Why I Trust My Bible - Lesson 1

Significance of the Question

Some people feel that it is wrong to ask fundamental questions such as whether or not they trust the Bible. But if you never seriously ask the question, you will never be convinced that it really is true and trustworthy.

Bill Mounce
Why I Trust My Bible
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Significance of the Question

1. The world is asking (and attacking)

2. Your friends are asking (or they will)

3. You should be asking

4. You must be asking (Titus 1:9)

a. Hold firmly

b. Encourage others by sound doctrine

c. Refute

  • Are you curious about the trustworthiness of the Bible? Are you looking for answers to common criticisms and questions about its reliability? "Why I Trust My Bible" is the class for you! This class is taught by Dr. Bill Mounce, former seminary professor and member of the NIV translation team. It will help you understand and defend your belief in the Bible. Whether you're a freshman in college facing new challenges to your faith, or a parent concerned about your child's belief in the Bible, this class is designed to provide you with the tools you need to think critically about these issues and to be confident as you share your belief about the reliability of the Bible with others. Don't miss this opportunity to learn about the Bible and its trustworthiness.
  • Some people feel that it is wrong to ask fundamental questions such as whether or not they trust the Bible. But if you never seriously ask the question, you will never be convinced that it really is true and trustworthy.

  • As amazing as it sounds, some people question whether Jesus actually lived, often claiming that there is only one non-biblical reference to him. That simply is not true; there are many more. But it makes sense that he is not referenced a lot since biographies were written about the rich and powerful.

  • Since there was a period of time between when Jesus lived and when the gospels were written, how can we trust that the writers' memories weren't faulty? And didn't they change history to match their theology? Actually, the "informed controlled": understanding of orality assures us that the writers were accurate and trustworthy. The gospels were not written right away because we prefer the testimony of eyewitnesses.

  • While the gospels are anonymous, tradition is very strong as to who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and all four authors were in a position to know the truth and we can trust their writings. If the church did not care about authorship traditions, they would not have picked these four.

  • If the biblical writers were not concerned about historical accuracy, we would expect more verses that would have answered the burning questions of the first century, and we certainly would not have the many embarrassing and difficult verses that we do have. The gospel is couched in historical fact, and if the events did not happen then the teaching is false.

  • How can we trust the Bible when it is so full of mistakes and internal contradictions? Really? Where are they? Doesn't harmonization help us see how the gospels can describe the same event but in different terms? If the Bible and science and history disagree, doesn't the Bible, properly interpreted, deserve the benefit of the doubt?

  • There is no question that Jesus and Paul sound different, but are their differences complementary or contradictory? What effect would their different contexts have on how they speak and what they write about?

  • Canonization is the process by which the church determined what books belonged in the Bible (and here we are focusing on the New Testament). Despite the frequent assertion to the opposite, the canon was not determined by a few individuals in a haphazard way. It appears that the three tests were authorship, harmony of doctrine and tone, and usage in the church as a whole. Did the church get it right?

    Correction: Bill mentions "Dan Block." He means, "Dan Brown." (Dan Block is a friend of his.)

  • It does no good to talk about inspiration and canonization if the church altered the contents of the Bible through the centuries. And why are there differences among the Greek manuscripts? This is the topic of textual criticism. The current situation is that we are confident of 99% of the New Testament text, and the 1% we are unsure of contains no significant theological doctrine.

  • Unless you can read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, you need a translation. But why are there so many, and why are they so often different? Can they be trusted? Bill Mounce, chair of the ESV translation for 10 years and currently on the Committee on Bible Translation that is responsible for the NIV, shares his answer to these questions.

  • We have looked at attacks on the trustworthiness of the Bible and given reasonable counter-arguments. it remains but to share personally why I trust my Bible.

We can no longer assume that people trust their Bible. The popular media has launched such an attack on the believability of Scripture that our people have serious questions about the Bible. Are you ready to answer them? Did Jesus actually live? (Bill Maher on Larry King Live says no.) Did the biblical writers get it right, or did they slant/create the message? The gospels were written so long after Jesus lived; how can you trust them? How can you believe a Bible that is full of internal contradictions with itself and external contradictions with science? Doesn’t archaeology disprove the Bible? Why should we believe the books that are in the Bible; many good ones were left out, like the Gospel of Thomas. Why trust the Bible when there are so many and contradictory translations? These questions and more are discussed and answered in this class.

The YouTube Videos and handouts that Dr. Mounce is referring to in lecture 1 are the links that you will find on the class page. The two handouts are a list of the books of the Apocrypha, and a chart showing translations of the Bible on a continuum from formal to dynamic equivalence. The two links are an article by Dr. Blomberg, and a YouTube video of a debate between Dan Wallace and Bart Ehrman. 

The bibliography and footnotes in the book, Why I Trust the Bible, by Dr. Mounce, also provide a detailed list of the resources that are the basis for this online course and for the book.

Some additional resources that will give you a picture of what is going on in culture are interviews and debates with people like Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Bill Maher, Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, Tim Keller and Steven Crowder (e.g. "Change my mind"). You will find many of these by searching on YouTube. Many of these people are not believers, and Harris and Maher, for example, think that religion is the underlying cause of all the problems in the world. 

For biblical responses regarding issues raised outside of the trustworthiness of the Bible, you can see classes on BiblicalTraining.org like C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy, Advanced Worldview Analysis, and others. Other websites that you may find helpful are Apologetics 315 and Summit Ministries


Lecture 1: Significance of the Question

This is the 1st lecture in the online series of lectures on Why I Trust My Bible by Dr Bill Mounce. Bill was a preaching pastor at a church in Spokane, WA, and prior to that a professor of New Testament and director of the Greek Program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He also taught at Azusa Pacific University for ten years. He is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other resources. Bill was the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and is now serving on the NIV translation committee. Bill and Robin have been married since 1983 and have three children.

1. The World is Asking (and Attacking)

I want to start with just a few opening comments to orient yourself to me and my own experiences and to the class on the issues we are going to be raising. I was initially trained as an academic and taught in college for ten years. I also taught in graduate school, seminary for about four years. What is interesting, as an academic and as a college teacher, this whole issue of my I trust my Bible was one of these paramount issues that kept coming up in class after class after class. So I have been talking about this for quite a while. In Seminary it was more helping future pastors know how to answer questions about this. But college was a very pivotal time for me with the issues why I trust my Bible. I moved into the pastorate again and as a pastor I had different kinds of questions about trusting the Bible; things like, is it real? Is it authentic? Did the Biblical writers get the story correct? Did the church alter it through the centuries? A lot of these questions as a pastor forced me to deal with a lot of these issues. I have also been a translator in a New Testament chair for ten years with the ESV and I am currently on the NIV committee. As a translator, one is also making decisions on whether this is the correct English word to use or not? Will it give someone the wrong idea or make someone believe or not believe the Bible? These are real issues that translators struggle with. Now I am president of BiblicalTraining.org and it is my privilege and joy to be able to take all these experiences to produce these series of talks on why I trust my Bible.

It is important for you to understand the relationship on two different classes at BiblicalTraining.org: we have another course on ‘Why We Trust the Bible.’ We have gone out and gotten some of the world’s experts to comment on these issues. Darrell Bock talks about the historical Jesus, while Craig Blomberg talks about the reliability of the Bible. We have other world experts dealing with the same topics I will be talking to you about, but in much greater depth. What I am discussing is almost a summary of what they are saying with a few minor points included. This is more of a lay person’s kind of class on why I trust my Bible. Now, an important point as we discuss these issues, you hear a topic that you want to know more about, you can always look at the topic in the other class for a more in-depth coverage of it. The links on the web-site allows you to easily switch over to the other class for more information. As I start, I will deal with ten or so basic concepts and I will be going through those chronologically. We will start with the historical Jesus--did he really exist--and I will go through the centuries and end of talking about translations and why you can trust translations.

Before, I need to first make an important point, ‘can you prove that the Bible is trustworthy?’ The answer to that is ‘no’. You can’t prove it but the fact of matter; you really can’t prove anything, not really. You can’t prove the existence of God for a deist; neither can you prove that there is no God for an atheist. You can’t prove evolution nor can you prove creationism. We have our beliefs on it but you can’t prove it. If you are listening to this class and you are looking for definite proof, beyond any doubt, where you can know that such and such is true, it is simply not possible, but this applies to anything in life. This is the nature of reality, as all belief systems are precisely that: they are belief or faith systems. You can try to set yourself extremely high standards to the point of proving the church didn’t alter the message of Jesus; those standards will not hold up. Of course if you set the standards too low, then you can’t convince anyone that it is true. So in regards to this question: can I prove the Bible is trustworthy, the answer is no. But the other side of what we are talking about; is it a rational belief? I believe that answer is yes. I don’t have to have all these points clarified to be a Christian nor to believe the Bible is trustworthy. There is good evidence and argumentation; it is an internally consistent and coherent argument; I think that it is the most rational thing you can do; you can believe that the Bible is trustworthy. Again, can I prove it? No! But can I create a cogent rational argument that holds together? Yes, I believe I can.

