Why the Bible Can Be Trusted

The Bible is the product of the ancient nation of Israel.  This collection of documents has stood the test of time.  As the United States of America has its Declaration of Independence and Constitution with amendments, so Israel’s national documents began with what Moses wrote and was appended with what its subsequent prophets wrote over the ensuing centuries.  What we call the Bible constituted the most treasured documents in ancient Israel’s national archives.  When a nation treasures documents, what those documents mean may be debated – even hotly debated – but there is no doubt about what the documents say.

Even in America today, all the debates are about what the Declaration of Independence and Constitution mean.  No one is arguing about what they say.  Nations are capable of safeguarding their treasured documents in ways that go beyond what individuals and families can do.  Not only do they keep the documents, but the fact that they are national treasures causes them to be read, quoted, and remembered frequently.  Because knowledge about them becomes so widespread, it’s practically impossible for someone to come along and change what they say.  Who’s going to believe someone who produces a version of the Declaration of Independence that begins, “When in the course of human events, it becomes desirable for a new nation to invent itself?”

Someone may object and say, “Yes, but what you’ve said so far applies only to the Old Testament documents.” Yet even the New Testamnt documents were written about a Jew, by Jews, and in fulfillment of all that had been written by Jews to that point in time.  Jesus Christ was Israel’s last and greatest prophet, and apostles (simply meaning “sent ones” or “messengers”) were sent out by Him with the message of salvation for the world.  This all happened when Jews were dispersed throughout and beyond the Mediterranean world.  Since the apostles were traveling with their message, the documents they wrote went from one part of the known world to the other.  Moreover, they were copied everywhere they went.  By the time someone got around to collecting all the documents and calling them the New Testament – which was well after the apostles had passed the scene – there were copies all over the Mediterraneans world which could be compared for accuracy.  Even today we have signficantly more ancient manuscripts for the New Testament documents than we do for any other ancient documents.  People may debate – even hotly debate – what the Bible’s documents mean, but there’s no valid reason to doubt what they say.  As ancient documents go, you don’t get more reliable than the Bible.

Recognize also that the apostles were not preaching that New Testament documents were superseding Old Testament documents.  On the contrary, they weren’t even promoting a New Testment.  They were simply bearing witness to a fulfillment of the Old Testament.  That is, when the apostles quoted Scripture, they were quoting the Old Testament – not the New Testament.  The life, death,and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth had given new meaning to the Old Testament Scriptures.  This was an extremely powerful message precisely because it gave a new and fuller understanding to words that had not changed in centuries.  Jesus did not abrogate the writings of Moses and the Prophets – He fulfilled them!

What kind of people were these prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible?  They were people “of whom the world was not worthy” (to quote a biblical phrase).  They typically suffered persecution for speaking in the name of the Lord.  In the case of the apostles, history tells us that all but one died as martyrs – and in several cases by torture.  Think about this:  Here are people speaking and writing to us on behalf of the Lord.  They are not doing it for money.  They are not even doing it merely for people they know and love.  They are doing it even for their persecutors.  That is, with their dying breaths they testified that God loved even those who were killing them for saying so.  What possible reason would the apostles have for acting this way unless they had actually seen a resurrected Man whom they were determined to not disappoint?

Some will protest that all sorts of religious fanatics, even today, are willing to die for what they believe.  Such an objection overlooks two distinguishing facts about the apostles.  First, the apostles were willing to die for their faith but were unwilling to kill for it.  By contrast, today’s suicide bombers are murderers, and their willingness to murder themselves in the process of murdering others in no way exonerates them.  The apostles did not kill themselves and they did not kill others.  Second, compare the testimony of the apostles to that of religious fanatics and see that the apostles spoke as sane men, deeply in love with the human race as well as with God.  Religious fanatics, by contrast, seldom demonstrate either sanity or love – and certainly not both – in their speech.  Read the words of the apostles (in what we call the New Testament) and see that they are a breed apart – indeed, they truly are those “of whom the world is still not worthy.”

Since the apostles are entirely credible, what of their specific testimony about Jesus?  Did these eyewitnesses say things impossible to believe?  Hardly.  Their testimony says God raised a man from the dead.  If God can raise spring from winter every year, what is so hard for Him in raising a dead man?  Moreover, their message is that we have sinned and need a Savior.  That shouldn’t be hard to believe at all.  Have you sinned?  Why should you find it strange that the Bible says you have sinned?

