Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet shod with the readiness which comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV)

There is no point in holding up the Word of God as a weapon against Satan unless you are fully convinced that the Bible is true. If you have even the slightest doubt, then Satan can, in a flash, turn the tables on you. We have already seen what doubts can do in our spiritual lives when we looked at the Shield of Faith and the Helmet of Salvation.

But how can we know that the Bible is true?

While praying for His disciples, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NIV)

Now, obviously, Jesus was referring to the Old Testament. But can we also rely on the New Testament? How can we be sure, without the testimony of Jesus, that copying errors haven’t crept in during the two thousand years since these books were written? How reliable is the Bible, especially the New Testament?

Let’s take a look at this question, which has been asked countless times: Is the Bible reliable? How can we be sure that it hasn’t been changed or embellished over the ages?

When verifying the authenticity of ancient sources, there are two factors which scholars investigate: How much time has elapsed between when the original was written and the date of the oldest extant copy; and how many ancient copies of the text are in existence?

We will start with a quick look at the writings of just two people: Caesar (Latin) and Aristotle (Greek).

Caesar wrote his works in the years round 50 BC. The oldest extant manuscript is dated from 900 AD. In other words, 950 years had elapsed. Aristotle wrote his works in approximately 300 BC and the oldest extant manuscript is dated 1100 AD, meaning there is a gap of 1400 years.

How do the New Testament manuscripts compare with this?

The Codex Vaticanus (held in the Vatican Library) is one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the entire Greek Bible. All the books making up the original Greek New Testament were written between 60-90 AD and the Codex is dated 325 AD – a gap of between 235-265 years. (There is one manuscript of a small portion of the Gospel of John which is dated from 130 AD – a mere 40 years! The equivalent of reading your parent’s love letters!)

What makes the Codex any less authentic than copies of the writings of Caesar and Aristotle, other than a Satanic lie!

Now let’s look at how many ancient copies there are of the writings mentioned.

There are 10 copies of the writings of Caesar, 5 of the writings of Aristotle.

In contrast to this, we have 24000 ancient manuscripts of portions of the New Testament. (Manuscripts preceding the Codex Vaticanus cover about three quarters of the NT.) This is by far the largest number of ancient manuscripts of any book in existence. Coming a very poor second is Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies!

Anyone wanting to cast doubt on the authenticity of the New Testament must be prepared to ditch all Classical Greek and Latin works too!

So far, then, what we have established is that the New Testament, as we have it, is an authentic copy of the original writings.

Of course, this does not establish that it is true, or in fact that is the actual Word of God, so we will take our investigation a bit further.

We need go no further than Jesus. We start with the historicity of Jesus. Is there proof, outside of the Biblical text, that He existed and that what is told of Him is true?

It is quite surprising how many extra-biblical witnesses there are.

The following are pagan historians and commentators: Thallus (52 AD); Tacitus (56-120 AD); Mara Bar-Serapion (70 AD); Phlegon (80-140 AD); Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD); Suetonius (69-140 AD); Lucien of Samosata (115-200 AD); and Celsus (175 AD).

Then there were Jewish commentators: Josephus the historian (37-101 AD);  Writings of various rabbis in the Jewish Talmud (400-700 AD); and finally, the Toledot Yeshu – a medieval Jewish retelling of the life of Jesus (1000 AD). The latter contains the most scurrilous details.

All these writings have one thing in common – they are hostile to Jesus and to Christianity. And yet the following details can be gleaned from them:

“Jesus was born and lived in Palestine. He was born, supposedly, to a virgin and had an earthly father who was a carpenter. He was a teacher who taught that through repentance and belief, all followers would become brothers and sisters. He led the Jews away from their beliefs. He was a wise man who claimed to be God and the Messiah. He had unusual magical powers and performed miraculous deeds. He healed the lame. He accurately predicted the future. He was persecuted by the Jews for what He said, betrayed by Judah Iskarioto. He was beaten with rods, forced to drink vinegar and wear a crown of thorns. He was crucified on the eve of the Passover and this crucifixion occurred under the direction of Pontius Pilate, during the time of Tiberius. On the day of His crucifixion, the sky grew dark and there was an earthquake. Afterward, He was buried in a tomb and the tomb was later found to be empty. He appeared to His disciples resurrected from the grave and showed them His wounds. These disciples then told others. Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven. Jesus’ disciples and followers upheld a high moral code. One of them was named Matthai. The disciples were also persecuted for their faith but were martyred without changing their claims. They met regularly to worship Jesus, even after His death.” (Is there any evidence for Jesus outside of the bible? J. Warner)

If this, coming from hostile writers, doesn’t confirm the basic facts of Jesus’ life and ministry, as revealed in the NT, then what will?

