What Evidence is there that the Bible is Inspired?
Alastair Sinclair, Crosshouse, Scotland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Scripture writers claim over 4,000 times to be recording the word of God. This is summed up in one verse, where ‘all scripture’ is deemed to be inspired, literally ‘God-breathed’, 2 Tim. 3. 16. To make such a claim is either an outrageous fraud of deluded men, OR confirmation that the Bible must be taken very seriously as God’s direct communication to mankind. While ultimately for the child of God, it is ‘by faith we understand’, nevertheless this brief article considers some of the evidence to back up the claims of inspiration.
Primarily consider the preservation of scripture. Few if any contest that the Bible is the most influential book ever written. It is both the most loved and hated of books. It is copied and corrupted in other religious writings and attacked, suppressed, distorted and vilified by many. For three centuries imperial Rome sought to destroy it, culminating in the Roman Emperor Diocletian issuing an edict to destroy all Bibles. Over a burnt Bible he raised a monument to proclaim the name Christian extinguished, yet within twenty-five years he was dead and the emperor Constantine commissioned fifty copies of the Bible to be prepared at government expense. For over a millennium ecclesiastical Rome sought to restrict it to clergy and a language it was never written in, Latin. Yet God raised up reformers who championed a return to ‘scripture alone’. For the English language, these included Wycliffe, who translated it from Latin, and most notably William Tyndale, whose life’s work was to translate the New Testament and the Pentateuch from the original Greek and Hebrew. His work was the greatest contribution to the King James Version of 1611, the translators of which sadly never acknowledged the debt owed to this greatest of all Britons who was strangled and burned for his desire that the ‘boy that driveth the plough’ would know more of God’s word than clerics like Thomas More and others who conspired to have Tyndale killed. His final words were, ‘May God open the eyes of the King of England’. Remarkably that despotic king, Henry VIII, allowed some distribution of scripture, and his brief successor Edward, had 80,000 English Bibles published in 1547. His successor, Mary, once more sought to burn Bibles and believers. Over the succeeding centuries it has continued to be discredited and attacked, but has flourished.
Like all ancient texts no originals could be preserved, but both the age and volume of copies is unparalleled. For example, there are over 5,000 ancient manuscripts of New Testament material and over 20,000 sources. When these copies of manuscripts and fragments are compared, remarkably – I would suggest miraculously – they result in an unprecedented degree of agreement, above 98%. By comparison, the best authenticated ancient secular writing is Homer’s Iliad with only 647 sources and none nearly as old as New Testament ones, some of which are within less than a century of the original writing. The oldest preserved complete New Testament manuscript is the Codex Vaticanus, which is held in Rome and dates to c. AD. 350. However, in 1859 a second complete Codex, almost as old, was found in St Catherine’s Monastery for the Russian Czar. After the rise of communism, another world power which sought to destroy the Bible, this Codex was purchased by the United Kingdom in 1933 for £100,000, half of which was raised by public subscription, as a gift to the nation. An ironic comparison is that the first edition of Voltaire, the French sceptic, was sold in Paris around this time for less than three pence. He had predicted in 1776 that, ‘One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker’. How tragic that our country, which once so valued this book, now disregards it. As God’s people, it should drive us to our knees in repentance and supplication! Despite all the efforts of rebellious mankind, God has wondrously preserved His word.
Next, consider the prophecies or predictions of scripture. Strong’s concordance lists 115 Old Testament prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus fulfilled in the New Testament account of His first coming. These include the place, time, and manner of His birth. Similar details are true of His death. Yet these prophecies were made in books written by fifteen different writers between 400 and 1800 years in advance. Isaiah challenges false idols to do similar, 41. 21-24. The coming of a king called Josiah is foretold 327 years in advance, 1 Kgs. 13. 2, and nearly five centuries of Jewish history culminating in the exact moment of the death of Christ, Dan. 9. 24-26. A salutary warning is required at this point as there are almost three times as many prophecies regarding Christ’s second coming in judgement, not salvation, which will also be fulfilled in detail. Again, the critics challenged this, claiming many of these books were not as old as Jewish scholars claimed. But then a young Muslim Arab went into a cave near Qumran and discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of which, including Daniel, were dated much older than the critics claimed, once again substantiating the word of God.
