There has been much talk today about whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, whether or not the Bible is inerrant, authorative, the final authority in all things relatiing to faith... In this post I won't address any of those issues. The one issue I will address is if the Bible is reliable. But, before we can attempt to answer that question we must examine what we mean by reliable. First, let us look at what the dictionary says about the definiton of reliable:
1. consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted.
"a reliable source of information"
synonyms: dependable, good, well founded, authentic, valid, genuine, sound, true More
Now, let's look at what "Bible" means
the Christian scriptures, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
The English word "Bible" comes from bíblia in Latin and bíblos in Greek. The term means book, or books, and may have originated from the ancient Egyptian port of Byblos (in modern-day Lebanon), where papyrus used for making books and scrolls was exported to Greece. http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/qt/Bible-Definition.htm
So we can see that the Bible is not one book but is a collection of 66 books. For simplicity sake, the 66 books are referred to as the Book (the Bible). Before we can answer the question of whether or not the Bible is Reliable, we have to first determine, "reliable for what purpose?"
Let us that a hyperthetical example of f farmer named John Abernathy. Mr. Abernathery has spent many years being a farmer, he has studied the sciences of raising plants, crop rotation and nurrishing the soil. He has learned to maintain and repair his equipment. Let us just assume that he is extremely proficient at everything necessary to being a good farmer. Now, let us assume that his neighbor, Bill Crombly, had a heart attack and needs a bypass operation. Mr. Abernathy was called to come treat Mr Crombly for his heart condition. Now the question is asked, is Mr. Abernathy reliable? Well, yes and no. He is a very reliable farmer, but would not be reliable as a heart surgeon (unless he also had that specialized training.)
Now, let us go back to the Bible. is the Bible reliable? I would ask, reliable for what purpose? We need to take a look at each individual book of the Bible and examine why it was written, to whom it was written, for what purpose it was written. Assuming the each book was written by a man of integrity and honor, I see no reason why it should not be considered reliable for the purpose it had originally been written.
However, when men come together and put all those individual books together into one large book and make extraordinary claims about the book, I see no reason why this new reason should be considered reliable. If you will carefully examine each book of the Bible, you will find that not one of the individual books makes any mention or claim to being part of a larger book. While the original purpose of the book may have been reliable, the new extraordinary claims of the book may be suspect. These new claims are that the those original 66 books are now part of a special "holy book" called "The Word of God". Then, from this erroneous claim, other .... claims have been added, such as the Bible is "inerrant", "infallible", the final authority in all things related to faith. in addition, claims have been repeatedly made that God speaks through the Bible.
Now, returning to the our original question, "Is the Bible reliable?" Again, I ask, reliable for what purpose? If you want to know what the original thoughts of the writer were, then perhaps we can assume that it is relatively reliable. But, it you want to know if the claims made about the Bible are true, then you may run into problems.