Pt. III – The Validity of the Bible
What makes the Bible so special? Listen up and listen good.
Christianity believes and teaches that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Now, this claim wasn’t invented by the early church, but is in the Bible itself. Just because this claim is made, it doesn’t mean it’s true though, because there are other books that make similar claims. The difference is that the Bible contains some quite convincing evidences that it is in fact what it claims.
The Bible has two divisions: The Old Testament and The New Testament. We’ll talk about the Old Testament very soon and the New Testament in the second half.
The Old Testament has pretty much always been considered accurate through the ages. Back in ancient times, before we had the modern-day Bible, we had the Canon. The word Canon comes from the Greek word kanon, meaning “standard reed.” The standard reed was used to measure things like a ruler would nowadays. Thus, the Bible is the standard by which we measure all things. Now, the church did not create the canon. They simply agreed to the Divine authority of the Scriptures that had been used for centuries at the Council of Carthage.
One of the evidences that the Bible is indeed Divinely inspired is its incredible unity. Although the Bible was written by men, the unity in it reveals the hand of God. It goes like this: The Bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years by more than 40 different human authors with no mail and no communication back and forth. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds ranging from fishermen, to tax collectors, to military generals, to prime ministers, to doctors. It was also written over three continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia) in all manner of places from prisons, to the wilderness, to the palace of a king. Also it was written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). The contents of the Bible deal with many controversial subjects, and yet the Bible is one unit. From the beginning (Genesis) to the end (Revelation), there’s one story of God’s plan of salvation for all of mankind through Jesus Christ unfolding throughout the entire Bible. “The Old Testament is the preparation (Isaiah 40:3). The Gospels are the manifestation (John 1:29). The Book of Acts is the propagation (Acts 1:8). The Epistles give the explanation (Colossians 1:27). The Book of Revelation is the consummation (Revelation 1:7). The Bible is all about Jesus.” (Answers to Tough Questions by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart) If you don’t believe how miraculous this is, try finding just 10 people from your neighborhood with similar backgrounds who all speak the same language fluently and are all from basically the same culture, give them a controversial subject to write about, such as the meaning of life, separate them, and then when they’re done, compare what each of them wrote. Would they all agree with each other? I doubt it. Yet, the Bible did just that, to a more extreme extent actually as outlined in the beginning of this section, and produced a complete unity. This is just one reason that the Bible has divine influence.
Next, I will share some of the archaeological evidence. This part of the blog is going to show the historical accuracy of the Bible as we know it today.
There are three basic tests that all ancient literature is put through to gauge the accuracy of the information in them. They are: Bibliographical (How reliable are the copies?), Internal evidence (“Benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself” ~Aristotle’s dictum), and External evidence (“Do other materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves?” ~ Montgomery, H.C.)
Test one: Bibliographical Evidence
The number of manuscripts plays a huge role in this part, and lucky for us there are a huge amount of documents to back up the Bible. Just look at this: There are more than 5,686 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (N.T.), over 10,000 Latin Vulgate (an early manuscript of the N.T.), and over 9,300 other early versions, making a grand total of over 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament!!
Also, to go along with all these manuscripts, the support of church fathers of the Bible offers two vital secondary roles: (1) gives overwhelming support to the existence of the 27 books of the N.T., and (2) if no manuscripts existed, the N.T. could be completely reproduced from the church fathers’ writings.
Test Two: Internal Evidence
The whole N.T. is written by eyewitnesses or from firsthand information. (Luke 1:1-3, Acts 2:22, II Peter 1:16)
Test Three: External Evidence
Eusebius, an ancient historian, records the writings of bishops in A.D. 130 that recorded the sayings of the Apostle John, or “the Elder.”
Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons in A.D. 180, was a student of Polycarp, (martyred in A.D. 156) who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
Pope Clement of Rome (A.D. 95) quoted from Scripture and was a disciple of the Apostle Peter.
Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch from A.D. 70-110, was martyred for Jesus Christ. He knew all the Apostles and was also a student of Polycarp.
Tacitus, who was a 1st century Roman historian (often considered the most accurate of the Roman historians), wrote: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians, by the populous. Christus, (Jesus Christ) from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontious Pilate.” (See Luke 3:1)
Pliny the Younger, a Roman author and administrator, wrote to the Emperor Trajan in A.D. 112: “They were in the habit of meeting on a fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god.”
Talmud, a Jewish historian, wrote “On the eve of Passover Yeshu (Jesus) was hanged.”
Lucian, a 2nd century Greek writer, wrote: “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day…and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers…and worship the crucified sage (Jesus).”
I have more, but I’m sure by now you get the point…
One last thing I’d like to cover before closing out this blog is something the famous archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote after setting out to disprove the Book of Acts as authentic: “…I began with a mind unfavorable to it (Acts)…recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor…I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.”
Well, I hope your eyes didn’t glaze over with all this information just thrown at you like that. Take a break, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.