Some Christians go to great lengths to argue that the Bible as written is historically true and therefore deservingly authoritative. They will point out that certain books of the Bible, like Luke, claim to be history. Luke Chapter 1 opens with these 4 verses:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
They will also point out that this documentation of Biblical events, especially Jesus’s life, by great extent is more reliable than other accepted ancient historical records. The likelihood of historicity of ancient documents is based on nearness of our oldest document to the occurrence of the actual event. For example, Caesar was alive between 100-44 BC and the oldest records of his life, of which there are only 10, are from 900 AD, which has a span of 1000 years. The gap in time between when Plato was alive and our oldest records of him is 1200 years. People don’t doubt the existence or historicity of these people or their writings.
On the other hand, the events of the New Testament happened between 40-100 AD. The oldest complete New Testament is from 350 AD and you have portions of the New Testament from 130 AD. There are over 24,000 ancient copies of the New Testament. The distance at most between the events of the New Testament and our oldest existing record is 300 years and the gap can be as small as 50 years for some portions.
One historian says this about the authenticity of the New Testament: “In the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests, the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writing.” And yet, as impressive as this is to academics, no one believes in Jesus because of this evidence. People believe because the work of the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ alive inside of them.
The Bible is an impressive document. I love it. I’m not a preacher that will treat it lightly. However, the Bible is no Jesus and it is Jesus that Christians declare as Lord.
A word used by some about the Bible is “inerrant”. The word I prefer is “reliable”. The Bible is reliable for the purposes it sets out to accomplish. What purpose does the Bible have? Our Scriptures can be relied on, depended upon, for giving us Jesus. Please don’t try to make the Bible do something it isn’t trying to do, like have an opinion on dinosaurs. The Bible’s faithful intention is to hand over Jesus Christ to us.
Martin Luther used the image of Christ’s manger to communicate the purpose of Scripture. The Bible is the manger in which Jesus Christ is found. Without the manger, you will not find Christ. But you dare not confuse Christ with the manger! Likewise, Christ does you no good unless you pick him up out of the manger.
Scripture’s primary purpose is to hand over Jesus Christ to us for our salvation through faith given to us by the Holy Spirit.