Has The Bible Been Changed?

Muslims and Christians alike carry strong convictions regarding their holy books. Muslims believe the Qur’an was revealed to them by God without error, and that it has not been changed over time by humans. It has been protected by God for the preserving and spreading of the Muslim faith throughout the future. Christians hold these same convictions to be true of their message of God, the Bible.

The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years. The first five books of the Bible are referred to as the Torah, and were written by Moses around 1500 B.C. These books provide the record of God’s creation and an outline of the history of man in relation to God. Moses includes in the Torah a record of man’s great achievements, as well as his failures — including his sinful nature and his obedience to God’s laws of worship and conduct. After the books of the Torah, the Bible continues on to discuss man’s contributions throughout the ages following the descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and David. David composed the majority of the Psalms (Zabur). Many of the books speak of future events — some which were fulfilled during the lives of the writers, others which were fulfilled during the life of Jesus, and still others which have yet to be fulfilled.
The section given to the Jews (or Hebrew people) which they refer to as the Scriptures is also the section Christians refer to as the Old Testament. This section was completed 400 years before Jesus was born, and was carefully copied with extreme caution to avoid the entry of any mistakes. Any copies containing errors were carefully destroyed. Because the papyrus copies tended to deteriorate, the Old Testament continued to be recopied to avoid misunderstanding.
The second section of the Bible, called the New Testament, was written immediately following the time of Jesus. He died around A.D. 33, and the writing began between A.D. 45 and A.D. 55 and continued until around A.D. 90. All writing of the New Testament was done by eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus. The New Testament is composed of 27 books, which are similar to chapters or Surahs.
The first four books are about the life of Jesus, beginning with his birth in Bethlehem, and include his genealogies for both Mary, his mother, and Joseph (or Bushara), Mary’s husband. This part of the Bible is referred to by Christians as the Gospels or good news (Injil). They were written in Greek, the written language of the Roman Empire in that day.
References within the Bible give these New Testament writings the same status as Scripture, making them equal with the Old Testament and also part of God’s Holy inspired Word. Although the Bible was written through many different Old Testament prophets and New Testament writers over a period of 1600 years, it is entirely consistent in its teachings.
The New Testament circulated throughout the Middle East and southern Europe as individual books and as a collection of books. Again, great care was taken for errorless copying. Before A.D. 300, the Old Testament and the New Testament were assembled into one book, two copies of which are preserved in the two complete manuscripts that we have today, known as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These manuscripts are written in Greek and compare identically with the thousands of portions available of even older manuscripts. The translations that we have today (in English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese, Swahili, Russian or any of more than 2,000 languages) must come directly from these ancient Greek manuscripts — not from translations of translations — in order to be considered accurate. Just as with a Xerox copy, the quality of the duplicate decreases when you make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The clearest copies come from the original or a near original. The same is true when making translations of important statements.