The Bible says that if  you confess your sins to Jesus Christ, He will forgive you.  More than that, however, He will give you the power to stop sinning.  He will give you His Holy Spirit who will lead and guide you through your conscience to live a better – that is, a more moral – life.  Surely you can trust the Bible because it accurately describes our problem with sin and provides the prescription to deal with it.  There’s no other text or authority on earth that has answers that ring so true.  If we are willing to do God’s will, He will bear witness to our hearts that the Bible is true.

For more context, see this overview.

See also: Everyone Is Going to Heaven 

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ Changed Everything 

Spiritual Christianity versus Social Christianity

The purpose of this blog is to provide information about Jesus to those who want to hear about Him without having to join something.

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12 Responses to Why the Bible Can Be Trusted

  1. Adrian says:

    Okay, well when you talk about the Bible – are you speaking of of the Protestant Canon? The Catholic Canon? Orthodox Canon? Oriental Canon?

    It seems to me that your faith begins with the presupposition that the Bible is the sole and only source of truth and authority. But how you reach this?

    The Bible was not handed to us in whole. The Biblical canon developed over the first five centuries and wasn’t settled till the 15-17th century. It is the church who settled and gave the scriptures authority.The church predates the scriptures.

    A document cannot be self-authenticating, otherwise then why should we not accept the Book of Mormon or the Koran as they both claim to be the Word of God.

    My point is that you cannot disconnect faith from the church and the scriptures. They are so intrinsically linked.

    I have to add that I say this in all humility. I have not written to proselytise or attack, but to truly come to a fuller understanding of your position.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Adrian, you said:

      Okay, well when you talk about the Bible – are you speaking of of the Protestant Canon? The Catholic Canon? Orthodox Canon? Oriental Canon?

      The differences between them are quite minor. They all contain the same core 66 books, though some books are combined, named, and numbered differently. The few additional books in some of the lists only reinforce the fundamental truths of the majority core – they don’t undermine or contradict them.

      It seems to me that your faith begins with the presupposition that the Bible is the sole and only source of truth and authority. But how you reach this?

      I don’t say that the Bible is the “sole and only” source of truth and authority. It is the word of God and it testifies of Jesus Christ who is the embodiment of all truth. That is not to say that some truth cannot be found in other books. God is the God of all creation and He bestows His truth in many ways.

      The Bible was not handed to us in whole.

      True. Its scores of documents were written by dozens of authors over a 1,500 year period.

      The Biblical canon developed over the first five centuries and wasn’t settled till the 15-17th century.

      I think you are confusing the Old Testament canon with the New Testament canon. The OT canon was largely a settled issue before Jesus was born. Thus He and His apostles quoted from the OT liberally, referring to it as “the Scriptures,” “the sacred writings,” “the Law,”, “the Law and the Prophets,” “Moses and the Prophets,” and so on.

      As for the NT canon, it had begun to take shape by the 2nd Century, and the Council of Carthage in 397 listed as canonical all the 27 NT books we currently have. Your mention of “15-17th Century” must be a reference to the 16th Century Council of Trent, but the issue there was not the NT but rather the OT. Specifically, the Roman Catholic Church disputed with the Protestant churches over the deuterocanonical (the Protestants call them apocryphal) books, which are the “additional” books I mentioned above.

      It is the church who settled and gave the scriptures authority.

      As I mentioned above, the OT canon was in place before Jesus was born (the only dispute being about the aforementioned deuterocanonical books – which I have mentioned are consistent with the rest of Scripture). Since the first church was not formed until after Jesus was raised from the dead, the church could hardly have been the source of the Scriptures’ authority. On the contrary, it was the Scriptures that gave authoritative support that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel -the theme that galvanized the church.

      As for the NT books, the church’s role was to identify which books had come from Jesus’ apostles. There were many documents written in Jesus’ name during the first few centuries of the common era. Some of these documents were spurious but many were respected. Nevertheless, being respected was not enough to make the NT canon. Rather, a document had to be considered authentically apostolic. Moreover, church councils did not make such decisions and impose them on churches. It was the other way around. That is, copies of the letters existed throughout the geographically dispersed churches and it is those documents which were widely considered as genuinely apostolic that church leaders and councils recognized.

      The church predates the scriptures.

