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:
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.
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.
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?
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 paradox
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.
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
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.