Tag Archives for " the bible "

Independent Collaborations for the Bible

Christian Apologetics , The Bible

 
Are There Any Independent Verifications of the Bible?

YES!  There are MANY 'Secular' (non-religious) Sources

The existence of extra-Biblical documentations only helps to confirm the validity of the Bible, and provides incentive for the serious consideration of the Bible's messages.  

"Secular" Collaborating Information

 

Regarding

Artifact

Date

Significance

Further Info

Dating of the Bible Documents

War Of The Jews / Antiquities Of The Jews  Flavius Josephus

77 or 78 A.D / 93 A.D.

Describes the horrendous torture and slaughter of the Jews by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Every historical writing after this period discusses this event.  The gospels are silent, however, providing rational circumstantial evidence that they were written prior to 70 A.D.  

 

Confirming the Execution of John the Baptist

Antiquities Of The Jews  Flavius Josephus; Book 18, Chapter 5.

93 A.D.

Describes that "John, that was called the Baptist", was murdered by Herod.

 

Confirming Existence and Importance of Jesus

Antiquities Of The Jews  Flavius Josephus; Book 18, Chapter 3.  There is much controversy over the validity of this passage, whether is was entirely written by Josephus or added manipulated by Christians.

93 A.D.

"Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, -a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principled men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again on the third day, as the divine prophet had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him' ant the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

 

Confirming Death of Jesus, and the Persecution of Christians

Tacitus – A Roman Historian (60 – 120 A.D.)

 

Refers to fact that "Chrestus…was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilot in the reign of Tiberius."  Also mentions that Nero put many of his followers to death

Chalmers; Evidences of the Christian Revelation

Tacitus; Annales xv.44

Documents of the Christian Church

Confirming Persecution of Christians

Suetonius – A Roman Historian (TBD)

 

Refers to Jews who were 'continually making disturbances at the instigation of Crestus' were expelled by Claudius from Rome.

 

Confirming Death of Jesus, and the resulting Darkness That Fell Over The Land

Julius Africanus

221 A.D.

Refers to a work by Thallus, who wrote in ~52 A.D. mentions the crucifixion of Jesus.  Thallus describes the event as a solar eclipse, but Africanus disputes this, since the moon was full at the time of the Passover.  (Thallus' work has been lost, but its significance is confirmed by the mentioning by Africanus.

The New Testament Documents – Are They Reliable?  113

Confirms Existence and Execution of Jesus

The 'Mishnah', which is part of the Jewish Talmud.

 

"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth)."  This confirmation comes from a Jewish source (non-Christian), which was a record of events sanctioned by the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Habermas; Ancient Evidence For the Life Of Jesus, Pg 98

 

The Bible Is Reliable

Christian Apologetics , The Bible

 
How Do We Know That The Bible We Have Today Is Reliable?
 

The best way to consider the acceptance of the documents are to think of them in terms of evidence.  Simon Greenleaf was a professor of Law at Harvard University in the nineteenth century, and established himself as a premier authority on the rules of evidence.  His three volume work on the rules of evidence is still a standard used by lawyers today.  He wrote a treatise on the admissibility of the four Gospels, and concluded that the "competence of the New Testament documents would be established in any court of law."  In short, according to one of the most prestigious experts on the admissibility of documents in a court of law, the Bible is able to withstand the scrutiny and be accepted as reliable evidence.

Utilizing these rules of evidence, Ewen makes the case that the New Testament documents pass the following tests:  Admissibility and Authenticity of the Evidence (the manuscripts) as determined by their age, quality and quantity, care in their preservation, and location, timing and motive of their writers.  Corroborating Evidence is then analyzed, including archaeological evidences, results of scientific papyrology studies, and comparison of other similarly dated historical documents.  Finally, upon passing these tests, the documents are then subjected to 'Cross Examination', assuring that the documents are not internally or externally contradictory, that the writers have established credibility, (that the message is proven by extra-biblical sources)

In summary, this investigation results in a  conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt, that 1) Jesus lived approximately 2000 years ago; 2) Jesus died on the cross; and 3) Jesus rose from the dead.  (Adapted from Faith On Trial, Pamela Binnings Ewen.)

How do we know that they were copied correctly through the ages?

