Can We Trust The Bible

The Bible is an old book written thousands of years ago! How can we trust it?

 

 

The Bible is unarguably an incredible book.  It is the best-selling, most quoted, most published, most circulated, most translated and most influential book in the history of mankind.  It is also the most stolen book.

 

But why should anyone believe that the Bible is actually true?

 

Maybe the Bible is a fraud?  What about other books like the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon?  What makes the Bible any different from those other books?

 

These are questions that intelligent, critical-thinking people are asking today.  True disciples need to be able to answer these questions (1 Peter 3:15).

 

This study will provide at least some of the evidence that demonstrates that the Bible is indeed what it claims to be, the inspired, trustworthy Word of God (written by men, yes, but men who were led by the Holy Spirit).

 

There are ten points (listed below) that prove the case for the Bible and Jesus Christ!

 

The prayer is that if you are already a disciple, your faith in the Bible will be strengthened.  If you are a skeptic, hopefully you will reconsider your thinking.

 

1.     Fulfilled Prophecy

 

Fulfilled prophecy is something that sets the Bible apart from every other religious book.  And the Bible does have some competition today.  There are 26 other religious books that people of faith believe are divinely inspired (the Hindu Vedas, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, etc.)  Of these 26 books, none of them contain any specific, fulfilled prophecies.

 

In stark contrast, the Bible is literally filled with hundreds of specific, detailed prophecies that were written hundreds of years before their fulfillment.  In fact, 27% of the Bible contains what was predictive prophecy at the time that it was written.  And the authors of the Bible did not just predict some vague things like Nostradamus or Jeanne Dixon (who have been proven to have been false prophets over and over again); they were very specific. 

 

Consider a few of the Old Testament prophecies made regarding the Messiah (the Saviour that God promised he would send into the world) hundreds of years before they were fulfilled:

 

       Born of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 22:18)

       Born of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10)

       Born in the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12f)

       Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)

       Born while the temple was still standing (Malachi 3:1)

       Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)

       Would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, cause the

                lame to walk (Isaiah 35:5-6)

       Would be rejected by His own people (Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 2:7)

       Would die at a certain, predicted time (Daniel 9:24-26)

       Would die in a certain, predicted way (Psalm 22:16-18, Isaiah 53, Zechariah

12:10)

       Would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27-32)

 

These are just a few of the prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah.  The Bible also contains many other prophecies about the rise and fall of nations and the regathering of the Jewish people back to their homeland.  The fact that these prophecies, and hundreds of others, have been fulfilled, even though they were spoken hundreds and even thousands of years before their fulfillment, is strong evidence of a God, all-knowing and all-powerful, orchestrating the Bible’s completion.  No other religious writing is able to substantiate its prophecies with this kind of supernatural evidence.

 

A skeptic might say, “Hold on!  Maybe the disciples just made up all these things that Jesus supposedly did.  Perhaps they read all of those prophecies in the Old Testament and decided to make up an elaborate story about Jesus fulfilling them!”

 

That is a legitimate concern.  However, that concern will be addressed in section 8.

 

2.     Archaeological Evidence

 

Archaeological discoveries can never prove that the Bible is divinely inspired, but they do help build a compelling case for the historical reliability of the Bible.  Many people today think that the Bible cannot be divinely inspired because it is a book of mythology, and that the persons, places and events mentioned in the Bible were inventions by the authors.  However, the advance of archaeology has proven them wrong.

 

For the past 150 years, archaeologists have been verifying the exact truthfulness of the Bible’s detailed records of various events, customs, persons, cities, nations and geographical locations.  The Bible has proven so accurate that archaeologists often refer to it as a reliable guide when they go to dig in new areas.

 

Nelson Glueck, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine and who is considered one of the greatest archaeologists ever, wrote:

 

No archaeological discovery has ever controverted [overturned] a Biblical reference.  Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.  And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.[1]

 

These are the words of a man who has been credited with uncovering more than 1500 ancient sites in the Middle East.[2]

 

By 1958, Donald Wiseman, an archaeologist and Professor of Assyriology at the University of London estimated that there were more than 25,000 discoveries that had confirmed the truthfulness of the Bible.[3]

 

What is staggering about this enormous number of discoveries is that this was the estimate back in 1958!  There have been many more discoveries since then!  Here is a small sampling of some of the discoveries:

 

A.    Pontius Pilate

 

