The Bible is Accurate and Trustworthy
As I stood on the stool overlooking the large crowd gathered in London’s Hyde Park, Muslims were gathering to oppose me. I had barely begun to proclaim truth, when they tried to drown me out with their shouts. This is not an unusual scene. Speaker’s Corner in the northeast section of the park has been an historic, world-renown open-air venue for the exchange of ideas since the 1860s. The exchange is sometimes heated, especially when it comes to proclaiming truth.
That day I questioned the historicity of the Muslim’s holy book, the Qur’an. Immediately, several jumped in and boldly asserted that the Bible could not be trusted because it has been corrupted and the true gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost. This is a stalemate that I have often faced and I proceeded to ask them two questions that usually cause them to change the subject: When and how were the Christian Scriptures changed? Most Muslims know very little about the history of the Bible and therefore seek to change the subject when they are asked these two simple questions. Rather than letting them change the subject, I presented to them three tests that validate the historical claims of the Bible. These are the Bibliographic test, the Internal Witness test and the External Witness test. My goal was to demonstrate that the Bible, which actually predates the Qur’an, is not only historically accurate, but it can be fully trusted as the true word of God.
The Bibliographic Test
This first test determines whether the text we have now is essentially what was originally recorded. Ancient documents are very rare due to the media that they were written on. In fact, we do not have any original manuscripts of any of the biblical documents from either the Old Testament or the New Testament. However, this is also true of any other document of the ancient world. This is why the condition of the earliest copies is so important. We have approximately 24,000 early copies of the New Testament, with over 5,000 of these in the original Greek. When we compare this number to other ancient documents, it becomes clear that the New Testament is in a league of its own.
The best example from the ancient world, besides the New Testament, is Homer’s Iliad, of which we have 643 early copies. This difference may not seem that significant until we also compare the time span of these copies. The shorter the gap between the writing of the original document and the earliest copy, the more reliable the accuracy. For most ancient documents, including those written by Plato, Aristotle, Caesar and others up through the time of the New Testament, the earliest copies that we have are copies written over 1,000 years later, which means that we are dealing with copies of copies of copies. Even our best example of the ancient world, again, Homer’s Iliad, is dated at 500 years after the original. In comparison to this, we have fragments of John’s gospel which are dated as being copied less than 25 to 35 years after the original. Even the Sinaiticus version, one of our earliest complete copies, is dated within 300 years of the original documents and over 300 years before the beginning of Islam. Again, this is very significant for an ancient document. In fact, Bible scholar Norman Geisler confidently concludes that “there are earlier and more manuscripts for the New Testament than for any other book from the ancient world.”
The Internal Witness Test
The next test, the Internal Test, is used to determine whether the written record is a credible witness of the events. The support for the veracity of these events comes from such things as eyewitness accounts as well as from the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies from the Old Testament. For example, John testifies in his gospel that he was an eyewitness to the events and his testimony was true (John 21:24). By itself this does not mean anything, but as it is confirmed historically and archaeologically (the external test), then his case is strengthened. The fulfillment of prophecy is also used to validate the accuracy of the prophecy, which in turn validates the prophet as well as the God of the Bible!
The External Witness Test
Finally, the External Test determines whether other historical material confirms or denies the claims of the documents themselves. This is where the claims of archaeology, science and historical accounts either substantiate the Bible or try to deny its accuracy. My favorite example of an archaeological account is the story of Ebla. Over 100 years ago skeptics claimed that the Bible was inaccurate because it mentioned the Hittite people, who were unknown outside of the Bible. However, in 1972 the center of the Hittite empire, Ebla, was discovered at an archaeological site in Syria and the Bible was vindicated again. In fact, one archaeologist maintains that “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”
These tests, which have been proven to have the highest degree of accuracy and reliability, are those to which we must look to when establishing the central doctrines of our faith. The evidence reveals that our Bible has not changed and, therefore, those who claim it has been corrupted must be wrong. We can trust our Bible!