Can I trust the Bible?
Is the Bible historically reliable? This is a very important question; even though the Bible does not claim to be strictly historical, it is important that the events really did occur. This is especially true regarding the life of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that if Christ was not resurrected then we are still guilty and in our sins and of all people, most to be pitied.
Here are some facts:
- The Smithsonian regards the Bible as good history. If there is any authority on secular anthropology, it would certainly be The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.. This is a statement on how they regard the Bible as good history. “Much of the Bible, in particular the historical accounts of the Old Testament are as accurate historical documents as any that we have in antiquity and are in fact more accurate that many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical documents can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archaeological work.” https://csnradio.com/tema/links/SmithsonianLetter.pdf
- Dead Sea Scrolls prove Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. There are several Old Testament books represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most famous being ‘the Great Isaiah Scroll,’ which dates to about 125 BC. Before this find in 1947, the earliest manuscripts for the Old Testament were from the 900’s AD. Numerous prophecies from Isaiah and elsewhere about the Hebrew Messiah were fulfilled in the life of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. Of particular interest is the fulfillment of the Virgin Birth (Is. 7:14), The triumphal entry on Palm Sunday (Zech. 9:9), and the suffering that Jesus endured (Is. 53). Here’s the argument: 1)The Dead Sea Scrolls show that Isaiah and other Old Testament books were not altered after the life of Christ. 2) The details of the life of Christ, particularly His resurrection, were not successfully denied by the Apostles’ contemporaries. Evidence of this is simply that the Apostles’ enemies (which were the elite of society) could have easily provided proof if their claims were false, effectively squashing another attempt in a long line of false messiahs. But this time, they couldn’t provide a corpse.
- There is more historical evidence for the life and details of Jesus of Nazareth than there is for Julius Caesar, Aristotle, Plato, and any other figure in antiquity. Using an equal standard, there is even greater manuscript evidence for Jesus than for George Washington. For example, there are 49 copies total in existence of the writings of the great philosopher, Aristotle. The date of those copies are at the least 1400 years after Aristotle died. There are more than 5600 copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today. Some large sections, some small. The only “errors” consist of misspellings and missed letters. The meaning of the text isn’t altered at all. Nobody doubts these giants of history existed and did notable things, and you shouldn’t! And by those same standards, you should have even greater confidence that New Testament is a good source for the life of Jesus and His followers.
What was the translation process like? Is it true that the Bible has been translated too many times for us to know what it really said - kinda like the fun old preschool game “telephone?” That game is actually a great example of what didn’t happen, because we’re dealing with written communication, not oral. Followers of Jesus in the early Church carefully spread copies of these New Testament writings amongst themselves as they evaded persecution from the Roman Government and society. While we don’t have the original writings, we have thousands upon thousands of copies, some dating to the early 2nd century, all saying virtually the same thing. With 99.5% certainty, we have access to the exact writings of the originals. Therefore, the only translating being done, is into your language of choice. If it has been accurately translated, and it checks out as good history by the strictest standards, we would do well to look into it and take its claims seriously.