All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

How can I learn about God?

Confirmation of the Bible through History

    A. Bibliographical Test

The third means for verifying the reliability of the Bible is its confirmation by historical test. Josh McDowell argues that the Bible should be subjected to the same tests as any other historical document to determine its reliability. These tests are the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test and the external evidence test.


1. New Testament bibliographical test. McDowell describes the bibliographical test as "...an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us." This is accomplished by examining the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and the existing copy. The manuscript evidence of the New Testament is astounding. The manuscript evidence of the New Testament is astounding. Today there are over 5,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in Greek and at least 15,000 more in other languages. No other ancient writing has anywhere near this abundance of existing manuscript evidence. Additionally, the interval of time between the composition of the New Testament books and the date of the earliest existing manuscripts is the shortest of any work of antiquity. Sir Federic G. Kenyon, who was the Director of the British Museum, summarizes the manuscript evidence as follows:

The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant (existing) evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.

2. Old Testament bibliographical test. This test for the Old Testament is more complicated. Given the age difference between the New and Old Testaments, the number of surviving manuscripts for the Old Testament is much smaller.

Despite the small number of manuscripts (as compared to the New Testament), the accuracy of the Old Testament documents has been verified through the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. The Scrolls consist of approximately 40,000 inscribed fragments. Over 500 books have been reconstructed from these pieces. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide confirming evidence that Old Testament manuscripts date before the time of Christ.

Gleason Archer, Chairman of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, reports that the Isaiah copies "... prove to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the test. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling." Dr. Henry Morris, President of the Institute for Creation Research, concludes, "There is thus no reasonable doubt that our present Old Testament... is practically identical with the text used several centuries before Christ, practically extending back to the time when the last books of the Old Testament were iriginally writte."

B. Internal Evidence Test

The second test for the historical accuracy of the Bible is the internal evidence test. This test determines whether the written record is credible by analyzing the ability of the writer or the witness to tell the truth. The New Testament relies upon men who were eyewitnesses of the actual events and teachings of Jesus, or men who related eyewitness accounts of these details. Throughout the New Testament, the writers refer to what they had seen and heard. Many of their contemporaries also had witnessed Jesus' life. If they reported the facts incorrectly, these people would have challenged their writings. F.F. Bruce explains, "The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so."

An additional indication of the sincerity of the New Testament writers is their willingness to record incidents that portray themselves in a negative light, such as their flight after Jesus' arrest, their competition for a high place in the Kingdom of God, and Peter's denial of Christ. Given these facts, we can trust the New Testament writers' portrayal of Christ.

C. External Evidence Test

The external evidence test is the final one that historians use to verify the reliability of a document. This test seeks other historical material to substantiate the information contained in the document under review. One example of such confirmation is the testimony of a friend of the Apostle John (who wrote five books in the New Testament). Irenaeus, who was the Bishop of Lyons in A.D. 180, was a disciple of John and wrote the following:

Matthew published his gospel among the Hebrews... in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure,... Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter's preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by his teacher. Then John... himself produced his gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia.

Along with the testimony of contemporaries, archeology also provides powerful external evidence for the reliability of the Bible. (This confirmation will be discussed at length in the following section.) Archeologist Joseph Free reports, "Archeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts."

Finally, the weight of historical evidence clearly upholds the reliability of the Bible as Dr. Clark Pinnock states:

There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excelling a set of textual and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest (person) cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational (i.e., antisupernatural) bias.
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