IS THE BIBLE OUT OF DATE?
We live in an age that tends to accentuate the new and play down thç old. New cars operate better than old cars; new houses are more comfortable than old houses; new clothes are more attractive than old clothes. The new is in; the old is out. New ideas, new ways of doing things, new behavior patterns, and new trends are popular. We even dress and act in ways that attempt to hide the fact that we ourselves are growing old. It is in this climate of thinking that the Bible — the world's greatest book — is often under-valued and under-appreciated. The Bible is old, but it is not out of date. Some regard the Bible as obsolete because of its language, its Elizabethan English with its “thee,s” “thou's,” “saith's,” “doth's,” “cometh's,” “goeth's,” and the like. If the Bible were written in modern newspape style we might read of Cain's murder as
“fratricide in the first family;” of the prodigal son as the “heir who lived it up and returns home broke;” of the good Samaritan accounts as “bandits strike again on the Jericho Road;” of the conversion of the Ethiopian as “Ethiopian potentate visits Jerusalem, has strange experience on return trip,” and of Nicodemus' advice to the Sanhedrin as “ranking member of Sanhedrin advaises caution in dealing with followers of Jesus.” While some of these expreswsions may sound a bit far out to those who are familiar with the Bible, it is a fact that new translations of the Bible are constantly being made in order to eliminate the possibility of the eternally relevant and valid message of the scriptures ever being considered obsolete.. Everyone deserves to hear the inspired message of God in his own language in words that are familiar and easily understood. To the degree that modem speech versions of the Bible are accurate translations of the original message of God, they are good. The King James Version of 1611 still has a place because of its beautiful, majestic style. The American Standard Version of 1901 brought us a more accurate translation as it updated the language by nearly three hundred years. The Revised Standrud Version of the 1950̓s came closer to modern speech. The New English Bible of the 1960's did the same. Even the one-man translations by Goodspeed, Weymouth. Mcffatt. Phillips, Bratcher, and others, while less dependable than translations by groups of scholars, serves a purpose. The principles and truths of God's word are relevant for ever age. They must not be left embalmed in archaic and obsolete wording. God's book has a message for twenty first entury man, a message which he must hear and understand. There are a number of evidences that the Bible is relevant to every age. For example, Shakespeare used no less than fifty-five Biblical proper names in his plays. He also referred to 149 passages from Matthew, 138 from the Psalms, 64 from Genesis, 42 from Job, and lesser numbers from other books of the Bible. Some of his main themes also seem to have been suggested by events and situations described in the scriptures. Showing how far-reaching the influence of the Bible had become in England, F. K. Stamm, in an article in Good Housekeeping. included this paragraph, “One morning, so runs an old story, . England woke up and found that the Bible was gone. Not only had the book itself been lost, but all traces of its influences and every note of its music had disappeared from life. The result was appalling. People did not know what the the great writers were talking about. Shakespeare was almost unintelligible. Ruskin's works resembled an ancient tapestry. Everyday speech stammered and faltered. A change passed over the whole tone and temper of the nation. Life became hectic and vulgar. Some fine high quality had taken its departure from life.” The Bible's influence and relevance in America is reflected n many ways. One aspect of this influence is seen in its poetry. According to W. Muir in his book, Our Grand Old Bible, “In 1939 (an) investigator scanned more than 12,000 pages of American poetry published between 1919 and 1938, for both Old Testament and New Testament references. The 1930's showed an increase of fifty per cent over the 1920's in Biblical references within poems. For complete poems the increase was 100 per cent, the increase being centered chiefly in the New Testament rather than in the Old Testament. Instead of fading from the literature in the twentieth century, as charged, the Bible was entering it at a rapidly accelerating pace.” Notice also the current revival of interest in Jesus. We see this reflected in conversations, even in popular music of the day and in printed material of various kinds. One writer has spoken of “epidemic of the new translations” as an evidence of increased indterest in the scriptures. It appears that the nation's publishers are preparing for a bull market by publishing not only new translations but also many other books relating to religious matters. A friend of mine who lives in Israel recently told of the publication of a new book about Jesus. Almost unbelievably, this new book presents “a sympathetic and favorable” attitude toward Jesus, even though it was written by the Chief Justice of Israel's Supreme Court. This revival of interest in Christ is especially intense among young people. They have seen the bankruptcy in the lives of many of their parents. Materialism does not appeal to them. Sensualism has been tried and does not provide continuing happiness. Even “liberal” religion does not appeal. So, often with long hair and headbands, wearing sweaters and blue jeans, many young people today are carrying Bibles and reading and studying them. The desperate situation of our world seems to be calling people back to the scriptures. Just here, lest I be misunderstood, I want to say that the “Jesus Movement” is often quite different from the message and person of Jesus about whom we read in the scriptures. The lyrics and central theme of popular plays like “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell” are blasphemous, in my judgment, yet there is some encouragement to be found in the fact that many people are now talking and thinking of Jesus who were oblivious to him only a short while ago. Many of these young people who are turning away from other philosophies and ways of life do not yet really understand who Jesus is and what his message involves, but the very fact that they are reading His book and using His name is encouraging. It is not where they are that is encouraging , but the fact that they are moving in a religious direction and are seeking an accurate knowledge of New Testament Christianity. I have also been impressed with the influence of the Bible as I have noted from time to time the many expressions in daily use in our language which had their origin in the Bible. Here are a few: “All things to all men,” “Sackcloth and ashes,” “New wine in old bottles,” “Loaves and fishes,” “My brother's keeper,” “Sweat of his brow,” “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burning for burning,” “Let the dead bury their dead,” “Render unto Caesar,” “Teeth set on edge,” “Man does not live by bread alone,” “Swords into plowshares,” “Thorn in the flesh,” “Salt of the earth.” There