Is the Bible reliable? From “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

Among the many arguments skeptics make regarding the Bible, one is that it is supposedly not backed up by convincing historical data. To this, some believe that the Bible is like any other mythical writing. But Josh McDowell, in his book, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” examines the historical and archaeological evidence that supports events depicted in the Bible.

Chapter 3 begins with data regarding the amount of cohesive hand-copied manuscripts of the Bible, particularly The New Testament, that have been found. According to a chart on page 38, earliest (partial or whole) New Testament manuscripts found date between 114 and 325 A.D. McDowell refers to Sir Frederic Kenyon who states that when it comes to ancient manuscripts, “In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament.”[1]

In addition to the relatively short time span of existing documents to its original date, McDowell points out that there are some 25,000 copies of the New Testament in existence today—the greatest number by far of any other ancient text. The Iliad comes in second with a mere 643 manuscripts. All New Testament copies are nearly identical to each other, which cannot be said of other ancient writings. This accuracy is also seen in various translations.

But while evidence supports accuracy in the copies we have today, there are still skeptics who are quick to point out supposed contradictions among the varied books. McDowell states that, “The allegations of error in the Bible are usually based on a failure to recognize basic principles of interpreting ancient literature.”[2] McDowell goes on to explain 15 such principles in concise detail.

But looking at the sheer amount of accurate reproductions and arguing that seeming contradictions are just misinterpretations still does not satisfy certain skeptics. One must look at other historical data. To this, there are writings of early Christian historians who attest to the accuracy of what is written in the Bible, as well as writings from non-Christian historians who, “…come largely from Greek, Roman, Jewish and Samaritan sources of the first century.”[3]

Iranaeus, disciple of the apostle John wrote, “So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness them…”[4]

In addition to writings, archeological evidence supports the people, places and events described in the Bible. McDowell quotes a number of eminent archaeologists in his book, including W.F. Albright, who said, “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”[5]

Evidence is continuing to mount as archaeological research continues. History is but one of many ways in which God has ingeniously left his mark on society—in ways that have caused us to discover him in time-tested methods of research, while in many cases, not even trying.


[1] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 35

[2] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 46.

[3] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 60.

[4] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 53.

[5] McDowell, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” pg. 61.

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