Decisive Evidence for the Inspiration of the Bible

The Bible claims to be the infallible, errorless, and authoritative word of God (2 Tim. 3:16; Prov. 30:5; 2 Peter 1:21; see also Micah 1:1, Zechariah 1:1, etc.). Many critics claim that the Bible is a good religious book, but not the word of God; that it contains some truth, but also some legends, myths, and errors. Others claim that some of the Bible may be inspired, but that it is not all inspired, all inerrant (free of error) or all true.

This leads us to the question: Is there good reason to accept the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God, as it claims to be? The historical evidence for the Bible lends considerable support to (and gives good reasons to consider) its claims. [1] The testimony of history, however, is not the only reason for accepting the inspiration of the Bible.

The main reason for accepting the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God is because this is what Jesus believed and taught. One might ask, however, "Don't we have to read the Bible to know what Jesus taught about the Bible--isn't this reasoning hopelessly circular? And even if we can know what Jesus really said, how can we know that what He said was true?"

In order to avoid such circular reasoning, we will first establish that the the New Testament accurately recorded what Jesus really said. Then, we will examine Jesus' teachings that the Bible is God's inerrant word. Last, we will see that Jesus' resurrection from the dead validates the truth of all that He said. This valid linear reasoning will demonstrate that Jesus is an authority who can decisively and authoritatively answer the question, "Is the Bible inspired and inerrant?"

Christ's Teachings Have Been Accurately Recorded

The historical reliability of the New Testament and the evidence for the careful preservation of Jesus' teachings by the early church show that New Testament gives us an accurate and trustworthy record of what Jesus taught.

The New Testament documents are historically reliable
Historical investigation has shown that the Bible can be trusted to accurately report the events it narrates. "Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible," declares renowned Jewish archaeologist Nelson Gluek. [2] Archaeologist Joseph Free has said that "Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which had been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contrary to known facts." [3]

In addition, the gospels, which record the teachings of Jesus, were written while there were still many living eyewitnesses who were hostile to Christianity. False statements could, and would, have been challenged. The fact that the gospels gained such wide acceptance is very strong evidence for their reliability.

The historical reliability of the New Testament is good reason to believe that it gives us an accurate record of what Jesus said and did. There is, however, a more specific reason to believe that Jesus really said the things that the New Testament records Him as saying.

Jesus' teachings were carefully preserved before they were written down in the gospels
This is supported by several lines of evidence. In the first place, it is important to understand that the culture in which Christianity began was an oral culture where people relied heavily on their memory, unlike our culture today which is mostly written. Recent studies in ancient Jewish culture have conclusively demonstrated that the ancient Jews (which would include Jesus' disciples) were able to memorize vast amounts of material, and it was customary for a student to memorize their rabbi's teaching. [4] The students regarded their teacher's words as "sacred tradition" and memorized them in detail to pass on with little or no alteration. It was said that a good pupil was "like a plastered cistern who looses not a drop." [5] Surely Jesus' disciples, who were Jews living in this culture, would have given the teachings of the one whom they considered to be God's long awaited Messiah no less care!

The New Testament record confirms this, often displaying the Jewish concern for passing on oral tradition accurately (1 Cor. 15:3-8; Gal. 2:1-10; Col. 2:7; 1 Cor. 11:23). These aspects all show that Jesus' disciples (and their followers) had both the ability and the desire necessary to pass on, and eventually record, His teachings without distortion.

Further, when Jesus' teachings are translated back into their underlying Aramaic, the original language He most likely spoke, they often reveal a rhyming cadence very suitable for memorization. This means that Jesus' words were in a form that was easy to memorize and retain. This also provides confirmation that Jesus' sayings in the gospels originated with the "historical Aramaic-speaking Jesus, rather than from the creative imagination' of the early [Greek speaking] church." [6]

The inclusion of counterproductive details, such as the inclusion of women as the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection and empty tomb (the testimony of witness in that society was considered very unreliable) and the repeated references to the disciples as being unbelieving, cowardly, and dull reveal the gospel writers' intentions to record things as they really happened.

Gary Habermas points out that "it is the view of many critical scholars that the Gospels and Acts contain not only eyewitness testimony, but that apostolic authority is a major source behind each book." [7] This confirms that the gospels were based upon the testimony of those who witnessed Jesus' life and memorized His teaching.

