We cannot trust the Bible even if you do accept the God of the Bible, it has been said, because it was written by man. Man, as the Bible states, is not perfect. Therefore, the Bible was written by imperfect people which means the Bible itself is not perfect. Since we cannot know what parts of the Bible to trust, how can we trust it at all? It is also said that we know it has errors in it because it was written thousands of years ago and the best we have are copies of copies of copies of copies. As we all know, in the game of telephone, barely ever does a message that is passed among many hands comes out the same as it started. In short, the argument is, time has altered whatever original meaning the Bible had and the Bible we have today cannot be trusted to be the “Bible” as it was originally written.
Of course, I disagree, but more importantly, I have reasons to disagree. First of all, telephone is not an honest comparison. Telephone relies on a persons memory, while the written word has a physical reliance to it. We do not doubt our text books even though they are just copies. If you doubt this, think about proving this empirically. Take a written phrase, say,
“An education is only as good as how you use it.”
The phrase can be as long or as short as you want it to be, just like in telephone. Then go out and ask people to make a copy of the written phrase. Take that copy and give it to someone else to transcribe and so on and so forth. Keep going, whether it takes 5 times or 500 times, until you feel satisfied that there truly is a difference between the game of telephone and the transcription of the written word.
Since this argument is an archetype in the field of archaeology, let us answer this qualm with their own rhetoric. Of all the ancient books we have; Plato, Tacitus, Homer, etc. Which of these books have ever raised questions of reliability? Not one, but it does make sense does it not that the Bible should be questioned since we stake so much upon it. So let us look at it closely.
Archaeology judges the reliability of ancient text in two main ways (not the truthfulness of the text but the genuineness of the text as originally written). First, an ancient text is judged by how many ancient manuscripts we have of the text in question. Depending on how many we have, the more trust we can put into the reliability of the text because we can compare and contrast the different manuscripts and weed out any transcription errors we may find. The second way in which we judge reliability is how early is the manuscripts compared to when it was originally written. If five hundred years pass before we get our earliest manuscript of a text, the more possibility for error to have mixed into it, if only one hundred years have passed, that’s around the second/third generation, the text gains more credibility in comparison.
Let us look to see what the Greek and Roman authors have to the Bible.
Julius Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars” - 10 manuscripts - 1,000 yrs.
Pliny’s “Natural History - 7 manuscripts - 750 yrs.
Thucydides’ “History” - 8 manuscripts - 1,300 yrs
Plato - 7 manuscripts - 1,300 yrs.
Tacitus’ “Annals” - 20 manuscripts - 1,000 yrs.
Homer’s “Iliad” is the second most reliable text of ancient times. We have at least 600 manuscripts. It was written around the 8th Century B.C., our earliest manuscript is placed in the 10th Century A.D.
Now the comparison. The New Testament alone, not taking into account the Old Testament, has over 25,000 ancient manuscripts and the earliest manuscripts we have of the New Testament are amazingly as early as 40-60 years from when it was originally written. That’s within the first generation.
Another amazing aspect of the New Testament is that it was quoted so often by the early church leaders that even if we had no ancient manuscripts, we would be able to reconstruct the whole of the New Testament minus two sentences with only the use of quoting the early church leaders.
Archaeologically, the Bible is an absolute gold mine, as reliable as the most purified gold. Literally tens of thousands of documents archaeologists have spent their lives studying. Out of it, only about 40 lines have been debated (compared to 764 lines of the Iliad under dispute) and not one of these 40 lines change any determinable importance of the text put forth from the Bible nor do they challenge the understanding or meaning of the text. Any dispute of the Bible, with scholastic honesty, would have to be set upon the truthfulness of what was written, not upon the reliability of what was written.