Reasons to have Confidence in the Biblical Text

Introduction

Coming from a country that has witnessed a proliferation of men who have called themselves “prophets” and where their voices have become the notable sounding trumpets of true spirituality, one wonders why the writer still believes the Bible to God’s only true inspired, inerrant and authoritative world. The religious atmosphere in the writer’s country has peddled everything on the spiritual market where both impulse and careful shoppers have had their fill. Yet, questions arise: Is the Bible a true reliable record of God’s words for mankind? Can we trust the Bible? How is the bible the only sacred Scripture amidst many presumably holy books? Is there evidence, both internal and external to warrant a firm and unmovable conviction in the Scriptures as the word of God? The writer is convinced that such evidences abound. The Bible has its own testimony and there are outside witnesses to which he will now seek to visit.

The Bible’s Own Testimony

It is important to begin this discussion by asserting that the Bible derives its own testimony from its own record. Of first importance, the bible witnesses to itself as God’s Word in numerous passages. But, none of them stands so authoritatively enshrined as the words from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken.”[1] If the Scriptures cannot be broken, then it will be proper to assume that they have eternal purposes and manifest an eternal scheme of God.[2] Christ further states that these Scriptures bear record of him and stands as an eternal testimony, for heaven and earth may all pass away but His words endures forever. In his discourse on the Sermon of the Mount, he taught that not even a single dot or stroke would ever pass away. Thus, it is improbable to believe that the Bible is unreliable especially when one considers its indestructible nature.

The Witness of Jesus

A true view of the Scriptures begins with one’s portrait of Christ Jesus. Who Jesus is to a person can have tremendous influence on a person’s biblical image. For example, if Christ is not what the biblical record portrays him to be, then there is no reason to take what He said and taught seriously. In such instances, he will be a fraudster guilty of manipulating billions of lives ever since his first advent and there will be no reason enough to believe any of his sayings. However, if one has to accept at face value the Scriptures to be a faithful record of God’s word from faithful witnesses, then it is reasonable to believe that they recorded true and factual issues rather than myths as in ancient pagan religions of the Romans and Greeks. One of their records was that Christ Jesus was the God-Man who came to redeem mankind to God. This God incarnate spoke and witnessed to the reliability of the Scriptures as he cited ancient Israeli prophets who wrote and spoke about him arguing that everything they wrote had to be fulfilled. If Jesus Christ is God, then his words must be taken to mean seriousness and his testimony to the Scriptures considered a given. The Scriptures cannot be broken and Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness, the eternal living Word of God attests to their testimony that they are indeed the indestructible word of God.

The Eyewitness Testimony of the Early Witnesses

In the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is established. There has never been an honest dismissal in a case of law of faithful witnesses who, even though living in various places and with various backgrounds, can testify in unison to the same thing. The Bible is a library of 66 books written by different authors from all walks of life and various occupations, yet, their testimony agrees. The writing of the Bible does not contradict itself and evinces within its pages a true act of God. It is for this reason that the early Christian witnesses looked at the Bible and considered it as Scripture, the written word of God. While several books of a religious nature were in circulation, early church witnesses were moved by the Holy Spirit to write down what God intended to be written for all generations. To this end, they could testify that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God. These eyewitnesses further, could attest to some of the writings from their contemporaries and placing them side by side as Scripture and recognized them as both. It will be unthinkable to imagine that the early church doubted the inspiration and authority of such books since they were read to several churches even though the collection of the New Testament documents was unlike that of the Old Testament documents.

The Witness of the Holy Spirit

For the Christian, there is no greater joy than knowing that Jesus has not left the church as orphans, but rather, he left a faithful witness in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s guide, comfort and aide. But, the Bible presents him to be more than a guide. He is God and the one who superintended the writing of Scripture, guiding the human authors, directing their authorship so that what he intended to be written were the actual words written. Thus, the Holy Spirit as a faithful witness has witnessed to the reliability of the biblical text within the text. The apostles and early church leaders in one way or another, attest to this in their writings.

Yet, is this kind of evidence enough to warrant belief in the reliability of the Scriptures and to leave one confident in the Bible as God’s word? Is the internal testimony of the Bible itself enough? Has God not left us with other evidence outside the 66 books of the bible? To answer these questions, it is essential to assume that, God has not left himself without a witness in any generation. God has used material things to attest to the faithfulness and reliability of the Scriptures to generate confidence to those who will hearken or avail themselves to examine the evidence which so abound. To this, the writer will now turn.

