Is the Bible really the Word of God, or is it simply a collection of ancient myths? Is the Bible inerrant? How can we really know that the Bible is true?
The Bible is one of the most influential books in history. Millions of people believe it is the Word of God, and many try to use it as the foundation for their lives. And yet many biblical critics label it as a work of fiction.
How do we know the Bible is true?
Archaeological evidence that the Bible is true
Contrary to what some assume, the Bible is not a collection of made-up stories about people who never existed. Archaeological evidence has repeatedly disproved the notion that all the people, places and events in the Bible were simply fabricated.
Consider just a few of the discoveries that have confirmed biblical accounts:
- The Tel Dan Stela. In 1993 and 1994, fragments of a stela (inscribed stone) were found at Tel Dan in northern Israel. The stela contained an inscription with references to “Israel” and “the House of David.” Prior to this discovery, critics had disputed whether the biblical King David actually existed.
- The Pilate Stone. Many critics dismissed Pontius Pilate as a mythical figure. But in 1961, a block of limestone was discovered in Caesarea, with an inscription that contained the name “Pontius Pilatus” and referred to him as the prefect of Judaea, confirming the biblical record.
- The authenticity of Acts. Sir William Ramsay was convinced that the book of Acts was a hoax, as it contained many details that had no independent verification. He traveled to Asia Minor in the late 1800s with the intention of proving his belief. However, after extensive research, he concluded that “you may press the words of Luke [the writer of Acts] in a degree beyond any other historian’s and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.”
The above discoveries are just a small sampling of many archaeological confirmations that help us know the Bible is true. Read more about this in our article “Biblical Archaeology.”
What does the Bible claim?
Although archaeology has verified many biblical accounts, the Bible does not claim to be a history book. The apostle Paul wrote that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
The Greek word theopneustos literally means “God-breathed,” indicating that all Scripture is literally the Word of God! Although God has used human beings to convey His words (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:21), those words still originate from Him.
The term “Scripture” includes what we call the Old Testament—which is what was available when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16—and also what we call the New Testament—which was assembled later and includes Paul’s epistles (2 Peter 3:16) and other books. In other words, the whole Bible is the Word of God.
Is the Bible inerrant?
Jesus Christ Himself stated that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17). In fact, “the entirety of [God’s] word is truth” (Psalm 119:160), because “God … cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). The implication is that if Scripture contains errors originating from God, we can no longer trust the Bible as a basis for belief.
After all, if the Bible falsely claims to be true in its entirety, then why would any of its other claims be true? How could we believe the passages stating that God is an all-powerful Being who wants to give us eternal life if other sections of the Bible contain falsehoods? The only way we can trust the validity of the Bible’s message is if Christ’s statement is true: that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
We believe that the original manuscripts of the Bible were completely inerrant, though some human errors have crept into the copies and translations available today. However, comparing the most carefully copied and preserved manuscripts allows us to come close to the inerrant original. And, as you will see, we believe all apparent contradictions can be resolved.
Fulfilled prophecy helps us know the Bible is true
There is perhaps no more compelling evidence that the Bible is the true Word of God than fulfilled prophecy. When you consider how difficult it can be to predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone centuries from now, it becomes apparent that of all biblical content, prophecy would be the most likely category to contain false statements. And yet despite the fact that a large percentage of the Bible is prophecy, not a single prophetic statement has been proven wrong—and while many statements have a future fulfillment, a large number of detailed prophecies have already been fulfilled.
One of the incredible prophecies is of Cyrus, the first ruler of the Persian Empire. In Isaiah 44:28, God stated that Cyrus would order the building of the temple in Jerusalem. This verse was written before Cyrus was even born, and before the temple had been destroyed!
Two centuries later, this prophecy came to pass when Cyrus issued a decree sending the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4).
Biblical critics are left with only two options: either admit that the Bible is the Word of God, as He alone could have foretold the future with such accuracy; or argue that the prophecy in Isaiah was actually written after Cyrus’ decree. Many people choose the second option, refusing to believe that the first is possible.
More fulfilled prophecies
However, it is not just a single prophecy that must be discredited by arguing that it was written after the fact.
For example, through God’s inspiration, Daniel accurately foretold the succession of powerful empires that would be dominant over the next several centuries. The record of history validated Daniel’s statements: the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire, which was supplanted by the Greco-Macedonian Empire, which was eventually replaced by the Roman Empire.
Another prophecy is found in Daniel 9:24-27, known as the “70 weeks” prophecy, which points to the precise year when Jesus Christ would begin His ministry on this earth—more than 500 years after the verses were written.
Only God can precisely foretell the future, which is why fulfilled prophecy is part of how we know the Bible is true.When presented with such detailed prophecies that have been accurately fulfilled, biblical critics assert that the prophecies were written after the events they foretold. However, their claims are not made based on any definitive supporting evidence, but rather stem from the argument that there cannot be any other reasonable explanation.
However, there is an explanation that many people refuse to accept: Biblical prophecy has been proven time and time again to be unfailingly accurate because it comes from God.
As God stated: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:9-10). Only God can precisely foretell the future, which is why fulfilled prophecy is part of how we know the Bible is true.
Learn more in our article “Fulfilled Prophecy.”
Does science disprove the Bible?
With the rapid pace of scientific advancements, many of the details contained in the Bible have come under attack. One well-known controversy centers on the age of the earth, which scientists estimate to be billions of years old. However, based on biblical chronologies, there have only been about 6,000 years of human history since the creation account in Genesis 1.
