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IS THE BIBLE RELIABLE?
Bim Rowley, Pastor
Truth Baptist Church
Is the Bible reliable? Has it been corrupted
or miscopied through the ages? Is it in truth- THE WORD OF GOD?
These are reasonable questions that deserve an answer; first,
because the Bible makes universal and absolute claims upon all
mankind; second, because it claims to be the
WORD OF GOD without error or contradiction, perfect in every
part; third, because the character, work, and
teachings of Jesus Christ (the Bible's chief figure) are so
unparalled by any other that we must know if it is truth; and fourth,
because the Bible claims that salvation from hell can come to no
man apart from the truths revealed within its pages.
The task of defending the Bible as to its reliability is not
as difficult as may be thought. In God's kindness, He has left
abundant external evidence to satisfy the heart of any truly
objective seeker. There is far more evidence for the Greek and
Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible than for any other writing of
BRIEF FACTS ABOUT THE BIBLE
The Bible is divided into two major portions: the Old
Testament - given before Christ came to earth; and the New
Testament- given after Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
The Old Testament was originally given in Hebrew (a few
chapters in Aramaic) over a 1000 year period extending from about
1440 B.C. and 430 B.C. The Old Testament consists of 39 books
recorded by approximately 30 different human authors.
The New Testament was originally given in Greek over a period
of about 45 years from about 50 A.D. to 95 A.D. The New Testament
consists of 27 books recorded by 8 human authors.
Is the Bible truly from God or is it merely a human book?
Consider the following facts:
1. Its Circulation:
The Bible is by far the most published book in the world.
It was the first book ever printed on a printing press.
It has dominated the presses ever since.
By 1931 the houses in England, Europe, and America had published 1.3 billion Bibles and Bible portions. By 1951 the American Bible Society alone was publishing over 16,000,000 Bible and Bible portions per year to keep up with the demand.
By 1980 it is impossible to estimate the number of copies of the Bible printed per year due to the multitude of publishing houses printing Bibles in over 1000 different languages. Literally billions of Bibles and Bible portions have been printed in the last 3 decades.
The largest edition of any book in the history of printing has
been the Bible; 1,000,000 copies September 30, 1952.
WHY CONSIDER THIS QUESTION?
Because . . .
the Bible makes universal and absolute claims upon all mankind
the Bible claims to be perfect in every part
the character, work, and teachings of Jesus Christ are unparalled by any other
the Bible claims that salvation
from hell can come to no man apart from its
The most valuable book in the world is the Bible. The Gutenberg Bible sells for well over $100,000 a copy. The British paid the Russians $510,000 for one Greek Manuscript of the New Testament. The longest telegram in the world was sending the Revised Version New Testament from New York to Chicago.
In the last decade publications of Bibles and books in any other category according to the Almanac.
Consider the greatest authors of all times such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Cicero, Virgil, Seneca, Shakespeare, Hilton. To my knowledge no book ever printed has sold over 15,000,000 copies from the time of its writing until the present day. This is less than the number of Bibles printed worldwide in any one year.
Out of the multitude of books published in any language very few are ever translated into a foreign language. It would not be amiss to say that the cream of human literature could be defined as those books translated into three or more languages. Very few have risen to this level of universal appeal.
On the other hand the Bible has been translated into over 1000 foreign languages which are spoken by well over 90% of the world's population. Is the Bible merely a human book?
The Bible was the first major book translated into a foreign
language. The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek
about 200 B.C. This significant translation is called the Septuagint,
signified by the symbols "LXX".
a. Survival through Time
To survive through the ages a book must have an appeal reaching beyond its own generation. How many books written prior to the last 300 years can you name? The last 200 years?
The average person may be able to name a few, but of these,
how many are being read as much today as in their own and all
ensuing centuries since their writing? No book other than the
Bible can claim this distinction. Is the Bible merely a human
b. Survival through Persecution
No other book has suffered such open opposition through the ages. In 303 A.D. the Roman empire ordered it exterminated and thousands of hand-written manuscripts were destroyed. The emperor is dead but the Bible lives on.
