Is the Bible reliable?
Many people argue that the Bible is unreliable due to the fact that we do not have any original copies of the writings that are included in it. The typical argument consists of three main concerns with the Bibles reliability, the lack or original copies, the amount of time between the events and their recording, and the fact that the copies we have are not exactly the same, there are discrepencies. Is this enough to discredit the Bible, lets take a look. Though we do not have any original copies of the writings included in the New Testament is not a problem, Other ancient writings have copies ranging from the hundreds to Homers writings of which around 1800 have been found which gives around a 95% confidence in the original writing. Comnpare those to the near 25,000 copies we have of the writings of the Biblical manuscripts, and the level of confidence we can have in the originals is quite high. But what about the gap in time from the events to the time they were recoreded? It is true that time can cause people to forget, or to embellish, or for urban legends to form but we do not see that with the New Testament. Though the exact date of writing is not given we can take evidence and information from the writings themselves and get a general idea of when they are likely to have been written. According to Komoszewski et al. (2006), “Most scholars regard Mark as the first Gospel, written no later than the 60s. If Jesus died in 30 or 33 (there is some debate between these two dates), then the first Gospel would have been written within four decades of the death of Jesus”, still within time for eyewitnesses to be alive to contradict anything that may have been untrue. Other books like Luke take information from Mark, and we know that Luke is the first writing of Luke-Acts and as Komoszewski et al. (2006) state, “there is increasing evidence that Acts was written in the early 60s, prior to Paul’s trial in Rome”, if Acts was written after Luke and Luke used Mark for reference then that means Luke was written before the 60’s and Mark was before that. This shows multiple writings well within time of eyewitnesses to be able to corroborate or deny the events as they were recorded. Even though we have so many copies within such a short time of the events we do have an issue, discrepencies. Komoszewski et al. (2006) state that “a fundamental disagreement in scholarly circles over the life of Jesus concerns the role that oral tradition played”, skeptics argue that the oral tradition behind the gospels was faulty. The argument is that there are things added, taken away, or changed with regards to the copies. While this is true the extent of the differences noted are not as detrimental as one might think. Most of the discrepencies are minor issues like spelling, or use of different verbage and things of that sort. However there are a few that are considered larger in regards to how they affect the trustworthiness of the Bible, but even those have no bearing on the theological or docrinal aspects of the Bible. In fact if the copies were all identical it would cause more of a red flag than the fact that there are differences. If all copies were identical this would point to collaboration or fabrication, too clean causes a problem. The fact that we can see the differences shows us that people from different walks of life, different statuses and different personalities all record the same core events and with the key points and information all in tact. So despite the oral traditions, the lack of original copies, and the discrepencies we can take the information in the vast number of manuscripts and get the same picture of what happened, and not have any doctrinal or theological issues.
Komoszewski, E. J., Sawyer, J. M., & Wallace, D. B. (2006). Reinventing Jesus. Kregel Publications.