The Authenticity of the Bible
The authenticity of the Bible is a subject that has sparked a lot of heated debates throughout the years. Rather you believe it is the word of God or a book of fables, everyone seems to have their own opinion about its reliability. As believers, it is crucial that we have at least an understanding of the Bible’s authenticity because every answer that you will ever give in regards to the Christian faith will ultimately find its roots in this book. So as was once done for me, I would like to give you some answers to why the bible is an authentic and reliable book. I am greatly indebted to Pastor Voddie Baucham, Chuck Missler, CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) & a host of others for their diligence in this area.
If you don’t take anything else from this blog, please remember this:
The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents, written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. It records supernatural events as well as fulfillment of specific prophecies. And claims to be divine in origin rather than man-made.Voddie Bauchem – Why I Choose to Believe the Bible
Lets break this statement down to get a better understanding of its meaning.
The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents.
I feel it is important to note that we do not, I repeat we DO NOT have the original letters written by biblical authors; however this does not present an issue because when it comes to writings of antiquity, NO ONE has the originals. Instead, we are left with manuscripts. Manuscripts are hand written copies of any particular document. When it comes to verifying the reliability of ancient literature, the process of examining the manuscripts or the Bibliographical Test is the best method. The Bibliographical Test seeks to answer two fundamental questions. 1.How many manuscripts are there? 2.How close are they to the originals? If you have manuscripts that are close to the originals, then you can be more confident that there is a higher chance of it recording what the originals actually say. Also the more manuscripts you have, the more likely you are to reconstruct what the original documents say. Lets examine the figure below to see how the top manuscripts of Antiquity line up.
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In terms of the Bibliographical Test, there is no book of antiquity that comes close to the bible. Not only does the Bible out number the closest writing (Homer’s Iliad) by over 20,000 manuscripts, but the different languages also out number it as well. According to CARM, there are 5,600 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin Manuscripts and around 9,000 manuscripts in Syriac, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. For more information on biblical manuscripts check out Dr. Dan Wallace work at The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
It is important to note that there are textual variants within the manuscripts. A variant is a form or version of something that differs in some respect from other forms of the same thing or from a standard. In respects to the Bible there is no doubt that textual variances do exist. But how many? In his book Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman, possibly the worlds most famous biblical skeptic, says there are 400,000 textual variances in the manuscripts. Ehrman argues that there are more variances in the manuscripts then there are words in the Bible. This however, is not an issue for Christians. Lets examine the nature of the variance and draw some conclusions. In his book ‘Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?’ Dr. Daniel Wallace places the textual variances in four categories:
- Spelling differences or nonsense readings (e.g., a skipped line)
- Inconsequential word order (“Christ Jesus” vs. “Jesus Christ”) and synonyms
- Meaningful, though non-viable variants (e.g., the Comma Johanneum)
- Variants that are both meaningful and viable
Wallace concludes that the first three categories equates to over 99% of textual variances. Which means more than 396,000 of the variants have no bearing on our ability to reconstruct the original. And the vast majority of remaining differences have no major theological significance. Even Erhman attests to this in his book Misquoting Jesus:
“Most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology. Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort of another.”
On a more practical note, the variants show that the transmission of the bible was not controlled by any one group or individual but done by people who, in their zeal for the Lord, wanted to share what they believed to be the word of God with whom ever was willing to listen. With the vast number of manuscripts and variants Christians can be sure that they are truly able to reconstruct the original text.
written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses
The fact that the Bible is written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses means that it records falsifiable events that can either be attested to or refuted by people who were alive at that time. Let’s give an example. If I were to say that the Tennessee Titans beat the St. Louis Rams on a 15 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of Superbowl XXXIV. It would not be long before I was corrected by those who heard these claims. Why? Because people who were alive at the time of Superbowl XXXIV know that the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans & It wasn’t a 15 yard touchdown run, but a pass in which the Titan Wide Receiver was tackled 1 yard short of the Goal line by the Rams Linebacker. So we see this claim is extraordinary because if these events were not accurately portrayed, then they would have been shot down in the beginning.
Here are some Biblical examples of this claim
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. ~ Luke 1:1-4
Here Luke states that the purpose of him writing his letter was so Theophilus may “have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” and his method to go about doing this was to personally interview eyewitnesses to the accounts that had been spreading around.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Paul is appealing to the people in Corinth that a man named Jesus lived, was crucified, was buried and rose from the dead. Not only is he preaching this Jesus had appeared to certain people, but he tells the people they can go and verify it with the “most of whom are still alive”.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. ~ Acts 2:22-24
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, stands in front of thousands of Jews and proclaims that Jesus was a real person and how he did “mighty works and wonders and signs” in the midst. He is not talking about someone who they heard of from afar, but of someone they had personal experiences with. Furthermore, he goes on to say that Jesus was crucified because of them and that he rose from the dead. As a result, 3,000 men believed Jesus was their Messiah.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was born to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. ~ 2 Peter 1:16-19
Once again Peter is assuring the people that they “did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty”. Not only does he proclaim he was an eye-witness to Christ, he says that we “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” meaning that with the Bible we have a falsifiable book that can be verified through different avenues (archaeologically, scientifically, theologically, etc).
