The Accuracy and Reliability of the Bible
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Doubt is a normal part of the Christian life. In my life in particular, it has been seasons of doubt that have lead me to great spiritual growth. And sometimes, as Christians, we doubt the bible. There have been many times, where I personally question whether Adam was a literal historical figure, or could Moses just pretend to get the Ten Commandments from God.
It is in here in this moments, that I rely on my own personal testimony and experience that remind me, and help confirm that I am worshiping and serving the true one true God.
It is here that I also, go back to my knowledge of the accuracy and reliability of the bible. Having a defense for our faith, is incredibly important, (even if that defense is from ourselves). Defending the Gospel, helps us be able to herald the truth that is contained in it.
Although, the Gospel is enough for us to believe, sometimes we need more that, “the bible tells me so.”
If we believe the Bible is God’s word (literally), then it should be able to stand up to criticism.
The Bible has easily been the most investigated book ever printed. It did not just appear, like all books, it had, not just one but, many authors. This book has many critics and has been called unreliable and contradicting.
For the few people who know the, archaeology and historical facts about the Bible, they will understand it to be the most accurate book of its time and era. Over hundreds of years and countless archaeological findings, the validity of The Bible has never been disproven.
An S Shaped Tunnel
In 2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:30 King Hezekiah built an “s” shape tunnel that would carry water into Jerusalem. For many centuries, this tunnel seemed to be missing, but because of the technological advancements in archaeology, archeologists have found this tunnel to fit the exact specifications of the passage from the Bible (Lightfoot 13).
Looking at Luke
The Gospel of Luke is the most in depth Gospel of the four Gospels; this was because Luke was a doctor and took his time to make sure that all his facts were right. Even though he was so meticulous, there are still people who doubt the reliability of his Gospel. Luke 3:1 talks about a ruler named Lysanias, who was in rule at about 27 A.D.
For a long time, scholars laughed at Luke’s Gospel because of this statement because “everybody” knew that this ruler was not a ruler in the Abilene but in Chalcis, which was in verse one. These scholars said that if Luke cannot get even the most basic facts right, how could he be trusted for the rest of his gospel? Later, archaeologist found an inscription from the time of Tiberius, 14-37 A.D., which names Lysanias as the Tetrarch, or ruler, of Abilene (130).
Archaeologists, again, prove the doubts of critics who question the accuracy of Luke’s writing. It is important that Luke is looked at as a credible writer, along with his works being correct too because his books make up a significant portion of the New Testament.
Geography in Luke
One scholar reviewed Luke’s reference to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands. After this careful examination the scholar found there not to be one error of any kind (131).
The Time of the Politarchs
Luke again proves his credibility in his post Jesus letter Acts. Luke writes in chapter 17 verse six about “politarchs,” in the city of Thessalonica. Scholars thought long and hard on this because it seemed that there were not “politarchs”, or city officials, but later on archaeologists found an inscription on an arch that said “in the time of the politarchs.” This arch was from the first century putting it in the time frame of Luke (130). Scholars, both liberal and conservative, have concurred that Luke was a very accurate historian (128).
Looking at John
The Gospel of John is the most scrutinized book in the Bible partly because of the many details John included. This was both a good and bad thing for this book. It was bad because for many years there was no evidence making it seem like the book was inaccurate. The good was that now, with modern research equipment and archaeological advances these details are being found more than ever.
Pool of Bethesda
For instance, in John 5:1-15, John writes about Jesus in the Pool of Bethesda and how he healed the crippled man. John goes on to describe this place and he specifically mentions five porticoes. A recent archaeological dig found this site titled the Pool of Bethesda. On discovery of this site, the archaeologist confirmed John’s description of the pool by finding that it did indeed have five porticoes. Other discoveries of places in John include: The Pool of Siloam from John 9:7 and from John 4:12 archaeologist have found Jacob’s Well (132).
The Gospel of John was so descriptive that it helped prove beyond all doubt the finding of the court of Pilate, the man who oversaw Jesus’s trial, was found by Father L.H. Vincent, an archaeologist. He was able to find this court partly on the behalf of the incredible description of the court in the Gospel of John (Keller 347).
Archeology who changed Archeologist
William Albright an archaeologist, who worked in the field from 1930-1971, saw the bible as a piece of literature that was not based on historical fact. After his many years in the field, he had a radical change of mind. Albright resolved that the bible was in fact totally consistent with archaeological findings. William Ramsay set out to disprove the bible, specifically the book of Luke in the New Testament. Ramsay spent his time, thirty years, in Asia Minor and the Middle East. He too had a change of heart, reversing his primary motive. This shocked the archaeological and academic world. They were expecting evidence against the bible, but Ramsay came back with uncontroversial evidence proving the accuracy of the bible (Munsaster 17).
One of the most important laws of this science, textual criticism, is that of genealogy. When a copy is made from any manuscript, the new copy is a child of the older one; it inherits its mistakes and errors. There are about 3,000, in the year 1916, including incomplete copies of the New Testament (Hunting 270). Today, we have about 24,000 original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (Strobel 84).
What about mistakes?
Many people have scrutinized the bible; these skeptics said that the Bible is not accurate to the original texts, or manuscripts, that the authors wrote.
Original documents or manuscripts were copied before the movable type printing press was invented so all documents were copied by hand.
