The Bible is unarguably an incredible book. It is the best-selling, most quoted, most published, most circulated, most translated, most influential book in the history of mankind. There is no close second. Copyrighted material. Do not copy and paste online.
• But why should anyone believe that the Bible is actually true?
Those are questions that intelligent, critical thinking people are asking today and those are questions they have a right to ask. I think they should be asking those questions. Those are questions I used to ask (you can read my story here). And God's heart for His people is that we be able to provide answers to people (e.g., 1 Peter 3:15, Jude 3). So, in this article I'm going to lay out a broad, but somewhat concise overview of ten different lines of evidence that I think demonstrate (when considered in their totality) that the Bible is indeed what it claims to be: the trustworthy Word of God—written by men yes—but men who were guided by God as they penned the words they penned (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16).
The first line of evidence for the Bible is...
1. FULFILLED PROPHECY
Fulfilled prophecy is something that sets the Bible apart from every other religious book. And the Bible does have some competition today. There are 26 other religious books that people of faith believe are divinely inspired (the Hindu Vedas, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, etc.). Of these twenty-six books, none of them contain any specific, fulfilled prophecies. None.
In stark contrast to these other writings, the Bible is literally filled with hundreds of specific, detailed prophecies that were written hundreds of years before their fulfillment. In fact 27% of the Bible contains what was predictive prophecy at the time that it was written. And the authors of the Bible did not just predict some vague things like Nostradamus or Jeane Dixon (who have proven to have been false prophets over and over again), they were very specific. Consider a few of the Old Testament prophecies made regarding the Messiah (the Savior that God promised He would send into the world) hundreds of years before they were fulfilled.
For example, the Old Testament prophesied that He would be born of the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3, 22:18), of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), and in the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12f). Micah 5:2 said that He would be born in Bethlehem, that He’d come while the temple was still standing (Malachi 3:1), that He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that He would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and cause the lame to walk (Isaiah 35:5-6), that He’d be rejected by His own people (Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7). The Scriptures foretold the precise time in history when He would die (Daniel 9:24-26), how He would die (Psalm 22:16-18, Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10), and that He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27-32).
SKEPTIC: "Hold on a second Charlie. Maybe the disciples just made up all of these things that Jesus supposedly did. Perhaps they read all of those prophecies in the Old Testament and decided to make up an elaborate story about Jesus fulfilling them!"
2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
Archaeological discoveries could never prove that the Bible is divinely inspired, but they do help build a compelling case for the historical reliability of the Bible. Of course many people today think that the Bible is a book of mythology, that the persons, places and events mentioned in the Bible were inventions by the authors. Well, the advance of archaeology has proven them wrong.
Allow me to briefly tell you about some of the discoveries that have helped to shed light on the truthfulness of the Bible. My book, Archaeological Evidence for the Bible, discusses these and many more, if you're interested in the topic.
The New Testament authors tell us that Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea at the time of Christ who oversaw Jesus’ trial and then sentenced Him to death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:2; Luke 3:1). Was he a legendary figure that the authors of the New Testament invented? No. In June of 1961, a team of Italian archaeologists was digging in Caesarea, on the shore of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in Israel, about fifty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem. While digging in the jumbled ruins of a Roman theater these archaeologists made an amazing discovery. They found a limestone block about three feet tall and two feet wide that had been turned upside down and reused as part of a flight of steps during one of the renovations of the theater. It bore an inscription in Latin mentioning “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”
This is an amazing evidence outside of the Bible that Pontius Pilate was an actual historical person, that he reigned in the very position ascribed to him by the Gospels, and that as prefect he would have had the authority to condemn or pardon Jesus, just as the Gospel accounts report. Since the time of this discovery in 1961, Pilate’s official residence at Caesarea has also been identified.