This class is going to be fairly basic, however the other class will be a little more technical and at times it might be a little hard to follow. I want you to be able to leave this class with the assurance that even if you don’t fully understand some of these arguments, there are conservative evangelical scholars that have spent their lives studying these issues. And they believe the Bible is trustworthy and I think that is encouraging to people as well. Also, I will be referencing to some YouTube videos and handouts; these links are in the online class. This topic of the historical reliability of the Bible is an incredibly significant question. When doing some teaching in South Africa, we experience expected turnouts, but one night my host ask whether we could have an open discussion on the topic of trusting the Bible. Hundreds of people showed up for this as this was an obvious viable question for many and people all around the world are asking this question. Of course, there are those who even go on television saying that Jesus was a mythical person. This is amazing as Jesus is the most significant influential person in the world, whether or not you believe he is indeed the Christ and God. Wouldn’t it be amazing if he never really lived?

2. Your Friends are Asking

When I was younger, most people accepted a Judeo Christian world view, even non-Christians. That day has passed in western culture. And the world is not going to give us the benefit of the doubt. It is going to attack; so you need to know the answers to these questions. Your friends will be asking you as you live as salt and light in a dark world; people are going to ask you why? I think also that you should be asking the question even though often basic fundamental questions are frowned upon. Is Jesus really God; is salvation really by faith? Is the Bible really from God? Is it a trustworthy guide to all that we believe, do and say? It is critical that you are asking these questions because the reliability of the message is tied up with the reliability of the messenger. It is okay if you have trusted others for a positive answer especially if you are young, but as you get older, you need to have a credible answer as you are in the process of becoming an adult and taking the beliefs you had as a child and now seeing whether those beliefs are true or not. This is good because if you don’t go through the process of honestly asking whether or not you really believe this, then you never will really believe it. So, you must decide whether this is true or not. This is why this course is so important as I want to walk you through the major challenges of believing that the Bible is trustworthy.

3. You Should be Asking

The fact of the matter is that you will keep making these decisions, because as a cycle as you will be faced with situations over the years that challenge your faith. Those challenges will be in the form of economics, people, wealth, family, death and/or relationships. In those situations, you will ask yourself, how could a good God let this happen? How could an all-powerful God let this happen? Do I really trust him? Do I really believe his Word? Life will throw curves at all of us; sometimes they will be huge and sometimes not so huge. All of us have these kinds of issues that come up in our lives. You will go through this cycle and it will be good because when you come out the other side trusting the Bible, even facing the death of a loved one, for example, you will realize that you are trusting more than you did earlier. This goes deeper and deeper into your soul as you believe it with more and more conviction. Don’t feel like that you shouldn’t be asking these questions.

4. You must be asking:

a. Hold Firmly

Paul talks to Titus in chapter 1:9 about elders but I think it applies to all Christians. He tells Titus that he must hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. So the first thing is to hold firmly to the Word and then to give instruction and then to rebuke those who oppose it. So you and I have to hold firmly to the Bible; we have to know it. That is why we have BiblicalTraining.org so that you can get your Biblical and Theological education here. In the course of the experiences of life, you will come to hold firmly to it.

b. Encourage Others

Secondly, you have to be able to encourage others by sound doctrine. This is an important concept in the pastorals; it is the idea that the Biblical Gospel and doctrine gives spiritual health. It give life; it is sound and it is rational and it makes sense; it is life giving. This is what Paul is saying. You are to encourage others by sound doctrine; now, you may have ideas that may or may not be good ideas or they could really be bad ideas. We will encourage people with our own ideas. But ultimately, the encouragement needs to come from Scripture and that means you need to know Scripture and be convinced that it is true so that you can encourage others by it. Just last night, we had a couple over whose adult son died in difficult circumstances. They are hurting over this. We talked about Scripture, about the sovereignty of God and the fact that God loved their son; that he is now with Jesus in heaven. While the parents are hurting; they have a hope in the future. You must trust your Bible in order to encourage others by it.

c. Refutation

The third point here; you have to be able to refute those opposing Scripture. This is a little more difficult. I remember reading a survey that said that average person being a Christian for five years has no non-Christian friends. In other words, we tend to wrap ourselves into a cocoon. Presumably, we all have non-Christian friends and we need to know what they think and what they are listening to. We need to know what the non-Christian world thinks and what is being said. We need to know the silly and damning things that are being said on some of the YouTube videos. Some of them are just vile and it’s a wonder that God just doesn’t strike people dead! That is what is influencing the people around us and we need to know what is going on so that we are able to refute it with the sound doctrine of Scripture and with love as we are convinced that it is absolutely true. There are some links that will help you know what is going on in our culture. So, that is the significance of the question.