Muhammed lived at the beginning of the 7th century. The Christian Bible as a unit was in wide circulation at this time (though it wasn’t translated into Arabic until around A.D. 900).
Mohammed’s first revelation of a portion of the Qur’an was in A.D. 610. He continued to receive additional revelations over the next 20 years. Some portions were written down on bleached camel bones, stones, palm leaves, as well as other available materials. It was not until after Mohammed’s death that all the various parts were gathered together into one volume. This would be in about A.D. 634.
These documents were collected by Zayd, Mohammed’s secretary, as a commission by the successor to Muhammed, Caliph (ruler) Abu Bakr. He brought together the written portions into one volume with the consent of close friends of Muhammed, who had memorized all or portions of his writings. This gave human approval to the document. This copy assembled by Zayd was recorded without dots and vowels, which made some words vague as to their meaning. All other previous documents were burned. Later, there was some controversy over this text, and so the Caliph Uthman ordered Zayd and Haphzah and four others who knew the Qur’an by memory to make an official text in A.D. 653. This official text was circulated widely, and all other copies, even Zayd’s original, were burned. This official text is known as the Uthmanic Qur’an.
What does the Qur’an reveal as Muhammed’s belief about the Bible? Throughout the Qur’an, the prophet Muhammed insists that not only the Qur’an but also the Injil (Gospels), the Torah (Law of Moses), and the Zabur (Psalms of David) are the authentic Word of God, given by God Almighty Himself. The following references are a few of the many clear affirmations in the Qur’an that the prophet Muhammed accepted the inspiration and authenticity of the Bible as it existed during his day:
“He (Allah) hath revealed unto thee (Muhammed) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel” (Surah 3, Al-i-‘Imran, The Family of Imran: 3)
“Say (o Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord” (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, The Cow: 136).
“Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light…And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it is in the Torah” (Surah 5, Al-Ma’idah, The Table Spread: 44, 46).
“Lo! We inspire thee as we inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto David the Psalms” (Surah 4, Al-Nisa, Women: 163).
Therefore, since the prophet Muhammed speaks with such reverence about the authority of the Torah, Zabur, and Injil, as the Word of God given from heaven, what do you think he believed (and wants his followers to believe) about the Bible? Not once does the Qur’an refer to the changing of these inspired books. This makes it clear that the prophet Muhammed considered the Bible to be pure and undefiled. The Qur’an also speaks highly of the “People of the Scripture” or “People of the Book” (both Jews and Christians) “who recite the revelations of Allah” (Surah 3, Al-i-‘Imran, The Family of Imran: 113). It also commands them, “And believe in that which I reveal, confirming that which ye possess already [of the Scripture]” (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, The Crow: 41).
This proves it is clear, that from the very beginning of Islam, the prophet Muhammed accepted the Bible as the unchanged, true Word of God. Because of his repeated instructions throughout the Qur’an to honor the “People of the Book” and their Scriptures, no Muslims after the time of Muhammed would have allowed any changes in the Bible, as the holy word of God. The existence of the manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus indicates that the Word of God has not been changed, for it is the same today as it was 300 years before the Qur’an was written.
Furthermore, the Qur’an says repeatedly that God Almighty protects His Word from change: “There is no changing the Words of Allah” (Surah 10, Jonah: 64). “And recite that which hath been revealed unto thee of the Scripture of thy Lord. There is none who can change His words . . .” (Surah 18, Al-Kahf, The Cave: 27).
The New Testament also reveals the Bible’s claim to be the inspired Word of God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit declares through the book of Hebrews, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Because the entire Bible has been alive and active throughout the centuries, and continues to be today, no one has dared to change it. The fact that the Bible continues to change thousands of lives around the world in positive, tangible ways displays another clear proof of its inspiration by the Holy Spirit. God’s inspired Word is the same today as it was in the time of the Old Testament prophets and in the time of the New Testament apostles. The Bible is therefore our final authority, and we accept its teachings, commands, and promises as they relate to all of life.

Does God Exist?

By Marilyn Adamson

proof of GodJust once wouldn’t you love for someone to simply show you the evidence for God’s existence? No arm-twisting. No statements of, “You just have to believe.” Well, here is an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists.

But first consider this. If a person opposes even the possibility of there being a God, then any evidence can be rationalized or explained away. It is like if someone refuses to believe that people have walked on the moon, then no amount of information is going to change their thinking. Photographs of astronauts walking on the moon, interviews with the astronauts, moon rocks…all the evidence would be worthless, because the person has already concluded that people cannot go to the moon.

When it comes to the possibility of God’s existence, the Bible says that there are people who have seen sufficient evidence, but they have suppressed the truth about God.1 On the other hand, for those who want to know God if he is there, he says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you.”2 Before you look at the facts surrounding God’s existence, ask yourself, If God does exist, would I want to know him? Here then, are some reasons to consider…

1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

existence of GodThe Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.4

Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:

It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.

proof of GodWater is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.5

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.

Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.

Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.6

The human brain…simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.

existence of GodThe human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

2. Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”9

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”10

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

3. Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn’t change — on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?

“The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence.”11

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”12

4. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

existence of GodAll instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billion of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.13

existence of GodWhy is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

5. Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.

I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don’t believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people…to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded. To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.

proof of GodI didn’t realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God’s existence, my prayer began with, “Ok, you win…” It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.” C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Lewis went on to write a book titled, “Surprised by Joy” as a result of knowing God. I too had no expectations other than rightfully admitting God’s existence. Yet over the following several months, I became amazed by his love for me.

6. Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.

Why Jesus? Look throughout the major world religions and you’ll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others. He said God exists and you’re looking at him. Though he talked about his Father in heaven, it was not from the position of separation, but of very close union, unique to all humankind. Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father, anyone who believed in him, believed in the Father.

He said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”14 He claimed attributes belonging only to God: to be able to forgive people of their sin, free them from habits of sin, give people a more abundant life and give them eternal life in heaven. Unlike other teachers who focused people on their words, Jesus pointed people to himself. He did not say, “follow my words and you will find truth.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”15

What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can’t do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people…blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead. He had power over objects…created food out of thin air, enough to feed crowds of several thousand people. He performed miracles over nature…walked on top of a lake, commanding a raging storm to stop for some friends. People everywhere followed Jesus, because he constantly met their needs, doing the miraculous. He said if you do not want to believe what I’m telling you, you should at least believe in me based on the miracles you’re seeing.16

Jesus Christ showed God to be gentle, loving, aware of our self-centeredness and shortcomings, yet deeply wanting a relationship with us. Jesus revealed that although God views us as sinners, worthy of his punishment, his love for us ruled and God came up with a different plan. God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could. The Bible says that the reason we would love God is because he first loved us.