The New Testament tells us that the name of the Jewish high priest at the time of Jesus was Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3). Caiaphas was the one who presided over the late night Jewish trial of Jesus wherein Jesus confessed Himself to be the Messiah resulting in His condemnation (Matthew 26:57–68). It was also in the courtyard of Caiaphas’s house that Peter denied knowing Jesus (John 18:24–27). Was Caiaphas a New Testament fabrication? No.In 1990 a team of construction workers building a water park approximately two miles south of Jerusalem accidentally unearthed a first-century burial cave. A bulldozer unintentionally broke through the roof of the cave. The yield of this discovery was an uncharacteristically ornate ossuary (a bone box used in burial) with an inscription on it in Aramaic that read “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.” Inside the ossuary were the bones of a man who was approximately sixty years old at the time of his death. Although the Gospel writers and the Jewish historian Josephus referred to the high priest as “Caiaphas,” Josephus tells us that his full name was “Joseph Caiaphas,” the very name etched into the side of the ossuary. His ossuary is on display today in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Up until 1993 not a shred of evidence could be found anywhere outside of the Bible that David the king of Israel ever existed and so “it had become fashionable in some academic circles to dismiss the David stories as an invention of priestly propagandists who were trying to dignify Israel’s past after the Babylonian exile.” The critics’ verdict was that David was “nothing more than a figure of religious and political mythology.”
Well, their skepticism regarding David “collapsed overnight” in 1993 when a nearly 3000-year-old inscription on black basalt was discovered in the town of Dan, a little north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The inscription, written in Aramaic by Israel’s enemies, describing the defeat of the kings of Judah and Israel, mentioned “the king of Israel” and the king of the “House of David.” This was an amazing discovery and helped to verify for the first time that David was an actual historical figure. Michael Lemonick, writing for Time magazine, acknowledged, “The skeptics’ claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend.”
"The fragmentary reference to David was a historical bombshell. Never before had the familiar name of Judah’s ancient warrior king, a central figure of the Hebrew Bible and, according to Christian Scripture, an ancestor of Jesus, been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible. Skeptical scholars had long seized upon that fact to argue that David was a mere legend…Now, at last, there was material evidence, an inscription written not by Hebrew scribes but by an enemy of the Israelites a little more than a century after David’s presumptive lifetime. It seemed to be a clear corroboration of the existence of King David’s dynasty and, by implication, of David himself." [Sheler, Is the Bible True? 60–61.]
Archaeology has not proven so helpful for other religious writings. Consider the Book of Mormon.
3. THE BIBLE’S INTERNAL CONSISTENCY
What do I mean when I speak of the Bible’s internal consistency? I am talking about the Bible’s internal harmony. From the first book of the Bible, Genesis, to the last book, Revelation, the Bible is absolutely consistent in what it teaches.
SKEPTIC: “Why is that an evidence of divine origin? There are plenty of books that are internally consistent!”
I agree. Back in the nineties I worked at a surfing magazine. And we put out an internally consistent magazine every month. Does that mean then that the authors of our different articles were writing down words inspired by God? No. I can assure you of that!
A. The Bible addresses life’s most controversial questions.
These are the big controversial questions of life. These are the kinds of questions that people tend to disagree about (ask your neighbors!) and yet they are the very questions that the authors of the Bible tackle head on, chapter after chapter, book after book, and they do so absolutely consistently.
C. The Bible was written by approximately 40 different authors.
Again, it might be easy to have internal harmony in the Quran. Why? It contains the teachings of one man: Muhammad, born about 570 years after Jesus. The Bible is absolutely different. It contains the teachings of approximately 40 different men!
E. The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1500+ years.
G. The Bible was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of pulling together forty different people (spread out over fifteen centuries, on three different continents, who speak three different languages) and having them write sixty-six different documents regarding life’s most controversial questions—I’m thinking we are going to have some serious problems. That book is a going to be a confusing and difficult read!
Yet, in spite of all of these factors, the Bible is a perfectly harmonious, consistent account of how God is seeking to reconcile sinners (like you and me) back to Himself through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. This internal consistency is an amazing evidence that the authors of the Bible were being guided by the Holy Spirit when they wrote the different books of the Bible.
4. EXTRABIBLICAL WRITINGS
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the fact that there are dozens of writings that survive outside of the Bible (in the records of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans) that verify the historical accuracy of the Bible's records of different persons, places, and events. External sources verify that 50 persons mentioned in the Old Testament and 30 persons written about in the New Testament were actual historical figures (see list of names and sources on p. 270 in I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek). Because of engravings and statues, we even know what 18 (12 from the OT and 6 from the NT) of them looked like!
