We should test the historical reliability of the Scripture by the same rigorous criteria we apply to all historical documents.
Knowing the number of manuscripts that have survived, reliability of the copies, consistency of copies, and time interval between the original and extant copies can help us be sure that the text we have is what was originally recorded. Craig Blomberg, former senior research fellow at Cambridge University in England and now professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, explains that the texts of the New Testament “have been preserved in far greater number and with much more care than have any other ancient documents.” Blomberg concludes that “97–99% of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt.”*1 Consider that, as of 2009, more than twenty thousand copies of New Testament manuscripts are in existence. The Iliad, which is second to the New Testament in manuscript authority, has only 643 manuscripts in existence.
However, one still has to determine to what extent an original record is accurately recorded by the writer. The ability of a writer to tell the truth is closely related to the witness’s nearness both geographically and chronologically to the events recorded. The New Testament accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus were recorded by men who had either been eyewitnesses themselves or who related the accounts of eyewitnesses of the actual events or teachings of Christ. Consider Luke 1:1-4 as an example. Scholars acknowledge Luke’s historical accuracy. “The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is very accurate as a historian,” explains John McRay, professor of New Testament and archaeology at Wheaton College.
“He’s erudite, he’s eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say.”*2
Indeed, there is a great deal of external evidence outside of Scripture that also confirms its testimony. In The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, Gary Habermas meticulously documents the extrabiblical evidence for the historical Jesus. Greek, Roman, and Jewish documents offer support for key elements of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.
So if one discards the Bible as unreliable historically, then he or she must discard all the literature of antiquity. No other document has as much evidence to confirm its reliability.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.Luke 1:1-4
1. Craig L. Blomberg, “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament,” in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), 226.2. John McRay, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 97.
–Taken from More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell