articlesqa How do we know the Bible wasn’t just made up?
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Answer by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of


When­ev­er you an­swer a ques­tion, it is al­ways help­ful to look at every sin­gle word in the ques­tion. This ques­tion, bro­ken up, looks like: How // do // we // know // the // Bible // was // not // just // made // up. In the process of an­a­lyz­ing the words, you can be­gin to see what the ques­tion is ac­tu­al­ly ask­ing. Fur­ther­more, the words will re­com­bine into phras­es and ideas that will give ad­di­tion­al in­sight and al­low cre­ativ­i­ty in an­swer­ing the ques­tion. So the les­son for to­day is sim­ple: 1 when you see a ques­tion, break it down into words. Re­mem­ber this step. It is cru­cial in an­swer­ing all ques­tions.

For this ques­tion, be­gin by ask­ing ex­am­in­ing the word “how”. What is a “how” ques­tion and how do you an­swer one? Usu­al­ly “how” ques­tions are an­swered by de­scrib­ing the steps to ac­com­plish a par­tic­u­lar goal. Next, we go to this word “we”. Who is this “we” the ques­tion is talk­ing about? Are they Chris­tians, athe­ists or a mur­der of crows? Who­ev­er they might be, the word “we” im­plies not only the per­son­al but also the con­sen­sus, the crowd. In prac­tice, the ques­tion is de­mand­ing an an­swer ap­plic­a­ble to both com­mu­ni­ty and in­di­vid­ual. The ques­tion is there­fore ask­ing you to de­scribe steps to help­ing a com­mu­ni­ty ar­rive at a cer­tain goal. Next the ques­tion hits you with this very cru­cial word “know”. Now we see that the goal of our “how” ques­tion is knowl­edge. We are sup­posed to de­scribe the steps by which a so­ci­ety ar­rives at knowl­edge. That is a very very hard task. Schol­ars go to school for years to study how to even be­gin to ac­com­plish this task.1 So the first part of the ques­tion could be rephrased sim­ply as, “De­scribe the steps by which a group of peo­ple could come to know...”

The sec­ond part takes the ques­tion to an­oth­er lev­el. Let’s imag­ine the ques­tion said, “How do we know ... the Bible is true?” The an­swer would then be a se­ries of steps to help a group of peo­ple ar­rive at the knowl­edge of truth. 2 Tim 3:7 tells us that this pos­i­tive goal can­not be ac­com­plished through con­tin­u­ous learn­ing. And yet this ques­tion is not even ask­ing “how” to ar­rive at the knowl­edge of truth. It is ask­ing, “How do we know the Bible wasn’t just made up?” Or, how do we know the Bible is not false or not a gross lie? The truth is one thing. “Not false” is an­oth­er. The ques­tion­er wants you to lay out steps by which every­body can know that the Bible is not a lie. It is akin to say­ing to a faith­ful hus­band, “Prove you are not cheat­ing on your wife.” It is al­ready im­plied that he is. So also, the ques­tion al­ready pre­sumes, be­lieves the Bible is a lie and asks you de­scribe steps by which “we” could see that the Bible is not a lie.

Now this is where most peo­ple mess up. First they mess up by try­ing to show that the Bible is true. But that is not the point of the ques­tion. Sec­ond­ly, be­cause the ques­tion says “how do we know”, most peo­ple try to give an­swers that ap­peal to gen­er­al­ly ac­cept­ed meth­ods of know­ing truth. For ex­am­ple, many will say the Bible is not a lie be­cause of ev­i­dence of mir­a­cles, para-bib­li­cal ac­counts of the lives of peo­ple in the Bible and so on. How­ev­er, the “we” in the ques­tion is very un­clear and what the sci­en­tist finds ac­cept­able may be eas­i­ly in­val­i­dat­ed by the his­to­ri­an or the athe­ist. In the end, try­ing to an­swer the ques­tion by pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence leads to the sit­u­a­tion Paul warns Tim­o­thy to avoid. In­stead of be­ing com­mand­ed to fear God, the ques­tion­er ac­quires learn­ing but nev­er comes to the knowl­edge of the truth. The le­gion of ev­i­dence pro/con­tra al­lows him to say, “‘We’ can nev­er know for sure,” and thus he feels ab­solved of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to be­lieve God.