These extrabiblical writings have helped corroborate numerous details in the Bible, including details surrounding Jesus' life. Now, some critics of Christianity today are telling people that Jesus Himself never existed, that He was the invention of some clever deceivers in the first century. This is absurd and only demonstrates their ignorance of the facts or willingness to overlook the facts. There actually is very good historical evidence outside of the Bible that Jesus lived.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive..." (Antiquities of the Jews, 18:63-64, from a surviving manuscript in Arabic)
A. Cornelius Tacitus (ca. A.D. 55 –120) a Roman Historian
Other historical sources outside of the Bible corroborate details surrounding:
5. THE BIBLE’S AMAZING SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY AND FORESIGHT
Of course many critics of the Bible would disagree that the Bible is scientifically accurate. They point to verses that say things like “the sun stood still” in Joshua 10:13 or John’s reference to “the four corners of the Earth” (Rev. 7:1). And they conclude that the Bible teaches that the Sun revolves around a flat, four-cornered Earth.
The fact that the Bible was written so long ago and yet does not contain any scientific errors, might be considered a miracle in itself. Why? Without exception, every ancient religious writing has certain unscientific views of astronomy, medicine, hygiene, and so on.
The Bible steers free of these kinds of errors. But not only that, it makes known amazing facts about our world and the universe thousands of years before scientists discovered that they were actually true. Allow me to share with you a few examples:
A. The Sun
In contrast to the Qur’an, the Bible teaches that the Sun is actually on a circuit through space. Writing of the Sun in Psalm 19:6, David said, “Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end.” For many years critics scoffed at this verse, claiming that it taught that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Scientists at that time thought the Sun was stationary. However, it has been discovered in recent years that the Sun is in fact on a circuit through space, just like the Bible says.
B. The Shape of the Earth
Long before the Greeks figured out that the world was round, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Chinese believed the world was flat. Amazingly, the Bible went against the grain and gave indications that the Earth was a sphere. In a book thought to be written about 2000 BC, Job 26:10 tells us that God “has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.” That’s interesting. Stay with me on this. Job says God has drawn “a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.” This boundary between light and darkness is where evening and morning occur. Notice that the boundary is not a square or a triangle. It’s a circle. Why? Because the Earth is round. Another verse that speaks of the circular shape of the Earth is found in Isaiah 40:22, written about 700 BC: “It is He [God] who sits above the circle of the Earth.”
C. The Suspension of the Earth
Before Isaac Newton discovered gravity, Hindus believed that the Earth rested on the back of an elephant who stood on the back of a turtle that was swimming in a great endless sea. The Greeks believed that the mythical god Atlas carried the Earth on his shoulders. What did the Bible say? In one of the oldest books in the Bible, Job said in Job 26:7, “He [God] hangs the Earth on nothing.” Scientists did not discover that the Earth hangs on nothing until 1650.
D. The Stars
Before the invention of the telescope, people believed the stars could all be numbered. People were so confident of this that they drew up star charts with all the stars named and numbered. The Greek astronomer and mathematician Hipparchus (190-120 B.C.) said there were exactly 1,026 stars. The astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy (c. 85-A.D. 165) said there were 1,056 stars. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) counted 1,006. When Galileo (a devout Christian) pointed his telescope to the heavens in 1608, he discovered that these previous counts were way off and that the Bible was actually right. What had the Bible said?
God said in Jeremiah 33:22, “The host of heaven [a reference to the stars] cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured.” God says, the stars cannot be numbered. In fact, trying to do so would be about as futile as trying to count the grains of sand floating around in the sea, obviously an impossible task. Jeremiah wrote that more than 2,000 years before Galileo made his discovery.
This all adds up to a lot of stars! Astronomers have to keep revising their estimates of how many stars have been discovered. A new study, published in the journal Nature, suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros, or take 3 trillion and multiply it by 100 billion. [Source: AP/Washington Times]
Now all of these statements in the Bible about the stars, the universe, and the Earth raise a question: How did the authors of the Bible know these kinds of things? Were they taking wild guesses?
You can remember these first five evidences with the acronym F.A.C.E.S.
6. THE MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE
Mormons and Muslims like to say that the Bible cannot be thoroughly trusted today because they say the text of the Bible has not been accurately transmitted down through the centuries. Mormons say entire books of the Bible have gone missing and that is why God had to re-reveal Himself to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. Well, the manuscript evidence proves otherwise.
