Summary: The truth about the Bible
[Much of the content of this message is from Foundations (Teacher’s Guide, vol. 1) by Tom Holladay & Kay Warren.]
“The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven…. The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definite version of the book.” (The Da Vinci Code, p. 231)
Obviously, the Bible didn’t “arrive by fax from heaven” or “fall magically from the clouds.” But I do believe that the Bible is a product of God, not man.
I. HOW DO WE KNOW THE BIBLE CAME FROM GOD?
A. The external evidence says the Bible is a historical book.
External evidence simple means the proofs for the reliability of the Bible that are outside the pages of the Bible itself.
1. The number of manuscript copies and the short length of time between the original manuscripts and our first copies of the New Testament
Norman Geisler writes,
For the New Testament the evidence is overwhelming. There are 5,366 manuscripts to compare and draw information from, and some of these date from the second or third centuries. To put that in perspective, there are only 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, and that is the most famous book of ancient Greece! No one doubts the existence of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, but we only have 10 copies of it and the earliest of those was made 1,000 years after it was written. To have such an abundance of copies of the New Testament from dates within 70 years after their writing is amazing (When Skeptics Ask, pp. 159-160).
Why didn’t God allow us to have the original rather than relying on a number of copies? One possibility: we would have worshiped an old document rather than reading and following His living Word.
By the way, it’s important to understand that Bibles are translated from these original copies, which were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Dan Brown suggests that that the Bible has been passed down from language to language over the centuries, and thus may have been changed many times. That’s not true. When a Bible translation is done, the translator goes back to these early manuscripts in the original languages.
2. The extreme care with which the Scriptures were copied
The earliest Jewish scribes (Old Testament copyists) followed a strict code to insure accuracy in their copies. Here are a few of the rules they followed meticulously:
• The copyist must not copy from memory.
• They could copy only letter by letter, not word by word.
• They counted the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in each book, and if it came out wrong, they threw the scroll away.
• They knew the middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Old Testament. After copying a scroll, they counted forward and backward from this middle letter. If the number of letters did not match what they knew to be correct, they destroyed the scroll and started over.
3. Confirmation of places and dates in archaeology
The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most famous archaeological discoveries. What’s so significant about them? Every one of the Old Testament books is found in these scrolls. Before their discovery, the earliest manuscripts we had of some of the Old Testament books were from 900 A.D.—almost a thousand years later than when these scrolls were made. Amazingly, when the Dead Sea scrolls were compared with the later manuscripts, practically no differences were found. (The differences, about 5 percent, are most in word spellings.) That’s almost no changes in 1,000 years!
Archaeology confirms that the places and people the Bible speaks about were historically accurate. Archaeologists have uncovered many of the places where the New Testament events occurred. A few examples: portions of Herod’s temple, the theater in Ephesus where Acts 19 tells us a riot occurred, the pool of Siloam where a man was healed of blindness in John 9. The book of Acts is a model of historical accuracy. “In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands without error.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics, p. 47).
B. The internal evidence says the Bible is a unique book.
Internal evidence is the evidence that you see in the Bible itself. If you never studied archaeology or history, you could still see the reliability of the Bible just by reading it. Look with me at just two of the ways we can see from the pages of the Bible that it is trustworthy and unique.
1. The majority of the Bible is from eyewitness accounts.