Christians in the course of their evangelism often like to claim what they are saying is the Truth, in particular, that it is the word of the one and only God. You would not expect any less of them otherwise one wonder whether they really believe what they are preaching.
The assertion that the Bible represents the Truth troubled me. This was one of my biggest stumbling block. Can what is contained within the Bible be relied upon? If the Bible cannot be relied upon, then everything said by Christians become nonsense, or at best fanciful stories concocted by someone long ago. The whole religion falls down and hence is not worth believing in at all.
This promoted me to ask the Christians question concerning the truth of the Bible. The conversation typically goes something like this:
Me: “How do you know this is the word of God?”
Answer (more often than not): “the Bible said so.”
Me: “But how do you know what is contained within the Bible is the truth? Couldn’t it just be a story, a total fabrication?
Answer: “The Bible said it is the truth and that it is the word of God”! Then the eager Christians would direct me to passage in the Bible that states it represents the word of God and that it is the only God there is.
Well, I found such answer most unsatisfactory. To me the response by these Christians is just circular logic. I was wondering about whether I can rely and trust the bible, yet they kept on asserting that the Bible can be relied upon because the Bible said it can be so relied upon! This just does not agree with me.
It is striking how many of these Christians just do not understanding my concern with this type of reasoning. They take it as given. Not that there is anything wrong with this; it is how they think, but this is not how I think. If I make a representation that something is true, and when someone question me why it is true, I cannot just keep on saying that it is true without pointing to some independent and external evidence that show the representation is true, or at least, that it is not false.
Then I started looking around and started thinking about this issue. What I found really open my mind. The evidence available to support the reliability of the Bible is stunning to say the least. There are so many excellent articles and books out there exploring this issue. (Sadly, there are so many Christians that do not realize the extend of these evidence.)
Based on all these evidence, I am now of the view that the Bible can be totally relied upon. And it follows that if the Bible says (which it did) that it is the word of God, then it must be the word of God. It is not possible to agree on the reliability of the Bible without also agreeing that it is the word of God. First, it did say it is the word of God, so if you agree on the reliability of the Bible based on you independent analysis, you also should agree that it is the word of God. To do otherwise is being inconsistent. You either think the Bible is reliable or it is not. Second, the facts contained within the Bible can only have been divinely inspired (see below).
Those of you who are troubled by this issue, I urge you to consider all the evidence, don’t just rule out the Bible as unreliable without doing any homework. If you sit there and do nothing, you are really no different to those who assert the circular argument that you disagree with. That is, your reason for not believing becomes no less circular: I don’t want to belief because I just don’t want to; it cannot be the Truth because it just cannot be!
I summaries below some of the main reasons supporting the reliability of the Bible. It is not my intention here to provide an exhaustive analysis or summary of all the reasons. To do so is beyond my current knowledge or abilities. (Although I hope to add to this as time goes on.)
A. Extrinsic Evidence
To overcome the circular logic that is so repugnant to me, I need to find something external to the Bible that establishes its reliability or authenticity. As it turns out, there are plenty of evidence available in this regard.
1. The Bible is historically accurate.
The events and occurrences depicted in the Bible matched up with other historical records from non-Christians source.
Over five thousands ancient New Testament Greek manuscripts have been uncovered. The earliest of these dated back almost at the time of original composition of the book.
By comparison, the greatest manuscript evidence for any other ancient work did not even come close to the evidence available for the New Testament. In the case of Homer’s Iliad there are less than 650 manuscripts that date to within a thousands year of the original compositions. If such ancient work can be relied upon, why not the New Testament?
2. The details in the New Testament is supported by archaeological evidence.
Modern archaeological research have unveiled substantial evidence that corroborate the myriad of details described in the New Testament by it authors.
This also reinforces the historical accuracy of the Bible.
