Why We Can Trust the Truth of the Bible Part 1

We Have What Was Written

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah, and others, one of the prophets.” Luke 9:27-28

When Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about Him, the basic response was that He was perceived as a prophet.  That means that the crowds of Jesus’ day were experiencing Him as someone who spoke and taught with an authority that comes from God.  

What if that question was asked today?

I think that we would hear different answers.  One way that crowds today see Jesus is as
a myth made up by the Church.  The Bible is a well-intentioned, but mythical account.  In fact, many people object, we can’t really even know if what we now have is what was written back then.

But is that true?  

Many who object to the truth of the Bible are unaware that we have evidence from outside the Bible for Jesus’ existence.  The ancient Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, both writing around 100AD, include references to the existence of a man named Jesus who lived in first century Palestine.  The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that Jesus was known for mighty works and miracles, that Pilate had Him crucified, and that His followers continued after His crucifixion.

So even without the Bible, we can know the basics of Jesus’ life, which are completely in line with the accounts that we have in the New Testament gospels themselves.

But, some would ask, how do we know we have what was actually originally written?  Didn’t the Church add things to the account over time?

This brings us into the realm of what is known as textual criticism.  A basic premise of textual criticism is that the more copies you have of a document, and the shorter the span of time between our earliest copies and when it was written, the more trustworthy they are.  

No serious scholar would dispute the authenticity of works by authors like Tacitus.  Tacitus wrote around 100AD, and the earliest copy we have is from about 1100AD, a span of 1000 years when things could have been changed.  Further, we have only twenty copies of his work.  But, again, no serious scholar would dispute the authenticity of his work.

But when it comes to the New Testament, people get nervous about its authenticity.  The books of the New Testament were written between 40-100AD, and we have partial manuscripts from as early as 130AD and full manuscripts from around 350AD, leaving at most about 300 years for changes to appear.  Not only is the time span between writing and copies short, but the number of copies we have is overwhelming.  We have over five thousand Greek manuscripts, ten thousand Latin manuscripts, and over fifteen thousand citations from extrabiblical writers in the first 300 years of the Church’s existence.  No other ancient document comes close to the short time span and overwhelming documentation!

In other words, we have every reason to believe that what we have is what was written!  

So why is it that no serious scholar would dispute the authenticity of Tacitus, but call the New Testament gospels into question?  

Maybe it is because the Jesus we meet in the Bible isn’t always comfortable to deal with!  He makes claims for Himself that make claims over us.  He doesn’t just point people to a nice way to live, but has the boldness to claim to be the unique giver of eternal life to those who follow Him!  

But just because it isn’t comfortable, we can’t then just dismiss the Bible as a made up document.  Like it or not, we have every reason to believe that the Bible we read is just what the authors wrote.


George L Henderson - July 9th, 2022 at 9:39am

This is a very interesting article. I would love to hear more. What did he really teach and believe? How was his form of "Christianity" different from what we have today?

Paul McCrary - July 10th, 2022 at 2:18pm

George Henderson,

That's what is so great about the Bible, Jesus' own words are in it. What He really taught and believed is there for you to examine for yourself. It's an incredibly interesting thing that the Bible is actually so simple a child can understand it, yet at the same time it is so deep the highest degreed individuals have been debating different text for as long as it has existed.

Byron Lisenbee - July 22nd, 2022 at 8:03am

Another amazing thing about the Bible is that God proves it true over and over again. One of the problems is that people do not actually apply it to their life. For instance the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and that he gives us a piece that passes all understanding. I have found this to be absolutely true even though I am a stroke victim and just lost a son last month. When my son went home to be with the Lord at the age of 23, I felt like I had a hole in my heart. So I prayed and told the Lord just that. In minutes I didn't feel like I had a hole in my heart any longer there was a heaviness but the feeling of a whole being there was no longer there.

But in order to get this piece that passes all understanding we have to put Philippians 4:8 in Proverbs 3 5 and 6 into action. Those two verses also will help prevent people from having a lot of mental issues that are very prevalent today. Such as anxiety attacks. Which is something else I've had in my life back in 1986 but God's word and prayer he'll be completely of those anxiety attacks. God is not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I had spent 10 days a night straight without sleep all the while praying and reading God's word and verse by verse God showed me what my problem was where it was coming from and then how to get rid of it. The final coming from Proverbs 3:5 and 6 putting my total trust in God and not myself. God's word is very powerful it brings not only healing but it leads us to salvation. Once we accept what it says that being that we were born sinners and that we were in need of a savior. Then it tells us God showed his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God gave himself for us shedding His Holy blood so that our sins could be forgiven. Did he give us eternal life and he also gives us a much better life while we are on this Earth.

Curtis Felton - August 3rd, 2022 at 1:31pm

Please edit your "piece" and use the correct spelling for "peace" that Jesus gives us all.

Toby Anderson - August 12th, 2022 at 5:55am

Amen! Love your comment! Gods is so good. Thank you for sharing with us!

Emmanuel - July 23rd, 2022 at 3:23am

Josephus is one of your sources for existence of Jesus? He's was considered a traitor by his peers and historians now say that as a historian, Josephus shares the faults of most ancient writers: his analyses are superficial, his chronology faulty, his facts exaggerated, his speeches contrived.

Jessie - September 1st, 2022 at 8:04am

It doesn't matter whether he was an ethical person (a traitor) or whether he exaggerated his facts, because we're not looking to him for his testimony about Jesus, the point is only that he mentioned Jesus. Jesus was a significant enough person that Josephus heard about him, and whether he got his facts straight or not, Josephus mentioned him. It's just one more record from the time period acknowledging Jesus' existence.

Emmanuel - July 23rd, 2022 at 3:39am

To add to my previous comment about Josephus. A lengthier passage about Jesus, known as the “Testimonium Flavianum,” which describes a man “who did surprising deeds” and was condemned to be crucified by Pilate. Mykytiuk agrees with most scholars that Christian scribes modified portions of the passage. Poor choice in picking Josephus as a reliable source.

Dennis Prange - August 20th, 2022 at 6:43pm

Very well done article. Thank you for brevity and clarity.

Do you have something on Penal Substitution? verses Christus Victor or the Moral ---- view? not sure of the complete title of the second one

Mai - August 27th, 2022 at 4:03pm

Umm. . . In what we know as the 'old testament', the Torah, God himself states I will never give my glory to another, beside, below or above me. He must have stated this so many times and yet this 'Jesus' comes along and states he is to be given the same Glory as God the 'father.' Somebody coat tailed the God of Israel to make this their own version and who could this be? Is it not obvious that this is the work of Satan? But you must do your own work to allow the real God to make this known to you.

Serge - September 12th, 2022 at 1:38pm

Impossible, because the letter "J" did not come into existence until about five hundred years ago. No one has ever been named Jesus in Israel.

Mark - September 14th, 2022 at 8:54am

Thank you for this and I agree there are relatively good reasons to accept the Bible as accounts of events from the opinions of the people at that time, yet, there are still many questions. Which Bible, eastern, western, Vulgate & it's descendants translated by people who did not understand the original language properly, then political forces and other religions/traditions changing the words causing confusion? Then there are the changes of meanings of words that modern versions are starting to catch up on. Why is the Bible mentioning and quoting from other books that are not in the Bible? Why do we have stories such as the woman caught in adultery that are not in the oldest manuscripts, why do we see changes in the older manuscripts were the scribes seem to be arguing? The differences in LXX and masoretic,, texts? What do you think is the best interpretation for what we call the Bible for Modern English speakers? Sincere thanks.