Correspondence: Authenticity of the Bible
The Light (Pakistan), 16th January 1923 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 3–4)
Mianwali [present-day Pakistan]
17th December 1922
I have been sent a copy of The Light dated 1st November 1922 and my attention has been drawn to the letter regarding Joseph’s genealogy.
A careful reading of both Gospels will show that neither says that Jesus was the son of Joseph.
My reply in short would be simply: “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The authenticity of the Bible cannot be questioned on the letter, but by its spirit.
But perhaps a few ideas might help your correspondent to understand the many serious discrepancies in the letter and in parts in the spirit of the Bible. This particular discrepancy is quite in the letter and not in the spirit and may be due to aliases or faulty tables of rival claimants supported by the respective disciples; discrepancies of tradition or other such-like human imperfections.
Firstly, the Bible does not claim to be the dictated word of God, as the Quran does, but it is a library of many books written by many men, who lived over a long period of years. These men were inspired by God and their writings are their interpretations of the inspiration, and are thus biased and limited by the prejudices and ability of the writer and the language at his disposal. The Old Testament is the result of inspiration in the minds of historians and great national and religious Reformers. The Gospels are the inspired memoirs of the life of Jesus Christ, written by disciples many years after Jesus had risen. The Epistles are inspired letters from Elders of the Early Church to Christian communities cautioning and exhorting them and incidentally telling us what doctrines were held by the Early Church.
The Bible as a whole gives us a history of the working out of God’s purpose of redemption of mankind by the progressive manifestation of Himself to man leading up to and including Jesus Christ, recorded by imperfect hands, guided by imperfect minds.
Then the question must be asked: how can one know what is truth and what is imperfect and what is false? Are there any tests or standards? Yes, there are many. I give a few below.
Let us consider as fundamental that God is true and every man a liar and that God is Love as Father. He is a Person and an Energy. First, all that is in unison with the above ideas is truth. All that is not is imperfect. All that is contrary is false. Regarding the imperfect we must try to understand the writer and consider his character and the general outlook on religion of his people and the people of surrounding nations and allow for his bias and prejudices. Then in as much his writings are higher than the conceptions of this time and are reconcilable to the above ideas, he is responding to God’s inspirations. The rest will be tradition or historic or immaterial.
Let us take as God’s purpose that He created man in order to win his free, adoring love; that is, the work of redemption will not be complete until men live again in perfect harmony with God and with one another. This surely can be possible if we really become like Jesus Christ (the Truth).
Then again Christianity is not a philosophy to be discussed, or a problem to be solved, but a Person to be loved and a life to be lived. Thus, before passing a verdict on Christianity or the authenticity of the Bible, it is necessary to go beyond the teaching to the person of Jesus Christ and study Him (His character, mind, emotions, and desires, etc.). For it is only in knowing Him that one can really love Him. It is only in loving Him that one can be really convinced that He is very God indeed and surrendering all to Him, lose one’s life to this world and to live to Him (the Life), and grow like Him.
Lastly, the Bible must be read with prayer for Light, with an open mind and an unflinching desire for Truth, for it is God alone Who can bear witness to His own words, and they will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men until they are sealed by the inward testimony of His Spirit.
Response from the Editor of The Light:
The first two paragraphs of your letter only re-echo the idea of our correspondent, viz., the Bible is not the word of God, and should not be treated as such. We derive the meaning or sense or, to use your word, the “spirit” from the words before us, and if the accuracy or authenticity of letter is not guaranteed, we cannot understand how one can be sure as to what the author really meant.
As regards your “fundamental” that “every man is liar,” I will simply say that it is a disgrace to humanity to think like that. Man is created “after the image of God” and is endowed with vast capabilities to make infinite progress.
If “Christianity is not a philosophy to be discussed,” it tantamounts to say that we should not try to understand the doctrines of Christianity. Such a religion then is hardly fit for rational beings.