External Testimony

The Uniqueness of the Biblical text

The word ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek word biblos, which in its plural form ta biblia, suggests a compendium of books or a library. Sixty-six books in total, authored by over forty known authors who lived in different locations in a period of more than 1, 400 years, the Bible is indeed a unique text. It has traces of almost all forms of literary genres, displays a great unity of thought and offers no contradiction yet embodying within its pages languages of statesman, prophets, apostles, teachers, farmers, fisherman, musicians and poets among others. The literary compositions are in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and to date, no book in any history has ever had such a wide readership and translation into almost all the languages of men.

Manuscript Evidence

As the original autographs could not last long in their originality, copyists made several manuscripts which were copied and distributed far and wide, some in the authors’ original languages while some in translation. It is interesting that certain writing materials were used, first with the lord and then with the authors themselves. Historical evidence points to the use of stone, papyrus, and vellum. Sometimes, potsherd was also used. Unique ancient writings in the form of unicials and miniscules were implored by the authors and copyists. The manuscripts will then be collected and stored in a safe place under the faithful watch of the scribes and early church leaders and at times circulated to different places. Today, there has been discovered thousands of manuscripts and those of the Old Testament dates from 300-500BC while those of the New Testament came later. More than 5, 000 manuscripts of the New Testament exists today, far much compelling evidence than for any religious book in the world. This compelling evidence admits that there is an unseen hand that has been protecting and guiding the availability of the biblical text.

The manuscript evidence is so strong for the writer, especially when events in history are recalled where certain kings and authorities tried to burn the biblical text and rid it from the face of the earth. The text was so guarded by other believers’ blood; there was persecution, torture and martyrdom. It is because of such persecutions that the writer sees God’s sovereign hand in guiding the burial of the biblical manuscripts which were discovered at the Dead Sea, now the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

Several other ancient religious books have been discovered, but still the majorities are fragmentary and lacks the divine touch as that of the Bible. Gnostic and esoteric books have reached the present generations, but still several reasons have made them to be rejected as part of the completed canon. They do not embody evidence of faithful witnessing and truth. It is also important to point that these books, though known to have been in circulation, some as far back as the days of Christ, both Christ and the apostles did not turn to them as reliable sources. Moreover, the rejected books do not claim divine inspiration and have never been viewed as inspired.

Textual evidence

Because the Hebrews to whom the word of the Lord first came in written form (the Old Testament) had such a superior view of the Scriptures, they endeavored to maintain the written scriptures as they were, even in copying. These men known as Scribes or Sopherim assumed the role of copying Scripture doing the work of transcription.[3] Because of their expertise and profound reverence for God and the sacred scriptures, they proceeded to produce excellent copies. There were such amazing accuracies and when it is remembered that there were no computers and a printing press, one cannot be tempted to doubt such worthy efforts. Because of their religious devotion and fear of God, they ensured there were brilliant copies as exactly as the originals in size, word and everything. If a manuscript differed slightly, it was condemned and buried in a genizah[4] or burnt by fire to avoid misrepresentations.

Another group of scholars were the Masoretes. The Scribes produced a reliable pure text and the Masoretes, families of Jewish scholars and textual critics collected vital information about the biblical text laying down ground rules for copying the text. It is traditionally accepted that they were the first to introduce vowel sounds to the Hebrew language, supplied marginal readings and intended pauses. They counted the words in the text, and the number each consonant appears in the text. Copyists later followed their rules which ensured that the Old Testament text was well preserved. The writer uses mainly the King James Version of the bible which is a product of the Masoretic text.

Archaeological Witness

There have been numerous attempts by critics to discredit the testimony of reliable witnesses in the biblical text, the authors of Scripture. Critics have engaged in what has come to be known as historical criticism. Rooted in humanistic philosophy and an attempt to rationalize everything, higher critics have sought to discredit the historicity of biblical accounts that have been dismissed as illogical, myths or fables. In an attempt to do away with the Bible, miracles such as the fall of Jericho, the parting of the Red Sea, the resurrection and others were denied. There were historical gaps in the biblical accounts and problems also emerged where biblical dates appeared to be likely absurd and there were no historical records given to authenticate the biblical claims. For years, bible scholars and Christian apologists were left to faith alone and appeared to have been defeated in fighting for the validity of the biblical text.

With the rise of atheism and humanism, even the creation account was viewed as unreliable, a borrowing of ancient myths and legends from pagans. Some Christian theologians fell into the trap and bought into evolutionary models and reinterpreted the text. However, with advent of archaeology, most of the critics have been silenced. Archaeology has confirmed the historicity of many biblical accounts which were not easy to prove rationally. Because of archaeology, we now know why the Egyptians could not record the Ten Plagues or their defeat at the Red Sea; we now know the historicity of David to be affirmed, how the walls of Jericho fell, etc. There has been no any other ancient book that has been proved and found to be reliable than the Bible.

