How do I know that the Bible is true?
depends on what you mean by “true.” If you mean objective
fact, scientifically or historically verifiable, in the same category
of definiteness as 2 +2 = 4, or ocean water is salty, then you
don't know that the Bible is “true.” These are stories,
not historical records and objective biographies. They were told
long ago by a large number of writers, nearly all unknown, as
a way of talking about the God whom they knew and worshiped.
rough analogy might be the way a family of five talks about a
trip to Grandma's for Christmas dinner. Same trip, but five different
perspectives on it, each person noticing different things and
interpreting events differently. Each has a piece of the “truth,”
but no matter how fervently each might defend his or her perspective,
none has all of the truth.
Israel's self-understanding began with the Exodus. The Israelites
wrote a prehistory, a book of origins, to explain how they got
to Egypt and what it meant. That prehistory offers several perspectives:
Adam and Eve sinned, their sons sinned, the entire tribe sinned,
the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into slavery, a famine
came. In each perspective, they described a piece of Yahweh, their
God. They weren't writing science or history. They were explaining
their existence. A different people might tell an entirely different
story, as indeed many did.
later event, exile in Babylon, elicited a similar array of perspectives
on what went wrong.
the Christian era, we receive four different accounts of the life
and ministry of Jesus, as well as several others that weren't
approved for the official canon. Each tells the story differently.
Some common details, but mostly disparate details, suggest that
each author was writing for a certain audience and to answer certain
questions. Thus, in Luke the angel speaks to Mary, in Matthew
the angel speaks to Joseph, and Mark and John know nothing of
angels and birth in Bethlehem. Each view of the birth adds another
element of “truth”—not verifiable fact, but
meaning, a glimpse of God.
attempts to get around this reality by declaring God as the author
of Scripture. But that is little more than one party in an argument
shouting louder and claiming to be right.
“truth” that Scripture offers, then, is a kaleidoscope
of images and insights into the God who is beyond complete knowing.
To a faithful Hebrew writing in the time of David, it made sense
to think of God as one who walked in a garden with the first man
and woman, and of the human condition as grounded in ego and laziness.
We can learn from that perspective. It can open our eyes to the
“truth” of God's presence in our own day and of the