There have always been people who are skeptical about the reliability of the Bible. Interestingly enough, the pillars of their doubt are focused on the history of the Jewish people, the identity of Jesus, and origins of the early Christian movement. Are such attacks justified? Can we put our trust in the Bible?
While the skeptic may raise high demands for certainty to cast doubt upon truth, we have good reasons that the New Testament is reliable.
- It claims to be true and is historically accurate.
- The events surrounding the life of Jesus was preserved and circulated.
CLAIMS OF THE BIBLE AS TRUSTWORTHY
Skeptics may object, “Well, doesn’t saying the Bible is trustworthy because the Bible says its trustworthy seem a little circular?” While the theist can be guilty of circular reasoning by stating that the bible is inspired because the bible says its inspired, I’m simply acknowledging that when reading the Old and New Testaments, there are many references to people and events of history. Such events and figures like, the names of Jewish and Pagan rulers, prominent events of wars, rising and falling kingdoms and the captivity of the Jewish people are recorded without apology and with great accuracy.
THE EVENTS CONCERNING JESUS IS LODGED IN HISTORY AS IT WAS CORROBORATED BY MANY WITNESSES
Luke records two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus was crucified having an encounter with the resurrected Christ:
“While they were talking, and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death and crucified him” (24.15-20).
Many events surrounding Jesus, such as the teachings, miracles, exorcisms, trial and crucifixion were public knowledge to those residing in Palestine. Jews, scribes, priest, Samaritans, Roman high officials would have been aware of the activities involving this Jew named Jesus. Jesus taught and did miracles amongst the “crowds” whether poor, rich, Jew or Roman. Jesus lived in an orally dominant culture. Any misrepresentations of facts of the activities of Jesus amongst their very backyard would’ve been self-correcting. Boyd and Rhodes comment, “The Gospel authors composed their texts with the awareness that they would primarily be recited aloud-often from memory and thus not verbatim to mostly illiterate audiences.”
The Bible stands as a written historical document of events that took place among many witnesses of God’s divine disclosure in the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Israelites received mercy and salvation from God in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and through the settling in the land of Canaan. Likewise, they suffered prophetic judgments, such as Babylonian captivity, foretold by the prophets. In the New Testament, people witnessed Jesus’ teachings, healings, divine sense of authority, character, etc. Most importantly, there were those who witnessed the resurrection of Christ and they documented these events. Together, these documents have been shown time and again to be reliable in textual accuracy and history.
May we have the conviction that the Bible is not merely a history book or a book of prophecies, but also the book which communicates God’s will to all mankind. Let us be thankful that such a wonderful God has made himself known to us. “And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts.5.32).
Paul Eddy Rhodes & Gregory A. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. 403.