Would you need every single piece of a jigsaw puzzle that forms the image of a sunny beach to know that the puzzle forms an image of a sunny beach? No, you wouldn’t. You might not know some of the details of the image, like how many birds are in the sky or what the designs look like on the yellow beach umbrella, but you can still make it out that the overall image is of a sunny beach, as long as enough of the right pieces are there.
In the same way, textual scholars don’t need every piece of the puzzle (evidence) that ever existed to fit seamlessly together to confidently assert that a text is reliable. I mean, if you think about it, if we needed every single piece of evidence to qualify an ancient text’s reliability, then no ancient text would ever be considered a reliable source.
Yikes, I suppose we wouldn’t be able to rightfully study anything from ancient history then.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Are there details that are missing from the puzzle that could give us a better understanding of the full picture? Absolutely, but you can still with confidence come to the conclusion that the image of the puzzle is of a sunny beach when there are many pieces of the picture that are available and converging together to project a unified image.
The Bible, for instance, in the realm of textual criticism is similar to a jigsaw puzzle that is missing pieces. Nevertheless, there are many pieces of evidence for each of the three evidence tests, that, brought together, communicate a unified story.
When I read through God-Breathed, I believed that the information I learned was good enough to convince me that the Bible was a reliable source. And, hey, to my humble-brag of a credit, many scholars who have reviewed much more evidence than I have from various different sources also believe that to be true.
Nonetheless, whatever you choose to believe in is up to you. You are certainly capable of seeking information and assessing that information according to a well-established standard. However, I do encourage you to try and be consistent with how you evaluate information. Because if there’s one important thing that I hope you have extracted from reading this article series, It’s that being reliable is super important, because without reliability we would have no reason to trust anyone or anything.
And, trust me, you wouldn’t want to live in a world where you couldn’t trust anyone or anything because, well, who enjoys instability and disorder? Which are the ingredients of chaos. Furthermore, you wouldn’t want to start placing your trust in things that are untrustworthy since, well, who would enjoy a life full of pitfalls and hardships that comes with placing blind faith in things that shouldn’t be trusted?
Ultimately, my friend, reliability is needed because it is the glue that holds our lives, our world, and our understanding of things together. I just hope you have been able to trust me enough to continue reading this series till the end and, perhaps, at the very least, consider in what ways the Holy Bible is a reliable source.
McDowell, Josh. God Breathed: the Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture. Shiloh Run Press, 2015.