How Reliable is the Bible?

One of my first hurdles with Christianity (and possibly my first breakthrough into reality) was learning that the bible wasn’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and various other contemporary witnesses to Jesus, but rather unknown authors who lived decades after Jesus’ death.

I was never told this. Surely, my Christian educators would want me to know everything there was to know about the most important person to have ever lived. (Right?)

Even more troubling for me was learning that the accounts in the Gospels of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection (i.e., the most important story in Christianity) don’t align with and often contradict each other. Surely these events so crucial to humanity couldn’t have been so poorly recorded. (Right??)

Unfortunately, it seems what I was taught in bible study and in church on Sundays was merely cherry-picked. The Bible is not read to you like other books. It can’t be, otherwise it runs the risk of being understood for what it is – an ancient, imperfect text, written and rewritten, then strung together by flawed (and far from divinely-inspired) men of that time. Men who had an understanding of the world and the future of its people, whose beliefs were clearly typical of ancient people’s views in their day. The pieces you are shown on your pamphlets and on your children’s coloring sheets, are the peaceful and loving parts (mostly).

Why was I never suspicious of the “bible verse of the day,” written on the chalk board? If I wanted to understand the plot and message of The Great Gatsby, for example, would my teacher simply give me two paragraphs a week, out of order, over the course of my entire high school career? Could I piece it together and fully understand the characters in that story, or the overall nature of the main character, reading it so disjointedly?

This lecture by Professor Bart D. Ehrman captures so many of the reasons why I find it hard to take the words in the Bible as the infallible words of God.


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