Last week, we started our Good Questions series with a question about the Bible: what is it and where did it come from? Even though we covered the basics, I’m sure some of you were left with more questions about the Bible and its authenticity. So, this week, we’re going to cover this question: is the Bible reliable?
We know the Bible is a book that holds the teaching and beliefs of the Christian faith; it is the holy scripture (or sacred writings) that tells our history from the earliest creation to the spread of Christianity in the first century A.D. The Bible is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament, each containing several books by different authors. But if these authors lived so long ago, and all of these stories were based off of oral traditions, AND the stories have gone through many translations, who says the Bible is reliable?
First, let’s take a look at how the Bible is historically accurate. We know that the entirety of the Bible is essentially a history of the world and Christianity. From the mentions of historical people, places, and events, we can verify the accuracy of the information from other historic accounts. As Dr. Kenneth Boa states in his article, “How Accurate Is the Bible?,” “because the Scriptures continually refer to historical events, they are verifiable; their accuracy can be checked by external evidence…The Old and New Testaments make abundant references to nations, kings, battles, cities, mountains, rivers, buildings, treaties, customs, economics, politics, dates, etc. Because the historical narratives of the Bible are so specific, many of its details are open to archaeological investigation. While we cannot say that archaeology proves the authority of the Bible, it is fair to say that archaeological evidence has provided external confirmation of hundreds of biblical statements” (3). 
Chronological details in Jeremiah 1:1-3 and Luke 3:1-2 are just a couple of examples of historical representation within the Bible. Let’s take Ezekiel 1:1-3 as another example: “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of exile of King Jehoiachin—the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest” (NIV
). The details included here allow historians to date the first vision of God to the day: July 31, 592 B.C. Similar historical references allow the Bible’s historicity to be verified.
Yet, the Bible’s accuracy is verified not only from a historian’s point of view, but also within the Scriptures themselves. Within various books we see significant statements that the accounts are based off of actual eye-witness testimony. In a sermon on the reliability of the Bible from Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church), he examines the Book of Luke: “if you read Luke in the ancient Greek language, you will notice that the first four verses are very different than the rest. They are very formal, very stylized, very different than the Greek in the rest of the book and it’s because what Luke is doing here in the first four verses is that he is using recognized, historiographic language. It’s a way for a historian to say—and they always did, they started their accounts this way—this is not fiction, this is not a legend, this is based on eye-witness testimony.” 
The authors’ own statements of veracity of what they have written show their due diligence to the accuracy of their own writings, but also their willingness for those who want to fact-check to be able to do so. Although the eye-witnesses are long gone so we are unable to fact-check ourselves, the books become historical accounts in themselves through the dedication of the authors to the truth.
Second, let’s take a look at how the Bible is a cohesive story, regardless of how many authors have contributed. All 66 books tell the same story, with an unquestionable continuity between Old Testament and New Testament. Historically, we understand each book’s accuracy; but even further, we can look at the details about Jesus’ life from each eye-witness account to see the consistency. Even is Jesus’ own teachings, we see continuity from the Old Testament teachings to the New Testament teachings. And even as we look at the Old Testament and what was prophesied at the exile of the Jews to Babylon—that God has not abandoned them and their salvation is coming in the form of a man—it ends up coming to pass in the New Testament with the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Each author, spanning hundreds of years, tells the same exact story of God.
Tackling the third question, that of translations, we covered in our last post that the first English-language Bible was the King James Version (KJV) that was translated from the original Greek and Latin manuscripts. Scholars have studied this translation, as well as other English translations, and have found great accuracy in the translations from the original texts. So any meaning was not, in fact, lost from translating from the original manuscripts to English. Although some version, such as the KJV focus on a literal word-for-word translation, others, like the New International Version, or the even more modern version, The Message
, focus on a thought-for-thought translation. Whichever translation you use, the basic Christian tenets are the same.