The Reliability of the Bible
The reliability of the Bible and the reliability of the information contained therein have constantly been under attack down through history. Although often condemned as “just a bunch of stories,” the Bible has consistently withstood the scrutiny of its detractors. The places, people groups, and societies mentioned in the Bible, many of which have been declared to be myths, have been validated through archaeological expeditions repeatedly. As more and more ancient places have been uncovered, more evidence comes to light that validates the mention of people, cities, and festivals in the Bible. The reliability of the Bible has withstood the test of archaeology time and time again.
When considering the Reliability of the Bible many say that the Bible we have today does not compare to what was originally written due to the length of time passed, the number of translations, and human error in preserving the integrity of the original manuscripts. These can all be refuted by evidence to the contrary. For example, one manner of authenticating ancient writings is the number of original manuscripts in existence and their comparison to the modern equivalent.
There are nearly 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament. This is an astonishing number of manuscripts for a book as old as the Bible. The closest ancient writing to the Bible, in terms of original manuscripts is Homer’s Iliad with a mere 643 manuscripts, but I doubt anyone is consumed with disproving the authorship of The Iliad. Nor do you hear of a challenge regarding the works of Shakespeare, of which no manuscript in his own handwriting still exists. God’s Word is constantly under attack. Throughout history many have tried to stamp out God’s Word, but none have succeeded because God Almighty has preserved His book.
Prior to 1947 the manuscript evidence for the Old Testament was much smaller, with more of a time gap between the earliest manuscripts and the original writings. In 1947 a shepherd boy found a collection of ancient documents (the Dead Sea Scrolls) including a copy of the book of Isaiah that was 1000 years older than any existing manuscripts. Although it was thought that this manuscript would show huge gaps between the original writing and the Bible we have today, the naysayers were disappointed. In comparing the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, the only differences comprised 17 letters and of those, only one word was found to be missing from the later manuscripts – the word “light” – and did not change the meaning of the text what-so-ever.
Another test that can be used to determine the reliability of the Bible is outside evidence for the gospel accounts, meaning do other ancient historians mention Jesus? The answer is yes. Many of the secular historians talk about Jesus. For example, Josephus, a Jewish historian, wrote about Jesus. “From Josephus, ‘we learn that Jesus was a wise man who did surprising feats, taught many, won over followers from among Jews and Greeks, was believed to be the Messiah, was accused by the Jewish leaders, was condemned to be crucified by Pilate, and was considered to be resurrected.’” Wilkins, Michael J. & Moreland, J.P. Jesus Under Fire (Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 40.
Another historian, Cornelius Tacitus, considered to be the most reliable ancient historian, speaks of Jesus and His crucifixion “at the hands of Pontus Pilate.” This certainly leaves no doubt about the existence of Jesus, which is usually not debated. The debate stems from the divinity of Jesus. Many acknowledge Jesus the person, but do not acknowledge Him as God. People will say that Jesus was a good man or a prophet. That, however, cannot be the case. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, so either He was divine, or insane.
So you ask about the Reliability of the Bible? The truth is plain to those who seek and accept it, but for those who refuse to believe it remains a mystery. To us the Bible is the Word of God and is powerful, but for those who are perishing, it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). They cannot understand it, because Satan has blinded the mind of unbelievers so they cannot see the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). The reliability of the Bible is secure. It is the power of God, first to the Jew, then to the Greek and to all who believe. There will always be opponents of the truth, but rest secure in the knowledge that the Bible has satisfied the greatest minds in human history and it cannot be refuted.
For further study: http://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html#4
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