When you hear the word “Bible”, what are some things that come to your mind? Maybe “God’s word”, “true”, “reliable”? Maybe “difficult”, “confusing”, “hard to understand” are closer?
In reality, the Bible is God’s word. It is true. It is reliable.
And parts of it are difficult, are confusing, and are hard to understand. Which is why the Bible, in a number of places, encourages us to know, to study, and make every effort to rightly handle this “word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-19; 2 Peter 3:14-18)
So, what is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of documents (some letters, some poetry, some history, some prophecy) broken up into what we call “books” (66 of them) in two sections (Old and New Testaments) compiled over the span of 1500 years or so, written by 40 different authors, all describing God’s unfolding plan of redemption from perfect creation to mankind’s sinful rebellion to the salvation of God’s people and into eternity.
That’s good and important information, but what does that have to do with authority and reliability? There are plenty of old documents that tell us truth about the world that we don’t consider “authoritative.” And there are plenty of old documents that are hardly reliable, even contradicting themselves.
What makes the Bible different? Can we know for sure that the Bible is reliable?
Like other ancient writings, we don’t have the original documents, we have copies. But, unlike all other ancient writings, we have many thousands of copies (manuscripts) of whole documents and fragments of documents, around 6000 for the New Testament alone! We have enough of them in fact to recreate the originals with startling accuracy.
You may have heard that the Bible is made up of copies of copies of copies, some even compare it to the game of telephone, but that is not at all accurate. Unlike telephone, it is not one person telling another person telling another person. Rather, at one point, the originals existed, and many scribes from many different places spent many years copying these originals and later, many hundreds of scribes from still many other different places spent many more years copying those. Because of this, we can compare thousands of documents and ensure accuracy.
There are many more evidences … evidences like: archeological support, (people, places, events, timelines, etc. described in the Bible have been verified and corroborated by third party evidence.) elapsed time between the events and the recording of those events, (for example, the New Testament was written within decades of the events it describes – compare to hundreds or thousands of years for other ancient documents.) accurately predicts events that occurred after the prediction was written.
But why did I call these things “evidences” and not “proofs?”
The reason is based on what the Bible actually is — before it is a collection of documents, before it describes history, before it predicts future events, it is God’s word. And since God is the ultimate authority, his word cannot be “proven to be his word” by any source other than God himself. By what standard should we judge God’s word other than himself? By whose authority is God’s word put forth as our authority but by God’s proclamation?
The evidence we have shows us that we don’t have “blind faith” that the Bible is reliable, but rather our faith is the kind of faith that the Bible defines:
- Hebrews 11:1–2 (1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (2) For by it the people of old received their commendation. (ESV)
But how do we arrive at this kind of assurance and conviction?
- Hebrews 1:1–2 (1) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, (2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (ESV)
- Romans 10:17 (17) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV)
We know that the Bible is reliable, not because history corroborates it, but because God has spoken and God is reliable. The fact that there is so much evidence to the reliability of the Bible is not the reason the Bible is reliable, rather, the reason the Bible is reliable is that it is the very word of God, breathed out by him to equip his people for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
And this assurance, this conviction, this faith, comes through the Son. Jesus is the Word of God become flesh, and he speaks to us today through the inspired words of the Bible, therefore those words are reliable.
But they aren’t simply reliable, they are also authoritative. The words of scripture and the words of the One who spoke the universe into existence, who created every one of us, and who owns us all, are one and the same.
Every word spoken by God must be listened to. Every truth spoken by God must be believed. Every command spoken by God must be obeyed. Why? Because he and he alone is the sovereign ruler of the universe. His word is absolute.
At the end of the day, all people everywhere are bound to listen and obey God’s word, not because we find evidence of its truthfulness and reliability from other sources, but because God is sovereign. Even though there are truths in God’s word that are sometimes hard to swallow, we are bound to believe them. If a scriptural truth is uncomfortable to us, we do not have the authority to change it, rather, we have the obligation to believe it, even as society, even some people who call themselves Christian, twist those words to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
So, when you think of the Bible, do you think of it as God’s word, true, reliable, and authoritative over every aspect of your life? Do you see all of scripture, whether written by Paul or spoken by Jesus as equally authoritative? Is your faith in the reliability of scripture based on evidence or is it rather strengthened by evidence?
Will you study to understand the hard parts and strive to align your belief with the truth of God’s word?
Does your understanding of God’s word agree with God’s description of his word? Because it is a very short road from tossing out parts of God’s word to tossing out all of it. And when you throw away God’s word, you throw Jesus away with it.
- John 1:1–5; 14 (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … (14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)
And that Word even prayed for you:
- John 17:17 (17) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (ESV)
So Christian, rather than being discouraged that some parts of the Bible are hard to understand, be bold to stand against a culture that hates truth, rejoicing in the fact that God has spoken to us! Let the words that have been preserved by Him throughout the ages be a light to your path!
- Psalm 119:105 (105) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.(ESV)