How do I know the Bible is true?

Watch as Nick Turner sits down with Boyce College professor Adam Howell to discuss why Christians can have confidence the Bible is true.


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Video Transcript

Nick: Hi guys, my name is Nick. Thank you so much for joining us on Upstream, which is brought to you by Boyce College. I’m here with Dr. Howell, who teaches classes in Old Testament interpretation. Today, we’re going to be talking about the trustworthiness of the Bible. How do we know that the Bible is true?

Dr. Adam Howell: That’s a good question, Nick. What I would divide this into is physical evidence and then spiritual evidence. And then, what the Bible says about itself—its own truth claims.

If we think about this from a physical standpoint, I’m thinking here of just the manuscripts themselves, the Bible that we have in our hands, how do we know that the manuscript evidence is true and accurate? For the Old Testament, the earliest manuscripts that we had before 1947 was the Leningrad codex and the Aleppo codex, both of those dated to around 1000 AD, so pretty late. But with the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, this is where we start to find older documents dated between 200 BC and AD 70 that substantiates what we have in other manuscripts that were dated at AD 1000.

We find 95% of the manuscripts we have of the Old Testament we’re in the dead sea scrolls. So just sheer evidence, we have it. It’s older. It’s there. And we can see that the manuscripts we have now are reliable, that then get translated into our English Bible.

So, I can trust this. I have the physical evidence to trust this Bible. The other thing I would mention about the trust of the manuscripts is the scribal process. I’m a Hebrew guy. This is my world. So just hang with me for a second, I really enjoy these things, but just the scribal processes.

How did scribes keep these meticulous records of the manuscripts? There’s a lot of legends around how the scribes worked and how they preserve the accuracy of the text. But there’s a few things that we even find in our Hebrew Bibles today that I would comment on. One of those is, at the end of each book, there’s a list of statistics.

Now these are not Scripture. They’re just the notes that the scribes would put into the manuscripts and they’re statistics about how many words are in the book. How many verses are in that book, which verse is the halfway point of that book? So what you see is meticulous counting of the words, verses, lines of these, to affirm that the scribal process of copying these manuscripts is accurate.

We have accurate copies of these manuscripts. The second thing that I would mention is, one of the things the scribes also did. They would put little notes in the margin off to the side, and then they had this series of larger notes that they would make about the texts. And all of these notes were designed to preserve the accuracy of the text.

One of those in the margin is that they would come across a word that was maybe spelled a little differently than normal, what we might think of as normal. And they would mark it in the margin. They would say this word is abnormal. I’d know it. I realize it. I recognize that word is abnormal, but it’s correct. Because that’s the scriptural text. That’s the manuscript. I’m not going to change it. I know it’s bizarre, but I’m going to mark it. It’s there. So they’re preserving the accuracy.

What you find with the manuscript evidence is we have a lot of manuscripts that are accurate and reliable, but then that scribal process of preserving them over time suggests, and I think indicates, the text we have in front of us is accurate and reliable and trustworthy.

When it comes to the New Testament, the manuscript evidence is just simply overwhelming. I mean, compared to other documents that we would consider ancient, it’s just overwhelming. With the New Testament, we have a little over 5,700 Greek manuscripts. Not to mention the 23,000 manuscripts of the New Testament that are in other languages, like Latin or Syriac, something like that.

And just to give you a little comparison of other ancient documents, something like Homer’s Iliad, 1,700 manuscripts. So 5,700, 23,000 versus 1,700. And there aren’t many people that are sitting around questioning the veracity of Homer’s Iliad. It’s different kinds of literature, but this is Homer’s Iliad. So with the New Testament manuscript evidence, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to pick up the New Testament and say, this is the New Testament, the accurate representation of the words of the inspired authors. That’s what I would say we mean by physical evidence. Just the sheer manuscripts.

But what about spiritually speaking? I think there’s this important concept in 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul is kind of indicating to us that the Spirit of God works to help us understand Scripture. As we begin to understand Scripture, what it’s saying about truth, what it’s saying about the world, what it’s saying about humankind, what it’s saying about God, it’s the Spirit of God that convinces us that it’s true and accurate.

While we may have a lot of tangible evidence, this is certainly less tangible. But it’s no less important of how we know the Bible is true. The Bible itself tells us that the Holy Spirit works in such a way that we are convinced of its truth. We understand spiritual truths because the spirit of God teaches us the spiritual truths.

Lastly, I would just want to address the Bible’s claims of itself. If we have confident evidence from the manuscripts, and secondly, if we have the Spirit of God helping us understand that this is the word of God, What does it say?

Here’s one of the places that it says that it is flawless. Psalm 12:6 says, the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay purified seven times. 2 Peter 1:21 says “for no prophecy has ever been produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So there’s just a couple of examples of places where the Bible itself says, this is the word of God. And if this is the word of God, then it is trustworthy.

We’ve got physical evidence, we’ve got spiritual evidence, and then we’ve got what the Bible itself claims about itself. I just think all of this gives us a great confidence in the reliability, the trustworthiness, and the accuracy of Scripture.

Nick: Thank you so much, Dr. Howell, for your expertise and allowing us to see that. And thank you guys so much for watching Upstream. If you would like to find out more about Boyce, please visit our website

We’ll see you next time on Upstream.