Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.
Does that sound familiar? Many of us grew up singing this in Sunday school. For some, it might even be the first song we’ve ever sung in our lives. But why is it true simply because the Bible mentions it? Is the Bible really reliable?
Before we dive into this question, it is important to establish the baseline that it is impossible to prove every single statement that is stated in the Bible. We consider the Bible reliable so long as everything that can be checked is proven to be accurate and true. This is consistent with how historical works are verified nowadays.
Many critics argue that the events described in the Bible are mere legends or exaggerations, citing a lack of historical evidence. However, that is not true because modern scholarship has shed light on the historical context surrounding various biblical accounts.
Archaeological discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, have corroborated many aspects of ancient Hebrew and Christian history, affirming the existence of people, places and events mentioned in the Bible.
Moreover, the Bible’s historical reliability is also evaluated by comparing it to other ancient texts. When scrutinised by the same historical standards applied to other ancient literature, the Bible stands as a remarkable historical document, with numerous details verified by external sources.
Another aspect of the Bible’s reliability is the accuracy of its textual transmission throughout history. As a collection of ancient manuscripts, it is reasonable to question whether the biblical texts have been preserved faithfully over time.
Scholars who study biblical manuscripts practise textual criticism: through careful analysis of thousands of ancient manuscripts and fragments, they work to reconstruct the most accurate version of the biblical texts.
While no original manuscripts are known to exist, the abundance of copies allows scholars to cross-reference and compare different versions, minimising errors that may have occurred during transmission.
One notable discovery is the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain fragments of nearly every book of the Old Testament. The remarkable agreement between these ancient scrolls and later copies of the Bible indicates the meticulousness of the scribes who transmitted the texts.
The reliability of the Bible can also be seen through its theological consistency. Despite being written by numerous authors over a span of several centuries, the books of the Bible exhibit remarkable coherence in their overarching themes, theological concepts and ethical teachings.
For instance, the four Gospels are found to be consistent in their account of Jesus even though they were written by four different authors. Their differences exist only in the chronological order of events and the extensiveness of certain accounts.
These are considered inconsequential by the authors as their main goal was to preach about Jesus in the respective cultural contexts of their audiences.
“Regarding God’s Word, let us love it and live in it and eat it and drink it and lie down on it and walk on it and stand on it and swear by it and live by it and rest in it.” (A.W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God)
At the end of the day, while the Bible is a historical text that can be checked and proven, it is important for us as believers to recognise that it is the very Word of God that is given to us.
The Word of God is God-breathed. It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and it is also the key for one to stay on the path of purity (Psalm 119:9).
As believers, we believe in the Word of God not just because the Bible is reliable, but also because we know that it is what God has given to us to know Him and to navigate life on this earth.
Let us not take the Word of God for granted, and live on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)!
- Do you trust that the Bible is reliable? Why or why not?
- Who is a trusted mentor you can approach for counsel for when you face doubt?
- What is one step you can take to grow in knowing and living out the Word of God today?