How Reliable is the Bible - in general

© 2023 Jack Chen

Studied Apologetics for a semester 

Here are the primary indications of the Bible’s legitimacy:

  1. Christian Manuscripts

    1. Old Testament Reliability:

      1. Dead Sea Scrolls (400–300 B.C.) – the Dead Sea Scrolls were a collection of 981 texts discovered at Qumran + includes manuscripts from all books of the Old Testament except Esther

      2. Septuagint (300 – 100 B.C.) – oldest known translation of the Hebrew bible. The name is derived from 70 Jewish scholars who did the translation.

      3. Affirmation from the New Testament – there are currently over 5800 + Greek manuscripts / 10000+ Latin Manuscripts / 9000+ manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Slavic, Ethiopian, Armenian) / Early church father’s quotes can reconstruct most of the New Testament.

      4. Early Church Father Quotes – “… as I possessed all the existing works of the Fathers of the second and third centuries, I commenced to search, and up to this time I have found the entire New Testament, except eleven verses.” – Sir David Dalrymple

  2. Non-christian Manuscripts

    1. Babylonian Talmud – “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged.. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” – (Baraitha Bab. Sanhedrin 43a)

    2. Annals 15.44 – Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome … – Tacitus (Roman Historian)

    3. The Death of Peregrine, 11–13 – The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. – Lucian (Greek Satirist)

  3. Archaeology

    1. The Tel Dan Stele (900 – 850 BC)

      1. A stele found in Tel Dan talks of King David’s victories

      2. Discovered in 1993 in an excavation led by Dr. Avraham Biran

    2. The Meesha Stele (846 BC)

      1. Records Meesha, the King of Moab, fighting against Israel – mentions Omri, David, and YHWH

    3. Silver Amulet Scrolls (700 – 650 BC)

      1. The Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24 – 25) is written on them “May YHWH bless you and keep you; May YHWH cause his face to shine upon you and grant you Peace”

    4. Hezekiah’s Tunnel

      1. Referenced in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32

    5. Ossuary of Caiaphas – the bones of the family of Caiaphas – inscribed “Joseph son of Caiaphas”

Further indications:

  1. Prophecies

    1. Messianic Prophecies

      1. Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)

      2. Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23) as a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23, 33; Hebrews7:14), and of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1)

      3. Herod killing the infants (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18)

      4. Taken to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15)

      5. Heralded by the messenger of the Lord (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1-3)

      6. Anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; Matthew 3:16-17)

      7. Performed miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35)

      8. Cleansed the Temple (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 21:12-13)

      9. Ministered in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-16)

      10. Entered Jerusalem as a king on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-9)

      11. First presented Himself as King 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25; Matthew 21:4-11)

      12. Rejected by Jews (Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7)

      13. Died a humiliating death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) involving: rejection (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:10-11; 7:5,48), betrayal by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:3-4; John 13:18), sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-15), silence before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14), being mocked (Psalm 22: 7-8; Matthew 27:31), beaten (Isaiah 52:14; Matthew 27:26), spit upon (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:30), piercing His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:31), being crucified with thieves (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38), praying for His persecutors (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34), piercing His side (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34), given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, Matthew 27:34, Luke 23:36), no broken bones (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36), buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60), casting lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24).

      14. Rose from the dead! (Psalm 16:10; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31)

      15. Ascended into Heaven (Psalm 68:18; Acts 1:9)

      16. Sat down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3)

    2. Non-messianic prophecies:

      1. The Succession of Great World Kingdoms (Daniel 2:37-42). Even negative critics agree that Daniel foretold the governments in order of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Cyrus King of Persia (Isaiah 44:28-45:1). Since Isaiah lived between about 740 and 690 BC and Cyrus did not make his proclamation for Israel to return from exile until about 536 (Ezra 1), there would have been no human way for him to know what Cyrus would be named or what Cyrus would do.

      2. Israel to Be Returned to Its Land A Second Time (Isaiah 11:11-12). The first time God reclaimed a people was from Egypt through the Exodus; the second time is from the Babylonian Exile (Isaiah 51:9-11).

      3. The Closing of the Golden Gate (Ezekiel 44:2-3). The Golden Gate is the eastern gate of Jerusalem, through which Christ made his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday before the crucifixion (Matthew 21). Ezekiel predicted its closing and in 1543 Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent closed the gate and walled it up, not knowing he was fulfilling prophecy. It remains sealed to this day exactly as the Bible predicted.

      4. The Destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:3-14). The prophecy was partly fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and left it in ruins. Alexander the Great later attacked the seemingly impregnable Island of Tyre by taking the stones, dust, and timber from the ruined mainland city to build a causeway to the Island. This prophecy is comparable to saying that Chicago will be destroyed and never rebuilt.

      5. The Doom of Edom (Petra) (Jeremiah 49:15-17). Given the virtually impregnable nature of the ancient city carved out of rock and protected by a narrow passageway, this was an incredible prediction. Yet, in 636 AD it was conquered by Muslims and today stands deserted but for tourists.

      6. Destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:1-2). Fulfilled literally when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. According to historian and eyewitness Josephus, some of the stones were 37 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide. Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire.

  2. Lack of contradictions

    1. The Bible comprises of 66 books written by > 40 people with different backgrounds over a period of about 1600 years. Yet, they are all coherent.