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How Do We Know The Bible Is Accurate?

We know this several ways. First, we must consider the time gap between Christ's death, burial, and resurrection and the writing of the New Testament. Most scholars date the Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) around 50-70 AD. Jesus died between 30 and 33 AD. This leaves a time gap of only 20- 40 years from the death of Christ to the first written books about His life.

This is important because it means that it was within the generation of those who had seen Him on earth, and that means that they could have verified or contradicted the stories about Christ since they would have known whether it had happened or not. In addition, since there were living witnesses at the time that the Gospels were put together, there was not enough time for legendary passages to appear in the text.

Next, we must examine the letters of Paul, which are almost universally accepted as having been written before the Gospels were. Paul was converted a mere two years after Christ's death, according to most scholars--this puts him writing letters as early as 32-35 AD Most scholars say the latest he started writing was in the 40s or 50s.

In addition, 1 Corinthians 15 quotes one of the earliest church creeds ever. Paul writes:

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

It is universally accepted that the passages about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection are one of the first church creeds ever (see Strobel, p 34-35). These creeds were written between 2-5 years after Christ's death. In historical documents, that's a blink of an eye. For example, the two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written more than four hundred years after Alexander's death in 323 BC--yet they are considered to be generally trustworthy. The shorter the time gap between an event and when it is recorded, the less likely that it will fall prey to human error and legend. Therefore, the fact that the church creeds were written within the first 5 years or so of the Church's existence is very important.

Secondly, we have vast numbers of copies of the New Testament. This is also important because no original copy of the New Testament exists today. That means that all we have is copies of it. So how do we know that the copies are accurate?

First, you can cross-check the various documents to see how they differ. If you do this, between the various Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic translations (of which there are 5,664 Greek manuscripts, 8,000-10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts, and 8,000 Ethiopic, Slavic, and Armenian manuscripts, for a total of around 24,000--there are only 650 manuscripts of Homer's "Iliad" the book with the second most number of manuscripts behind the New Testament) then there are amazing consistencies. It's so amazing that Norman Geisler and William Nix said, "The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book--a form that is 99.5 percent pure." (See Geisler & Nix, 367). It also must be noted that the variants (or discrepancies) between the texts are usually matters of word order (which doesn't matter in Greek, since it is an inflected language) and spelling, and that no key doctrine is in jeopardy of having been corrupted.

Secondly, you can find the Bible quoted in many sources outside of just the New Testament. In fact, if every single New Testament manuscript was destroyed, the entire Bible could be reproduced from commentaries written by various theologians throughout the first millenium AD. This gives us even more manuscripts to test differences in.

For further information:

Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible

Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict

Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ

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