Hours before hanging from a cross, Jesus looked at Pontius Pilate and said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth.’”[1] Everyone who has lived has asked Pilate’s question because we are all guided by what we believe is true. Our perception of truth forms our understanding of the world, our purpose, our identity, our pain, and what happens when we die.  Our perception of truth informs what we eat, what medicine we take, what we pursue, and who we trust and follow. Our perception of truth is the foundation of every decision, conviction, and action.

Today a majority of Americans, like Pilate, look truth in the face and say, “What is truth?” According to a recent study from the Cultural Research Center in Arizona, a majority of Americans now believe that inner certainty, science, tradition, and consensus are a more trusted basis of moral truth than God.

Nearly 60% of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth, believing morality should be determined by individual prerogative. Sadly, nearly 50% of professing Christians also reject the idea of absolute moral truth.[2] This is not only staggering, it’s the reason Christians carry so little distinction in culture.

Nearly 60% of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth, believing morality should be determined by individual prerogative.

The Bible is full of absolute truth claims, meaning that what it says is binding on all people at all times. Let me give a few examples. “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.”[3] “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[4] “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[5] “If you confess you’re your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”[6] Each of these are absolutes. How are we to know if we should believe and build our lives on these truth claims?

In Peter’s second letter in the New Testament, he teaches why we should listen exclusively to God who spoke clearly, truthfully, and definitively in the Bible. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16-21). What is so special about the Bible?

THE BIBLE IS NOT A CLEVER MYTH
(2 PETER 1:16)

A myth is a widely held false belief. Myths were the dominant feature of Greek religious systems. For example, sunlight was attributed to the chariot of Apollo. Evil was explained by a goddess Pandora opening a box. Crops supposedly grew at the will of the goddess Demeter. Children were supposedly conceived at the will of the goddess Artemis. Temples littered the landscape. When people had a problem, they would try to appease the appropriate ‘god’. They were all myths. Peter’s audience was also facing a popular false teaching called Gnosticism, which promised spiritual highs to those who were able to unlock secret knowledge through the power of intuition. This also was a myth.

Notice what Peter writes. “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Bible is not a myth. Stories in the Bible are based on historical places, people, and times. The natural and supernatural events in the Old Testament, even those that seem fantastical, are not myths. The natural and supernatural events in the Gospels, which include the miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus, are not myths. The natural and supernatural events that accompany the proclamation of Jesus in the New Testament, and the explanation of how we are to live in response to His resurrection are not myths. The Bible is true through and through.

THE BIBLE IS A CAREFULLY PRESERVED TESTIMONY FROM EYEWITNESSES
(2 PETER 1:16-18)

That which was declared by Luke and John[7] is reiterated here by Peter. “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” This is Peter’s eyewitness testimony of the transfiguration of Jesus, one of the supernatural events in the New Testament that no doubt led some of the earlier hearers of the gospel to wonder if the whole thing was just a myth.[8]

One day Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain and suddenly His earthly body could not hide His glory. His face shone as bright as the sun. Suddenly Moses and Elijah, two of the Old Testament heroes, appeared with them. In spite of the fact that it highlighted his spiritual clumsiness, the Gospels report that Peter thought this was an opportune moment to suggest building three tents. Suddenly a voice from heaven interrupted Peter and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Moses and Elijah both suddenly disappear, leaving only Jesus. Peter, James, and John were eyewitness. All three saw Jesus’ glory and heard the voice that we will see and hear in heaven!

Peter and the apostles witnessed Jesus’ life, teaching, and miracles. John was the only apostle who saw Jesus breathe his last on the cross, but they were all eyewitnesses of His resurrected body! These men wrote what they saw and heard inside accountable communities that contained other eyewitnesses able to verify the truth. This is why when Paul was on trial before the Governor Festus, he said, “This has not been done in a corner.”[9] In other words, these things were common knowledge throughout surrounding territories and verified by eyewitnesses.

THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
(2 PETER 1:20-21)

Throughout history, God moved among mankind and inspired some to write what they saw and heard. Peter makes this clear. “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It’s important to distinguish what is ‘inspired’ from what is ‘inspiring’. When a commander’s speech ignites his army, we are observing what is ‘inspiring’. But when we speak of the Bible being ‘inspired,’ we mean that the Spirit of God prepared, guided, and influenced human beings within their vocabulary, personality, and perspective, to speak from God. The term ‘carried along’ is a nautical term referring to the movement of a boat when wind fills its sails. In other words, God’s Spirit filled the hearts of human authors and pushed them to write His words. This means that when we read the Bible, we are hearing the voice of God. You’ve probably seen a Bible were Jesus’ words are printed in red. Peter is saying, “Everything in the Bible is God’s Word!”

The Spirit of God prepared, guided, and influenced human beings within their vocabulary, personality, and perspective, to speak from God.

