Do you stammer for a response when someone says:

"The Bible was assembled so many years ago, one can't possibly expect it to be accurate!"

"Certainly, many errors have occurred in transmission of the Bible - we can't really trust what it says."

"We can't assume the Bible is the inspired Word of God!"

"If you take the Bible literally, you're lost!"

These are phrases often heard when discussing the Bible. Can we trust what the Bible says? Is it the inspired Word of God? Does today's Bible accurately represent the Bible that was assembled more than 1900 years ago?

 

Bible's Uniqueness Points to God

Imagine a book written by more than forty authors, each with different levels of education, social position, and age. Then imagine that these authors used three different languages to write this book. Assume that at the time they wrote it, some of them were in a situation of war, some were at peace, some were imprisoned, some were living in splendor, others in poverty. In addition, imagine that the authors of this book lived at different times during a 1,500 year time span. What do you suppose the result of this writing would be?

The Bible was written under these conditions. Its contents describe hundreds of controversial topics and are of a variety of literary types, yet there is a unity in the writing that binds it together: the theme of God's redemption of man. The Bible is philosophically consistent. The conditions of its writing and the resulting unity of the text speak of a supernatural direction, the Holy Spirit, directing chosen men who authored the Bible. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -- 2 Timothy 3:16.

The Bible is also unique in its content. The Bible's perspective of the universe, man's existence and man's origin is described from an external observation point outside of the created dimension, which is unique in religious works. John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 7:3 speak of God being above time and space. Job 26:7 speaks of God suspending the earth in space: "he suspends the earth over nothing", something that until modern times required an external viewpoint to comprehend. The Bible alone among religious works clearly states that time had a beginning. In Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Prophecies described in the Bible were accurately fulfilled centuries later. No other religious writings have such accuracy of prophecy fulfilled. Scientific facts in the Bible are accurate far beyond human knowledge of science at the time they were written. Scientific facts in other religious writings are no where near as accurate. The Bible is historically accurate as well. Archaeological discoveries substantiate Bible accounts.

Unmatched Fulfillment of Prophecies

The Bible stands alone among literature. Prophecies written hundreds of years before an event have been fulfilled with 100% accuracy. There are approximately 2500 prophecies in the Bible, 2000 of which already have been completely fulfilled -- the remaining 500 speak of future events.

The chance of any one man fulfilling just eight prophecies has been calculated by Peter W. Stoner in Science Speaks at 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 -- yet 60 major Old Testament prophecies, having 270 ramifications were fulfilled by the life of Jesus. An example of the precisely fulfilled prophecies include the place of His birth, Bethlehem (prophesied in Micah 5:2, fulfilled in Luke 2:4-7); that He would be born of a virgin (prophesied in Isaiah 4:17, fulfilled in Luke 1:26-31); that He would be despised and rejected by Jews (prophesied in Isaiah 53:3, fulfilled in John 1:1, Luke 23:18); that He would be betrayed by a friend (Judas) for thirty pieces of silver cast on the floor of the Temple and used to buy a potter's field (prophesied in Zechariah 11:11-13, fulfilled in Matthew 27:3-10).

Fulfilled prophecy extends to the present day -- consider the people of Israel. In Genesis 12:2,3 and 13:13-15, God promised Abraham a great nation, a great name and a land that will belong to his descendants forever and through Abraham, that all families of the earth will be blessed. At the time, Abraham was 75 years old and his wife was barren. The prophecy was fulfilled when Abraham was 90 years old (Genesis 21:2) when his wife Sarah miraculously bore him a son. Over the next several hundred years, the nation promised to Abraham appeared (Exodus 1:7).

