovah to write a sacred scroll, which threatened divine destruction unless the king and his people repented of their wickedness.  Jehoiakim treated the matter with absolute contempt.  After briefly listening to the message being read, he confiscated the scroll, cut up the leaves with a knife, and cast them into a fire (Jeremiah 36).  But the Holy Word was not to be dismissed so easily.  God had Jeremiah write the same words again (Jeremiah 36:21-32).


After the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek empire was divided into four segments, just as is

written in Daniel 8:8, and, in time, the Jewish people fell under the control of a remarkably evil ruler whose name was Antiochus Epiphanes.  Antiochus, known popularly as "the madman," launched a bloody persecution against the Hebrew people.  One aspect of his vendetta was an attempt to destroy copies of the Jewish Scriptures.  An ancient document records this episode:


"And [the officials of Antiochus] rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, and set them on fire. And wheresoever was found with any a book of the covenant, and if any consented to the law, the king's sentence delivered him to death (The Apocrypha, 1 Maccabees 1:56-57)."


The historian Josephus comments upon this event: “And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed, and those [Jews] with whom they were found miserably perished also" (Antiquities of the Jews 12.5.4).


The heathen plan backfired, however, for it was this very persecution that generated more intense examination of the divine writings.  Nevertheless, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the persecution got even more severe.  Satan hates the Word of God because it reveals the truth about him.  More importantly, the Word of God tells us about salvation and our eternal destiny.


A close examination of the history of Christianity over the last two thousand years reveals that the greatest attacks that occurred during the first centuries following Christ came from the pagans outside the Church.  However, during the last 150 years, the most effective enemies of the Cross come from those who profess to follow Christ, while denying the authority of the Bible and that Christ is the SON of God,


The persecution of Christians and the attempts to eradicate the Bible were very severe in the first two centuries.  Listen to one of the early Church Fathers — Clement of Alexandria, who lived in the second century.  "Many martyrs are daily burned, crucified, and beheaded before our eyes."


For many years Christianity was outlawed in the Roman Empire.  Christians were even call ATHEISTS, because they would not worship the emperor.  The Christians would not worship other gods.


From the time of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) until Emperor Diocletian (AD 284-316), who was

followed immediately by Constantine the Great (AD 306 — 337) virtually every Roman emperor was opposed to Christianity.  Some of them were not as severe as those like Domitian and Diocletian.  Emperor Valerius Diocletian, in AD 303, issued an official command to kill Christians and burn their sacred books.  A Royal Edict letter went out to all provinces to raze all churches to the ground, and destroy all Bibles by burning them.  The edict also stated that if one had a copy of the Bible and did not surrender it, if it were discovered, he would be killed.  And if a person knew that a person did not surrender their Bible to be burned, but did not tell the authorities, if found out, they would also be killed.  In additions to all that, all Christians who held high positions would lose all civil rights.


At the end of two years of this edict having been in place, Diocletian boasted, "I have completely exterminated the Christian writing from the face of the earth!"  But, had he really destroyed the Bible.


History tells us the next ruler, Constantine, became a Christian (AD 313)He requested that copies of the Scriptures be made for all the churches.  But alas! Diocletian had completely obliterated the Word of God.  After Constantine offered a substantial reward for a copy of the Scriptures, within 24 hours 50 copies of the Bible were brought to him!


The Christian's enthusiasm and dedication to the Scriptures in those first centuries motivated them to produce numerous manuscripts that were widely copied, distributed, and translated throughout the empire.  And, although the Christians were subject to the most terrifying tortures and martyrdom conceivable, not one of them ever declared that the Gospel account of Jesu Christ was in error.


John Lea, in his book, The Greatest Book in the World, wrote about a French King who proposed to his court that they should launch a new wave of persecution against the Christians within his realm.  However, a wise counselor and general of his military replied to the king's proposal in these words: "Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers."


I would like to tell you about one of my favorite stories with regard to the endurance of the Bible.     Probably most of you have heard of Voltaire, the noted French philosopher who died in 1778.  But, did you know tat wasn't his real name — it was a pen name.  His real name was Francois Marie Arouer.


Voltaire wrote several volumes brimming with hatred for the Bible.  Probably no one in Europe did as much to destroy faith in the Word of God as Voltaire.  At some point in the 18th century, France outlawed the Bible.  The government tied a copy of the Bible to the tail of a donkey, and dragged it through the streets to the city dump, where it was ceremonially burned.  But, since that time, the government of France has fallen thirty-five times.


Voltaire predicted: "...... in one hundred years from the time of my death, Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history."  Here's what actually happened.  Voltaire has passed into history, while circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world.  There is one more aspect of this story that I will get to in a moment.


As one has said correctly, "We might as well put our shoulder to the burning wheel of the sun, and try to stop it on its flaming course, as attempt to stop the circulation of the Bible."  Now, back to the boast of Voltaire on the extinction of Christianity in 100 years.  Only 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his former press and house to print and distribute stacks of Bible to the world.  Rare is the person 2ho owns a copy of Voltaire's writings, while almost every home is adorned with a Bible.


The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that, "Voltaire was "inordinately vain, and totally unscrupulous in gaining money and in attacking an enemy."  His final days were spent in agony.  As an ex-Catholic, he wanted to have a "Christian burial."  He even signed a confession begging God to forgive his sins, which his biographers claim was insincere.  When the composer Mozart heard of the skeptics death, he wrote: "The ungodly, arch-villain, Voltaire, has died miserably, like a dog — just like a brute. That is his reward"


Like Moses' rod which turned into a serpent, the Bible devours all competitors.  If this book had not been the Book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago.  Emperors, kings, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it, and whereas they have died, the Book still lives.


Bernard Ramm adds that:


"A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put."


This Book stands as no other.


Peter 1:23 NKJV


23 Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,