Two ways.  First, in antiquity, the role of a scribe was very prestigious.  The role of a scribe is that of a "professional copier."  But it goes far beyond what we consider 'copying' today.  Many procedural details were followed to assure reliability in the copying of these Manuscripts.  Each scribe had a personal identification sign, in which his reputation as a scribe was built.  A second set of eyes served as 'correctors.'  Severe penalties were imposed for carelessness.  Even the numbers of letters were counted, to assure that the copy was as close to the original as could be.  We can be assured that the method of transmission through the ages by scribes was reliable.

Second, recently discovered manuscripts from antiquity are nearly identical to the copies we have today.  Until the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' were discovered in the caves of Qumran in 1946, the oldest known manuscript of the entire Bible was dated about A.D 900 (the Aleppo Codex.)  "The books of the Old Testament found in the Dead Sea Scrolls written approximately one thousand years before the Aleppo Codex were found to be almost identical to those of the Aleppo Codex."  (Pamela Binnings Ewen, Faith On Trial, pg 33.)  Discrepancies of syntax were all that was found (for example – color vs. colour.)  This is breathtaking evidence that the transmission of the Holy Writings have been immaculately preserved over millennia.

In addition, many first person accounts, claims of eyewitnesses, combined with the likelihood of the early dating of the Gospels, provide the suggestion that eyewitnesses could have read the Gospels, and therefore been available to dispute them if there were errors.  No record of these disputes exist.  In addition, these people could have brought dishonor and pressure upon the believers, who would likely not have adopted beliefs that they knew were false. 

Finally, there is sufficient 'political' reason to trust the transmission of the stories.  Knowing that Caligula became Emperor of Rome in 37 A.D., and that he demanded sole worship of himself, even of the Jews, it would be life-threatening to promote the worship of someone else.  This gives credence to the consideration that the early Church would not have promoted a doctrine that they knew to be wrong (seeing a resurrected body would certainly embolden a person's beliefs!)  All of the Gospel writers suffered greatly, as did Paul.  Most were killed for their beliefs.

What is the Status Of The Documentation?

The original manuscripts (the autographa) are lost, but there are enough copied manuscripts in existence, some written during the lifetimes of some eye-witnesses to the Resurrection and the ministry of the Apostles, that the credibility of the transmission is assured.  This simple fact is astounding when compared to the evidence of other copied manuscripts from antiquity (indeed, there are NO originals of ANY manuscripts from antiquity!)  For example, there are only 643 manuscripts of the Iliad in existence, which is similar in length to the New Testament.  There are over 25,000 pieces of evidence for the Bible, and they are all so similar that they are considered to be identical.

Can We Trust These Documents If They Weren't Written In 'Real Time'?

Some believe that this gap of ~50 – 100 years before things were written down automatically destroys their reliability.  They assert that legends may have developed in lieu of fact, and therefore we have no basis in trusting that the manuscripts are valid.  There are essentially three items to consider when contemplating this issue:

1)  The transmission of fact and tradition when eyewitnesses are still alive.  Personal interpretation and adjustment is easy to do if the writer or eyewitnesses are not around, but much more difficult if you are possibly subject to correction or ridicule from them.  With the Gospels as close as 50 years after the death of Christ, it is conceivable that many of these eyewitnesses were still alive, as well as Peter and Mark and Paul and many of the first generation church leaders (such as Polycarp and Papias, who were direct disciples of the Apostle John.) 

In addition, evidence of the the introduction of the common 'heresies' (distortion of original doctrine/orthodoxy) did not begin until ~200 A.D., with the Gnostic heresy and others.  (Indeed, this is one reason the Church fathers formalized the canon.)

2)  The incredible similarity of the disparate documents.  When we consider the emphasis on perfection that the scribes – think of them as 'human copying machines' – had (remember that their livelihood and reputation relied on their quality of work – not to mention the seriousness they took to transmitting what they believed to be the 'word of God'), we can place faith in their work.  We know that this quality exists when we find documents, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, that were written approx. 1000 years later than some earlier documents, and found to be practically identical. 

