When it comes to talking to people about our faith in Jesus, it’s almost impossible to do without referring to the Bible. I mean, technically, none of us were there. None of us were eyewitnesses to any of the events written about in the gospels or in Acts. When we tell people about Jesus, we are forced to fall back on others’ testimonies about Jesus, and these are found in the Bible. The problem with this is that if the person we are talking to doesn’t believe that the Bible is authentic, then our only line of evidence is worthless to them. So, it’s important that we provide a strong argument for the authenticity of the Bible when we talk to people about Jesus.
In today’s lesson from The Ever Loving Truth, author Voddie Baucham lists 3 major objections that people often give when discussing the authenticity of the Bible:
- The Bible has been changed many times, so we can’t know for sure what it originally said.
- The Bible is just a collection of myths that may or may not be true.
- The church has hidden documents over the years because they refute the Bible.
Baucham then points out that there is no evidence for any of these objections. In order to show that the Bible was changed, you’d have to show what the original was like. In order to show that documents exist that refute the Bible, you’d have to produce those documents, or have some kind of proof that they were being concealed. These arguments just don’t stand up.
The truth is that the Bible is “a reliable collection of historical documents.” There is plenty of evidence for this:
- Thousands of early manuscripts exist. There are more than 5000 ancient New Testament manuscripts available, some written as early as within 50 years of the original documents. Other historical documents (like Julius Ceasar’s Gallic Wars, or Aristotle’s Poetics) have only 5-10 manuscripts available, and were written 900-1300 years after the originals. Scholars never question the authenticity of these other historical documents, yet they easily question the authenticity of the Bible.
- Early translations exist. Translations of the New Testament exist that were translated into Latin, Syriac, or Coptic, as early as the 2nd or 3rd centuries. Scholars often argue that the New Testament was written much later than that, but how, then, could it have been translated earlier? If this blog post were translated into Spanish tomorrow, you couldn’t come back a few weeks from now and say that it was really written two weeks after it was actually written. A translation exists that was written earlier than that, so the original must have existed earlier than that.
- Early church fathers quoted the New Testament. The men who read the early texts written by Peter, John, Paul, and others, quoted and cited from that text so much, that we could almost reproduce the entire New Testament completely from their quotations. In other words, even if we didn’t have the 5000 manuscripts of the New Testament, we could probably still piece together what was written in them by simply taking what others had quoted from them.
This evidence makes it clear that the Bible is more reliable than any other historical document around. Once that is established, we can go one step further and take Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:16
16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Peter is saying that he and others were eyewitnesses to the events of the gospels. Not just storytellers who relay what others have told them. Actual eyewitnesses. They were on the mountain with Jesus when God spoke (see Matthew 17:1-11, Mark 9:2-13, or Luke 9:28-36). And the apostle John made this same truth clear when he said “1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis added). The stories they told of Jesus were first-hand accounts.
If the Bible is authentic, as it evidently is by any standard we might use to show its authenticity, and if those who wrote it claim first-hand knowledge of the events and person of Jesus, we now have a solid base from which we can then explain to people their need for a savior, and God’s provision of just that through Jesus Christ.