The New Testament authors tell us that Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea at the time of Christ who oversaw Jesus’s trial and then sentenced Him to death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:2, Luke 3:1).  Was he a legendary figure that the authors of the New Testament invented?  No!  In June 1961, a team of Italian archaeologists was digging in Caesarea, northwest of Jerusalem. While digging in the jumbled ruins of a Roman theatre, these archaeologists made the amazing discovery of a limestone block about three feet tall and two feet wide that had been turned upside and reused as part of a flight of steps during one of the renovations of the theatre. It bore an inscription in Latin mentioning “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

 

This is amazing evidence outside of the Bible that Pontius Pilate was an actual historical person, that he reigned in the very position ascribed to him by the gospels, and that as prefect he would have had the authority to condemn or pardon Jesus, just as the gospel accounts report.  Since the time of this discovery in 1961, Pilate’s official residence at Caesarea has also been identified.

 

B.    Caiaphas

 

The New Testament tells us that the name of the Jewish high priest at the time of Jesus was Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3).  Caiaphas was the one who presided over the late night Jewish trial of Jesus at which Jesus confessed Himself to be the Messiah, resulting in His condemnation (Matthew 26:57-68).  It was also in the courtyard of Caiaphas’s house that Peter denied knowing Jesus (John 18:24-27).  Was Caiaphas a New Testament fabrication?  No!

 

In 1990, a team of construction workers building a water park approximately two miles south of Jerusalem accidentally unearthed a first-century burial cave.  A bulldozer unintentionally broke through the roof of the cave.  The yield of this discovery was an uncharacteristically ornate ossuary (a bone box used in burial) with an inscription on it in Aramaic that read, “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.”  Inside the ossuary were the bones of a man who was approximately sixty years old at the time of his death. Although the gospel writers and the Jewish historian Josephus referred to the high priest as “Caiaphas,” Josephus tells us that his full name was “Joseph Caiaphas,” the very name etched into the side of the ossuary.  His ossuary is on display today in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

 

C.     David

 

Up until 1993, not a shred of evidence could be found anywhere outside of the Bible that David the king of Israel every existed, and so “it had become fashionable in some academic circles to dismiss the David stories as an invention of priestly propagandists who were trying to dignify Israel’s past after the Babylonian exile.”[4]  The critics’ verdict was that David was “nothing more than a figure of religious and political mythology.”[5]

 

Well, their skepticism regarding David “collapsed overnight” in 1993 when a nearly 3000-year-old inscription on black basalt was discovered in the town of Dan, a little north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.  The inscription, written in Aramaic by Israel’s enemies, describing the defeat of the kings of Judah and Israel, mentioned “the king of Israel” and the king of the “House of David.”  This was an amazing discovery and helped to verify for the first time that David was an actual historical figure.  Michael Lemonick, writing for Time, acknowledged that, “The sceptics’ claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend.”[6]  Jeffrey Sheler, the religion writer for U.S. News and World Report, said:

 

The fragmentary reference to David was a historical bombshell.  Never before had the familiar name of Judah’s ancient warrior king, a central figure of the Hebrew Bible and, according to Christian Scripture, an ancestor of Jesus, been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible.  Sceptical scholars had long seized upon that fact to argue that David was a mere legend… Now, at last, there was material evidence, an inscription written not by Hebrew scribes but by an enemy of the Israelites a little more than a century after David’s presumptive lifetime.  It seemed to be a clear corroboration of the existence of King David’s dynasty and, by implication, of David himself.”[7]

 

Archaeology has not proven so helpful for other religious writings.  Consider the Book of Mormon:

 

Not one piece of evidence has ever been found to support the Book of Mormon – not a trace of the large cities it names, no ruins, no coins, no letters or documents or monuments, nothing in writing.  Not even one of the rivers or mountains or any of the topography it mentions has ever been identified.[8]

 

Nothing which demonstrates that the Book of Mormon is anything other than an early 19th-century piece of American fiction, invented by Joseph Smith, has ever been found.  We will address numerous other problems with the Book of Mormon later.

 

3.     The Bible’s Internal Consistency

What is meant by the Bible’s internal consistency?  The term means the Bible’s internal harmony.  From the first book of the Bible, Genesis, to the last book, Revelation, the Bible is absolutely consistent in what it teaches.

 

A skeptic might say, “Why is that evidence of divine origin?  There are plenty of books that are internally consistent!”