There is much more evidence for the accurate preservation of Jesus' teachings, but this is sufficient to show that He really did say the things that the Gospels record Him as saying. Having established this, we can now ask the question "How did Jesus view the Bible?"

Christ taught that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God

Jesus regarded the Scripture as the word of God, entrusted His life to the Scriptures, and submitted to the authority of Scriptures, as even a brief look at His life and teaching reveals. He taught that the Bible is the infallible word of God without error, and that it is authoritative for our lives.

To re-enforce His point in a debate with some of the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus reminded them that "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). In other words, Jesus was saying that Scripture cannot be emptied of its authority ("broken"). Since the only way for Scripture to be emptied of its authority is if it errors, and Jesus said that Scripture cannot be emptied of its authority, the Scriptures therefore cannot error. Put another way, Jesus was saying that the Bible cannot be deprived of its infallibility (i.e., it can never be wrong) or its binding authority (it still applies regardless of whether a person believes it or not). This is a clear statement from Jesus that the Scriptures are infallible.

Jesus also said in a prayer that "Your [God's] word is truth" (John 17:17). He didn't say that the Bible contained some truth, but that it was the truth. Thus, it cannot contain any mistakes or errors, because if it did it would not be the truth, but would only contain some truth (and some falsehood). In many places, Jesus specifically authenticated the Old Testament and pre-authenticated the New Testament, to which we will now turn.

The Old Testament
Jesus emphatically declared that the Old Testament was indestructible--down to the smallest part of a Hebrew letter--attesting to the fact that inspiration extends to the very words: "Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished" (Matt. 5:18). Throughout His ministry, Jesus continually quoted Old Testament Scripture as final authority (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; 15:1-9).

In a confrontation with the Sadducees, Jesus based a crucial argument concerning the resurrection of the dead on the tense of a single word. To prove that there was life after death, Jesus referred to the passage about the burning bush and pointed out that God said to Moses "I am" the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even though they had died hundreds of years before. If there was no life after death, God would have said "I was" their God, not "I am" their God. We see this again in Matt. 22:41-46, where Jesus bases an argument for His deity on the reliability of the single word "Lord" in Psalm 110. These arguments would have been meaningless unless Jesus considered the very words of Scripture God-breathed and trustworthy.

Jesus absolutely trusted the Old Testament. Never once do we see Him indicating "the Scripture is in error." He hinged his confrontation with Satan in the wilderness on the turn of a single word in Scripture (Matt. 4; Luke 4). He declared to Satan "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word [not just some] that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4; compare 2 Timothy 3:16 -- "all Scripture is God-breathed"). What Scripture said, God said (see Matt. 15:4). Even critical scholars acknowledge that Jesus taught His followers to have the highest regard for Scripture.

Jesus even trusted the Bible in historical matters. In fact, He authenticated some of the most disputed passages today; it's almost as if He was anticipating the skepticism of our modern day era! For example, Jesus affirmed that Adam and Eve were literal, historical individuals (Matt. 19:4-5), that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah really happened (Luke 10:12), and that the account of Cain and Abel was true (Luke 11:51). Jesus authenticated the narrative of Noah and the great flood by using it as an example of His second coming (Matt. 24:37-39). It's as if He was saying "Just as the flood really happened, so will my second coming really happen." Since His second coming will be a real, historical event, it would make no sense for the Flood to be only "myth" or "allegory."

The account of Jonah and the great fish is also heavily disputed today, sometimes taught to be a myth with no historical basis. But Jesus affirmed that Jonah being swallowed by the fish was a real historical event by using it as a sign of His resurrection (Matt. 12:39-42). He even affirmed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (see Mark 7:10 and John 7:19), something that many modern scholars reject, and that Isaiah wrote all of Isaiah (many scholars think that chapters 40-66 were written centuries later, but in John 12:38-41 Jesus quotes both "sections" of the book together and each is attributed to Isaiah).

As can be seen, Jesus linked the historical reality of the Old Testament with His spiritual message, thus confirming that the events it records were real, historical, and literally true. John 3:12 expresses the significance of this vividly: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" It is clear that Jesus taught that the Old Testament is the infallible, inerrant, inspired word of God, with the historical portions to be read as a record of real, factual events, and not simply a conglomeration of unhistorical myths.

