There are a lot of views on the Bible. Sam Harris says, “Theology is ignorance with wings.” Richard Dawkins even says, “The resurrection was invented by eager new recruits to Christianity.” I just recently, in our Q and A series at church, did a sermon on the reliability of the Bible. I want to quickly rehash what I talked about there. The goal is to equip believers to know the truth and to expose seekers to that same truth as well. And while I can’t possibly answer every question that may go through someone’s mind, I want to give you some truths, with the hopes of pushing you to study these topics further.
Dr. Stephen Meyer said, “The heart can’t exalt what the mind can’t believe.” If we’re gonna go by this book, let’s get it down. If we say we follow who this is all about, let’s get equipped and ready. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” People ask if this is true. People are searching and need to have believers ready to give them an answer. Right? People are making a decision about the most important decision they can make: do they have faith in Jesus, who He said He was and whether or not He rose from the grave. Listen, this book is not just like any other book out there. It is not a simple self-help book written by a collection of people who figured out life. It is the God-breathed words of the Creator of everything. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us, “ For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
It’s alive, it’s living and active! This isn’t just poetic nonsense. We’re getting a description of God and His word that He has given to us. We’ll talk about that a little later, but it’s His God-breathed words. This isn’t just another book. Paul tells us that in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
So let’s lay out the evidence for what we have. Let’s start with the OT.
The Old Testament:
Let’s just consider one book. The book of Isaiah. It was written around 700 BC. 700 years before Jesus. So a question that comes up for “always being prepared to give an answer for why we believe” may be “How do you know Isaiah was copied right?” We don’t have the original, but what do we have? Well in 1947 a shepherd boy was out and he threw a rock in a cave and heard something break. Long story short, he found all these jars containing 900 ancient scrolls. This has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this was a whole copy of Isaiah dating to about 200 BC. Ok, so what they did was compare that with what we have now and it was amazingly accurate. What was written then, we have now. There’s no telephone game whisper in the ear mess ups here.
And with that being said, let’s think about the implications of us knowing that the book of Isaiah (specifically chapter 53 we’ll look at) was the same then as we have now. So we have the original in 700 BC, the Dead Sea Scroll around 200 BC, copies from about 1000 years ago, and then what we have today. So we put those all together and exactly how accurate is it? Very! Norman Geisler said, “Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission – and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.”
So back to what this means. Over 2200 years have gone by and it has kept true. It means that we know for sure there was a very detailed, specific prophecy on Jesus. It was fulfilled by Him. Here’s how accurate Isaiah 53 is towards Jesus. It says He, “would not be widely believed, wouldn’t have the look of majesty, would be despised and suffer, would be concerned for others health and would die for our sins, would have pain and punishment for us, wouldn’t respond to charges, would be oppressed and killed, would be with criminals during life and death, buried in a rich man’s tomb, be crushed, suffer and die and yet live, would bear our sins, and would have a portion with the great.”
And just to add a little more, Daniel, in about 500 something BC prophesied about kingdoms coming and falling. Early on in Daniel he was given a prophecy about 4 global empires: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. Then in chapter 8 it specifically mentions Greece as a world power and the great King in there is Alexander the Great who would be cut off at the height of his power (he died unexpectedly in his thirties), be split into four parts (he had no successor so it was split into 4 kingdoms) that wouldn’t be as powerful as him (they weren’t). Eventually after other terrible and powerful leaders (like Antiochus Epiphanes) then Rome came to power and put it all under one again. All of this is prophesied hundreds of years before. And came to be.
What about the New Testament?
William Lane Craig, apologist, theologian rightly says that from the time evidence is found and written to the time you get it is irrelevant. What matters is the distance between the event happening and someone documenting it. Consider the first and second most reliable documents of antiquity.
Homer’s Iliad- Poem telling about the Trojan War. Time Gap- 400 yrs Copies- 643
NT- 25,000 manuscript copies, Time gap- 25-200 years.
It’s not even close!
What did the NT writers and apostles think of their writings and each other’s writings? Check these two examples out.
2 Peter 3:15-16 says, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” What does he do? Peter equates Paul’s writings to scripture. That’s huge. It directly knocks down some of the terrible, misinformed attacks on the Bible that I have seen. Here’s another one for you.
1 Timothy 5:18 says, “For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Why do I bring this up? “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” is from Deuteronomy 25:4. OT scripture. Something they were familiar with. And then “The worker deserves his wages” is from Luke 10:7. That’s NT! I think it is intentional that he puts them both together here and says, “For scripture says…” and he puts them on equal ground.
But is it true?
Christian author and speaker Dr. Frank Turek says there are 6 lines of evidence that show us that it’s true and not made up. And they all start with E. Here they are very briefly srtated:
Early testimony: Most if not all the NT documents are written prior to 70 AD. Why do I say that? Because the destruction of the temple (a huge, massive thing that would certainly be at least mentioned) is not mentioned in any NT writing. Not to mention that most conservative and libreal scholars hold to an early dating for their writings.
Eyewitness Testimony: Read Luke’s introduction to his gospel to see that he said he wrote it “as it was handed down to” him, from “eyewitnesses” and that he “carefully investigated everything” to “write an orderly account” so they can “know the certainty of the things you’ve been taught.”
Embarrassing Details: It seems extremely unlikely that anyone who made this stuff up, or fabricated it in anyway would include many of the details about the disciples that did not make them look good.
Excruciating Evidence: The eyewitnesses and many in the early church could have denied Jesus and said they were making it up, or they got it wrong, or just denied in some way to save their own lives. But they didn’t. They kept the story. The only real, logical explanation for this one alone is that it’s because it was true.
Expected Testimony: There is OT prophecy that leads you to the expected Messiah-Jesus.
Extra Biblical Testimony: I mentioned a little, but there are 10 ancient non-Christian sources within 150 years of Jesus’ life. When you take their brief accounts of Jesus and His life you get a story that is congruent with the NT.
Finally, one last cool thing to see. It was ahead of the time on science and understanding creation. The Bible served as a basis for modern scientific pursuits. When scientists thought the earth was flat (although sadly this seems to be making a comeback), the Bible said otherwise. Isaiah 40:22 says, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” The circle of the earth and it also in that verse points out the expansion of the universe which we know is happening. Job 26:7 God tells us that He suspends the Earth on nothing. Before oceans were explored, the Bible spoke of valleys and springs of the sea. It even mentions the hydrologic cycle of the circulation of the water of the earth long before anyone knew about that in Ecclesiastes 1:6-7. This is the kind of things these guys had no business knowing about unless…this book is not a normal book.
We have good news to share…and its’ true! The Bible is living and active. This is the real, powerful, life-changing, evil-calling-out, moral, eternity-shaking, unchanging, truthful, good news that gives us the knowledge of faith in Jesus alone to save and take us from death to life. That is what this is. But my experience with too many is that it’s nothing more than a coaster on a side table or a decoration. That has to change. You want to hear from God? We all want to know Him more and maybe cry out to Him, “Why don’t you speak to me?!” He has, but are we listening and reading it?