Many hold the assumption that the Bible is just a collection of old books, the product of human imagination. But is it? Are there any reasons to suspect that it might be more? That it is worthy of our confidence as a source of truth? Of course as a Christian I believe that the Christian scriptures are “God-breathed” (2nd Timothy 3:16) as the Bible itself attests, but many non-believers will find that to be a circular argument. The following are some questions we might ask as we dig deeper:
Why is there such a diversity within the Bible? Those who have never read it might think it is one book, but it is sixty-six books, written by more than forty authors who wrote over the course of more than a thousand years, using various genres, and writing for different reasons. It is convoluted and complex! Wouldn’t it have been easier if Jesus just wrote an autobiography? Well, consider how easy a singular work could be written off as the ramblings of one deluded man. In the Bible we have a rich and varied treasure of multiple witnesses to God’s involvement in human affairs. Investigators may rejoice at having multiple witnesses! Historians may rejoice at having so many different primary sources to work with!
Why is there such unity despite the diversity within the Bible? At our study session on this topic I asked the participants to list some things they know about God’s character, and then I asked which book of the Bible they knew that from. No one could come up with one particular book. God’s character and plans shine through consistently throughout the entire Bible.
Why is there such a flow, yet with such interesting and unexpected turns in the overall story of the Bible? Again, people who have never read the Bible may think it is just a book of rules, but it is far more than that. There is a storyline from Genesis to Revelation, that traces the story of creation, fall, and salvation. There is a wonderful flow to the overall story, and yet despite an expectation that God would act, Jesus was still a surprise. If Jesus were a human invention to fit the expectation of a Messiah, he would have looked very different. So surprising was he that he was considered “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles” (1st Corinthians 1:23). That no one would invent him and further go on to die for him is significant.
Why is there a “genuine feel” to the Bible? The miracles of the Bible are not “over-the-top” as you find in many legends but always fit the context of what is going on – as you find in history. There are many details of Bible characters that are downright embarrassing that are unlikely to be mere inventions. Even the fact the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection are women is incredible given the distrust of women in that time and place. And then there are those details which seem on the surface to be inconsistencies. These are the tell-tale marks of genuine witnesses speaking out of experience, not fabrication or collusion.
Why does the Bible speak so well to our experience of life? We have developed a bit of a death problem. The Bible speaks to that. We have experience of evil. The Bible speaks to that. We have suffering. The Bible speaks to that. Most people in most times and places throughout history have known that there is “something more.” The Bible speaks to that. We know we need guidance and boundaries for life and society to work. The Bible speaks to that. We know that “love works.” The Bible speaks to that.
Why does archaeology so consistently support what we find in the Bible? There are specific instances where references to people and places in the Bible are confirmed. There is also support in a general way as archaeology confirms the dress, customs, nations, and all the “stuff of life” that the Bible portrays.
Why has the Bible been preserved so well? This fact is well established through what we call “textual criticism” through which as one prominent scholar, Daniel Wallace, asserts we have an “embarrassment of riches” with regards to evidence.
If you are starting from the assumption that the Bible is just a collection of old books, I hope these questions can stir the wonder that there is much more to it than that. All these questions are answered well by the Christian belief that the Bible truly is inspired, it is “God-breathed” and worthy of our confidence as a source of truth.