From last week, we established a basic outline of what the Bible is. Now, is anything in the Bible even reliable? Or maybe the question for you is of importance. Whatever it might be, I will be talking about the most common questions I hear from people about the Bible which will lead to answering the question of importance.
How is the Bible reliable?
Has Repeated Translation Rendered The Bible Unreliable?
The Bible has not been translated from language to language until finally reaching the English version. Sid Litke, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate and pastor of Open Door Bible Church, clarifies how “the English translations we have are not the end of a long chain of translations; they are translated directly from Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) originals.”
You might be wondering why there are many different English translations of the Bible, but they are merely keeping up with modern-day English, not changing the meaning.
How do we know what we are reading is what the authors originally wrote?
Copying the word of God was not taken lightly. As the ESV Study Bible explains, the “tannaim” (repeaters) were one specific group of scribes that were so meticulous, their rules declared “no word or letter was to be written from memory; if more than three mistakes were made on any page, it was destroyed and redone.”
With the original Old Testament manuscripts being written around 1400-400 B.C, it is not crazy to question their reliability. However, Litke furthers his defense of the Bible’s reliability with the relatively recent discoveries that have verified the texts we have today:
“One could question if after many centuries of copying we really have the original words. That’s where the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 is so helpful. These well-preserved texts date back to 100 B.C. Amazingly, there is a virtual agreement between the Dead Sea Scrolls and those dated 1,100 years later! This proves we can trust the Hebrew copies of the Old Testament that are existing today.” – Litke
In addition, the New Testament holds much reliability. In fact, the amount of New Testament manuscripts is astounding considering the originals were written between 60-100 A.D. Dr. Kenneth Boa, President of Reflections Ministries, Trinity House Publishers and consulting editor of the Zondervan NASB Study Bible, shows the significance of there being “over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, about 8,000 Latin manuscripts and another 1,000 manuscripts in other languages. In contrast, the typical number of existing manuscript copies for any of the works of the Greek and Latin authors, such as Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, or Tacitus, ranges from one to 20.”
Are the authors’ writings credible?
For anyone who has not read the Bible, I think this common misconception places the Bible far away from any historical reliability. However, archeology has proven otherwise. Hank Hanegraaff, president and chairman of the Christian Research Institute, explains how a Bible skeptic, Sir William Ramsay, trained to become an archeologist to invalidate the historicity of the book of Luke and Acts. However, “he became converted as one after another of the historical statements of Luke were proved accurate. Archaeological evidence thus confirms the trustworthiness of the Bible.”
Does the Bible contradict itself?
If you think about 40 writers from similar beliefs, backgrounds and time periods, what are the odds they would all write on the same subject without any disagreements? Probably not too likely. Now, Litke points out the Bible’s background—written by 40 authors, over a period of about 1,500 years, on three continents and in two languages. The astounding fact is, from Kings to fishermen, the authors’ facts and view of life contain a consistency.
“In all its 66 books, the Bible is self-consistent on such significant issues as where we come from (special creation by God), why we’re here (to serve and glorify God) and where we’re going (eternal life or eternal judgment).”
So, why is the Bible important?
The Bible’s credibility is upheld by the direct translation, meticulous copying, abundance of manuscripts, archeological evidence and consistency despite vastly different authors. If the Bible is reliable, the next step is to read, understand and trust what it says. However, the importance of the Bible is not to be disregarded.
C.S. Lewis explains how “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” You will have to make the decision of where to go from here, but next week will provide help with the final part of the series: “The Bible Part 3: How Do I Read It?”