The Reliability of the Bible
What evidence is there that the Bible should be trusted? One type of evidence is prophecy. The Bible long ago predicted that certain things would happen. When the predictions of the prophecy occur, our confidence in biblical reliability is strengthened. If you take the book of Daniel (from 684 BC to 597 BC), which is history of the world book of that time. Check it with some other history references and you can follow Daniel’s predictions. His prophecy had detailed information of four main world empires in the western world of ancient times, including the subsequent division of Europe into a number of nations that would never again become united. It is fascinating to see how these predictions unfolded in world history. Prophecy, then, is a useful line of evidence because we can check whether the events occurred as the prophecy declared.
We also can look at internal consistency in all the books of the Bible written over a period of more than a thousand years. Certainly the consistent message they present will provide evidence for the reliability of the entire book. Historical accuracy is another line of evidence that can be looked at. In ancient writings, secular kings wrote about the history of their nations. Their goal was not to give accurate information about previous rulers; they wanted to make themselves look good. We can compare the Bible with other ancient writings and with the known facts of history to see if the Bible is more reliable (i.e., if it presents accurate history).
Nineteenth-century archaeologists believed that the Bible provided very inaccurate history. For example, the Bible talks about the Hittite empire as a mighty, influential empire in the Mediterranean region. An active program of archaeological investigation did not find any Hittite cities. In many such cases, they thought the Bible stories were just fables and legends. When much more digging was done, the capital of the Hittite empire was discovered. In the end, the Bible turned out to be vindicated.
Another supposed error concerned Nineveh, an important city in Bible history. Again, archaeologists did not believe it existed until, at last, the ruins were found. In case after case, the critics were wrong and the Bible was right. Not all archaeological questions arising from the Bible have been solved. But as more research solves additional puzzles, we have more reasons for trusting the scriptural record.
Other lines of evidence further afield from scientific thought are also important. One of these is the effect of Christianity on people. In considering any religion, we need to ask what it is like to live under that system. Here we cannot produce proof, and of course, personal testimonials can sound convincing even if based on nothing. Nevertheless, if we are honest and careful, we can evaluate whether Christianity has made a positive difference in our lives. In this discussion, we have included several areas of evidence that support the biblical worldview. However, we must remember that the appeal to external evidence has limits. Many concepts in the Bible can never be tested— consider the stories about Jesus and the miracles that He performed. We can compare other parts of the Bible with the evidence, however; if the evidence fits, it increases our confidence in all the Scriptures. Many scholars challenge the Bible’s claims of how and when it was written. Some of the critics’ claims have not stood up well to increasing knowledge of Scripture. Other claims require us to study and evaluate; do the critics seem to provide objective judgment of the Bible, or do their criticisms result from a more naturalistic perspective about life and history? Often we can only evaluate what an author is saying if we understand the nature of their data and the philosophy underlying and influencing their interpretation of the data.