Through this it is not hard to see that mistakes could have been made. So naturally, people wanted to see how bad these textual errors were. Through recent science, known as textual criticism, the Bible has given high raise to this advance science (88).
Although there were mistakes, they were usually very small errors, such as spelling and grammatical errors. Two great scholars, Norman Geisler and William Nix, say that the Bible not only has more manuscripts than any other piece of literature from its time period but, it is also extremely accurate, being exact over ninety nine percent accurate (Strobel 85).
Other Religious Texts
In comparison to other religious texts, the Bible is far more reliable. For example, although the Gathas of Zoroaster lived around 1000B.C, his teachings were not written down until sometime in the third century.
The biography that is well known now was not written until 1278 A.D. Buddha’s scriptures were not put on to paper until the Christian era was over with. His biography was not written until the first century A.D (Strobel 114).
Inter Biblical Proof
Son of Man
Some historians have speculated that Christians have turned this whole “Jesus thing” out of control and that Jesus never called himself the Messiah in the Bible, when in fact Jesus refers to himself as the Messiah many times in the New Testament Gospels. He calls himself the "son of man," which comes from an encounter with Daniel and a "man" in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The Jews knew the title “son of man” was another title for the Messiah (Evans 46).
Extra Biblical Accounts
Knowing this, it is pretty clear; Jesus knew he was the Messiah. Other skeptics have tried to totally deny that Jesus even lived. There are many scholars who have said that Jesus did live on this earth and there are many testimonies and secular accounts of Jesus.
For example, there was a letter found that was written in 72 A.D. from a man to his son. In this letter, he talks about Jesus saying "or the Jews by the death of their wise king..." and later he talks about how his death was not successful by saying "Nor did the wise king die for good, he lived on..." (105).
Another example is found in the writings of Cornelius Tacitus, who was the proconsul of Asia, who had in the book Annuls which was written by his friend, an account of Jesus. This account talks about Jesus' crucifixion under Pontius Pilate (104).
In the Gospel of Mark, Mark explains this phenomenon coined the darkness. A historian named Thallus who wrote a history of the Middle East in A.D. 52. In his third book of histories Thallus describes an eclipse of epic proportion. Phlegon, a historian, wrote a quote from Thallus of how he saw, and describes the “eclipse.”
“Phlegon, a Greek author from wrote a record soon after the 137 A.D., testified that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., 33 A.D.) there was “the greatest eclipse of the sun it became night in the sixth hour (i.e., noon) of the day so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things overturned in Nicaea.”(qtd. in Strobel 111)
To fully understand the significance of this quote, one must examine the account of Jesus’ death in the Gospel of Mark. In this account told by Mark, he testifies that in the sixth hour there was darkness across the whole land (ESV Mark 15:33).
In the exact year of Jesus’ death, there was an “eclipse” so great that “even the stars in the heaven shown.” Not only was this eclipse the same year as Jesus’ death, but it was also during the same hour as the darkness in the book of Mark. Although Thallus does not mention the exact date of when this happened, it is too exact to be “just a coincidence.”
Garden of Eden
The physical setting for creation and the Garden of Eden, as described by the Hebrew Bible, is the agriculturally beneficial land known as the Fertile Crescent. It is described by its two rivers known as the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Askew 203). When looking at Genesis two verse fourteen, one would find these same rivers. The first known civilizations are from this region, putting “In the beginning” in the right place.
“Hidden” (non-canonical) Gospels
In recent years, the “lost books” of the Bible have been brought back into the mass public’s attention, mostly through, the book and movie The Da Vinci Code. In this book and later movie, they have brought in the open some of the non-canonical Gospels, like the Gospel of Marry, Philip, and Thomas. In modern times people have wondered why these were “Gospels” left out of the Bible. The answer to this question is simple, in that only the canonical Gospels are from the first century, and the first of the other “Gospels” did not surface until 200 years after the death of Jesus, making them far less reliable than the four that are included in Bibles today. Differing from popular belief, the church never hid any of the “lost books” they were just not reliable (Driscoll 55).
Going Down (a hill, not south)
Some skeptics have said that Nazareth, the place where Jesus was from, was not around until the fourth century. They made this claim because it is never mentioned in the Old Testament, not by Paul in his writings, by the Talmud, which mentioned many other neighboring cities, or by Josephus, who also listed many of Nazareth’s neighboring cities.
Dr. James Strange, of the University of South Florida, who is an expert in this area, says that Nazareth was a very small town. He says it was about sixty acres and had a population of 400 at the most.
Therefore, it was probably not mentioned in the other books because it was so small (Strobel 137). Other doubters have attacked Mark 7:31 as being geographically ignorant. They have said that given the directions in this verse one would be going in the exact opposite direction of what the Bible says.
When looking at the location of the where they were and where they were going, it would be obvious that they were on top of a mountain, the general altitude of where they were going would be down (134).
The reliability of the New Testament has been repeatedly confirmed by archaeologists because of its unwavering accuracy. Australian archaeologist Clifford Wilson says those who really know the facts about the New Testament and the Bible must recognize the incredible accuracy of the book (Strobel 144). The reliability of the Bible is unparalleled to any other religious book or book of its time.
Askew, Thomas A. The Portable Seminary. Ed. David Horton. Grand Rapids: Bethany House Publishers, 2006. Print.