How Do We Know That The Bible Is True?
By Anthony Barbera
Recently, my ten-year-old niece, Madison, asked me a thoughtful and important question: “Uncle Tony,” she said, “How do we know that the Bible is true? That it was inspired by God?” Yep, she really speaks like that. What a superb question, and a dynamic continuation of our search concerning Our Wondrous Bible.
I said, “Madison, there are no quick answers, but let’s have a go at it. Certainly, most Christians maintain that the Bible is God’s Word and the most wondrous of all books written since the beginning of human existence, and yet, curiously, even some Christians will ask: ‘Did God really have the Bible written for us? Is the Bible true? Is it reliable?’”
So, how do we know that the hand of God genuinely inspired one book, the Bible, specifically to guide the people of earth, whom God said He created in His own image? How do we know that God actually had the Holy Scriptures written by men under His supervision, authority, and inspiration? Is there proof?
Yes! Yes, indeed. The proof is overwhelming. But first things first. We’ve seen this verse before, and yet, it is an indisputable landmark of truth.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:21 KJV)
The Holy Bible was not written by men willy-nilly, declaring their personal beliefs concerning a deity. Instead, our Creator conveyed very clearly, and holy men of His, spoke and wrote, or had it transcribed as they were inspired (moved) by the Spirit of God.
WORKING IN UNION WITH THE CREATOR
The Bible contains Jehovah’s desire for all men, revealing the true history of mankind: from the beginning to the end. The Bible contains thousands of fulfilled predictions (prophecies), many times written in advance of the actual events, which have come to pass. Of course, some reside still in the future. Hundreds of details concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were written generations before he was ever born. For example, Isaiah 53 beautifully describes the life of Christ, 700 years before it took place! Even the town of Jesus’ birth was foretold in the Old Testament Micah 5:2. And there are no prophetic mistakes.
MEN OF GOD WERE NOT COMPILING HISTORY BY MEMORY
There is no question that the books of the Bible were composed by human writers. We don’t know who every writer was. But we do know the Author. Nor do we know exactly how God directed these men to write, except that they were moved by the Spirit of God as they wrote. To be inspired is to be encouraged and enlightened, to receive revelation (information which cannot be known other than from God). Decidedly, never, just never, is a man possessed by the Spirit of God. Nor, were the holy men of God merely compiling a history of mankind from memory, where error and opinion would necessarily be intertwined; No, instead God, through His Spirit, inspired each verse accurately from His ever-present knowledge.
The Holy Scriptures were inspired by God while holy men, working in union with the Creator of the heavens and the earth, wrote them down. At least forty of them, most with notably different backgrounds: from kings to farmers; tax collectors to fishermen; prophets to apostles—God moved and inspired them all. In fact, the Word of God (as it is called by God) was composed by one Author (God Almighty) utilizing many writers. The Scriptures were written across three continents in three languages; penned and compiled over approximately 1600 years. Imagine—one majestic tapestry of truth designed to guide all men to the most spectacular relationship imaginable.
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT SHAKESPEARE WROTE ROMEO AND JULIET?
Ask yourself this: How do we know that Shakespeare actually wrote Romeo and Juliet? Were you there? How many original manuscripts are there of Romeo and Juliet? It’s only been a little over 400 years since it was written, and yet, not one reputable scholar doubts that Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet, for instance. We simply believe it to be fact. Oddly enough, there is not even one “original” manuscript or “author-supervised” publication of Romeo and Juliet. And that’s only a little over 400 years ago. Five quarto editions were published by others between 1597 and 1637, and the play was also included in the First Folio of 1623, published seven years after Shakespeare’s death. The texts from these and other sources were used to create subsequent editions of the play. We don’t even know the exact timing during which Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, however, it was first performed in 1564 or 1565. Interesting though, a little over 400 years ago and not one original manuscript.
To be fair, there are no original editions of the Bible either. So it cannot be that we trust in the literature of antiquity simply because we possess an “original” (a never-before-copied document). If original manuscripts of ancient works were to be our chief means of judging authenticity, then none of them would be valid. Not even Shakespeare.
