Is the Bible Reliable?

4-MIN READ

Bible truth

The entire Christian and Jewish faiths are based on the Bible, but is it true? Here are 3 common criticisms of the Bible:

1. It's FICTION
2. It's CORRUPTED
3. It's TRANSLATED INCORRECTLY

FICTION CLAIM

Consider this:

  • Jesus was crucified in 30 AD.
  • The 3 synoptic gospels (i.e., chronologies) -- Matthew, Mark, Luke -- were written between 50-70 AD, before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD (which Jesus predicted). That's within 20-40 years of Jesus' death.
  • John, the more theological gospel, was written by 90 AD at the latest with current thinking putting it at around 70AD.
  • The entire NT was completed by ~100 AD (60 years after Jesus), including:
    • The book of Acts: Dr. Luke's historical account of the events after Jesus' death and resurrection, including Peter's & Paul's missions to spread the gospel to the Jews and the Gentiles,
    • Paul's letters to the early churches in southern Europe and the Near East,
    • The prophetic Revelation by John, and more.
  • There's a tremendous amount of historical and archeological evidence to support the people, places and events described in the NT, and (importantly) NONE to credibly refute it.
  • KEY POINT 1: Many first-hand witnesses of Jesus life, death & resurrection were still alive and would have easily and loudly refuted the NT claims, and politically benefitted, were they not true. The religious and political leaders of the day were highly motivated to discredit Jesus.
  • KEY POINT 2: No other document in history has received as much scrutiny as the Bible. New findings continue to validate the truth of the NT. No criticisms have stood the test of serious scholarly analysis.
  • ALL THE EVIDENCE POINTS TOWARD BIBLICAL TRUTH, NOT FICTION.
  • IMPORTANTLY, NO EVIDENCE EXISTS THAT CREDIBLY REFUTES ANYTHING IN THE BIBLE.

CORRUPTED

The charge is basically that the Bible has been corrupted, altered, edited, revised, or tampered with either accidentally, deliberately or both. Since I used to believe this I can say with certainty that only people who are most ignorant of the authentication process of ancient works in general and the Bible in particular would think this way 😉.

  • To spread the good news/gospel, many copies (manuscripts) of the original documents were made.
  • The sheer volume of biblical manuscripts available for comparison makes it simple to recognize any attempt to distort or corrupt.
  • Today, we have over 5,600 complete manuscripts of the NT in the original Koine Greek language and thousands more partials.
  • Taking foreign language manuscripts into account, we have 25,000 NT manuscripts to compare.
    • 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian.
  • The dates of these manuscripts range from c. 125 (the oldest copy of John fragments) to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century.
  • Manuscripts dating to the 14th century AD are NEARLY IDENTICAL in content to copies from the 3rd century AD.
    • The differences are of the spelling variety (color vs colour) and obvious accidental omissions of inconsequential words like 'it'.
    • There is NO major doctrine of the Bible that is put in doubt as a result of the differences among the manuscripts.
  • When compared to each other, the degree of accuracy among them is an astounding 99.5%.
  • The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature.
    • The next closest is Homer's Iliad with around 1,800 manuscripts.
    • From there it drops off dramatically with some in the 200-300 range (Sophocles, Plato) and most fewer than 10 or zero.
    • Most ancient works have a gap of more than 700 years between the original writing and the surviving manuscripts, with some works, such as Plato and Aristotle, having twice that.
    • If you're going to discredit the NT, then you first need to discredit the entire canon of ancient western literature.
  • KEY POINT: There is absolutely no evidence that the Bible has been corrupted, revised, edited, or tampered with in any systematic manner.
  • YOU CAN TRUST YOUR BIBLE.

TRANSLATED INCORRECTLY

Besides all of the above that speak to the accuracy of the Bible, some people today assert, without evidence, that modern Bibles are not properly translated in terms of meaning. To assess this claim, you need to understand how translations are made. Without getting into a lot of esoteric detail which you can read on Wikipedia, just understand this:

  • Most modern Bibles (e.g., the NIV and the NLT) are translated by committees of serious, dedicated, world-class scholars from a variety of relevant disciplines, from ancient languages to antiquities to history, various religions and so on.
  • They start with multiple ancient, authenticated manuscripts written in the original languages, not English.
  • The scholars meticulously compare and debate verse by verse every word, every semantic nuance, and every cultural and historical context against one another.
  • They weigh it with things such as how old it is (proximity to events described), number of manuscripts in agreement, first-hand accounts, etc. in order to determine the most likely meaning of the original text, diligently annotating any discrepancies or possible alternate meanings.
  • KEY POINT 1: Today's Bibles aren't the product of some chump sitting down by himself and taking a crack at it. These are the best scholars in the world working together and using the most advanced analytic techniques and standards that are applied to serious studies of all ancient works.
  • KEY POINT 2: The Bible is the most analyzed book in the history of the world with many who would like to discredit it, but it has survived the most intense scholarly scrutiny, beyond anything ever given to an accepted work.
  • KEY POINT 3: YOUR BIBLE *IS* TRANSLATED CORRECTLY. Anyone who suggests otherwise is ignorant, a fool, or far worse (you've been warned).

I hope my "Cliffs Notes" from my quest have been helpful to some of you in search of truth. It's a lot of work to dig into all these details and most aren't so motivated but find it easier to follow their gut or believe what others tell them. I'm certainly not an authority, and all of the above are not my conclusions but those of many, many experts way smarter than me. This is what I needed to know, intellectually, in order to advance in my faith. I needed to know that Jesus is truly the rock, the foundation, Truth itself.

To God be the Glory!


NOTE: My point of demonstrating the reliability of the Bible is not to win an argument but to try to lead people into a loving relationship with their Creator. From beginning to end, the Bible reveals the loving heart of a God who wants to be in relationship with us. I focus on the New Testament because if they accurately record the words of Jesus, then the Old Testament follows naturally. Here’s why: Jesus believed the Old Testament was trustworthy (Matthew 26:54), without error (Luke 16:17) and unbreakable (John 10:35). If Jesus is truly God and the New Testament records His words accurately, then His claims about the Old Testament Scriptures are true.

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