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in our church’s chronological bible reading plan for the year, we have reached the end of the gospel of mark. as you get to verse 8, most bible translations will have something like this printed before verse 9, or in the footnotes:

“some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20”

have you ever noticed that before?  what is that about? does that mean we can’t trust our bibles?

in this post, my aim is to show you that you CAN trust that the bible is the inerrant word of god, and that your copy, if it has been faithfully translated from the original languages is a trustworthy copy of the scriptures.

first, i want to put my cards on the table and make clear that i affirm that the bible is the word of god, and that it was written by men, who were moved by the holy spirit, to write exactly what god wanted them to write, so that, insofar as it is accurately translated from the original, it is without error.

as our church’s statement of faith says: (see also the this statement)

the holy bible was written by men divinely inspired and is god’s revelation of himself to man. it is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has god for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. therefore, all scripture is totally true and trustworthy. it reveals the principles by which god judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. all scripture is a testimony to christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation.

i believe this without equivocation. i have made this clear in every church i have pastored and it is the belief that undergirds how i carry out my role as a pastor and preacher.

as long as the lord gives me breath, by his grace i will stand for and defend the scriptures with all the strength the lord provides me – even if it means losing my job, i will not teach or preach contrary to god’s word, nor do i desire to live contrary to it.

with that in mind, what do we do with mark 16:9-20 (and other “bracketed” passages in our bibles such as matt. 6:13b; mark 11:26; 16:9-20; john 7:53 – 8:11)?

the reason why editors of different bible translations put these few (and they are very few) passages in brackets is because some of the manuscripts have them, and some don’t. the brackets are the editor’s way of saying “we can’t be positive if this is original or not”.

why does it matter what the “older” manuscripts say? because the closer to the originals we get, the more certain we can be that they are more accurately representative of the originals. as time goes by, there is room for variants and editing decisions to creep in, whether they were intentional or not.

so… the earliest manuscripts do not contain the “longer ending” of mark. so, those involved in the science of textual criticism look at certain criteria, such as vocabulary, grammar, and writing style, to determine if the longer ending is original to mark. after examining these details, most scholars and historians agree that mark’s gospel probably ended at v. 8. because vs. 9 and following seem to shift to a vocabulary, writing style and grammar that is not consistent with the rest of mark.

so where did vs. 9-20 come from? no one knows with certainty, but as best as we can tell, it appears to have been an attempt by people long ago to give a more informative ending. mark ends in v. 8 with a pretty abrupt ending. it leaves you asking “well… what happened next???” and at some point, someone probably added the last 21 verses to help people know what happened next. it was probably an innocent attempt to help with no intent to deceive.

imagine a scenario where christianity becomes illegal in our country and all of the bibles are confiscated and burned. like a lot of people, you may try to hide your copy somewhere. supposes 100 year later while someone is digging for a new building, they find you old study bible. since bibles have been rare or gone for 100 years, this is the first these people have seen in their lifetime. when they open it up and read it, they see all of the notes at the bottom and do not realize that those are explanatory notes that are not considered part of god’s word. they don’t know that, so when they make copies of it, they include the study notes with the biblical text.

some may say “well then why include it if it may not be original?”
no one is 100% positive that they are not original, so better to leave it in and use brackets than to leave it out and find out later that people have been missing out on part of god’s word.

furthermore, the events and ideas in these verses are corroborated in other passages and there is no denial or contradiction with what we know for certain is authentic.
v. 9 appearance to mary – cf. luke 8:1–3
v. 10 & 11 mary goes and tells others – cf. john 20:18
v. 12& 13 appearance to 2 on road to Emmaus – cf. luke 24:13–32; luke 14:33–35
v. 14 appears before the 11 apostles – cf. luke 24:36–38
v. 15 great commission – cf. matt 28:19; acts 1:8
v. 16 exclusivity of the gospel – cf. john 3: 20:23
vs. 17–18 acts of holy spirit cf – matt 10:1; mark 6:7, 13; luke 10:19; acts 2:4; 3:1–4; 14:8–10; 28:3–6; 1 cor 12:10; 14:18

regarding “snake handling” in v. 18 “will pick up serpents” is DEscriptive (describing what did, will, or might happen), not PREscriptive (demanding or commanding that it be done). there is no biblical warrant for placing oneself in danger to prove your faith. in this instance – the quote attributed to jesus is simply describing things that will happen – and we read of at least one instance where it does (with paulin acts 28) those who use this as a proof text are practicing a flawed hermeneutic.

