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Jeffery Sheler: Is the Bible True?

Jeffery L. Sheler, Is the Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures (Harper San Francisco/Zondervan, 1999), 279 pages, ISBN 9780062013460.

As usual, Christianity Today featured its annual list of leading Christian books in its April edition. This year it offered the 10 best, several honorable mentions, and also a list of the last century’s 100 leading books. I had not read any of this year’s list so I started with number one, Jeffery Sheler’s Is the Bible True?

I quickly learned that the author is not a theologian or scholar in a religious sense. Sheler is a journalist who has written much about religion for his employer, U.S. News and World Report, in the last ten years. Sheler brings his journalistic skills to bear in his book, along with the access that his position gives him into academia and other hard to penetrate circles of influence. Sheler also had the advantages of the superior and at times amazing research talents and resources of his magazine staff along with the encouragement of his employers. Quite a combination for such a book.

The book’s subtitle tells the reader that she is about to learn or confirm that the Scriptures are essentially true, so that the conclusion of the debate that is presented is not ever in doubt. Nonetheless I found that Sheler methodically and fairly presented the most compelling facts or suppositions that are today’s fashion in the endless argument about the validity of the Bible.

Sheler divided his text into six parts. He begins with a quick review of the history of these age old arguments: how the Bible or canon came to be, who authored the various books, and why the Bible is a revelation-story about God and His Son.

Part two deals with the good and bad archaeological finds of the last 150 years. It includes a look at the lack of any tangible evidence that any patriarch actually lived. I have always found discussion of this dearth of “proof” worrisome. I remember when I was working my way through Gunther Plaut’s commentary on the Torah asking God why He hadn’t solved all the mystery of the patriarchs and the first 1000 or whatever years of scripture’s content with a few well placed nicely illustrated artifacts. Such would be so helpful and would end so much of the debate that never ceases. God spoke to my heart at that point and said “Mur, I am God, I don’t have to prove myself to men. It is the other way around, men have to prove themselves to me.”

I found the part on archaeology most helpful. I had been unaware of most of the material presented by Sheler on this subject. I also learned a great deal in part three which presents what we have learned so far from the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also tells the story of this find and how those involved have conducted themselves. We humans have a tendency to look out for number one— not necessarily a nice attribute.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2000

About the Author: H. Murray Hohns went home to be with Jesus on November 28, 2012. He was on staff at the largest church in Hawaii and served on his denomination's investment committee from 1999 until his death. Hohns held two degrees in Civil Engineering, an MA in Theology from Fuller Seminary, and served as an instructor at Foursquare's New Hope Christian College (formerly Pacific Rim Christian College) in Honolulu. He wrote six engineering books and hundreds of articles in every type of newspaper, magazine and journal.

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