The Reliability of the Bible Introduction – Why Should Anyone Trust the Bible?

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Biblical Interpretation, Historical apologetics, Positive Apologetics
Tags: , , , , , ,

By Matt Lefebvre

Introduction

In thinking about the question of biblical reliability, I am reminded of a joke I heard from a fellow apologist, Stefan Gustavsson.  I Intro1prefer it in Swedish, but I have heard him tell it in English too.  “I feel like a mosquito at a nudist colony.  ‘Where should I begin?’”  As the mosquito and his little bug brain have a hard time comprehending how to attack the multitude of skin surface area, I find a multitude of avenues laid before me in discussing the trustworthiness of what I believe to be God’s word.  Because the history of the Bible is such a vast topic, it is not only hard to find a satisfactory starting point, but there will also inevitably be parts that I will leave out.  However, I do feel that it is so important that a case is made for the Bible, so I will do my best to bring attention to key points along the road.  Though my treatment will not be all-inclusive, I would hope that it would be sufficient to demonstrate confidence that the Bible is not only reliable in a general historical sense, but also that it is the word of God, and thus, cannot be ignored.

In order to do this, I will be asking a series of questions that shed light on an overarching question; namely, why should anyone trust the Bible?  As I have mentioned, I will not attempt to cover every question of biblical reliability, but I do intend to follow some successive steps through the ancient world and try to answer questions as they naturally arise.  Hopefully, this will allow us to see how the words of God, which were supposed to have been spoken and written so long ago, could possibly show up right in front of our eyes today.  Intro2As I present what I regard as positive evidence for the reliability of the Bible, I will also attempt to respond to criticisms of it through the lens of the different questions, because there is opposition at every step.  It is my intention to do more than simply point out all that the Bible has going for it, for it is quite often the difficult questions that leave skeptics unconvinced. In answering these questions, I will mostly focus on the New Testament.  It is not that the Old Testament is not interesting to me, because it really is.  It is just that we know more about the New Testament and the New Testament itself bears witness to the Old Testament, so if we can positively answer some questions in regard to New Testament reliability, it will raise the credibility of the Old Testament as well.

Does the Bible claim to be the word of God?

Intro3This first question may seem redundant to some and a waste of time to others, but I consider it to be an important question to ask.  For those who already believe, “the Bible” and “the word of God” are synonymous, so it might seem superfluous to ask such a question.  For those who do not believe, they might be able to name a few other books that make similar claims and say that such claims are just that: claims, and most likely unsubstantiated at that.  I feel this is an important question, however, because it can give us that aforementioned starting point.  If the Bible does claim to be the word of God, we can go about examining that claim by looking at the book itself.  If it does not, examining the book will not lead anywhere, because the designation “word of God” must have arisen from some external source, such as a person or a group of people.  In the latter case, we would have to consider the reasoning behind the designation “word of God” for a book that makes no such claim on its own.  In the former case, we have cause to take a closer look at the words themselves.  I see the Bible claiming to be the word of God in various ways, but more than that, I also consider them to be substantiated claims.

Does the Bible Claim to Be the Word of God?

Word-figure3

But do we know that the right words were written?

Intro4cBuilding on the first question, the second question asks how we could know that what was written was the word of God, even if we conceded that God had spoken to some people at some points.  After all, they did not have You-Talk-It-Types back in the time of the Bible, or even computers, for that matter.  How could something like the Bible be recorded in a way that would preserve the words that God had spoken?  Well, I think that by showing how the Bible measures up to the standards of secular history, it will illuminate how reliable we should consider the Bible to be.  There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding biblical history, so it might surprise many to find out what we can say with confidence regarding it.

But Do We Know that the Right Words Were Written?

Right-figure1

But do we know what the originals said?

Intro5A third question is related very closely with the second question, for the moment we acknowledge that the words of God were written down, we would naturally inquire as to where these words are.  Unfortunately, we do not have the original documents to examine, but this is true of all ancient documents.  However, in the same way that some other ancient documents are not lost to historians, by using copies regulated by historical criteria, we can recover the original wording to a high degree of accuracy.  Again, many might be surprised to find out how the Bible measures up according to the standards of secular history.

But do we have the correct books?

Intro6aThe final question in this series deals not so much with the words themselves, but the books in which they are contained.  The Bible is indeed one book, but it is also a collection of smaller books.  The question of whether the Bible contains the right books is a matter explained in the first two questions, for if claim is made for them being the words of God and they were written by people in the right position to record such words, I believe they should be included.  Though this still merits further comment, and will receive as much, a common question today revolves around books that were not included in the Bible, and I will certainly address that.  If the books of the Bible distinguish themselves from other proposed candidates, we can say confidently that we have the right books of the word of God.

Intro-figure1

The articles in this series can be read in isolation, if a particular area is of interest to the reader, but I would suggest reading them in the order laid out above.  As much as I think each question has a satisfactory answer and stands on its own as significant evidence for biblical reliability, understanding the evidence at these different stages reinforces how much confidence we can really have in the Bible.

Does the Bible Claim to Be God’s Word?

But Do We Know that the Right Words Were Written?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s