The History Of The Bible & Why We Can Trust It
Have you ever wondered how the Bible came to be? How it was written? Where we get our books, chapters, and verses from?
Have you ever doubted the Bible’s validity because, I mean, it was written by imperfect people 29471039902 years ago?
Have you ever thought to yourself, “How in the world can I believe in and center my life around some ancient book that has been translated hundreds of times and passed down over the centuries? Logic states that it must have inaccuracies in it.”
Hey, I’m not shaming your doubts. In fact, I encourage you to doubt IF it leads you to find out, if it pushes you to do the hard work of researching, if it forces you to have an open mind...and if it forces you to MAKE UP YOUR MIND DADGUMMIT and stop sitting on the fence about what you believe! (I don’t care what you believe as long as you can tell me with 110% certainty that what you believe is right and that you have done the necessary research and answer-finding to support your belief.)
I had those doubts and questions, too, so I did a little research and found out some pretty amazing things about the Bible, and I’m now 2000% absolutely, positively, certain that the Bible is the Word of God, it is completely infallible, and it can be trusted.
Knowing the history of the Bible and how it came to be is important for every Christ-follower for a few reasons:
It gives you more surety of faith.
It opens your eyes to the wonders of our great God and gives you more to praise Him for!
It teaches you to rely on the Word and make it your chief authority because of it’s power.
It allows you to confidently discuss biblical matters with nonbelievers.
So…let’s get to it!
HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO BE
The Bible we have today was first canonized, or recognized as inspired by God and authoritative, in 367 AD by a guy named Athanasius, after centuries of research and reflection, starting in 140 AD with the first “canon” that turned out to be incomplete.
Protestants have 66 books in the Bible, while Roman Catholics and some Eastern Orthodox churches have a few more known as the Apocrypha, which is not considered to be historically accurate or divinely inspired in Judaism and Protestant Christianity. There are some ancient writings that many have debated adding to the Bible, but they haven’t been added because they don’t follow the criteria.
The criteria that books must meet to be in the Bible:
Was the book written by an eyewitness, a prophet of God, or an apostle, or was it recognized as truth by an apostle?
Was the writer authenticated by miracles to confirm his message?
Does the book tell the truth about God, with no falsehood or contradiction?
Does the book evince a divine capacity to transform lives?
Was the book accepted as God's Word by the people to whom it was first delivered and the doctrinally loyal churches?
Also, if Jesus quoted from an Old Testament book, we automatically know that OT book is scripture (Luke 24:44). In the same way, New Testament books were regarded as scripture when they were mentioned by other NT authors. For example, Peter recognized Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).
All of our 66 books in the Bible follow these criteria, and they are the only writings that do. All other writings have some sort of inerrancy, whether it be historically or doctrinally.
Our chapters were first put into the Bible in 1227 AD by Stephen Langton so that it would be quicker and easier to find scripture. In AD 1448, a Jewish rabbi named Nathan put verses into the Hebrew Old Testament, and Robert Estienne put verses into the New Testament in 1555.
The books of the Bible are not in chronological order because they’re divided by the type of literature they are. For example, Genesis through Esther are historical genres, Job through Song of Solomon are poetry, and Romans through Jude are written letters.
We are careful to say that God determined the canon, and the church discovered the canon. The canon of Scripture was not created by the church; rather, the church discovered or recognized it. In other words, God's Word was inspired and authoritative from its inception--it "stands firm in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89)--and the church simply recognized that fact and accepted it.
Okay, so now we know the lite version of how the Bible came to be. However, you don’t have to be a scholar to know that there are some holes in the reasoning mentioned above that any skilled lawyer could latch onto. Let’s be honest, if we don’t believe that Jesus is God, then obviously we don’t really care about the fact that he quotes from a few OT books. Therefore, the validity of those books and the entire Bible is still up for debate.
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.
So the question remains: Can the Bible be trusted?
WHY WE CAN TRUST THE BIBLE
First of all, let me say that the Bible we have today is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:15-17), meaning that the Holy Spirit wrote the books of the Bible through the hand of 40 (or more) different men.
How do we know this is true? Well, when I was struggling with this question, my immediate thought was of my own experience. There have been many times when I have had the opportunity to share Christ with others, and I was terrified because I had no idea what to say. Seriously, my mind was completely blank. Then, I just prayed for God to give me the words to say, took a leap of faith, and started talking. Somehow, I was able to speak fluently and say precisely what I needed to say at the right moment, in the right way (tone + inflection). Every single time this happens, I feel a supernatural sense of peace and and this deep passion in my bones. Half the time, I don’t even remember what I said shortly after (which is weird for me, because as an introvert, I play back in my head everything I say!), but it always impacts the other person in a big way somehow. I am completely convinced that the Holy Spirit spoke through me on those occasions. Therefore, it’s not difficult for me to believe that He did the same thing for the authors of the Bible.
But, I get it, you need some more concrete evidence, especially with me telling you about my woo-woo stories. I don’t blame you!
Let’s start here: there are both internal (found in the Bible) and external (found outside the Bible, such as archaeology and science) evidences that the Bible is for realsies.
There are 66 different books in the Bible, written on 3 different continents, in various environments (prisons, deserts, royal courts), in 3 different languages, over a period of about 1500 years, by more than 40 men from different walks in life (some were tax collectors, shepherds, fishermen, kings, etc. so it’s not like they could ever possibly agree on anything...because #humanity), addressing various controversial issues. And yet everything in the Bible is unified, meaning that there are no contradictions. All of the authors said the same thing about God. All of the authors had similar stories with God. All of the authors agreed about God. More than that, the authors do not contradict each other. Tell me, when was the last time 40 people agreed on anything???