Later, through Moses (Deut. 28-33), God warned Israel that He will use other nations to remove them from their land if they are unfaithful to Him. He predicted that they would eventually be scattered across the whole earth and would find no rest. He also promised to bring them back to their land. Israel was unfaithful. King Nebuchadnezzar took people captive to Babylon, then burned the city and the Temple. God then allowed the Israelites to return to the land (Ezra 1). Later, in AD 70, Titus the Roman also destroyed the city of Jerusalem, scattering the people. In AD 1948, Israel became a nation and the people began to return to their homeland. They have since survived several conflicts. We think of the United States as having a long history, yet it has been in existence for only 200 years. Israel has been a people for more than 4,000 years.

2 Peter 1:20-21 describes how Bible prophecy can be so accurate: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Being a Hebrew prophet in ancient times was a serious and unenviable position. The prophet was purporting to speak for God and the penalty for any error was death. "But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." -- Deut. 18:20. Prophets had to be 100% accurate. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 gives a test to determine whether the prophet is speaking for God: "You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously."

Table 1 illustrates just a few fulfilled prophecies whose precise fulfillment attests to the Bible as the accurate Word of God.

 

Verse Prophecy Year Made Situation When Prophecy Made Year Fulfilled Situation When Prophecy Fulfilled
Isaiah

44:28;54:1

Cyrus is the king who will give the command to rebuild the temple 700 BC Jerusalem was fully built and temple was standing. In 586 BC temple and city were destroyed by Babylon. 539-540 BC After Jerusalem was taken by Babylonians, it was conquered by the Persians in 539 BC. Shortly after, a Persian king Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the temple.
Daniel

2,7

Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream to mean that four kingdoms were to be on the earth. Also, Daniel dreams of four beasts (four kingdoms) which will come upon the earth (c. 1000BC) c. 605 BC- 530 BC The Babylonian kingdom (the first kingdom in the dreams) was in existence. 626 BC

539 BC

330 BC

63 BC

The four kingdoms appeared, as prophesied

Babylonian

Medo-Persian

Greece

Rome

Daniel

9:24-27

At the end of 69 weeks (69 7yr. periods)after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, the Messiah will come to Jerusalem 530 BC Temple had been destroyed in 586 BC Nisan 1 444 BC

Nissan 10 AD 33

Nehemiah 2; Nehemieh asks the king for an order to rebuild Jerusalem, which the king gives.

Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, exactly as prophesied, 69*7=483 years (173880 days) later (360-day year).

444BC+33 AD = 477-1=476 years( 1BC to 1AD is 1 year, not 2)

476*365.24219879=17855 days (from Nisan 1 (March 5) 4444 BC to March 5 33AD). 173880 days - 173855 days = 25 days needed to make 483 years. March 5 33AD +25 days = March 30 33 AD or Nisan 10 33 AD.

Zechariah 11:12-13 The Messiah would be betrayed for the price of a slave (30 pieces of silver) and this money would be used to buy burial ground for poor foreigners c. 500 BC Five centuries before the Messiah was born. AD 33 Matthew 27:3-10 (and also secular historians). Thirty pieces of silver were paid to Judas Iscarot for betraying Jesus and the money went to purchase a "potters' field" for burial of poor foreigners.
Psalm 22,34:20 Crucifixion method of death described, lots to be cast for His clothing c. 300BC Crucifixion death method unknown at this time (invented by the Romans) AD 33 Matthew 27:32 Jesus was crucified in the manner described in Psalm 22, lots were cast for His clothing.
Luke 20:43,44 Jesus prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (not one stone upon another left) AD 33 The Temple was standing; Jesus was teaching AD 70 Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple; nothing left but the foundation.

Table 1. Some of the 2000 fulfilled Bible prophecies. No other religious writing has such accuracy of fulfilled prophecies.

 


Scientific Accuracy Unequaled in Ancient Writings

The Bible, although not detailed in its scientific explanations, is in agreement with what we know today about life and our universe. It is far more accurate than any other ancient books and even many recent ones.

For example, Hindu sacred writings say the following about creation:

the moon is 50,000 leagues higher than the sun and shines by its own light

the earth is flat, triangular, composed of seven layers (including honey, sugar, butter, wine) and is held up by elephants, whose stumbling produces earthquakes.

