How can we know the Bible is true?

One of the questions people often have is, how can we know the Bible is true? The Bible contains so much which seems strange to us. For one, it’s full of miracles. And the very centre of the story is based on Jesus – a man who performed many miracles and rose up from the grave. Can we trust that this is true, or is it more like one of Aesop’s fables?

This is a huge question and obviously in a short video we don’t have time to look at all the answers. In this video I focus on the gospels, drawing on Peter Williams’ brilliant book Can we Trust the Gospels?

Summary of the video

  • The Bible centres on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – so if we can trust the gospels, we can almost certainly trust the rest of the Bible.
  • Peter Williams’ book is the best book on the reliability of the gospels that I’ve ever read.
  • He talks about a number of reasons why we can trust in the gospel as historically reliable. Here are just a couple:
    1. Geography. The gospels talk about a lot of places. All four gospels have unique place names which no other gospel mentions. Those place names range from large, common cities to local, relatively uncommon names. For someone to make this up, it would require research beyond anything we’ve ever seen from this time period!
    2. Undesigned coincidences. This is when a fact in one gospel is confirmed almost “accidentally” by another gospel. So, for example, Mark describes James and John as the ‘sons of thunder’. Luke doesn’t call them that, but he does record them wanting to call down fire on a village.
  • He says that if it wasn’t for the miracles of Jesus, no serious historian would consider the gospels unreliable. So can we trust that the miracles are true?
    1. The miracles are not random – they occur within a whole picture which fits together. It would take a huge leap of faith to believe everything was fiction or happened by coincidence.
    2. The resurrection turns the disciples around. Through the gospels, the disciples are portrayed as misunderstanding lots of things, rarely getting anything right. What turned them into the group of men who evangelised the world? They would not have suffered and died as they did unless they knew it was true.
    3. The first witness of the resurrection was a woman. In those days, the testimony of a woman was inadmissible in court. No-one wanting to make up the story of the resurrection would make a woman be the first witness of the resurrection. It wouldn’t help the case at all.
  • As Sherlock Holmes famously said: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. It would take more faith to believe that the gospels were not true.

Your questions answered

This is the second video of a new feature called Your questions answered. (This particular video was originally recorded for my own church).

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

Enjoy life without fear | Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 Sermon

A sermon on Ecclesiastes 9:1-12, part of a sermon series on Ecclesiastes preached at our church.

Death, according to The Teacher in Ecclesiastes, can make us mad. This madness can show itself in one of two ways:

  • We want to build empires, gain possessions, squeeze everything we can from this life – to distract ourselves from the reality of death;
  • We try to do all that we can to avoid death, fearing it, and trying to be as safe as we can.

Ecclesiastes says that both of these approaches are wrong. Ecclesiastes teaches us that we should accept life as a gift and live it gratefully and joyfully. Find out more in this sermon on Ecclesiastes 9:1-12.

Read the passage online via Bible Gateway.

You can see the previous sermon on Ecclesiastes here. All content from Understand the Bible about Ecclesiastes can be found under the Ecclesiastes tag.

What’s the point of The Virgin Birth? (Heidelberg 14)

Now that I’ve finished the How to Live as a Christian course, I’ve gone back to uploading the Heidelberg Catechism series. This week, it’s part 14 – on the virgin birth. This is a topic where there’s a lot of misunderstanding.

Sometimes people misunderstand the virgin birth with the “immaculate conception” – this is a Roman Catholic doctrine which says that Mary was sinless when she gave birth to Christ. Most protestant churches do not believe in the immaculate conception – but it’s a common misunderstanding.

I think it’s more common to simply not understand why Mary needed to be a virgin to give birth to Christ. I mean, why couldn’t Jesus have been born in the normal way? Wasn’t he a human being?

The truth is that the virgin birth touches on a lot of important issues about who Jesus is.

In this session we look at two things:

  • What does it mean that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin?
  • How does it benefit you?

I hope you enjoy.

If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.

Dominion by Tom Holland: Why it’s important to understand the Bible

Last weekend, the historian Tom Holland posted this on Twitter:

Book cover: Dominion by Tom Holland

He’s absolutely right. Recently I read his book, Dominion. It’s an absolutely fantastic book and I think everyone in the West should read it. Especially politicians and people with influence on the direction of our society! The subtitle is, “how the Christian revolution remade the world”. His big idea is that Christianity is the most revolutionary idea that’s ever existed. It has absolutely transformed our society, in ways that we don’t even notice now.

This is why he said in the tweet that no book has had a greater effect on your life than the Bible – even if you’ve never read it. The way that our society has been totally transformed by Christianity and the Bible is impossible to understand unless you look back through history.

This is what Dominion does: it goes back to the Greeks, before the time of Christ, and works its way forward. Holland originally became interested in writing the book because he found the world of antiquity so alien. They really did do things differently there – especially in terms of morality. Even things which we think of as being invented by the Greeks (such as democracy) were very different for them.

For me personally, I found it astonishing to see how deeply Christianity had changed the world. I thought I knew a fair bit about how the Bible had changed things, but even I didn’t realise how deep it went. It’s impossible to overstate the impact that the Bible has had on life in the West. So much of what we believe about right and wrong today can be traced to the Bible. Just to name a few:

  • The idea that kings and rulers should be under the same rules as everyone else (and not be allowed to do whatever they like)
  • The abolition of slavery;
  • The concept of equality;
  • The modern Western idea of democracy;
  • The #MeToo movement;
  • Human rights.

