The Bible Tells Me So
For a majority of Christian families, one of the first songs their children learn is Jesus Loves Me, and the wonderful news of this love is based on the words that follow: “for the Bible tells me so.” The truth is, our beliefs are built on what we find in Scripture, which is why critics so often attack the reliability of the Bible. The first recorded words of Satan show him questioning the truthfulness of God’s Word (“Did God really say…?”).
So do we have the very words of God, as 1 Thessalonians 2:13 claims, or is the Bible simply a helpful product of man? A lot is at stake here because if it’s of human origin, you might listen to it or you might not, but there’s no obligation to obey it. However, if the Bible really is the Word of God, then everything changes. If God has spoken, nothing else is more important!
Whenever I hear objections to the Bible or doubts enter my mind, I remember an acronym that reminds me of why I believe the Bible is God’s Word: T.R.U.S.T. (as in, you can TRUST the Bible). Rather than plead blind faith, God calls us to always have a ready answer when asked what our hope is founded on (see 1 Pet 3:15). Here are my reminders.
With any piece of ancient literature, these are used to determine its historical reliability.
- The Manuscript Test asks how far removed the copies are that we have today from the original (closer to the original = greater accuracy), and how many handwritten copies we have (more manuscripts = easier to recreate the original). There is more abundant manuscript evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient book. For more on this, listen to Ben Stuart’s talk “Has the Bible Been Corrupted?”, available through Breakaway Ministries.
- The Internal Test asks if the authors are reliable, since the nearness of the witness to the event recorded adds to its accuracy. We know that the New Testament authors wrote as either eyewitnesses or recorded eyewitness accounts (see Lk 1:1-4; Jn 19:34,35; 20:30,31 Acts 1:1-3; 2:22; 2 Pet 1:16; 1 Jn 1:1-3).
- The External Test examines whether outside sources confirm the document’s reliability. In addition to archaeology, several external sources confirm the Bible’s contents, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger. Early church fathers also affirm Scripture’s accuracy, such as Papias, who confirmed that Mark recorded Peter’s account of Christ, and Iraneus, a student of Polycarp (a disciple of John) who wrote of the accuracy of the four Gospels.
The incredible detail of Old Testament transmission (i.e., how it was copied) protected its reliability. Jewish scribes (those who copied Scriptures by hand) began their training around age 14 and faced a demanding role. So serious was the attitude towards God’s Word that several precautions were taken to achieve an exact replica of the master copy. The 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (800 volumes of scrolls and fragments dating back 2,000 years) allowed us to compare these manuscripts with already-existing copies and confirmed the Bible’s accuracy after years of transcription. In all, no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted Scripture. Rather, each finding reinforces its accuracy.
The Bible is truly “different from all others; having no like or equal.; incomparable.” It is unique in its…
- Circulation – read by more people and published in more languages than any other book in history
- Survival – through time, persecution, and criticism
- Teaching – in addition to prophecy (explained next), the Bible records accurate and reliable events, yet is very honest and open about the sins and mistakes of its characters
- Continuity – despite being written over a span 1,500 of years by more than 40 authors in different places, at different times, in different moods, and from all walks of life (kings, shepherds, fishermen, statesmen), and despite being written on three continents in three languages and containining subject matter on hundreds of controversial topics, the authors wrote with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation about ONE unfolding story: God’s redemption of man!
Signature of God
Demonstrating that the Bible is reliable and unique doesn’t conclusively show that it is supernatural. Fulfilled prophecy, however, is God’s signature, proving that the Bible is from an all-knowing God (see Isaiah 41:21-23; 46:9,10; 48:3-5). In other words, the Bible’s ability to predict future events and people, shows that its origin is from Someone who is both omniscient and outside of time, since this couldn’t be the result of human knowledge or guesswork. For example, there are over 60 major prophecies concerning the Messiah throughout the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The odds of only eight of the them being fulfilled in one man has been estimated at 1 in 10 to the 17th power (that is, 100,000,000,000,000,000).
Truths of Life
Finally, we would expect a handbook from our Maker to deal with life’s most important issues, to appeal to every person, and to have the power to change us. As Psalm 119:160 reminds us: “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”
- Life Issues – The Bible deals with all aspects of our existence, covering such areas as questions (where did I come from? why am I here? is there life after death?), relationships (family, friends, romance, love, hate, faithfulness, trust, forgiveness), morality, and character.
- The universal appeal of its message – the Bible always meets the needs of everyone who reads it, even though it is nearly 2,000 years old and in spite of your place in history, age, race/language or intellect.
- The convincing, converting power of its message – many people have been changed who, though at one time had denied the existence of God or Christ, began reading the Bible and were convicted of their sin and accepted its message of salvation through Jesus.
The next time you face an objection to the reliability of the Bible, remember that you can be assured that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), that it is living and active (Heb 4:12), and that it stands forever (Isa 40:8).
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.