As a chaplain who ministers to adult students, crises often arise resulting in students seeking spiritual guidance. If we live life long enough, we will face tragedy or a challenge that shakes us to our core beliefs. In those times, a person usually questions God. As a person committed to a standard, I consider the Bible as authoritative and reliable in its original message and intended purpose for the readers. Everything necessary for faith and practice is in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments and it is to be our standard for moral living in this life. Since it is the Words of God that are preserved, it should be embraced, purposefully studied, and held as a standard for living life.
This entry is a scholarly read and provides essential support in a concise manner for the question, “Can the Bible be Trusted?”
How Can I Know that the Bible is Really True/the Word of God?
If you study religions enough, you’ll find the Bible isn’t different because it claims to come from God. The Koran was supposedly revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have been given special revelation by God.
The Bible is very different on these subjects:
View of God — Christianity alone has dared to claim that “the one, omnipresent, omniscient ground of all existence: has uniquely intervened in His creation, not by assuming the mere form or appearance of a man, but by actually becoming incarnate.”* (Christianity and Religion, p. 51), excerpt from Day of Discovery Series — Can I Really Trust the Bible?
View of Man — The Bible gives a balanced view of man, not making him out to be more or less than he/she is (i.e., B.F. Skinner claimed man was nothing more than a complex organism controlled by his environment).
”The Bible alone does justice to both the high and the low sides of human nature. It tells of man’s creation in the image of God, is realistic about his sin, upholds his personal responsibility, and gives him hope for the future.”*
View of Salvation — As our salvation, the Bible offers faith in the person of Jesus Christ, not by works, but by grace through faith.
View of Truth — What the Bible claims is supported with geographical and historical facts.
Its Personal Claims:
The writers of the Bible believe it is God-given.
1) The Bible’s claims for itself state that it is the Word of God to man (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It was written by human authors who were inspired by God, not like a light bulb went on and the author said, “Wow,…,” but their writings were initiated and controlled by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Timothy 3:16, the word for inspiration means “God-breathed”. So, Scripture originated in the mind of God and the Holy Spirit influenced the authors to write down what God desired of mankind for life and practice. 2 Peter 2:10 says that the prophets didn’t originate what they wrote but recorded what was given to them by God. 1 John 1:1-3, describes Jesus as the “Word of Life.” Hebrews 4:12 describes the books of the Bible as living, active, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And 1 Peter 1: 23-25 declares that the Word of the Lord endures forever, and is a powerful, living, and indestructible force!
2) Christ claimed the Bible to be authoritative.
Jesus affirmed the Bible’s claims and lived its message. He used titles for the Bible that show its authenticity like “Word of God” (Mark 7:13; John 10:35), “Scripture” (Luke 4: 21; John 5:39; 10:35), and “the commandment of God” (Mark 7:8). Jesus also referred to the OT and accepted the persons and events as historical. i.e. Adam and Eve (Mt. 19:4-5), Noah and the flood (Mt. 24:37-39), Lot, Lot’s wife, and Sodom (Luke 17:28-32), and Jonah (Mt. 12:38-41). Jesus believed people would be judged who did not heed His words (John 12:48-49), and He held people responsible for what was written in Scriptures (Mt. 12:3). Jesus used Scripture as conclusive evidence in answering His critics: (John 10:35, quoting Ps. 82: 6; Mt. 22:32, quoting Ex. 3:6,15; Mt. 22:42-44, quoting Ps. 110:1). And, He used the authority of the Bible to refute the temptations of Satan in the wilderness (Mt. 4: 4, 7, 10), and His life as the living Word affirmed the written Word.
3) The Writers’ claims for the Bible showed they accepted the other parts of the Bible.
Daniel accepted Jeremiah’s prophecy about the Babylonian captivity lasting 70 years, and he planned and prayed accordingly (Daniel 9:2). Peter accepted the supernatural origin of the writings of the OT prophets (2 Peter 1:21), and the he also accepted the supernatural origin of the writings of Paul, though hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). John said that the writings of the apostles, along with his own writings, were inspired by God and authoritative (1 John 4:6).
The Biblical writers saw themselves as communicating the Word of God. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all claimed to speak the Word of the Lord (Is. 1:2, Jeremiah 1:4, and Ezekiel 3:11). The apostle Paul also claimed that the words he spoke were directly from God (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Th. 2:13)
Besides the claims of the authors of the Bible, there are other reasons the Bible can be trusted. Christians believe the text has been protected (Is. 40:8) miraculously and that there is unity in its message despite diversity in its origin.