The Bible has been banned, burned, destroyed and prohibited but it still lives on. The Roman Catholic Church in Council of Toulouse in 1229 forbade the use of the Bible by laymen.
Another means of keeping the truth from common people has been to hold public services in Latin, as opposed to the common language. Compare these practices with the clear commands and demands of scripture - "But these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17:11 See also II Timothy 2:15, I Timothy 4:13. etc.
Men who have attempted to translate the Bible into the common tongue were hunted down and martyred. At times the hatred for these men was so fervent it tarried for decades after their death, so much so that their bones were dug up and burned.
Bible societies publishing the scriptures in the vernacular language of the people were condemned by Pius VII in 1816 who declared them "fiendish institutions for the undermining of the foundations of religion."
The Roman Catholic Church is by no means the only organized religious body that has attempted to keep the Bible from the common person. The Church of England and the English Parliament, upon the recommendation of Archbishop Arundel in 1414, passed laws against Bible reading. The reading of the English Scriptures was forbidden upon pain of forfeiture "of land, cattle, life, and goods from their heirs forever."
Arundel denounced John Wycliff who translated the Latin Vulgate into English about 1380 with the following words, "that pestilent wretch of damnable memory, yea the forerunner and disciple of Antichrist who as the complement of his wickedness invented a new translation of the Scriptures into his mother-tongue." It is truly strange that organized religion should so oppose God's word. We can only conclude that either the Bible, or organized religion is in opposition to God.
In our day nearly every theological seminary supported by the
major ecumenical denominations strongly opposes true Bible
teaching by rejecting the total word for word inspiration,
inerrancy and absolute authority of the Bible. It is also amazing
that the Bible is the only book forbidden for open and
free use by the public schools in America.
If this book is merely human why have so many vehemently
opposed it through the ages even to our very day? If it is a book
so fallible and contradictory, how can we explain its endurance
amid such persecution and ridicule. Could it be as Isaiah 40:8
says, "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the
word of God shall stand forever." The critics
constantly pass away and are forgotten, but God's Word continues
4. Popular Use
No other book is read like the Bible. Millions of people read the Bible daily both personally and in their families. Studies done by polling authorities reveal that 80 to 90 percent of all families have at least one Bible; 85-95 percent of all Americans read the Bible at some time or another; and over 30 - 40 percent claim to read it every week.
Can any human author claim the same for his greatest book? How many read Shakespeare daily? Why the Bible - but not Shakespeare daily? Why the Bible - but not Shakespeare, Homer, Socrates, Dante, Milton, Browning, or Emerson?
The Bible has universal appeal. It is read by kings and
peasants, lawyers and doctors, astronomers and housewives,
farmers and physicists. It is read by the Eskimo and the African,
the black and white, the big and little, the well educated and
the uneducated, the rich and poor. What other book has such
universal appeal? Is the Bible merely a human book?
Historical Accuracy and Verification
Although the Bible is not a history book per se, it should be perfectly accurate in its records of historical details if it is in truth - THE WORD OF GOD. It is very interesting to study the findings of scientific archaeology.
Scientific archaeology is a relatively recent development of
this century. There have been artifact hunters but archaeology
that systematically uncovers layer after layer of cities,
carefully dating each level by pottery types, etc., began in the
late 1800's and has been developed in this century. This
development has greatly enhanced the trust that even unbelieving
historians have for the Bible.
Prior to this century liberal theologians and historians rejected the Old Testament as mythological. They asserted that Moses could not possibly have written the first 5 books of the Bible in 1400 B.C. because man had not learned to write until 800 or 700 B.C. Historians mocked the Bible references to the large Hittite nations saying that the Hittites were mythological since no evidence for their existence has ever been found. The same criticism was made about the Horites. The hundreds of biblical names and details concerning kingdoms and customs prior to 600 B.C. were all thought to be fictitious inventions of some zealous priests trying to invent a good history of Israel.