 

There are seven factors that make the internal consistency of the Bible amazing evidence of its divine origin:

 

A.    The Bible addresses life’s most controversial questions

 

A history book writes about a battle, who won, lost, how it happened, etc.  The work of the historian does not change our lives today on any fundamental level.  The Bible authors wrote about much different questions.  They tackled the big questions of life:

 

How did the universe come into existence?

Does God exist?  If so, what is He like?

Why does man exist?

What is our purpose for being here?

Why is there evil and suffering in the world?

What happens to us after we die?

 

These are the big, controversial questions of life. These are the kinds of questions that people tend to disagree about (ask your neighbours!), and yet they are the very questions that the authors of the Bible tackle head-on, chapter after chapter, book after book.  And they do so absolutely consistently.

 

B.    The Bible is a collection of 66 different documents

 

It might be easy to have harmony in a book like the Qur’an.  Why? Because it is a single book.  This is very different from the Bible.  The Bible is made up of 39 Old Testament documents and 27 New Testament documents.

 

C.     The Bible was written by approximately 40 different authors

 

Again, it might be easy to have internal harmony in the Qur’an.  Why?  Because it contains the teachings of one man: Muhammad, born about 570 years after Jesus.  The Bible is absolutely different.  It contains the teachings of approximately 40 different men!

 

D.    Many of the Bible’s authors came from different educational and cultural backgrounds

 

Peter was a fisherman.  Paul was a scholar.  Daniel was a prime minister.  Asaph was a musician.  Matthew was a tax collector.  David was a shepherd, then a king. Luke was a historian and medical doctor.  Men with such different backgrounds are likely to have huge disagreements on life’s fundamental questions, and yet the works of these men collected in the Bible are absolutely consistent on these questions and other matters.

 

E.     The Bible was written over a period of over 1500 years, covering more than 60 generations.

 

Many of the authors did not even know one another.  How could the Bible therefore have such internal consistency if authors never met to compare ideas?

 

F.     Many of the authors were separated by hundreds of miles geographically

 

The Bible was written in a variety of places on three different continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.  For example, Paul wrote four letters while imprisoned in Rome.  The apostle John wrote while a prisoner on the isle of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea.  The prophet Ezekiel wrote his work while held captive in Babylon.  Again, this shows that the authors of the Bible were agreeing on fundamental questions without every having the opportunity to meet.

 

G.    The Bible was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek

 

Even if authors of the Bible could cross space and time to compare ideas of what to put in the Bible, they would have had to cross a language barrier that stops many of us today from communicating effectively with those much closer to us.

 

As we can see, if we had to pull together 40 different people from 60 different generations, who live on three different continents, who speak three different languages, and ask them to write 66 different documents regarding life’s most controversial questions, we would probably have some serious problems!  That book is likely to be a confusing and difficult read!

 

Yet, in spite of all these factors, the Bible is a perfectly harmonious, consistent account of how God is seeking to reconcile sinners (like you and me) back to Himself through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This internal consistency is amazing evidence that the authors of the Bible were being guided by the Holy Spirit when they wrote the different books of the Bible.

 

2 Peter 1:20-21 states, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

 

God used man’s weakness, the inability to be unified on an important topic, and showed that the Bible could only be without contradictions if man did not write it but God did.

 

4.     Extra-biblical Writings

 

Extra-biblical writings are the dozens of historical writings outside the Bible (in the records of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc.) that verify the historical accuracy of many of the names of people, places and events mentioned in the Bible. External sources verify the historical existence of 50 people mentioned in the Old Testament and 30 people written about in the New Testament.[9]  Because of the engravings and statues, we even know what 18 (12 from the Old Testament and six from the New Testament) looked like!

 

These extra-biblical writings have helped corroborate numerous details in the Bible, including details surrounding Jesus’s life.  Some critics of Christianity today state that Jesus Himself never existed, that He was the invention of some clever deceivers in the first century.  This is absurd and only demonstrates the critics’ ignorance of the facts or their willingness to overlook the facts.  There actually is very good historical evidence outside the Bible that Jesus lived.  There are 39 or more sources outside the Bible, written within 150 years of Jesus’s life, that attest to more than 100 facts regarding Jesus’s life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection.[10]

 

One of these external sources is the work of first-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.  In his writings, Josephus mentions more than a dozen individuals talked about in the Bible, including: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, James “the brother of Jesus,” Felix, Festus, and even Jesus Himself. Listen to one of Josephus’s statements about Jesus, taken from the Arabic text of his work called Antiquities,[11] a text unchallenged by most critics of the Bible:

 

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [He] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples.  Pilate condemned Him to be crucified to die.  And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship.  They reported that He had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that He was alive.