In contrast, the Bible is so accurate that the Science Research Bureau has for years publicly offered a reward to any person who can prove the existence of a scientific blunder in the Bible. The offer was made in 27 countries and still remains uncollected.

Long before the time of Jesus, the Bible reported that the earth was round and was suspended in space. It accurately described the second law of thermodynamics (c. 1000 BC) in Psalms 102:26 "They[the earth and the heavens] will perish, but you[God] remain; they will all wear out like a garment." Table 2 shows examples of Scripture and the associated scientific discovery which supports its accuracy.

 

Bible Record Scientific Interpretation
Job 26:7 "He stretcheth out north over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing." c. 2000 BC The earth is suspended in space. Until this century, space "ether" was believed to hold up the earth.
Isaiah 40:22 "It is He that sitteth upon the circle ("sphericity" or "roundness") of the earth"... c. 680 BC The earth is round. In 680 BC earth was thought to be flat. Many believed earth was flat until Magellan's circumnavigation in 1522 AD.
Ecclesiastes 1:6 "The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes ever returning on its course." c. 1000 BC Description of wind circulation, modeled in 1735 AD by George Hadley.
Ecclesiastes 1:7 "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from there they return again." c. 1000 BC Accurate description of the water cycle, depicted in 1931 AD by R. Horton.
Isaiah 40:31 "They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." c. 680 BC 1971 AD - discovery that aerodynamics of eagle's wings make them able to fly without becoming weary.
Jeremiah 33:22 "As countless as the stars of the sky..." c. 600 BC Scientists in the past regarded the number of stars as countable. Ptolemy said there were 1056., Kepler 1005, and Tycho Brahe 777. Modern science has shown there are "billions and billions" of stars - uncountably many.
Leviticus 17:11 "for the life of a creature is in the blood". c. 1440 BC Life depends on the supply of oxygen, water and food to the cells of the body by the blood. Circulation discovered by W. Harvey in 1616 AD
Psalm 102:25,26 "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment..." c. 1000 BC Second law of thermodynamics (law of entropy - c 18000 AD). In any energy conversion, although the total amount of energy remains unchanged, the usefulness and availability of the energy is always decreased. Since all activities of nature involve such energy transfer, the energy supply for the universe as a whole must be decreasing. The Sun and stars will burn out eventually, the universe is growing old, wearing our, running down.

Table 2. the Bible is scientifically in agreement with what we know today about life and the universe.


Archaeological Evidence Substantiates Bible

Archaeological evidence substantiates many Biblical accounts. To quote Millar Burrows of Yale. "...archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine." Nelson Glueck, reformed Jewish scholar notes: "It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood Biblical statement."

Archaeological discoveries have proved the accuracy of Bible accounts that had long been considered inaccurate by scholars who had insufficient information. Because of Luke's detailed descriptions of historical events, some of his writings -- and thus the credibility of the entire New Testament -- had been in dispute for over a century by Bible scholars who didn't believe the details supplied by Luke were accurate. Bible scholars thought that Luke's writings were a fraud, written in the second century by someone who didn't know the history or geography of the time. For example, in Acts 14:6, Luke relates that Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium to the cities of Lyconium. Bible scholars had believed that Iconium was located in the province of Lyconium -- thus the statement made no sense. It would be like saying someone fled from Miami to Florida. An inscription was later found that proved that when Paul and Barnabas fled from Iconium, the city was part of the province of Phrygia, proving Luke's writing was correct.

Bible critics also believed that the circumstances of Jesus' birth were concocted to fulfill the prophecy in Micah that states the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They doubted that there had been a census (Luke 2:1-3) which caused Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem. A Roman edict was later discovered in Egypt, which stated: "The enrollment by household being at hand, it is necessary to notify all who for any cause so ever are outside of their administrative districts that they return at once to their homes to carry out the customary enrollment..." Other discovered documents confirmed that this census was taken every fourteen years.

