Before I became a Christian, I had a lot of trouble believing that the Bible wasn’t anything more than a book full of inconsistencies and exaggerations that were the result of human error and/or intended deception. In other words, I believed the Bible was an unreliable source. I mean, really, how could a book so old possibly stand the test of time and maintain its original message?
To say the least, I really needed strong evidence to change how I viewed the Bible, the very book that I used to scoff and roll my eyes at due to having formed a negative bias against it.
Here’s my story of how I discovered that Christianity’s holy book is not what I once so strongly believed about it.
I was celebrating my 23rd birthday with my mom’s side of the family, and I had just opened up a gift bag that one of my aunts presented to me. The contents within the bag were, for the most part, conventional, for they consisted of a birthday card, a couple of shirts, and a few knick-knacks. They were items that I appreciated but also expected, seeing I had received the same type of gifts from this particular aunt for the last two decades. However, this year’s bag of gifts was different, for all but one of the items was not expected nor was it appreciated— at first.
The odd item, the one that stuck out and surprised me, was a book. This was strange because out of all my years of receiving gifts from this aunt, I had never once received any type of literature from her.
The book was called God-Breathed, authored by Josh Mcdowell, and was exceptionally beautiful to look at with its glossy pearl white cover that was finished with a gold-colored written font that produced a nice overall shine.
I still remember it like it was yesterday, cracking open that varnished-looking book on the car ride home, and experiencing a mixture of thoughts and feelings when I read the message my aunt wrote for me on the back of the first page:
May God enrich and bless your life with his amazing and wonderful words of life. God is real and amazing. God bless you and help you to see who He really is. Lots of love,“
I was offended.
Immediately, I became transfixed on one part of the message and thought, “How dare she assume that I didn’t know who God really was. Who was she to tell me that?!” Furthermore, “How dare she imply that she knew who God really was!”
Without some necessary background information, you would probably think that my reaction to such a warm message was absolute lunacy. For on the surface, the message is very much harmless.
However, my past experiences with several people on my mom’s side, which included my aunt, were not very pleasant. And, unfortunately, it was these difficult experiences that created a strong sense of distrust between us that grew over the years and led me to develop a narrow perception (or a bias) of how to view these family members, which included seeing everything they said or done towards me as a potential attack on my character. Which is why I ignored the overall goodness of the message and focused intently on the one part that could have had an ounce of mal-intent towards my character.
Fortunately, my negative reaction to the message didn’t stop me from reading the book. Although I didn’t trust the person who gave me the book and was therefore a tad bit skeptical to read it, I decided I was going to give it an honest try, for I loved reading and was genuinely interested in learning about God.
Now, before I dive into the findings of my textual exploration of God-Breathed, I believe it would be wise to establish a basis of understanding for what the term ‘reliability’ means:
“Reliability: the quality of being trustworthy or of performing consistently well” (Oxford Languages).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig in. God-Breathed, among other things, provides us with a simple overview of the proofing (or investigative) process that is used to test the reliability of ancient texts. Some of the ancient texts that have been examined through this process have been Caesar's Gallic wars, Homer’s Odyssey, and the books of the Bible. All of these texts, before they were deemed reliable, had to pass three tests that make up the investigative process.
What are the Three Tests You may Ask?
1. The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted (copied) accurately.
2. The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside itself.
3. The internal evidence test: determining how the historical text stands up to the test of internal validity.
Without passing all three of these tests, an ancient text will never meet the grading criteria to be qualified as a reliable source.
So, if you’re interested in learning how exactly these tests work and how these tests are applied to the Bible, I then highly encourage you to read all parts of this article series. You can start with reading the following article: How the Bibliographical, External, and Internal Evidence Tests Work.
McDowell, Josh. God Breathed: the Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture. Shiloh Run Press, 2015.
“Oxford Languages and Google - English.” Oxford Languages, languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/.