The Bible

Quantity of OT manuscripts:

  • Small number of Hebrew manuscripts. They were ceremonially buried and not in top condition.
  • However, they are supplemented and supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint (3rd Century Greek translation of the OT), the Samaritan Pentateuch (torah-first 5 books), the Targums (originally spoken / paraphrases of the Hebrew like a type of sermon and later written down as an Aramaic translation), and the Talmud (made of the Mishnah / Jewish laws and Gemara which is commentaries & discussions by Rabbi’s on the Mishnah)

Quantity of NT manuscripts: - unparalleled in ancient literature

  • Over 5,000 Greek manuscripts
  • Approximately 8,000 Latin manuscripts
  • 1,000 manuscripts in other languages
  • Citations by the tens of thousands of NT passages by early church fathers.

Ancient manuscripts of notable Greek & Latin authors / teachers:

  • Homer: 2,000
  • Plato: 7
  • Aristotle: 49
  • Caesar: 10
  • Tacitus: 20
  • New Testament: 6,000+ (24,000 including translations in other languages

Quality of the OT manuscripts: - surpasses all other ancient manuscripts

  • Extreme care was taken in copying the Hebrew bible.
  • Letters, words and lines were counted.
  • A single mistake led to destruction of the copy.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls (1947) pre-date the earliest OT manuscripts by about 1,000 years and support the accuracy with most variations being in spelling and style.

 Quality of the NT manuscripts:

  • Due to the many NT manuscripts available, there are many variant readings (observed differences when comparing).
  • Variant reading are actually useful to scholars in reconstructing the original readings to see which variant best explains the others. (scripture interpreting scripture)
  • Variant readings (not the norm) crept in due to visual or auditory errors in copying. Other possibilities are faulty writing, memory and judgment.
  • Only a very small number of these variant readings affect the heart of the scripture.
  • No variant readings significantly affect fundamental doctrines of the NT.

Time Span:

  • The earliest manuscripts of the OT is 895 AD, not including the Dead Sea Scrolls which significantly reduces the time between the actual writing and the earliest copies.
  • NT manuscripts, written on papyrus, came from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The Gospel of John is dated in the range of 117-138 AD.  This is a few decades after the gospel was written.
  • Overall the time between writing and copies of the NT is less than 200 years and some books are within 100 years.
  • In contrast, other ancient manuscripts are over 1,000 years.

The Internal Test:  (examining the claims of the various authors of the Bible)

  • Many claim they are eye witnesses of the events they recorded.
  • These were intimately acquainted with Jesus Christ.
  • They held to their testimony through persecution and death.
  • Most of the NT was written between 47 and 70 AD. There was not significant time for myths to be created and spread.
  • The many eye witnesses, alive when the NT books were circulated, would have directly challenged falsehoods and myths about the life of Christ.

 The External Test: (the accuracy of historical events)

  • Reference chronological details in Jeremiah 1:1-3 and Luke 3:1-2. Ezekiel 1:2 dates Ezekiel’s first vision of God to July 31, 592 BC.
  • Well known historian, Flavius Josephus, made specific references to John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and James in his writing (Antiquities of the Jews). Josephus gives many accounts of the Herods, the Sadducees and Pharisees, high priests like Annas and Caiphas, and Roman emperors (See the gospels and Acts).

Other Secular references to Jesus Christ:

  • Syrian prisoner named Mara bar Serapion around 73 AD. In a letter written to his son, he compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras and Christ.
  • Roman historians Cornelius Tacitus and Suetonius (Annals, Life of Claudius, Lives of the Caesars)
  • Roman governor, Pliny the Younger (Epistles).
  • Greek satirist, Lucian (On the Death of Peregrine).
  • Jewish Talmud mentions Jesus as well.

Further historical references:

  • Kings, specific battles, cities, mountains, bodies of water, buildings, treaties and cultural customs, economics, politics, etc…
  • These events and places can be subject to archaeological research and investigation.
  • Archaeological evidence has provided external confirmation to hundreds of locations, events, etc….
  • Reference William F. Albright, Nelson Glueck and G. Ernest Wright regarding their archaeological research and the historical accuracy of the Scriptures.
  • The Mari Tablets – Governmental records discovered in 1933 and illustrate patriarchal customs in great detail.
  • The Ebla Tablets – Discovered in northern Syria in 1964 by Dr’s Paolo Matthiae & Giovanni Pettinato. These tablets affirm the antiquity and accuracy of the book of Genesis.  17,000 other tablets have been found in this same area and have supported biblical accuracy.
  • The Laws of Hummurabi, the Lipit-Ishtar code, the Laws of Eshunna and the earlier Ur-Nammu code have supported Mosaic law as written by Moses.
  • The NT places such as the Pool of Siloam, the Pool of Bethesda, Jacob’s Well, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Chorazin, the residence of Pilate in Jerusalem and The Pavement in John 19:13 have all been substantiated by archaeological finds.
  • The books of Luke and Acts have also been substantiated by external evidence. Greek inscriptions found that prove Lysanius was the tetrarch of Abilene (Luke 3:1) in 14-29 AD.