IS THE BIBLE TRUE?
Answer: Logic requires that there is only one objective “truth” for any specific claim. Contradictory claims cannot be equally true. For example, the statements “the hamster is in its cage” and “the hamster cage is empty” cannot both be true simultaneously. This evaluation of truth applies to spiritual matters just as well as logical or physical matters. It’s reasonable to claim that the Bible is true in a way that excludes all other statements. Examining the Bible in the same way we would any other text, we can confidently say that it is, in fact, true.
The Bible not only encourages readers to examine their own beliefs (1 John 4:1), but it also commends those who check spiritual claims for truth (Acts 17:11). The Bible makes claims on the basis of history and eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1–4; 2 Peter 1:16), connects belief to visible evidence (John 20:30–31), and ties biblical ideas to the observable world (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1). Jesus overtly claimed to represent an exclusive truth (John 18:37; 14:6). So the Bible is clearly meant to be interpreted as true, and exclusively true (John 17:17).
Where we can check biblical claims against verifiable truth, the Bible proves itself accurate. History, archaeology, science, and philosophy have shown Scripture to be factual and consistent. This correspondence between various forms of evidence is a major advantage the Bible has over the scriptures of any other faith system. In many cases, it has been the deciding factor in converting skeptics and nonbelievers to faith in Christ.
Whether or not the Bible is true is a separate question from whether or not a particular passage is “literal.” It’s reasonable to say that a phrase or statement is true, even if the truth is not presented in literal terms. For example, if a person says during a heavy rain, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” the statement is true—it’s just not literal. Idiomatic phrases are meant to be interpreted. The same principle applies to John’s words about Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Of course, a person might ask for clarification, and be told, based on Old Testament passages, that Jesus isn’t literally a wooly farm animal, but that He’s the fulfillment of the Law and the divinely chosen sacrifice to redeem the world. The figurative nature of John’s statement doesn’t make his statement untrue, simply metaphorical. It’s good to remember that the Bible is comprised of sixty-six separate books, and each of them often contains different types of literature and a mixture of literal and figurative language.
More so than with any other religious text, we have assurance that the Bible is true. The combination of internal consistency, connection to evidence, and relevance to our experience makes the Bible unique among books. Like many religious works, the Bible claims to be true (2 Timothy 3:16). Unlike any other religious work, the Bible emphatically supports that assertion.
The Bible makes claims about the creation of the universe, the nature of the God who created the universe and reigns supremely over it, and the fate of mankind. If these claims are true, then the Bible is the most important book in the history of mankind. If the Bible is true, then it holds the answers to life’s biggest questions: “From where did I come?” “Why am I here?” and “What happens to me when I die?” The importance of the Bible’s message demands it receive fair consideration, and the truthfulness of its message is observable, testable, and able to withstand scrutiny.
The writers of the Bible claim that the Bible is God’s very Word. The apostle Paul writes that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). That is to say, all the words recorded in the original writing of Scripture originated from the mouth of God before ever reaching the minds and pens of the biblical writers. The apostle Peter also writes that “prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The phrase “carried along” is indicative of a sail being propelled by the wind. That is, the writing of Scripture was directed by the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not originate with man and is, then, a product of God and carries the authority of God.
At this point, it is important not to let circular reasoning become the justification for believing the Bible. We cannot say that one should believe the Bible simply because the Bible says it should be believed. If, however, the truth claims of the Bible are found true whenever it is possible to test their veracity or are proved true during historical and scientific discovery, then the internal claims of the Bible’s own trustworthiness are more compelling. The internal evidence works in tandem with the external.
The internal evidence of Scripture’s veracity provides many compelling arguments for why one should believe the Bible. First, the unique message of the Bible sets it apart from other religious texts. The Bible, for instance, teaches that mankind is inherently evil and deserving of eternal death. If man were responsible for the content of the Bible, the view of humanity would not be so dark—we tend to make ourselves look good. The Bible also teaches that humans can do nothing of themselves to remedy their natural state. This, too, goes against human pride.
The unity of the biblical message is further reason for why one should believe the Bible. The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,550 years, with at least 40 human writers, most of whom did not know each other and were from varying backgrounds (king, fisherman, tax collector, shepherd, etc.). The Bible was written in various environments (desert, prison, royal court, etc.). Three different languages were used to write the Bible, and, despite covering controversial subjects, it carries one harmonious message. The circumstances surrounding the writing of the Bible would seem to guarantee its fallibility, and, yet, the message from Genesis to Revelation is uncannily consistent.
Another reason why one should believe the Bible is its accuracy. The Bible should not be confused with a science textbook, but that does not mean that the Bible does not speak to issues that are scientific in nature. The water cycle was described in Scripture centuries before it was a scientific discovery. In some cases science and the Bible have seemed to be at odds with each other. Yet, when science has advanced, the scientific theories have proved wrong and the Bible proved right. For example, it used to be standard medical practice to bleed patients as a cure for illness. Many people died because of excessive blood loss. Now medical professionals know that bloodletting as a cure for most diseases is counterproductive. The Bible always taught that “the life of a creature is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).
The Bible’s truth claims concerning world history have also been substantiated. Skeptics used to criticize the Bible for its mention of the Hittite people (e.g., 2 Kings 7:6). The lack of any archaeological evidence to support the existence of a Hittite culture was often cited as a rebuttal against Scripture. In 1876, however, archaeologists discovered evidence of the Hittite nation, and by the early 20th century the vastness of the Hittite nation and its influence in the ancient world was common knowledge.
The scientific and historical accuracy of the Bible is important evidence of the Bible’s trustworthiness, but the Bible also contains fulfilled prophecies. Some of the biblical writers made claims about future events centuries in advance. If any one of the events predicted had occurred, it would be astounding. But the Bible contains many, many prophecies. Some of the predictions were fulfilled in a short amount of time (Abraham and Sarah had a son, Peter denied Jesus three times, Paul was a witness for Jesus in Rome, etc.). Other predictions were fulfilled hundreds of years later. The 300 messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus could not have reasonably been fulfilled by one person unless some greater power was involved. Specific prophecies like Jesus’ birthplace, activities, manner of death, and resurrection demonstrate the preternatural accuracy of Scripture.
When it is put to the test, the Bible is proved true in every area. Its truth extends to the spiritual, as well. That means that when the Bible says the Hittite nation existed, then we can believe that there were Hittites, and when the Bible teaches that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), then we need to believe that, too. And, when the Bible tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and that “whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), then we can and should believe that, also.