Many Christians will quote passages from the bible as proof or evidence when needed. However, given that it is a story written, translated, interpreted, re-written, re-translated and re-interpreted by humans over tens of generations and adapted for many of the monotheistic religions such as Christianity, how can we be sure that it still accurately represents the original material, even if it were written by a monotheistic god?

A commenter has made a good point about there being very old manuscripts presumably containing similar information to modern interpretranslated bibles, though this raises more questions for me:

  • Are those very old manuscripts written in God's handwriting?
  • Is there anyone alive who knows the language they were written in, and hasn't needed to try and interpret what they say by cross-referencing various documents of a similar age to find patterns and derive meanings, essentially using a bit of detective work and some educated guesses?
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    Well, the presumption that the bible was "written, translated, interpreted, re-written, re-translated and re-interpreted by humans over tens of generations" is actually false. We have very old manuscripts that back this up. (But that's a different question.) – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 13:36
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    There's a book called A Case for Christ that covers your answer. It was a book about an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity and ended up finding a mountain of evidence for this. (And that book only covers the New Testament!) – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 13:37
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    But that's just another book written by another believer. You can read the "case for christ" from cover to cover, but all the information in it is second-hand at best. For example, there's no actual proof he was even an Atheist to start with. – user290 Aug 31 '11 at 13:42
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    If you walk into a room with ten crying children. Nine of them point to a single child as the culprit of the crying. How do you really know who started the crying? If you can't accept human witness as evidence, then there is absolutely nothing that anyone can tell you to convince you. – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 13:49
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    @Richard - There's a difference between having 9 first hand witnesses and reading their written down stories that have been translated and interpreted numerous times 2000 years after the facts. – Kristof Claes Aug 31 '11 at 14:05

I'll post an answer to one aspect of your question "How do we know that the Bible hasn't changed since it was written?"

It all boils down to manuscripts.

The number and age of the manuscripts that we have shows that nothing of significance has changed since the earliest Christian times.

Here is a list of some of the earliest manuscripts. For reference on this site:

Author  Date Written            Earliest Copy   Time Span   Copies (extent)
Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26)       1st century     50-60 AD    co-existant (?)  
John Rylands (John)             90 AD           130 AD      40 years     
Bodmer Papyrus II (John)        90 AD           150-200 AD  60-110 years     
Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.)    1st century     200 AD      150 years    
Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels) 1st century     200 AD      150 years    
Codex Vaticanus (Bible)         1st century     325-350 AD  275-300 years    
Codex Sinaiticus (Bible)        1st century     350 AD      300 years    
Codex Alexandrinus (Bible)      1st century     400 AD      350 years    

Through these (and many other) manuscripts, we have been able to show that the Bible of today has not been altered at since its earliest manifestation.

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