Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(1) The Bible: Inspired and Infallible
By "inspired" we mean that God was its Author; by "infallible" we mean that it is true in all its parts. We claim this in spite of minor errors that have crept in through transcription or translation. These are so insignificant that they do not affect the general teaching of the Book, and in any case are easily explained.
A Literary Miracle.
The Bible is a literary Miracle, unique among all other books. It matters not whether you consider the wonder of its construction, the beauty of its unification, the marvel of its preservation, the truth of its prognostications, the claim of its inspiration, or the power of its teaching in transformation, it is outstanding and distinct among books, bearing the stamp of divine authorship.
The word Bible means book. The Bible is not one book, however, but a library of sixty-six books, the compilation of which extended over almost 1600 years. Its various authors, or amanueses rather (for God was the real Author), were drawn from every class of society. Kings, statesmen, priests, laymen, scholars, shepherds, fishermen and others co-operated in its production. One man wrote one part in Syria, another man wrote in Arabia, a third man wrote in Italy, a fourth man wrote in Babylon, others wrote in Palestine.
And yet, though these writers were divided by time, class and distance so that there was no possibility of any collusion, there is a wonderful harmony manifest in all that they wrote that is quite unlike any other composite work in the realm of literature.
That is due only to the fact that God was the moving influence in its production, and in all that is recorded therein.
It was He Who caused the various authors to write as they did, so that each one, in his own individual manner, expressed that which Inspiration caused him to write. Thus all sixty-six books agree perfectly in teaching. Each one harmonises with the rest, supplementing or expounding upon what has gone before, so that by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:13), the reader is brought to a complete understanding of the Divine will and purpose.
A Living Message For Today.
The Bible is also unique in that it provides for every kind of reader. It can guide the simple mind of a child, or satisfy the most profound student. As its writers were drawn from every strata of society, and expressed Divine truths from their individual, standpoint, it is capable of helping and inspiring every type of person whether male or female, young or old, rich or poor, educated or ignorant.
What it demands of all, however, whether they be simple or profound, educated or ignorant, is a faith to accept its message, and a disposition to apply its precepts.
The Bible is unique in that more books, commentaries and concordances have been published about it than any other work; and yet, though they have been appearing for centuries, new works of exposition continue to pour forth from the press. In short, the depths of its significance are inexhaustible, so that the Bible never stales; it remains a best-seller year after year. There is always some deeper significance to be discovered, even in its basic message, that makes the reading of the Bible an exciting adventure in study.
How different that is to most books! I have, in my library, well over a thousand volumes, covering almost all subjects, some of which I have read more than once, though normally a single reading suffices; but the Bible I read through completely every year, besides giving close, detailed attention to sections of it, without ever becoming tired of doing so, nor losing my interest in its contents.
I know of no other book that I could read so often, without becoming completely bored by its contents.
Despite the great antiquity of the Bible, despite the fact that it was written primarily for a different age and a foreign people, it has a living message for today. Of what other book can that be said? The Psalmist truly declared:
"I will never forget Thy precepts; for with them Thou hast quickened me" (or given me new life - Psalm 119:93).
This is the book we desire to study together. It can inspire us, purify our characters, give us peace of mind, and provide us with a glorious hope for the future. In its transforming influence is found, indeed, the stamp of its divinity.
The Bible challenges us with its divine origin. Five hundred times in the first five books, it prefaces or concludes its declarations with the assertion, "The Lord said," or The Lord spake." Three hundred times again in the following books it does the same. Similar expressions occur no less than twelve hundred times in the prophetical books.
The Bible thus claims to be the inspired Word of God (Hebrews 1:1).
It must be judged upon that claim.
Some allow inspiration for some portions of the Bible, and deny it for others; but obviously, it must either all be true, or all be false, for its sixty-six books are indissolubly linked together. We must either accept all, or reject all; and, sooner or later, every person is forced to decide as to where he stands in this matter.
Some seek to belittle the Bible by pointing to inconsistencies revealed in the characters portrayed therein. They declare
that David was an adulterer, that Peter was a traitor, that Paul was a murderer. But surely the impress of Divine inspiration is stamped in the recording of such matters. Life is presented in its true light. The sins of Peter are not omitted because he was foremost of the Apostles; the crimes of Paul are not overlooked though he did take the message to Gentiles; the great apostasy of the Jewish people is revealed in all its wickedness, even though they constitute the chosen race, the "people of the Book."
In a merely human document, these blemishes, most likely would be deleted or explained in a way as to not so harshly reflect upon the persons concerned; but the Bible, being what it claims to be, reveals human nature as it really is. Because the Bible is true and Divine, the characters that are portrayed therein, are set forth as seen through the eyes of God.