Some examples of archaeological evidence supporting Biblical accounts are shown in Table 3. For many more examples of archeological finds substantiating Biblical accounts including geography, rulers, conflicts, and more, see the references at the end of this article.

Luke had stated that Quirinius was the Governor of Syria at the time of Jesus' birth, however secular records showed that Saturninus was the governor at that time. An inscription was later found in Antioch which showed that Quirinius indeed was governor of Syria at the time.

Pontius Pilate's historical authenticity was in doubt until 1961, when an inscription was found "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans", thus proving his existence.

An interesting archaeological discovery appears to document a Roman governor's reaction to the resurrection of the dead. Matthew 28:11-15 describes the reaction of the chief priests and elders when the guards around Jesus' tomb told them about the resurrection: "When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." The governor must have heard the report and it must have upset him, because he issued a decree instituting capital punishment for the crime of violation of sepulcher, a crime which had never previously had such a severe penalty. A white marble slab inscribed with this decree was found in Nazareth in 1878. Its inscription appears in Table 4.

The possibility of grave robbers stealing Jesus' body is highly unlikely. A Roman guard was one of the greatest, strictly disciplined fighting units. A Roman security guard would never fall asleep, as the penalty was death. They rotated shifts every four hours to ensure top performance of duty. It is reasonable to conclude that the Roman guards came to the chief priests out of desperation following Jesus' resurrection. They feared for their lives and they knew that the chief priests would have influence on Roman authorities.

 

  Bible record Archaeological Evidence
New Testament Events surrounding Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-3); Quirinius was the governor of Syria

A census of the entire Roman world was taken

Inscription regarding Quirinius as governor at this time found in Antioch

Papyrus found in Egypt (regarding taxpayer enrollment)

New Testament Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea during the time of Jesus Inscription found in Palestine ("Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea...")
Old Testament Joshua followed the Lord's instructions and the walls of Jericho collapsed with a shout from the people, allowing Joshua to take the city c. 1400 BC, (Joshua 6:5, 6:20) Found walls of Jericho fallen outward, even though they were 15ft. high and 10ft.thick. From pottery and ceramic evidence, the city was destroyed c. 1400 BC
Old Testament David refers to using the water shaft to reach the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:8, 1 Chronicles 11:16) when conquering Jerusalem. Water supply tunnel found; protective city walls found which the water tunnel went under.

Table 3. Archaeological Evidence. "...no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood Biblical statement" -- Neson Glueck.

 


 

The Bible Was Transmitted Accurately

The Bible is the most reliable ancient document. Three factors used in determining the reliability of an ancient document ensure that the Bible we have today is very close in content to the original manuscripts.

  1. The number of manuscript copies in existence, and their agreement. The greater the number of manuscripts the more reliable the text produced.

  2. The time span between the copies and the original. The smaller the time span between the original and the creation of manuscript copies, the greater the reliability.

  3. The method of transcription. The more rigorous the method, the more reliable the transcribed text.

The number of copies and short time span between copies supports New Testament manuscript reliability, as shown in Table 5. Old Testament reliability lies in the method used to transcribe the Bible.

Overwhelming New Testament Manuscript Evidence

The New Testament has far more manuscript evidence than any other ancient work. There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament, with only a 25 year time span between the original and the manuscript copies. The Iliad ranks next -- it has 643 manuscript copies with a 500 year time span between the original and the copies. Only 40 lines (400 words) of the New Testament are in doubt between the 24,000 manuscript copies, compared to 746 lines in doubt of the Iliad's 643 copies. This translates to 5% of the Iliad's text being corrupted, compared to 1/2 of 1% for the New Testament. These New Testament errors consist primarily of misspellings and duplications and affect no fundamental doctrines. To quote Sir Frederic Kenyon, an authority in the field of New Testament textual criticism:

"It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain... The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other book in the world. Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principal Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us... yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of manuscripts, whereas the manuscripts of the New Testament are counted by hundreds, and even thousands."