B. Internal Consistency
The Bible is internally consistent. This is to say that there are no contradictions in all of the books of the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. This fact itself is perhaps not remarkable; but it really becomes amazing when this fact is considered within the context that these books are written by dozens of mostly unrelated authors and are written over periods that spanned thousands of years.
It is claimed by some that there are contradictions in the Bible. However, such so called contradictions are not really contradictions in the sense that they amount to no more than difference in descriptions, style, perspective. At the fundamental level, the message, the stories, the substance are the same.
Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School, one of the greatest expert on legal evidence in the nineteenth century, made the following conclusion after analyzing the consistency of the four Gospels: (Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)
“There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction.”
C. The Bible has stood the test of time
There are two aspects to this:
First, the content of the Bible has not changed since the time it was first written. The contents of the ancient manuscripts are no different to the Bible we used nowadays. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scroll has provided a very convincing evidence in this regard.
Second, no one has ever challenged the historical accuracy of the Bible. If what is described in the Bible is untrue or did not accord with what actually transpired, then one would have expected someone will repute it when the events are first written. Indeed, as most of the books are written very close to the events, the lack of conflicting report in the historical records would support the inference that there are no conflicting events, that the events as described in the Bible is accurate.
D. Supernatural Source
By itself to say that the Bible has a supernatural source or is divinely inspired by God provides no convincing argument that the Bible is reliable as the logic is, once again, rather circular. If however this point is considered together with the above facts (and their associated evidence), the conclusion is very different: the argument became much more convincing.
Based on the facts mentioned in A, B and C above, it can be readily concluded that the Bible is very reliable in terms of its contents. In particular, it provides a very accurate record of past events: what it described did happen. It follows that if the content is accurate, that it represents actual facts and events that had occurred in the past, then what else can you conclude but something really remarkable has been happening. It is so remarkable that it can only be divinely inspired.
1. Prophecy that came true.
The Bible contained numerous prophecies, and many of these are made hundreds of years before the prophesied event, and they all came true. These cannot all be explained away by mere coincidence alone as there are just too many of them – it simply defies the probability of the situation. Nor can they be explained by deliberate attempt to fulfill the prophecy by followers as many of these prophecy have an outcome that is beyond what is humanly possible.
The most significant of all prophecy is the predictions of the coming of Jesus Christ. There no less that two hundreds predictions concerning this in the Old Testament. For example, some of these prediction said the following of the Messiah (ie. Jesus):
- Born of a woman (Genesis 3:15) who is a virgin (Isaiah 7:14);
- Born of the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18);
- Born as a son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13);
- Born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2);
- Destine to suffer and die for our sins (Isaiah 53; Daniel 9: 24-26);
- Will rise from the dead (Psalm 16:11).
All these did happen as predicted.
2. Miracles and Wonders
The countless miracles and wonders have been depicted throughout the Bible. If we accept that the Bible is reliable and accurate, then all these miracles and wonders represent real events. This begs the question, how can all these miracles be explained? The only sensible explanation is that there are supernatural forces at work. This must be the case by definition as these miracles (eg. making the blind see, bringing the dead back to life) are beyond what we understand to be possible.
3. God inspired
The Bible itself made the claim that it is God inspired.
Further, the very contents of the Bible can only be divinely inspired. The prophecies provide one indication of the divine source – human ability alone cannot see into the future.
Importantly, to me the core message itself is so unique and remarkable that I think it is beyond what a human can possibly conceived. This message is so unlike any other religious teaching in this world. It teaches of sin and that we are a very despicable position. This part is perhaps not unique, but the solution to out predicament is: the message of salvation teaches of God saving us by His grace alone; we are not ask to work hard or do good work or to offer sacrifice to Him to be saved; believe and submit to His authority is all that is required; at the same time that He demonstrates His grace and mercy, He shows us that He is just as punishment has been handed out for our sins through the death of Jesus Christ, who is the son of God and the only one who can take our place and die for all of us. The more I think about this, the more I feel amaze by this. How can the Bible not be God inspired!