No one has yet shown the Bible to be wrong in its outline of history. On the contrary, history and archaeology have confirmed it upon every point where they have touched. Nevertheless, we freely concede that the mere fact that a book is true does not establish it as Divine; a greater reason must be given for such a claim to be made.
Such a reason is found in the amazing fulfilment of Bible prophecy. Man can not predict ahead with any certainty; but God has done so in the Bible, and events have thoroughly vin
dicated what He has proclaimed. As predicted, Babylon is still in heaps (Jer. 51:37), Nineveh still lies empty, void and waste (Nahum 2:10), Egypt still remains a base nation (Ezekiel 29:15); Tyre has been submerged by the sea and literally remains a place for the spreading of nets (Ezekiel 26:5); Israel has been scattered among the nations (Deuteronomy 28:64), and Jerusalem given over to the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), but today the Jews are returning to their land and restoring the wastes (Jeremiah 30:18-24; Amos 9:14), and Jerusalem is gradually gaining more independence, as foretold.
The evidence of prophecy is an irrefutable argument for the Divine inspiration of the Bible, proving that it is more than a merely human document.
What About Contradictions?
It is a common fallacy that the Bible is full of contradictions. This, we refute. We do not dispute that a few errors and interpolations, due to mistakes in translation or transcription, have entered the text of the Authorised Version, but they are by no means as frequent as is generally thought, and are so minor in importance that they do not interfere with the general teaching of the Book. We were once handed a booklet entitled One Hundred Contradictions In The Bible. Examination proved it to be a very shallow publication. The so-called "contradictions" existed in the mind of the author, rather than
in the pages of Scripture. The meaning of Scripture was distorted to create contradictions, and the writer did not appreciate that apparent discrepancies can be harmonised without doing violence to the record.
For example, let four men report on a specific incident, and the four accounts will differ according to the particular interest of the person concerned. A superficial examination of the four accounts would suggest that they conflicted, whereas, in fact each one could be perfectly true: and revealed as such when the facts were thoroughly investigated.
This is the case with the four Gospel accounts of the life of Christ, and other records of Scripture. Though the writers were inspired, they expressed in their own words, or from their own standpoint, what Inspiration caused them to write. This is sometimes represented as contradiction by readers without discernment. On the contrary, we claim, with every assurance, that there is perfect harmony throughout the Bible, and would be pleased to show this to be the case.
Let us present a case of a so-called contradiction being harmonised when all the facts are brought to bear. The parallel accounts of the armies of Israel and Judah are recorded in the books of Samuel and Chronicles. The former provides figures that seem to be at variance with the latter. It states that there were 800,000 men in Israel, and 500,000 in Judah (2 Samuel 24:9); the latter gives 1,100,000 in Israel, and 470,000 in Judah (1 Chronicles 21:5). At first sight a discrepancy seems evident, but a more careful reading will show that the basis of computation is not the same in the two records. In Samuel, the figures relating to Israel concern "valiant" men only, and represented only portion of the army (the veterans), whilst the figures for Judah in I Chronicles 21:5 omitted some of Benjamin usually counted with Judah (see v.6).
Thus these two accounts which seem to contradict each other when read superficially, actually harmonise and supplement each other when studied properly.
The same two chapters record a transaction that took place between David the king of Israel, and Araunah, a Jebusite, where in the former purchased some land from the latter. The accounts seem to be contradictory. In 2 Samuel 24:24, the price is given as fifty shekels of silver; but in 1 Chronicles 21:22- 25, it is said to be six hundred shekels of gold. Critics of the Bible advance the seeming contradiction triumphantly to prove their contention that it is fallible. But a careful reading will show that both the accounts are correct, for the former price related only to "the threshing floor and oxen," whilst the latter price was for "the place," a term which included the whole site of what was later the Temple area.
The "threshing floor" was a very important, but relatively small, part of the complete purchase, called in Chronicles "the place."
These are very minor matters, and even if it could be proved that they were contradictions, they would not affect the basic message of the Bible. We merely quoted them to illustrate what is advanced as some of the "hundred contradictions" in the Bible, as set out in the book handed to us. Other so-called discrepancies were even more easily rebutted than these. It is apparent that the "contradictions" existed in the biased mind of the critic, not in the pages of the Bible.
The Canon Of Scripture.
Another claim of the critics is that the Bible came into being by the caprice of man, and that fallible men decided what they thought was inspired.
That is not so.
It is true that fallible men were the medium that God used in establishing the canon of Scripture, but it was God Who overruled their decisions in determining what constitutes inspired writings.
Concerning the Old Testament, Paul wrote that the Scriptures were committed to the Jews, and therefore they did not select them. By that he meant that God guided the selection of what was inspired or not (Rom. 3:2).
A careful consideration of the evidence will show how true Paul's statement is.
