By Elias Ayala
(M.A.T & MDiv)
This is a common question that is posed by many skeptics. The truth is we are told, that the Bible was written by imperfect men. Thus, it is foolish to believe in what it says. How should the Bible believing Christian respond to such a statement? First, we should admit that the Bible was indeed written by men. The Christian affirmation is not that the Bible dropped down from heaven. Nor is it the Christian conviction that God literally “penned” the Bible. The issue is not that “men wrote the Bible”, the real question is whether the Bible is “inspired” by God. We readily admit that God used men to write the books of the Bible. There is no doubt that the Bible displays normative literary techniques of the ancient world, and that it addresses issues that were relevant to the people who would have originally received the writings. But does the fact that the Bible was written by fallible men lead to the conclusion that one is not warranted in trusting what it says? Not at all.
First, the fact that the Bible was written by men does not necessitate the conclusion that it cannot be trusted. Imagine if that very idea was gleaned from reading a book written by an atheist. Does it follow that those words should not be trusted because a man wrote them in a book? That does not follow at all. It is quite possible for men to write and record things things that are true. This being said, how can someone then determine if the Bible is also “inspired”? In other words, what are the divine markers which imply the divine origin of the Bible? First, let us consider some basic facts concerning the most influential compilation of writings in the history of man. The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years. That constitutes about 40 generations. It was written by over 40 different authors with very diverse backgrounds and contexts. The Bible was also written from three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe and it was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Considering these points, it is quite amazing that while the history of the Bible consists of such interesting and diverse foundations upon which it was developed, there is an amazing consistency and uniformity in its message.
Along side this amazing consistency we find prophetic material that is simply astounding when one reflects upon them. Remember, the Bible is not just one book, but rather, a compilation of books written in different places and at different times. Yet we have amazing predictions within the Bible that find their fulfillment at later points. For instance, in Isaiah 7:14 we have a prophecy concerning the virgin birth which finds its fulfillment around 700 years later in Luke 1:26-38. Or again, Micah 5:2 provides us with the birthplace of the Messiah, Bethlehem. This is fulfilled nearly 700 years later in the events described in Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:4-7. Or yet again, we are told of the fact that the Messiah will have his side pierced (Zechariah 12:10), and this is specifically fulfilled in John 19:34, 37 around 520 years after the prophecy is uttered. Multiple examples of these prophecies along with their specific fulfillments can be provided to demonstrate the divine origin of the Bible. Or, these examples at least provide warrant for investigating the claims of the Bible a bit more closely so as to consider that perhaps one is dealing with divine revelation.
Appealing to the prophetic portions of scripture is one of the many ways one could suggest to the unbeliever that the Bible is not merely a compilation of books written by men. However, there are multiple angles that the apologist can come at the question of demonstrating the truth of the Bible. While appeal to the prophetic can be helpful in initiating a meaningful conversation relating to the Bible’s inspiration, there are a host of other issues that the apologist must be aware of in order to avoid some common pitfalls in these kinds of conversations. The issue of the accurate transmission of the text will undoubtedly come up. Has the Bible been accurately transmitted throughout the ages such that the Bibles we read today are accurate representations of the original manuscripts? Or again, how does the Christian deal with textual variation within manuscript traditions, etc. These issues are important and it would do well for the apologist to be aware of them in their discussions with skeptics.