Is the New Testament Reliable?
How can we know that the Bible is fully accurate and reliable and that we can know God personally through its pages?
First, the biblical accounts were all written by eyewitnesses to the events or by people who knew the eyewitnesses personally (Lk 1:2; Ac 4:20; 1Jn 1:3). Peter said, “For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our LORD Jesus Christ: instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty", (2Pt 1:16, italics mine).
Second, the vast number of early handwritten manuscripts of the NT ensures we can reconstruct the original with tremendous confidence. Modern editions of ancient books are often based on just a few existing copies (sometimes less than 10). Still, scholars are confident that the present versions of those non-biblical books accurately reflect the originals. In terms of the number of manuscripts, the NT dwarfs all other ancient writings. There are over 5,000 partial or Greek NT manuscripts. If other languages are included, the number jumps beyond 25,000!
Third, existing copies of the NT are remarkably close to the date of the original composition. Most ancient works have a gap of more than 700 years, with some works, such as those by Plato and Aristotle, being twice that. In contrast, fragments of the Gospel of John date within 40 years of its writing (John Rylands Papyri) and a near complete copy of the NT within 100-500 years of composition (Chester Beatty Papyri). From the standpoint of ancient history, the NT documents are reliable, accurate, and incomparable. Amazingly, even if all the manuscripts were destroyed, we could reconstruct the entire NT (except for 11 verses) through the Bible quotes made by the early church fathers.
Fourth, if the disciples had made up the stories about Jesus, they paid for that lie with their lives. History tells us that ten of His original twelve disciples suffered violent deaths as a result of boldly proclaiming that Jesus Christ was the risen Son of God. Would the disciples die for a lie? While its true that thousands of people have died for a lie, they did so only if they thought it was the truth. If the resurrection was a lie and the disciples knew it, certainly many of them would have cracked under the pressure to save their lives and confessed the conspiracy.
Fifth, early non-Christian writers such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger verify important details of the biblical narrative. These include that Jesus was a Jewish teacher, His rejection by Jewish leaders, the belief that He performed healings and miracles, and His crucifixion under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
You have every reason to trust the Bible, and more importantly, the God of whom it speaks.
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 1359.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of 2 Peter that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.