Is the Bible Reliable?
The Bible is the best selling book in history. It's also one of the most controversial books of all time. If people question its reliability, how can someone put their trust in the Bible? The Curiosity Collective compiles thoughts from subject matter experts, pastors, and theologians about the reliability of the Bible.
Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection
- What is your perspective on the Bible's reliability?
- How compelling (or not compelling) is Eric's evidence for the Bible's reliability? Why?
Yeah, when I was a student in college, I was not a Christian, and I was sitting out in a outdoor area. And I remember there were these Christians that were setting up these tables, you know, and it was for their on-campus Christian club or whatever it was. And I started questioning, like, What if I was to have grown up in India? Would I have been a, a Hindu or a Muslim? What if my parents were Muslim? Would I just then have adopted the Muslim worldview and the, and the writings, you know, uh, of Muhammad? Like, what, what would've happened if I did not grow up in suburban America?" And as I was looking at these college students that were putting out their pamphlets and their Christian, you know, booklets and things that are out on the table— and they had some Bibles that were out there— I'm like, "All right. They're basing this information from the Bible. So how do we know the Bible itself— if that's where they're getting this information about Jesus and God from— what makes that religious document any different than a document that might be Hindu writings or Buddhist writings? Because they all seem to claim that they are the authentic truth.
I think if you just opened the Bible randomly and tried to read it, um, you could potentially turn to a page that would be incomprehensible or even offensive.
I looked at everything from creation through to some of the horrible, horrible bits in Judges with the genocides and all these horrible things which, which, um, happened. And so it, it wasn't like, "Oh, I picked up a book, and it was easy."
So I think, I think it's important to understand the way the Bible holds together.
This is one book, but it's really a compilation of, of 66 books, right, written by over 40 authors over, like, 1,600 years. And I, I think what puts the pieces of the Bible together for me is that really all of those, uh, 66 books are, are telling one story.
The fact that we have this, this one book that is written over such a long period of time by so many different people, and ultimately, it all connects and points to Jesus, that's brought me a huge amount of, um, comfort in it. Because that's just impo— I mean, it's, it's impossible for to, you to make a, a book work like that.
What started convincing me— it was a little-by-little process— you know, like, it mentions cities. It mentions names. It mentions, uh— you know, it's, it's talking that it's history. And so a big thing for me, was to say, like, All right, is this mythical, or are these places real? And so then I started looking into the historicity of the scriptures. Because you can go to other religious documents, and they can't find that, as I was comparing a bunch. Then a big question was also— you know, like, I, I assumed that it was so far from what was originally written, because how do they— you know, how do we have today what was about, you know, thousands and thousands of years old? And there's— I found there is a, a few scholars who, they go and study, "How did the Bible get translated into the English version that I read today?" And the more I studied this— and that's what I was kind of very overwhelmed with. Because the more I studied it— a lot of my thoughts of why I didn't want to believe it was from God— I began finding there's plenty of evidence to believe that it is trustworthy.
Most amazingly, the people of Israel end up, uh, in exile in Babylon. And you would think that would be the end of Israel, because every other people that was conquered by Babylon, just sort of, you know, they were conquered. They were assimilated. Uh, we don't have any records, uh, of those nations. And yet, at the moment when this empire has taken over, uh, the people of Israel, these prophets arise, and they say, "God has, has not forgotten you. God has not forgotten his people." And they, they give this picture of what's going to happen. Israel's going to return to the land. Uh, and in the land, God is going to meet his people. And then Jesus of Nazareth appears, and his cousin John the Baptist says, You know, those prophecies from hundreds of years ago are being fulfilled now in this person. And the idea that this all connects, that the, that the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel in the 500s, 600s, before the common era, connect to what happens in Galilee, uh, in zero of the common era and that that connects to what happens in the church, uh, 50 and 100 years later, it's just amazing.
I think, a lot of times, you have to go back to when it was written, the audience it was written to. Some stories were written as poetry. Some were written as songs. Some were written as parables and stories. Some were meant to be taken literally. Some were meant to be taken in other ways.
We would be missing the point to say, Was there literally a prodigal son? Was there a father on a farm in ancient Israel living somewhere? And, was, was it a 2.4-acre plot, and the son got 1.2 acres of it? I think, to think like that, in many ways, would be to miss the point. Whether that story is historically spot-on doesn't really matter in some senses, because the beauty of what's been communicated is so rich and so true that we should listen to the meaning of the text, rather than fighting over its details. The question I think we should ask is, Does it— is it true in my heart?
I was dyslexic as a kid, and, um, I'd never read a book in my life. My religious education teacher in school, she, she lent me a Bible. And I'd never attempted to read a book from cover to cover. I had kind of compensated for, for dyslexia. And, um, as I read the Bible, I felt as though I was encountering someone who, really, I, I kind of knew already.
If there was anything mystical about Christianity, it's in that moment where something kicks on in me. Something turns on where I read something about God, and it brings me joy and comfort and delight. Or I read something that talks about what I'm like, and... it sings and it stings at the same time.
The Bible isn't just sort of, like, a, a manual so that you can feel better about yourself. But it actually, it actually comes to speak into my life about my relationship to money, about leadership, about my lust, about my, my relationship to others, about my, my thinking about people who don't share the same faith as I have.
You know, it's referencing the history of people, and how they live their lives, and that's so applicable today, you know, one generation passing on stuff to the next generation and the consequences of that.
There's a, a famous philosopher, his name is Alasdair MacIntyre, and he once said this— I love this quote— he says, um, The only way that I could ever answer the question, What am I supposed to do?' is if I can answer the prior question, 'What story am I a part of?'" And, you know, I think that's what the Bible is ultimately offering— it's offering a story. It's offering a better story, a story to help make sense of... of, of our crazy human existence. I mean, all, all of us are living in some story.
The Bible having four basic plots— creation, fall, redemption, and renewal— they make up what it is that we long for as human beings. The explanation of sin, uh, the need for grace and redemption, the hope of transformation, that we're not abandoned, that we're wanted, uh, that there is— that injustice is confronted. All of the plots that make a story great in a secular format are actually the same thing that informed the storyline of the Bible. And so I think that in some sense, it is the true human story, uh, that underlies our experience and our existence.
Just like Jesus— when people met him, they actually had very strong reactions to him. Uh... I think the Bible produces that. It, it's— you just can't be as neutral about it as you can be even about other ancient religious texts. There's something about it that addresses us and kind of pushes us, uh, to decide what we're going to do with it.