So is the Bible in error? No! Genesis 1:1 states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” However, Genesis 1:2 states that “the earth was without form, and void”—the Hebrew word for “without form” is tohu. But according to Isaiah 45:18, God “did not create [the earth] in vain”; the Hebrew word for “in vain” is tohu, the same word found in Genesis 1:2.
The implication is that unstated events occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 that laid waste to the earth, events that took place over time—even billions of years. Therefore, the Bible does not contradict science with respect to the age of the earth. (Learn more in our article “The Gap Theory.”)
In fact, science is actually in harmony with the Bible. After all, God is the One who created the various physical laws that scientists try to uncover! Multiple biblical accounts demonstrate advanced knowledge that was only “discovered” in recent centuries.
Consider a few examples:
- The Bible refers to the number of stars as far greater than anything a human could count (Genesis 15:5; Jeremiah 33:22; Hebrews 11:12). Until the telescope was invented in 1608, many scientists—including the mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy—believed that the number of stars was only on the order of 1,000. We now know there are trillions upon trillions of stars in the universe.
- Many people dismiss the story of the Flood as a myth, and yet the dimensions of Noah’s ark (Genesis 6:14-16) were similar in ratio to modern-day ships, making the ark very stable and difficult to capsize—unlike the cube described in the Babylonian “Gilgamesh” legend of the Flood.
- God commanded the Israelites to follow a basic sanitation principle when dealing with human waste: bury it outside of their camp (Deuteronomy 23:12-13). Even in today’s world, failure to properly dispose of waste has led to outbreaks of cholera, leading to tens of thousands of deaths a year.
Although the Bible is not primarily a scientific work, it contains many true scientific facts—which should be expected from the Word of God, as He created the whole universe!
What about apparent contradictions in the Bible?
Incredibly, although the Bible has been proven true time and time again in “difficult” areas such as prophecy or science, it seems to run into a roadblock in what might arguably be the easiest area to avoid problems—not contradicting itself.
Bible contradictions explained
Many critics point to the fact that certain biblical passages seem to conflict.
For example, in John’s account of Christ’s crucifixion, “about the sixth hour … [Pilate] said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’” (John 19:14)—before Christ was crucified. However, the other Gospel accounts state that “there was darkness over all the land” beginning “from the sixth hour” (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44)—after Christ had been crucified!
Is John’s account in conflict with the other three? No. Because the Jewish state was under Roman control, John used the Roman method of counting time—in which the first hour began at midnight, and so the end of his “sixth hour” was at 6 a.m.
By contrast, the other three Gospel writers used the Jewish method of counting time—in which the first hour began at 6 a.m., and so their “sixth hour” ended at noon. There is no conflict.
Another example of an apparent contradiction concerns how many sons Absalom had. In 2 Samuel 14:27 it says, “To Absalom were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar.” But 2 Samuel 18:18 says that Absalom set up a pillar which he named for himself because, “he said, ‘I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.’”
As Gleason L. Archer wrote in New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, “By the time he set up his monument (which may have been a year or two before his rebellion against his father, David), Absalom had no male heirs surviving to him. But it does not prove that none had been born to him previously.
“Keil and Delitzsch (Samuel, p. 412) point out, in regard to 2 Samuel 14:27, that ‘contrary to general usage, the names of the sons are not given, in all probability for no other reason than because they died in infancy. Consequently, as Absalom had no sons, he afterwards erected a pillar to preserve his name’” (p. 184).
Learn more in our article “Contradictions in the Bible?” and related articles.
The Bible is reliable
Every supposed contradiction in the Bible has a reasonable explanation, such as a mistake in copying manuscripts. Critics argue that these explanations are “convenient” ways of ignoring biblical errors, and yet when confronted with fulfilled prophecy, they fall back on one explanation: the prophecies were written after the events.
Ironically, according to that criticism, biblical writers supposedly succeeded in creating an elaborate hoax to make prophecy appear legitimate and yet failed to achieve the simple task of making sure that different biblical accounts matched each other!
However, when we consider the alternative—that the Bible truly does come from God, and He inspired different writers with unique personalities and perspectives to write His words—then apparent discrepancies in the Bible do make sense and can be resolved with enough research.
As Dr. Archer wrote in New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties: “As I have dealt with one apparent discrepancy after another and have studied the alleged contradictions between the biblical record and the evidence of linguistics, archaeology, or science, my confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture has been repeatedly verified and strengthened by the discovery that almost every problem in Scripture that has ever been discovered by man, from ancient times until now, has been dealt with in a completely satisfactory manner by the biblical text itself—or else by objective archaeological information. The deductions that may be validly drawn from ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, or Akkadian documents all harmonize with the biblical record. …
“There is a good and sufficient answer in Scripture itself to refute every charge that has ever been leveled against it. But this is only to be expected from the kind of book the Bible asserts itself to be, the inscripturation of the infallible, inerrant Word of the Living God” (p. 12).
Prove the Bible by obeying it
At the heart of many people’s resistance to believing in the truth of the Bible is an unwillingness to obey what it says. After all, if the Bible is God’s Word and human beings are to live “by every word of God” (Luke 4:4), then that means we must strive to shape our thoughts and behavior to conform to its instructions! Unfortunately, our “advanced” society often portrays the Bible as a restrictive, outdated text with little application to today’s world. But Isaiah 40:8 states that “the word of … God stands forever”—it never goes out-of-date!
So how do we know the Bible is true? Try putting it to the test! If it truly is the Word of God, then following His instructions will lead to blessings (Deuteronomy 5:32-33), with the ultimate blessing being eternal life in God’s family! That is God’s purpose for every human being; He only wants what is best for us, which is why the Bible should be more than just an academic curiosity—it should govern everything we do.
Prove the truth of the Bible for yourself, and allow God to change your life.