Everyone has asked this question at one point or another: Can I trust my Bible?
Maybe it’s taken on another form for you:
- How do we know we have the right books?
- Has it been lost in translation over thousands of years?
- Are the stories really true or just myths?
- How can I trust something full of contradictions?
- We don’t have the originals, so how do we know if its true?
This is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. Here’s why: If God has communicated everything we need to know about him through a book and I am expected to base my entire life around the God revealed in this book, then I want to be darn sure that these words are reliable.
Joseph was a guy who never missed anything when it came to church. He was the super-Christian. He was “Mr. Youth Group.” He was a Jesus freak. He never missed a Sunday or a Wednesday. He was at every event, from retreats to camps. At home, his parents taught him every Bible story the Bible had to offer. Hundreds of verses were memorized over the years. Everyone expected Joseph to become a pastor.
During his senior year of high school, Joseph decided to write his final senior project on how the Bible, specifically the New Testament, was written and compiled. As he went to the internet to begin his research, he found many scholars who affirmed the reliability of the Bible. But there were a growing number who attacked the reliability of the Bible.
One blog by a skeptical scholar talked about the Bible being one giant game of telephone that lasted for centuries, even millennia. The post went on and emphasized these things:
- We have no original copies of the books (only copies of copies)
- The first copy of any part of the New Testament is from around 125 AD
- Mistakes were made when copying the Bible
- There are up to 400,000 changes in the Bible among all the different copies
Joseph begins to doubt the reliability of the Bible. He begins to wonder, “Have I build my entire life around a lie?”
Joseph learned everything inside the Bible, but never why the Bible is reliable.
I’ll offer five reasons why the Bible is reliable.
1) Abundant Copies
What would it take you to trust an ancient document? Check out this list of documents. It lists how many copies of the documents we have and how many years later the copy is from the original. Keep in mind, we don’t have an original of any of these.
Having three manuscripts of the Works of Tacitus, the first one being 800 years after the original was written may sound a little shady, but each of these is touted as reliable, historical documents. So, how does the New Testament compare?
Of the New Testament, we have:
- 5,800 copies in the original Greek
- 20,000 in other languages
- 36,000 quotations of verses by early church fathers
Not only do we have abundant copies, but we have early copies. The earliest manuscript we have of part of the New Testament is dated to around AD 125, which is within thirty years of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament to be written in AD 95.
With how early this is, it is likely to be a copy of the original. Bart Ehrman, the leading skeptic scholar on the New Testament admits that we have sufficient quotations “for the entire reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.”
2) Alleged Discrepancies
Prior to the 1400s and Gutenberg inventing the printing press, people called scribes would copy Scripture by hand. When humans copy things, there is the potential for error. Let’s say one scribe stayed up too late playing Fortnite. A little tired, he makes a few errors when copies Scripture the next day. If these mistakes were made (and they were), how do we know which is the reliable text?
There is a field of study that helps us here:
Textual Criticism: the method used to determine what the original said.
I had our youth copy this phrase down, “My daughter has a poopy diaper that reeks.” Each of them then turned their papers in. As I look through them, I noticed that one of them misspelled “diaper” and wrote “diper.” If I got rid of the original, how could I figure out the correct spelling of this word? If I looked at the majority of what the students copied, almost every single one of them spelled “diaper” correctly. Textual criticism says that we go with the majority text.
There are discrepancies like this in the copies of the biblical texts. But as we look closer, these discrepancies are not our enemies, but our friends.
But what about when the New Testament writers say something differently? Let’s look at the resurrection accounts. Each gospel writer mentions either a woman or multiple women coming to the empty tomb and encountering either an angel or angels or a man or men.
What are we to make of this? Are they contradictions? Consider this: None of the gospel accounts say “only” one woman went to the tomb. Further, in the Bible, angels often take on the appearance of a human being, which is why some of the gospel accounts may have said it was a man or men.
A while back, former cold-case detective, J. Warner Wallace applied his cold-case detective methodology to the gospels. Something he points out is that small variations in the story are a good thing. The basic storyline is still the same: Jesus rose from the dead. But there are a few different facts from the different vantage points. This is actually evidence of a true story. If every account were exactly the same, any police officer, detective, or judge would tell you they would instantly know it was a lie that was made up. The offenders would be guilty of “collusion.”
So, the contradictions turn out to be complements.
3) Dead Sea Scrolls
If there is anything that points to and almost proves the reliability of the Bible, it is the Dead Sea scrolls. Back in the mid 1940s, some shepherds were tending their sheep out in a desert of Israel called Qumran. There are many caves in the hills of this area. A boy named “the wolf” threw a rock into one of the caves and heard a jar break. They went into the cave and found jars filled with scrolls thousands of years old.
Since that initial discovery, some 100,000 fragments and intact scrolls comprising over 800 volumes have been found in 11 caves near the Dead Sea. They were written between 200 BC and AD 70.
From the time they were written, about 1900 years had passed. Most people would assume that they had been lost in translation over that time. But our copies matched up almost identically to each and every text of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A full text scroll of Isaiah was found and nearly 100% matched the current text we have today. That is 1900 years and no change!
Even more spectacular is the fact that less than a month ago, in mid-March of 2021, Israeli archaeologists discovered even more Dead Sea scrolls.
This is a bold claim: Archaeology has never contradicted the Bible, but has always confirmed the biblical storyline.
Not long ago, the biblical site of Ai was discovered and excavated. In the book of Joshua, it tells us ““He hung the body of the king of Ai on a tree until evening, and at sunset Joshua commanded that they take his body down from the tree. They threw it down at the entrance of the city gate and put a large pile of rocks over it, which still remains today” (Joshua 8: 29, CSB).
When they began excavating Ai, what did they find at the gate of the city? Dr. Titus Kennedy points out a huge pile of rocks about six meters high.
Now on to a New Testament example. Prior to the 20th century, Pilate was not mentioned in any documents outside of the Bible and some other Christian related sources. He was mentioned in no known Roman records. Many people used this to refer to the fact that Pilate was just a made-up figure. Yet, two discoveries began to challenge that.
In 1961, somebody tried crossfit before crossfit and decided to flip over a big rock. To their surprise, there was an inscription on the bottom of the rock bearing Pilate’s name. Then, a few years later in 1969, a ring was discovered that yet again bore Pilate’s name in Greek.
5) Witnesses Willing to Die
Let’s be clear about this, nobody dies for a lie. We know from church history that every single one of the disciples except for John, were killed for what they believe. Even John was persecuted by being dipped in boiling oil and exiled to a solitary island.
Here is a looming question: Why would they endure all of this if it were a lie? The answer is simple, they wouldn’t!
Let’s say J.K. Rowling went a little coocoo for Cocoa Puffs and began to say that the Harry Potter story actually took place. Then, let’s say another group of people responded and said, “Hey, if you don’t stop that, we are going to persecute and kill you.” I’m sure if it were a lie that J.K. Rowling would recant her claim. Nobody dies for a lie!
We Can Trust the Bible
I hope these five reasons help you trust the book that points you to God! Now that you can trust the Bible, dive into the words of God within its pages and allow him to speak to you.