why bother going over this?
1.) because as a pastor, i am responsible to help those the lord has placed under my leadership to grow in their faith and understanding of god’s word. (eph. 4:11-15; 2 tim. 4:1-5, etc.)

2.) because i want you to know that you can trust your bible
– you may not have known about these type of things before today – maybe some of you did. but the point i hope you walk away with is this – you can trust your bible. if there was a conspiracy to cover up these things or to hide details about translations, etc. – bible translators or editors wouldn’t bother putting footnotes or brackets. they would just print it all the same, not draw any attention to it, and hope no one ever asks any questions. but because bible translators want you to have as much info as possible, they give you all of the info available so you can be well informed. again, hear this… YOU CAN TRUST THAT YOUR BIBLE IS WHAT GOD INTENDED FOR YOU TO HAVE.

the content of the bible – 66 books, written over the course of over 1,500 years by around 40 different authors divided into the old and new testaments (covenants)

the old testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and authoritative from as early as 170 a.d. by melito, bishop of sardis:

when i came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learnt accurately the books of the old testament, i set down the facts and sent them to you. these are their names: five books of moses, genesis, exodus, numbers, leviticus, deuteronomy, joshua the son of nun, judges, ruth, four books of kingdoms [1 & 2 samuel & 1&2 kings], two books of chronicles, the psalms of david, the proverbs of solomon and his wisdom, ecclesiastes, the song of songs, job, the prophets isaiah, jeremiah, the twelve [minor prophets] in a single book, daniel, ezekiel, ezra. (cited in eusebius, ecclesiastical history, 4.26.14)

so what were the criteria for counting certain writings as true OT scripture and not others? in summary, the following were essentials:
– anything revealed by god and recorded by moses
– books written by true prophets (as defined by deuteronomy 18)
– writings that were consistent with the character of god
– books received and used by the congregation of the people of israel.

through the centuries, scribes, then monks copied by hand the scriptures under severe scrutiny. one mistake caught, whole copy buried or burned. because of recorded history and the new testament, we can be certain that the OT you have in your bible is the same OT that jesus had and believed to be the word of god.

in 1947, fragments of every OT book but esther were found in caves in qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.

the core list of new testament was known at the latest in the latter second century (irenaeus, about 180 AD). the synod of hippo in a.d. 393 – listed the 27 books of the NT.

davinci code mythology is fiction. no council ever “chose” what books were to be scripture. the church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. rather, they took the collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already possessed authority. authority was derived from:
– having been written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle (Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
– having been in continuous use by the church
– containing no content that contradicts other known scriptures

some facts about the fragments we do have:
no original copies of these documents (none of any other writings from this time period, either) the oldest we have is from around 130 a.d., and it contains gospel of john

there are over 5,300 NT copies and fragments, in the original greek, nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000 a.d. that, together, assure us that nothing is lost,

by comparison, homer’s iliad, one of the most famous literary works of Western civilization, has only 643 copies of manuscript support. within those, there are 764 lines of text that are disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines in all of the New Testament that are disputed, none of which would compromise a major doctrine of scripture.

shakespeare’s 37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps in the surviving manuscripts, forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”. the manuscript evidence for the NT is vastly stronger.

what about mistakes, insertions and deletions? through the centuries, scribes, then monks copied by hand the scriptures under severe scrutiny. if one mistake was caught in the copy, that whole copy would be burned.

in the writings (letters, commentaries, sermons, etc.) of the early church fathers in the second and third centuries, they would often cite and write out bible passages. when examining their writings, all of the NT except eleven verses can be reconstructed from their quotations. that is mindblowing!