Some respond to this by saying that Jesus was simply accommodating to the view of the OT held by His audience, though He himself did not believe this. There are grave difficulties with this view. First, it has been made very clear that Jesus' use of the authority of the OT was essential to His ministry --it was the foundation for His very teaching. The bottom would drop out from His teaching without an inspired and true Old Testament. Second, Jesus would be guilty of moral deception by knowing that the Old Testament was not God's word, but telling His hearers that it was anyway. Third, it is not like Jesus to accommodate to error; instead, He vigorously confronted false beliefs (Matt. 5:21-22, 31-32; 15:1-9; all of chapter 23; John 2:13; 3:10).

The New Testament
Jesus also promised (or pre-authenticated) the New Testament. He told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that He had said to them (John 14:26), referring to gospels. Jesus declared that His words (which are contained in the gospels) shall never pass away (Matt. 24:35). Compare this with Isaiah 40:8, "...the word of our God stands forever."

Jesus also revealed that new revelation from God was forthcoming, referring to the remainder of the New Testament: "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." He then told His disciples that this new revelation from God would come after He had left the earth and the Holy Spirit had come: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come...for He shall take of Mine [i.e. My teachings and whatever relates to Me] and shall disclose it to you" (John 16:12-14). These truths were then recorded in the New Testament, which was written by the apostles that Jesus promised to "teach all things" and "guide into all truth" (compare 1 Cor. 2:6-16 and Acts 1:1. Also see 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter refers to Paul's writings as Scripture on equal authority with the Old Testament). The books which were not actually written by an apostle (Luke and Mark) were backed with the authority of an apostle (Peter's authority was behind Mark; Paul's was behind Luke).

We have come a long way and established that Jesus taught that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and that He was accurately recorded in saying this. But how can we know that He was right? Why should we believe that His view of the Bible is true?

Jesus' Resurrection Demonstrates that He is the Son of God;
Therefore, What He Says is True

Charles Colson writes "if Jesus is God and perfect man, as He claims, He cannot be mistaken in what He teaches and He cannot lie. An infallible God cannot err; a holy God cannot deceive; a perfect teacher cannot be mistaken. So He is either telling the truth, or He is not who He says He is." [8] Is Jesus God, and thus in a position to know if the Bible really is inspired? The whole issue of inspiration thus turns on who Jesus is.

If Jesus rose from the dead, this verifies His claim to be God (which He claimed in the reliable New Testament documents and can even be established according to some of the most skeptical standards of investigation [9]). The resurrection validates that everything Christ said is true. Furthermore, who is more likely to be correct--a teacher who has been (or will one day be) defeated by death, or a teacher who has conquered death? If Jesus rose, His authority should be accepted over any human opinion.

The question therefore arises: Has Jesus really risen from the dead? We will not go into an in-depth treatment of the evidence for Christ's resurrection, due to space. For a further treatment of this issue I suggest Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, by William Lane Craig, or Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?, a debate between Christian Gary Habermas and atheist Antony Flew. There at least 12 facts surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ which virtually all critical scholars acknowledge. We will use only two.

Jesus' tomb was discovered empty on the Sunday following His crucifixion
Many attempts have been made to explain away this fact (such as the stolen body theory). However, these theories are disproved by the evidence, and it cannot be emphasized enough that modern critical scholars have almost unanimously rejected these theories. So how do the critics who deny the resurrection explain the empty tomb? William Lane Craig says, "The fact is that they are self-confessedly without any explanation to offer." [10] Unfortunately for the critics, if we deny the resurrection we are left with an inexplicable mystery. How else did the tomb become empty? Jesus' resurrection is the only adequate explanation.

Jesus' followers had real experiences that they believed were appearances of the risen Christ
Jesus' disciples claimed to have seen Him alive after His death. This, of course, does not mean that they really did. One possibility is that they were lying. Virtually no scholar, however, holds to this theory (the "conspiracy" theory). For one thing, 10 of the 12 original disciples died for their belief in Jesus. If He didn't rise, then they knew that the resurrection was a lie (since they claimed to have seen Him alive after His death). But people do not die for what they know is a lie.