 

These are not the words of the Bible, or of a Christian, but of a Jewish Roman historian writing outside the pages of Scripture.  Josephus verifies for us that Jesus actually lived and was even crucified under the reign of Pontius Pilate.  Some of the other 39 sources that mention Jesus include:

 

A.    Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55-120), a Roman historian

B.    Gaius Suetonius (AD 117-138), the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian

C.     The Jewish Talmud (Sanhedrin AD 43)

D.    Thallus (c. AD 52), a Samaritan historian

 

Other writings outside the Bible corroborate details surrounding:

 

                   The Flood

                   Long life spans prior to the Flood

                   Details surrounding the Exodus

                   The Assyrian invasion during the days of Hezekiah

                   Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah

                   The prolonged darkness on the day Jesus died

                   The expulsion of the Jews from Rome in AD 49.

 

5.     The Bible’s Amazing Scientific Accuracy and Foresight

 

Of course, many critics of the Bible would disagree that the Bible is scientifically accurate.  They would point to verses that make statements like “the sun stood still” in Joshua 10:13, or John’s reference to “the four corners of the Earth” (Revelation 7:1) and conclude that the Bible teaches that the Sun revolves around a flat, four-cornered Earth.

 

These critics are overlooking the fact that the writers of the Bible were not writing a textbook on astronomy.  They were describing things as they appeared to the eye (as was the case in Joshua 10) or employing normal figures of speech, as was the case with John’s reference to the “four corners of the Earth.”

 

We, living in this scientifically advanced age, still do the same thing!  We do not wake up early in the morning, throw open the window and say, “What a beautiful Earth revolve!”  No!  We say, “What a beautiful sunrise!”  Technically speaking, that is unscientific terminology.  Meteorologists tell us on the nightly news what time the “sunset” will be.  We do not accuse them of being unscientific.  They are using simple, straightforward language to describe the way things appear.

 

When the apostle John referred to the “four corners of the Earth” in Revelation 7:1, he was using a figure of speech to describe the extremities of the land in the four cardinal directions: North, South, East and West.  We still use this figure of speech today.  News agencies boast about how they have sent out their reporters to the four corners of the Earth to track down stories.

 

So, understanding these facts (that the writers of the Bible described things in simple terms, as they appeared to the eye, and that they employed figures of speech-metaphors, personification and such) does away with many of the alleged scientific inaccuracies in the Bible.

 

When it comes to known, testable, verifiable facts, the Bible has been found to be in perfect harmony with the way things really are, which is amazing when we think about it because the Bible was completed 2000 years ago, long before the invention of microscopes, telescopes, satellites, and all the other technological marvels that have allowed us to investigate our Earth and the universe.  The fact that the Bible was written so long ago and yet does not contain any scientific errors might be considered a miracle itself. Why?  Without exception, every ancient religious writing has certain unscientific views of astronomy, medicine, hygiene and so on.

 

For example, the Hindu Vedas teach that the Earth is flat and triangular.  They also teach that earthquakes are the result of elephants shaking their bodies underneath the ground.  They also claim that civilizations live on the dark side of the moon and that there are cities on the Sun.  I get hot just thinking about that.

 

The Qur’an Surah 18:86 states that the Sun sets in a muddy spring: “when he reached the setting-place of the Sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring.”

 

The Bible steers free of these kinds of errors.  But not only that, it makes known amazing facts about our world and the universe thousands of years before scientists discovered that they were actually true.  Here are a few examples:

 

A.    The sun

 

In contrast to the Qur’an, the Bible teaches that the Sun is actually on a circuit through space.  In Psalm 19:6, David said about the sun, “Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end.”  For many years, critics scoffed at this verse, claiming that it taught that the Sun revolves around the Earth.  Scientists at that time thought the Sun was stationary.  However, it has been discovered in recent years that the Sun is in fact on a circuit through space, just like the Bible states.

 

B.    The shape of the earth

 

Job 26:10 states that God has inscribed a circle of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.  This boundary between light and darkness is where evening and morning occur.  The boundary is a circle.  Why?  The Earth is round.  Another verse that speaks of a circular-shaped Earth is Isaiah 40:22: “It is He [God] who sits above the circle of the Earth.”  Isaiah wrote that between 740 and 680 BC.  That was at least 300 years before Aristotle suggested in his book, On the Heavens, that the Earth might be a sphere.

