Everything we know about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels and demons, humanity and sin, salvation, the church, future things, and Christlikeness comes from God’s Word. It’s the basis of every theological claim of Christianity. It’s also the source of personal transformation. Properly understood, the Bible changes our lives.
In architectural terms, God’s Word is a load-bearing pillar. If even one area of the Bible is unsound or if there are any cracks in its makeup, the entire structure becomes suspect. So let us test the strength and integrity of Scripture. Can we trust God’s Word to hold up our Christian beliefs? Can we put our faith in it? Is the Bible true?
1. Why We Can Trust the Bible
If you’re like most people, you probably have some questions about the Bible. You may be wondering, “What proof do we have that the events in the Bible happened?” Or, “What about all the errors and contradictions in the Bible?”
- The Bible Is Inspired (2 Timothy 3:16)
The theological belief that every Bible writer was supernaturally inspired and directed by God bolsters one of the Bible’s unique features—its unity. Inspiration, in this context, refers to the supernatural process God used to communicate His message through human beings without error. As 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
God originated the message in every word of the Bible. He poured that message through the personalities of the writers. He used the emotional outbursts of King David, the angry rebukes of Moses, the systematic reasoning of Paul, and the lies of satan in Genesis 3 to deliver His message. The message was recognizably God’s, while the writing styles were recognizably the authors.
- The Bible Is Unified (John 5:39)
If you’ve ever had to do a group project, you know how challenging it is to get a roomful of people with diverse personalities and experiences to complete a single assignment. Directed by God, the Bible is the most successful group project in history. More than 40 people wrote the various books of Scripture over 1,500 years. Moses, the first-named writer, began work on the first five books of the Old Testament around 1440 BC. The apostle John wrote the last book of the Bible around AD 100.
With so many moving pieces and variables factoring into its creation, there’s no earthly reason for the Bible to function as one organic book—a unified whole far greater than the sum of its parts. Yet it does. The ties that bind the Bible’s parts together are unmistakable. The themes of sin and redemption, justice and grace, faith and forgiveness begin in Genesis and weave their way through the entire narrative, all the way to the end of Revelation. As with inspiration, the unity of the Bible gives us reason to trust its integrity.
- The Bible Is Inerrant (Hebrews 3:7)
Jesus believed in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Old Testament. He affirmed the Genesis account of creation and God’s blueprint for marriage in Matthew 19:4-6. He used the story of Jonah to illustrate His resurrection Matthew 12:39-40. He linked His second coming with Noah’s building of the ark Matthew 24:37-39. Jesus’s confidence in the Old Testament extended beyond stories and individual words to include even the letters and strokes that make up each word in Matthew 5:17-18.
2. Evidence for the Trustworthiness of the Bible
- The Dates of the New Testament Books
Most of the New Testament was written between AD 40 and 65. Scholars reached that conclusion because none of the books mentions the destruction of the Jerusalem temple—one of the most momentous events in Jewish history—which occurred in AD 70. The Gospel of Mark, one of the earliest New Testament books, was written only a few years after Jesus’s death and resurrection. This timeline is important because it was too soon for myths to have worked their way into the New Testament narrative.
Jesus’s words were still fresh in the minds of His followers. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, or the writer of Hebrews had said anything that misrepresented Jesus or His message, there were thousands of people who could have called out their lies, exaggerations, or mistakes. Yet there’s no evidence in the history of any such reaction.
- The Early Acceptance of the Message
One of the strongest arguments for the truthfulness of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is that its message was embraced quickly by the early followers of Christianity. New Testament writers were devout Jews and replaced basic tenets of Judaism with new beliefs. They abandoned the sacrificial system that had been in place for 1,400 years. They changed their day of worship to the first day of the week. They replaced circumcision as the sign of faith with baptism. They relegated the law of Moses to a shadow of the newer revelation from Jesus Christ in Colossians 2:17.
- Fulfilled Prophecies
The New Testament reveals amazing examples of fulfilled prophecies centered on Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, there were 61 prophecies concerning the Messiah. These prophecies made hundreds of years before the fact, including the place of Jesus’s birth in Micah 5:2, the time of His birth in Daniel 9:25, the manner of His birth in Isaiah 7:14, the manner of His death in Psalm 22:16, and His burial in a rich man’s tomb in Isaiah 53:9.