      This is obviously not true of 3/4’s of the Bible (i.e. the OT). As for the NT documents, it was the geograpically dispersed churches who received the writings of the apostles and passed them down who thus identified the work of Jesus’ apostles.

      It is, however, fair to say that as the Jew gave us the OT books so the Christians gave us the NT books. And for this reason we should be forever grateful to both groups.

      A document cannot be self-authenticating, otherwise then why should we not accept the Book of Mormon or the Koran as they both claim to be the Word of God.

      I agree with you completely. This is a key difference between the Bible and the other two books that you mention. The Bible is a collection of documents, written over many generations, each independently testifying to the same set of truths, and often specifically to each other. The Bible’s documents therefore authenticate each other in way that is impossible for the Koran or the Book of Mormon (which are essentially single books with single authors).

      My point is that you cannot disconnect faith from the church and the scriptures. They are so intrinsically linked.

      Faith must be in God, not the church. Jews who chose to put faith in Judaism (i.e. in other Jews) rather than the Messiah, missed God. Likewise, Christians who choose to put faith in church (i.e. in other Christians) similarly miss God.

      I have to add that I say this in all humility. I have not written to proselytise or attack, but to truly come to a fuller understanding of your position.

      No worries. You have the right to ask me to explain myself on any point I have declared. Further, you have the right, and even the responsibility, to challenge me if you think I am misrepresenting the truth.

  2. peddiebill says:

    What about all the contradictions in the Bible? What about the shonky science? Read my essay on Shaping God.

    http://billpeddie.wordpress.com

    • Mike Gantt says:

      In a collection of scores of documents, written over a 1,500-year period, by dozens of different authors, the most recent one written almost two thousand years ago, and translated from their original languages, there are bound to be occasions where its words are not easy to reconcile. However, this does not mean that they are in fact contradictory. On the contrary, what is notable about the Bible is the amazing consistency of its themes.

      As for science, the Bible does not present itself as a science book. In fact, science as it is practiced today, was not practiced in biblical times. Why should we impose our approach to life on the ancients? It’s like asking why they didn’t play rugby.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    So.. the bible can be trusted because it admits human immorality and prescribes a way for people to deal with guilt? What reason do people have to trust the bible’s way to handle guilt? It works, but the existence of a god is irrelevant. Confessing your sins to God so that the holy spirit gives you the power to stop sinning is essentially the same thing as admitting your mistakes and pledging to yourself not to do the same thing again. The idea of a god only serves to give people an external reason to behave properly, kind of like the boogeyman. Nobody can prove that the boogeyman isn’t completely undetectable, hiding under your bed, ready to get you should you misbehave. Likewise, nobody can prove that God isn’t out and about, forgiving people for their sins, giving them the ability to better themselves and judging them after they die. The main difference between the two is that most people discount the probability of an invisible boogeyman.

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    Anonymous,

    So.. the bible can be trusted because it admits human immorality and prescribes a way for people to deal with guilt?  What reason do people have to trust the bible’s way to handle guilt? It works, but the existence of a god is irrelevant. Confessing your sins to God so that the holy spirit gives you the power to stop sinning is essentially the same thing as admitting your mistakes and pledging to yourself not to do the same thing again.

    If that’s true, then why do so many people who make such pledges to themselves go back and do the same things again?  In fact, the limitations of will power are well known.  For this reason many people can identify with Saul of Tarsus:  “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (Romans 7:19).

    If you truly wish to be free from sin, you must live for the approval of eyes you cannot see but which are there nonetheless:  “All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

    The idea of a god only serves to give people an external reason to behave properly…

    On the contrary, it is true belief in God that gives people an internal reason to think properly.  Seeking to please people can only cleanse behavior, and even then not perfectly. But seeking to please God cleanses words and behavior by beginning with the thoughts that precede them both.

    …kind of like the boogeyman. Nobody can prove that the boogeyman isn’t completely undetectable, hiding under your bed, ready to get you should you misbehave. Likewise, nobody can prove that God isn’t out and about, forgiving people for their sins, giving them the ability to better themselves and judging them after they die. The main difference between the two is that most people discount the probability of an invisible boogeyman.

    There was nothing invisible about Jesus of Nazareth.  He was seen, heard, and touched by many.  The 27 documents we call the New Testament were written by witnesses impressed enough to give up their lives in loving service to Him. He might be invisible to us, but He surely was not to them.

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