Topical Studies


Can We Trust the Bible?


Bible Inspiration

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" II Timothy 3:16-17

Uniqueness of the Bible

The Bible is unique because it was written by over 40 authors, over a 1,500 year span (40 generations), on 3 continents, and in 3 different languages. The Bible has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book in history. Over a billion copies of the Bible have been published. The Bible has survived persecution and criticism over the centuries.

Canonization Process

The word canon comes from the root word "reed" (English word "cane"; Hebrew form ganeh and Greek Kanon). Origen used the word "canon" to denote the "rule of faith", the standard by which we are to measure and evaluate.

Old Testament Canon

As early as B.C. 130, a three-fold division of the OT documents was established: The Law, The Prophets and The Writings. They were made up of 24 books instead of our 39 due to differences in groupings.

When the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent in A.D. 70, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai obtained permission from the Romans to reform the Sanhedrin at Jamnia to determine whether canonical recognition should be given to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and Esther. The Council of Jamina acknowledged these books and excluded the Apocryphal literature. The Apocyphal Literature was not included due to historical and geographical inaccuracies, false doctrines and lack of distinctive elements that give Scripture its divine character ie. prophecy, religious power, etc..

Hebrew Canon

The Law (Torah)

1. Genesis
2. Exodus 
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

The Prophets (Nebhim)

A. Former Prophets

1. Joshua
2. Judges
3. Samuel
4. Kings

B. Latter Prophets

1. Isaiah
2. Jeremiah
3. Ezekial 
4. The Twelve

The Writings
(Kethubhim or Hagiographa)

A. Poetical Books

1. Psalms
2. Proverbs
3. Job

B. Five Rolls (Megilloth)

1. Song of Songs
2. Ruth
3. Lamentations
4. Esther
5. Ecclesiastes

C. Historical Books

1. Daniel
2. Ezra-Nehemiah
3. Chronicles


Jesus Confirmed the Authority of the Old Testament

A. His View of the OT Scripture

1. Direct Statement (Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35)

2. Indirect Statement (Matt 19:4-5; Mark 12:36)

B. His Use of the OT Scriptures

1. Personal Duty (Matt 4:7)

2. Official Ministry (Matt 26:52-54)

3. Public Controversy or Debate (Matt 12:18-27; Luke 10:25,26)

C. Two Possible Objections

1. Jesus was deceived

2. Jesus was a deceiver

The New Testament writers also confirmed the Authority of the Old Testament by using it in their writings.


1. Acts 17:2-11
2. Acts 18:28


1. Romans 1:2
2. Romans 4:3
3. Romans 9:17
4. Romans 10:11
5. Romans 11:2
6. Romans 15:4
7. Romans 16:26
8. I Corinthians 15:3-4
9. Galatians 3:8-22
10. Galatians 4:30
11. I Timothy 5:18
12. II Timothy 3:16


1. II Peter 1:20,21
2. II Peter 3:16


New Testament Canon

According to F.F. Bruce the "New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect."

The purpose of developing the New Testament Canon was three-fold.

1. Which books could be used for the establishment of Christian doctrine and which could be referred to in dispute with heretics? (Marcion published a canon in A.D. 140 which put pressure on the church fathers to recognize or classify books as Scripture)

2. Which books should be read in church services? (The Eastern Church was using a number of books that were questionable and disputed.)

3. Which books should or should not be handed over to authorities? Why should people die for an ordinary book? (Edict of Diocletian declare the destruction of the sacred books of the Christians ­ A.D. 303

In A.D. 393 the Western Church fathers met at Hippo Regius for what is called the Synod of Hippo. There they listed (canonized) the 27 books of the New Testament. Four years later this action was confirmed at the Third Synod of Carthage (A.D. 397)


Jesus' Intention and Determination of New Testament Writings

A. The Apostleship of Jesus' Disciples

1. Definition of the title

2. Restrictions of use in NT (John 13:16; John 17:18; Acts 13:3; 2 Cor 18:23)

3. Ancient background of the title

4. Contemporary background of the title

B. Three-fold Qualifications of Disciples for Apostleship

1. Personal commission (Luke 6:13, Acts 9; 26:17)

2. Historical experience (Mark 3:14)

3. Special inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; John 16:12-15; Heb 2:2-4; II Pet 1:16-21)

C. Acknowledgment of Apostleship

1. Apostles understood and exercise their authority

a. Ordered letters read alongside OT (Col 4:16, II Pet 3:1,2; I Thess 5:27; II Thess 2:15; II Peter 1:15)

b. Some statements by Paul

1. I Thess 2:13 "The Word of God"

2. I Cor 2:13 "taught by the Spirit"

3. I Cor 14:37 "things which I write are the Lord's commandment"

4. I Thess 2:13 "received from us the word of God"

5. II Thess 3:6-15 "by command of the Lord"

6. Gal 4:14 He was received "as Christ Jesus"

c. Peter

1. I Pet 22-25 " The living word of God"

d. John

1. I John 1:1-4

(a) What they proclaimed was what they saw

(b) Normative for all times

(c) It is the test of Authority of teachers (I John 4:6)

2. Rev 1:2 "witness to the word of God"

2. The church has historically recognized their authority

a. Acts 2:42 "devoted to the apostles teachings"

b. Clement of Rome (late 1st century)

c. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (early 2nd century)

d. Tertullian of North Africa (A.D. 200)

e. Canonization process (A.D. 300)

f. Martin Luther (A.D. 1500)


Summary Statements on the Authority of the Bible

A. The logic of the argument

1. Teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ

2. He endorsed the Old Testament

3. He made provision for the New Testament to be written

B. The argument is not circular, but linear

C. Central Issue: Authority of Christ; Loyalty to Christ

D. Submission to the authority of the Bible is:

1. Fundamental for Christian discipleship

2. Fundamental for Christian integrity

3. Fundamental for Christian freedom

4. Fundamental for Christian witness


Reliability of the Bible Documents

What is Reliability? Reliability means suitable or fit to be relied upon. The question is simply: Are the documents we possess today trustworthy copies of the original manuscripts? What are the original words that were penned by the author?