- Archaeological Discoveries
There was a time when archaeology was the real-world audit of the Bible’s claims. Critics asked, “If the Bible is true, why is there no evidence of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? Or the walls of Jericho?” However, clay tablets, dating back to 2500 BC, were discovered in northern Syria. These tablets mentioned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. An excavation of Jericho, a region with earthquake activity, revealed evidence of a sudden collapse of the walls that protected the city.
The list of other archaeological confirmations of biblical names, events, and locations could fill the rest of this book. And while such discoveries cannot prove the Bible is true, it’s important to note there has never been any discovery that has disproved any name, event, or location in the Bible.
3. Why We Can Trust the Bible We Have Today
Even if we concede that God inspired the Bible writers and made sure their words were inerrant, we still can’t say for sure that the Bible we have today is trustworthy. Technically, the inspiration and inerrancy apply only to the original manuscripts. The problem is that those original manuscripts vanished long ago into the mists of history.
The Bible we have today is a copy of a copy and so on. Scribes and scholars translated the original manuscripts into various languages and laboriously reprinted them by hand and word for word throughout history. But did these copies maintain the inspiration and inerrancy of the originals?
- The Accuracy of the Copies
We need to consider the number of ancient manuscripts, of both the Old and New Testaments, that are available to us. Most ancient literary works have very few manuscripts to support their authenticity.
Without a doubt, the books of the New Testament were the most frequently copied of any books of antiquity. Today, we have nearly 25,000 copies of portions of the New Testament. Most importantly, these manuscripts reveal how accurately the New Testament was transmitted throughout the centuries. The Greek New Testament contains about 20,000 lines of text. Only about 40 lines are in question because of variations among the manuscripts.
- The High Standard for Inclusion
The first Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, was written between 250 and 150 BC. It contains every book in the Old Testament, which means the Old Testament canon was completed by 150 BC and perhaps as early as 400 BC. Jesus affirmed the completeness of the Old Testament by His reverence for the Word of God.
- The Answer to “Contradictions” in the Bible
Critics argue that contradictions in the Bible make it less than reliable. Does the Bible contain contradictions?
- In 1 Corinthians 10:8, Paul described a plague in the Old Testament that killed 23,000 Israelites. Yet the account by Moses in Numbers 25:9 says 24,000 died. Paul said 23,000 Israelites “fell in one day.” However, Moses said the total number of victims was 24,000. Perhaps not everyone who contracted the plague died within twenty-four hours.
- In his account of Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew said there was an angel at the tomb. In John’s account, there were two angels. Perhaps Matthew decided to focus on the one angel who spoke, while John was more interested in the total number of angels Mary witnessed when she arrived at the tomb.
- Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6 recorded two versions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It could be that Jesus preached the same message in two locations at two different times. But a more probable explanation is that some Gospel accounts offer accurate paraphrases of what Jesus said rather than direct quotes. Both accounts capture the essence of Jesus’ message.
4. What the Bible Means For Us Today
- The Bible Frees Us (Hebrews 4:12)
The image of a double-edged blade can be misleading but can be used to free us from the entanglements of wrong thinking and wrong behavior. If we believe disobeying God will lead to freedom, we get bound up in misery. If we think we’re responsible for our well-being, we get bound up in worry. If we live like money is the key to happiness, we get bound up in greed. If we act like revenge is the best response to mistreatment, we get bound up in bitterness. The Word of God slices through our wrong beliefs, freeing us from wrong behavior and saving us from a world of hurt.
In Psalm 32:8, God promised the primary means He uses to guide us in His Word, and in Psalm 119:105, God provides us with enough light to see every step we need to take in the future, perhaps so we’re not tempted to run ahead of Him. But He promises to give us enough direction to take the next step.
- The Bible Inspires Us (Jeremiah 1:12)
The Bible—the inspired, inerrant, active Word of God is the primary tool the Holy Spirit uses to produce a change in us. It’s not enough to take the Bible literally because we must take it seriously. The wisest thing we can do is to commit to studying it, seeking out its treasures, and applying its timeless wisdom to our lives.
Full Passage: 2 Timothy 3:16