are, of course, many, many others. Obviously, our everyday speech pays an unintentional but very real tribute to the influence of the Bible in our lives, in our thinking, and in our means of communication The most convincing of all the evidences that the Bible is as relevant to our day as to any generation of the past is the remarkable way it fits the needs of modern man. Twentieth century man has no basic needs that are new to this age. The elemental things are the same. There are no new sins or temptations. The setting has changed but the fundamental elements are as they have always been. There are no new virtues. Honesty and integrity, unselfishness and kindness, discipline and hard work are needed today just as they were in ancient times. Much of the change about us is only surface change. Just as in the past , modern man needs to know who he is , where he is from, why he is here, and where he is going, and how he should live in order to be happy here and here after. He needs standards to live by and goals to live for. He needs to know that he is loved and also to be taught how to love others. He needs to be redeemed from his sins. He needs someone to worship, who can help him reach the highest potentialities of his own nature. In our changing world, there are some things that do not change. The writer of Hebrews spoke of “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, yea and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Our Lord does not change. The great spiritual truths that he gave to mankind are as solid and sure today as they were when first given. Honesty, integrity, truth, virtue, self-control, brotherly-love, godliness, purity, and a host of other Christian virtues are just as necessary and just as important today as they were when first announced to man. Our great bewildering task is to determine in this rapidly moving world those things that may legitimately be changed, and distinguish them from those things which must not change. The Bible, God's inspired word, helps us to know the difference between the changing and the changeless. When we drive into the heart of a great city we are aware of old houses that once were grand in their appearance, the homes of the elite, but now they are cheap rooming houses, or perhaps slums. Time has changed them from their once prestigious position to eyesores in the community. Some of the great nations of the world which a few years ago had tremendous influence and power are now only a shadow on the edge of world importance. What I am saying is simply that life goes in cycles and greatness is inevitably followed by decline. Strength is inevitably followed by weakness. Often there isn't much time between the pinnacle of success and the valley of disappointment . A great family of one generation may not be a great family in the next generation. We live in a world where dissolution is all about us. Those who are most successful will know, within a few years, about disappointment and failure. So in our world there is a constant need for renewal, for restoration, for some kind of rebuilding, for some kind of beginning again. The Bible is a marvelous self-correcting device. When man individually or collectively, in the church or in the nation, goes wrong, here is the standard that shows him the way back. When man has drifted away from the correct pattern of living, a reading of God's inspired word leads him to the true standard and encourages him to come back to the right way. In his infinite wisdom God has provided in the scriptures a mechanism by which wayward mankind can come back to the old paths. In the Old Testament, in the book of Jeremiah, there is this meaningful statement, “Thus saith Jehovah, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way: and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Throughout the history of man there has been the recurring need to return to the old paths. This has been especially true in the history of God's people. Over and over again there has been a drift away from God's way and a need to return to the old paths. It is our responsibility in every age to spend time and effort in learning God's word. This means private Bible study and public instruction in the scriptures. Then, when one is absolutely sure that he knows God's will, it is imperative that he have the strength and determination to live as God wants him to live. As long as there is a Bible in the world, and as long as there are people who will read and heed the teachings of the Bible , we can be confident that there will be those who who will walk in te old paths in a manner pleasing to God. The Bible is God's means of renewal. In this day of great breakthroughs in fields of scientific knowledge, we accept by faith the greatest of all breakthroughs, and that is God's entering human history in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. The most important fact in all history is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). As Dr. Norvel Young wrote recently in one of our religious journals, the essential facts of the life of Christ are these: First, Jesus lived. Will Durant in his History of Civilization said that the denial of the existence of Jesus seemed never to have occurred even to the bitterest Gentile or Jewish opponents of early Christianity. They knew the facts could not be refuted. The second fact is that Jesus died for our sins. The third fact is that he rose from the dead. We do not worship a Savior on a cross but a Savior who victoriously rose from the grave. The fourth fact is that he lives today. The apostle Paul wrote, “Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him and given name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9). The final fact is that we will meet Christ in judgment. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body” (II Corinthians 5:10). The central story of the Bible is the story of Christ, the divine Son of God. What will you do with Jesus? We can ignore him, we can deny him, or we can accept him. Only when we accept him by believing him to be the divine Son of God, by confessing that faith before men, by turning away from the sinfulness of the world, and by being baptized into Christ, do we insure our entrance into the eternal heavenly home where we will spend eternity with God, Christ, and the righteous of all ages. As someone has said, In Christ we have:
A love that can never be fathomed:
A life that can never die:
A righteousness that can never be tarnished:
A peace that can never be understood:
A rest that can never be disturbed:
A joy that can never be diminished:
A hope that can never be disappointed:
A glory that can never be clouded:
A happiness that can never be interrupted:
Resources that can never be exhausted.
Our hope of eternal happiness lies in Christ; our knowledge of Christ comes through the inspired scriptures. It is for this reason, more than for any other, that the Bible can never be considered out of date or unnecessary.*
*This message is a reproduction of a message presented by Batsell Barret Baxter, now deceased, on The Herald of Truth Television Program in the 1970's, produced by the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.