We can say with reasonable confidence that today’s Bible is essentially the same that existed throughout the millennia, but this doesn’t necessarily mean what the Bible says is true. Anyone can write down something and bury it in the sand. I could write that the Queen of England is an alien lizard that just appears to be human, bury this in the ground, and someone will find my writing 2,000 years later. That doesn’t mean what I wrote is true. Similarly, how can we know if all or most stories in the Bible aren’t legends or flat out lies? How can we be sure the writers of the Bible wrote truth and the Bible of today is the same Bible written thousands of years ago?
[Discussion: How can we know if the stories in the Bible are legends or lies?]
In the case of the New Testament, these factors make the plausibility of legends and lies very unlikely:
The gospels and Paul’s letters were written, while eyewitnesses to the events described were alive. Legends are often accounts of things that happened long ago which nobody can verify, because everyone from then is dead. That’s why stories often start with, “A long, long, time ago…” Furthermore, the Biblical accounts often mention specific eyewitnesses. Thus, if readers don’t believe something, they can ask someone.
In Mark 15:21, we read the man who helped Jesus carry his cross to Calvary “was the father of Alexander and Rufus”—men who were apparently known by the readers and writers. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1–6, refers to 500 eyewitnesses who saw the risen Christ simultaneously. Would you write that in a document designated for public reading unless there really were a group that could confirm it? All of this contradicts that the gospels were some anonymous, evolving, oral traditions or lies.
Additionally, as you read the New Testament, it becomes clear that Jesus practically eliminated sickness from the region. He was doing miracles left and right, healing hordes of people. No wonder masses of up to 10,000  attended his sermons from all over the area. Non-Christian historians of the time, even those hostile to Christianity, confirm the influence of Jesus reached all the way to Rome. 
On the road to Emmaus, as noted in Luke 24:18, the disciple Cleopas (again, notice a specific eyewitness), exclaims the following when confronted with an apparent stranger who didn’t know about Jesus: “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Keep in mind most eyewitnesses to the works and miracles of Jesus were his opponents who had watched him for years, and ultimately witnessed his crucifixion. They would have been first to challenge lies or fictional accounts written about him. As Tim Keller notes:
For a highly altered, fictionalized account of an event to take hold in the public imagination it is necessary that the eyewitnesses (and their children and grandchildren) all be long dead. They must be off the scene so they cannot contradict or debunk the embellishments and falsehoods of the story. The gospels were written far too soon for this to occur. It would have been impossible, then, for this new faith to spread as it did had Jesus never said or done the things mentioned in the gospel accounts. Paul could confidently assert to government officials that the events of Jesus’s life were public knowledge: “These things were not done in a corner,” he said to King Agrippa (Acts 26: 26). The people of Jerusalem had been there— they had been in the crowds that heard and watched Jesus. The New Testament documents could not say Jesus was crucified when thousands of people were still alive who knew whether he was or not. If there had not been appearances after his death, if there had not been an empty tomb, if he had not made these claims, and these public documents claimed they happened, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. The hearers would have simply laughed at the accounts. 
Skeptics may say the writers of the New Testament wrote lies to support their new movement, prop up their influence—all to gain more power.
[Discussion: Can you think of reasons why this claim doesn’t hold water?]
The facts testify the contrary. In those times, women’s testimony was inadmissible in court as women were considered too emotional and unreliable. Guess who were the first to witness the resurrected the Jesus? A bunch of women. If you’re fabricating a story and want people to believe you, it would make much more sense to use some reputable men as the first witnesses.
If you’re trying to gain influence and power for yourself plus trying to get people in your movement, how would you portray yourself—as an untrustworthy, jealous liar, with little faith, somewhat slow in thinking, who abandoned his master in his hour of need and left him to die alone? That sums up the disciples, Peter in particular. What a sales pitch right? Hey, this is the kind of person I am, join my movement!
Stay tuned for part 5.
19 Matthew 14:21. This account mentions 5,000 men. Add to that the women and children, and the number is easily 10,000.
20 See Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger.
21 Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Kindle Locations 1797–1815).
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