Have you ever stopped to think about why you believe what you believe? I was confronted with this pivotal thought in my college years as I studied religion. I loved (and still do) learning about different religions, cultures, and what influences people in both of those areas. As I began to learn about other religions, I of course had to start investigating my own, Christianity. What makes Christianity different? I began to look at Jesus, and of course He creates great separation between himself and all other religions because of not only his actions (mainly the resurrection) but also his claims to be the one true God. Those claims are found in the Bible. Yes, Jesus can be found in other religious text, to be sure, but there are no other religious text that has claims that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that Jesus is the literal incarnation of God himself. So, the investigation of the Bible begins.
Can we trust what the Bible says about Jesus? About him claiming to be God? After all, if the Bible is wrong on this front, surely it is wrong elsewhere. Can it be trusted? The short answer is emphatically, YES. The Bible can be trusted. Why? I’ll be discussing much better answers than “that’s how I was raised”. What if someone else was raised to believe that something else was the true word of god? Islam, Confucius, Judaism, Sikhism, or the guy down the street? How does that make you any different than them? If one were to hang onto this argument, truth now becomes relative and subjective (another blog for another time). How about the idea of when someone makes a truth claim and says “well the Bible say (insert a culturally divisive issue)”? Depending on the person and setting that you are in, someone maybe salivating for you to continue about the Bible and all that it “says”. I unfortunately got a front row seat in college of professors making students feel ashamed and embarrassed that they even brought up the idea of “the Bible says”. So what can you say?
You can say that the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses and report supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecy and claim their writings are divine, rather than human in origin. –Voddie Bacham
Wow. That’s a mouth full! Let me break this down for you, bit by bit. This sentence is a great summation of why a person can believe in the Bible, therefore the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ! Now, one thing that I will do is use Scripture. Some may think “You using the Bible to prove the Bible is circular reasoning”. Here is a couple of reasons why that isn’t true. The Bible isn’t just one book written by one author. In fact, the Bible is written over a period of 1500 years by 40 authors. If the Bible was written by one person, one could argue that “using yourself to prove yourself”. Having different authors prove different authors is far more valid. On top of this, the New Testament is the most well documented piece of literature in historical antiquity! To be honest, other historical documents are not even close to the Bible. Here are some examples.
- The time span between the original and the copies are 1,200 years with only 7 copies
- The time span between the original and the copies are 1,400 years with only 49 copies. Not to mention, we have no copies of Aristotle’s writings he wrote. We only have notes that his students wrote down.
- Homer’s Iliad. The time span between the original and the copies are 500 years with 643 copies. (This is starting to get more impressive….almost)
- New Testament. The time span between the original and the copies are less than 100 years and we have about 5,600 copies. If you want to count fragments of scripture or parts of scripture, we have about 24,000 manuscripts supporting the New Testament. It is really not even close, as you can see.
With that being said, let us start with the first part of our sentence. “Reliable collection of historical documents…” Some of this was just mentioned as to why the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents. Luke writes in Luke 1:1-2 “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us”. Luke, who was not only a physician, he is an investigative reporter who was funded by a man named Theophilus to get the real story of Jesus. He traveled around and interviewed eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, including his mother Mary!
To recap, we can trust the Bible because it has multiple authors, the time span between the original and the copies is much smaller than many other trusted pieces of literature, the New Testament is the most well documented piece of literature in historical antiquity, and it includes eyewitness accounts.
I do not want to overwhelm anyone with information, so this will conclude our first installment of “Why The Bible?” I’ll post the next in March where I will discuss further reasons we can trust the Bible.
In my last post, I wrote about why the Bible is trustworthy based of the following quote:
The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses and report supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecy and claim their writings are divine, rather than human in origin—Voddie Bacham
For a recap of my explanation of how the Bible is a “reliable collection of historical document”, see precious post
Let us move on to discuss how the Bible was written by eyewitnesses. 1 John 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis mine)
In this passage John is proclaiming that they were witnesses to what Jesus did and are willing to testify to His teachings, miracles, and resurrection from the dead. John and the other disciples were witnesses. They believe Jesus was God and their devotion to Him was so strong that they all died because of their devotion. James, the half-brother of Jesus, with conviction until death believed that his brother was God. This is truly remarkable to me. I have two brothers, neither of which I will be worshiping as god any time soon! I am sure you can relate if you have siblings. The reason you don’t worship them is because you know them so well! You know their strengths, weaknesses, and the many mistakes they’ve made. Your siblings also know you as well, so don’t expect deity worship coming your way either.
There is only one problem. Not all of the writers of the New Testament were eyewitnesses. What do we do? Let’s start with Paul. Paul was not a disciple of Jesus during His earthly ministry. In fact, Paul was antagonistic toward Jesus and his followers. Then in Acts 9, we see that he actually did meet Jesus in a very powerful way. Paul’s life was changed forever once he saw Jesus and had a calling placed on his life. What about Luke? He wrote the books of Luke and the book of Acts, but he never met Jesus while He was on earth. As we talked about in the last post, Luke was funded by a wealthy man to investigate the claims of Jesus. He traveled around to all the places that Jesus went, interviewing people who knew Jesus and some disciples themselves, such as Peter. This includes Mary, the mother of Jesus. We now have a “reliable collection of historical documents.” That is good. What’s even better is a “reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses!”
All of this collection of eyewitnesses was “during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 “…and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
This is impressive. Not only was the Bible written by eyewitnesses, but it was during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. As Paul is writing this letter in 1 Corinthians, he could have easily been refuted about his claims if they were false. Paul is making the claim that there were still hundreds of people alive that were witnesses to the most pivotal event in the history of the world, the resurrection. It is almost like Paul is daring people to go and ask the eyewitnesses to verify his claims! When Paul wrote about this claim, his letter able to be tested or potentially falsified, and it never was. Other theories popped up, but eventually they all fell flat on their face while the claims of Jesus stood tall.
Some may say that the eyewitness don’t matter anymore because the Bible has been translated so many times, and there is no way we could even know what the eyewitnesses actually witnessed. This argument is totally invalid, and here’s why. This argument comes from the idea that when translating the Bible, it became like a game of telephone. You whisper something into someone’s ear and 30 people later it is completely different than the original statement. We know this isn’t actually true. For example, the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible was completed in the early 2000s. What they didn’t do was go to the most recent translation they could find and try to translate it. Instead they went to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to translate. (We don’t have original copies of the New Testament. Go to the previous post to read about ancient manuscripts).
In conclusion, the Bible is trustworthy because it was written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses and has been translated carefully from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic text. This is probably enough to chew on for a while. Next month I will post more reasons as to why we can trust the Bible!