F.F. Bruce states that "in assessing the trustworthiness of ancient historical writings, one of the most important questions is: How soon after the events took place were they recorded?" A significant element in attesting to the authenticity of the bible is the availability of early dated manuscripts that can be compared to one another to determine the wording of the original documents.

Dating the original writings and establishing their authorship is a difficult matter since many of them do not say who wrote tem or when they were written. The OT documents are especially tough to date precisely since they are much more ancient, sometimes describing events that precede written history.


Methods of Dating Manuscripts

A. Internal Evidence: reference to a historical event that can be confirmed through reliable sources. Ex. Acts and Luke

B. Manuscript Evidence: copies of books or letters that can be accurately dated or references to documents from writings of an early period. Also the color of ink, the material, size and form of letters, punctuation and any ornamentation used.

C. Style and Vocabulary: comparing the writings of the same author to attest to the genuineness of the writings and writings covering the same period evaluating language and variation in representing specific events. (Textual Criticism)

D. Philosophical and Theological Issues: comparing the writings on the basis of their content but also considering presuppositions brought to the dating process. (Form Criticism)

E. Early Tradition


Possible Dates for the Old Testament



Dates (B.C.)




The Pentateuch



Early History of Israel

by 1000

Poetical Writings

David, Solomon & others

1000 - ?

Later History of Israel

Samuel & others


Minor Prophets (12)

Book has author's name


Major Prophets (5)

Book has author's name


Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah

Perhaps Ezra


The reliability of the Old Testament is confirmed through the meticulous care by which it was copied. The scribes counted the number of verses, words, and letters of each book. They calculated the middle word and letter of each book. Each written copy of the Old Testament had to hold up to this scrutiny. Copies from the Massoretes in A.D. 900 were essentially the same as the manuscripts discovered at Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) dated as early as B.C. 100.


Possible Dates for the New Testament 



Dates (A.D.)

Pauline Epistles



Synoptic Gospels

Mark, Matthew & Luke





Petrine Epistles









Johannine Epistles



Gospels of John







Manuscript Evidence

There are more than 24,000 extant New Testament manuscripts compared to only 643 for the Iliad, the next best documented ancient writing. The New Testament has about 20,000 lines. The Iliad has about 15,600. Only 40 lines of the New Testament are in doubt, whereas 764 lines of the Iliad are questioned. The 40 lines in doubt include questions regarding punctuation and spelling errors. No changes in doctrine occur due to the lines in question in the New Testament. This includes the recent information from the Dead Sea Scrolls that contain documents from early in the 2nd century and other recently found manuscripts dated to the late 1st century.



There are two basic theories of Bible translation. The first has been called "Formal Equivalence". According to this theory, the translator attempts to render the exact words of the original language into the receptor language. The second is called "Dynamic Equivalence" in which the translation has the same dynamic impact on the modern reader as the original had upon its audience.


Overview of Translations

A. Strictly literal

1. New American Standard Bible

B. Literal

1. King James Version -> New King James Version

2. Revised Standard Version -> New Revised Standard Version

3. New American Bible

C. Literal with Freedom to be Idiomatic

1. New Revised Standard Version

D. Thought-for-Thought

1. New International Version

2. New Jerusalem Bible

3. New English Bible -> Revised English Bible

4. New Jewish Version

E. Dynamic Equivalent (Modern Speech)

1. Today's English Version

2. Contemporary English Version

3. New Century Version "The Word, International Children's Bible"

4. New Life Version "Children's New Testament, Precious Moments Children's Bible"

5. The Message

F. Paraphrastic

1. The Living Bible -> New Living Translation (Dynamic Equivalent)



The Bible is accurate word for word from the inspiration of God to the writing of the manuscripts by each individual author. How does this compare with your previous perceptions of the accuracy of God's Word? What implications does this have for your relationship with Jesus?


In light of the overwhelming evidence for the Authority of the Old Testament, how does this change your perspective of the Old Covenant between God and the Jewish people? What does this mean in terms of the New Covenant established By Jesus? Should we "nail" the Law to the Cross?


The Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Shouldn't we give more of our time and energy to the Bible? Develop an action plan for reading through the Bible and memorizing Scripture (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119).


"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" II Timothy 3:16-17



I have quoted extensively from the following books.

Arnold, Eberhard. The Early Christian in Their Own Words. Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 1997.

Bruce, F.F. The Books and the Parchments. Rev. ed. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell co., 1963.

Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? Downers Grove; IL: InterVarsity Press, 1964.

Comfort, Philip. The Complete Guide to Bible Versions. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996.

Comfort, Philip ed. The Origin of the Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.

Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968.

Kee, Howard Clark. The Origins of Christianity, Sources and Documents. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1973.

McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, Inc., 1979

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press., 1987.


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