For Christians, the holy book that shapes their faith and beliefs system stems from the Bible, which claims to be God’s words to mankind. But if we are going to pursue in our faith with God, and rearrange our lives, our beliefs, and our values around it, shouldn’t we be sure that what’s in it is true in the first place? I mean, the Bible was written thousands of years ago in another language and then translated into what we read today. So how do we know that the Bible really is from God, that it wasn’t changed when it was translated, and that the things written in it are in fact true. In the last week of our series, Pastor Sean puts the Bible through multiple tests that are commonly used to evaluate the validity of ancient literature and sees how the Bible stacks up.
This Week: Is the Bible really true? Is it reliable?
16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]
We are called to be Biblically Centered, but how do we know the Bible is true. Since the
Bible claims to be true, we can measure its accuracy by checking it with the same
measures that any historical document’s accuracy would be measured.
1. Is this what was originally written? (i.e. Shakespeare, The Odyssey)
2. How accurate is the text, historically? Is this a true historical account?
3. Is there any outside evidence to back it up?
1. Bibliographical Test – since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are
the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the time between the
original and existing copies?
Author Original Oldest Span Copies
Plato 347 BC 900 AD 1200 7 (100% agree)
Aristotle 322 BC 1100 AD 1400 49
Homer 900 BC 400 BC 500 643
N.T. 40-100 AD 125 AD 25 24,000+
The evidence proves that what we read today is exactly what they wrote.
2. Internal Evidence Test – is the written record credible? Are they telling the truth?
Aristotle’s Dictum: a document is to be considered truthful unless it is known to be
impossible, improbable, corrupting, or contradictory to known facts.
We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” -Peter [Acts 4:20]
“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” –John of Zebedee, the Disciple [John 1:1]
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” [Luke 1:1-4]
But what if they lied? What if they just preached a myth?
Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!” 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—” 28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think youcan persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”[f] 29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” 30 Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. 31As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.” [Acts 26:24-31]
Agrippa, a key skeptic in their day, didn’t say a word because he knew it to be true. The closer they got to the message, the more they realized the authenticity of the message.
Martyrs: Why would someone die for a lie? They had to be accurate in their message. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies because they would have been exposed as frauds and the message would not have been spread. Christianity spread faster during the lifetime of eyewitnesses who
could verify its truthfulness or error than any other time in history.
3. External Evidence Test – what sources outside of the document verify its accuracy, reliability and authenticity?
“All radical schools in New Testament criticism which have existed in the past or which exist today are prearchaeological, and are, therefore, antiquated today.” [William F. Albright, famous archaeologist]
“Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which had been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts.” [Joseph Free, Archaeologist]
“for Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” [A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Historian from Oxford]
Every piece of archaeological evidence supports the details in the Bible.
Even within the Bible, it describes things about the world that science didn’t discover until centuries later.
God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!” [Isaiah 40:22] (700 BC)
God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. [Job 26:7]
The outside evidence proves that what we read today is credible.
“There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of
textual and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest [person] cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational (anti-supernatural) bias.” [Dr. Clark Pinnock, Christian Apologist]
If you believe the Bible is true, what does that change?
Where are you doubting God right now?
Because we can trust that the Bible is true, we can trust that God is for you, that
he loves you, and that is there for you.