Literary Criticism is the field of study that evaluates, analyzes, describes, and interprets literature or written works. It does not mean “to criticize literature” as in “to find fault with it,” but it is simply the science of examining if a work of literature is what it claims to be; was it written when it claims to have been written; was it written as a true report or a fantasy (novel); what the meaning or point of this literature is.
If someone did not want you to know him, how hard would it be to discover his personality, his characteristic behaviors, his likes and dislikes? Almost impossible, we would guess. But if he was willing for you to know him, could you discover these things without his cooperation? Perhaps to a small degree. But to really know another personality, he must be accessible, cooperative and self-revealing. You can not know anyone who chooses not to reveal himself or herself. So God, the Infinite Personal Creator, has chosen to reveal something about Himself that we can not discover apart from His accessibility, cooperation and self-revelation.
For many, their experiences with Jesus, called the Christ, are sufficient evidence that He is the uniquely born Son of God, that He is the agent of creation, and that He is the savior of their souls, that He has promised eternal life and will deliver on those promises when this life ends. But for many, especially those who have grown up under different religions, and even for some who have grown up in Christian societies, there is an intellectual hunger to know that the basis of their relationship is found in a book that is an accurate self-revelation of God, a cooperative expression of what He is like, and one by which He has made Himself accessible.
To accurately assess whether Jesus is who He said He is, these must decide if they believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, that it is an accurate report of how the Creator has interacted with His creation throughout history. For many, this faith is simply the acceptance of what they were taught as children. This is fine if what you were taught as a child was true, but what about children who are taught that Vishnu or someone else created them? Or if they were taught that we evolved out of nothingness and will someday merge into the universe, absorption into the infinite as Buddhism teaches? Or if the child was taught that Mohammed received words from God that contradict what the Bible teaches? What if what you were taught as a child is untrue, whether it is based on the Bible, the Vedic literature of Hinduism, the Three Jewels of Buddhism, the Quran, or some other religious textbook? How would you know if what you believed was the Truth?
Let’s say that you assume the Bible to be the Word of God.
How accurate is the translation of the Bible that you read? How do you know that it is an accurate transcription of what was revealed to the author? Did something get twisted in the times before it was written down, when the stories were being carried by oral traditions? Did editors change the stories to make them more exciting or remove details to save heroes from embarrassment? And who decided which books of the Bible were the inspired word of God?
Read the next few blogs over the next few Sundays and we’ll address some of these questions, but let me give you the straight conclusion to begin.
There is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible. There is no book in history that has more power to change the human condition than the Bible. There is no book in history that is more important for knowing the God Who Is There than the Bible.
“The Word of God can create life, and transform human personality. It is the stimulus that causes conviction, the summons that calls me to repentance, the solvent than cleans the guilty heart, and the pattern for a life of holiness. Other literature may be uplifting and wise, but the scriptural Word of God is revelatory and authoritative.” Merrill C. Tenney, The Bible, The Living Word of Revelation.
See May 17, 2015 for more information on the Reliability of the Bible.