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It’s the Truth, Ruth: The Truth and Reliability of the Bible

October 10, 2016

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

It’s the Truth, Ruth is a Christmas musical that our children participated in at our church when they were young. The premises of the production are the reliability and truth of the Bible and the significance of the birth of Christ in God’s plan for salvation. This blog is based on the same premises. We use the weekly common lectionary used throughout Christendom to point the way to those truths, with the understanding that the Bible is a reliable compilation of ancient texts reflecting the inspired and inerrant word of God. This understanding is the key to living life according to God’s purposes. Paul teaches in this week’s epistle lesson that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17. [1]

But there are many objections to the value and reliability of the Bible. Theologians spend years studying the Bible in many contexts—including the historical, archeology and the inherent challenges presented by the Bible itself. This is a cursory overview of some issues addressed by theologians, and why it is logical to conclude that the Bible is the reliable and inerrant Word of God.

The Reliability And Accuracy of the Bible

One challenge to the Bible is its reliability, considering the fact that it was written and copied by many people over centuries before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century. There is no question among scholars as to the authenticity and reliability of the texts. As to the accuracy of Biblical accounts, Paul Little notes that “Archeology confirms the Biblical accounts in more than 25,000 sites connected to biblical history.” (Paul Little, Know Why You Believe (1968) InterVarsity Press, p. 87).

Almost every year, more archeological discoveries are added to that great body of evidence. Just a few weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times about scientists who are now able to read a damaged Biblical scroll dated to between 50 and 100 A.D. Eric Metaxas writes, “The story begins in 1970, when archaeologists at En-Gedi found a burnt scroll that was little more than a lump of charcoal. A fire in 600 A.D. has destroyed the synagogue there, leaving its ancient documents so brittle that a touch could cause them to disintegrate. Unable to read the scroll, curators merely preserved it, hoping that someday, the technology necessary to peek at its contents would be developed. Well, that day has arrived . . . computer scientists at the University of Kentucky partnered with biblical scholars in Jerusalem to pioneer a technique for ‘unfurling’ this badly damaged scroll . . . known as ‘volume cartography,’” permitting them to read the manuscript without opening it. (Metaxas, “The Bible Shows Its Age: Unfurling the Burnt Scroll,” Colson Center, Breakpoint Daily,, September 28, 2016). Nicholas Wade wrote, “The scroll’s content, the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus” is identical to “the Masoretic text, the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible and the one often used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles.” (Wade,, New York Times, September 21, 2016.)

In his book, 7 Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, Erwin Lutzer gives seven reasons why the Bible is trustworthy based on logic, history, prophesy, Christ, science, and personal experience, noting that the unity of the Bible is also evidence of its reliability: “It evolved over a period of fifteen centuries, written in three different languages [Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek]. During this period empires rose and fell and cultures came and went but this did not affect the unity of the Bible . . . It was written by forty different human authors . . . from a variety of occupations: kings, fishermen, tax collectors, shepherds, prophets, and even a physician . . . they wrote at different periods of world history, their writings dovetail with one another, not superficially, but intricately and brilliantly . . . This unity is achieved despite a diverse literary structure . . . ” (Lutzer, 7 Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible (1998) Moody Publishers, pp.47-51).

The Old Testament

The professional scribes who copied the manuscripts in ancient times were extremely careful and meticulous, since they believed that they were working with the Word of God. Josh McDowell notes “All scribes in ancient times took great pride in carefully hand-replicating manuscripts. But there was something special about Jewish scribes in particular. Because of the stringent rules and disciplines these scribes were required to follow, no other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” (McDowell, God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture (2015) Barbour Publishing, p. 124). McDowell explains the three tests that must be applied to any ancient historical record to determine its reliability: the Bibliographical Test (number of manuscripts and time that elapsed between the writing and the earliest copy); the External Evidence Test (other corroborating historical materials); the Internal Evidence Test (whether the book is consistent within itself and if the authors are reliable). The Bible has passed these tests with flying colors as evidenced by centuries of scholarship.   The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea was a major find that “confirmed the accuracy one thousand years of both the record and the history of the Hebrews—that is from 200 B.C. to A. D. 916.” The Dead Sea scrolls and subsequent discoveries uncovered fragments from every book of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. (Little, Know Why You Believe (pp. 74-75).  I viewed fragments from scrolls over 2,000 years old during an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History a year or two ago.

The New Testament

There are over 5,500 manuscripts of the New Testament with only minor variances in grammar or spelling between them. Paul Little notes that “The time elapsing between the actual events and the writing of the books, from the standpoint of historical research is satisfactorily short [Jesus was crucified about A.D. 30 and the New Testament was complete or almost complete by A. D. 100] . . . The extraordinary number of copies of early New Testament materials defies imagination. When we compare it with other documents of ancient writings from the same time, it fills us with admiration.” (Compare to 5 manuscripts dated to 1,400 years after Aristotle died). (Little, Know Why You Believe, pp. 78-79).

The Bible is the Inspired and Inerrant Word of God

The Bible is a narrative written by about 40 authors, explaining God’s plan for humanity from creation to a glimpse into the life beyond. Little explains what is meant by the inspired Word of God: “The Bible describes itself this way” ‘All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.’ (2 Timothy 3:16,). The word God-breathed (or inspired as other versions translate it) is not to be confused with the common usage of the word, as when we say Shakespeare was inspired and wrote great plays, or Beethoven was inspired and composed great symphonies. Inspiration in the biblical sense is unique. God is its primary author. . . The Bible is a product of God himself. These are not mere human ideas but God’s divine character and will revealed through human words. Those writers of Scripture were not merely writing machines . . . It is quite clear that each writer had a style of his own. Jeremiah did not write like Isaiah, and John did not write like Paul. God worked through the instrumentality of human personality but so guided and controlled the people that what they wrote is what he wanted written.” (Little, Know Why You Believe, p. 60-61).

 Another challenge is the claim that the Bible is filled with errors. Geisler and Howe approach the issue with logical reasoning: “God cannot err. The Bible is the Word of God. Therefore, the Bible cannot err.” (Geisler, Norman and Howe, Thomas, When Critics Ask (1992) Baker Books, p. 11). The conclusion is inescapable if the premises are valid.

Geisler and Howe point to numerous Scriptures declaring “emphatically that ‘it is impossible for God to lie, ’” to confirm the first premise that God cannot err. They also point to many scriptures that confirm that the Bible is the Word of God, including the text from this week’s lectionary from 2 Timothy, compelling the conclusion that the Bible cannot err. The Bible does not contain any untruth. They note that “By truth we signify that which corresponds to reality. An error, then, is what does not correspond to reality.” (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask, p. 13). The authors analyze in detail many categories of “difficulties” resulting not from Biblical mistakes, but from misinterpretations by critics. They quote St. Augustine: “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, the author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong or you have not understood.” (Id, p.15).

It’s the truth, dear reader. If you have any questions about the reliability or the inerrancy of Scripture, I challenge you to undertake your own studies of the texts and of the huge body of scholarship attesting to its accuracy and truth. May the Holy Spirit open your heart and mind to the treasures waiting to be discovered in its pages.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan


[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost are Psalm 121; Genesis 32: 22-30; 2 Timothy 3: 14-4:5; Luke 18: 1-8.

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