Written by Pastor Mark Tiefel / April 2017
How Can You Know the Bible Has No Errors?
Answering this question comes down to the burden of proof you need to be convinced. In one sense, you can never know the Bible is without error because no one has the original manuscripts anymore, nor was anyone around with a video camera to capture its authorship. If, for you, seeing is believing, then you’ll never know for certain. However, if you trust what God says about the Bible’s authorship within its verses, and that it ultimately gives you an answer to sin that no other belief system can; then you have ample proof of an errorless Bible.
No matter what conclusion you come to, one thing you can’t deny is that the Bible claims to have no errors and to be the very words of the one, true God:
Psalm 119:160: The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
2 Peter 1:21: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Today, more than ever, it is said that truth is determined by evidence. So-called empiricists claim that they will believe in God if someone would just show them the proof. But, in the end, what measure of proof would really be good enough? Even many of the people who saw and conversed with Jesus directly rejected Him. In a similar way, many astounding proofs of the Bible’s reliability have been uncovered and explained throughout the ages, yet even more remain unconvinced. I’ll speak to three major examples:
1. Original Language Evidence. No other ancient manuscript comes close in the sheer quantity and early age of copies as the Bible does. We have available today over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Several of these copies are less than 100 years removed from the time that Jesus was on earth and the apostles were recording the original words. To give you some perspective about how monumental this is, take the works of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle as parallel examples. Today, there are fewer than ten available copies of Plato’s works in the Greek, the earliest being about 1,200 years after Plato lived. When it comes to Aristotle’s writings, there are fewer than 50 copies in the Greek, and they are almost 1,500 years removed from the originals. In addition to the aforementioned Greek copies of the Bible, there are over 24,000 in other ancient languages. Simply put, the Bible destroys any comparison with other ancient writings. Yet, many people who would never dare question the accuracy of Plato and Aristotle’s writings continually argue against the reliability of the Scriptures.
2. Christ’s Testimony. The above example looks primarily at the New Testament. But, what about the Old Testament? Christ’s preaching and use of the Old Testament, recorded in the Gospels, helps reveal the quality of the Old Testament books. Even if Jesus were not believed to be the Son of God and Savior of the world, it would still important to consider how He thought about and used the Bible; especially since He is the central figure of Christianity. Like the passages quoted above, the matter is settled when Jesus speaks. He taught and used the Old Testament as:
- A basis for understanding Creation and Marriage (Matthew 19:3-8).
- The means of becoming one of His disciples (John 8:31-32).
- A unit that could not be broken (John 10:35).
- Absolute truth from God the Father (John 17:17).
- The complete reason why He came to the world and lived, died, and rose from the dead in our place (Luke 24:44-45).
There is simply no doubt that Jesus understood and used the Bible as a divine, absolute true message from God. It would be impossible to support His teaching and use of the Bible if it was full of errors and contradictions.
3. Prophecy and Fulfillment. The third example connects the Old and New Testaments. When you examine other supposedly holy books they all come down to one individual’s opinion or testimony. Take the Koran for example, it is a collection of the prophet Mohammad’s writings – that’s it. Sometimes he quotes or mentions parts of the Bible but only for the purpose of giving his own opinion about the text. Or look at the Book of Mormon, the compendium of Joseph Smith’s revelations which he supposedly received from an angel, yet no one else was around to witness it. We could also mention Christian Science founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who taught that her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, was a necessary key to unlock the Bible’s truths.
In contrast, the Bible spans generations, cultures, and people. It has survived wars, famines, ages of widespread illiteracy, and even direct persecutions and attempted destructions. It is a collection that fits together by way of prophecy and fulfillment. To give you an idea of how amazingly unique this is, consider that a college mathematics professor determined that that the odds of any one human in the history of the world fulfilling 48 of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah would be 1 in 13 trillion. And that’s just 48 Messianic prophecies. The New Testament carefully records how Jesus fits the identity of the Messiah perfectly. In addition to Messianic prophecies, the New Testament also contains hundreds of other fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies as well as thousands of quotations and inferences.
Many more compelling proofs of Biblical reliability could be mentioned. The point is, in an age where evidence is supposedly held as the standard for truth, it is blatantly ignored by opponents of Scripture when it comes to genuinely examining the text. And this is ultimately why no one can ever stand upon a premise that demands physical proof to answer questions regarding the Bible’s purity.
God says that answering this question is a matter of the heart, not the head; and when a sinner’s heart is involved it will naturally find ways to doubt God’s word. When the apostle Paul warned Christians of “handling the word of God deceitfully” he described those who were doing this very thing, saying, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them (2 Corinthians 4:4).” Essentially, they deny the Bible because they refuse to believe. Before his famous passage on the inspired nature of the Bible, Peter also wrote, “We have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).” God has given us the prophetic Scriptures for the very purpose of having the light of faith shine in our hearts.
The Bible is true about many things. But, its single most important use is to shine the light of the gospel into a dark world, full of dark hearts, and create faith in Jesus. That is ultimately how the Bible proves its claim as the errorless word of God. When a sinner’s heart hears the free message of forgiveness in Christ, it leads to Godly repentance and faith. Another word for faith is trust. Trust in Christ for eternal salvation but also trust that God would preserve and reveal that message to the world. The burden of proof for the believer is the Gospel – “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” Any attempt to subvert this purpose is ultimately a work of Satan, the “god of this age.” No amount of physical evidence will ever convert a human heart. And faith does not trust what man’s word or reason says. It is built on the work of Jesus as the world’s Savior from sin.
So, how can you know that the Bible is without error? Know Jesus. May we imitate the model of faith which He taught – a little child. They trust. They believe. They follow. Not because of evidence, but because of the gracious words of their father.