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How do we Know the Bible is Inspired?


How do we know that the Bible is inspired and not just a bunch of stories that people wrote down and said were inspired?

Steve Answers:

Your question makes me think of 2 Peter 1:20, 21, which says: “No prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophets themselves or because they wanted to prophesy. It was the Holy Spirit who moved the prophets to speak from God” (NLT).1

Here’s another familiar text, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (NLT).

Earlier in the chapter Paul wrote: “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15, NLT).

You’re probably saying to yourself, But how can you know the Bible is inspired simply by using quotations from the Bible? Shouldn’t there be an outside source to validate it?

That’s one of the challenges. If there were an outside source that was better than the Bible, I’d say to use it, but there isn’t. How do you get a better source than God? In the very first chapter of the Bible you actually have the statement: “Then God said . . .” (Genesis 1:26, NLT). Who can disprove that, especially since no humans were created yet?

Then the second book of the Bible says: “And God spoke all of these words” (Exodus 20:1), and the Ten Commandments follow. There were a lot of people present for that. Their response wasn’t, “I’m not sure if this is for real, or if it’s just a Hollywood production.”

According to Exodus 20:18-20: “When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the horn, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, ‘You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!’ ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Moses said, ‘for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning’” (NLT).

When Jesus was attacked by the religious leaders for making false claims about Himself, Jesus replied: “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other” (John 8:17, 18, NLT). For His two witnesses, Jesus claimed Himself as the first, and His Father (God) as the second. But how could that be disproved? On the other hand, what could be better than having God as your witness?

OK, but how do we know the Bible is for real—really inspired?

Abraham Lincoln is the person credited with saying: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Another president, George W. Bush, was quoted as saying: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

Now which quote is the accurate description for the Bible?

Without a Bible, all kinds of people will claim to have messages from God (or gods). How would you know if any of them were inspired or true? It might take so much time to verify the messages that your life might end before you finished verifying them.

If you received a dream, how would you know if it came from God, (gods), your subconscious mind, or eating junk food before you went to bed?

If you said that a certain thing happened, how would anybody know for sure? If a second person functioned as a witness and verified that everything you said was correct, would that make it so? Or could the two of you plan in advance to put together some kind of story? In legal matters, you need the testimony of a second witness. This has been true in many cultures throughout time.

In some situations “time will tell” becomes the reality. If I say that I planted corn, and you say that I didn’t, we’ll see if any corn comes up in the field!

What does this have to do with the Bible? Some of what you find in the Bible is a written record of what happened. Some people wrote about their dreams and visions. Some predicted the future, and some of that future has already happened, which is quite a bit better than the psychics or horoscopes.

There’s another indication that the Bible is inspired. Some parts of the Bible contain counsel that people have followed, and it’s changed their lives. This can be the most powerful persuasion that the Bible isn’t just a bunch of made-up stories.

You may have heard of ancient historians such as the Greek Herodotus or the Jewish Josephus. They are considered to be reliable sources of information. Yet the Bible has more evidence of accuracy and is older than either of these trusted historians.

Some people, being critical of the Bible, have pointed out errors or the fact that names and places in the Bible have absolutely no other references in any other writings. Then they say that some of the names and places in the Bible must have been made-up, and that means we shouldn’t trust anything in the Bible.

See if you recognize this quotation (not from the Bible): “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Is this the same quotation I quoted earlier? Yes and no? It’s credited to Abraham Lincoln, but it’s technically not the same. A few words are different, and two of the phrases are in a different order, but the meaning is still the same.

Those are the kinds of differences that critics point out in the Bible then say the Bible can’t be trusted. Abraham Lincoln lived only 150 years ago; but the Bible was written 2,000-3,500 years ago. Which is another miracle—how could people who wrote over a period of 1,500 years write new messages that still fit in with the other inspired messages?

Have you heard about archaeology? When people dig around in the dirt and sand, they sometimes find artifacts from hundreds or thousands of years ago. Some of those obscure names and places the critics were pointing to are being found under the dirt! The more the archaeologists find, the more foolish those critics look, and the more reliable the Bible seems to be. Yet some people still don’t believe the Bible. I guess you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time!

The Bible has Jesus as the focal point. When Jesus came on the scene, He claimed to be God. If Jesus wasn’t God, then we need to throw out everything about the Bible. But if Jesus was God, then we need to worship and follow Him.

I think it’s because a lot of people don’t want to bend the knee to Jesus or to follow Him that they are quick to grab onto anything that might discredit the Bible.

But even the Bible has a name for such people. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said it this way: “How does a man become wise? The first step is to trust and reverence the Lord!  Only fools refuse to be taught” (Proverbs 1:7, TLB).2

Solomon’s dad, King David, said: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

I guess you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

There is a way for you to find out for yourself whether or not the Bible is inspired: if you make it the guide for your life. Then the inspiration of the Bible will begin again, because the real Author, who inspired the original writers, will inspire you as the Holy Spirit shows you the reality of the Bible in your life.

By the way, a great new resource for you is Can We Still Believe the Bible? And Does It Really Matter? by Bryan Ball. You can look it up at Dr. Ball, a retired biblical scholar and administrator, wrote this book based on teaching a high school Bible class and the questions his students asked him. I highly recommend it!

1Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

2Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.

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