Jesus died in our place so we could be forgiven. Of all the religions known to humanity, only through Jesus will you see God reaching toward humanity, providing a way for us to have a relationship with him. Jesus proves a divine heart of love, meeting our needs, drawing us to himself. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, he offers us a new life today. We can be forgiven, fully accepted by God and genuinely loved by God. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”17 This is God, in action.

Does God exist? If you want to know, investigate Jesus Christ. We’re told that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”18

God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. The earth’s perfect distance from the sun, the unique chemical properties of water, the human brain, DNA, the number of people who attest to knowing God, the gnawing in our hearts and minds to determine if God is there, the willingness for God to be known through Jesus Christ. If you need to know more about Jesus and reasons to believe in him, please see: Beyond Blind Faith.

 

Why Do We Need Religion?

Why religion? In the face of pogroms and pedophiles, crusades and coverups, why indeed?

Religious Americans have answered the question variously. Worship is one answer. Millions gather each week to acknowledge their higher power. The chance to experience community is another. Healthy congregations are more than civic clubs. They are surrogate families. The opportunity to serve others also comes to mind. Americans feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless largely through religious organizations. Yet as important as community, worship and service are, I am convinced that religion’s greatest contribution to society is even greater.

Religion makes us want to live.

Viktor Frankl’s revealing research in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz led him to a startling conclusion. It was not the youngest, strongest or even smartest inmates who tended to survive. It was those who had found meaning in their lives. People, it turns out, need a reason to live.

For Frankl, that meaning wasn’t necessarily religious — although one could argue that anything that deals with a person’s deepest concerns is in a sense “spiritual.” What Frankl was talking about could be found in deeds — in the handful of individuals who shared their meager rations with others and went about encouraging their fellow prisoners. But meaning could also be found in attitudes — particularly in the ability to face suffering with dignity and grace. As Frankl expressed it: “Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

A building block

Man’s search for meaning — whether in a Broadway penthouse or the darkest corner of hell — is the most basic building block of a successful life. Without a sense of purpose, many people will simply shrivel up and die, whether figuratively or, in some cases, literally.

I suspect that in postmodern America, the need for meaning is as great as ever. While our ancestors were too busy fighting off starvation to worry about such things as self-actualization, today’s Americans live lives of relative ease. Higher education, a shorter work week and regular vacations have enriched our lives but have also provided abundant opportunity to consider whether our lives have meaning and purpose. The result isn’t all that encouraging. Millions suffer from depression. Millions more escape their lives through drugs and alcohol. Far too many give up the struggle altogether and commit suicide.

Alas, many of us have discovered purpose for our lives through religion. Inside America’s churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and ashrams, we wrestle with the great questions of life. And with due respect to my atheist and left-leaning friends, most of those questions are not amenable to the scientific method.

Why are we here?

What does it all mean?

How should we then live?

These are the things that matter most. Not whether Pluto is a real planet or the atomic weight of carbon is 12 or 13. Even Nietzsche recognized that if one can answer the why of life, he can cope with most any how.

Frankl came away from Auschwitz convinced that there are two basic types of people: decent ones and indecent ones. Some are stronger in their disposition than others, of course, but basically we are decent or indecent. Here’s the interesting thing. Decency and indecency do not fall along national or political lines. There were decent Nazi guards just as there were indecent inmates.

Living decent lives

The same is true of our congregations. While we teach justice, forgiveness and love of neighbor, no doubt, there are indecent souls among us. Even indecent congregations. Not all religion is good, and no person is sicker than a person who is sick on religion. Don’t just think of Osama bin Laden here. I’m also talking about the fearful, guilt-racked, shell of a human being that can result from a fundamentalist Christian upbringing. Good religion, as the great humanitarian and Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer put it, is always “life-affirming.”

Here’s the point: I think religion makes it easier to be decent. The positive core values, mutual accountability and constant striving for self-improvement help one to be a better person. And I want to be a better person. Not because I’m afraid of God. Because I’m grateful for another trip around the sun and, like a good house guest, want to leave this place in better shape than I found it.

There is a lesson here for America’s clergy: Keep your eye on the ball. It’s not so much about this doctrine or that, Mass or the Lord’s Supper or even Ramadan or Yom Kippur. It’s about purpose, meaning and whether I ought to get out of bed in the morning.