The reliability and authenticity of the Bible
The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16, TEV). Yet much controversy and criticism exists over this book. If we are to accept and base our lives on the Bible as the word of God, then we need to have confidence in the reliability and the authenticity of the Bible. That is, we need to have confidence that the Bible is dependable and trustworthy and that what was written did happen. This essay outlines some convincing evidence to prove that this is the case. I will summarize and discuss bibliographical, external and internal evidence which confirms the reliability and authenticity of the bible.
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The nearest to this is the Iliad by Homer, which has 643 manuscripts surviving.
It is also important to examine the quality of the manuscripts. Geisler (1968) points out that there was such reverence for the Jewish scriptures that all kinds of formal rules were established regarding the copying of the scriptures. These included the kind of ink, and skins, the size of the columns, religious rituals, the spacing of the words and the methodological counting of letters and lines. Even the smallest error meant that the manuscript would be destroyed. This formalism explains why the extant are of such high quality.
When we consider the New Testament manuscripts, one argument is that there are as many as 300,000 to 400,000 variants and inaccuracies in the New Testament alone (Ehrmann, 2005). Since there are so many inaccuracies then the New Testament cannot be trusted. One of the reasons for the large number of variants is the extremely large number of New Testament manuscripts available (McDowell and McDowell, 2009). When these variants are examined, however, 99% of these hold no significance and are over small words such as Christ Jesus instead of Jesus Christ or spelling differences. Overall, only fifty are significant, and none of these are to do with doctrine, faith or morality. (McDowell and McDowell, 2009). The variance argument when examined only proves the high degree of confidence we can have in the New Testament as valid.
Evidence also exists for the accuracy of transmission of the Old Testament. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 revealed the book of Isaiah almost word for word. Other books of the Old Testament were also revealed, accurately aligning with Old Testament manuscripts, although they were one thousand years older than the available Hebrew texts of the Bible (Varner, W. 1997).
We also need to examine the antiquity of the manuscripts. This refers to how long after the event a document was written. With the need for copying, the closer to the time of writing, the less likelihood of errors there would be. In examining the New Testament almost all were written between 47 A.D. and 70 A.D. All of it was written 150 years after the birth of Christ (Strobel, 2000).This is clearly not long enough for myths and legends to occur.
When the New Testament documents are compared to other ancient writings, such as
Thucydides 460 – 400 B.C. written 1300 years after writing and only 8 attesting manuscripts. Aristotle wrote Poetice around 343 BC, yet the earliest copy is dated 1400 years later and there were only 49 manuscripts. These documents are not questioned as to their reliability and historicity.
I can confidently conclude from this section that the New Testament records are superior to comparable ancient writings.
The second main category of evidence for the reliability and authenticity of the Bible lies in external evidence, or outside evidence that confirms that events recorded in the Bible really did happen....