It is believed that Moses wrote some, or all, of the first five books of the Old Testament around 1446 B.C... That’s over 3400 years ago. The oldest copies ever found of the Old Testament are fragments in Hebrew or Greek: The Silver Scrolls, dating between 700 and 650 B.C., the Septuagint, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating from 300 to 100 B. C.. There is really no one doubt that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. What about the Bible?
According to the military historian, Dr. C. Saunders, two very important elements are used to determine the reliability of an ancient manuscript. First: what is the time gap between the original manuscript and the oldest copy we now have? And secondly: how many manuscripts are there in existence? Homers Iliad was written in approximately 900 B.C. There are no complete copies from that time, naturally fragmented parchment of parts. The Homeric papyri are, with the exception of a few ancient quotations, the oldest surviving witnesses to the text of Homer. These papyrus documents are all-fragmentary, and range in date from as early as the third century BC to the seventh century AD. The vast majority of the fragments were discovered in Egypt and now reside in collections located all over the world. The number of copies: 643.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Leningrad Codex Cover
The Leningrad Codex, or Leningradensis, is the oldest complete Hebrew Bible still preserved. While there are older parts of Bibles or biblical books, still in existence, there is no older manuscript that contains the whole Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament in Hebrew). The Leningrad Codex is considered one of the best examples of the Masoretic text.
How old is the Manuscript?
The manuscript was written around the year 1010 A.D. It was probably written in Cairo, and later sold to someone living in Damascus.
Where is the Original Manuscript?
Today it is in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the Russian National Library (Saltykov-Shchedrin), where it has been since the mid-1800′s. When the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center and West Semitic Research photographed the Bible in 1990, the city was still called Leningrad. The name of the manuscript continues to be called the Leningrad Codex in order to avoid confusion
THE NEW TESTAMENT
As historians apply the same testing means to all ancient literature, to determine the accuracy and reliability of each individual work, it is clear that there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than any other ten pieces of classical literature combined. Why? Because there are no original manuscripts for any of the classical books of antiquity (A manuscript is any document written by hand, as opposed to being printed or reproduced in some other way). Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42) was the first major book printed in the West with movable type. It marked the start of the “Gutenberg Revolution” and the age of the printed book in the West. Preparation of it probably began soon after 1450, and the first finished copies of the Gutenberg Bible were available in 1454 or 1455.
According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts,
“As far as Greek manuscripts, over 5800 have been cataloged. The New Testament was translated early on into several other languages as well, such as Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, etc. The total number of these versional witnesses has not been counted yet, but it certainly numbers in the tens of thousands. At the same time, it should be pointed out that most of our manuscripts come from the second millennium AD, and most of our manuscripts do not include the whole New Testament. A fragment of just a verse or two still counts as a manuscript. And yet, the average size for a NT manuscript is more than 450 pages. As of 2013, there are more than 5,800 known cataloged Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. That number continues to grow yearly. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgates and at least 9,300 other early manuscript versions in different languages and you have over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today. No other document of antiquity comes even close. In comparison to the Bible, the Iliad by Homer is second, with only 643 manuscripts (or portions) which have survived. The first complete preserved text of the Iliad of Homer dates from the 13th century. Now no one doubts that Homer wrote the Iliad. What about the Bible? 643 manuscripts to over 5,800?
So then, as far as reliable textual witnesses to the Bible, the texts of the Bible outweigh all written books of all antiquity.
WHO WAS THE BIBLE WRITTEN FOR?
Some have suggested that the Bible was written only for the believer, that it was not written for the unbeliever. We disagree. Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God. The Bible says that we were all dead in trespasses and sin, having no hope, and without God in the world. The Creator had the Bible written for all of His creation so that all men would be able to make their own free-will decision. Let's remember, God’s will is for all men to be saved and to come unto a knowledge of the truth!
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Tim 2:4)
THE GOD-BREATHED WORD
The God-breathed Word (the inspired words of God) unfold in splendor the entire plan of God’s design for His family. Those timeless words reveal His love; difficulties presented when men and women of free will deviate from The Lord’s fatherly advice and the consequences that may occur. The living words provide the truth that works yesterday, today and into the future.
