Can You Trust the Bible? (Part 1 of 3)
By Joel Greenwood
It’s very likely that one of three things is true for you. Either a) you know someone who used to be a Christian but no longer is, b) you know someone who is a Christian and doubts their faith, or c) you are currently doubting your faith.
One of the biggest obstacles for those deciding if they want to look further into Christianity is the question “Can I trust the Bible?” Our goal for the next three weeks is to examine three different aspects of the history of the Bible to help anyone who is doubting their faith to rest assured that, when everything else feels like it’s falling apart, you can still stand on the foundation of God’s Word.
A Closer Look: Manuscript Evidence
The first stop on our journey of the Bible’s veracity leads us to manuscript evidence. By looking at ancient copies of scripture, as well as other historical sources outside scripture, we should be able to paint a clear case for the trustworthiness of the Bible as a historical document.
1. Number of Manuscripts
A manuscript is a copy of an autograph, an original copy of a written work. Although there are no surviving autographs of any Biblical books, the number of manuscripts is staggering. Through history, we have collected nearly 25,000 different manuscripts, all of which work together to paint an accurate picture of scripture. To put into perspective how astounding this is, Homer’s Iliad, the runner-up for most-manuscripted work, has a grand total of only 1,757 different manuscripts.
But what about when texts don’t line up? It’s true: there are nearly 150,000 variations in the manuscripts, which might seem like cause for alarm. However, in more than 98% of cases, the variations come down to a letter or spelling of a word, and there have been no ancient manuscripts that contradict each other regarding Christ’s teaching or the morality of Scripture.
2. Historical Verification
The Bible isn’t merely confirmed by its own manuscripts, but rather through other historical places and events. Names of kings in the Old Testament line up with Ancient Near-eastern records, and the locations and cities mentioned through scripture match recent archaeological discoveries.
3. Dead Sea Scrolls
In 1946, a shepherd boy made a discovery in the caves of Qumran in the Judean Desert. What he found were caves filled with jars; those jars contained thousands of fragments of scrolls, dating back as early as 200 B.C. and all the way to 70 A.D. The scrolls contained written texts of scripture, including fragments of every book of the Old Testament, minus Esther. When they were compared with existing manuscripts, they perfectly matched, showing the lack of change in how the Bible has been copied for nearly 2,000 years.
For someone grappling with the trustworthiness of the Bible, this is hardly a comprehensive study. However, these three aspects serve as a great springboard for further research. The Bible can be trusted, and we are best able to help those struggling with doubt when we take the time to understand why.