In addition, when the various manuscripts are compiled with their various insignificant 'disparities' (akin to spelling color as 'colour' – and 'error' that does not changing the meaning) we can compile the original.  Consider this exercise:  If I write a letter to a friend, and then give it to 10 different people to copy, they each may make an error here or there, but they all won't make the SAME error.  Because of this, someone could easily determine what the original letter said from these ten copies.  For example, 9 of them may spell my name right (Sutherland,) while one may spell it wrong (Southerland).  It would be a proper assumption for my friend, when he sees the 9 vs. the 1, that my original had the spelling sans 'o'. 

3)  The relatively short period of time when compared to other 'trusted' pieces of antiquity.  The Old Testament books are generally considered reliable especially because of the previous examples.  New Testament documents are also, but an additional comparison of known and trusted pieces of antiquity aid in conveying trust (we should not hold these Biblical documents to any further doubt than we do other accepted manuscripts – this would be a double standard of the rules of evidence in antiquity!)  Consider the following comparisons of documents and their timing:

Biblical Works of Antiquity

 

 

Work

Author/Lifespan

Written

Period Between Event and Writing

Earliest Extant Manuscript

Period Between Event and Manuscript

Gospel of Matthew

Matthew / ~0-70? A.D.

~50-70 A.D.

< 50 years

ca. 200

< 150 years

Gospel of Mark

Mark / ~15-90? A.D.

~65-70 A.D.

< 50 years

ca. 225

< 200 years

Gospel of Luke

Luke / ~10-80? A.D.

~60-75 A.D.

< 50 years

ca. 200

< 200 years

Gospel of John

John / ~10-100? A.D.

~90-110 A.D.

< 80 years

ca. 130

< 100 years

Pauline Epistles

Paul / ~0-65? A.D.

~50-65 A.D.

~20-30 years

ca. 200

< 200 years

 

Secular Works of Antiquity

 

 

Work

Author/Lifespan

Written

Period Between Event and Writing

Earliest Extant Manuscript

Period Between Event and Manuscript

War of the Jews

Josephus / ~37-100? A.D.

~80 A.D.

~10-300 years

ca. 950

~900-1200 years

Antiquities

Josephus / ~37-100? A.D.

~95 A.D.

~30-300 years

ca. 1050

~1000-1300 years

Annals

Tacitus / ~56-120? A.D.

~100-120 A.D.

~30-100 years

ca. 850

~800-850 years

History

Herodotus / ~485-425? B.C.

~430-425 B.C.

~50-125 years

ca. 900

~1400-1450 years

History

Polybius / ~200-120? B.C.

~150 B.C.

~20-70 years

ca. 950

~1100-1150 years

 

Aristotle

~364-322 B.C.

N/A

1100 A.D.

~1400 years

 

Caesar

100-44 B.C.

N/A

900 A.D.

~950 years

Adapted from Willams; Are The Biblical Documents Reliable?; http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bib-docu.html; 4-03

 

It is clearly evident that the Biblical documentation is better documented than many accepted secular works.  To accept secular works, while holding Biblical documentation to a different standard is unfair.  Lets look at some summary information regarding what is in existence regarding Biblical documentation:

 
Information Regarding Extant Biblical Manuscripts 

 

 

Manuscripts

Biblical Reference Description Dated Further Info

Chester Beatty Manuscript

Four Gospels, Acts

 

~225 A.D.

 

Codex Vaticanus

Majority of OT and NT

Probably the oldest extant vellum manuscript, believed to have been commissioned by Constantine.  Added to the Vatican library in 1448. Also known as 'Codex B'.  Missing are portions of Genesis, Psalms and Hebrews, the entire books of I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Revelation and the books of the Maccabees.

~325 A.D.

Scholarly Summary

 

Encyclopedia Info

Codex Sinaiticus

Majority of OT and NT

Contains the oldest known complete copy of the NT (also contains part of the OT.)  Discovered at a monastery at Mt. Sinai in 1844.

~350 A.D.

 

 

Information Regarding The Dating Of The Gospels

 

 

Gospel

Consideration / Artifact Date Significance Further Info / References

Matthew

Magdalen Fragments – Pieces of papyrus from Matthew 26. 

A.D. 66 (latest)

Indicates that the gospel was written no later than 36 years after Jesus' death.

