Many times, when I engage in discussion with atheists, I get some sort of dismissive remark about how I get my morality from some 2,000 year old book or ridiculing the idea of depending on an ancient book for knowledge about God. Even many Christians speak of the Bible as “a book.”
But we need to get away from referring to the Bible as a book. The Bible is NOT a book. It is a collection of books and other writings, written by roughly 40 different authors over the span of about 1,600 years. There are 66 distinct documents in the Bible, some of which are actually collections of works themselves (such as the Psalms).
Thus, referring to the Bible as a book is incorrect. It is more like an anthology. It may be printed as a single volume, but it is not a book.
Realizing that the Bible is not a single book is important for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, the real nature of the Bible as a collection of works from multiple authors means that the books of the Bible are independent sources that confirm one another. This cannot be overemphasized.
In many cases, during a discussion of the Bible’s accuracy, I have had people ask me what evidence I have “outside the Bible.” Of course, I can and do provide evidence for the claims of the Bible from outside sources. There are many, many evidences from multiple sources that support the accuracy and historicity of the Bible. Archaeology and various written records throughout history have confirmed details written in the Bible. Science sheds light on some aspects of the Bible. There are many kinds of evidence one could use. Christians should be informed of these evidences and use them to defend their faith.
However, the books of the Bible also confirm one another. And because the books in the Bible are independent documents, this is important evidence for the Bible’s accuracy.
If the Bible were a single book, it would be far easier to dismiss. If one person were making all these claims which were not backed up by any other source, it would be easier to ignore them. But when you have 40 different writers, in different places and times, with different backgrounds and purposes, and recording different events, but whose writings remain consistent with each other and, in many cases, confirm and support one another – that’s powerful evidence that what they wrote was true.
As an example, take the life of Jesus. People often ask what evidence we have of Jesus’ existence or of certain things He did. There is certainly evidence outside the Bible that Jesus existed from Josephus and several other writers of the first few centuries AD. But the Bible itself contains four independent testimonies about Jesus that confirm one another. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written by different people. Matthew and John were actual disciples of Jesus who were there during His ministry and crucifixion. Mark was a protégé of Peter, another disciple. Luke was a historian and scholar who compiled accounts of Jesus from eyewitnesses. All of them verify each other’s accounts in multiple places.
In addition to the gospel accounts, the writings of Paul, Peter, John, and others in the rest of the New Testament, though they aren’t specifically written to give the account of Jesus’ life, often refer to details of Jesus’ life and teachings that agree with what the gospels tell of Him.
Considering that the books of the Bible are separate and independent documents, dismissing them as a unit is erroneous. One might be able to claim that the authors all had a bias or ulterior motive for what they wrote, but so did most of the people who wrote documents from which we piece together history. The point is that there are multiple, independent sources which confirm details of the Christian faith and the historical timeline associated with it. The fact that we often collect these documents into one volume and call it “The Bible” does not in any way reduce the importance of this confirmation.
As an analogy, suppose people were to collect all the books, letters, diaries, and news articles that have been written about the events of 9/11 into a single volume called “The Attack of 9/11.” Then, in a couple thousand years when a skeptic is doubting that 9/11 ever happened, someone shows this volume to him. The skeptic says to the other person, “Yeah, but that’s just one book. What evidence do you have outside this book?”
Obviously, the 9/11 skeptic would be ignorant and incorrect to say that. While there might be other evidence outside “The Attack of 9/11” that could be used as confirmation, the skeptic would be ignoring the many evidences “inside” the volume which record and confirm the events. The individual news articles from different parts of the country which all portray the events in the same way, the diaries of people who remember it, and the books written about it by people who talked to eyewitnesses are all independent sources, even if they are published as a single volume. It is the same for the books of the Bible.
In our society, there are many attacks upon the Christian faith and the historicity of the Bible. One of the ways to help combat these is to point out that the Bible is not a single book, but an extensive collection of documents that support one another. This “internal” verification and consistency is important evidence of the Bible’s authenticity that should not be overlooked or ignored.