However, this century has overturned the views of the liberal
historians. The late Palestine archaeologist W.F. Albright of the
University of Chicago has stated that in his 50 years of
archaeology in Palestine, to his knowledge no archaeological find
has ever invalidated the historical accuracy of the Bible.
He stated that as a young man he accepted the theory that
"the religious traditions of Genesis were in general,
retrojections from post-Mosaic times." But after 50 years of
excavation in Palestine he states, "but I have now changed
my mind." He states that the patriarchal customs and the
historical traditions presented in the book of Genesis have been
verified by the scientific archaeology.
Now no intelligent person questions whether Moses could have
written the first 5 books of the Bible in 1400 B.C. Many other
documents from that day have been discovered verifying the
customs and traditions of Moses' day exactly as presented in the
Bible. The Encyclopedia Britannica, which once called
the Hittites "a mythological people known only in the
Bible," now records page after page about them which
archaeologists have discovered.
Donald J. Wiseman in a book on Old Testament archaeology
states that today more than 25,000 sites in the Middle East have
been discovered dating to the Old Testament period. Volumes of
information on the peoples and customs of that day have been
written. In spite of all this information it is a known fact
among those knowledgeable in this subject that, no archaeological
find has ever invalidated a biblical teaching. You decide, Is the
Bible merely a human book?
Do we have the Word of God as it was originally given or has
some been lost? Has it been corrupted through the ages of
transmission? These questions are easily resolved when the facts
The Bible is without question the most well attested
document in all of human history. Consideration of the
classical writings of Greece and Rome illustrates the character
of the preservation of the biblical manuscripts quite strikingly.
There are over 5000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament known
today. The earliest of these date to within 20 to 30 years of the
death of the apostle John.
In contrast, F. G. Kenyon states that of the plays of
Aeschylus, there are 50 copies; of the works of Sophocles, 100
copies; of the Greek Anthology, one copy; and of Catallus, 3
independent manuscripts. Only 643 copies of Homer's Iliad,
20 copies of Livy's History of Rome, 10 copies of
Caesar's Gallic Wars, and 2 copies of the Works of
Tactitus are known to exist.
The earliest manuscripts of Sophocles, Aeschylus,
Aristophanes, and Thucydides are 1400 years after their deaths.
For Euripides it is 1600 years, 1300 for Plato, 1200 for
Demosthenes, 900 for Horace, 700 for Terrence, 500 for Livy, 1000
for Lucretius, and 1600 for Catallus.
Besides the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament there are
more than 9000 complete and incomplete manuscripts of early
Latin, Syrian, Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, Gothic and other
language translations of the Greek New Testament that survive to
our day. In addition to these, literally multitudes of documents
and letters containing numerous quotations from the Bible still
survive from dozens of early church fathers. A few of these early
church fathers include Ignatius, 110 A.D.; Augustine, 430 A.D.;
Tertullian, 220 A.D.; Origin, 254 A.D.; Irenaeus, 202 A.D.;
Hagesippus, 180 A.D,; Clement of Alexandria, 215 A.D.;
Hippolytus, 235 A.D.
It is true that God's direct inspiration of the Bible only
extended to the original manuscripts (called autographs) and
there are slight variations between the multitude of manuscripts,
translations, and quotations. However, upon comparing the
manuscripts among themselves it is relatively easy to reestablish
the original texts. For example, if twenty manuscripts exist for
a certain chapter of the Bible and one leaves two adjacent words,
but the other manuscripts agree, it is easy to see that the
scribe of the first manuscript made a mistake in copying.
It can be honestly asserted that, No doctrine of the
scripture is in question as a result of manuscript variation.
The variation among the thousands of Biblical manuscripts is
amazingly slight and insignificant compared to the large
differences that exist between manuscripts of the classical
F. F. Bruce, a leading authority on the text of the New Testament states that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording "is in truth remarkably small. The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice." Most deal with questions of work order and spelling which are interesting academic questions but do not affect the translations and interpretation in the least.