There isn’t enough time to thor­ough­ly ad­dress oth­er as­pects of the ques­tion im­plied by “was”, “just” and “made up”. But if you want to think about it, the ques­tion ap­peals to the im­pos­si­bil­i­ty of ver­i­fy­ing past events. For the same rea­son con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries flour­ish claim­ing Amer­i­ca nev­er went to the moon and so on.

So, giv­en what you have just read above, how would you an­swer the ques­tion?

My An­swer

And so we have, again, the ev­i­den­tiary prob­lem ap­plied to know­ing the truth of the Bible. This is some­what the pat­tern of all the ques­tions about God on quo­ra. And to be fair, this ques­tion is present all over the Bible. Gideon asked, “How shall I know?” Moses asked, “How shall they know that you have sent me?” Abra­ham was per­haps the only one who didn’t ask but he and his wife laughed when God Promised Isaac. It is then re­peat­ed­ly asked, “How do I know, how will they know that I haven’t just made this up, that I am not de­ceiv­ing my­self?” This is to say then that this ques­tion is not new and is present even in the Bible.

This spe­cif­ic it­er­a­tion of the truth ques­tion is about know­ing whether the Bible wasn’t “just made up”. It draws on hu­man­i­ty’s shal­low his­to­ry of self de­cep­tion. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, we know that words, which should bear truth, of­ten bear lies both in­ten­tion­al and un­in­ten­tion­al. We can­not trust words be­cause those who speak them are liars. Every con­ver­sa­tion then is an ex­er­cise in the liars para­dox2 and even he who calls him­self a liar is ly­ing about him­self. And if we can­not trust our own words, then how shall we trust God’s Word? We analo­gize on the ba­sis of our ex­pe­ri­ence that since all men are liars and then con­clude that all words must there­fore be fal­li­ble. This is a proof by in­duc­tion based on ev­i­dence. And so, de­ceiv­ing our­selves, we ap­ply the same prin­ci­ple to God’s Word.

We think that since the Bible was writ­ten by men then well, it can­not be trust­ed since all men are liars. But that the Bible was writ­ten by men does not nec­es­sar­i­ly im­ply that it can­not be trust­ed. In fact, we can only trust the Bible be­cause God Wrote His Word through men. God Com­mu­ni­cates to us in a lan­guage we can un­der­stand and can be trans­lat­ed across all spaces and times. Were He to Com­mu­ni­cate in a way or in a lan­guage we could not un­der­stand, then it would not be com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Chris­tian­i­ty re­ject­ed gnos­ti­cism long ago. In­tel­li­gi­bil­i­ty and there­fore trans­mis­si­bil­i­ty through speech and writ­ing is a pre­cur­sor to trans­paren­cy and any ques­tion about truth. We should there­fore dis­abuse our­selves of the no­tion that “The Bible can­not be trust­ed be­cause it was writ­ten us­ing the hands of men.” The only word you can be­lieve is the word you can hear. The Bible can­not be true for you un­less The Bible was writ­ten by men through whom God Speaks.

So then, in this long dark night of hu­man­i­ty, I say to you, “Come near my daugh­ter. Once upon a time, there was once a sun.” And you say to me, “The sun! I have nev­er seen it. How can I know that you have not made it up?” The ques­tion then is not about the fact of the sun. The ques­tion is how you can know the truth.This is a very dif­fer­ent is­sue. The is­sue is not the Bible. The is­sue is about you and how you know the truth.

If all men are liars then nec­es­sar­i­ly you are a liar as well. But you must live and eat and breathe and not die. You must, for ex­am­ple, hold fast to the truth of grav­i­ty so that you do not walk off the cliff. And yet you are a liar. You have seen that when peo­ple step off the cliff, they die. This you call ev­i­dence. You have seen that when you touch the fire, your skin gets burned and hurts. This you call ev­i­dence. You put two and two to­geth­er and you de­cide that the ba­sis for truth, for ar­riv­ing at truth, is ev­i­dence. And from here on you de­cide that every time some­one says some­thing to you, you’ll see if its true based on ev­i­dence.

