According to a 2017 poll by LifeWay Research, Americans are "fond of the Bible but don't actually read it." More than half (53%) have read little or none of the Bible.
As mentioned last week in part 1, more and more people today are questioning the validity of the Bible. "Is the Bible really God’s Word? Or is it just a man-made book? What about science? Hasn’t the Bible been proved wrong?"
In part 1, we looked at the relationship between the Bible and science while examining the question, "Hasn't Science disproved the Bible?" The answer: Not by a long shot!
How did we get the Bible? Did it just show up one day, "downloaded" from Heaven? Is it purely the work of man? Or did God oversee the care and protection of His word through these many centuries?
There have been many claims against the authenticity of the Bible ("Too many years since the actual events took place, too many manuscripts and too many changes") but none have been validated. Instead, there is much to validate and confirm the Bible's authenticity.
Today, in part 2, let's consider our remaining two questions.
1. Is the Bible Reliable?
As Dr. Jonathan Morrow, author of "Questioning the Bible", states: "When you’re doing history, you want early and you want eyewitnesses. And the gospel writers give you both…They investigated everything carefully. They have the ring of truth to them. They include embarrassing details."
In other words, the closer in time a writer was to the events he recorded, the more likely his account is accurate.
Dr. Morrow points out that respected biblical writers like Paul and Luke interviewed the apostles and knew many others who witnessed Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And we know writers Peter, John, and James actually lived with Jesus. John declares (1 John 1:1), "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life." He is not talking about theory or theology. He is talking about Jesus Christ. These men were eyewitnesses!
b. Number of Manuscripts.
Josh McDowell wrote one of most authoritative defenses of the Bible entitled "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" as well as its sequel "The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict". He declares, "The more manuscripts you have, the easier it is to reconstruct the original."
When it comes to the Bible, the surviving ancient copies or pieces of it far outnumber all other ancient works. Grand total? 66,420 manuscripts and scrolls!
What ancient document is in second place? Homer's "The Iliad" with just 1,827 manuscripts. Most ancient works have far fewer intact remnants. Scholars trust Homer. How much more should we trust the Bible?
c. Archaeological record.
Archaeology and related research have time and again proven the Bible true and skeptics wrong.
Josh McDowell states, "Archaeology has probably cleared up already over half of all what appeared to be alleged discrepancies in the Scriptures."
For example, skeptics used to say there’s no record of a Nazareth, so the New Testament can’t be true. They’d point out there was no proof of the oft-mentioned Hittites, so the Old Testament can’t be true. Archaeology and associated research have since shown both existed. And McDowell points out, "Now you can go to Harvard or anywhere else and study the Hittite language."
2. Why should I Believe the Bible?
Is it reasonable to believe Bible is indeed God’s Word and completely reliable? Let's sum it all up with a few thoughts borrowed from Jesse Connors.
a. The Bible claims to be the Word of God.
Prophets of the Old Testament state in their writings over 5,000 times, "Thus says the LORD".
2 Peter 1:21 declares, "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
Jesus accepted and embraced the Old Testament as the word of God. Why shouldn't we?
b. Ancient Manuscript evidence confirms the Original Words of the Bible have been preserved for us.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves in Qumran on the NW shore of the Dead Sea 1947-1956. The scrolls, complete texts or fragments containing every book of the Old Testament except for Esther, are dated between 200 BC and AD 70. Previously, the earliest Old Testament manuscripts we had available dated to around AD 900. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls takes the date of available Old Testament manuscripts back over 1,000 years!
When the scrolls were studied, it was discovered the scribes were accurate with great precision. Many of the biblical texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are almost identical to the Hebrew Masoretic Text (the basis for many if not most modern translations) with the exception of a few minor differences, such as a spelling details. (Many modern translations will signify such variations in footnotes). The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate the reliability of the Old Testament text. In other words, we can be assured that what we have now is what was originally written. The Old Testament was well preserved and accurately handed down to us today. We can accept it by Faith and be corroborated by Archaeology!
What about the New Testament?
