Defending the Bible

I have written previously about the importance of always having a defense for the faith you possess (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3), but I’m not sure I’ve ever outlined what makes the Bible so authentic as to be the only true inspired Word of God.

The authenticity of the Bible is one of the first things those critical of God or Christianity will go after, yet many come in to this argument with only a superficial knowledge found through visiting various web sites that are far from being scholarly sources.

For instance, a most common attack centers around claims that the Bible has been so radically altered over the years that it is hard to believe what we possess today is anything like what was originally written. This is simply verifiably untrue.

The New Testament has been under the most extreme scrutiny by scholars of all types for hundreds of years, more so than any other historical book ever produced, yet has withstood the test of time. Why has it faced such attention? Likely because of the miracles and claims made that make us uncomfortable. In other words, it’s not objective science that is against the Bible but subjective feelings that run in opposition.

Today, there still exist over 5700 handwritten Greek manuscripts of part or all of the New Testament. Ranging from scraps to full versions, there are copies from early 2nd century forward. The vast majority of changes introduced in these copies typically involved spelling, omission or repetition of a single character, use of synonyms, and so forth. Those who study this area (and not all are faith-believing Christians) agree that we have upwards of 97 percent of the ability to completely reconstruct the New Testament from the original manuscripts, which are no longer in existence.

What is even more interesting is that because we have so many manuscripts all over the world, it is quite easy to compare these manuscripts for any changes or discrepancies. The differences are almost always due to translation, and not the underlying Hebrew or Greek. We have to realize that when the letters of the New Testament were written, they would be copied down by one location before sending on to another for other Christians to read. There was no central control of the texts and therefore any alterations would be easily detected.

Also, remember the writers were not writing a Bible. These were letters historical in nature—there was no New Testament during the life of Paul, Peter, James, and other NT writers.

Further, consider the timing: The four Gospels in the New Testament are all first century, right after Jesus. Written shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, in the lifetime of the disciples. That’s far better than most other biographies. For example, the main biographies about Alexander the Great were written around four hundred years after his death, yet how many are arguing about the authenticity of him? It’s not just that the Gospels are temporally closer to Jesus than other biographies are to their subjects, but they are so close that eyewitnesses were still alive at the time.

Paul wrote many letters that even pre-date the Gospel accounts. For example, if the Crucifixion was in 30 A.D., Paul's conversion was as early as 34 A.D., and his first meeting in Jerusalem was around 35-37 A.D., then we could see that the time between the event of Christ's crucifixion and Paul receiving the information about His death, burial, and resurrection (in Jerusalem) would be as short as five to seven years. If the receipt of the creed Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 occurred during the Jerusalem visit, this creed would have had to pre-date that meeting, placing it within 3-5 years after the crucifixion—an incredibly short time.

It is important for every one of us to know about our Bible and be ready to present a case for it. As a fellow Christian, we have a duty to share the Truth to a lost world and in doing so, be prepared to defend the reason for the faith we have inside of us. I hope this has provided some insight and fueled a desire to learn even more about the origins of our faith.