- Published: Sunday, 21 September 2008 15:05
- Written by Lincoln Gifford
Part 2 – The Reliability and Inspiration of the Bible
(much of the following material was taken from Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell)
A. The Uniqueness of the Bible - there is no other book like it
1. Written over a 1,500 year span, across 40 generations
2. Written by over 40 authors, from every walk of life: kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, scholars, farmers, political leaders, generals, servants, prime ministers, doctors, tax collectors, rabbi’s, etc.
3. Written in different places: wilderness, dungeon, palace, while traveling, etc.
4. Written in different moods: some writing out of joy and happiness, and others in deep sorrow and despair.
5. Written on 3 continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe
6. Written in 3 languages:
Hebrew language of the Old Testament
Aramaic common language of the Near East during the time of Jesus
Greek language of the New Testament, and the international language at the time of Jesus.
7. Subject matter includes 100’s of controversial topics, and even though it was written by so many authors over such a long period of time, there is an amazing unity and consistency which binds the all the writings of the Bible together. The Bible does not contradict itself.
8. Unique in its circulation: the Bible has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book, by far. Over 3 billion Bibles have been printed.
9. The Bible is unique in its survival (see next section)
10. Survival through persecution: many efforts have been made through history to destroy the Bible, kill its authors, translators, printers, and distributors.
11. Survival of the Bible through criticism: the Bible has stood the test of time. Many have set out to discredit the Bible, with no success. No book has been scrutinized like the Bible, and yet it is still loved and studied by millions.
B. The Reliability of the Bible
1. New Testament (originally written in Greek)
a. There are 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the NT, 10,000 Latin Vulgate, 9,300 other early versions, and 24,000 early manuscripts of portions of the NT. Some were written as early as the first century AD.
b. No other book of antiquity even comes close to these numbers:
Author When Written Earliest Copy No. of Copies
Caesar 100-44 BC 900 AD 10
Plato 427-347 BC 900 AD 7
Homer (Illiad) 1300 AD 643
Sophocles 496-406 BC 1000 AD 193
Aristotle 384-322 BC 1100 AD 10
c. Scholars are certain of the original Greek on over 98% of the NT text, because of the large number of early NT manuscripts available. Of the remaining 2%, the uncertainty comes from relatively trivial differences between some early manuscripts, which do not change the meaning of the text. There are only a handful of these which impact the meaning of a verse, and none of these influence a belief or doctrine of the church.
2. Old Testament (written in Hebrew)
a. The OT was copied extremely carefully through the centuries by professional copyists. They assigned numbers to each letter in the OT and checked line and book totals after copying. Minute attention was given to the precise transmission of each letter of text, demonstrating excessive respect the copyists had for the OT.
b. Dead Sea Scrolls: Were found in 1947 near the Dead Sea. Over 500 books have been reconstructed, including large portions of the OT, and they are dated from the first century. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the earliest manuscript of the OT was dated 900 AD. A comparison was made with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the two were nearly identical. Any differences were trivial, and had no impact on the meaning of any verses. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proves the OT was copied accurately between the first century and 900 AD, and demonstrates the amazing accuracy of the Jewish copyists through the centuries.
C. Confirmation by Archaeology
a. No archaeological discovery has ever been found to contradict the Bible. The Bible contains thousands of references to cities, nations, names, customs, and objects. Many of these have been confirmed through independent archaeological discovery. The Bible is historically accurate, and should be respected as historical fact.
b. The Bible is a primary resource of archaeologists in the Middle East, and is often used to locate sights of archaeological interest.
D. Inspiration of the Bible: Messianic Prophecies
a. There are hundreds of OT passages that prophesy the coming of Jesus and contain details about the life of Jesus.
b. We know these prophesies were written before the life of Jesus because of manuscripts that have been found with translations of the OT into Greek (the Septuagint), which were written as early as 250 BC.
c. These passages contain so many details about Jesus life, that the probability of any one person fulfilling them is incredibly small, and it would also be impossible for anyone to read the prophecies and try to fulfill them after-the-fact. The only way to explain these is that God empowered the prophets to predict the future vis-à-vis Jesus.
d. Here are some examples of Messianic prophecies found in the OT that were fulfilled by Jesus:
OT Passage NT Passage Prediction
Is 7:14 Mt 1:18, born of a virgin
Mic 5:2 Mt 2:1 born in Bethlehem
Jer 31:15 Mt 2:16 Herod kills children
Is 40:3 Mt 3:1-2 receded by a messenger (John the Baptist)
Is 9:1 Mt 4:12-13 Ministry to begin in Galilee
Zech 9:9 Lk 19:35-37 Enter Jerusalem on a donkey
Ps 41:9 Mt 10:4 Betrayed by a friend
Zech 11:12 Mt 26:15 Sold for 30 pieces of silver
Ps 22:16 Lk 23:33 Hands and feed pierced
Is 53:12 Mt 27:38 Crucified with thieves
Ps 22:18 Jn 19:23-24 Lots cast for Jesus’clothes
Zech 12:10 Jn 19:34 Side pierced
Amos 8:9 Mt 27:45 Darkness over the land
Is 53:9 Mt 27:57-60 Buried in a rich man’s tomb
E. The Canon
The word “Canon” is derived from a word that means reed or measuring rod (English cane). It came to mean “rule of faith”, by which we are to measure or evaluate, and later “list” or “index”. Applied to scripture the word means “officially accepted list of books that make up the Bible.”
1. Old Testament
The Christian OT is identical to the Jewish OT, with the exception of the order and breakdown of some books. Jewish rabbis settled on the OT canon some time well before the 1st century.
2. New Testament
a. The exact criteria used by the early church to decide the canon is unknown, but the following guiding principals may have been used:
- Is the book authoritive? Does it claim to be from God?
- Is it prophetic? Was it written by a man known to be a prophet of God?
- Is it authentic? Early church fathers had a policy of “if in doubt, throw it out”
- Is it dynamic? Did the book come with the life-transforming power of God?
- Was it received, collected, read and used? Was it generally accepted by the early church?
b. Early Christian writers (Athanasius, Jerome, and Augustine) list the NT canon exactly as it exists today near the end of the 4th century. Church councils, such as the Synod of Hippo (AD 393), confirmed this canon.
c. There has not been any serious questioning of the NT canon by either Protestants or Catholics since this time.
a. The church did not create the canon. It simply recognized books that were inspired of God since their inception.
b. These books spread naturally through the early church, and books widely accepted and read became the NT canon.
c. The NT canon was not arrived at by a council of church leaders who chose a group of books which aligned themselves with their belief system, and ignoring books they disagreed with. The councils rather confirmed the canon already generally accepted by the early church.