“You can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible.”
I have heard this statement many times. It can come from Christians or non-Christians, but mainly I hear from unbelievers that the Bible is inadmissible as evidence for 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. But this statement is not only wrong, but completely misunderstands its own argument; ironically, it makes the exact circular assumptions that it accuses believers of.
The Bible Is Not One Book
The argument is meant to place 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 more than a thousand years, written by dozens of authors, some who are connected, some who are not. Altogether there are 66 books in the Protestant Bible.
When we are referring to 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. As with the entire Bible, it is just a name given to a certain related corpus of writings that speaks about the story and implications of the advent of Jesus Christ.
Does the claim mean we cannot use the testimony in Matthew as supporting evidence for Mark? Or can it mean that one cannot attempt to piece together Galatians with Acts? From the perspective of a historian, the claim that we cannot use the Bible to prove or evidence the Bible is completely misguided. There are 27 books in the New Testament, all written around the same time and all telling similar stories. Each book can therefore be used to prove or provide evidence each of the other documents in the New Testament.
Assumption of Inspiration
If a person says, “You can’t use the Bible to prove the Bible,” he probably doesn’t realize he is borrowing from the Christian worldview in order to even make such an assertion. He assumes the idea of the basic unity of Scripture or the single-authorship of the Bible. The only way to say the Bible can’t prove the Bible is to presume that Scripture has a single authorial source. Otherwise, there is no reason to link the canon of Scripture together in such a way.
For the non-Christian especially, the Bible should be seen as 66 ancient documents, all of which stand or fall on their own. In order to assess them as one document one must assume a single authorship of some sort.
Many Books, Multiple Testimonies
As testimonial sources, the 27 documents called the New Testament are unparalleled in ancient history. The contemporary multiple attestations for the story of Jesus (eyewitness or not) are without equal. Examine the sources we have for other ancient historical events and people and you will find that they have nowhere near the number of documented writings discussing the central claims.
In contrast, when it comes to the claims about Christ, we are talking about 27 documents in the New Testament alone. And all of these come within 60 to 70 years after the events. And if you expand the data beyond just Scripture and allow extra-biblical sources to be considered, then we are talking about dozens and dozens more from early church fathers (whose testimonies cannot be ignored simply because they were believers) and from ancient historians such as Tacitus and Josephus.
The story of Christ has plenty of independent documentation, all of which proves or provides evidence for the rest. Because of this when we use the Bible to prove the Bible we are merely acting as historians.