In Acts chapter 17 we read of a people called the Bereans. In this passage (verses 10-15) that they appear in (very little of the Bereans is mentioned in the Bible), it shows them take the words of the apostle Paul and examine them in relation to the Old Testament scriptures (quite possibly the Septuagint, certainly the Tanakh if not the Septuagint).
In verse 11 we read the following quote:
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 (NIV)
The Bereans were the people who lived in the ancient city of Berea (also known as Beroea), the city is now called Veria and is situated in Macedonia in Northern Greece.
Many people will listen to something they are taught and will take that as truth. However the example the Bereans set in this verse is that we should check the validity of what we are told and examine those things and check that they are in line with what the Bible tells us. There would’ve been no doubt people in that time who reacted when they read this and expressed outrage, saying something along the lines of, “how can these people dare to doubt the words of the apostle Paul”. It may sound like a harsh response, but it’s often what we see happen today, in fact many atheistic arguments are based on similar logic, “who are you to disagree with the words of Stephen Hawking (etc)?”. That kind of logic in of itself proves that it is of man and not of God. The principle outlined here in Acts 17 with the the Bereans is an important one and it is something we can glean something from.
So in this post I’m going to outline a few ways we can test something said in the Bible or even an interpretation of a verse someone references or just simply the outlining of a belief that someone has, and test it in such a way that does justice by God’s word and doesn’t mire it in our eyes.
So without further ado, let’s get into it:
Go To God’s Word First:
You’ll have no doubt heard someone ask the question, why are there are so many contradictions in the Bible? This argument is actually rooted in a seed of deception that goes back to first century AD, in 2 Corinthians 4:4 we are told that the god of this age (who is Satan) has blinded the eyes of the unbelievers so that they will not see the light of the gospel. The word we see in the original Greek language where we see the word unbelievers is the word apistos. The word apistos means unfaithful, faithless, incredible, unbelieving or incredulous. So this statement in 2 Corinthians 4:4 almost seems to have a Ronseal principle to it (does exactly what it says on the tin), however I think it goes a little deeper than that. In John 3:16 we see the word pisteuo and it means to be persuaded of something or to completely trust in something. I think Paul is hinting at the reverse of this very principle outlined in John 3:16, so 2 Corinthians 4:4 isn’t just referring to those who haven’t committed their lives to Christ, but also to those who doubt the ways and the truth of God. This could be part of the reason why Paul tells the Church in Corinth a little later in the letter to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
But back to the “contradictions”. Any so-called contradictions that we run into in scripture are either born out of man-made teaching or simply out of a lack of understanding of scripture as a whole. What we need to do is cross-check with what the scriptures say and the Bereans had that principle nailed, they cross-checked a statement or a principle we now find in the New Testament with what was written in the Old Testament.
NB Check out my post called “The 2 Timothy 3:16 Principle” for more on the subject.
Now this means a couple of things, first we actually need to read the Old Testament. Some people don’t like reading the Old Testament because they find it confusing, or they believe it paints a different picture of God than of the one we see in the New Testament. In response to that let me say this, the human mind is an incredible thing, but our heart is even more powerful than our minds. In fact the prophet Jeremiah tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (note this in reference to human works) and he asks the question who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) However we read in Ezekiel 36:26 a promise from God where we are told that He will give us a new heart, removing our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (not to be confused with the flesh Paul often speaks of). So if our hearts are polluted then it is entirely possible for our hearts to convince our minds of something that is contrary to what is the truth. This is part of the principle behind the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke when He told us to deny ourselves daily and to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Where we see the word deny in this verse in Luke it is the Greek word arnesastho which is very closely linked to a word we’ve discussed before on this blog, arneomai. As we’ve talked about in the past the word arneomai means to deny, disown or contradict, so in this verse in Luke it’s saying that we have to literally give up ownership of ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. So we need to read the Old Testament.
The other thing we need to do is to see if it fits with the overall picture that scripture gives us (so reading the entire Bible). For example, does what we see in Psalm 1:2 where we are told that our delight is in the law of the Lord and on that law (the word of God) we should meditate on it day and night line up with other verses in scripture. We are told in Joshua 1:8 to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, it’s the exact same principle. And just to show that this is not a ruse or anything like that, let me ask you what you’re reaction would be if I told you that there was over 400 years between the writing of these two verses. You see Joshua chapter 1 would’ve been written in about 1406 BC and Psalm 1 would’ve been about 979 BC, now if those two dates are exact (I have no reason to say they’re not), then that puts these two verses 427 years apart. But I’ll get into timelines a little later on.
What we need to do when a preacher preaches a sermon or a Bible study leader explains a passage or a verse is to go away and read the scriptures and check if it all lines up.
We Need To Read Into A Bit Of History:
Now, I know that history isn’t everybody’s cup of tea however when it comes to understanding the words of the Bible it can be quite key.