 

C.     The suspension of the earth

 

Before Isaac Newton discovered gravity, Hindus believed that the Earth rested on the back of an elephant who stood on the back of a turtle that was swimming in a great endless sea.  The Greeks believed that the mythical god Atlas carried the Earth on his shoulders.  What did the Bible say?  In one of the oldest books in the Bible, Job said (in Job 26:7), “He [God] hangs the Earth on nothing.”  Scientists did not discover that the Earth hangs on nothing until 1650.

 

D.    The stars

 

Before the invention of the telescope, man actually believed that the stars could all be numbered. People were so confident that the stars could be numbered that they drew up star charts with all the stars named and numbered.  The Greek astronomer and mathematician Hipparchus (190-120 BC) said there were exactly 1,026 stars.  The astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy (c. 85 BC- 165 AD) said there were 1,056 stars.  The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) counted 1,006.  When Galileo (a devout Christian) pointed his telescope to the heavens in 1608, he discovered that these previous counts were way off and that the Bible was actually right.  What had the Bible said?

 

God said in Jeremiah 33:22, “The host of heaven [a reference to the stars] cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured.”  God says the stars cannot be numbered.  In fact, trying to do so would be about as futile as trying to count the grains of sand floating around in the sea, obviously an impossible task.  Jeremiah wrote that more than 2,000 years before Galileo made his discovery.

 

Today, with the help of powerful telescopes, scientists tell that the universe contains approximately 100 billion galaxies containing approximately 200 billion stars each.  Carl Sagan (1934-1996), the world-famous astronomer, said, “The total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”[12]  Think of the thousands of beaches that exist on each of the world’s seven continents.  That’s a lot of stars.  Scientists tell us that there are enough tars for every single living person today to own more than two trillion stars each! Surely the host of heaven cannot be numbered!

 

E.     Blood clotting and circumcision

 

In the Old Testament, the Jews were called to circumcise their sons on their 8th day of life to mark them as being part of the people of God (Genesis 17:12).  Medical researchers have discovered that Vitamin K and Prothrombrin reach their highest level, about 110% of normal levels, on the 8th day after birth.  These clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and reduce the chance of infection! 

 

F.     Water cycle

 

The first published thinker to establish the idea of the water cycle was Bernard Palissy (c. 1580 CE (or AD)), and he is often credited as the discoverer of the modern theory of the water cycle.  Yet Isaiah described it over 2000 years before in Isaiah 55:10-11, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

 

Now all these statements in the Bible regarding the universe, the stars and the Earth raise a question:

 

How did the authors of the Bible know these kinds of things?  Were they taking wild guesses?

 

No!  Their perfect accuracy rules that out, especially when you consider the fact that there are dozens of statements like these in the Bible.

 

The Bible tells us how they knew these things in 2 Peter 1:21. It says there that “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  That is to say, God, who knows all there is to know about the universe He created, superintended (came alongside) the writing of the Bible to make sure that what He wanted written, was written.

 

6.     Manuscript Evidence

 

Some like to say that the Bible cannot be thoroughly trusted today because they believe the text of the Bible has not been accurately transmitted down through the centuries.  Some claim entire books of the Bible have gone missing and that is why God had to re-reveal Himself to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s.  Manuscript evidence proves otherwise.

 

What is a manuscript?  It is any surviving hand-written copy of a document (as opposed to something typed or printed).  Before the printing press was invented in the 15th century, Bibles were meticulously copied by Jewish scribes and Christian monks.

 

In order to judge the accuracy of any ancient text, two questions are important.  The first is the timespan between the events occurring themselves and when they were put on paper.  If the time span is long, then there is a good chance the text is not accurate because it is outside the span of the memory of those who witnessed the events.  For example, the Buddhist writings were put down 500 years after Buddha lived and the Qur’an was written approximately 150 years after Muhammad lived.  The New Testament, on the other hand, was all written by AD 100 at the latest, within approximately 60 years of the events it describes.

 

The second question is how long is the span of time between the actual writing and our earliest copies.  The shorter the time, the more it verifies the accuracy and lack of corruption of all the manuscript copies of a text.   The oldest fragmentary copy of the Bible that we have is found in the Manchester University Library – a papyrus fragment known as P52 and dates to AD 110.  Many other such fragments exist in academic libraries all over the world.  Two of the oldest complete Bibles, Codex Siniaticus and Codex Alexandrinus, are located at the British Museum and date from the fourth and fifth centuries AD respectively.

