I’m not a big fan of fictional writings. No matter how moving or how many real truths they contain, the subconscious yet prevailing thought I have is “this isn’t true.” While some people can push past this thought to enjoy a certain text, I believe it’s a thought all have. We recognize that it doesn’t fully coordinate with reality. Therefore it does not have the impact that recants of history contain.
Some people approach the Bible this way. They don’t believe it is historically accurate or even true at all. They see contradiction in it. Or maybe they believe it’s true, but too old to be relevant. All these thoughts and beliefs undermine the power of the Bible. If these ideas about the Bible are true, it’s like fictional novels cannot coordinate with reality.
We can’t really attack any hard questions of Christianity if we don’t believe the Bible is true. While God speaks to us through prayer and in our hearts, the main way he communicates with his people is through the writings of scripture. If they were untrue as some claim, the entity of our faith would collapse. Any answers we have would equally be untrue.
I will not claim to know everything. I have not gone to seminary nor have I formally studied apologetics. And even the books I have read on historicity of the Bible say that there is no way we can absolutely prove that what the prophets, kings, and apostles wrote is true and actually happened. But there is phenomenal evidence for it. We can clear up some supposed contradictions. We can see the relevance a book that is well over 2,000 years old still have today. We can be convinced of the book Christians love and live by.
Evidence for truth
Few people would argue the historicity of Homer’s Iliad. It was written in 1800 BC. While we do not have an autograph (the original book written by Homer himself), there are more than 1,800 manuscripts (ancient copies of the original) in existence today with the earliest manuscript copy dating to 400 BC. This listing of ancient manuscripts that date close to the original is a form of bibliography and is a test in which historians use to weigh the accuracy of a text. The Iliad is seen as one of the most historically credible ancient documents because if the amount of manuscripts found.
Yet, the Bible does better than the Iliad in the bibliographical test. For just the New Testament alone, around 25,000 manuscript copies are known to exist with the earliest dating back to 125 AD. The new Testament is estimated to have been written from around 60 AD to 100 AD or perhaps a little after. The sheer amount is astonishing in itself but the closeness of our copied manuscripts to the autographed originals provides even more evidence for the historical reliability. There wouldn’t be much room for error or change in such a short period of time.
It’s worth noting the accuracy of Jewish scribes. Before the days of the printing press, manuscripts had to be copied by hand. They didn’t simply let anyone write holy scripture down. It was a meticulous process to ensure every letter was written correctly. Scribes were well trained. Even to the point of a cleansing ritual they had to undergo while writing the name of God. They had to stand up, cleanse themselves, get a new pen to dip in ink all before writing the sacred name of the Most High. While some mistakes did slip through, they were simply spelling errors and did not compromise the essence of the Bible. We can be reassured that while we don’t have the original copies of the Bible books, they were transcribed accurately and in vast amounts.
Contradictions or clarity?
Another issue some have with the Bible is the idea that the Bible contradicts. While I do not claim to understand everything it teaches, I do believe if we dive in to better understand the context and culture of the time, most “contradictions” will be cleared up.
For example, one of the most blaring supposed contradictions is Proverbs 26:4-5: “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” For a long time this confused me. I then reasoned that context of the situation matters. While, yes, situational context does matter, both answering the fool and not answering the fool is always correct.
It was explained to me by those wiser than I (Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict) that both are always true. We are never to answer a fool with the same type of foolishness that they have. We are not to react unwisely or unjustly to prove out stance. We are not to react out of selfish motives. Yet, we are to answer the fool with God’s truth. We must bring light and clarity to the argument. We must present them with God’s truth so that they may have the potential to learn and we are acting in the will of God himself. We are never to answer a foolish argument with equal foolishness, but we are always to answer a foolish argument with God’s wisdom.
Other biblical contradictions can be cleared up if we take a moment to understand Jewish culture and the heart of God. I don’t believe God being holy would breathe into the living scriptures contradictions. God does not contradict. Therefore, his word does not contradict.
Some struggle to see the relevance of a book written 2,000 plus years ago. Wasn’t the Bible written to a specific people at a specific time? How can that apply to us today?
While some do struggle with the overall relevance of the entire Bible, generally, much of what people discard as not applicable to them is in the Old Testament. They ration that after the death and resurrection of Jesus the OT became irrelevant. The need to read and preach on the Old Testament isn’t seen as necessary by some Christians.
Yet, Jesus never declared this as truth. He did not come to destroy the Old Testament; rather, he came to complete it. He said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purposes. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. We as Christians do not live by the law as the Israelites had to prior to the coming of the Messiah. Rather, we live in the fulfillment of the law. It was never cast out or set aside. It’s purpose was simply fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
As to the Bible being written to a certain people at a certain time, this is entirely true. Just because God told Joshua to march around Jericho in order to conquer it (Joshua 5:13-6:27) does not mean that we are today supposed to go march around the modern day city on that site in hopes of the walls falling. Rather, we are to glean the principles taught in stories such as this and better understand the might of our God. We can see that God can fight our battles much better than we can. We can recognize the power of the one true God who rescues those who serve him.
But there are also parts of the Bible that are timeless. They apply to all people at all times. The ten commandments provide moral law that we should apply to our lives today. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount could just as easily be preached in a modern church as it was on the countryside so many years ago. The apostles letters teaching the new church how to live and act applies to our church today as well. The universal God breathed universal truths into his written word.
The Bible in its entirety will always be relevant. We don’t serve an ancient god who cannot understand this modern life we live. Instead, we serve an eternal God who will always be relevant. Because of his eternal purpose, his word will always be applicable.
I haven’t scratched the surface on the uniqueness of the Bible. I mentioned little of the enormous amount of evidence for the historicity of scripture. I barely dove into the clarification of supposed contradictions. I only wrote a glimpse of the relevance it has to modern life. There’s so much about the Bible that I don’t believe I could write a book and still cover all there is to know. If you wish do dive in deeper to the evidence for the Bible, I recommend reading God Breathed by Josh McDowell, A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, PhD.
From the little I wrote, I hope you see that the Bible isn’t some fictional book that you can’t trust. It wasn’t written by a careless author that wrote a subpar storyline. It’s not some nice novel that doesn’t apply to life. The Bible is the powerful, life-giving, God breathed scripture. It will change your life. It certainly has mine.