Is the Bible just fiction?
Or could it be historically true and reliable?
This is a question that plagues the mind of many people, Christian and non-Christians alike.
Some believe the Bible is simply a religious document that tells moral-driven stories.
Some think It wasn’t ever meant to document real events. And besides, it tells stories of miracles like people coming back to life which doesn’t happen right?
So they assume it just myth and legend.
I believe there are many good reasons to believe the Bible is historically reliable and accurate.
There is so much good evidence to bring up, but I’m going to give you 4 good reasons you can trust that the New Testament is historically reliable.
1) Non-Christian sources reference Jesus
As we all know, Jesus is mostly known through what’s written about him in the New Testament
But did you know there are non-christian, and even anti-christian sources that talk about him?
There are currently 10 known, non-christian sources (written within 150 years of Jesus’ lifetime) that cite various aspects of Jesus’ life, including his death, virtuous living, and the disciples devotion to the point of death.
Not only this, but the current reigning emperor of the time, Tiberius Caesar, is only mentioned in 9 non-christian sources. As of the time of this writing, no one contests that Tiberius Caesar wasn’t a historical figure.
So with the fact Jesus is referenced by 1 more non-christian historian than the current emperor of the time, we can be sure Jesus is a historical figure as well.
2) We have lots and lots of copies of the New Testament
On the surface it seems like having a lot of copies could be a bad thing right?
If there are a lot of different versions, wouldn’t it be hard to know which one is right?
It is true that having more copies can complicate the translation process, but having all of those copies actually helps us figure out what the correct wording of each verse is.
Many people think of the Bible as a game of “telephone” where one copy is passed onto the next, and, as with the game of telephone, the original message is twisted or lost.
However, it doesn’t work that way.
Since we have so many copies written around the same time, this scenario is avoided.
Say you had 10 copies of a letter and 9 out of 10 said “The dog barked” and 1 copy said “The cat barked”. We can safely assume that the former sentence is the correct message while the last is a variant.
However, instead of only having 10 copies to compare, imagine having 25,000 pieces of the New Testament to compare.
Granted, many of these copies are only fragments, but many are also full books.
There are actually more ancient manuscripts of the New Testament than any other book in ancient history.
The next piece of ancient literature that comes close to that number is Homer’s Iliad with 1,800 pieces.
If the Iliad is considered a well-translated classic that can be taught in schools, then that means the Bible is all the more reliable in its transmission, translation, and accuracy.
3) The errors that we account for are largely minor
Despite the accuracy that is achieved using the copies of each manuscript, a few “variants” can still enter our modern translations.
We see this in a variety of different Bible translations, whether NIV, ESV, KJV or any others.
However, about 98% of these variants are largely simple differences in grammar or spelling and aren’t errors that change the meaning of the verse.
For the 2% that exist and could slightly change the meaning of a verse, not one touched the central tenants of Christian faith (They are mostly simple differences between words like “your” and “our”).
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are all verses that remain untouched with their original meanings and significance.
4) The stories in the Bible are from reliable eyewitness testimony
An important part of any court case is to interview witnesses to determine the validity of the judged individual’s claims.
These eyewitness testimonies are often one of the strongest pieces of evidence for or against a person’s innocence.
But we’ve all seen the movies and read stories of witnesses that falsify entire events.
Is that what happened to the writers of the new testament?
I’ll describe a few briefly.
1) Differing accounts
In the gospels, it’s actually beneficial that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell their stories a little differently.
If all four wrote the same story in the exact same way, it would look like they collaborated on a conspiracy.
But since they all write in their own way, emphasizing different things, it shows that they wrote factual accounts of Jesus’ life based.
2) Embarrassing Details
Everyone likes to make themselves look good.
Whether it’s a first date, and interview, or posting on social media, people generally show the best versions of themselves.
Well within the gospels, it’s mentioned several times that Jesus would ridicule the apostles for their lack of faith or incorrect behavior:
Matthew 8:25-26 - “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?””
Matthew 19:13-14 - “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
In fact, the apostles consistently mess up, misunderstand, and prove themselves to be cowards!
These details don’t make the apostles look good at all.
It doesn’t make sense that they would write these things about themselves unless they were committed to telling the story as it actually happened.
3) No ulterior motive
Another big motivator for giving a twisted testimony (lying) is to get something out of it.
People are generally willing to lie if they have an ulterior motive and the most common ulterior motives are money, sex, and power.
The disciples got the exact opposite.
They walked away from financial success and sacrificed everything up until the point they were killed for their faith.
It didn’t benefit them at all to lie about the resurrection story.
All 12 apostles and many other disciples never retracted their belief in Jesus despite persecution.
The church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Based on the lives and deaths of the Apostles, we have no reason to doubt that they were being truthful as they stood up for what they believed.
The Bible isn't a work of fiction
Due to these reasons (and many more!), it’s highly unlikely that the events in the new testament were faked.
They are sincere eyewitness testimony of historical events.
And due to the presence of many manuscripts, we can be confident our Bible has been preserved through time.
The Bible is not just a collection of stories.
It accounts for true events in history that not only help us to live our lives better, but reveal the truth about God and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Love the Bible as the word of the Holy Living God.
God’s given us an historical record of how He has worked in his people and how He continues to work today.
Luke is currently a Senior at Grand Valley State University where he is studying Computer Science with a minor in mathematics. He loves being with friends at college but loves being home with his family and fiancé too. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future but is excited to see God move and work in his life.