In a merely human document, the author of a piece of writing would determine whether it is to be considered "inspired." For example, some people speak of Shakespeare's writings as "inspired," and in so doing, they include all that he wrote.
That is not the case with the Bible. It was not considered sufficient for a man to write for his work to be included. For example, some of Isaiah's prophecies find a place therein, whilst other of his writings do not (2 Chronicles 26:22). Some of Solomon's proverbs are included, whilst others are not (I Kings 4:32). The writings of an accredited prophet were not necessarily accepted as inspired. Some of the writings of acknowledged prophets, such as Samuel, Nathan and others were excluded (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 12:15; 20:34). Although "many accounts" of Jesus were written (Luke 1:1), only four found their place in the Bible. A Higher Power than mere human will was obviously at work, overruling the selection of the writings that were to be accepted or rejected.
Whilst determined attempts were made by influential men to exclude portions of the Scriptures with which they disagreed, all such attempts were thwarted.
In this, likewise, we must see the hand of God.
The historian Gibbon in his Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, ch. 15, records that "In the council of Laodicea (about the year 360), the Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) was
tacitly excluded from the sacred canon by the same churches of Asia to which it is addressed."
The Book of Revelation is very severe upon those Asian congregations, and that, no doubt, was the reason why they opposed its inclusion at the Council. But God did not permit it. He overruled the opposition of men, so that the Apocalypse was rightly included within the canon of Scripture.
A careful consideration of the evidence will reveal without doubt that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God.
THE LIBRARY WE CALL THE BIBLE
Question: What is the Bible?
Answer: It is a book written by the power of inspiration working in prophets and apostles who lived in Israel a long time ago. They lived at different times, and each wrote his part independently of the others; but one Spirit moved them all, and enabled them to make known to men the mind of God in history, precept and prophecy, so that the Bible though composed of many books and parts, is the one Word of God (from The Christadelphian Instructor).
Proof: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable or doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb. 1:1). "Which things we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth" (1 Cor. 2:13). "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). "Thou testifiedst against them by Thy spirit in the prophets" (Neh. 9:30). "The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (I Corinthians 14:37).
The word Bible means "Book", but actually the Bible is a library of sixty-six books, thirty-nine of which are in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. The division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments is artificial and man-made. Both the Old and the New Testaments are to be equally accepted as God's revelation to man. There is no conflict between them, nor is one of greater importance than the other. The writers of the New Testament repeatedly quoted from the Old in support and proof of their teaching. Christ quoted extensively from the Old Testament to make manifest the things "concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
The Object of the Bible.
"Whatsoever things were written beforehand, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope" (Romans 15:4).
The Value of the Bible.
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have, eternal life; and they are they which testify of me" (Christ -- John 5:39).
"Preach the Gospel, he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
The Power of the Bible.
"My word shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11).
"Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth (John 17:17).
"Wherewithal shall a man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word" (Psalm 119:9).
"God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
An Epitome of the Books of the Bible.
Old Testament Books.
Genesis - Recording Creation, and the beginnings of history from God's standpoint.
Exodus - How God saved Israel from Egypt.
Leviticus - The ideal that God set before Israel; to what the people were called.
Numbers - How Israel failed: the wanderings through the wilderness.
Deuteronomy - The unfailing mercy and love of God: Israel's further opportunity.
Joshua - How God made it possible for Israel to occupy the Land of Promise.
Judges - How the nation again failed God.
Ruth - How individuals remained faithful in the midst of a faithless generation.
1 & 2 Samuel - The monarchy established and a righteous king (David) elevated by God.
1 & 2 Kings - How the nation failed politically.
1 & 2 Chronicles - How the nation failed theocratically, and was taken into captivity.
Ezra - Restoration of Israel from Babylon.
Nehemiah - Reconstruction of Israel from anarchy.
Esther - Preservation of Israel from annihilation.
Job - A dramatic epic - blessing through suffering.
Psalms - Rejoicing in hope.
Proverbs - Practical wisdom for life as it is now.
Ecclesiastes - Set not affection on anything under the sun, but seek the treasure from on high.
Song of Solomon - Typical communion with Christ the bridegroom.
Eighteen books of prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
New Testament Books
Matthew - Jesus from the standpoint of his royalty.
Mark - Jesus from the standpoint of his ministry.
Luke - Jesus from the standpoint of his humanity.
John - Jesus from the standpoint of his divinity.
Acts - The preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles.
Paul's Epistles for the guidance of communities of believers - Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
Paul's Epistles of Instruction for individuals -- 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon.
Paul's exposition of the Law of Moses - Hebrews.
James' Epistles - Faith in action.
Peter's Epistles - Courage in persecution.
John's Epistles - Love in manifestation.
Jude's Epistle - Contention against apostasy.
PROPHECY: Revelation - Christ's outline of future events recorded by John.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (1 Timothy 3:16).
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 1