Is the Bible Reliable?
All of us have a perspective on the Bible. Some are very familiar with it. For others, it’s foreign or even frightening. If you’ve been reading the Bible for a long time, you can think back to those early days of trying to figure it out. And some of you are just now beginning. Wherever you are, this is a great message for you.
This is all important because Jesus had a very high view of the Scripture
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that your success in life and eternal destiny depend on your right interaction with his Word:
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Bible, though hard to understand at times, is a beautiful collection of books that tells the same consistent story throughout. And it’s very, very reliable. Let’s examine why that is.
It’s a collection of 66 different books, written from 1500 BC to 100 AD, by 40 different authors, in 3
The first 39 books make up the Old Testament and include the Law of Moses, the history of the Jewish people, and the foretelling of the Messiah.
It comprises the sacred Scriptures of Jewish and Christian people.
The last 27 books make up the New Testament and were written by eyewitnesses of Jesus’s life, documenting his ministry and explaining God’s plan to bring about his kingdom. It also includes letters about how to live out the gospel.
How can we be confident it’s reliable?
The uniqueness of the Bible:
"Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be explained in reference to the whole Bible." - FF Bruce
"The Bible, at first sight, appears to be a collection of literature - mainly Jewish. If we enquire into the circumstances under which the various Biblical documents were written, we find that they were written at intervals over a space of nearly 1400 years. The writers wore in various lands, from Italy in the West to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the east. The writers themselves were a heterogeneous number of people, not only separated from each other by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles, but belonging to the most diverse walks of life. In their ranks we have kings, herdsmen, soldiers, legislators, fishermen, statesmen, courtiers, priests and prophets, a tent making Rabbi and a Gentile physician, not to speak of others of whom we know nothing apar from the writings they have left us. The writings themselves belong to a great variety of literary types. They include history, law (civil, criminal, ethical, ritual, sanitary), religious poetry, didactic treatises, lyric poetry, parable and allegory, biography, personal correspondence, personal memoirs and diaries, in addition to the distivntively Biblical types of prophecy and apocalyptic.
For all that, the Bible is not simply an anthology; there is a unity which binds the whole together. An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible.
Prophecy: Some 1,800 prophetic statements can be verified or refuted. None, to date, have ever been refuted.
Textual evidence: We have more high-quality copies of the text than any other historical document.
Self-declaration: The text itself claims authority.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Written by man
“Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs, properly interpreted, will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether this has to do with doctrine or morality or with social, physical, or life sciences.
The bottom line is that the Bible has been breathed by God. He used men to write out exactly what He wanted them to write. He kept them free from error but at the same time used their unique personalities and styles to convey exactly what He wanted.
Peter tells us that “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The idea conveyed is that just as the wind controls the sails of a boat, so also the breath of God controlled the writers of the Bible. The end result was exactly what God intended.”
-Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict
Translated or transmitted inaccurately - Describe the Process of the Scribes
Supposed Discrepancies/Contradictions in Scripture
Summary of Principles for Understanding Apparent Discrepancies in the Bible (Taken from The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell)
The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.
Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.
Understand the context of the passage.
Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.
Don't base teaching on obscure passages.
The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.
Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.
New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact.
The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.
The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.
The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.
Note when the Bible uses different literary devices.
An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.
General statements don't necessarily mean universal promises.
Later revelation supersedes previous revelation.
2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
“Among the major religions of the world . . . only three religions claim to have a supernatural foundation to be found in a sacred scripture that purports to be a divine revelation. The three religions distinguished by this claim are Judaism, Christianity, and the religion of Islam. Among the other religions, only some claim to have logical and factual truth, but the truth they claim to have is of human, not divine, origin.” —Mortimer Adler
Corroboration: You don’t hear people say they regret following the words of Scripture.
You don’t hear: “Ten years ago I decided to read and follow Scripture, build my business, nurture my marriage, raise my kids, handle my money, and take care of my body according to the wisdom of Scripture—and I completely regret it.”
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Universality and Invitation: No other sacred scriptures invite all people of all time.
In Genesis 12:3, God tells one man, “I will bless you and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
When you’re wondering about the reliability of the Bible, consider these facts. But more than that, remember that the Bible is God’s love letter to you. Open it, read it, and consider how God wants you to live out his kingdom calling.
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 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 that I have said to you.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
If every one of us left here confident in the Bible’s reliability and excited to live out its ways, imagine what our church would look like! Imagine your business, your family, your relationships.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The Bible is more than a book: it is God’s love letter to humanity. We have more reason to trust its claims than those of any other book in history. We can trust the Bible because of prophecy, history, integrity, and what it’s done in people.
Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019