What evidence is there that the Bible is true?

truth serum

After having examined the evidence for the reliability of the the New Testament text, the next natural question is: are the contents of the text true? After all, an accurate copy of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream reveals no propositional historic truths, only fanciful fiction.

Eyewitness Evidence

The first, and perhaps most powerful, evidence of the truthfulness of the New Testament is the testimony given by the lives and deaths of the apostles and other eyewitnesses to the actual events. Consider the following1:

... the apostles lived lives of great hardship, stress, and affliction and died martyrs' deaths for their convictions. There is no adequate motive for their labours other than a sincere desire to proclaim what they believed to be the truth.

Keeping in mind that the New Testament was written before the close of the first century by those who either knew Christ personally, had encountered him, or were under the direction of those who were His disciples2, this eyewitness evidence testifies strongly to the truthfulness of the Scriptures.

External Evidences

The following subsections look at external evidences, specifically archaeology and historic documents, to support the New Testament writings. The Bible is very much a book of history - places, events and people are recorded throughout many, if not all, of the NT books. While these external evidences cannot prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God, they can be used to show that whether these frequent, historic accounts are factual or not.

Archaeological Evidence

To date there have been no archaeological findings to disprove any scriptural event. However there have been many that support them. The following is a brief list3:

Historic Writings

In addition to these archaeological evidences, we can find evidence to support Scripture’s accounts in various extra-biblical historic writings.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote the following in about 115 AD:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus [Christ], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition [Christ's resurrection] thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.4

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived from 35 -100 AD5. In his historic work, "Jewish Antiquities", which he completed in 93 AD he mentions several New Testament facts. The following are several quotes from his work, first on Jesus:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.6

On John the Baptist:

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.7

On James being Jesus' brother:

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.8

Thallus was a chronologer/historian who flourished in the period from the middle of the 1st century to the late 2nd century.9

Circa AD 52, Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time. This work itself has been lost and only fragments of it exist in the citations of others. One such scholar who knew and spoke of it was Julius Africanus, who wrote about AD 221...In speaking of Jesus' crucifixion and the darkness that covered the land during this event, Africanus found a reference in the writings of Thallus that dealt with this cosmic report. Africanus asserts: 'On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.'10

Summary

Based on the evidence presented here, I believe it is very reasonable to conclude that the New Testament is not only reliable, but that it contains the true accounts and teachings of Jesus Christ.

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References and notes

1. The points are adapted from: Moreland, J.P., "Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity" online exerpt
2. Slick, Matthew, "Wasn't the New Testament written hundreds of years after Christ" online article
3. Slick, Matthew, "Can we trust the New Testament as a historical document?" online article
4. Bettenson, Henry, "Documents of the Christian Church" quote taken from online source
5. Wikipedia, "Entry for 'Josephus'" online article
6. Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews", Book XVIII, Chapter 3 online source Note: there are textual questions about this particular quote, the Testimonium Flavianum. For details please refer to Regarding the quotes from the historian Josephus about Jesus by Matt Slick.
7. Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews", Book XVIII, Chapter 5 online source
8. Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews", Book XX, Chapter 9 online source
9. Wikipedia, "Entry for 'Thallus'" online article
10. Julius Africanus, "Extant Writings, XVIII in the Ante–Nicene Fathers", ed. by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson as cited in Gary R. Habermas, “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” quote taken from online source