For many years, skeptics and scholars of textual criticism have attempted to poke holes, and cast doubt on the reliability of Holy Scripture. From the perspective of a skeptic, it makes sense to go after Scripture – because after all, scripture is foundational to the Christian Faith. There have been several questions over the years that have been presented, and a couple that are more prominent.
One example of this is that of the manuscripts. Can we count on the Bible we read today remaining true to the original writings, even though these writings were copied by hand hundreds; even thousands of times as they were handed down through the centuries? Of course, as many biblical scholars have noted, if we can’t rely on these manuscripts, than it would follow that no ancient texts can be relied upon; and that idea is simply preposterous. To illustrate this point, we can look at The Odyssey by Homer. This epic poem consisting of 24 books was passed on by word of mouth for centuries, and it is still required reading for many students today.
The authenticity of biblical manuscripts, while an important issue, is not the question though that we are addressing here. In this case we are looking at a different issue that some prominent skeptics have presented; and that is the question of whether or not Jesus believed in the totality of Scripture (what we refer to as the Old Testament), being the word of God. We know based on all four accounts of the Gospel that Jesus frequently quoted scripture, but do we have evidence that he believed the entire Old Testament to be God breathed?
Jesus taught consistently of the importance of scripture, and its vitality in the lives of his followers:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” Mathew 4:4
What though can we infer from this on what Jesus believed to be the words that “proceed from the mouth of God”? In the next chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we can see that Jesus clarified this question perfectly, which demonstrated that he in fact embraced the entirety of Scripture:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all of this is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18
In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus is also clear about his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. It is important to note that he said these things in the brief period of time between his resurrection and ascension:
“And beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” Luke 24:27
Then he said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” Luke 24:44
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he cited Scripture many, many times, and referenced people and events, giving no indication that these were anything but factual and accurate: In the Gospel according to St. Matthew we see Jesus making reference to Adam and Eve:
“And he answered and said to them ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”’” Matthew 19:4.
In the same Gospel account, we also see Jesus make reference to Jonah:
“But he answered, and said to them ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Matthew 12:39-40.
Yet another example from the Gospel according to St. Matthew makes reference to Noah and the Flood:
“For as the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the son of man be.” Matthew 24:38-39
When we examine the Gospels, we can see clearly that Jesus himself regarded Scripture as the Word of God. We see him give equal treatment to the Law, as well as the Prophets and Psalms. Not only did he quote and reference scripture on many, many occasions, but he also demonstrated their reliability from an historical perspective, showing that we can trust fully that the Bible is truly the authentic, and unassailable, word of God.