This page is about phrases that describe the Bible's authenticity, trustworthiness, and truthfulness. A lot of people are making claims that there were conspiracies that forcibly limited the content to what it is today. This is not the place for me to use historical facts to argue against them, though I can. I will leave you with one thing that can be pretty well demonstrated based on real history. By the time the books emerged as started to emerge as Scripture, around 200 AD, Christians still didn't have much central authority beyond one's own diocese. They were struggling amongst themselves about the core of the faith, like what Jesus was, and how the Spirit worked in us and in society at large. Even their foremost leaders were disputing these things, and would keep doing so for another two centuries. The churches knew where they would turn to sort that out: the books they had already learned to trust most from day-to-day experience, the ones that fired their imaginations and shaped their lives in the ways of Christ. These became our New Testament. They judged that these works told believers what they needed to know to live the faith. And the same books taught them how to dialogue and relate with God in their lives. They could trust that these books were up to the task ahead of them. It's not just the early church that bears witness to its authenticity, it's also the believers since then.
The words below are a place to start thinking about the Bible, its role in your life and that of believers in Christ as a whole. Each term has a different shade of meaning. As you think about them, I hope you'll be challenged to think about the Bible itself, its role in your faith, and how much you actually trust it. Please take up this challenge: think prayerfully about the use of each of these terms.
Is it true and/or useful, and in what ways?
What does it mean for how I read the Scriptures?
In what way(s) does it go too far, or not far enough?
There's a place for phrases that confine and phrases that broaden - how does this term do that?
is it intellectual gibberish? Is it used as a weasel word that people hide behind? How? Why?
is it being used mostly for polemics (fighting words)? Is it intended to abuse or dismiss an opponent?
Who in the past has used the word, and what followed from it?
If you find out what you really think of the Bible, it will lay the groundwork for how you learn Jesus through it.
What Is Authentic?
Authentic means real; matching the truth or fact, and thus reliable or verifiable. [ Greek authentikos (of the author)].
The Bible is what it claims to be, and is not an imitation or con job. It really is where God reveals to us about us, about our world, and about God. It has authenticity. There are some well-publicized forums where they vote on what they believe is and isn't really historical, or is and isn't actually said by Jesus or the disciples. Their conclusions have at times been helpful in stripping away some of the illusions which have been shielded by Christian traditions and theologies. Yet, they seem bent on trying to create a new image of what Jesus was, and that image has a surreal feel to it -- it feels inauthentic. A sense develops that their 'historical Jesus' is a fascinating guy but not someone who would inspire me to follow, much less die. Yet the unavoidable fact is that this is exactly what he inspired in the people around him. The New Testament shows us an inspirational Jesus, an authority Jesus, a trustworthy Jesus, a Spirit-empowered Jesus, a Jesus who could inspire what we know happened thereafter. An authentic Jesus. And it says this Jesus did the one thing most ultimately worth doing, setting us back aright with the Father who loves us. It would take something that big, that genuine, to be worth more than a passing glance 2000 years later. Through the Bible, the authentic Spirit gives you the authentic Jesus Christ, from whom authentic character and authentic happiness come.
Synonyms for 'authentic' include:
actual (existing in fact; in action at the time you are in; now existing.)
genuine (actually having the attribute or character that has been attributed or claimed that it has; honestly experienced).
real (that which in fact is present or occurs; not figmentary or imaginary) and really (real-like; having the quality or property of being in fact present or in effect).
What Is Meant By Sufficient?
Sufficient [ Latin sufficēre (to be or have enough) < sub- (secondary, beneath) + facēre (to make)]. Sufficient means 'enough'; that which meets the needs of right now (or the time period or task one is concerned about)..
When said about the Bible, 'sufficient' refers to the belief that in the Bible you'll find all that's needed to be saved by God and to live in the manner of Christ. There were lots of other things written or told about ancient Israel (some of which are mentioned in the Bible itself) and about Christ (John said so). But the works that became the Bible is sufficient to show us Christ and what He alone fulfills. You don't have to go to some other source to find out more of the basics for that task. The Bible also covers the basic outline of how to live the faith together with others who also follow Jesus. This term is especially important for Anglicans.
Some extremists have stretched 'sufficient' beyond all sense by claiming that the Bible is sufficient for the entire shaping of one's life. They claim that what isn't there doesn't belong in a Christian's life. Get real. The Scriptures only directly covers a small part of life's doings. It isn't meant to cover everything. It's meant to convey God's love and God's good news, and is sufficient for that purpose. It has guidance for your life, but it takes thinking, praying, doing, and testing to find out what that is. Yes, shape your life by it, but in God-given freedom, as someone who bears the image of God. Serve God, not a book. All the foundational and essential stuff is in there, but you yourself have to work it through to make it really a part of your life of faith.
Timeless: what the Bible teaches us transcends the eras of its writing and editing. It's true and important today, and will stay true and important tomorrow. This does not mean that every aspect of it is 'timeless'. For instance, in the Gospel of Mark, about the widow giving money. The specific value in ancient currency was of its time. But she gave what little she had for God's purposes, and that is true of the faithful poor in any era. Timelessness may not be all that good. It can be a really attractive lie, or something that used to be helpful that outlives its welcome but just won't go away. As with anything else eternal or supernatural, the timeless truths of the Bible are shown through what is natural and physical, which is very much bound to its time and culture. That's the same way Jesus shows the character of God. So each Bible story is fully a part of its time, but a part of its message is part of our time too, and that of the times that follow.
Is the Bible Trustworthy??
Trustworthy: You can rely upon it. The Spirit is working through the Bible, thus you can turn to it and trust that you're not being deceived or misled. Many millions of folks from many eras have set their lives well by it. Some folks do so without thought or effort, but as often as not it still comes out well anyway. As is true of the other words featured on this page, you can trust the Scriptures because the One who inspired it is trustworthy, and is using it to lead you. If that were not so, 'trustworthy' would be a most weasely word. Trustworthiness is what people ask of those who want to be an authority on some matter or field of endeavor in their life. But that person must earn the trust and continue to prove worthy of trust. They are not trustworthy just because they say so. The authority's task is not to define trustworthiness, but to exemplify it.
Another word for 'trustworthy' is 'reliable' (worthy of trust or reliance). The term 'believable' and the various word-forms of 'faith' have a stronger undertow to them. The Bible doesn't ask you to believe in its writings. It asks to take the time to work your way through the materials, ask your own questions, and listen for the Spirit. You can trust this dialogue, this process of thinking, to lead you right. Nor does it demand that you believe what it says about how worthy of trust it is. That's something you learn from living it. It asks you to put your trust in the God of the story of the Jews and the early Christians, the only God there actually is.
Is the Bible Truthful?
Truthful: It tells the truth. We can put our faith in the Scriptures to lead us down the right path, because the Spirit speaks through it for that purpose. God will not deceive us. Neither does the Bible, when it's read for what it is there for. Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, "what is truth?" He wasn't asking about finding definitions, but about finding (or evading) truth itself. Today, people ask that same question, in a world where things are not as they seem. Some are cynical that there is at all such a thing as 'truth', much less that anyone has a full supply. Many think of the Scriptures as 'spin books' for either an established hierarchy or for a God of cruelty and irony. They're right, in a way. The New Testament is biased and not at all impartial: it has something it wants everyone to know. I can't prove what it claims. I can only testify to the truth of that something, or rather, someone - Jesus.