In light of an outstanding book published this year, “Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement With Contemporary Questions” by Dr. Craig Blomberg we asked Dr. Blomberg to share some of his insights with us here at Wineskins. Dr. Blomberg was kind enough to take a moment and respond to the question, “If you could only pass one insight along to students of scripture, what would it be?” Here is his answer,
Last spring I published my most recent book, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2014). Out of appreciation for my work, the editor of Wineskins has invited me to write a short piece addressing a single question, “if you could pass only one insight along to students of scripture, what would it be?” He thought that this would make my job easier, but I’m not sure it does!
If you find the question of how reliably the books of the Bible were copied throughout the centuries before the invention of the printing press an important one, then I have what I hope will be a helpful chapter in my new book. The same is true if you are particularly interested in the formation of the canon (the choice of the 66 books in the Protestant Bible), the reliability of English translations, whether or not the Bible can reasonably be called inerrant, what the implications are of Scripture’s diverse literary genres, or the credibility of miracles. If your interest lies elsewhere, then perhaps my book on The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007) or K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003) may be of more use.
But boiling it down to just one issue is hard. But I’ll give it a stab. Perhaps the most important word of encouragement I could give Bible readers and students is this: as the writer of Ecclesiastes repeatedly puts it, there is nothing new under the sun, at least not in terms of challenges to the Bible’s accuracy or authority.
Of course, specific details change. In 2003, Dan Brown wrote a blockbuster novel called The Da Vinci Code with a lot of fiction about Christian origins that fooled folks who didn’t know better. He pretended that Gnostic texts like the Gospels of Thomas, Mary and Philip presented a more accurate Jesus than those in the New Testament. A generation earlier, in 1964, it was Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot that was all the rage, detailing how Jesus never really died on the cross, but passed out, prematurely entombed, revived in its cool air, and emerged to convince his followers he was resurrected. But the point is that throughout church history, people have regularly written fiction as if it were true history and tricked the unsuspecting.
Or take a different kind of example. Prior to the civil rights movement in the U.S., many people either praised or accused the Bible of promoting slavery, whereas now it is widely recognized that it merely assumes it, considerably moderates it and sows the seeds for its abolition. Today many people’s focus is on the supposed attempted genocide commanded by God when the Israelites prepared to occupy Canaan. In fact, something far less is actually implied in Joshua when one understands the key passages in their ancient contexts and recognizes that the Bible uses the standard language of the day for the command, “defeat your opponent.” Most of the intended casualties were in fact just military men.
My point is this. The next time you encounter something in Scripture that puzzles or troubles you, don’t assume you’ve come across an issue nobody in the history of the church has ever thought about before! The next time a sensationalist claim floods the internet for a week or two about a new discovery that calls Christianity into question, don’t immediately panic and assume you have to give up your faith. Christianity has weathered hundreds of such claims throughout its history. Dig deeply enough and you will always find answers. Sometimes you may even have to look in sources not available on-line! If a supposed discovery is brand new, wait awhile for the dust to settle and see what true scholars finally decide. Often there is some element of a hoax, an exaggeration, or false implications bound up with the claims.
Is there good reason to still believe the Bible? Absolutely, no matter what anyone else may tell you to the contrary!
Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary, Littleton, CO, Nov. 19, 2014