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Is the Bible reliable?

Perhaps you’ve wondered if Scripture is a wise standard by which to live your life. Or perhaps you have an unbelieving friend or family member who has questioned the reliability of the Bible. What evidence is there that the Bible is trustworthy?

There has never been a book that is more dependable than the Word of God. This is not merely a statement of faith. Rather, this is a fact corroborated by an abundance of evidence.

Archaeological and Historical Evidence

The Bible is not only the record of God’s relationship with His people, it is also a chronicle of God’s people dealing with different nations and cultural challenges. One way to know whether the Bible is legitimate is to compare it to other sources of history.

You might have wondered if other nations confirmed the events written about in the Old Testament. There are, in fact, many examples of other nations chronicling the wars and deeds of the Israelites. Though they are too numerous to spell out, one example where biblical history is corroborated with other sources is the story of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah, a brave king of Judah, faced a devastating onslaught from Assyria. Scripture records that Hezekiah built a massive wall around Jerusalem to fortify the city. He also diverted the Gihon spring so that a water supply could be found within the wall (2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:30). God promised that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrians; and though the majority of Judah did surrender to Sennacherib, Jerusalem did not.

Second Chronicles 32:9, 21 reports, "Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem while he was besieging Lachish with all his forces with him, against Hezekiah king of Judah . . . The Lord sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So [Sennacherib] returned in shame to his own land."

The physical existence of the wall and the water tunnel can be confirmed in Jerusalem. You can still see both of the striking structures today. However, it seems that if this account were true, Assyrian history would confirm the event. And, in fact, it does. On an artifact called the Lachish Frieze, reliefs depict Sennacherib’s attempts to take Jerusalem.

This is just one example; however, celebrated archaeologist William F. Albright affirms, "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."

There are also many instances of corroboration in the New Testament. One striking confirmation is of the darkness and earthquake that occurred while Christ was dying on the cross (Matthew 27:45-52). In his book Pontius Pilate, Paul Maier writes, "Phlegon, a Greek author . . . reported that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., 33 A.D.) there was ‘the greatest eclipse of the sun’ and that ‘it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia."

Physical Evidence

One of the leading concerns in viewing the Bible as a reliable source is in its transmission. How can we be sure that the sources we rely upon are authentic? This is answered by determining the quality of the manuscripts.

To analyze this, a comparison is in order. One of history’s treasured possessions is Caesar’s recounting of the Gallic Wars, which he penned during the first century. Without his account, we would know barely anything of these important conflicts.

However, the actual papyri Caesar recorded his history on are no longer in existence. The earliest copies one might examine are from A.D. 900—950. In fact, there are only 10 complete copies and fragments available for inspection. Even so, these documents are taught as historical fact.

The Bible, on the other hand, has many manuscripts to rely upon. Burnett H. Streeter has assured, "The degree of security that . . . the text has been handed down to us in a reliable form is prima facie, very high."

There are in existence more than 14,000 Old Testament manuscripts–some dating back as far as 400 B.C.! As for the New Testament, there are over 5,300 manuscripts in existence, with nearly 800 of them written before 1000 A.D.!

F. F. Bruce sums up the case by saying, "Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principal Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us, of Sophocles, of Thucydides, of Cicero, of Virgil; yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of manuscripts, whereas the manuscripts of the New Testament are counted by hundreds, and even thousands."

Internal Evidence

The Bible is also an incredibly consistent document, considering the different circumstances and backgrounds of the Biblical authors. Though themes vary, the character of God is represented in an extraordinarily harmonious manner throughout the text. The teachings within are never contradictory; rather, each new chapter brings additional information of the relationship people can have with God. Charles Ryrie wrote,

The Bible is a unique book. It was written over a period of 1,500 years by about 40 different authors, and yet is one book without contradiction in what it says. And what it says is remarkable, for it speaks with equal ease and authority of the known and unknowable, of the pleasant and unpleasant, of man’s accomplishments and failures, of the past and the future.

The Evidence of God’s Love for You

The consistent thread within Scripture is that God loves you. His love for all people is fully illustrated through the wonderful stories such as those of Abraham, David, and Paul. However, God’s greatest display of His love is through the sacrifice of his Son on the Cross. No other work has ever described a love so unconditional, pure, and holy.

John Ruskin wrote, "The Bible is the one book to which any thoughtful man may go with any honest question of life or destiny and find the answer of God by honest searching." God’s Word was not given to enslave you; rather, it was given to empower you and set you free. His Word gives you purpose and helps you become the person you were meant to be. His Word gives you strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Why? Because its writing was motivated by God’s love for you.

Scripture will always point you towards a growing relationship with God. That is why people have died defending it and passing it on to future generations–because it is tried and true. Because between its covers is the word of life.

If you have doubts about the reliability of the Bible, let those doubts be put to rest. Allow your life to be one more piece of evidence that the Word of God is powerful, true, and trustworthy.

– Jenny Rosania

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