Sir Fredrick Kenyon, a foremost expert in textual criticism states:
The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.
Both the AUTHORITY and the GENERAL INTEGRITY of the books of
the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.
A brief word should be given about the text of the Old Testament. Prior to 1947 the earliest text of the Hebrew Old Testament in existence was about 1400 years after the last prophet had written. This led the skeptics to assert that our Old Testament was unreliable. However, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls dating fully 1000 years earlier (100 to 200 B.C.) were discovered. Much to the dismay of the critics, these manuscripts read word for word the same as the texts 1000 years later in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling which would not affect the interpretation of the text.
The excellent preservation and reliability of the Old
Testament is due to the meticulous care with which scribes copied
the manuscripts. These scribes were so painstaking in their
efforts that they actually counted the letters and words in the
middle letter and the middle word of each book. If a manuscript
was counted and found to be inferior it was immediately destroyed
to prevent the errors of that manuscript from creeping into other
manuscripts. It can be truthfully stated that the scribes
involved in copying the Hebrew scriptures exercised more care and
diligent attention to the preservation and accuracy of the Old
Testament text than has ever been devoted to any ancient
literature - secular or religious, in the history of human
civilization. Is the Bible merely a human book?
Verification of the Bible Through Prophecy
Skeptics of the Bible usually do not like to seriously treat this subject. Isaiah 46:9,10 states:
"I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the
end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that
are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do
all my pleasure."
It is just as easy for God to inspire the human writer to
record events in detail that will happen centuries in the future
as it is for Him to give past history. God controls all human
history. The course of this world's events were already
determined prior to God's creation of this world. Many argue that
it is impossible for the Bible to record future events, but it is
hard to argue with the fact of fulfilled prophecy.
No intelligent person will dispute the fact that the Old
Testament was completed several hundred years before Christ. The
Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old
Testament) dates from 150 to 250 B.C. The Hebrew scriptures must
then be older than their translation. Yet there are over 35
distinct and detailed prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus
Christ given from 1400 to 430 years before His birth. There were
so many witnesses of His life and ministry that there can be
little doubt that the facts of His life are accurately presented
in the New Testament. For example, Micah 5:2 (720 B.C.) states
that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Surely no one could think
that the New Testament writers writing within thirty years of
Christ's death could get by with lying about where He was born.
Within months after Christ's resurrection, literally thousands of
people who had heard Him teach were saved and had become His
followers. These, as well as the opposers, would have been quick
to point out such gross inaccuracy as a mistake about His birth
location. The Bible books of Matthew and Luke would have been
immediately rejected as not coming from God.
Other prophecies include His lineage from David, His virgin
birth, His miracles, His triumphal entry, His betrayal by a
friend, His being sold for thirty pieces of silver, His
rejection, His being spat upon, His crucifixion with sinners, His
hands and feet pierced, His resurrection, and His ascension. All
these are clearly and distinctly foretold hundreds of years
before their fulfillment. Can this be explained in any other way
than supernatural revelation by God? Who, even a hundred years
ago, could have predicted that Ronald Reagan would be president,
name his family lineage, his birthplace, his personal
accomplishments and 31 other distinct facts about his life? Could
someone, even 100 years ago, have done this by amazing
coincidence? How much more ridiculous to assert that it was by
coincidence that thirty men over a 1000 year period from all
walks and stations in life, few knowing each other, could write
more than 35 distinct, clear, and detailed prophecies about the
same person without making one mistake or contradiction!
You decide, Is the Bible merely a human
The Bible is also just as detailed about things occurring in our day. For example, the Bible clearly states the following prophecies regarding Israel:
The land of Palestine would belong to Israel as long as the earth endures.
