How do you know that the Bible is true? Isn't it just a bunch of fables?
From many years of study, we have become convinced that the Bible is true and trustworthy—and that the skeptics are incorrect in their challenges. There are many evidences that confirm that the Bible is reliable. First, history and archeology confirm the biblical record. Over 25,000 sites have now been discovered that pertain to the Bible. As Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist said, "It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." Even though archeology does not prove spiritual truth, archeological confirmation is an amazing testimony to the accuracy of the Bible.
As a comparison, the religion of Mormonism makes many claims as to history, especially about the Americas. Yet none of its claims have been or can be verified by archeology, seriously damaging its credibility.
Another fascinating and unique aspect of Christianity is the accuracy of biblical prophecy. There are over 2,000 accurately fulfilled predictions in the Bible, including some 300 specific details and implications about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. For example, Isaiah 53 beautifully describes the life of Christ 700 years before it took place! Even the town of Jesus' birth was foretold in the Old Testament (Micah 5:2). And there are no prophetic failures.
The Bible contains page after page of history written in advance. The skeptic must come to grips with this evidence.
Concerning the New Testament, it is helpful to appreciate that all of the New Testament writers were of the generation of Jesus. Each writer was either an eyewitness to Jesus or was an interviewer of eyewitnesses. Three of the writers were Jesus' disciples—Matthew, John, and Peter.
A strong case can be made that all of the books of the New Testament were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Even the book of Revelation is increasingly accepted as having been written prior to AD 70. See this link for a list of over 60 scholars who accept the early dating:
Also see Cold Case Christianity.
Another key fact is the manuscript evidence itself. Recognizing that there are no known original manuscripts in existence of the Bible or for any other ancient writing, let's examine the Bible. For the New Testament, there are over 24,000 handwritten copies or portions thereof from antiquity now extant. This is far more than other ancient books. For example, the second most available ancient manuscripts are from Homer's Iliad, for which there are 643 manuscript copies, while most ancient documents have fewer than 25 existing copies.
Important is the time interval between the actual events, the date of writing, and the earliest known manuscript copy. For the Bible, manuscript copies or portions thereof exist that were written within 35 to 160 years after the originals. Recent dating of one manuscript fragment of a portion of the Gospel of Matthew (the so-called Magdalen text), while still controversial, may suggest that it was written in about A.D. 50—a mere 17 years after the crucifixion of Christ. If these findings hold up, it means that the Gospel of Mark, which predates the Matthew Gospel, was written as early as A.D. 40—only seven years or so after the crucifixion.
The interval between the historical events and the written evidence is far better for the New Testament than any other ancient manuscript. For example, the first account of Buddha's life was written 700 years after his death. The earliest copy of Caesar's works is 950 years after being written, and the earliest available copy of Plato's works is dated 1250 years after the original. Yet we do not question the authority of these other works!
Even more impressive is the degree of textual variance in existing copies. Considering the enormous number of ancient New Testament manuscripts, there are only nominal differences in the various copies. The data for the New Testament is impressive. Only 40 lines, or one fifth of one percent are in question, and none of these variants effect Christian doctrine. This compares to large textual variances in other ancient writings. For example, the New Testament is 25 times more accurately copied than the Iliad, which was also "sacred" and is considered one of the best copied works of antiquity.
The large number of preserved copies without disagreements in content increases the chances that the Bible we have has preserved the original texts unmarred by heretical additions. The books of the New Testament were widely circulated among the earliest Christians, and could not have been corrupted without a great outcry on the part of orthodox Christians.
There is strong internal evidence in the New Testament that it was written early. For example, the book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul in prison, awaiting trial. It is likely that Luke wrote Acts and the book of Luke during this time, before Paul finally appeared before Nero. This would be about AD 62-63. This means that Acts and Luke were written within thirty years of the ministry and death of Jesus.
Indeed, there is little doubt among scholars that Paul and Peter, who together wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, were executed in the 60's AD. So, obviously, they wrote prior to this time.
Further support for the Bible comes from the fact that events of the New Testament are supported by writings outside the Bible. Corroboration is available from several secular and Jewish historians of antiquity. (Examples: Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Aristides, Josephus, etc.)
Another interesting thing is the thousands of quotations found in the writings of the early Church Fathers (A.D. 100-450). Even if all the New Testament manuscripts disappeared, it would still be possible to reconstruct almost the entire New Testament with quotes from the Church Fathers.
Thus, in his book, The Bible and Archaeology, Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, stated about the New Testament: "The interval, then, 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 authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."
In addition to its being externally verified, significant further evidence of its reliability is the internally consistent nature of the Bible. It is truly an amazingly consistent document. The messages of approximately 40 different writers of the 66 books of the Bible, written over 1,500 years, in three different languages, all fit together like the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. There is one continual theme throughout—God's plan of salvation from sin won for the whole world by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This consistency itself attests to the miracle of this book.
Concerning the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1946 and 1956. These Old Testament manuscripts date to the time of Jesus. We also have the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating to the second century BC. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament dated to around 800 AD. When scholars compared these texts they were amazed that 95% of the texts were identical with only minor variations.
But aren't there a lot of contradictions in the Bible? This is a common claim. Scholars have been looking for such contradictions for hundreds of years, but a careful examination of such charges can virtually eliminate them as valid. Many such claims are simply a failure to understand the laws of logic or failure to read the various books of the Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. For example, when one witness says that he saw an angel at the tomb, and another witness says he saw two angels at the tomb, these statements do not violate any law of logic and are not contradictory. If there were two angels present, there was one angel present. One witness only saw one angel at the time he was there. If the witness had said that there was ONLY one angel at the tomb, we would have a contradiction versus the other witness. But that is not what the text says. Here is a website that is dedicated to answering all such claims of contradictions: Bible Query.
Its mere endurance speaks for itself. For thousands of years people have explored every nook and cranny of the Bible. Alleged difficulties have been systematically answered. Upon examination, there are no errors or contradictions in the Bible. (A good reference is When Critics Ask, A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.)
Moreover, part of the testimony of the Bible's power and truth is the evidence of changed history and changed human lives. We might add that people come to believe the Bible freely without compulsion. Compare this to the religion of Islam, which has been spread by the force of the sword and political might.
The Bible has answers for today's problems. The relevance of biblical truths becomes evident to those who study it. People become convicted and changed.
The more one studies without bias the teachings found in the Bible, the more he or she will see that they conform to the truths of experience and human nature. It is just as powerful in the lives of people today as for those thousands of years ago.
The Bible has proven to be trustworthy, powerful, and significant. See also our article MAPS.
Here are some links:
A related question is, "Does the Bible Apply to Me Today?" Check out this link about how to interpret the Bible: Hermeneutics