The Reliability of our Bible

“The Bible is just a bunch of stories put together by men…It’s full of contradictions…You can’t trust it at all!”

How many Christians have attempted to help someone from the Bible only to be told that the Bible is just the words of men? In our generation which seems to fight against all types of authority, it is to be expected that the Bible’s authority and reliability will also be attacked.

Over the next several posts, I want to share several reasons why the Bible we hold in our hands today can withstand the attack. To borrow from Peter’s expression, we have “a more sure word” that is both reliable and authoritative.

So, one reason we can trust the Scriptures is the…

Manuscript Evidence

When some hear the term “manuscripts,” – they start thinking this is something only the experts can understand. While there is certainly a lot of information that could be discussed under the broad topic of manuscripts, that is not the purpose of this post. This is “bottom shelf!”

For sake of simplicity, we will focus on the New Testament only. The New Testament did not float down from Heaven in one volume in the language of King James English. Each of the 27 books were penned separately by eight men over a period of roughly 40-50 years. Each book was written by hand (the meaning of manuscript) in Greek.

These individual manuscripts were recognized as more than just the words of men (1 Thess 2.13). Because of its value as Scripture, copies were made and the word of God multiplied (Acts 12.24). No one knows how many hand-written copies were made in the history of the church, but what is known is that nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts still exist today. (A manuscript is not the same as a whole book; it could be as short as only one verse.)

As these manuscripts are compared with each other and with the nearly 20,000 other manuscripts from other languages (as the Bible was translated into Latin, Syriac, Gothic, Armenian, and others), the evidence is overwhelming in stating that the New Testament we hold today is virtually identical to what the early church held.

Interesting…but, so what?!

Compared with other ancient writings…

  1. The New Testament: Written before AD 100. The earliest copy dates to AD 125. With the nearly 6,000 copies in Greek, and 20,000 copies in other languages, there is about a 99.5% accuracy.
  2. Homer’s Iliad: Written about 900 BC. The earliest copy dates to 400 BC. This is a 500 year leap of faith! Roughly 650 copies exist today estimated at about 95% accuracy.
  3. Josephus’ Works – 55 copies remain. Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars: 10 copies remain. Tacitus’ Annals, a treasure for historians – 20 copies. Gospel of Judas: 1 copy; Gospel of Mary: 2 copies; Gospel of Thomas: 4 copies.

Often each of the works mentioned here are quoted authoritatively with far less manuscript support. This reveals a bias against the reliability of the text of Scripture. No one seriously questions the reliability of Homer’s Iliad – even though there is a 500-year leap of faith between when it was written and when we find the first copy that has been preserved. In contrast, the Bible’s manuscript support can be dated to within 25 years of its completion. Additionally, it is attested with far more manuscript evidence than any of these historical works will ever be able to boast.

God has not left Himself without a witness. For someone to accept the reliability of Josephus (55 copies) and reject the reliability of the New Testament (nearly 6,000 copies) is not being fair with the evidence!

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