But because of unbelief they would be driven from the land. Deuteronomy 28:63-68
During this period they would not worship idols; neither would they have a temple or a priest to offer sacrifices. Hosea 3:4,5
They would be dispersed to the ends of the earth. Amos 9:9
They would suffer continual persecution. Deuteronomy 28:65,66
They would then be regathered and restored back again as a nation to the very land of their fathers. Ezekiel 36:24
They would return, but not in belief of Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
Wars, famines, pestilence will increase dramatically before Christ's second coming. Matthew 24:6,7
Sin and corruption will increase. Daniel 12:4
A nation east of Israel would amass an army of 200,000,000. Revelation 9:14,15, 16:12. This prophecy was penned when there were not 200,000,000 people in the entire world. Yet China has boasted of this for a decade.
Israel will become the thorn in the side of the whole world and will be attacked from the north, east, and south. Ezekiel 38; Daniel 11:4,40
A temple will be built where the Moslem Dome of the Rock currently sits before Christ's final return. II Thessalonians 2:4
Jesus Christ will return at the moment the city is being overtaken and . . .
He will destroy the armies of the world. Zechariah 14:2-4, 12-15; Revelation 19:19-21
He will rule and reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years.
Jerusalem will become the capital of the world. Revelation 20:4;
Other So-called "Holy Books"
Some might say, "Well what about the holy books of other
religions? Are they from God as well?" The answer is plainly
no. That these books are not on a par with the Bible is easily
shown from their blatant historical inaccuracies and
chronological mistakes. If a book is from God, it must then be
perfect and without error because God is perfect and without
Most religions, even if they do have holy books, do not
promote their use primarily because these books show gaping
mistakes and human errors upon even a shallow scrutiny. Compare
two that claim to be the Word of God.
First, The Book of Mormon.
In Alma 7:10, Jesus was to be born in Jerusalem (rather than in Bethlehem, as recorded in Luke 2:4).
Helamen 14:20,29 states that the darkness covered the whole earth for three days at the time of Christ's death (rather than three hours as recorded in Matthew 27:45), or beyond Easter morning, which would have made it impossible for the women at the tomb to tell whether the stone had been rolled away from its mouth.
Alma 46:15 indicates that believers were called "Christians" 73 years before the birth of Christ rather than at Antioch, as Acts 11:26 informs us.
Many verses supposedly coming from 600 B.C. are clearly taken
from the New Testament and more specifically the King James
Version of 1611. Over 400 examples of this can be cited. The
Book of Mormon has been proven time and again to be a
fraud. Typical of these books on this subject is, The Case
Against Mormonism, by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Salt Lake
In Sura 3, "The Family of Imram," Mohammed says that
Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth were sisters and
Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus were brothers. He says
that Moses' sister Miriam was Jesus' real mother, not Mary. Some
Muslim authors try to overcome the difficult fact that Miriam
lived 1400 years before Christ by saying that God miraculously
preserved her body and soul until the time of Jesus.
In Sura 5, "The Table," Mohammed shows a
misunderstanding of the Trinity, thinking that Jesus thought Mary
was to be the third person of the Trinity.
Numerous other examples such as these can be cited. Even one,
is enough to show that the Koran is not an infallible and
inerrant book. Thus it is not God's Word.
Is the Bible merely a human book or is it God's Word? This is a question you must decide. If the Bible is truth as Jesus Christ plainly asserted it to be, then your eternity will depend upon what you do with the Bible.
Some think that by evading the issue or merely denying that the Bible is God's Word, the facts of heaven and hell will also disappear. However, not believing in the Internal Revenue Service does not change the fact of its existence or of our accountability to it. So it is with God's Word.
God has given us His Word for two main reasons: First,
to reveal His Son Jesus Christ as being Messiah, the Savior of
the World; and second so that we could be saved from
eternal torment through faith in Him. John 20:31 states, "But
these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His
name." (See also John 3:16.)
If you have any questions about this paper, please feel free
to contact Bim Rowley, Pastor. Originally composed in 1982,
Edited, 1999, cpl.
60 Burnham Street
S. Windsor, CT
Bim Rowley Pastor, 282-0804
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