The Bible reveals God’s enemy, Satan, and how that enemy set out to corrupt humanity, has succeeded partially, but will finally be destroyed. Satan’s infliction of misery upon many—immeasurable. The Scriptures reveal God’s unmatched love for His family, into which we are all invited, not by adoption, but by a new birth. A spectacular new reality. A whole, new, beautiful person learning to be filled with all God’s abundance. The Scriptures tell the unfolding story of Jesus Christ, the promised messiah, bringing mankind back to a state of harmony and fellowship with the Creator.
The God of the heavens and the earth declares that He is the author of the Bible and that He utilized many writers. Unparalleled, its truth has been changing the lives of men and women throughout the inhabited earth ever since the very first scriptures were etched—those, of course, are the Ten Commandments. God assures us that His Word is its own best proof of its inspiration. That’s God’s viewpoint; it is ours as well, first and foremost.
THE RELIABILITY OF THE BIBLE-AN ESSENTIAL BEGINNING
In striking contrast to what the Bible claims concerning itself, men, critics, and even some biblical scholars begin all examination into the integrity of the Bible (and for that matter any work of antiquity) by looking solely at the physical evidence of its origin. Having said that, God has assured us that first and foremost, the Scriptures, what we call The Holy Bible, and what The Almighty has named as His Word, was authored by Him, and was written by men as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Tim 3:16-17)
Unequivocally, all scripture was provided by God, and all were inspired by Him. Given by inspiration of God is the translation of the single Greek word theopneustos (θεόπνευστος). It means. God breathed; and even further—God inspired.
In Psalm 33:6 we read: “By the WORD of JEHOVAH were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the BREATH (or Spirit) of His mouth.”
Well, for heaven’s sake, why aren’t the scriptures perfect as is? Why didn’t God simply write them so that they could not be changed or trifled with; better yet, how about putting the Scriptures onto DVDs and into every language? How come they are so easily crumbled and had to be recopied over and over again from papyrus to papyrus?”
Our answer is both simple and profound. God saw to it that the Scriptures were protected and preserved with the technology available then—first stone, then paper and ink, finally the printing press. As technology advanced, so did the means of the availability of His Word. On another level, a Christian endeavor of almost 2,000 years could be substantially completed by 2025. Protestant translators expect to have the Bible—or at least a portion of it—written in every one of the world’s 6,909 spoken languages.
THE WORLD"S ALL TIME BEST SELLER
The Bible is far-and-away the world’s greatest all-time bestseller. And still, mankind is not controlled by the Master of Creation, only encouraged to act in obedience for their own well-being. That is as true today as in any other time in history. This is the Age of Grace (more on that later.) This is the time of the Church of the Body of Christ, where all are fellow heirs, invited to be a part of God’s family. This is free will my friends. Free will separates us from slavery. Men and women may be workers together with God—or men may act, as they will.
[Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17)
The full knowledge of God is revealed and found only in the person of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures reveal Christ. Christ reveals the Father. The Spirit reveals both God and His son Jesus Christ within the written word and the preached word, resulting in the manifested power of God in action, in every believer who has faith to act.
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Ti 3:17)
Perfect is the Greek word artios, defined as “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” What a choice of words. Like me, perhaps you are asking yourself: “How am I to be perfect? In fact‒who among us is? The Greek word artios means to be fitted properly, like a ship being sent out on a long sea voyage. Understood in that light, the man (or woman) of God is to be fully equipped and prepared for any situation in life, spiritual or otherwise. Outfitted with the mind of Christ and those abilities to perform as Christ did and commanded his disciples to do, in Matthew 10: 8.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matt 10:8)
Perhaps the greatest way that you know that the Bible is true is that you possess the proof of the reality of God in Christ in you, the Hope of Glory when you become born again of that Spirit of the new birth. You then are His, just as the Bible declares, enabled in all aspects of that gift.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you. (John 16:13-14)
So then, we are excited to search the scriptures daily. To pray to God, to ask Him to unfold for us His great truths, His heart’s desire for our lives. We pray that God prepares our hearts to serve Him daily by love.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Col 1:9-10)
The truth is living in those who believe!
Anthony and Cynthia Barbera
***Edited with thanks by Kathy Worthington. 6-15-16