The Bible is the most reliable collection of writings in human history. The real question about the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is not whether it is reliable, but whether it is true.
What we can know for sure is that the authors of the New Testament wrote what we currently have in the Bible. These authors collectively are witnesses of the life of Jesus Christ and they proclaim to have first-hand experience of numerous events regarding Jesus.
Testimonial evidence, also called eye-witness evidence, is considered valid in all courts of law. Witnesses are often used to validate an incident, and sometimes a witness is all there is to support a case.
In the case of Jesus Christ, and whether the Bible is true, we have numerous witnesses and their eye-witness accounts.
Each individual author makes the same claims: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, John, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all speak with a unifying voice about Jesus Christ. Of these writings, there are the four gospels that depict the life of Jesus Christ, as well as numerous letters written to early Christians.
We can examine evidence
in all of these texts to consider how realistic these eye-witness
accounts are. For the sake of time, the following is some of the most prominent themes for validity.
If we consider the gospels, there are some interesting themes that may indicate that what is written is true.
For example, the disciples of Jesus are often confused about who Jesus really is and what he really expects of them. They are often viewed as being stupid and fearful. However, one of the most interesting themes of the gospel, and of actual history, is the rapid spread of Christianity.
Christianity is the fastest growing religion ever in existence, which is why it is currently the largest religion in the world. But what explains this rapid spread?
After the death of Jesus Christ, the disciples are depicted as fearful, having the door locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). Their teacher has just been crucified and they are afraid for their own lives. This depiction of the disciples of Jesus is very realistic.
What is not realistic is the dramatic change in their behavior after they claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus Christ, unless they really did see Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The disciples went from being afraid for their lives to the complete opposite: bold and willing to die for their faith in a resurrected messiah.
Some interesting questions to consider:
Let's consider Peter. He was crucified upside down later on in his life. According to history, he refused to be crucified like normal because he felt he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ.
Another person to consider is Paul, who originally persecuted Christians, yet is a major founder of Christianity. He went from killing Christians to becoming the very image of what a Christian should be, which he claims was from a dramatic experience with speaking to the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 9).
The behaviors of the disciples are realistic when they are fearful, but the collective and dramatic changes in behavior only make sense if what they claim to have happened is true.
However, even if all this information is true, it does not really explain why Christianity spread so rapidly.
Okay, so these people were willing to die for their faith in Jesus, but why did others join? What caused them to believe? Was it simply the sincerity of the disciples' faith?
According to the New Testament, Paul says that Jesus revealed himself after his death to more than 500 Jews at once (1 Corinthians 15).
In addition, Paul claims that it was not his skills of persuasion that convinced the Corinthian believers, but rather it was God's power, saying "My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power..." (1 Corinthians 2:4).
If God does exist, and if Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, and if the power of God was active in the early Church, then it makes sense that Christianity could spread so rapidly.
However, without these elements, historians are left
wondering as to how a religion could have begun and spread so
rapidly throughout the world, transcending cultures and languages at such a fast rate. All we know is that it happened, and the only evidence we
have to support how it happened so quickly is from the Bible's explanation of witnesses of a risen Jesus Christ, miracles, deeds of power, speaking in tongues (Acts 2), and the power of the teachings of Christ, etc.
In order answer the question "Is the Bible true?" we need to consider other major religions that conflict with the New Testament.
Judaism spread throughout a family that eventually developed into a nation, although it did have converts from other peoples, the focus was on remaining pure to the Jewish faith by avoiding other religions.
Islam has spread in much the same way, with most believers being born into the faith instead of converted. Islam developed from a man who had only a few followers during his lifetime and who had numerous sons and relatives that fought over who would succeed him after he died. He is noted for unifying the Arab nations through military power.
Islam originated about 600 years after Jesus lived, and the message of the Quran (war and hate for unbelievers) is the exact opposite of the message of the New Testament's loving savior, even though Islam claims the same origins as Judaism.
Unlike previous prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, Islam's prophet didn't performed any miracles and he achieved his goals through war.
Regarding Christianity and Islam, another interesting topic to consider is the witnesses involved in the two religions.
Consider a hypothetical example of witnesses being interviewed about an accident. Would you believe the three strangers who say the accident happened one way or would you believe one stranger who disagrees with everyone else?
If you only have the eye-witness accounts, then you have to believe the three who agree (keep in mind that all four people are strangers to you). Now, consider a court of law with the case of God on trial: Would you believe eight strangers who make a consistent claim or one stranger who claims the opposite 600 years later?
Those who believe in Islam have a lot of faith in their prophet, yet he is technically a stranger to them.
Based on the Reliability of the Bible
and the evidence of eye-witness testimony, what do you think? Is the Bible true?
Josh McDowell is a man who considered himself an atheist, but when he tried to disprove Christianity he came to the conclusion that if he was intellectually honest with himself the only option was that what the Bible says is true. His book, More Than a Carpenter, discusses the now famous "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" argument.