“You Can’t Use the Bible to Prove the Bible” . . . And Other Stupid Statements
by C Michael Patton
I have heard this many times. It can come from Christians or non-Christians, but it is mainly on the lips of unbelievers. The idea that the Bible itself is inadmissible as a testimony to itself. If I were trying to use the Bible to prove the validity of the Bible, from the perspective of many outsiders, this is circular reasoning. However, this statement is not only wrong, but completely misunderstands its own argument and, ironically, makes the very circular reasoning assumptions that it accuses believers of.
1. The “Bible” is not one book
When we are talking about “proving” or evidencing the truths of the Gospel message, we have to put our historians hat on (not our religious hat). The argument is meant to frame Christians in this rather odd situation where they sound like they are saying the Bible is true because it says it is true. But the Bible is not one book. In fact, the term “Bible” is not in the Bible. The Bible is a collection of works that spans over a thousand years written by dozens of authors, some who are connected, some who are not. All together there are sixty-six books in the Protestant Bible.
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When we are talking about the claims of the “New Testament,” we are talking about the story of Christianity, the very foundation and apex of Christianity as it deals with the incarnation of Christ, who he was and what he did. But, even then, to say one can’t prove the New Testament with the New Testament is quite ill-informed and unreflective. The designation “New Testament” (along with its list of books) is not even in the New Testament. Like with the whole Bible, it is just a name given to a certain related corpus of writings that speak about the story and the implications of advent of Jesus Christ. There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament.
If one were to look at this with a historian’s eye, to say we cannot use the Bible to prove or evidence the Bible is about the most misguided thing one could possibly say. What does that mean? Are you saying that we cannot use the testimony that the book of Matthew gives to evidence Mark? Or that one cannot attempt to piece together Galatians with the Book of Acts? Of course you can. In fact, you must. These twenty-seven documents, all written around the same time, all telling similar stories, must be used to prove or evidence each other. If not, the historian is not being a historian, but something entirely different…