4) Its Unity in Diversity
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells a single story: the rescue of mankind from sin through the death of Jesus Christ. The OT presents Him as the hope of mankind; the NT shows Him to be the fulfillment of that hope.
The diversities in its origin are amazing. It was written by written by 40 different authors over a period of 1600 years, and was written in three languages– Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The writers of the Bible came from many walks of life: prophet (Jeremiah), priest (Zechariah), shepherd (Amos), king (David), servant (Nehemiah), doctor (Luke), tax collector (Matthew), and Pharisee (Paul). It was written on three continents — Africa, Asia, and Europe. And a gap of four hundred years separated the writings of the OT and NT.
5) Its Textual Preservation
Even though original manuscripts written by the authors are not available, we have reason to believe they have been miraculously preserved.
The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew on papyrus (a grassy reed whose inner bark was dried and glued together to form a paper-like substance) or parchment (the scraped and dried skins of animals). When a copy wore out and a new one was made, the old was destroyed. Since there were no copy machines, scribes copied the texts according to a stringent system. They would count the number of letters on a page, and if it didn’t agree with the previous count, they would start over (method used by the Masoretes from 500-900 A.D.). Because of this system, the Hebrew texts are virtually error free.
The Masoretes were a group of rabbis who compiled a system of critical notes on the external form of the Biblical text, and who effectively determined the precise text of the Bible in the Jewish community.
Since Malachi was completed 400 years before Christ was born, what about texts before 400 A.D.? Well, in 1947, Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered when a Hebrew boy threw a rock into a cave opening. To his surprise he heard something shatter. Upon investigating he found a broken pottery jar with some old manuscripts, including one of the books of Isaiah. This was the first of the collection that came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. As more were found, even complete copies, they were compared with the Masoretic texts and found to be almost identical. It was neat for me to see the cave in Israel where this discovery was made during a tour of the biblical sites.
The texts of the New Testament have been copied thousands of times. Comparisons by textual experts have shown that the texts from which our Bibles were translated as virtually identical. Minor variations didn’t have much to do with the meaning of the text. It was like the British spelling labor as “labour” in the English language.
I thought this table shows a good comparison of the New Testament compared to other works that have been translated.
Document Name Number of Manuscripts Earliest Date
Caesar’s Gallic Wars 10 AD 900
Livy’s History of Rome 20 AD 400
Thucydide’s History 8 AD 900
Herodotus’ History 8 AD 900
The New Testament 14,000 AD 125
There have been some important discoveries of New Testament writings as well. Rylands Library Papyri, contains a fragment from John 18 dated to AD 125. The Chester Beatty collection of papyri contains almost all of the NT and dates between AD 200 an AD 275. The variants that have been found are minor in importance and affect no essential teaching. So, we can trust the protection of the text in both its unity and preservation.
Scholars assert that the Bible has proven its accuracy through history and science.
6) Accuracy in History
As Christians, we claim that the Bible records real events in history with real people, like you and me, and places we can locate on a map. Archeologists are uncovering more and more evidence to verify the historical record of the Bible. The Bible mentions the Hittites in the OT nearly fifty times, but there was no physical evidence of such a people until 1906 when the Hittite capital was uncovered about 90 miles east of Ankara, the capital of Turkey. A great quote by a Jewish archeologist was given when Nelson Glueck said, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” (Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev) More recently (in archaeological terms) a discovery in the City of Ebla in Northern Syria, tablets were found that support the Biblical record. “Their discovery does more than provide documentary evidence of a little known kingdom that existed between 2400 and 2250 BC; it also provides the best evidence to date that some of the people described in the OT actually existed.” (Time Magazine- October 18, 1976, p.63) The Books of Luke and Acts (supposedly written by Luke) have multiple references to people and places in the Jewish and Roman worlds.
A quick google search will demonstrate the top finds in Biblical archaeology on a yearly basis. The discoveries continue to support Biblical content. It is a field of study for which some are very passionate.
7) Accuracy in Science is another support for the Bible, but has also caused struggle through the ages.
A quote given in the booklet on the trustworthiness of the Bible by Our Daily Bread ministry staff says, “The heart of the apparent conflict between science and the Bible is not the actual data; it is the underlying beliefs of the two sides and their conclusions. The information is the same for both.” In reading of the Scriptures, one should remember that the Bible isn’t a science textbook. Some things aren’t to be taken literally, like statements about the “four corners of the earth.” When the Bible speaks directly about matters of science, it speaks directly. As a Christian, who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, I believe that when the Bible is interpreted correctly and science arrives at proven conclusions, they will be in perfect agreement.
