The Bible is not just one book, but rather is a collection of many books that are historical, prayer, poems, epistles, prophecies and other kinds of books which were written by different authors. All these books are interrelated and they are compiled together to form the Bible which has one principal message of redemption of the human race.
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Skeptics, agnostics and atheists have for a long time challenged the reliability of the Bible while trying to undermine its message and Christianity in general.
Over time however, there has been the emergence of numerous apologists who have defended the bible’s reliability against the objections presented by these skeptics, agnostics and atheists. This paper seeks to explain the reliability of the Bible based on the questions raised by those challenging its reliability. Among the questions raised are:
The reliability of the oral tradition on the basis of which the New Testament was written
The ancient Jews had their customs, teachings and practices handed down from generation to generation by oral traditions and great emphasis was placed on accuracy and reliability. Jewish children would be introduced to oral material at an early age which would then be perfected all their lives hence ensuring accuracy and attention to detail.
Those challenging the Bible argue that individuals were prone to forgetting and bias that would have distorted the original information2. However, the same information was taught to the community in general hence safeguarding it against faulty transfer to subsequent generations, as it is highly unlikely that the entire community would forget or exhibit the same bias.
The authors of the Bible were also inspired by God and though they were allowed to write on their own personalities and view of events, they were guided by their belief and the Holy Spirit rather than their own perceptions on the validity of the information.
Their personalities in this case were evidenced where people like Isaiah wrote with a powerful literary style, medical over tones in the case of Luke, while Jeremiah wrote with a mournful tone. John on the other hand took a simple approach to his writing.
This ensured that though the Bible was written by different individuals, living in different times and coming from all walks of lives and classes, its message was consistent all through the whole text. It has continuity as there are similarities and relations between the different books.
The bias of the gospel writers with theological motives
Contrary to popular belief, people do not always distort history just because the author is giving an account of something he or she passionately believes in. Though everyone has a point of view, it doesn’t mean that the analysis of as a particular event is that people’s witness is expressed according to their point of view.
In resent history the most accurate and reliable reports on events such as the holocaust were provided by the victims who were mainly Jews without being influenced by their views on the genocide3.
The New Testament is mainly made of eyewitness reports on events and some of the writers actually gave up their lives so as to defend the truth that they had witnessed. They also included events that were quite embarrassing which rules out any bias that they could have had since they could have included flattering stories about their lives.
Availability of archaeological evidence
It is evident that a number of non-believers have questioned the authenticity of the Bible in which they have raised alarm as to whether the events that are recorded in the Bible have been archaeologically proven. In order that this question raised by these atheists can be answered well, it is paramount that the term archeology is understood with reference to the study.
Archeology study refers to the study of things that were developed and used in the past by the early man. Therefore, this study aims at providing archaeological evidence that is meant to prove that the events recorded in the Holy Scripture are true.
All the events in the Bible have been accurately and articulately proven so that the information contained in this book is reliable. Many archaeologists both Christians and non-Christians have set sort to put the matter to rest and this has proved and verified the information in the Bible over and over again.
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One of the verification explanations that have been relayed by the archaeologists is the existence of the customs that were practiced by the people in the Bible and are still being practiced to date. There are places mentioned in the Bible and they exist today, names and events all have occurrences that have been dated.
It should be noted that to date more than 25,000 sites have been discovered as they have been narrated in the Bible thus depicting the exactitude of the voluminous accounts narrated in the Bible.
An example of archaeological evidence that has been discovered thus proving the reliability of the Bible is evidence of the Hittites community in the Bible. It is evident that many atheists had taken this account hostage as the basis of grounding their criticism, but archeological digs have been made and they uncovered the existence of the Hittites thus silencing the critics.
Lack of extra biblical support
Atheists have impelled that the Bible lacks references that would otherwise authenticate its legitimacy. They have greatly faulted the Bible as having failed to show conclusive evidence that is expected to prove that Christ lives and that all the accounts narrated about him are true.
In order that this query could be resolved and the existence of Christ be authenticated, Christians have quoted a number of Christian and non-Christian extra biblical references that have set the record straight in authenticating the reliability of the Bible. One of the considerations that has been used to clarify existence of Christ in the Bible was the writing made by Clement.
Clement was a prominent figure in early church in Rome and at one juncture in his writing as recorded in the book of Corinthians he cites quotes from the book of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is in this writing that he introduces those quotes as the true words of Jesus.