any variations in the biblical text is an extremely low percentage of the whole (less than 1/100th of the text- and even then, the variants that are found are almost entirely in regard to spelling, word order, paragraph swaps, and the like.furthermore, even in the very small percentage of passages where there is question as to their authenticity, NONE of them whether they are found to be genuine or not, impact or change any fundamental christian doctrine.

for these reasons and others, the “apocryphal books” included in the catholic bible are not counted as inspired scripture (they were never considered from god by the jews) and why the so called “lost books” that the print and tv media try to turn into scandals every christmas and easter are not included. they fail these tests. they are not a secret. the church has denied their authenticity from the beginning.

with these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal testimony of scriptures, we can be sure that the scriptures we have, have been kept from dilution or error. YOU CAN TRUST YOUR BIBLE

3.) because, as a pastor, i realize that we are moving into a post christian culture where, not only can we assume most people share our views of scripture, people will be actively seeking to undermine your faith by looking for ways to discredit scripture. many a first year college student has been turned off to the faith because a professor or fellow student said something like “how can you believe the bible? you cant even know if what you have is authentic or not?” then they show this student the bracketed passages – and since they have never noticed that before and never been taught they think “well..maybe I have been deceived.”

we don’t help ourselves by saying “i don’t need to learn doctrine and study theology” yes you do! not only is it biblical, it is increasingly necessary in order to be able to engage our culture that is growing increasingly hostile to the word of god and the god of the word.

at the end of the day, none of this info matters if we don’t read and study our bibles and if we don’t obey what we read and learn. our time is wasted if our lives do not reflect the truths we have spent so much time studying.(james 1:22)

god’s word is living and active… (heb. 4:12)

god’s word is true and meant for teaching, correcting, for rebuking, and for training in righteousness (2 tim. 3:16-17)

god’s word is perfect and it gives life to and restores our soul.(ps. 19; 119)

god has revealed himself and his ways through his word. it tells us the truth of who he is, who we are, and how we, who are sinful and fallen and in desperate need of him can be rescued by him. he tells us exactly what he wants from us – he wants us to know how great we are loved by him, and he wants to have unending joy and to have the deepest thirst of our souls satisfied for eternity – and he offers us this in relationship with him through jesus and by his spirit.

and he lets us know this in his word – his living word that we are meant to read, study, and to live.

will you be a christian in name only? or will your life reflect the truth that jesus christ is the son of god, the promised messiah. and if he is who he says he is – he is not simply our savior but is lord and god. and it matters that we can trust, know, believe, and obey his word.

***sources used for specific quotes and figures…

  • brooks, j. a. (1991). mark (vol. 23, p. 273). nashville: broadman & holman publishers.
  • piper, john why we believe the bible: the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the bible © desiring god.. p.11
  • norman l. geisler and william e. nix, a general introduction to the bible, moody, chicago, 1986, p.367.
  • ibid, ch.24
  • b. f. westcott and f. j. a. hort: the new testament in the original greek, pp. 2-3
  • f.f. bruce  – the new testament documents, p. 20

IDK_LI (2)
in our church’s chronological bible reading plan for this year, we have come to one of those passages that might make us scratch our head.

 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” – Matthew 24:36 (ESV)

if the bible teaches that jesus is both truly god and truly man (which it does), how can it be that jesus didn’t know what the father knows about his return? didn’t jesus often know things (people’s thoughts, motives, future events) that only god can know?

i came across this great article that addresses this question several months ago, but our student minister alex reminded me of it yesterday, and i wanted to pass it along to you.

remember- anytime you come across a difficult passage of scripture- don’t despair and don’t give up. remember- scripture never contradicts itself when rightly understood. there may be apart contradictions, but closer study will help us see more clearly. let the more clear passages of scripture help you with the less clear. pray and ask for understanding, keep studying, and ask for help if you need it from trusted helpers in your life (pastors, teachers, or books) who know the bible well and whose teaching and interpretation is built on in the scriptures’ inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency.