Rigorous Transcription of Old Testament

We can have confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament because of the rigorous transcription methods employed. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest Old Testament manuscript found dated around AD 900, approximately 1300 years after the completion of the Old Testament in 400 BC. The Dead Sea Scrolls, however are dated before the time of Christ (about 150 BC). The book of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls verifies the precision of the method used to transcribe the Old Testament. The book of Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls is identical to today's standard Hebrew Bible in greater than 95% of the text. The 5% variation is due to slips of the pen and variations in spelling.

The Talmudists (AD 100 - 500) used a very strict transcription method. Synagogue rolls had to be written on specially prepared skins of clean animals and fastened with strings taken from clean animals. Each skin had to contain a certain number of columns. Each column had to have between 48 and 60 lines and be 30 letters wide. The spacing between consonants, sections and books was precise, measured by hairs or threads. The ink had to be black and prepared with a specific recipe. The transcriber could not deviate from the original in any manner. No words could be written from memory. The person making the copy had to wash his whole body before beginning and had to be in full Jewish dress. He could not begin to write the name of God with a pen freshly dipped in ink. While writing God's name, he was to focus on his task, not even looking up if a king addressed him.

Because of the care taken to make copies, Talmudists were confident that they were exact. Talmudists destroyed older copies because they feared the older copies would become damaged and misinterpreted with age. That is why there are few older manuscripts.

The Massoretes (AD 500-900) also had a complicated system of ensuring that copies were accurate. By numbering verses, words and letters and calculating and enumerating various combinations, they were able to ensure precise transcription of the text.

We also be assured of the validity of the Old Testament because Jesus accepted it and quoted extensively from it.

We Can Trust

Scripture

The next time someone questions the accuracy of the Bible, you can tell them that we can trust its accuracy. The conditions of its writing and the resulting unity of the text speak of a supernatural direction, the Holy Spirit, directing chosen men to author the Bible. Prophecies described in the Bible were accurately fulfilled centuries later. Scientific facts in the Bible are accurate far beyond human knowledge of science at the time they were written. The Bible is historically accurate. Archaeological discoveries substantiate Bible accounts. Manuscript evidence and transcription methods for the Bible are far superior to that of any other ancient book.

God, the author of the Bible says "Come now, let us reason together" -- Isaiah 1:18. He also says in the New Testament to test all spirits to ensure that what people say is accurate: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world -- 1 John 4:1. God does not require nor desire blind faith. He presents all of creation, His written Word, the nation of Israel and the resurrection of Jesus as living testimonies of Him. Examine the evidence -- it will strengthen your faith!

 

Work When Written Earliest Copy Time Span Number of Copies
New Testament AD 40 - 100 ad 125 25 YRS. >24,000
Homer Iliad 900 BC 400 BC 500 yrs. 643
Plato Teralogies 427-347 BC AD 900 1200 yrs. 7
Sophocles 496-406 BC AD 1000 1400 yrs. 193
Caesar 100-44 BC AD 900 1000 yrs. 10

Table 5. The New Testament has far more manuscript evidence than any other ancient work.


 

References

References for this article and good books for further study include:

McDowell, Josh "A Ready Defense", Here's Life Publishers 1992.

McDowell, Josh "The Resurrection Factor",

Blick, Edward F. "A Scientific analysis of Genesis". Hearthstone Publishing Ltd, 1991.

Morris, Henry M. "Science and the Bible", Moody Press, 1986. p. 11-35.

Ross, Hugh, "The Fingerprint of God", Promise Publishing Co., Orange, CA.

Ross, Hugh, "Fulfilled Prophecy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible",Reasons to Believe, Pasadena, CA.

Ross, Hugh, "The Creator and the Cosmos", NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, 1993.

Faid, Robert W. "A Scientific Approach to Christianity", New Leaf Press, Green Forest, AR, 1990.

Kenyon, Frederic G. "Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts". New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941.

Burrows, Millar. "What Mean These Stones?" New York: Meridian Books, 1956.

Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

 

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