Is the Bible reliable?

When we compare the reliability of the Bible with other historic documents of its time, utilizing the same criteria, we find that the Bible is not only reliable—it is more reliable than other comparable works. The primary aspects to look at when determining credibility are the accuracy of the copying, the frequency with which something was copied, and the truthfulness of the content. Writings that have been well-preserved, copied frequently, and that are historically verified are considered reliable. For all these factors, the Bible can be considered reliable.

Just as it is impossible to confirm every single detail within any ancient historical text, the Bible has details that cannot be confirmed. This does not mean it is unreliable. Rather, it has facts that have yet to be confirmed or are impossible to confirm. However, it is totally fair to expect the Bible to be accurate where it is able to be checked. In this aspect, the Bible's reliability truly shines. Many of the historical details within the Bible have been verified through other historical records as well as through archaeological discoveries. Even though there are things within the Bible that have yet to be proven, it is perhaps most important to note that it has never been proven factually wrong.

Archaeological discoveries have confirmed many biblical texts. Here are a few of them:

  • Engravings found in an Egyptian tomb told the story of the installation of a viceroy in a way that is identical to the proceedings described in a ceremony involving Joseph described in Genesis 41:39–42.

  • The existence of the city of Ur, found in Genesis 11, was confirmed by archeological finds during the 1920s.

  • The existence of the Hittites (Genesis 15:20; 23:10; 49:29) was doubted until a full Hittite city with historical records included, was discovered in modern-day Turkey.

  • The story of languages being confused at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9) is also recorded in Babylonian records, and the story of a worldwide flood is recounted in hundreds of cultures' historic records from around the world.

  • These examples are all from the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible. Throughout the rest of the Bible, its historical accuracy is similarly confirmed. In the New Testament, names of cities (Rome, Corinth, etc.), political leaders (Herod, Caesar, etc.), and historical events have consistently been confirmed by both archaeologists and historians. Luke is the writer of the Gospel by that name as well as the book of Acts, and his reputation still stands as that of a first-rate historian thanks to the accuracy and detail-oriented approach he took in his writing.

    The accuracy of the copying of biblical texts is significantly better and has more supporting documents confirming the accuracy than other similar texts. The New Testament was written within decades of the events described, and there are enough early manuscripts remaining to prove that it was copied quickly and reliably for maximum distribution potential. The Old Testament's reliability of transmission also holds up well under scrutiny. During the 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. They were 800 years older than the other Old Testament manuscripts available, and upon comparison, the consistency between the two over the 800-year span was astounding. Seeing such consistently accurate copies over time can give us confidence when we read the Bible today, knowing that it still says what it did when it was originally written.

    Finally, let's look at the numbers. The Bible has more factual confirmation, less time between the writing date and oldest available original copies, and more lasting source manuscripts than any other ancient work. Here are some facts on ancient texts:

  • There are only ten known copies of the writings of Julius Caesar, and the earliest one is from 1,000 years after he originally wrote them, making historical accuracy extremely difficult to verify.

  • There are eight known copies of the works of the historian Herodotus, the earliest one being from 1,400 after the original writing date.

  • In a much stronger example, there are 643 known manuscript copies for the works of Homer, which some have said equates to allowing us to have 95 percent confidence in the accuracy of the text.

  • The New Testament currently has over 5,000 manuscript copies, many of them being from within 200 to 300 years of the original writing date, some within less than 100 years, which gives us the ability to have more than 99 percent confidence in its accuracy.

  • We have excellent reasons and facts that enable us to objectively know that the Bible is reliable. If we were to call the Bible unreliable, we would also have to discard much of the ancient history that we consider factual with far less concrete data to back it up. The Bible is proven reliable thanks to its meticulous transmission and historical accuracy.


    Related Truth:

    Why should I believe the Bible?

    Is the Bible true?

    How is the Bible inspired? What does it mean for the Bible to be inspired?

    What proof do we have for the inspiration of the Bible?

    The purpose of the Bible – What is it?


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