Reasons for the accurate transmission of biblical information through the centuries
The reliability of the Bible has been questioned by atheists in which they uttered that the biblical manuscripts that exist should not be trusted as there is a possibility of them being delusional imagination of human beings. To counter this proposition there are manuscripts of the Bible that have overwhelmingly approved the reliability of the Bible as the Holy Scripture.
It is evident that there are over 5600 partial and complete copies of the New Testament manuscripts of ancient nature. These manuscripts have been preserved and can be inspected to prove their authenticity. An example of the manuscripts includes the Chester Beatty papyrus manuscript that dates back to the third century A.D.
This manuscript contains four gospels and the book of Acts. The magnitude of the evidence that has been collected to prove that the Bible can be relied on and thus sets a deathblow to the atheists who have constantly questioned the sources of the Bible and the evidence that supports its contents.
The availability of variants in the Bible manuscript
The magnitude of the biblical manuscripts has made atheists to raise questions on the reliability of the Bible. This happens because there are over 200,000 variants that have arisen in analyzing the contents of the manuscripts. To counter this falsehood, Christians who hold the Bible as the Holy Scripture have watered down this allegation.
They have conceded that for sure there are over 200,000 variants that have arisen from the manuscripts. They hold that, despite this figure seemingly so high, for a levelheaded person this figure is negligible if they had been in a position to study the manuscripts.
In a nutshell the evidence highlighted from the manuscripts is incredibly accurate and it holds that the manuscripts are technically accurate in narrating the accounts recorded in the New Testament as they had taken place during the time of Jesus and the early church. Therefore, Christians holds that the manuscripts should be trusted absolutely.
In order that Christians could have down played the high figures of the variants that had arisen from a close analysis of the manuscripts, they have cited a number of things that could have contributed to the increase in variants that have been identified in the Bible. For instance, if a single word is misspelled in around 2000 manuscripts these results in 2000 variants and this alone undermines the severity of the variant’s problem.
Therefore, based on the example given above, Christians have legitimately held that over 99% of the variants that have identified in the manuscripts are of zero significance. It would not be prudent if any one justifies their criticism of the Bible based on this premises. This is not applicable because many of the variants have arisen either from the misspelling of a word or missing of a particular letter in the word.
In order that Christians can justify the reliability of the Bible, they have tabulated all the variants that have arisen and when all the variants that had been identified were put in the table only 40 of the 200,000 were identified as of having real significance. It should however, be noted that none of the variants juxtaposes any of the paramount Christian doctrines or moral standards as they are spelt out in the Holy Scripture.
Books that belong to the scriptural cannon
Atheists have stated that no one can for sure acclaim that this or that book in the Bible certainly was inspired by God. To ascertain their belief they had cited the books of Jude, James, Peter, Hebrews and John as having been doubted once as being the inspired books of the Holy Scripture.
To answer this proposition held by the non-believers, Christians have explained exhaustively on the criterion that was applied in discerning which book would be included in the Bible as the only God inspired books. It is evident that all books in the New Testament were subject to a five question canonical test4.
The questions that were asked were: firstly, discerning whether the book had been written by a prophet or an apostle who was a believer of God. Secondly, discerning whether the message relied in the book was authoritative. Thirdly, was discerning whether the book in question relayed the message of God and aligns itself along the doctrines that had already been revealed.
Fourthly was whether the book evidently portrayed as having power of God as any inspired book would have to exhibit the trans-formative power of God to all the readers. Lastly, they sort to discern whether the book had been wholeheartedly accepted by the people of God.
It is, therefore, prudent to conclude that God determined the canon and all the books that were written by the prophets and the apostles inspired by God are for sure the work of the Holy Scripture. This finding thus deflates the proposition that is held by atheists that some of the books in the Bible are not canonicals.
It is evident that the oral traditions in the Bible are reliable as Christians have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that it was God’s will to have all His revelation written down as they took placed under the inspiration of the holy spirit.
Both the old and the new testaments are the true cannons and they cannot be discredited by prejudicial or dissatisfied non-believers who do not have the underlying facts that form the foundation of Christian faith.
Albright, William Foxwell. Archaeology and the Religions of Israel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. 1998.
Ramm, Benard. Can I Trust My Old Testament? The Kings Business. New York: R. R. Bowker Co., 1992.
Rhodes, Ron. Answering the Objections of Atheists, Agnostics, & Skeptics. Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006.
1 Albright, William Foxwell. 2007. Archaeology and the Religions of Israel.
2 Glueck, Nelson. 1998.Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev.
3 Benard, Ramm. 1992. Can I Trust My Old Testament? The Kings Business.
4 Ron, Rhodes. 2006. Answering the Objections of Atheists, Agnostics, & Skeptics.