A lot of people regard the Bible as authoritative – in a sense, they see it as God’s manual for life. But how can a person ascribe such authority to a book?
The following points are respectfully submitted to help you decide whether the Bible could become your “manufacturer’s manual” or “manual for life”. While its wisdom can stand on its own, the Bible also claims an authority – and this changes the way we view its contents.
Two important questions to ask and answer are:
1. Why should I trust the Bible?
2. Why should the Bible have authority in my life?
Question 1: Why should I trust the Bible?
Here are six reasons to consider:
1. There is compelling historical & archaeological evidence
Much of the Bible is confirmed by other histories and by archaeological evidence. That is not to say that it has to be confirmed, but that much of it is. For example, it was arrogantly declared by some scholars that the Hittite Empire could not have existed because there was no archaeological evidence of it – but in 1906, evidence was discovered.
In 1958, Donald Wiseman, an archaeologist and Professor of Assyriology at the University of London estimated that there were more than 25,000 discoveries that had confirmed the truthfulness of the Bible.
2. It has an outstanding “manuscript testimony”
“Manuscript testimony” is a way of assessing the trustworthiness of an ancient document. It considers the time-span between original authorship and the production of the earliest copies available, as well as the number of early copies in existence. Among ancient Greek/Latin literature, The Iliad ranks next to the New Testament in possessing the greatest amount of “manuscript testimony”. But the New Testament is far superior in all respects:
The Iliad was written in 900BC. The earliest known copies are from 400BC which makes them 500 years old. There are 643 known copies.
The New Testament was written over the period 40 to 100AD. The earliest known copies are from 125AD which makes them 25 years old. There are over 24 000 known copies!
3. It has startling prophetic accuracy
There are numerous prophecies in the Bible (made in some cases hundreds of years before they were fulfilled) that were fulfilled with too much specific detail to be mere coincidence. For example, Daniel 11 reads like a history of the 300 years that followed Daniel’s lifetime. He also predicted the succession of four great world powers: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (Daniel 2 & 7). The precision of these prophecies has led some critics to say that Daniel had to be written “after the fact” – they are too accurate! Maths professor Peter Stoner (Science Speaks [Moody Press], pp.101-107) took just eight of the prophecies that Christ fulfilled and calculated conservatively that the statistical odds of these prophecies being fulfilled in one man just by chance would be one in 10 to the 17th power!
4. It has proven accuracy of reproduction
Hebrew scribes were fanatical about transcribing the Scriptures accurately. The effectiveness of their efforts was demonstrated by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940’s, the oldest existing copy of any Old Testament writings were the Masoretic Text dated around 916 AD. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a complete copy of Isaiah was found. Its date was 125 BC. The difference in dates between the oldest copy and the newly discovered Isaiah document was 1000 years. The documents proved to be 95% textually identical. The 5 percent that was different were mainly spelling of words and did not constitute any threat to the content or reliability of the text.
5. It has remarkable consistency
The Bible is more of a library than a book – it is a collection of 66 documents written by different authors over a period of more than 1 500 years. Yet clear, consistent themes run throughout the Bible. The human authors could not have collaborated as many lived at different times – the conspiracy must be God’s!
6. Jesus said it’s true
Jesus affirmed as historically true some of the most disputed passages of the Old Testament, including the creation (Matt 19:4-6), the flood (Matt 24:37-39) and Jonah (Matt 12:40).
In Matthew 5:18 Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” In other words, he said it’s all true!
Question 2: Why should the Bible have authority in my life?
1. Jesus ascribed absolute authority to the Bible
Matthew 5:18 NIV
“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Matthew 5:17 NIV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”
“It is written…” followed by Scripture settled a matter for Jesus (e.g. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10, 22:31).
2. The Bible unashamedly claims authority
2 Timothy 3:16 says God is the originator:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (NIV)
“This is what the LORD says…” is constantly used as prophets spoke on God’s behalf.
Could this be “God’s Manual”?
There are many compelling reasons to trust the Bible as a reliable collection of writings. It is also truly remarkable that 66 books written by different authors over roughly 1 500 years should have such a consistent, cohesive message – and that so many of its prophecies were fufilled with such consistency.
Is this a “divine conspiracy”? Is this “God-breathed” as it claims?
A weight of evidence indicates that it is… and if it is, then we should surely pay careful attention its contents!