Nannygranne said, “Well, Eli, after a couple of hundred years, some people started to wonder if the Bible was just a made-up story. The only copy of the Old Testament available to them was written 850 years after Jesus was born. They called it the Masoretic Text. So they decided the Old Testament was made up by New Testament writers to try to make Jesus look more important.”
Eli leaned forward, anxious to know what she would say next. “What happened?”
“God showed up, Eli.” That’s what Nannygranne had whispered. “God showed up.”
That was the end of the conversation after Bible class that morning. It was to be continued at tonight’s “social-distancing ice cream social.”
Parked outside the church building was an ice cream truck filled with treats for young and old. Families sat, spaced apart from other families, but enjoying being together in the evening breeze. Masks were impossible while eating but were close at hand before and after.
After Eli made his choice at the truck, Nannygranne motioned for him to come to join her in the shade of the building. Eli plopped down on the grass a short distance from his teacher.
Nannygranne smiled and asked “What kind did you get, Eli?”
“I got a blue coconut push-up.” He held up his treat for her examination.
“Looks pretty, too.” Then: “Let’s see. Where were we in our talk this morning?”
Eli paused from licking his dessert. “Hmmm, something about God showing up.”
“Right. We were talking about how people were beginning to say that Christians wrote the Old Testament books after the New Testament. They’d decided that the stories were made up to make it look like Jesus was a savior. The oldest copies of the Old Testament they had were hundreds of years newer than the New Testament.
“More and more people had started not wanting God to be in charge. One man wrote a book that said God didn’t make people, that other creatures gradually turned into humans.1 Another wrote a book that said only the strongest and best humans should be in charge.2 Still another man wrote that God is dead.3“
“Dead?! Why would anyone say God was dead?”
“As I told you, more and more people did not want God to be in charge of their lives. But something happened in 1946 that forced people to admit that the Old Testament was much older than the New Testament!”
“What happened.” Eli, almost out of ice cream, was starting to get into the topic.
“A young teenage shepherd boy was leading his goats around, looking for grass in the desert by the Dead Sea in Israel. That area has many, many caves, and one of his goats was lost. He was throwing rocks into the caves to scare the goat out. One rock he threw broke something in a cave. ‘What could THAT be?’ he thought. He went inside and found some big vases full of scrolls made of leather. He took some of the leather, thinking it would make a good pair of sandals. He stuck it in his backpack and went on to find his goat.”
“They had backpacks?”
“Well, not like yours, but a bag he hung on his shoulder to carry his lunch and water, medicine for his goats, and stuff like that. Anyway, later a shoemaker came by the boy’s village and when he saw the leather, he saw writing on it. When he asked a friend, who knew about that kind of writing, the friend said, ‘WOW! This thing is ancient! Where did it come from?’
“So the boy took them back and they found thousands and thousands of those scrolls. It was a vast hidden library! In fact, I got to go and see that very cave this year, and got to see some of those ancient scrolls when I visited Israel! It turns out that there were at least twelve caves with scrolls in them and over 50,000 pieces of writing.4”
“Were Bibles there, too?”
“Well, they were scrolls and not bound books—but about 800 copies of the Old Testament books, some of them, in 1949, were 2200 years old. And do you know the best part?”
Eyes widening, Eli said, “What?”
“Those old copies they found said almost exactly what the copies they already had said. And those copies were made 1250 years apart! 5”
“I know! So we do NOT have to worry about whether our Bible says what God’s workers wrote in the first place. The Bibles we have now are translated from those old, old copies and are very accurate. God knew we would need those copies someday. And just when we needed them, there they were. How does that make you feel?”
“Much better! You said you have something to give my brother?”
“I sure do.” She reached into her purse and pulled out three copies of a Biblical History chart. “Here’s one for you, your brother, and even your parents. I hope they like them as much as I do.”
Taking the papers, Eli turned and ran to his parents. When he gave them the pages, they looked them over, then waved and smiled gratefully.
Nannygranne took a deep breath of the summer air, donned her mask again, and rose to leave. She missed hugs but thought gratefully that the Word of God never returns empty. And God, in His providence, always gives us just what we need at precisely the right time. He always has, and always will.
1 Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin, 1859
2 Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, 1925
3 The Gay Science, Frederick Nietzsche, 1882
4 Dead Sea Scrolls, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls
5 Manuscript Accuracy, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=444