Inerrancy & Infallibility

The Bible, then, is the written Word of God, the authoritative standard on all matters of faith and life. As such, the Bible is inerrant, meaning it is unswervingly truthful in all that it teaches. It would be impossible for the Bible to be divinely inspired and untruthful at the same time, for God cannot lie.[10] Evidences of its accuracy are highlighted by its consistency with non-biblical historical sources, its vast number of fulfilled prophecies about world events, and the fact that no archaeological discovery has ever disproved what is found in the Bible. The Bible is also infallible, meaning it is unable to mislead. We can come to the Bible with absolute confidence that what it says will not lead us astray.

Apparent Discrepancies

There are details in the Bible that seem to betray its claims of accuracy. Examples include rounded numbers, different details, or unscientific descriptions. It is important to note that the Bible is not a scientific reference book. The Bible is written from a phenomenological perspective, that is, the world as it appears to the human eye. That said, it is remarkable that the Bible records many things long before they were discovered by science including the earth being round, the hydrological cycle, the law of increasing entropy, springs in the ocean, and life being in the blood.[11] Nevertheless, there are apparent discrepancies in the text. Let me point out just two and try to give explanation for each in the hope of helping us see how to approach other apparent discrepancies.

  1. King David once took a census of his army. In 1 Chronicles 21:5, we read, “Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.” But in 2 Samuel 24:9, we read, “Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.” How do we account for the difference? First, it is worth noting that ancient histories rarely give exact numbers. Second, clarity is found in the words. The differences in the size of Israel’s army can be understood by the word ‘valiant’, which refers to prepared, active soldiers. Perhaps one account refers to active duty, and the other to the reserves. Furthermore, the differences in the size of Judah’s army can be explained by the next verse. “He did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering” (1 Chr. 21:6).
  2. The Gospels report that early on Sunday morning a few women went to Jesus’ tomb. In Matthew 28:2, we read, “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone.” In Luke 24:4, we read, “Two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.” How do we account for the difference in the number of angels? First, remember that eyewitnesses can be truthful in what they are reporting, and yet report different details. Second, remember that testimony emphasizes details important to the witness. Matthew’s account, which emphasizes the removal of the stone, speaks only of the angel who moved it, but never says, “There was only one.” Luke’s account, which emphasizes Jesus’ missing body, speaks of the discussion with two angels. Both can be accurate.

When considering apparent errors in the Bible, it is important to examine our heart. One person will approach an apparent discrepancy looking for reasons to support the Bible’s accuracy, and another will look to refute its accuracy. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to prove, and why?” Discerning the answer to this question won’t create accuracy, but it will make room in your mind to allow for it.

CONCLUSION

What is so special about the Bible? The Bible is the complete revelation of God to man. It teaches us who God is, what He has done, and how we are to respond to Him. Instead of being a clever myth devised by men, the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God. Therefore, it is not open to amendment. Jesus proclaimed it to be true.[12] Having full confidence that it is true, let me offer a few applications.

First, let me encourage you to make reading the Bible part of your daily life. Peter wrote, “You will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”[13] The Bible is a lamp for our feet.[14] We need this lamp until Jesus, the bright morning star, returns and we see Him face-to-face.[15] As you read the Bible, formulate truth statements.  Ask yourself, “What truths are these words communicating?” Stake your life to these truths.

Second, let me encourage you to look at the Bible as truth more certain than wonders. After describing his experience of seeing Jesus’ transfigured, Peter says, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed.”[16] In other words, Scripture is more confirming of what is true than wonders. This is why Paul wrote, “Even if an angel from heaven should preach you to a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”[17] An angelic appearance would be compelling, but not as confirming as Scripture. This is why Jesus told a story about a man in hell pleading with Abraham in heaven to send a messenger to warn his family to repent. The response was striking, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”[18] We often imagine that greater power and persuasion surrounds signs and wonders than sentences of Scripture. Not so! “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[19]

Third, let me encourage you to put your trust in Jesus. The Bible points directly to Jesus as the only Savior for our sin. He came to earth, lived without sin, die for our sins, and rose from the dead. If you will put our trust in Jesus, you will be forgiven.

Fourth, let me encourage you to show the reality of your discipleship by obeying God’s Word. Jesus lived his life based on the accuracy of the Bible. Consider that every time Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he said, “It is written” and then quoted from His Bible.[20] For those who would say, “I’m a Christian, but I won’t give the Bible authority in this area,” how can we claim to follow Jesus and simultaneously reject His own pattern of obedience to the Scriptures? If the Bible is not our source of moral truth, then we are following a Jesus of our imagination, a Jesus who doesn’t exist.

[1] John 18:37-38
[2] Culture Research Center at Arizona Christian University, American Worldview Inventory, 2020
[3] Exodus 20:13-15
[4] Romans 3:23
[5] John 14:6
[6] Romans 10:9
[7] Luke 1:1-4; 1 John 1:1-3
[8] Matthew 17:1-7; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36
[9] Acts 26:26
[10] Titus 1:2
[11] Isaiah 40:22; Job 26:8; 38:16, 33-34; Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20-22; Leviticus 17:11
[12] Matthew 5:17-19; John 17:17
[13] 2 Peter 1:19
[14] Psalm 119:105
[15] Revelation 22:16
[16] 2 Peter 1:19
[17] Galatians 1:8
[18] Luke 16:31
[19] Romans 10:17
[20] Matthew 4:1-11