Over 5000 ancient manuscripts or portions are in existence. The earliest portions of manuscripts are dated to within mere decades of the original manuscripts. One example is the John Rylands fragment, dated to around 125 AD. In contrast, only a handful of copies exist of the writings of Caesar, and the earliest copies date to 900 years after the original. There are only a handful of copies of the writings of Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian who lived in the 400s BC, and the earliest copy is dated 1,300 years after the original. No serious scholar would question the authenticity of Herodotus or Caesar. Yet there are over 5,000 manuscripts or portions of manuscripts of the New Testament, with some going all the way back to within mere decades of the originals, not centuries.
c. Reliable Eye-Witness testimony confirms the History of the Bible.
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay was an atheist, growing up as the son of atheists, and did not believe the New Testament documents were historically reliable. Intending to disprove the historical record of the Bible, he set out to study the ancient world of the New Testament. But his archaeological investigations drove him to see his skepticism was unwarranted and he had a profound change of attitude. By his death in 1939 he had become the foremost authority of his day on the history of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey - the setting for Paul's early missionary travels) and a leading scholar in the study of the New Testament. Speaking of Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke as well as the Book of Acts), Ramsay stated: "Luke is a historian of the first rank…he should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."
Luke records that what he wrote came directly from eye-witnesses of Christ (1:1-4). Paul declares there were hundreds of eye-witnesses of the resurrection still living at the time he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). In other words, Paul is saying that you could go and ask any one of those people and they could confirm the claims of the apostles.
d. Archaeology confirms the History of the Bible.
Christianity is not just a religion or philosophy, but Truth rooted in History. So if the events actually happened in history as the Bible records, then there should be archaeological evidence to support the claims of Bible. We should be able to literally "dig up" the past and see if it confirms Scripture. This is exactly what we find when exploring archaeological artifacts. Now if we can "dig up" confirmation of the Bible, then it also follows we should be able to "dig up" evidence which contradicts the history recorded in Bible. But no such archaeological evidence exists. Archaeological evidence repeatedly confirms the facts of Scripture.
For example, Isaiah 20:1 refers to Sargon, king of Assyria, capturing Ashdod. Skeptics assumed the Bible was in error because no other ancient records mentioned Sargon. In the mid-1800s, however, Sargon’s palace was discovered near Nineveh and an inscription was found referring to the conquest of Ashdod. The book of Daniel alone describes King Belshazzar as the ruler at the time of the fall of Babylon while secular records described Nabonidus as king at the time. Therefore, skeptics claimed the Bible was in error! Then archaeologists discovered documents that showed Nabonidus spent the last days of his reign outside of Babylon and had his son Belshazzar as co-ruler of Babylon, confirming the biblical testimony.
e. Fulfilled Prophecies confirm the Divine Origin of the Bible.
Fulfilled Prophecy separates the Bible from every other book as no other religious text in the world can substantiate such a claim. Hundreds of prophecies are given in the Old Testament and not a single one has failed.
For example, Isaiah 44-45 records that God would raise up a ruler named Cyrus to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. A few hundred years later, history tells us Cyrus, king of Persia, decreed to have the city of Jerusalem rebuilt. In Daniel 7-8 Daniel foresaw the swift rise of the Greek empire under Alexander the Great and the division of his empire into four parts after his death. Over 200 years later, Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world. After his death, his empire was divided among his generals into four parts, just as Daniel foretold.
The Old Testament makes numerous prophecies about the Messiah’s first coming and all were fulfilled. He would be born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, and many more. Isaiah 53 foretells of the Messiah as Suffering Servant who would make atonement for sinful man. All four Gospels record Christ's substitutionary death on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Psalm 22 is a beautiful prophecy of what will happen on the cross, especially verses 1, 6-8, 14, and 16-18.
f. The Consistent Message confirms the Divine Origin of the Bible.
The consistency of the Bible is astonishing when we remember that it is composed of 66 books written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) on three different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe). There are over 40 different authors, most of whom never met one another. It was written over a period of 1,500 years (ca 1450 BC-100 AD).
Yet, in spite of its multitude of books, languages, locations and authors, the Bible tells one singularly woven-together story. It is the story of Redemption, of Reconciliation, of Restoration. It begins in Genesis 1 and continues all the way through to Revelation 22.
The Bible is at heart a Love story, a Love letter from God to you and me. It is the story of God who loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. It is a story of Compassion that can lead to Transformation.
How many lives have been changed by the Bible? Countless numbers!
Has your life been changed?