8) The accuracy of prophecy in the Bible supports the reliability of the truth therein.
A table graph best demonstrates some of the prophecies about Jesus and their fulfillment.
Prophecies about Jesus that were literally fulfilled:
Is. 7:14 Born of a virgin Lk. 1:26-35
Micah 5:2 Born in Bethlehem Mt. 2:1
Is. 7:14 Called Immanuel Mt. 1:23
Is. 9: 1-2 Ministry in Galilee Mt. 4:12-16
Zech 9:9 Triumphal entry Mt. 21:1-11
Ps. 41:9 Betrayed by a friend Mt. 26: 20-25
Ps. 35:11 Falsely accused Mt. 26:59-68
Is. 53:7 Silent before accusers Mt. 27:12-14
Ps. 22:16 Hands and feet pierced Jn. 20:25
Is. 53:12 Crucified with robbers Mt. 27:38
Ps. 22:18 Lots cast for clothes Jn. 19: 23-24
Ps. 34: 20 Bones not broken Jn. 19:33
Ps. 22:15 Thirsted on the cross Jn. 19:28
Is. 53:9 Buried in tomb of rich Mt. 27:57-60
Is. 52:13-53:12 and Ps. 22 record specific details about death by crucifixion hundreds of years before the terrible form of execution was used.
Ezekiel predicted hundreds of years before that the city, Tyre, would be destroyed and the ruins scraped off and dumped into the sea, never to be rebuilt (Ez. 26). Just as predicted, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city, then Alexander had his men use the ruins to build a causeway out to an offshore island where the people had fled. It can still be seen today as a witness to the accuracy of Biblical prophecy.
Daniel predicted the succession of four great powers: Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (Dan. 2, 7)
Judgments against Ninevah (Nahum 1-3), Ammon and Moab (Jer. 48-49), Babylon (Is. 13-14; Jer. 51), and Edom (Is. 34; Jer. 49; Ezek. 25, 35) were fulfilled as prophesied.
This is not an exhaustive list of prophecies that came true from the Bible, but it demonstrates just how accurately they align with the words of the prophets.
The Bible has had a profound impact. It has been called the “Word of Life” (Phil. 2:16) and “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). The good news within it has been described as “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
9) Its Impact on Society
Where the message has been taken and accepted, it has transformed the culture into which it was brought. I’ve seen this first hand with family involvement in missions over decades. Where missionaries start planting seeds of truth, with no established church, it is amazing to see the results of a culture where the truth of God’s Word takes effect. When the message of the Bible is rooted in the souls of people, it ushers in higher morality, social change, improved living conditions, and a better life.
The words of Scripture have been a foundation for those who are no longer in bondage or slaves. It has had an impact on the mistreatment of women, where the gospel has brought them new respect and freedom from tyranny and debasement. In places where there has been cruelty and severe oppression, the coming of the message of the Bible brought kindness, toleration, and humane treatment. In cultures where the truth of the Bible has been accepted, it has transformed the plight of the children and the handicapped where there was shameful mistreatment.
10) Impact on Individuals
If you have been part of a church that believes in the transforming power of God through His Word, you know that the message of the Bible has given hope to despairing, helpless, emotionally unstable, despondent, and restless people. They have found rescue in hearing and believing the Words of Life. It has worked deliverance for millions and brought about morality to higher levels where there was none previously.
Augustine, a famous Christian who was a former drunkard who became the Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, founded the first monastery in that region and influenced much of Christian thought by his brilliant writing. Rom. 13: 13-14, about making no provision for the flesh, became life changing for him.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon found peace in Is. 45:22, and he became a popular and influential London pastor of the mid to late 1800s.
Martin Luther found deliverance from sin and sparked the Protestant Reformation. Hab. 2:4 was a passage that touched his heart.
Chuck Colson was a convicted Watergate conspirator who came to the truth from the teaching of the Bible. Before his death, he directed the Prison Fellowship ministry in the United States.
I believe the Bible has transformational truth on a personal level.
*Most of this information was taken from a brochure by Our Daily Bread Ministries called, “Can I Really Trust the Bible?” This booklet was a resource I would use immediately if I were asked about the reliability of Scripture. I think their presentation was about as brief and expansive as it could be. *
Summarization and compilation of material by Chaplain John Lee.