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as we at fbc fulton continue our way through our chronological bible reading plan, we have arrived at the book of joshua. as the book of joshua unfolds, god’s people, in god’s power, begin to enter god’s land that he was giving to them.

as you read through joshua, you begin to come across passages such as that reads…

“and [says the lord], he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in israel.’” – joshua 7:15 (esv)

perhaps to the surprise of some, this is not an unusual occurrence in scripture. so the question is- what do we do the bible passages that very clearly describe god killing, or at the very least giving the command to his people to kill entire nations of people- and then giving them the power to do so?

as we study scripture, we will come up against things that prompt questions in our hearts and minds. rather than dismissing those, or feeling guilty for having those questions- or worse- abandoning the faith because of those questions, it is best to push into them, and through prayer, further study of the scriptures, and guidance by biblically faithful pastors and teachers look for the answers god has given in his word.

click on this link or simply click the image above for a  great handling of these issues by dr. r albert mohler,  the president of the southern baptist theological seminary, and the joseph emerson brown professor of christian theology. (you can read more about dr mohler, here)

ht: to alex robinson for pointing this resource out to me…

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i wanted to pass on an excellent blog post by michael krueger, who says that every christian should …

1. Trust the Word of God.
2. Study the Word of God.
3. Use the Word of God.
4. Delight in the Word of God.
5. Obey the Word of God

 

to find out how and why these things are essential for every follower of jesus, i encourage you to read the whole thing, here...

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one little spoken of fact of the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is that, among those killed that day were (at least) 10 unborn babies. they are memorialized each year when the victims are recalled at ground zero on the anniversary of that horrific day:

“DEANNA LYNN GALANTE AND HER UNBORN CHILD.”

“LAUREN CATUZZI GRANDCOLAS AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

“JENNIFER L. HOWLEY AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

“HELEN CROSSIN KITTLE AND HER UNBORN CHILD.”

“VANESSA LANG AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

‘PATRICIA ANN CIMAROLI MASSARI AND HER UNBORN CHILD

‘RENEE A. MAY AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

“SYLVIA SAN PIO RESTA AND HER UNBORN CHILD.”

“RAHMA SALIE AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

“DIANNE SINGER AND HER UNBORN CHILD”

that human lives were taken in an unwanted and unplanned attack is not in question when we mourn those events. that there are unborn children counted among the dead who deserve mentioning, remembering, and grieving assumes that they were living and that their deaths mattered.

that is what makes it remarkable- and nearly incomprehensible, that after the passage of the “reproductive health act,” (that new york governor cuomo demanded and was given by the state’s legislature) the world trade tower was lit up in pink to *celebrate* this new law. the irony is so thick you could choke on it.

a building that’s very existence recalls the horror and sorrow of mass murder was used as a celebratory billboard for the legalization of the killing of babies not yet delivered – even up to the moment before their heads emerge from the birth canal.

i don’t know what is more chilling- the gall of lighting up the wtc building to celebrate – or the applause, cheering, and shouting in the chamber after the law was passed.   

isaiah put it best in chapter 5…

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight…

may god bring those who strive for and celebrate this evil to repentance- and may we who see it for what it is and never stop striving to tell the truth. and in telling the truth, may we to reach out to those impacted by it (by their own actions or the actions of others) with love, grace, and mercy.

******UPDATE******
not to be outdone in wickedness, both virginia and rhode island are entertaining similar legislation, even allowing abortion during the *delivery* of a baby- and even letting it die after delivery, if the mother wishes.

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i use the prayermate app (highly recommended! here is a helpful overview and review) in my daily time with the lord, and in the section of prayers for our church family, i have linked to a collection of prayers that guide me to pray for specific things for my church family. i wanted to send it out to our whole church family, but the messaging app i use has a character limit that doesn’t come close too giving me enough space, so i have reproduced this morning’s prayer prompt below.

my heart beats faster and harder when i think “what if we were to all be praying this prayer and what if the lord answered us by giving what we’ve asked for?”

would you pray this with me?

