“Unlike most other religious worldviews, Christianity is built on historical events and can therefore be either proven or falsified by historical investigation. The problem for skeptics and critics is that all the historical evidence points to the resurrection” -Geisler and Turek, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist,” p. 374.
The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses who reported supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that it’s writings are divine rather than human in origin.
COLLECTION OF HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS
The Bible is comprised of 66 different books which were written on three different continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is reliable, internally consistent, and corroborated externally. The Old Testament has 39 books. The New Testament has 27 books. They were written in three different languages, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. They were written by over 40 authors, most of who never met because they were written over a sum period of 1,600 years.
The Bible is historical, it references verifiable names, dates, and places. The Bible is the most archeological attested document of antiquity ever. There have been 23,000 archeological digs related directly to the historical accuracy found in the Bible, and not one of those finds has been able to refute the claims of the Bible, but only to confirm its historicity.
Eyewitness testimony has an enormous impact on the outcome of a trial. Aside from a smoking gun, nothing carries as much weight with a jury as the testimony of an actual witness.
The Bible records a sum of 500 brethren who saw the risen Christ at once, 300 of who were still alive during the time that the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:1-9.
How can we know if the Bible’s human co-authors were really reliable eyewitnesses? The following eyewitness traits are the ones emphasized in common law, in law school, and in the Rules of Evidence:
“A reliable witness will evidence honesty by his/her sincerity of speech, and be clearly motivated by a drive to speak the truth. The quality of a witness’s observations can be observed by accurate memory, evidenced often by access to accurate records. The competency of his/her communication will be demonstrated by an ability to recall and describe observations, with accurate information and relevant details. Testimonial consistency is also a key factor in reliability.”
Though each witness will provide idiosyncratic differences (due to different perspectives and interests), all Scripture has perfect evidentiary consistency. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Moses, Daniel, Jude, and all of the other Bible’s co-authors qualify as impeccably reliable eyewitnesses. Many of the Bible’s writers suffered cruel treatment, even death, for their stand on their witness. To the obvious credibility of their writings is added the unshakeable belief that their testimony was so true that it was worth suffering and dying for.
Often time’s critics make the erroneous statement that, “The bible is unreliable because it was translated so many times. What was said at the beginning is not what is reported at the end.” This erroneous statement assumes that the second translation came after the first one in a series. However, the truth is that the Bible is not translations after other translations. Each of these are translations from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, not of each other. Each of the translations talked about the original events, persons, etc.
Another erroneous statement is, “Since men wrote the Bible it is inherently unreliable and full of fallacy. If you believe that, then go home and get rid of all of your books because men wrote them all and they too must be inherently unreliable and full of fallacy.
Unlike the writings of other religions, the Bible provides an abundance of evidence for the authenticity of its authorship, the accuracy of its statements, and the reliability of its transmission through history.
Take the Old Testament for example. Until recently we had few ancient manuscripts, for the Jews destroyed tattered and worn copies of Scripture out of reverence for the Word of God. Though scribes and copyists were impeccably meticulous, modern scholars were unable to demonstrate the accuracy of the transmission of text, because our oldest copy of a Hebrew manuscript dated from A.D. 980. There was no way to compare it to ancient copies to see if errors had intruded.
Until 1947, that is, when a boy threw a rock at one of his goats in the cliffs near the Dead Sea and made one of the greatest discoveries of all time-the Dead Sea Scrolls, hidden in clay jars, untouched for 2,000 years.
For the first time, we had Hebrew manuscripts from pre-Christian times containing fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament. The results? Gleason Archer says, “Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumram Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word-for-word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”
The New Testament is equally reliable. We have copies and fragments of the Gospels dating to within a generation of the apostles. Increasingly, critics who had dated the composition of New Testament books in later centuries have been forced by scholarship and archaeology to push their dates back to the first century.
The number of manuscripts in support of the New Testament text is astounding. There are only 10 manuscript copies of Caesar’s Gallic War (originally written in 100-44 B.C.), the earliest manuscript copies (written in 900 A.D.) come into existence 1,000 years after the original was written. Only 7 manuscript copies of Plato exist (originally written in 427-347 B.C.), the earliest manuscript copies (written in 900 A.D.) come into existence 1,200 years after the original was written. Only 49 manuscript copies of Aristotle exist (originally written in 384-322 B.C.), the earliest manuscript copies (written in 1100 A.D) come into existence 1,400 years after the original was written. But there are 6,000 Greek manuscript of the New Testament (originally written in 20-100 A.D.), the earliest manuscript copies (written in 125 A.D) comes into existence 25 years after the original was written!
“From that standpoint of literary evidence,” writes Professor Berkeley Mickelsen, “the only logical conclusion is that the case for reliability of the New Testament is infinitely stronger than that for any other record of antiquity.”
At least 48 major Messianic prophecies can be identified in the Old Testament. Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled each one. Endeavoring to determine the odds of such a phenomenon, mathematician Peter Stoner isolated just 8 of these 48 prophecies. He then calculated the odds that any one person might have fulfilled them all.
Stoner determined those odds to be one in 10 to the 17th power (one followed by 17 zeroes). Visualize the number this way: take this number in silver dollars and lay them side-by-side over the state of Texas. They will cover the entire state, two feet deep. Now mark one of those silver dollars. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he likes, but he must pick up the one marked silver dollar. What are the odds he will pick the one marked? The same odds as the prophets would have had writing just those 8 prophecies and having them all fulfilled in one person.
The Bible is the anvil that has broken many hammers. In spite of it being the most banned, burned, banished, vilified, and hated book in history, it ironically is also the most widely translated, published, read, loved, and championed book of all time. It is a collection of 66 books written over 1,600 hundred years by over 40 authors on 3 continents in 3 languages. It is historically reliable, internally consistent, externally corroborated, yet perfectly unified. It contains over 300 prophecies that have been fulfilled hundreds of years later, it has influenced the course of human history more than any other book, continues to change millions of people’s lives, and through it people find salvation. Historic, majestic, miraculous, beautiful, profound, and logical are the depths of its teachings— it is the Word of God.