I’m daily working as the Director of Outreach and Evangelism at The Bridge Bible Fellowship in Reseda, California. Our church is located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.
We’re privileged to have two large Colleges nearby with thousands of students. Pierce College has 20.000+ students, and California State University Northridge has nearly 40.000 students. Part of my job is to look for good places (fishing ponds) where we can reach the lost with the gospel, and colleges are ideal places with so many students.
A Friendly Conversation with a Muslim
I remember a conversation I had with a student named Moid last fall. He identified himself as a Muslim due to his upbringing, but he didn’t consider himself a devoted Muslim—just like his parents.
After we had talked for a few minutes, we found a bench on the college campus where we could talk. I wanted to get to know Moid better, so I asked him personal questions about his education and background. After a while, I turned the conversation to his Muslim belief and asked if he would explain to me what he believed about Christ and the Bible. Moid gave me a common Muslim answer—He believes Jesus is a prophet sent by God and that Mohammed is God’s last prophet. I sensed that Moid would object, but wanting to guide our conversation in a certain direction, I went ahead and asked him about his perspective on the truthfulness of the message about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection from Scripture. As expected, Moid said he didn’t believe Jesus died on the cross. Then he raised one of the most common objections to the reliability of the Bible. Like many others, he said that “The Bible has been translated and rewritten so many times that it is full of errors and can’t be trusted.”
A Different Apologetic Approach
I often hear Christians brush off such objection quickly by responding that the Bible is the Word of God and thus reliable. Such an answer is completely accurate, but I don’t think it properly deals with the critic’s objection. We must always remember that an objection reveals a person’s understanding of something, whether they are right or wrong. If they are wrong or misinformed, I like to take 1 Peter 3:15 to heart where the Apostle Paul instructs us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Although it’s right to give simple answers like “The Bible is the Word of God and thus reliable.” I like to give a fuller answer to help the critic understand the underlining problem with the objection and patiently teach them and correct their thinking (2 Tim 2:24).
Answering The Objection
In my conversation with Moid, I first wanted to make sure I understood his objection correctly. So, I asked, “Do you believe that the Bible was written in one language, then translated into another language, then translated into another language and so forth until it was finally translated into English?”
Moid answered me with a resounding, “Yes.”
Based on his belief, I told him that I certainly understood why he doubted the reliability of the Bible because many errors could have crept in during such a translation process. To add weight to his skepticism, I shared an analogy known as the “Telephone Game.” I said, “Imagine you are in a circle with ten other students. The first student shares a sentence with the person to his right, who then tells it to the person next to him, and so forth until the last person has been told the sentence. He or she then shares the sentences with everyone, but it usually has nothing to do with the original sentence because it has been changed (corrupted) along the way around the circle.
Do you believe it reflects the Bible translation process?” I asked Moid.
He again said, “Yes.”
But then I told him, “That’s not how the Bible is translated. The Bible hasn’t been rewritten throughout history. Take the New Testament, for example. It was originally written in Greek. Although we don’t have the original autographs, we have close to 6,000 copies of the Greek manuscripts. These manuscripts were made within a short period of the original documents and agree with each other almost 100%. So, it’s acceptable to say that we have a very accurate collection of copies of the original documents.
Why does it matter? Why is it essential that we have nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts that agree with each other? Because when we translate the Bible, we don’t translate it from a translation (e.g., KJV) of a translation (Latin Vulgate) of a translation (Greek version). We always translate from the original language into English or whatever contemporary language is being translated.
As you can see,” I told Moid, “it is a one-step process to ensure the best, most reliable, and accurate translation of the text.” The English New Testament is translated from Greek. The Danish New Testament is translated from Greek. And, get this, the Russian New Testament is translated from Greek. There is no middleman translation. Our translations are, therefore, trustworthy and reflect what the text initially said—We have around 6,000 Greek documents to confirm it. It parallels to a man making a statement in front of a judge with 6000 witnesses to attest the truthfulness of his statement. No judge in his right mind would dismiss such evidence. Why should we then do that when it comes to the reliability of the Bible?”
A Roadblock Removed
Moid hadn’t heard that argument before, and it seemed to satisfy his skepticism. He didn’t object to the Bible’s reliability again as we continued our discussion. On the contrary, he was more open and curious to learn what the Gospels said about Jesus’ miraculous birth, life, death, and resurrection. Whether Moid had accepted my argument or not wouldn’t have changed the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture. But by given Moid a fuller answer to his objection and helping him understand the actual Bible translation process—a roadblock was moved, his perspective was changed, and he was open to talk about what the Bible teaches about Jesus as the Son of God.
Moid continued to have many good questions, and I met with him weekly until his school took him to another state. Please keep him in your prayers—Pray that God will open his heart to the gospel as he did with Lydia in Acts 16.