If the goal of the church is Christ-likeness, then the diet for the church must be the Bible. After all, it is the Bible that God uses to make the child of God more like the Son of God (John 17:17). Therefore, we can pray that the church would be filled with people who hunger for hearing from God in their private devotions, public gatherings, and conversations with other believers.

Imagine the impact of a church full of people who wake up eager to come and hear the Word preached on Sunday morning. Imagine a church that longs to open the Bible each morning to discover anew the truth of God’s character and conquests. Imagine hearts so overflowing with the Bible that their text messages, conversations, and meditations just drip with the Scriptures. Everything pivots on what we do with the Bible.

“Father, give our church—give me—an abiding delight in your Word. Cause me always to hunger for the truth while being ever satisfied with the truth. Lord, make our church a Bible-saturated church.”

commentary and prayer by erik raymond from ligoneir’s website

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as we enter into week 4 of our chronological reading plan, we have encountered some pretty crazy things in the the attitudes, actions and behaviors of many of the people we have encountered so far. at times it seems people in the bible do some awful things, with no comment about how weird/stupid/ wicked those actions were.

the original sin of adam and eve is obvious enough, as is the murder of abel by cain. the wickedness of the earth growing to the degree that god destroys it with a global flood doesn’t seem out of the bounds of reason. all of that is pretty straightforward.  but then we start bumping up against some things that make us look up from our bibles and say “uhhh… what?”

for instance: (warning: capital letters ahead…. shocking i know- but that’s the point!)

  • abraham tells his wife, sarah, to lie and say that she is his sister. this results in her being taken, not once, but twice, by another man with the implication that he will sleep with her. and abraham just lets it happen.
  • sarah cant get pregnant, so she tells abraham to have sex with her servant hagar so he can have an heir. he does.
  • angels visit abraham’s nephew lot in sodom and the wicked men of the city demand that lot turn them over so that they may have homosexual relations with them. lot then tries to bargain with the wicked men by saying “don’t do that to them- here- TAKE MY DAUGHTERS“!!!
  • after being spared from the judgment of sodom and gomorrah, lot’s two daughters get their father drunk and essentially rape him while he is unconscious so that they can get pregnant… again- RIGHT AFTER god has just destroyed their hometown for SEXUAL IMMORALITY!
  • sarah is so jealous of her servant hagar and the son she had from abraham (that was her idea- but i wouldnt bring that up), that she makes abraham essentially abandon and disown them both, leaving them both to wander and die (until god intervened).
  • isaac repeats the sin (and cowardice) of his father by lying and saying that rebekah is his sister
  • rebekah helps jacob lie to and deceive isaac in order to steal esau’s blessing.

 

there are more that we could note, but at this point it is helpful to point out that though the bible is the inspired word of god (2 tim. 3:16) and therefore is without error, that does not mean that everything in it is given as a command or directive.

when we are reading and studying scripture, we need to keep in our minds the difference between descriptive passages (passages that simply describe, narrate, or explain what happened) and prescriptive passages (those that are meant to communicate a command or example to follow).

all of the passages i mentioned above are descriptive- they are simply describing what happened in the lives of the people being written about. there is nothing in those passages that indicates that these actions were approved of or viewed as appropriate by god. it is simply “this is what so and so did.” there is no expectation in these passages that anyone would read them and say “the bible says that i should get my dad drunk so i can sleep with him and have children by him!” or “offering my daughters to a sex crazed and perverted mob is permitted by scripture!” no, the point of these passages and those like them is simply to narrate the events as they happened- not to commend them. if we look carefully at the context surrounding them, we find that the consequences of these behaviors are nearly always explicitly bad.

on the other hand, there are many passages in the bible that are prescriptive- meaning they are meant to be read and received as commands or examples to follow. the ten commandments, the sermon on the mount, the epistles of the new testament, etc. are all examples of scriptures that were intended to be read as examples to follow or commands to obey.

so as you study the scriptures and you come across questionable attitudes, behaviors, or actions, remember to stop and ask “is this passage commanding me to live in this way, or is it merely describing what someone else did?” that will help you tremendously as you grow in your knowledge of god’s word.