Today there survives more some 25,000 partial and complete, ancient handwritten manuscript copies of the New Testament, as well as thousands of copies of the Old Testament...many of them predating the time of Christ. Did you realize that? We have copies of the Old Testament that are older than the time of Jesus. Let me tell you how they were found (a fascinating story).
Now, even if we did not have any manuscripts copies of the Bible, there is another way of verifying that we have accurate copies of the Bible, and that is by examining the writings of the church fathers. By church fathers I am referring to those leaders in the church, of the first three centuries A.D., following the original disciples. I'm talking about men like Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Tertullian, Polycarp. These men, in their writings and correspondence with one another, and in their letters to different churches, quote the Old and New Testament over and over again. In fact, the early church fathers quote the New Testament alone more than 86,000 times. And here is something most people don't realize. Their writings survive to this day! You can go to Amazon.com right now and buy an encyclopedic size set of the writings of the church fathers and see with your own eyes their numerous quotations of both the Old and New Testaments.
There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single manuscript copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct most of the New Testament today just from their writings [Norman Geisler and William Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, 430]. This shouldn't come as a surprise to us. Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
7. THE BIBLE’S FORTHRIGHTNESS ABOUT ITS AUTHORS' AND CHARACTERS' FAILURES
What am I talking about? I'm speaking about the authors' openness regarding their failures and sins. Unlike the authors of other religious writings, the authors of the Bible did not seek to cast themselves in good light or to elevate themselves at all.
8. THE PERSECUTION THE DISCIPLES ENDURED
Now, earlier tonight the skeptic raised a legitimate concern when it came to the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He said, "Maybe the disciples just made up all of these things that Jesus supposedly did. Perhaps they read all of those prophecies in the Old Testament and decided to make up an elaborate story about Jesus fulfilling them!"
[*Hegesippus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Cornelius Tacitus, Dionysius, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Origen. For a good overview of these sources and what they said regarding this matter, see Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 56–62.]
Jesus' disciples sealed their testimonies with their own blood, in and around Jerusalem, all the way back in the first century...claiming all the way to the end that the long-awaited Messiah and Savior of the world lived among them, became a sacrifice for our sins, and that He rose from the dead.
9. THE BIBLE’S TRANSFORMING POWER FOR GOOD
The Bible claims to be living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 19:7-10). And that has indeed proven to be the case. No other book in the world has had the transforming effect upon lives and societies for good, than that of the Bible. Now, of course, this alone does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God, but I do think that this fits into the case I've been building.
Another reason that you can be sure that the Bible is trustworthy is because Jesus said it was! If there's anyone we can trust regarding the Word of God, it's the One who proved Himself to be the Son of God by fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, living a sinless life, performing numerous miracles and His resurrection from the dead. And Jesus assured us that the Jewish Scriptures could be trusted: Jesus taught that the Scriptures were:
A. Without Error
B. Historically Reliable
C. Divinely Authoritative
D. Accurate Regarding Human Origins
E. Infallible (Dependable, or Unbreakable)
SKEPTIC: “Come on, Charlie, you’re referring to the words of Jesus in the Bible to prove the Bible. You’re guilty of circular reasoning. You’re quoting the Bible to prove the Bible!”
Ah, as I pointed out earlier, the Bible is not one book. It is a collection of 66 books written by different authors. So when I quote Jesus' words to substantiate what Moses or other authors wrote I am not involved in circular reasoning at all. Instead, I am quoting altogether independent sources that happen to be bound together between two covers of the same book.
SKEPTIC: “Okay Charlie! But, Jesus was only talking about the Old Testament when He said those things. The New Testament had not been written.”
You’re right! It was not written yet. But listen to what Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:26. He promised the aid of the Holy Spirit to His disciples in writing the new. Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In John 16:13, Jesus told His disciples, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”As these men went out into the world to make disciples, to preach, and teach, to pen the New Testament gospels and epistles, they were going to have the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit!
So, Jesus validated the trustworthiness of the Old Testament and He promised the trustworthiness of the New. Based on Jesus’ testimony, you can trust both.
CONCLUSION: GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
ABOUT CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
Charlie Campbell is the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and DVDs, including:
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
His DVDs and books have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others.