Witness from Science

The bible is not a scientific book but a theological book. However, when it has discussed scientific subjects it has done so with accurate precision. Being one of the world’s most ancient books, it first spoke of the circle of the earth when scientists believed the world to be flat.[5] It spoke of the water circle[6], astronomical movements of the starry heavens and lots more. It gave the idea to the doctors of hygiene and health and even most modern day science discoveries have been inspired by the Bible.

Historical Witnesses

Events recorded in the Bible did not happen in isolation. There were several people who traveled far and wide to hear and learn from biblical characters. While some of these have never written any inspired record, they have written accurate historical accounts that authenticate the Bible’s testimony. For instance, Luke’s historical accounts in the book of Acts though under great speculation from the critics have been proved to be accurate by archaeology and ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish historians which include Flavius Josephus and Tacius.

Witness from Fulfilled Prophecies

This discussion could not be complete without touching one of the most remarkable evidence in favor of the Bible. This greatly instills more confidence in the writer. Because most of the writers in the Bible were prophets, they spoke in greater detail about thing that would transpire in the future. Some happened in their life times while the rest happened later after several centuries. For instance, God’s prophecy to Abraham of Israel’s captivity in Egypt for four centuries was fulfilled and their deliverance came in accordance to the prophecy.[7] Likewise, the Babylonian captivity of 586BC was long predicted before it happened and the Spirit even pointed to the exact time when it will come to an end and the outcomes.[8] The naming of several historical figures by name is also attested to in the Bible long before such persons were born. There is no denial that such predictions were fulfilled especially for Judah’s king Josiah[9] or the Medo-Persian ruler Cyrus.[10]

The greatest and most important of fulfillment of prophecy came with Christ Jesus. More than 300 prophecies were fulfilled in Christ that had to do with his birth, nativity, village and work. Even the type of death and betrayal he would suffer as well as the glories of his resurrection.[11] All of such amazing predictions were fulfilled which are not possible to be faked by any sane human being.

Apart from Christological prophecies, prophecies concerning cities and nations are plenteous and many have been fulfilled in amazing accuracy. The destruction of Jerusalem for example, was prophesied by Christ approximately 40 years before it happened under the Roman general Titus. One would also think of Bethsaida, Chorazin, Tyre and Sidon[12], Babylon and even the amazing predictions of the prophet Daniel of world empires. These have happened. If the Bible is not God’s Word, then the writer is unconvinced. How can such amazing prophetic predictions and fulfillments have happened without a divine mind and a divine hand that controlled the state of the worldly affairs?

The Proof of Changed Lives

Lastly, on the writer’s list of evidences, none is so compelling than changed lives. Those who heard the message of the bible from all generations have been affected by its messages.[13] Slavery has been abated; marriages have been saved and restored; the hopeless have been given hope. Nations meant for destruction when applied biblical truth were saved. Great sinners and murders have been changed by the power of the word of God.[14] If the Bible is just like any other book, then it cannot change lives, inspire faith, courage or confidence.[15] But everywhere the Gospel has been preached, the Bible being the benchmark, people have experienced the newness of the life of Christ. Its message is universal applying to Jews, Greeks and all humanity. God’s word has a universal appeal and when believed and acted upon, it brings the desired change.[16]

Conclusion

A person’s confidence in the unity and reliability of the biblical text is first assumed by the text itself and then by the overwhelming testimony of external witnesses. The Lord gave the word and amount of evidence that exists in the world today concerning the biblical text’s reliability is compelling. It calls for faith and an honest admission to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. Christ’s testimony, the apostles’ and ancient historians’ testimony inspires the writer to have confidence in the biblical text. Manuscript evidence, textual evidence, archaeology, science, history and fulfilled prophecies are part of the ever unending witnesses. Above all, there is the proof of changed lives!

Notes

[1] John 10:35

[2] Psalm 119:89.

[3] Deuteronomy 17:18; Jeremiah 8:8; Ezra 7:11

[4] A holy place near to a Jewish synagogue

[5] Isaiah 40:22

[6] Job 26:8; 36:27-28; 38

[7] Genesis 15 c.f. Exodus 1-14

[8] Jeremiah 29; Daniel 10-12

[9] 1 Kings 13:2 and the fulfillment in 2 Kings 23:15-16

[10] Isaiah 44:28; 45:1

[11] Luke 24:44

[12] Luke 13

[13] Philip preached in Samaria and thousands experienced the saving power of the Gospel in Acts 8. There was great joy in the city

[14] The book of Jonah speaks of a nation saved from God’s anger when it repented at the preaching of Jonah. Individuals too were saved e.g. Paul in Acts 9

[15] Colossians 1:1-8

[16] Romans 1:16

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