The Bible consists of 66 separate books, written over a period of about 1,500 years, in three different languages—Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek—on three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The Bible has over 40 separate authors, including kings, peasants, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, a shepherd, a military general, a cupbearer, a doctor, a tax collector, and a rabbi. These writers included murderers, adulterers, human rights abusers, traitors, and whiners. Each wrote under different circumstances, ranging from the battlefield to prison to palace living.
The Bible is a collection of letters, sermons, laws, poetry, history, prayers, praise, practical sayings, and prophecies. It covers a variety of subjects, including the existence, attributes, and works of God; the nature of his relationship with the world; the creation of the universe; the corruption of man and the earth; the meaning and purpose of life; and the ultimate destiny of humanity. It includes many historical and geographical references that validate its accuracy.
A few of the Old Testament writers knew their co-authors, and each succeeding scribe could read the books previously written, but none of these writers could have known the New Testament would be written, much less what its authors would write.
The New Testament authors could read the Old Testament books, and many of them knew each other. However, the earliest New Testament writers could not have known what later authors would write.
Despite this diversity of authorship, structure, topics, and writing styles, as well as the complexity of the subject matter, the Old and New Testaments complement and complete each other.
Together, both testaments provide a continuous and harmonious account of God’s dealings with man without any contradiction, because they are the product of a single mind. Just as God is unchangeable, internally consistent, and perfect, so is his message to the world.
Both the Old and New Testaments were divinely inspired and inerrant, in their original writings. God did not move the pens of entranced authors. Instead, he enlightened the writers in many ways, on many levels, built his message into their lives, and motivated them to record it.
Each Bible verse has equal merit. Some editions print the New Testament words of Jesus in red ink, which may lead readers to mistakenly think these verses are holier than all others. This presumption is incorrect. The entire Bible is divinely inspired.
Preservation And Assembly
Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the Old Testament was maintained by a group of specially trained artisans who used exacting techniques to precisely copy every detail of the preceding edition and double-check the latest version.
Assembly of the New Testament began soon after apostles started writing. Its final configuration was established a few decades after the last book was written, based on whether the authors were contemporary witnesses of the events they described.
The thematic and prophetic consistency of both testaments evidences divine oversight of the preservation and assembly processes.
As with other ancient writings—Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Caesar, etc.—the original Old and New Testament documents have disintegrated into dust. All that remain are copies of the original manuscripts. The Bible we read today has been reconstructed from these copies.
The underlying accuracy and reliability of these copies, relative to the original manuscripts, is a function of three tests: How close to the time of the original writings can we date them? How many copies do we have? How consistent is the text from one copy to another?
By these measures, the Bible is by far the most reliable text of the ancient writings, including the books central to the other major religions.
In aggregate, we have thousands of partial and complete copies of the Old and New Testaments, many more than we have of other aged texts. Portions of the New Testament copies can be dated to within a few decades of the actual events, a gap that beats most other ancient writings by hundreds of years. There is great consistency in the earliest copies.
Some people believe the Bible is incomplete. They claim God amended the original Biblical teachings through subsequent revelations to more recent authors. However, Jesus declared the Old Testament complete and accurate. His deity validates this representation.
The Book of Revelation states explicitly that it is the final written word from God, and no further elaboration would be forthcoming. Its prophetic fulfillment, which is currently in process, validates this pronouncement.
Some critics say other gospels, such as those supposedly written by Judas and Thomas, are as valid as the four written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, the textual reliability of these other gospels does not hold up under scrutiny.
Other critics contend the Bible is full of contradictions. There are none. Some purported contradictions take verses out of context. Others reflect doctrinal misunderstandings, or incorrect assumptions, about historical context.
Some Bible passages appear contradictory due to the limitations inherent in translation. For example, the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek writings include over 11,000 words. The typical English translation has about 6,000 words.
Many passages identified as contradictory are actually complementary—two descriptions of the same event by two different gospel writers. These seeming contradictions indicate there was no corroboration between the gospel writers.
Some skeptics question the credibility of the four New Testament gospels, by contending the miracles Jesus performed were hoaxes.
Jesus performed his miracles publicly. They were seen by believers and unbelievers alike. The Jewish religious leaders and Roman government officials would have gladly exposed any hoax that discredited the gospels, but they could not deny the miracles occurred.
We can be confident that Jesus performed miracles because the four gospels are credible documents.