Thursday, January 23, 2014


This week we had a great discussion on the topic of the reliability of the Bible.

Here's a recap and some additional thoughts:

1) THE FAULTY TRANSMISSION ARGUMENT: The truth is the accuracy of the transmission of the Bible is very well documented.

The Old Testament Scriptures were preserved through out history by groups of scribes who had a very specific set of guidelines for their transcriptions. Guidelines like copying each individual letter, counting the pages and letters of the entirety of the document, counting the number of times each letter appeared in the text, and calculating the middle letter of the entire Old Testament and counting it from both ends. And if even one error was found, the entire copy was thrown out and they started from scratch. Archaeology has confirmed the accuracy of this process with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940s. In comparing these much older manuscripts (some dating back to the 4th Century BC) with the previous oldest manuscript copies (dating between the 9th & 10th centuries AD), there were only about 1% textual discrepancies.

As for the New Testament, it is the most well documented historical document of its age. The two criteria for reliability of such documents are number of manuscripts and the time between the original writing and the oldest copy. So for comparison, the runner-up in reliability is Homer's Iliad with 643 current oopies, the oldest of which is approximately 500 years removed from the original writing. The New Testament, however, has over 24,000 manuscript copies, the oldest of which is within 30 years of the original writing.

2) THE MYTH & LEGEND ARGUMENT: Both science and logic take us a long way in answering this concern.

Archaeology has over and over again done more to prove the claims of the Bible - people, places, events - than to disprove them. Even seeming inconsistencies often are discredited upon further discoveries such as the cases of the location of Iconium and the use of the political titles "Proconsul" and "Politarch". The Archaeologist William Albright puts it like this:

"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."

Additionally, we have the historically verified testimonies of the early church founders who stood up for the claims of the Bible to the point of imprisonment and death. As one of Jesus' followers Peter puts it: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16)

But even with all of these facts, the truth is there is still a faith element involved - a faith that millions have put their hopes in over the centuries. The central message and bottom line of all of the biblical scriptures is the person of Christ. He is even called "The Word" (John 1:1&14). So for us to really deal with the reliability of the Bible, I believe we must also deal with the question "What do I believe about Jesus?"

So in closing, I challenge you to study the person of Jesus and come to your decision about who He really is. It is then that the issue of the Bible's reliability will be settled for you.

Would love to hear your thoughts and questions.

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