The Bible Today

HOW OFTEN do we hear the Bible quoted nowadays? Actually, more often than you might think! There are many common expressions that come from the Bible. Examples are ‘wisdom of Solomon’, ‘go the extra mile’, ‘by the skin of my teeth’, ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Of course, this does not mean that people are aware that they are alluding to the Bible, far less that they believe it. The expressions may have become part of our English language in the same way as those from Shakespeare, such as ‘pound of flesh’.

Quotes In The News

Most of us are interested in the news, and the Bible is still referred to in the news. For example, in August 2019 the English town of Whaley Bridge was threatened because the local dam was in danger of collapse, due to rain which a BBC reporter described as of ‘near biblical proportions’.

In July 2019, after the first day’s play at the Wimbledon tennis championships the Daily Mail reporter wrote, “Had Lloyd Harris beaten Roger Federer it would not quite have ranked as the biggest shock since 1 Samuel chapter 17. David had stones with him when he faced Goliath, Harris playing in his first Wimbledon was up against the greatest grass court player of all time.” This biblical reference was about the young shepherd lad David killing the giant Goliath.

Later in the year, after being burgled, the heiress Tamara Ecclestone cited Luke 8:17: “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light”. She probably meant that the burglars would be caught. When Jesus said those words, however, he likely meant that the message of the Gospel cannot be hidden from those who seek it, and nor can our real motives be hidden from God.

Such examples show that the words of the Bible are still part of people’s consciousness. But is it just regarded as interesting literature as opposed to sacred truth? In December 2019 a caller on a BBC radio programme observed that our age is “not like fifty years ago; nowadays nobody takes a Bible view of the world.” Indeed, in this ‘post-modern’ era many people query whether there is such a thing as absolute truth, and even if there is whether we can discover and know it.* Against this background, the number of professing Christians is tending to decline worldwide.

Respect For The Bible

Nonetheless, it is not true that ‘nobody’ has regard for the Bible. Despite a torrent of scepticism, criticisms and challenges, some people are committed to believing the Bible—the whole Bible—trying to live by its principles, and fervently believing that the ‘Bible view of the world’ is, indeed, correct.

Amongst the prevailing scepticism there are news reports which encourage this faith position. Although not very prominent, there are still accounts of archaeological discoveries confirming details in the Bible which sceptics have discounted as myth and legend. For example, in September 2019 Sky News reported archaeologists finding evidence of the ancient kingdom of Edom, which is mentioned several times in the Bible. A specific issue was that the Bible describes Edom as a place where kings reigned before any Israelite king reigned (Genesis 36:31). This had been widely dismissed, but archaeologists in Israel have found a sophisticated copper production site  which predates the Israelite kingdom and is believed to be Edomite.

Furthermore there have been, and continue to be, amazing fulfilments of Bible prophecies, especially in relation to the nation of Israel. And the continuing crisis in the Middle East is totally consistent with Bible predictions, as are the growing concerns about the future of our planet. In fact, the Bible itself offers fulfilled prophecy as a test of its credibility.

The Bible In English

We are very fortunate to have English translations of the Bible. We can even have free access to translations of the Bible, in several languages, on the internet. Some people are not so fortunate; they have no translation in their own native language. The history of how we got our English translation of the Bible is peppered with opposition, persecution and even murder of those people who were determined to make the Bible available in a language that common people could read for themselves. They did not want people to be reliant on the (often dubious and unbiblical) narratives given to them by clergy who were equally determined to restrict Bible translations to Latin with their own exclusive access to them. But critics still dismiss the Bible as

out of date. So were these courageous

and dedicated translators wasting their time and effort?

It Matters

How do we decide what to believe? The Bible makes awesome claims about its message. Time and again it claims to be the Word of God. It describes actions and motives of God that no human being could deduce or observe. Even the records of Jewish history are written from God’s perspective, including the sordid as well as the honourable. Moreover, the Bible says that there is only one God, and that we need to read His words to discover what He is like and what He asks us to do. Clever though we may be, we cannot discover this for ourselves. We would all come up with different ideas.

Despite postmodern ideas, if the Bible is right then these personal versions cannot all be valid. The Bible is unequivocal. It states that the one God who made heaven and earth has a plan for the earth. It says that this is centred on Jesus Christ—his life, death, and resurrection: and that our destiny depends on our response to these things. There is only one truth, and one way of salvation (John 14:6,

Galatians 1:8–12). One and only one. So it is not enough to be able to quote Bible words: we need to try to understand Bible ideas. This requires careful reading, taking context into account, comparing passages, and not merely selecting passages we like and imposing meanings that appeal to us.

The claims and warnings of the Bible are not to be ignored. Quite obviously the book can be, and is, misinterpreted. In particular, prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled can be misunderstood. During disasters such as the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, some religious leaders relate these to predictions in the Bible, especially the book of Revelation. Many such claims may be unfounded. But it is most definitely the case that the Bible really does warn of a time of trouble and fear preceding the return of Jesus to the earth when he will completely change life on this planet. For example:

And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:25–27).

Either the Bible is the biggest fake in history, or it is the most important book ever written, with the best news ever. We can only decide by reading it, and reading it with care.

Chris Clarke

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