If you haven’t read Dominion, I can highly recommend it.

Find out more about Dominion

If you’d like to read a review which goes into a bit more detail, have a look at this Gospel Coalition review.

Speak Life did a really good interview with Tom Holland which you might want to watch.

How do I start to understand the Bible?

If you’d like to make a start, this website is the ideal place to be! Here are a few suggestions:

  • The What is Christianity course is an overview of the Christian faith. It’s basically a mini Bible overview – it will help you begin to understand the “big picture” of the Bible.;
  • I do a weekly series called Learn to read the Bible. The aim is to help you learn to read and understand the Bible for yourself.
  • Why not subscribe to the Understand the Bible on YouTube, Facebook or the Podcast where you’ll get regular updates!

Mark 2:1-12 – Learn to read the Bible #6

I’ve just published the sixth part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 2:1-12, when Jesus forgives and heals a paralysed man.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos.

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 2:1-12

This is a really important passage in Mark’s Gospel and it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time thinking and praying about!

  • Mark once again draws attention to Jesus’ fame spreading. Think about YouTube stars or people who draw a large following online – what must it have been like in Jesus’ day?
  • The paralysed man’s friends broke through the roof and lowered him to Jesus. What does this show about them? What obstacles are there which might stop us from getting to Jesus, and what should we do about it?
  • Why does Jesus say ‘your sins are forgiven’ when the man needed physical healing? What does that say about Jesus’ priorities?
  • Are the teachers of the Law right when they say only God can forgive sins? Was Jesus blaspheming? What does that say about who Jesus is?
  • Jesus says “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. Does this help us to understand Jesus’ other miracles?

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 1:35-45.

Raising Children: Final part of How to Live as a Christian course

The final part of the course looks at how we should raise children. Passing the faith on to the next generation is key – how do we do it?

In this session we cover:

  • What the Bible says about children and families;
  • Some practical ways that parents can pass their faith on to children;
  • Some practical ways that the church can help;
  • Resources to help you.

This brings to a close the How to Live as a Christian course, which is now available to complete on the website or the app.

The How to Live as a Christian series is designed to help new (and not-so-new) Christians get up to speed about living in the way God wants us to. It’s designed to be practical, so that it’s not just all about the theory. You can now do the course on the website here.

You are not insignificant – Psalm 8

If you look up at the night sky, it can seem like we are tiny and insignificant. But that’s not how David sees it.

This is part of the weekly Thought for the Week series. This series is designed to give a short, 10-minute ‘thought’, including a Bible reading and a prayer. At the moment I am working my way through the Psalms but I may take a break from them after a while and look at another part of the Bible.

Do subscribe to the mailing list if you want to get these delivered by email, or subscribe directly on YouTube if you want to see them there.

You can see the previous week’s thought on Psalm 7 “How to deal with hostile people” here.

The limitations of wisdom | Ecclesiastes 7:1-25 Sermon

A sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:1-25, part of a sermon series on Ecclesiastes preached at our church.

Death, according to Ecclesiastes, should teach us wisdom. But here, The Teacher says we should know the limitations of wisdom. Wisdom can do many things, but it doesn’t promise an easy life, or solve every problem. Here we are challenged to think about true Christian wisdom, which does not shy away from the challenges of living in a fallen world.

Read the passage online via Bible Gateway.

You can see the previous sermon on Ecclesiastes here.

Can we see the original version of the Bible? – Your questions answered

Is it possible to see the original version of the Bible anywhere? If not, how do we know that what it says is accurate?

In this video we look at these questions:

  • why there aren’t any original copies of the Bible left?
  • how did the Bible come down to us through the years?
  • how can we be confident that we have the Greek New Testament accurately?

Key facts

  • We have about 5,800 copies of the New Testament in Greek
  • The earliest fragment of the New Testament is from about 150AD, a small part of John’s Gospel, called Papyrus 52
  • The earliest complete New Testament is from about 300AD called the Codex Vaticanus
  • The New Testament has far more manuscripts available than any other ancient writing
  • There are very few places in the New Testament where we’re really not sure what the original version said – e.g. ‘we have peace’ or ‘let us have peace’ (in Romans 5:1)
  • There are only two well-known fragments of the New Testament which look like they have been added since the Bible was written, which most modern Bibles bracket out

Your questions answered

This is the first of a new feature called Your questions answered. (This particular video was originally recorded for my own church).

If you have a question about Christianity or the Bible, please send them in or comment below.

Marriage & Sex – Living as a Christian part 8

This is the only one of the How to Live as a Christian series where we think about specific sins. Why should we think about marriage and sex, and how do we obey Christ in this way?

In this session we cover:

  • Why the Bible considers sexual sin an important issue;
  • God’s definition of marriage;
  • What sexual sin is – especially in our society today;
  • How we can find forgiveness;
  • How we can uphold marriage.

This is part eight of the “How to Live as a Christian” video course. In due course, this will be available as a as a course for you to complete as part of the teaching programme.

The How to Live as a Christian series is designed to help new (and not-so-new) Christians get up to speed about living in the way God wants us to. It’s designed to be practical, so that it’s not just all about the theory. You can check out all the videos so far on the YouTube playlist, or if you prefer you can read the whole series.