However please let me briefly explain why history is important when it comes to testing the validity of God’s word. You see what it simply boils down to is the fact that when it comes to the historical claims of the Bible (creation, Jesus, the ark, the exodus, etc), none of us who are reading this post were alive when those events occurred. So the question then is how can we know they’re true historical accounts? Is there evidence for such events in the Bible? Well to answer the first question, there is an amazing wealth of evidence for the events that the Bible outlines, we have found the ruins of the city of Jericho we also have massive evidence supporting the global flood recorded in Genesis 6-9 (you can see more on that here) and there’s a more than all of that, but I’ll leave you to do your own research (I’ll give some recommended sites to start with for doing that). And the answer to the second question, is yes, there’s lots of evidence supporting the Biblical accounts.
So let me encourage you to look into things such as Biblical chronology, and Biblical history. Some of the stuff you’ll find along the way is fascinating. For example I’m currently reading a book called “The Discovery of Genesis” by C.H. Kang and Ethel R. Nelson, the book looks at examples of how the Chinese language links in with the accounts of the book of Genesis. It is a truly fascinating book, in it we see examples such as the word for boat relating to the flood, when we break down the symbols that make up the word boat we can see that the word boat points to a vessel for eight people. So reading into some of this is not only fascinating but can help us to grow stronger in the faith.
History is important to the events of the Bible, because if the events of the Bible did not happen then the Bible is not infallible, and because of the claim of 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is God breathed, then if even 1% of the Bible is false then the entire Bible is compromised.
However let me say that although history is important to understanding the validity of the Bible, by all means this does not mean you have to be an expert in the subject. One of the best things to know as a Christian when it comes to any question that arises in regards to the Bible is where to go to find answers to those said questions.
Did you know that one of the most common objections that critics of the Christian faith make, is that the Bible apparently tells us that the world is flat? An example of where this comes from is found in Revelation 7:1 which makes reference to the “four corners of the earth”, however the Bible states in Isaiah 40:22 that the earth is a circle, remember though the obvious understanding (before some misinterprets the word circle) that a sphere is a 3D circle and the earth is spherical in nature.
Science tells us a lot about the truth of Biblical history, for example did you know that the mitochondrial (from the mother) and y chromosome (father) both trace back to a single ancestral sequence approximately 6,000 years ago (more on that here), this is something that you may not get taught in a science classroom today. Science is very important to know about in regards to defending our faith today, as it is highly likely to be one of the first areas you will be challenged on about your faith, bearing in mind the myth that is running around rampantly that says “science has disproved God”.
Again like in all of the other subjects, you don’t have to be an expert in the field, again I’m most certainly not although I do enjoy reading into science, but it is helpful to know a little bit on the subject and more importantly to know where to go to find answers to the questions you’ll get asked.
Now the Bible does make some scientific claims, such as we all come from two people, Adam and Eve. The thing we have to look into is whether or not science supports the claims made in the Bible, I touch on the Adam and Eve question a little bit a couple of paragraphs before this one. But looking into science is pretty important in this day and age to understanding the validity behind the Bible, but again you don’t have to be an expert on science but having a basic understanding of it and knowing where to go to find some great answers is definitely valuable.
One other thing I think is worth mentioning is that understanding the difference between historical and operational science, the reason why I say this is because very often at the minute the lines between the two get blurred particularly when you’re talking to evolutionists. We often see the claim that creation is pseudo-science and evolution is science, however both evolution and creation are historical science, they are versions of history that haven’t been observed through operational science that we either accept or don’t accept and then use operational science to look for evidence that supports the historical science that we accept. But in a basic way of saying it is historical science is conclusions that we form from things that we see from the past (historical records, archaeology, etc), whereas operational science is the testable repeatable and observational methods that we can use today, such as carbon dating for example (check out this article for more). So knowing enough about the difference between historical and operational science is of a great benefit in helping us tell the difference between the two, but again you don’t have to be an expert on the subject, but know where you can get the information from that you need to answer the questions.
So that’s all I wanted to say in this post eally. When it comes to testing what the Bible has to say to us, we need to start with the Bible and cross-check it with what it has to say in other parts of it. Look into a bit of history, look at what evidence we find that supports the accounts in scripture.
Read a bit into the original languages look at what the original words were in their original languages, find out what they mean and how they correspond to your understanding of what you’re reading. And finally look a bit into science, go and look into whether or not science supports the Bible or not. But don’t worry about being an expert in these things, you don’t have to be one, again I’m not one.
I hope you’ve found this post both interesting and helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts, as I mentioned I’m going to post some links below that may help with looking into some of these things, so if there’s any extra ones you can think of just drop them in the comments or send me them over through my Facebook page and I’ll update the list, I may even create a sub-page here on the site of useful links, let me know if that is something that you would want.
I’ll be posting again soon as I have a lot of posts in the draft que currently being edited.
But until next time I’ll leave you with the links below.
All the best,