Is the Bible True and Reliable?
How The Bible Stands Up
Mathematics and the Bible
It would be foolish to argue that the Bible is a mathematics textbook. Any reader would realize that it contains some arithmetic, but not a presentation of the science of mathematics. However, anything the Bible says about mathematics is reliable. Apparent numerical inconsistencies, such as the ages of certain Old Testament kings, are cleared up by treating them as different methods of counting rather than as errors.
The same could be said about botany, geology, history, or any other subject. God’s nature would prohibit him from writing a book to accurately reveal himself, yet use innovative data from history or physical science.
Science and the Bible
No proven fact of science creates an inexplicable problem for any verse of Scripture; however, some science theories disagree with Scripture.
But, as has happened on many occasions, after examination and testing, many of the theories of men have been proven false. More and more scientists are now accepting the biblical accounts of creation and flood as an accurate scientific explanation of the events. Simple medical advances, such as isolating those with contagious diseases, washing hands thoroughly, and giving careful thought to diet, were all part of the Mosaic writings.
Some argue the Bible is unscientific when idioms like the “sun rising” (Eccles. 1:5) or the “dew falling” (Num. 11:9) are used, but somehow the same critics fail to apply the same standards when the same phrases are used by meteorologists on television today.
History and the Bible
Further study has shown the Bible to be reliable whenever there has been a conflict between the Bible and another document of antiquity. The Bible was written largely by eyewitnesses to the events recorded in its pages (2 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3). Most historians, like Luke (Luke 1:1-4), tried to uncover primary sources when they were preparing to write about historical events.
Many of the passages in Scripture were written by witnesses of the facts. This should be proof enough of the credibility of God’s Word, yet the eyewitnesses also had the enabling of the Holy Spirit by inspiration to record an accurate Book.
Archaeology and the Bible
One of the strongest arguments for the reliability of the Bible is archaeology. Professor H. H. Rowley says, “It is not because scholars of today begin with more conservative presuppositions than their predecessors that they have a much greater respect for the patriarchal stories than was formerly common, but because the evidence warrants it.”
Another archaeologist, Sir Fredrick Kenyon, observes, “Archaeology has not yet said its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge.” As you read the writings of the archaeologists today, it is evident that profound respect for the accuracy and historicity of Scripture exists in their minds.
Prophecy and the Bible
Over 40 percent of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. Some Scriptures told of nations that would be judged by God, and they were judged. Others dealt with the future of individuals, and they too were fulfilled. Hundreds of prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus to save men were fulfilled during his lifetime.
The odds of this happening by chance are 1 in 1023 or about the same as a blindfolded man finding on the first try a particular silver dollar thrown into a pile of silver dollars large enough to cover the state of Texas two feet deep. The following chart illustrates some of those prophecies fulfilled in Jesus’ life.
Prophecy In Action – Event – Foretold – Fulfilled
1. Virgin birth – Isa. 7:14 – Matt. 1:23
2. Descendant of Abraham – Gen. 12:2, 3 – Matt. 1:1
3. Birthplace – Mic. 5:2 – Matt. 2:1
4. Miracles performed – Isa. 35:5, 6 – Matt. 9:35
5. Use of parables – Ps. 78:2 – Matt. 13:34
6. Resurrection – Ps. 16:10 – Acts 2:31
7. Betrayed by friend – Ps. 41:9 – Matt. 10:4
8. Crucified with thieves – Isa. 53:12 – Matt. 27:38
9. Prayed for persecutors – Isa. 53:12 – Luke 23:24
10. Gambling at the cross – Ps. 22:18 – John 19:23, 24
The Bible was written by 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years, and it is comprised of 66 books. So, there never has been a single original book, but many original manuscripts. While we do not have the actual original manuscripts, we do have the actual text from the originals.
Contradictions in the Bible
I would like to direct your attention to the Bible passage which claims that all Scripture is from God and therefore is infallible (without error, contradiction, etc.).
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which can make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:15-16).
Please note the conclusion of this passage: “All scripture, because it is God-breathed, is profitable…” The origin of Scripture is stated: It is “God-breathed,” (Greek word Theopneutos) i.e., the words of Scripture are to be received as from God Himself … The Holy Spirit communicated to the authors (writers) of Scripture precisely those truths which God desired to transmit (see II Peter 1:21). Because it is all “breathed-out” by God, it is profitable in four ways:
- “For doctrine” – to know what to believe (systematic teachings of God’s great truths)
- “For reproof” -to discern what not to believe (convict of sin)
- “For correction” – to learn what not to do (show the right way)
- “For instruction in righteousness” – to understand what should be done (to equip Christians for good work)
(Notes from Criswell Study Bible, p. 1421; That Manuscript from Outer Space, by H. L. Willmington, p. 47.)
It should be recognized that the Bible is absolutely honest–God literally “tells it like it is.” Please note Dr. H. L. Willmington’s address concerning the proof that the Bible is the Word of God. He says, “The Bible is absolutely honest in its presentation. The Bible is not a Book that man could write if he would, or would write if he could. “…God writes about some of His friends and shows their bad side (by detailing their wicked sins).
- Noah is shown drunk (Genesis 9:20-24)
- Moses is shown in his anger and disobedience (Numbers 20:7-12)
- David is shown as an adulterer, a cold-blooded murderer (II Samuel 11)
- Elijah is shown as a coward running away from trouble (I Kings 19)
- Peter is shown as a false curser and denier of Christ (Matthew 26:74)
The point of showing these men as weak and giving into immorality is simply this–the Bible is not an edited Book. God literally “tells it like it is.” Human authors, however sincere, do not consistently write this way. (That Manuscript From Outer Space, pp. 142-144.)
How were the original Scripture manuscripts preserved over time?
- The first 5 books, known as the Pentateuch, were stored in the Ark of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 31:24).
- During the time of David and Solomon, the books that existed at that time were stored in the temple treasury (1 Kings 8:6).
- The books were carefully cared for by the priests (2 Kings 22:8).
- More books were added during the reign of King Hezekiah, e.g. Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah (Proverbs 25:1).
- Around 540 B.C. (when Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity), Ezra re-collected the writings and added other works to the compilation. They were then stored in the Ark that was constructed for the second temple. The Ark was very secure as only the High Priest once a year could enter into the temple where the Ark was located.
- The writings, over time, were extremely meticulously copied to protect the inspired writings.
- In the third century B.C., the books were translated into Greek by a team of 70 Jewish scholars, which became known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was used and quoted by the Apostles in their writings. We have sections of the Septuagint dated from 1st and 2nd century B.C.
- In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves in Israel. These are manuscripts dated from between the 5th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls represent nearly every book of the Old Testament, and comparisons with modern copies today show them to be virtually identical. The main deviations are the spellings of some individuals’ names and various numbers quoted in Scripture.
- Luke records a statement by Jesus regarding the assemblage of the Old Testament. Abel’s death is found in Genesis and Zechariah’s in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, which, from an ordering perspective, is the last book in the Hebrew Bible. (Luke 11:49-51)
- In 1 Timothy 3:18, Paul quotes part of Luke as Scripture (Luke 10:7).
- Peter refers to Paul’s letters as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).
- The first collection of New Testament books was proposed around 140 A.D.
- The New Testament composition was officially settled at the Council of Carthage in A. D. 397. However, the majority of the New Testament was accepted as authoritative much earlier.
- Quotes exist from the early church fathers that allow the near reconstruction of the entire New Testament.
- There is no literary rival in the ancient world to the number of manuscript copies and the early dating of the New Testament.