 

Below is a chart that helps us see that the evidence of reliability of the Bible is much higher than even of historical and literary works whose reliability are never questioned.

 

 

Today there survive some 25,000 partial and complete, ancient handwritten manuscript copies just of the New Testament, not to mention thousands of copies of the Old Testament … many of them predating the time of Christ.  We have copies of the Old Testament that were around from before Jesus was born. 

 

In 1947, a shepherd boy tending his father’s sheep in Qumran, north and to the west of the Dead Sea in Israel, made an amazing discovery while looking for a lost goat.  There, in Qumran, in a hillside cave that had lain untouched for nearly two thousand years, this twelve-year-old Muslim boy discovered a collection of large clay jars containing carefully wrapped leather manuscripts.  What this boy stumbled upon was an ancient collection of handwritten copies of the Old Testament that dated as far back as the third century before Christ.

 

Archaeologists spent years searching the surrounding caves.  By the time they were done, copies of every book of the Old Testament had been discovered (with the exception of Esther).  In some cases there were multiple copies of the same book.  For example, there were 19 copies of the Book of Isaiah, 25 copies of Deuteronomy and 30 copies of the Psalms.  Manuscripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls have allowed Biblical scholars and textual critics to go back and verify that the Bible we have today is the same Bible that the early church possessed 2,000 years ago.  These manuscripts can be seen in the British Museum, Cambridge University Library, Smithsonian Institute, Oxford University, the National Library at Paris and Israel Museum. 

 

Now, even if we did not have any manuscripts copies of the Bible, there is another way of verifying that we have accurate copies of the Bible, and that is by examining the writings of the church fathers, leaders in the church from the first three centuries AD.  These are men like Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Tertullian and Polycarp.  These men, in their writings and correspondence with one another, and in their letters to different churches, quote the Old and New Testament over and over again, more than 86,000 times.  And their writings survive to this day, so that anyone can go on Amazon.com and buy an encyclopedic size set of the writings of the church fathers and see with your own eyes their numerous quotations of both the Old and New Testaments.

 

There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single manuscript copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct most of the New Testament today just from their writings.[13]  In fact, only 11 verses of the entire Bible would be missing if we had to reconstruct it from sermons, commentaries and letters from that period. This should not come as a surprise to us.  Isaiah 40:8 states, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”  Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”[14]

 

7.     The Bible’s Forthrightness about its Authors’ and Heroes’ Failures

 

By “forthrightness about its authors’ and heroes’ failures,” we mean the author’s openness about his or her failures and sins and the failures and sins of the people he is describing.  Unlike the authors of other religious writings, the authors of the Bible did not seek to cast themselves or others in a falsely good light or elevate themselves at all.

 

Of course, this does not prove that the Bible is true, but it does help strengthen our case that the Bible appears to be an honest work.  For example:

 

A.    Noah got drunk shortly after getting off the ark (Genesis 9:21)

B.    Abraham lied (on more than one occasion) about Sarah being his wife (Genesis 12:13, 20:2)

C.     Moses’ was angry and misrepresented God, and was not even allowed to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10-11)

D.    Israel rejected God on numerous occasions to worship other gods (e.d., see the book of Judges)

E.     David committed adultery with Bathsheba and subsequently murdered and her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11)

F.     Jesus called Peter “Satan” (Mark 8:33)

G.    Peter denied that he knew Jesus, after promising that he would never do such a thing (Matthew 26:72)

H.    Peter feared being seen eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-12)

I.      The disciples pridefully argued over which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24)

J.      The disciples fell asleep when Jesus asked them to pray (Mark 14:32-41)

K.     The disciples ran away to save their own necks when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:50)

L.     Paul confessed he was a “wretched man” (Romans 7:24) and the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)

M.   Paul and Barnabas argued over Mark being allowed to travel with them (Acts 15:38-39)

 

Do these sound like the words of men who were trying to deceive their readers?  Not at all.  If we add to this evidence the fact that these men imparted to the world the highest moral standards of conduct the world has ever seen, the case for accepting the Bible’s reliability is only strengthened.

 

8.     The Persecution the Disciples Endured

 

Skeptics may raise legitimate concerns when it comes to the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  We mentioned in section 1 that a skeptic may say, “Maybe the disciples just made up all of these things that Jesus supposedly did.  Perhaps they read all of those prophecies in the Old Testament and decided to make up an elaborate story about Jesus fulfilling them!”

