Why I Believe the Bible
First, I believe the Bible because I’m a Christian. I know that sounds like an intellectual loop, like I’m stuck inside a circular argument and can’t get out. But it’s not different than any other view of reality.
Ask a skeptic why they believe what they do and they will reveal their source of ultimate authority too. If they believe human reason is the main authority for life, they will give you a rational answer. That’s their Bible. If they believe science is the only way to know things, they will give you a scientific answer. That’s their Bible. Each system has to reach inside of itself to establish its ultimate authority.
I’m a Christian because God has allowed me to see the truth in his word. “But as for you,” Paul told the young Timothy, “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God . . . ” (2 Timothy 3:14-16).
Second, I believe the Bible because it’s powerful. For those who have experienced this truth, you know exactly what I’m talking about. As we read the Bible, it has a way of attesting to its own truthfulness. As the author of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Reading the Bible can change you. Just ask Rosaria Butterfield, former skeptic, who studied the Bible as a tenured literature professor at Syracuse University. It broke through her worldview like a wrecking ball.
Third, I believe the Bible because it makes sense out of things. If I start with human reason as the ultimate way to explain things I discover I don’t have a good explanation for human reason. If I look to science as the only way to understand the world, I discover there is no compelling explanation for all the things that make life worth living that are beyond the realm of scientific study, like love, truth, poetry, justice, and so on.
But when I look to the Bible I discover a powerful explanation of where the world came from, why the world is filled with wonder and horror, why humanity universally longs for something more, where our moral sense of right and wrong comes from, why it feels like we are out of step with the moral order of the universe, where our deep sense of guilt and shame comes from, how we can find forgiveness and peace, and why we as a human race are so stubbornly optimistic about the future.
The biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and the promise of a new creation makes sense of the world in a way other perspectives don’t. C.S. Lewis said it best, as is often the case, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Bible sheds light on what it means to be alive in the world and how we can find meaning and hope.
Fourth, I believe the Bible because there’s a lot of evidence. This isn’t the first reason, but it certainly isn’t the last. There’s something radically unique about the nature and history of the Bible. From the amount of ancient copies in existence, to the loads of archeological evidence, this book is unlike anything else from antiquity!
The way scholars try to make sense of any book from the ancient world is by looking at the earliest copies we have of the writing – since generally the originals are no longer in existence since they are thousands of years old. In addition to the age of the copies, scholars also look at the scope of how many ancient copies are in existence.
For example, the book we have the best manuscript evidence for, outside the Bible, is the Illiad from the poet Homer. It was written about 1,200 years before Jesus. It’s old. We don’t have the original, but we do have over 600 ancient copies that are from about 500 years after the original was written. Compare that to the writing of the philosopher Plato. There are only seven ancient copies of Plato’s work, and the earliest one is from over 1,200 years after the original is thought to have been written. Even though we don’t have the first writing of Homer or Plato, their works are taught in universities around the world.
When it comes to the Bible we are just in a different league altogether. We have over 5,000 ancient Greek copies of the New Testament with some copies dating to within 50 years of the original. There’s nothing that comes close in the ancient world. Because of the number of copies made in other languages too, with over 20,000 ancient copies of the New Testament in various languages, there are variations between copies, as you might expect. But none of these variations change the message of the Bible and nearly all of them are just differences in spelling and grammar.
Due to brevity, I don’t have time to mention the mountain of archeological evidence that supports the biblical story. The award winning archeologist Nelson Glueck once said, “As a matter of fact, however, it may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” Or consider Sir William Ramsay, the first professor of art and archeology at the University of Oxford. He began his studies as a skeptic of the historical reliability of the New Testament, only to change his mind, and his heart, and eventually conclude that Luke’s testimony in the New Testament is written with “sound judgment” and is a “model of historical statement.”
The final reason I believe the Bible is that Jesus rose from the dead. As a general rule of thumb, you should take the words of men who rise from the dead very seriously. The belief in the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. In fact, there is a simple creed that Christians developed shortly after Jesus rose from the dead that summarizes this belief. It’s what Paul was given after he was first converted. It’s what he passed on to believers as he established churches.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,” Paul wrote, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). This creed that Paul received and that he later delivered is nearly as old as Christianity itself.
Even atheist scholars and skeptics say this creed was developed within a couple years of the first Easter. Robert Funk, a skeptic, who founded the Jesus Seminar which critiques historical Christianity, admits that this creed had to be developed within only a couple years of the resurection. Michael Goulder and Gerd Ludemann, both atheists, say the same thing.
This creed was on the lips of the first disciples as they spread the word to people like Paul about Jesus coming back to life. It’s stock full of references to eye witnesses who were still alive at the time. And if it’s true, as I believe it is, that Jesus rose from the dead, this changes everything. And since Jesus took the Old Testament Scriptures seriously, as authoritatively from God, and since the New Testament contains the words of Jesus, instructions for his church, and details about his future return, I take it seriously too.
Those are a few reasons why I believe the Bible. What about you?