girl reading a Bible

Why Should We Believe the Bible is True?



We have more copies of early manuscripts than any other ancient work. Most ancient works, which of course historians accept as reliable, have fewer than 20 copies or partial copies. The Bible has 5,800 Greek copies and 9,000 copies of the New Testament in other languages. Compare that to:

  • Tacitus, Pliny Suetonius: Fewer than 20 copies
  • Homer, considered to have “a lot” of copies: Only 600
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Older and Better Sources

We have older copies of the Bible than other ancient sources. Some biblical fragments are from only decades later than the time they were written. We have complete books from ~100 years after the New Testament was completed. That’s remarkable when compared to what passes for “lots of old manuscripts” for most ancient texts. Compare that to the earliest copies we have for these “authoritative” ancient works:

  • Homer: 500 years later
  • Pliny: 750 years later
  • Julius Caesar and Tacitus: 1,000 years later
  • Herodotus and Demosthenes: 1,400 years later!
  • (Imagine if the oldest New Testament manuscript we had was from the time of Columbus! Yet, a similar gap is standard and acceptable for other ancient texts.)

Is the Bible reliable as an ancient historical work?

Variations Are Mostly Punctuation and Grammar

The variations we have in the early manuscripts are mainly spelling and punctuation errors. Also, other variations are generally non-issues because we have SO many copies, we can tell when one is wrong, because the majority of early manuscripts disagree with it.

Cross-References

Historians trust ancient sources on a MUCH looser criteria set than applies to the Bible. And when cross-referencing those sources, they demonstrate that the Bible, which mentions many historical details, is 100% accurate on them. Some examples:

  • Luke mentions 84 historically confirmed details
  • John mentions 54 historically confirmed details
  • Roman, Greek, Jewish, and other writings of the time confirm several key details about Jesus: He was from Nazareth, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, his disciples believed He rose from the dead, his enemies affirmed his miracles but called them acts of sorcery, the early church multiplied rapidly, the apostles and their followers regarded Jesus as God, and more.

Historical accuracy of the early manuscripts of the Bible

And some more points on historical accuracy:

  • Much of the New Testament is written by firsthand and secondhand witnesses
  • The written accounts include, rather than conveniently omit, embarassing details and often paint the disciples in a bad light. Myth writers would not include such things. See Matthew 26:69-72, Matthew 28:17, Mark 9:32, Luke 18:34, and John 16:18, for a few examples.

And if manuscripts weren’t enough, we could actually reconstruct the entire New Testament, minus 11 verses, just from the early church fathers quoting it.

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