|Harry Potter. Twilight. The complete works of Shakespeare. Oh sure, they'll all have their place in history, but they can't hold a candle to the greatest book of all: the Bible. In addition to being the ultimate prize in Denzel Washington's post-apocalyptic movie The Book of Eli, it continues to transform real lives and shape the real world.|
Nevertheless, some people still raise questions about the Bible's accuracy. I was reminded of this recently while speaking at a church in the Midwest. Doug, a college sophomore and alumnus of the church's youth group, was struggling with whether he could really trust the Bible. "One of my professors told our class that the Bible has to be fallible, because it was written by fallible people," Doug explained, his interest obviously more than academic. "He said that the Bible couldn't be supernatural because it was written by mortals."
Perhaps you or your teen is grappling with the same issue. Interestingly, the trustworthiness of Scripture is addressed in Scripture. The Bible states, "Your word, O Lord, is eternal" (Psalm 119:89), "Every word of God is flawless" (Prov. 30:5) and "The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). But to quit there would leave us staking eternity on circular reasoning. Truth seekers want more evidence than "It's true because it says it's true." Fortunately, other facts testify on behalf of the Bible's accuracy.
Carefully preserved Old Testament documents.
By historical standards, the Old Testament is trustworthy. As Jewish scribes made copies of those Scriptures, they counted the letters on each page—forward and backward, on the master copy and the new rendition—to ensure that nothing was added or omitted. Though the Old Testament comes to us through a comparatively fewer number of known manuscripts than the New Testament, the books have been meticulously preserved. In fact, a copy of Isaiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and dated to about 200 B.C. was virtually identical to the next oldest copy we have, which is dated to around A.D. 900. That's 1,100 years of faithful transmission on this book alone.
Widely circulated New Testament documents.
Confidence in the New Testament lies in the amazing number of copies discovered. In addition to the books themselves, more than 86,000 quotations of individual verses by early Christians have been found. They date from within 150 to 200 years of the time of Christ and dramatically illustrate the familiarity that ancient Christians had with the New Testament Scriptures.
Comparing the New Testament with secular writings from the ancient world, scholar René Pache said, "The historical books of antiquity have a documentation infinitely less solid." Consider that Aristotle's works, which date from the fourth century B.C., exist in only five remaining copies, and these come to us from A.D. 1100. The Bible's closest peer could be Homer's Iliad, a manuscript existing in more than 600 copies. Homer beats Aristotle, but still can't hold a candle to the Bible. The number of ancient texts containing all or part of the New Testament number around 30,000.
Biblical documents show evidence of divine inspiration.
The Bible was written by at least 40 authors over a 1,500-year period, yet the 66 books carry a unified message of God's love and salvation. Volumes have been written about the many other unique characteristics of the Bible, including its apparent indestructibility and its historical, scientific and prophetic accuracies.
The Bible's trustworthiness includes the natural and supernatural.
The Book of Acts cites at least 84 historical facts verified by later research and archaeology. Luke's accuracy regarding details, names and places has been acknowledged by numerous historians. This same author also mentions 35 miracles in Acts. Why would Luke have been meticulously accurate in his history and misleading when talking of other things? Indeed, Scripture is dependable for its statements about history and destiny, the physical world and spiritual realities.
As Doug and I talked about the evidence, I pointed out that our view of Scripture should be in harmony with that of Jesus. Christ affirmed the Old Testament (Matt. 5:18, Luke 24:44) and made provision for the soon-to-come New Testament (John 14:26). Given by God. Written by men. Preserved for all generations. It would take a miracle for all of these things to be true of the Bible. An all-powerful God certainly could do such things, but is it reasonable to accept that He did? The external evidence, the Bible itself and the risen Jesus all say yes.
Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert. For more on his ministry and speaking schedule, visit alexmcfarland.com.
Published February 2010