The message of the Bible is so freaking counter-cultural that humanity would never have thought of it. The Bible teaches that mankind is evil (humans would never say that because we like to think we’re good!) and that there’s nothing we can do to fix this (again, humans like to make themselves look strong) and that we need a Savior to fix it for us.
The people in the Bible were willing to be persecuted, tortured, and killed for what they claimed. Obviously, they truly believed that they heard from God.
The Bible claims to be the Word of God, and the authors claim to be inspired by God.
John 16:13 says that the Holy Spirit will guide us in truth, and millions of Christians worldwide whom the Holy Spirit dwells in have agreed that the Bible is Truth.
The Bible has radically changed more people’s lives than any other book ever written. Murderers, drug addicts, judges, students, uncivilized tribespeople, business people, and every person in-between all over the world have been completely transformed and proclaim the same thing: that Jesus is God our Savior and the Bible is Truth.
Jesus fulfilled over 300 (very detailed) prophecies written hundreds of years before He was ever born. The odds of this happening are astronomical. The odds of 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The odds of 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies is 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power (10 with 157 0s behind it!). 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus!
"The Bible is the most well-known book in the history of the world, and no book has been attacked more. Skeptics have tried to destroy the authority of the Biblefor the last eighteen hundred years. It has undergone every kind of scrutiny possible from archaeology, science,philosophy, and computers.” (Source) And NOBODY has been able to disprove a single thing in the Bible. Not to mention the fact that it is the one book that has been outlawed in more countries than any other book because the leaders of those countries recognized its power…and it’s still here!
“For years skeptics thought the story of the falling walls of Jericho was a myth. However, in the 1930’s, Dr. John Garstang made a remarkable discovery. He states, 'As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely, the attackerswould be able to clamber up and over the ruins of the city.' This is remarkable because city walls fall inward, not outward." (Source)
"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.” (Source)
And these are just to name a few. If you want to know of more evidence that has been found to support the Bible, just google it. There’s SO MUCH.
But now, let’s talk about a couple arguments people have against the Bible.
You know the game Telephone where you whisper something in someone’s ear, and they whisper it in someone else’s ear, and so on until it comes back to you? And how what comes back to you is never what you originally said? Yeah, some people think that that’s what happened in the Bible, too. That all of the stories were passed down from generation to generation, and the story may have been stretched and manipulated to sound better. But we have evidence otherwise: “New Testament writings were composed within a few decades of the events they describe, far too early for legend or myth to overtake actual history. In fact, the basic framework of the gospel can be dated to a formal creed just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, according to Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. Historians have access to a tremendous number of manuscripts, proving the New Testament was reliably and quickly copied and distributed.” (Source)
Aaaaaaaaaand then there’s those who think that the Bible was simply written/manipulated in order for people to gain power and control. No doubt, there have been many people who have used the holy Word Of God for their own agenda, BUT that can literally happen with any form of writing. I could take one of the Harry Potter books and use it to control others if I was really ambitious. It’s like saying that guns kill people; no, sweetie, people kill people, sometimes with guns. We know that the Bible was not written to simply gain power, well, because of what it is. Countless verses throughout the entire Bible tell people — even COMMAND people — to deny themselves, be humble, give to others, and to pretty much do the exact opposite of gaining power. Not to mention the fact that early Christians were persecuted and martyred for believing in and following the Bible. Does that sound power-hungry to you?
And the thing that WOWs me the most…
Over the hundreds of years that the Bible has been copied and translated, it remains 99% (not an exaggeration; it’s a real statistic) accurate to the original manuscripts. The 1% that is inaccurate? Punctuation, grammar, and word order. SERIOUSLY! There are no discrepancies in doctrine or the original message of the Bible over the 1900+ years that the Bible has been copied and translated. None. Nada. Zilch. The Bible you have in your hands is over 99% accurate to the original inerrant Word Of God. Holy crap on a cracker, that’s amazing!!!
fun facts about the bible
It is the most well-documented book from the ancient world because it has more archaeological, historical, and manuscript evidence than any other book.
For the New Testament, there are currently more than 5,000 manuscripts, with most early copies anywhere from 200 to 300 years later, and some less than 100 years later. This gives a better than 99 percent confidence in the contents of the original text.
The full Bible has been translated into 532 languages. It has been partially translated into 2,883 languages.
While it took over 1,000 years to write the Old Testament, the New Testament was written within a period of 50-75 years.
And that’s the Bible. This is only a small dose of the information that’s out there on the history of the Bible and all that jazz, but I think the facts speak for themselves.
The Bible is the powerful, inerrant, true Word Of God. It is the sole authority in our lives, the evidence of God’s love for us, and the most important book we could ever read.
Maybe you’re sitting there with doubts in your head, wondering if this whole God thing is real. Or maybe you hate God. Or maybe the Bible scares you or makes you angry.
I get it.
I’ve been in your place. I know what you’re thinking.
But here’s the thing. I found my answers. I researched like my life depended on it. I did the hard, uncomfortable work of digging. I looked at evidence from both sides of the argument objectively.
I wanted to know with 100% certainty that what I believed in was true, and I wanted to find the truth for myself without just trusting what I was told…because my eternity depended on it.
I dare you to find the answers to your questions. I dare you to lean into your discomfort and figure out what you really believe. I dare you to find the truth for yourself.
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