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THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD

THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD

Part#1: Manuscript Evidence 

The Skeptics Attack the Bible:

          The following 4 statements represent some of the ways in which skeptics have attacked the Bible throughout history.

    1. Whatever meaning the Bible had in the original Greek and Hebrew has been lost after thousands of years of translation and editing.

    2. The Bible is not scientifically accurate.

    3. The Bible is not historically accurate.

    4. The Bible was written by men not God.

          These attacks are nothing new for God’s Word. The Bible is the world’s best seller of all time. It is the most read, most studied, and most scrutinized book in history. For thousands of years the Bible has been attacked by skeptics and each time the Bible has been triumphant.

          The following quote captures the plight of the skeptic throughout history. When a French Monarch proposed the persecution of Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said,

“Sire, the church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and Popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.”

                                                                 - H.L. Hastings

Let’s deal with each one of these claims individually.

1.      Whatever meaning the Bible had in the original Greek and Hebrew has been lost after thousands of years of translation and editing.

          This statement is one of many statements of misinformation that skeptics are spreading throughout our culture to try to discredit the Bible. It is obvious that they are either deliberately lying to the public or they are simply expressing their opinions without doing their research first.

          Scholars determine whether a document is consistent with the original by analyzing all of the manuscripts in the original language that exist of a particular document and their ages. By doing so they determine whether there is enough manuscript evidence to determine the contents of the original, whether the original document was an eyewitness account, and whether the present document accurately represents the original. The following are some of the key concepts to understand before we begin:

          A. The more manuscripts that exist, the more likely scholars will be able to determine the actual contents of the original.

          B. The closer the age of a particular manuscript is to the eye witness period of the events that are described in the document, the more likely it accurately represents the original.

          C. The more similarities between older and newer manuscripts, the more likely the present document accurately represents the original.

Now let’s look at how different works of history compare to the Bible in each one of these criteria.

* Number of Manuscripts

Document

# of Copies

Caesar’s (Gallic Wars)

10

Plato (Tetralogies)

7

Tacitus (Annals)

20

Pliny the Younger (Roman History)

7

Sophocles

193

Euripedes

9

Aristotle

50

Thucydides (History)

8

New Testament

5,366

As you can see the New Testament is in a league of its own when it comes to manuscript evidence.

* How Early are the Manuscripts? 

Document

# of Copies

Date of the Original

Earliest Copy or Fragment

Years Between Original and Copy

Caesar’s (Gallic Wars)

10

100 – 44 B.C.

900A.D.

944 years

Plato (Tetralogies)

7

427 – 347 B.C.

900 A.D.

1247 years

Tacitus (Annals)

20

100 A.D.

1100 A.D.

1000 years

Pliny the Younger (Roman History)

7

61 – 113 A.D.

850 A.D.

737 years

Sophocles

193

496 – 406 B.C.

1000 A.D.

1406 years

Euripedes

9

480 – 406 B.C.

1100 A.D.

1505 years

Aristotle

50

384 – 322 B.C.

1100 A.D.

1422 years

Thucydides (History)

8

460 – 400 B.C.

900 A.D.

1300 years

New Testament

5,366

33 – 95 A.D.

60 A.D.

Within Eye Witness Period

          The further away a manuscript is from the eyewitness period, the greater the chance that it was changed as it was passed on from generation to generation. On the other hand, if a manuscript happens to be from the eyewitness period, it is very likely that it is identical to the original because eyewitnesses were still alive to correct any mistakes or changes. 

          As you can see, all of the ancient works on the list that scholars except as historically reliable are far removed from the eyewitness period, many over 1000 years removed, and yet they are still accepted. On the other hand, the manuscript evidence clearly shows that the New Testament is indeed an eyewitness document. And as an eyewitness document it is in a much stronger position to be considered historically reliable, testifying to the events that occurred in Jesus’ life as well as other events that occurred during the first century.

The Apostle Peter testifies to this.

“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2Peter 1:16).

            * Similarities and Differences Between Earlier and Later Manuscripts.

          Even if the original New Testament was an eyewitness document, if it was edited and changed over time as skeptics proclaim, it would not accurately represent the original.            

          Thankfully we can determine whether today’s New Testament accurately represents the original by analyzing the similarities and differences that exist between the 5366 ancient Greek manuscripts that we have at present.

          To give the skeptics credit, I have to admit that it would be very logical to assume that after around 2000 years of copying there would be huge differences between the manuscripts.

          But the truth is that the differences in content between the manuscripts are so small that “New Testament textual scholars have generally concluded that 99.99% of the original writings have been reclaimed, and of the remaining one-hundredth of one percent, there are no variants substantially affecting any Christian doctrine” (Dr. John MacArthur).       

How about the Old Testament?

          The lack of significant differences between today’s Old Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls that were found in 1947 on the west side of the Dead Sea prove that the Old Testament that we have today is the same Old Testament that Jesus read while He was on earth. For example, coins found sealed in the same ceramic jars as the scrolls as well as Paleographers from around the world all date the scrolls to about 125 B.C. Yet when the Isaiah scroll from this collection is compared to the book of Isaiah in the Masoratic Text dated to about 916 A.D. they happen to be identical.  1000 years of copy after copy transcribed with complete accuracy. And today after another 1000 years that same Isaiah scroll’s content matches the King James Version of the Bible perfectly.    

How could this be?

         I would say it’s not only a miracle but also prophesy fulfilled. God guaranteed not only the survival but also the accurate transmission of His Word in scripture.

“For, All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the

flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord stands

            forever.”  (1 Peter 1: 23-25).

“So shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent” (Isaiah 55:11).

 Click Here for Part#2: The Bible is Historically Accurate