 

Well, in addition to the forthrightness of the Biblical authors about their and others’ sins and failures, there is another reason why we know they were not lying.  Historians, such as Flavius Josephus and Eusebius and others, record for us that Jesus’s disciples went to their graves, one by one, suffering and dying martyr’s deaths for their on-going belief and preaching that Jesus was the Lord and Messiah Old Testament prophets had predicted and had risen from the dead.

 

We are told in these extra-biblical sources that:

 

A.    Matthew was slain with a sword in a city of Ethiopia

B.    Mark died in Alexandria, in Northern Egypt after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city

C.     Luke was hung upon an olive tree in the land of Greece

D.    John was banished to the island of Patmos after officials attempted to kill him by boiling him alive

E.     James was beheaded in Jerusalem

F.     James the less (as he is called in Mark 15:40) was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple

G.    Philip was hung up against a pillar at Heriopolis in the province of Phrygia

H.    Bartholomew was flayed alive

I.      Andrew was bound to a cross, and left to die

J.      Jude was shot to death with arrows

K.     Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace Judas) was first stoned, then beheaded

L.     Barnabas was stoned to death by the Jews at Salonica

M.   Paul, after a variety of tortures and imprisonments, was finally beheaded in Rome

N.    Thomas was run through the body with a spear in east India

O.    Peter was crucified upside down in Rome

 

It is hard to believe that men who were willing to die these kinds of painful deaths were just “making up a story” about Jesus.  Of course, there are people who are willing to die today for something that they think is true.  Muslim terrorists come to mind.  But nobody willingly dies for something they know is a lie.  And Jesus’s disciples were at a unique place in history.  They lived in the first century in and around Jerusalem where Jesus was publicly crucified and buried in a tomb.  So they were at a time and place historically to know for certain whether or not they had seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion or not.  Muslim terrorists today are not in such a place.  They die for something they think is true, something they hope is true.  But if Muslims lived back in the seventh century at the time of Muhammad and knew for certain that he was not a prophet of God and that he never performed any miracles, etc., they would not be strapping explosives around their waists and blowing themselves up.  Nobody willingly dies for something they know is a lie.

 

Jesus’s disciples sealed their testimonies with their own blood, all the way back in the first century … claiming all the way to the end that the long-awaited Messiah and Saviour of the world had lived among them, become a sacrifice for our sins, and risen from the dead three days later.

 

9.     The Bible’s Transforming Power for Good

 

The Bible claims to be living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 19:7-10).  That has indeed proven to be the case.  No other book in the world has had the transforming effect upon lives and societies for good that the Bible has.  Now, of course, this alone does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God, but it does fit into the case that has been being built above.

 

God did not have the Bible written down to entertain us.  The Bible was given to us so that we might know God, be reconciled to Him and live our lives for Him in a way that is pleasing to Him.  Do we see that happening in the lives of those who read it?  Absolutely!

 

Wherever the gospel has gone and been received – from prisons to remote villages deep inside third world countries – it has had a transforming effect on people’s lives for good.  Down through the centuries, its words have converted countless numbers of unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  Many people, who would testify that they were immoral, godless sinners, drowning in drug addictions, alcoholism, pornography, gambling and the like, have been transformed into godly men and women as they have studied and followed the teachings of the Bible.

 

In addition to changing lives, the Bible has inspired people:

       To build countless hospitals and orphanages

To start many of the world’s greatest universities (Oxford, Cambridge,

Harvard, Yale and Princeton were started by Christians for Christian purposes)

                   To launch innumerable humanitarian efforts to help the poor

                   To work for the equality of men and women and those of different skin

                            colours, including the abolishment of slavery[15]

                   To investigate the world and the universe scientifically

                   To further the development of great art and music

 

The historian Philip Schaff summarized the enormous impact the Bible has had on people when he wrote this about Jesus:

 

Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.[16]

 

Jesus’ words have truly made an enormous impact on the world.

 

10.  The Testimony of Jesus, the Son of God

 

Another reason we can be sure that the Bible is trustworthy is that Jesus said it was!  If there is anyone we can trust regarding the Word of God, it is the One who proved Himself to be the Son of God by fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, living a sinless life, performing numerous miracles as well as bodily resurrecting from the dead.

 

And Jesus assured us that the Jewish Scriptures could be trusted: Jesus taught that the Scriptures were:

 

A.    Without Error

 

In John 17:17, Jesus said in His prayer to His Father, “Thy word is truth.”  It is not full of contradictions or errors.