But think a lit­tle and you will see the fal­la­cy in this line of rea­son­ing. If truth was ar­rived at by ev­i­dence, then the first guy who walked off the cliff was doomed to die. For he had no ev­i­dence to lead him to the truth since no one had fall­en off be­fore him. Ev­i­dence is only use­ful for the sec­ond guy. The first guy is dead. But then we must say that the first guy has no ac­cess to truth. And then we must con­clude that per­haps you are about to walk off a cliff and have no means of know­ing the truth. In oth­er words, not only is there no ev­i­dence that ev­i­dence is the best means of ar­riv­ing at truth, ev­i­dence can nev­er be the means of ar­riv­ing at truth. Ev­i­dence is only use­ful, only present af­ter you have ar­rived at the truth. When a man says, “Well, I saw a man die af­ter he fell off the cliff and so I con­clud­ed that falling off the cliff makes you die,” he is de­ceiv­ing him­self. He is telling the sto­ry back­ward. What real­ly hap­pened is he sur­mised, in­tu­it­ed, be­lieved that falling off the cliff is dead­ly and by this truth, he made sense of the man who died af­ter falling off the cliff. The ev­i­dence only man­i­fest­ed af­ter he be­lieved the truth. Sense, ev­i­dence, does not and can nev­er make truth. Truth comes first, truth is be­lieved first and it is by truth that we make sense of and cre­ate ev­i­dence.3

There­fore, the truth of the Bible comes first be­fore the ev­i­dence for the Bible’s truth. Any at­tempt to prove the ve­rac­i­ty of the Bible by fur­nish­ing his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence and so on will fail. For the un­be­liev­er, the athe­ist, the apos­tates, have a dif­fer­ent truth and will also fur­nish their own “ev­i­dence”. This is why sci­ence can­not be used ei­ther. It should be re­mem­bered that Je­sus Re­fused the crowns of men while on earth John 6:14-15. Let us not call Him King be­cause we have crowned Him with his­to­ry and ev­i­dence. He Is King and Lord. He Whose throne is heav­en, Whose foot­stool is the earth, re­fus­es at our crowns. He By­pass­es our ev­i­dence, re­sists the temp­ta­tion of our crowns, and Im­me­di­ate­ly, Eter­nal­ly Calls Him­self The Truth. We who be­lieve Him will then dis­cov­er ev­i­dence. It is the fal­la­cy that pre­sumes ev­i­dence comes be­fore truth that makes us try to lead peo­ple to truth by pre­sent­ing ev­i­dence.

As for the ques­tion, “How do we know the Bible was not just made up?” You know it the same way you know any­thing: you first be­lieve and then you know. But make no mis­take, one can­not by his­to­ry make lighter or heav­ier the bur­den of faith or make short­er the leap. At most, some facts pre­sent­ed in oth­er an­swers may bring you clos­er to the edge. But faith still has pri­ma­cy and you still must leap. Again, Je­sus Did not ask men to ap­prove Him as Mes­si­ah. He Specif­i­cal­ly ran away when they tried to crown Him. No­body un­der­stands The Word Mes­si­ah oth­er than The Mes­si­ah Him­self. So we must not and can­not seek ap­proval from sci­ence or his­to­ry that His Word Is Truth. And every crown sci­ence and his­to­ry of­fers must be avid­ly avoid­ed. They are ser­vants. Ser­vants do not crown the king.4 Men can­not crown God be­cause God Is Not run­ning for God! There is no deus ex di­alec­ti­ca, sci­en­tifi­ca or his­to­ria5. Do not be­lieve the Bible be­cause of sci­ence and his­to­ry. Be­lieve The Bible and then sci­ence and his­to­ry will make sense. God Has Crowned His Word with Glo­ry. He Is King of kings and Lord of lords. His Word Is The Word of words.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3