Now consider the overall plan of scripture. In total there are around forty writers. They wrote mainly in two languages; they were in many countries across two continents over nearly two millennia. Yet, as A.W. Pink states, there is ‘One system of doctrine, one code of ethics, one plan of salvation and one rule of faith’.1 This is what proves that other writings, like the Apocrypha, are not inspired as they contain contradictions. Additionally, the Apocrypha never claims to be the word of God; is not in Hebrew like all scripture at that point; is never quoted by the Lord, or elsewhere in the New Testament, and was never recognized by the Hebrew scholars or even Jerome, who produced the Latin Bible. The Bible is utterly consistent on sin, righteousness, faith, salvation, eternal punishment, and one true God. There is only one sinless, perfect man presented, the Lord Jesus. Even the writers, who make great claims about their writings, make no such claims about themselves. Many, like Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, protest their inadequacy. They also constantly reveal their own failings, those of their nation and even heroes of the Bible like Moses, David, Peter, and Samson. Yet they constantly claim it is ‘the word of the Lord’, as Jeremiah does in chapter 1 verse 2, and as the opening verses of many Minor Prophets record. No other book is so honest and all-revealing, even to the shame of the writers, because they could only record what God decreed, 2 Pet. 1. 21. Often they did not even understand what they wrote, because it is God’s word and not theirs; 1 Pet. 1. 10-12, Dan. 12. 8, 9, 13.
Consider further the amazing patterns of scripture. Seven sayings across three Gospels; seven pre-incarnation appearings of the Lord Jesus across the Old Testament, and many others; the parallelism found in many of the sevens, and also in books like Judges and Romans, all pointing to an overriding hand beyond men, and not countless coincidences or conspiracies. Most of all, look at the boundless pictures of Christ, the one overriding subject of the Book. He is seen in the tabernacle, the temple, the sacrifices, the feasts, characters and objects. Think of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Zechariah and others; ‘every whit speaks’ of Him. The Bible is a complete revelation of God. It contains God’s entire plan of salvation. It does not need to be supplemented by churches, cults or so-called latter-day prophets. The Lord Jesus Himself predicted that the Holy Spirit would complete the New Testament, bringing ‘all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you’ – the Gospels; guiding us ‘into all truth’ – the Epistles; and shewing us ‘things to come’ – the prophetic scriptures, John 14. 26; 16. 13. Indeed, the closing verses warn that it must not be added to, or taken away from, Rev. 22. 18, 19. Peter confirms that scripture comes from God not man, 2 Pet. 1. 20, 21, and outlines its parts as ‘the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour’, 2 Pet. 3. 2, thus summarizing both Old and New Testaments. He further asserts that the writings of Paul are part of the ‘scriptures’ in verses 15 and 16. This is scripture once more authenticating itself, as Paul’s writings would come under particular attack as they reconfirm divine truth regarding the distinction of the sexes, marriage, divorce, and sexual practices. Some might try to question Paul’s writings as he was not an original apostle, but one ‘born out of due time’, 1 Cor. 15. 8, 9, but Peter, the leader of the original apostles, authenticates Paul. This is doubly remarkable as Paul had to withstand Peter ‘to the face’, Gal. 2. 11, once more demonstrating that scripture is from God, not men, and they can only write as God moves them by His Spirit.
Finally, we must see the power of scripture as proof that it comes from God, Rom. 1. 16. It is the rock upon which the believer can rest in a time of crisis; Job 19. 25; Ps. 17. 15; 2 Tim. 4. 13; 2 Cor. 5. 1. It transforms lives, societies and nations. Since the King James Version of 1611, its influence for good was felt throughout the English-speaking world. United States presidents have said this of it: ‘That book is the rock on which this republic rests’, Andrew Jackson, 7th President; ‘I have always said, and will always say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better homes, better citizens, better fathers and better husbands’, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President. On his deathbed, Sir Walter Scott, the author of many well-loved books, said, ‘Bring me the book’. When asked which book, he replied, ‘There is but one book!’. On 27th December 2008, Mathew Parris, a confirmed atheist, wrote an article in The Times declaring that ‘what Africa needs is God’, where he admitted that as one who grew up in Africa the only thing he had ever witnessed which could truly transform these nations was Bible-based Christianity. Would that our world today would turn to this wonderful book given to us by God Himself and still warm with His breath!
1 The Divine Inspiration of the Bible, A. W. Pink, available at http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Inspiration/inspire_07.htm
AUTHOR PROFILE: Alastair Sinclair is in fellowship with the assembly in Crosshouse, Ayrshire, and is active in oral ministry throughout Scotland. He writes regularly for Believers Magazine, is married with a young family, and works in the IT industry.