 

B.    Historically Reliable

 

Jesus affirmed some of the most disputed passages of the Old Testament as historically true, including the story of Jonah and the whale (Matthew 12:40), the destruction of the world by a flood in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39) and others.[17]

 

C.     Divinely Authoritative

 

Over and over, Jesus said to Satan, “It is written… it is written… it is written…”  (Matthew 4:4-10).

 

D.    Scientifically Accurate

 

For example, Jesus affirmed the literal creation of Adam and Even when he taught on marriage (Matthew 19:4)

 

E.     Infallible

 

In John 10:35, Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken.”

 

We can build our life on the Word of God.  We can stand upon God’s promises.  The Word of God is not going to collapse underneath us.

 

F.     Indestructible

 

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”  If Jesus was a prophet of God, as even the Qur’an teaches, or even in He was a good teacher (as so many are willing to believe today), it would be wise for us to take His Word on the matter, and He taught that the Bible is a historically reliable, divinely authoritative, scientifically accurate, dependable, error-free, indestructible book.

 

A skeptic might say that referring to words of the Bible to prove the accuracy of the Bible is circular reasoning.  However, as we stated earlier, the Bible is not one book.  It is a collection of 66 books written by different authors.  So when we quote Jesus’s words to substantiate what Moses or other authors write, we are not involved in circular reasoning at all.  Instead, we are quoting altogether independent sources that happen to be bound together between two covers of the same book.

 

That same skeptic might say that Jesus was only talking about the Old Testament when He said those things.  The New Testament had not yet been written and therefore we cannot use Jesus’s words to refer to the New Testament’s reliability.

 

True, the New Testament had not been written.  However, in John 14:26 Jesus promised His disciples the aid of the Holy Spirit in writing the New Testament.  He said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  In John 16:13, Jesus told His disciples, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

 

As these men went out into the world to make disciples, to preach and teach and to pen the New Testament gospels and epistles, they were going to need the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit!

 

So Jesus validated the trustworthiness of the Old Testament and He promised the trustworthiness of the New Testament.  Based on Jesus’s testimony, we can trust both.

 

Conclusion:

 

We can trust the Bible!  We can read it with confidence!  We can stand upon its promises!  We can draw comfort from its passages.  We can gain wisdom from its pages.  Best of all, we can know our creator by reading it.  What a joy it is to know God and to live for Him!

 

Do we know the God of the Bible?  Do we know our creator?  Are we experiencing the joy of walking with God?  Are we experiencing the peace that comes with knowing our sins have been forgiven and that all is right between us and God?  We can.

 

Challenge: Study the Bible today with confidence and get to know a God that loves us.

 


[1] Glueck, Nelson, Rivers in the Desert (Norton, 1968), 31.

[2] “Archaeology: The Shards of History,” Time, December 13, 1963.

[3] Wiseman, D. J., ‘Archaeological Confirmations of the Old Testament” in Carl F. Henry (ed.) Revelation and the Bible (Tyndale Press, 1958), 301-2.

[4] This would be more powerful if you could cite the source.

[5] Again, need a source

[6] Can we have the reference to this quote?

[7] Sheler, Jeffrey, Is the Bible True? (Zondervan, 2000), 60-1.

[8] Hunt, David, In Defense of the Faith, (Harvest House Publishers, 1996), 156.  Also see Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ, (Zondervan, 2016), 107.

[9] For a list of names, see Geisler, Norman and Turek, Frank, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Crossway, 2004), 270.

[10] For a list, see Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (College Press Publishing Co., Inc., 2016).

[11] Josephus, Flavius, Antiquities, chapter 18:63-4.

[12] Sagan, Carl, Cosmos (Random House, 1980), 196.

[13] Geisler, Norman and Nix, William.  General Introduction to the Bible (Moody Press, 1986), 430.

[14] For more information on manuscript evidence, see Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Stellar Editions, 2014);  Kaiser, Walter C., The Old Testament Documents; Are the Reliable and Relevant? (IVP Academic, 2001), and Lightfoot, Neil, How We Got the Bible, (Baker Books, 2003).

[15] We know of Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the 1960s US Civil Rights Movement, but William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian believer and member of the British Parliament in the early 19th century, was the one largely responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in England (which then affected the entire world).

[16] Schaff, Philip, The Person of Christ (Granted Ministries, 2011), 29.

[17] Story, Dan.  Defending Your Faith (Kregel Publications, 2004), 55-60 and Geisler, Norman, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Baker, 2011), 559.

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