For reasons such as these, even the most skeptical scholars admit that Jesus' disciples at least believed that Jesus rose. The question is, How do we account for this belief? If it cannot be explained naturally, then Jesus must have rose. One explanation is that the disciples hallucinated. However, hallucinations are individual experiences, not group events. Jesus appeared to over 500 people on at least 10 different occasions.

Further, the disciples were not expecting to see Jesus again, and hallucinations happen to those who are so expecting and wanting a certain event to occur that their mind fabricates the event. They were not in a state of mind conducive to hallucinations. And what did these disciples touch, talk with and eat with? Since Jesus' disciples were not lying when they claimed that He appeared to them alive, and since hallucinations cannot account for these appearances, then there is good reason to believe that Jesus really did rise and appear to His disciples. If we deny these appearances, we are left with a second inexplicable mystery.

Jesus' resurrection is the only adequate explanation for these two independently established facts, which virtually all critical scholars accept. Three other facts which we will not go into are the conversion of Paul, a skeptic and persecutor of the Church by what he claims was an appearance of Christ to him; the conversion of Jesus' skeptical brother James by an appearance of Christ to him; and the disciples' transformation, despite having previously deserted Jesus during the crucifixion.

Therefore, the Bible is the Word of God

Jesus' resurrection, therefore, unlocks the answer to our investigation. His resurrection gives Him the authority and certainty needed to address this issue. By establishing that He is the Son of God, as He claimed, the resurrection makes Jesus not only an extremely reliable authority, but an infallible authority. Therefore, what He taught about the Bible is true. Since Jesus taught that the entire Bible--Old and New Testaments--is the infallible and inerrant word of God, and since the gospels give an accurate and reliable record of what He taught, it has been established that the entire Bible really is the error-less and authoritative word of God. Not only can we believe everything in it, but it demands our obedience.


Paul Little is clear on the implications that this has for Christians: "If then, we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, it would be a contradiction in terms, and strangely inconsistent, if we rejected the Scripture as the word of God. On this point we would be in disagreement with the One whom we acknowledge to be the eternal God and Creator of the universe." [11] As a follower of Christ the logical step of obedience is to accept His view of Scripture. Furthermore, no matter what kind of attacks a critic might level against the Bible, the Christian can remain confident that the Bible can withstand. Surely Jesus, who defeated death and is God in human form, is more likely to be correct than any fallible person who has not risen from the dead.

Non-Christians who are skeptical about the Bible should seriously consider this evidence. Clearly there is good reason to believe in the entire Bible; the idea that it is unreliable and full of myths is far from true. I would personally encourage anyone who is skeptical to pick up the Bible and read it to experience first-hand the power of the word of God. I would also suggest investigating this issue further. Most importantly, consider what the Bible says about Jesus, for the whole Bible points to Him and calls us to believe in Him. Since the Bible is true, this call should be seriously considered. By responding to Jesus and giving our lives to Him, we begin to see what it means to truly live.

In the end, one must pick up the Bible and read it. As one does this, the Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who confirms to a person that it is the word of God. He will testify that its words are true and that it is relevant for our lives. And He will show that it calls for our acceptance and obedience. Therefore, we must not focus only on the evidence for the Bible, as important as that is. We must get into the Bible ourselves and experience the power of God. "The word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two edged sword..."--Hebrews 4:12.

The Bible claims to be the word of God
Jesus Christ believed this and taught that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God
The Gospels give us an accurate record of what Jesus taught
Jesus' resurrection from the dead validates the truth of everything He said
Therefore, the Bible is the word of God

1. See Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell for a detailed examination of this.
2. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, 1959), p. 136.
3. Joseph Free, Archaelogy and Bible History (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press, 1969), p. 1.
4. For a more in-depth treatment of the issue, see Dr. Gregory Boyd, Jesus Under Siege (Wheaton, Illionis: Victor Books, 1995), pp. 87-109. Also see Dr. Boyd's book Cynic Sage or Son of God?
5. Mishna, Aboth, ii. 8.
6. Boyd, Jesus Under Seige, p. 105.
7. Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), p. 159.
8. Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Harper, 1983), p. 60.
9. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, Illinois: Moody Press, 1984), pp. 243-254.
10. Craig, p. 280.
11. Paul Little, Know Why You Believe (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1967), chapter five.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.


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