One question, and often a criticism of Christianity, is the true believer’s total belief in every word in the Bible being the absolute truth, inspired only by God Himself. When referring to the Bible, many non-believers will immediately disregard it as being a “myth”; so full of contradictions that it can not be believed.
The prevalence of secular humanist and pantheistic views, although around for hundreds and even thousands of year, have flourished in the last hundred or so years. Such views have underscored this point with millions of people that the Bible can’t be believed because it is so full of contradictions. What is truth in the Bible They have heard it so many times, that they believe it is true, that the Bible is full of contradictions, by the mere fact that so many OTHER people believe in the contradictions. That would be like saying that just because most people believed the world was flat before Christopher Columbus set out on his journey to the new world, that it was indeed flat.
When confronted with such a comment, or ascertain by a non-believer, the simplest thing to do, in most cases is simply ask them a question, such as:
“I understand that many people believe the Bible is full of contradictions. Can you name me one?”
If they can not, and most generally can not even make a feeble attempt to quote any perceived contradictions, the illustration of most people believing the world was flat didn’t make it flat. Truth is NOT determined by democracy. Perhaps they will at least be willing to listen to what the Bible has to say at that point.
“Your word is truth.” – spoken by Jesus in John 17:17 (bold emphasis added)
“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 (bold emphasis added)
“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Hebrews 6:17-18 (bold emphasis added)
Above all, remember the words of Paul in his letter to Timothy:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Indeed, there are people who are aware of what appears to be contradictions in the Bible and can name some, however, the references they’ve probably picked up from non-believers are not contradictions at all. Instead, they are most often the result of someone either not reading, or not studying the Bible sufficiently and assumes because something appears to be saying something different, it is in fact a contradiction. Once a contradiction is established, the logic generally goes: “If there is one contradiction, there are no doubt many. If the Bible HAS contradictions, both versions can not be true. If one is not true, then one can’t say the ‘Bible is true’, and thus it can’t be relied on as the absolute truth or Word of God.”
This is one reason why it is important for the believer to understand “inductive” Bible study. Inductive Bible study is a process of first observing the text literally. What do they say? Next, one looks for the proper interpretation of those words: what does God ‘mean’ by them, and the third step is the ‘application’ of the words: “how do I apply this to my life.” Studying the Bible in this way allows one to fully understand God’s word.
Conversely, there is “deductive” Bible study, and that opens the door to many misunderstandings and misinterpretations. This is generally the method non-believers and Bible critics use to either prove a particular point or view they hold, or to try and prove the Bible is contradictory or false. “Deductive” Bible study is starting with a premise and using the words of the Bible to prove or disprove ones predisposed premise.
1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
There are many Christians and non-Christians alike, who do not believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. Those who may have read or studied the Bible to some extent will often site the fact that the 4 Gospels give different accounts of the same situations, and therefore it is contradictory and can not be believed as accurate, but perhaps only as a good “story”. Here are a few examples:
Matthew 28:1: “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”
Mark 15:47, Mark 16:1-2: “And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus observed where He was laid. Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.”
Luke 24:9-10: “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.”
John 20:1: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”
Matthew said “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb”. Mark referred to “Mary Magdalene Mary the mother of James, and Salome”. Luke said it was “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women”. John stated it was just “Mary Magdalene” who came to the tomb. Bible critics will say all 4 can’t be true, and thus with such glaring contradictions, the Bible can not be taken literally.
The fact is, if all 4 accounts were 100%, exactly the same story in every detail, the same critics would no doubt be claiming “collusion” among the apostles and thus the Bible isn’t true. The reality is, these 4 apostles were probably not at the same place at the same time, and each witnessed the event at somewhat different time intervals. Perhaps John just saw Mary Magdalene; Matthew came upon them when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had joined up. Each one is presenting an eyewitness account but from slightly different perspectives and times in the event, and thus the differences in their testimony.
It is actually the very differences in their accounts that give credibility to the story and provide evidence that the account is true and actually did occur.
THE BIBLE WAS CHANGED OVER TIME AND TODAY’S COPIES CAN’T BE TRUE
A common criticism of the Bible is that it may have been true in the beginning, but it was changed over the years by men either by re-interpretations, Scribner errors, or to suit their own purposes at the time. This often falls in an area that is very difficult to refute, since hard evidence is difficult to find to prove either position one way or the other, however, there is an ever growing body of evidence, especially since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that there is virtually no difference between the Bible copies and fragments written after Jesus’ death and those Old Testament copies written hundreds of years B.C.
Let’s examine some of the facts surrounding what is available in early copies of the Bible, versus other widely accepted, and undisputed ancient text.
There are in existence today, over 5,000 manuscripts and fragments of the Bible written between 120 AD and 300 AD. There are over 8,000 ancient Latin Vulgate translations by Jerome from the late 4th century in existence. These accounts from eye-witness testimony during the time Jesus walked on the earth till the oldest know document is a matter of only DECADES.
Compare this, for example to other ancient writings of people like Plato, Aristotle and Caesar. In the case of Plato, the OLDEST known ancient document available today dates back to 900 AD and it is only a transcript. There are no known original documents actually written by Plato himself and only 7 copies, not thousands, that date back to the 10th century.. That is a time span of 1,200 years after the time Plato lived, yet no one disputes even a word of Plato’s writings.
The oldest transcript of Aristotle dates back to 1100 AD, over 1,400 years after Aristotle penned his words. There are not critics claiming Aristotle’s manuscripts have been distorted over time by inaccurate transcriptions and there are only 5 total copies available today. Caesar’s Gallic Wars was written in the 1st century B.C. and the earliest copy available dates back to 900 AD and only 10 copies have survived. So compared to other ancient documents, the body of evidence supporting the accuracy of the Bible is overwhelming!
