Why I Trust the Bible

18. Why I Trust the BibleObjections abound concerning the truth and relevance of the Christian Bible. Isn’t it out-dated? Hasn’t the text been corrupted? Didn’t the church embellish the stories to suit their political/theological ends? Arising from the arenas of textual studies, history, psychology, science, metaphysics, anthropology, archaeology, ethics, or philosophy, myriad arguments are launched against the Christian claim that the Bible is reliable as an historical source, and especially against the idea that the Bible is inspired as God’s self-revelation to humanity.

Armed with these objections, I understand why you may have an initial impulse to stand at arms length from seriously investigating the Bible. But here’s why you shouldn’t… To leave your investigation at this cursory glance is to overlook the most read, most translated, most burned, most banned, most despised, most cherished, most controversial, and most inspirational book that has ever existed! And going deeper, what’s to say there aren’t good answers to your questions? What if your scepticism is unfounded? Wouldn’t that have massive implications for your life?

Regardless of your creed or your culture, the BIG claims of the Bible are relevant for everyone. The scenes of its story speak to every major human question: God, origins, identity, meaning, purpose, suffering, guilt, desires, relationships, hope, justice, and destiny. If you’re a sceptic, or a believer that is plagued by doubts, here are 7 big reasons Why I Trust the Bible! These are but a taste of what to expect in a coming book that bears the same title as this post.

#1 The Bible’s Textual Transmission

Far from eroding faith, the historical science of textual criticism should give us great confidence that the Bible we have today has not been corrupted over time. True: we do not possess the autographs (originals). False: the Bible is corrupted beyond repair. To date we possess some 5,800+ Greek, 10,000+ Latin, and 10,000+ other manuscripts (Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, Syriac, etc). With over 25,000+ manuscripts to work with, totalling some 2.6 million pages, there is only an average of 20 mistakes per 250-page manuscript. How many mistakes would you make in 250 pages of handwriting? Now over 99% of these mistakes are completely innocuous, and of the 40 disputed lines in the New Testament (where we don’t know exactly what was originally written), none pf them affect any doctrine considered central to Christianity. If you want to hear a testimony of confidence from the mouth of a renowned textual critic, read the famed scholar Bruce Metzger, or check out his testimony in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

#2 The Gospel’s Eyewitness Status

After decades of scepticism in historical Jesus studies, a new wave of scholarship by figures like Craig L Blomberg and Richard Baukham strongly supports the thesis that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) aren’t mere legend, but record reliable eyewitness testimony. The Gospel writers simply have a growing track record that they intimately knew the world and time that Jesus of Nazareth inhabited (Judean architecture, Jewish customs, favoured Jewish names of that generation, specific kinds of botany native to certain regions, or religious and political tensions). If these stories had been concocted generations later by a community of Christians who weren’t there, they simply wouldn’t have had access to this level of historical detail. There was no Wikipedia, or Google Maps, or TripAdvisor to consult. But unlike the later Gnostic gospels, which get all these details wrong or omit them altogether, the canonical gospels reveal an intimate familiarity with these events. Whether written or relayed by eyewitnesses, these stories just don’t fit the “chinese whispers” conspiracy theory.

#3 The Bible’s Archaeological Support

Archaeology is an historical science that can test historical claims to the existence of places and people, judging whether history has left a visible footprint to corroborate these claims. Although some of the Bible’s historical claims remain either suspect or unavailable to testing (like the Egyptian/Israelite timeline), overall there has been an overwhelming congruence between the claims of the Bible historically and the footprints archaeologists have uncovered. Many people presuppose the Bible is wrong rather than apply benefit of the doubt. They assume that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.  Whether Sir William Ramsey’s quest to disprove Luke’s record of Paul’s New Testament missionary journeys, the literary argument that Moses pre-dated semitic writing, or the sceptical argument that the Hittite race was mythical, time and time again, people who have set out to prove that the Bible was historically inaccurate have themselves been proven wrong. Hear it from the now dead mouth of an esteemed archaeologist… “I know of no finding in archaeology that’s properly confirmed which is in opposition to the Scriptures. The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has seen” (Dr Clifford Wilson).

#4 The Bible’s Prophetic Accuracy

If materialism is correct – i.e. matter is all that exists, in rejection of the supernatural – then prophecy (foretelling of future events) must be purely a chance encounter. A lottery fluke! So what do the odds reveal? Well, at the time of being written, no less than 25% of the Bible was prophetic in character. Materialists make a blanket rejection of the apparent fulfilment of prophecy, claiming chance, lack of specification, and later interference by humans (prophecy after the fact) as the only plausible explanation.  Yet, when we consider the nature of these prophecies, some are incredibly specific, with the fulfilment removed by centuries from the prediction, carried out in ways impervious to ‘rigging’ the outcome. When you start doing the math, the ways in which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these kinds of prophecies defies dizzying odds.

#5 Jesus’ Authority and Endorsement of the Scriptures

My faith in the Bible stands or falls on my faith in the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus is God incarnate, then I would be wise to believe about the Bible what he believed about the Bible. If Jesus rose again from the dead, then this miracle is a divine stamp authenticating his own claim to divinity. Since the historical case for the resurrection of Jesus is so compelling intellectually (both in the academy and to the common sense person), I believe I am rationally warranted in adopting Jesus’ beliefs concerning the Bible, however counterintuitive they may seem inductively at first. Although much ink has been spilled debating Jesus’ beliefs about the Bible he read (the Tanakh), suffice to say, if it comes down to a choice between believing the Son of God or a sceptical scholar on the Bible, I’m siding with Jesus.

#6 The Bible’s Unique Production

The Bible stands in a category of its own when it comes to production. This compendium of 66 books carries the works of 40+ authors who span all social strata  with varied levels of education–kings, philosophers, priests, statesmen, herdsmen, warriors, scribes, fishermen, doctors, and tax collectors. They wrote their books over a period of 1,600 years across three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). This compendium contains a litany of literary genres (historical narrative, national chronicles, sermons, letters, songs, poetry, architecture designs, travel diaries, inventories, geographical surveys, family trees, population statistics, biographies, and legal documents). The bizarre anomaly of course is that, despite addressing the most controversial and diverse of subjects, the Bible carries a profound unity in telling one BIG story of humans being created for good, becoming damaged by evil, being restored for better, before being sent together on mission, all with the sure hope that Jesus will one day return to set everything right. To find such unity in the diversity of the Bible, woven together with the scarlet thread of God’s loving redemption of humans in Jesus Christ, is a beautiful glimpse into the orchestration of history and humans personalities to produce God’s story.

#7 The Bible’s Regenerative Power

Finally, in terms of effect, the Bible’s message has shaped the course of history, thought, and culture in a way unparalleled by any other book. Whether in the fields of philosophy, morality, law, politics, art, music, literature, or education, the Bible has so influenced every arena of society and the academy that it stands in category of its own. Its redemptive message has inspired and given hope, joy, and meaning to billions. Regarding the four Gospels and their ethical impact, the secular historian William Lecky writes: “[The character of Jesus] has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists.”[1]

These 7 sound bite answers to the question of Why I Trust the Bible raise one BIG question…

What should you believe about the Bible?

 

Dan Paterson is the Australian Director and a Speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

[1] W E C Lecky, History of European Morals.

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