This information came from the link below. The details are fascinating and worth the time and effort to read.

In the second place, we take a brief look at how the coming of Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

Scholars dispute how many of the OT passages are Messianic prophecies, with numbers ranging from between 200-400. For a list of 68 of the most obvious, click on the link below.  (You can choose whether to give them a quick glance or to read them in the Bible yourself.)

The mathematical probability of just 8 of these prophecies being fulfilled by chance is 1 in 10 to the 17th power! For a description of what this astronomical number means, click on the link below. (A quick read)

Finally, we will take a very brief look at the New Testament’s most outrageous claim of all – that Jesus was resurrected from the dead – by focusing our attention on one question:

If He was not resurrected, then WHERE WAS THE BODY?

Theory 1. The Romans stole the body to prevent any further disturbance to the peace.

Seeing that the guards, sent to ensure that no one came to disturb the tomb, were terrified that their lives would be forfeit, this is nonsense. (It was Roman Law that the punishment for allowing prisoners to escape was execution. Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15)

Theory 2. The Jews stole the body to prevent any further shenanigans from Jesus’ followers. Why on earth then did they not present the body to prove that, far from having been resurrected, the hated Nazarene was dead and decomposing?

Theory 3. Jesus had not really died, but was in a swoon and recovered consciousness.

A likely story! Scourging with a flagellum ripped the flesh away and often exposed the underlying organs. (Many victims died from the scourging alone.) The spear into his side caused an outflow of separated blood and serum, which, from a medical standpoint, revealed that his pericardium had ruptured. After all this, He lies unattended in a cold grave for what amounts to about 36 hours, and suddenly recovers, jauntily rolls away the extremely heavy stone that secured the opening and flits about the countryside! Nice try!

Theory 4. The disciples came and stole the body.

While this is certainly the most plausible of the arguments, when it comes to motivation, there are two factors to consider. The first is that the Roman guard, knowing that they would be executed, would have been very much in the way of the disciples. Then, considering that they had all (excepting for John) scattered like frightened rabbits, it’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination to think they were able to carry out an ancient Mission Impossible. The final refutation lies in the fact that all the disciples (again John excluded) died horrific deaths. Would all of them have been prepared to be martyred for what they knew was a lie?

And when you consider the change in the disciples after Pentecost, from terror to boldness, and how, in the space of one generation they changed the known world with the message of the Gospel, we can come to only one conclusion: The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth did happen exactly as He had foretold and exactly as it is described in the Gospels.

We can therefore believe the Psalmist who said: All your words are true… (Ps 119:16 NIV)

Not only are they true, but they are unchanging, because He is eternal and unchanging: Your word, O Lord, is eternal… (Ps 119:89 NIV)

His Word is also very powerful as can and has been attested to by countless witnesses over the past two thousand years. The Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energising and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting, and analysing, and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 AMP)

The word of God is therefore completely reliable: My word will not return to me void and without effect – it will accomplish my desire and achieve my purpose. (Isaiah 55:11 NIV)

This makes the Word of God – the Sword of the Spirit – a very powerful weapon.

But how do we use it to defend ourselves against the assaults which Satan launches on our minds?

We return once again to the temptations of Jesus as described in Matthew 4. Notice how Jesus answers Satan. With each answer, he starts off by saying: It is written, and then He quotes from the Scriptures. Jesus was using the Sword of the Spirit!

And remember, after Satan’s third attempt, he left, defeated. When you resist him with the Sword of the Spirit, he will leave you alone. (James 4:7)

Now, go back to the previous study and look at the declarations at the end of each of the five pieces of armour. Do you see how we simultaneously wielded the Sword of the Spirit each and every time? The armour is always used in conjunction with the Sword.

And this is why it is imperative that you know the Scriptures. You can’t wait until Satan launches his attack before you get out your Bible. You have to have your sword ready. The most practical thing you can do is to analyse your weaknesses as revealed by examining the armour, and then find texts relevant to your weaknesses. (Remember, Satan strikes where you are weakest.) Read them, meditate on them and learn them off by heart so that when that lurking demon attacks, you will be ready and able to declare:

Away with you, Satan! It is written…