If we take the oldest of the Bible text, the Old Testament, there are three main families of manuscripts: The Masoretic Text, The Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint. The Masoretic text dates back to about 1000 AD and was transcribed by a group of Jews known as Masoretes. The Masoretes were the “professional” copyists in the Jewish faith. Having this great responsibility, they were careful to translate everything with complete accuracy, even though each manuscript was completely written by hand. After all, they were dealing with what they believed was God’s Word, and thus it would be unthinkable to change God’s Word.
The Masoretic texts were all in upper case letters, and there was no punctuation or paragraphs in the text. They numbered every verses word and letter of each book of the Old Testament. The Masoretes counted the number of times each letter was used in each book, calculated the middle verse, middle word, and middle letter of each book. Then, these calculations were compared to the known values from which they copied the text. If the values were the same, they knew the copy was completely accurate.
In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. They include a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah and fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls are dated around 100-200 B.C., nearly 1,200 years before the Masoretic texts. If the Bible critic’s logic is true, there would be significant differences over this long of a period of time. However, of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, only ONE word is in question when comparing these texts, and the word in question does not change any meaning of the passage.
There is even more evidence available regarding the New Testament. Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, in “The Bible and Archaeology” wrote:
“The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be, in fact, negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established. To be skeptical of the 27 documents in the New Testament and to say they are unreliable is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as these in the New Testament.”
HOW CAN YOU PROVE THE BIBLE IS TRUE?
Many non-believers think that if something isn’t scientifically proven, then it can’t be true. New Age and secular humanism, in particular, uses science to “prove” the Bible isn’t true and their theories are; for example the scientific “evidence” of evolution. Since none of us were there a few thousand years ago, there is no one to give us a first-hand account except through the writings of the people who WERE there and recorded the words that God inspired them to write.
Many will still argue that these are just the “words of men” and not of God, and prophesy is just coincidental. Let’s take a look at some scripture and techniques that can be effectively used to illustrate the Bible’s accuracy in its ability to prophesy future events with extreme accuracy. Without telling the non-believer what passage you’re reading, read this passage from Psalm 22:12-18:
“Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Ask them who the think may be saying this and what Biblical story is it referring to. It is obvious to even the least familiar with the Bible that this is describing the crucifixion of Jesus, and could well be the words of Jesus as He is dying on the cross. Indeed Jesus’ bones were out of joint, (but not broken) His hands and feet were pierced, His bones were visible and could easily be counted. People did indeed surround Him and stare at Him, taunting Him even when He was “dried up” and His tongue clung to His jaw out of dryness. Indeed, the soldiers divided up His garments and cast lots for them. If the non-believer correctly identifies this as the crucifixion, tell them they are absolutely correct… however, this passage of scripture was written 1,000 years BEFORE Jesus was born!
Let’s examine some of the prophetic accounts in this scripture and reconcile them to the eye-witness testimony of Jesus’ disciples in the gospels.
“I am poured out like water” – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.” 2 Timothy 4:6
“For dogs have surrounded Me.” – “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.” Luke 23:33
“They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” – “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots’.” Matthew 27:35
“They pierced My hands and My feet” – “Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” Mark 15:25
Jesus fulfilled 48 prophesies in the Old Testament. The statistical odds of any one person fulfilling 48 prophecies have been calculated using modern (scientific) tools at 1 in 10 to the 157th power. Written out, that would be:
For those interested in the “scientific” data, scientists have estimated there are only about 1079 total electrons in the UNIVERSE. Statisticians have concluded that for one person to fulfill even EIGHT of the prophesies would be one in one quadrillion (1:1017).
BIBLE STATEMENTS ABOUT SCIENCE UNKNOWN AT THE TIME
“How else would they have known that?” That is the question to ask the non-believer or Bible critic who does not believe the Bible was inspired by God. The fact is, there are many references to natural or scientific phenomenon that people would have no way of knowing or verifying thousands of years ago, yet the information appeared in the Bible, thousands of years before science could “prove” this to be a fact. Additionally, there are no references in the Bible to any natural or scientific phenomenon that science has proven to be incorrect. A pretty good track record indeed, if the authors were not inspired by God and just “guessed” at this information. Let’s take a look at some:
The Earth is a Sphere:“It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”Isaiah 40:22
There are Valleys at the bottom of the Sea: “Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered, At the rebuke of the Lord, At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.”2 Samuel 22:16 – This may even be clearer in the NIV translation: “The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils”
Underwater springs and fountains exist under the sea:“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” Genesis 7:11
“The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.” Genesis 8:2
“When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth… “Proverbs 8:28-29
The Hydrologic Cycle:
Water evaporates from the earth and comes down as rain: “For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man.” Job 36:27-28
Water is held in the clouds: “He binds up the water in His thick clouds, Yet the clouds are not broken under it.”Job 26:9
Water runs from all the rivers into the seas to start the cycle again: “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.”Ecclesiastes 1:7
There are many of these scientific principles in the Bible and are an excellent example of how God’s inspiration could have been the only source of such knowledge.
Non-believers and Bible critics know that if you are unable to support your beliefs that the Bible is true in every word, then you really have no basis from which to come in order to try and convince them to accept the Bible as God’s Word. They prefer to think it’s OK if that’s what YOU want to believe, but it is equally OK for them to believe what THEY want to believe. If they claim their version of theology is true, but is contradictory to yours, then using their own logic, both can not be true.
We have an indisputable body of evidence to prove the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible. Every prophecy that has come to pass has done so exactly as it was detailed in the Bible. Not even Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, or any other New Age “prophet” has a 100% accuracy record like the Bible. It is therefore logical to conclude that not only is the Bible true, but the prophesies that are yet to come, will indeed come about exactly as described in the Bible text.