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. He creates great separation between Himself and all other religions, not only because of 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 is no other religious text that claims that Jesus is the only way to heaven and 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 on to this argument, truth now becomes relative and subjective (another blog for another time). How about the idea of someone making a truth claim by saying “well, the Bible says (insert a culturally divisive issue)?” Depending on the person and setting that you are in, someone may be 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You can say that “the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses and report supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecy and claim their writings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 Bachman
Wow, that’s a mouthful! 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, and therefore in 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 are 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 1,500 years by 40 authors. If the Bible was written by one person, one could argue that you’re “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.
Plato. The time span between the original and the copies is 1,200 years with only 7 copies.
Aristotle. The time span between the original and the copies is 1,400 years with only 49 copies. Not to mention, we have no copies of Aristotle’s writings. We only have notes that his students took.
Homer’s Iliad. The time span between the original and the copies is 500 years with 643 copies. (This is starting to get more impressive…almost.)
New Testament. The time span between the original and the copies is less than 100 years and we have about 5,600 copies. If you want to count fragments 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 was 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.