It records supernatural events as well as fulfillment of specific prophecies
8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ ~ Isaiah 46:8-10
The Bible is one-third prophecy and according to the Bible, only God has this ability. He is not claiming to predict what might happen based on patterns he see around him; however, he “declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done”. Biblically we see prophecy come in many different ways. According to Reasons to Believe there are approximately 2,500 prophecies in the Bible, 2,000 of which have already been fulfilled. Some found their immediate fulfillment, while other weren’t fulfilled for thousands of years. There are some that are plainly laid out and some that require diligent study to understand. For the sake of time we will explore a few of my favorite prophecies.
1. Genesis Chapter 5. Here we have the genealogy from Adam to Noah. On the surface, this seems to be a record of Noah’s lineage; however, when you dig a little deeper and examine the names, a profound message is there.
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Man is Appointed Mortal Sorrow; but The Blessed God Shall Come Down Teaching His Death Shall Bring The Despairing Rest!
So what seemed to be a boring lineage actually turns out to be a prophecy of the Gospel laid out in perfect order in the meaning of the names. The book of Genesis was written 1,450 years before Jesus walked the Earth proclaiming this exact same message. For more information click here.
2. Numbers 2. Here God tells Moses and Aaron to have Israel camp in four specific groups, under the banners of those groups, around the Tabernacle. On the surface this seems to be a boring census but if we dig a little deeper and examine the groups, we will see a profound image.
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In Numbers chapter 24:1-9, the pagan priest Balaam gets an aerial view of what this camp would have looked like and it’s an image so profound that he gave a prophecy of Israels coming Messiah.
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Here we see God has commanded the people to camp around the Tabernacle, which was where God dwelled, in such a way as to form a cross. And in the midst of the cross or centered on the cross we see God. It is a picture of Christ being crucified on a cross thousands of years before he actually did it and hundreds of years before death by crucifixion was invented. For more information click here.
Furthermore, there are more layers to this prophecy. If we examine the banners of the 4 lead tribes, we come to another profound message and picture. Judah, who camped in the east, carried the banner of a Lion. Ephraim, who camped in the west, carried the banner of an Ox. Reuben, who camped in the south, carried a banner of a Man. And Dan, who camped in the north, carried the banner of an Eagle. Revelation Chapter 4 gives us a glimpse into the throne room of God.
6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
So not only are the camping orders a picture of Christ’s work on the cross, but of the throne room of God!
Lets look back at the banners for one more profound nugget. Have you ever wondered why there are four accounts of Jesus’ ministry? The answer is found here. Judah’s banner is a Lion which represents Royalty. Ephraim’s banner is an Ox which represents Servanthood. Reuben’s banner is a Man which represents Humanity. Dan’s banner is an Eagle which represents Deity. How do these correlate to the gospels? Matthew’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ Kingship and shows his lineage is from Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1-17). Mark’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ Servanthood and doesn’t show a lineage because the lineage of a servant doesn’t matter. Luke’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ Humanity and shows his lineage from Adam (Luke 3:23-38). And John’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ Deity and shows his lineage from everlasting. (John 1:1-5).
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claims to be divine in origin rather than man made
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21
This claim is amazing when you think of its implications. The Bible consists of 66 books. Written down by 40+ Authors, most of which never knew each other because it’s written over a period of 1600+ years. It is logically consistent, empirically adequate & experientially relevant. These are crucial because according to Ravi Zacharias’ book ‘The End of Reason‘ logical consistency, empirical adequacy & experiential relevance are the three criteria for testing if a worldview is true or not. The Bible is the only religious book that fulfills all three requirements simultaneously while answering life’s fundamental questions. Namely origin – Where do the universe and human beings come from? Meaning – What is the meaning or purpose of life? Morality – How do we know what is right and what is wrong? destiny – What happens to us after we die? For more information click here.
Dear friends I am fully aware that not everyone will be a theologian, nor do I think that we all should be. For we are all one body with many members. I do however, feel that we should have a basic understanding of the authenticity of the Bible, so that we are able to give a reason for the hope that is within us. Please understand this blog is not intended to an exhaustive study. I pray this is a kick starter to help you along the way to further understanding why we chose to place our faith in the Bible. I pray that this information will be a tool used to help others place their faith in the Bible as well. Always remember that we are called to plant and water seeds but it is the Holy Spirit who gives the increase. I pray that we are led by him knowing that his guidance will keep us in the will of God. Amen! Hallelujah! Praise The LORD!
May the word of God go forth and his name be magnified!