Eyewitness To Jesus

CRI

Time Mag

Mark

Qumran 7Q5, a dead sea scroll containing the Gospel of Mark

A.D.68 (latest)

The caves were abandoned in A.D. 68, giving us an outside date of the Gospel of Mark

 

Luke

P4 Fragment –  Papyrus that is similar in style to the Magdalen Fragments

~ A.D. 66

Assuming the similarity to the Magdalen Fragments, again provides us with an outside date for the Gospel of Luke

 

John

St John Papyrus P-52 (aka John Rylands Greek 457)

~A.D. 125 (latest)

While conservatively dated after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it references items not in existence after the destruction, indicating a reasonable belief that it was perhaps written before A.D. 70

 

General

No Gospel mentions either the stoning death of James the brother of Jesus (which is mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities – 93 A.D), or the deaths of Peter or Paul. 

N/A

Indicates a reasonable assumption that the latest date of the Gospels must be 93 A.D.

Faith On Trial  Pg 40

Josephus


Clearly, there is sufficient reason to believe that the evidence we have for the Bible is as good, indeed much better than required to believe that the documents are valid.  Finally, lets consider the esteemed opinion of Sir Frederick Kenyon, who was the director of the British Museum, and who expresses the amount of trust in the conveyance of the scriptures through time as follows:

"The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.  Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."  (Kenyon; The Bible And Archaeology; pg 288)

How Do We Know The Bible Is Inspired?

Christian Apologetics , The Bible

      
 How Do We Know The Bible Is Inspired?
 

The claim of inspiration is really quite outrageous.  A visual that comes to mind is God dictating, and a 'scribe' writing down word for word what God intended to be revealed to the world through time.  This image, while intriguing yet silly at the same time, is not exactly what happened.  Make no mistake, the writers wrote what God wanted them to write:

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."  2 Peter 1:20-21

Inspiration involves two actors:  God and man.  This is not to say that the men were inspired, similar to the way Mozart wrote 'inspirational' music, but rather that God utilized men to produce an inspired product.  The concept of 'inspiration' is described by J. I. Packer thusly:

 "Scripture is not only man's word – the fruit of human thought, premeditation, and art – but also and equally God's word, spoken through man's lips or written with man's pen.  In other words, Scripture has a double authorship, and man is only the secondary author; the primary author, through whose initiative, prompting, and enlightenment, and under whose superintendence each human writer did his work, is God the Holy Spirit."  

J. I Packer; "The Inspiration of the Bible"; The Origin Of The Bible; Philip Wesley Comfort editor (pg 30)

 Some retort that the claim of inspiration can only be attributed to the Old Testament Scriptures, since they were the 'Scripture' of Jesus' time.  But we must understand the attitude of the Apostles and the Early Church.  Peter, in remarks referring to the letters of Paul, attribute to them an origin that is from God, and offers a warning in their misuse:

…just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.  His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."  2 Peter 3:15b-16

The inspiration of the Scriptures is evident in several ways:

1)  The Miraculous Design.  As we learned earlier, the Bible is a very complex collection of writings.  It was not written by one person, but over 40, from 3 different continents, in three languages!  All of these writings were accomplished over a period of over 1500 years!  When one considers the unity of purpose, the continuity of the content and the fulfilled prophecy (both described in more detail below), the Bible stands legions above any other so-called 'sacred text'.  It cannot be considered the invention of one man, or of a conspiracy of men.  The first writers had no idea what would be written later.  The later writers had nothing to gain from making up any stories.  The Bible's incredible preservation through the years, proven by the discovery of thousands and thousands of manuscripts and fragments, all displaying the virtual perfection of transmission, would be expected of any book that the Creator would provide for us to be the carrier of His message.

2)  The Continuity Of The Content.  The Bible focuses on one subject:  The establishment of God's authority, and the redemption of man.  This can be thought of as God's message to us, to bring us back together with Him.  The Old Testament begins the drama and describes the 'fall' of man, and describes our need (but utter lack of ability to accomplish on our own) for redemption.  The holiness of God is presented, which is contrasted to the utter failure of mankind to qualify for joining with God.  The long history of mankind's failing struggle to make peace is proof that we need supernatural intervention for our redemption.  The New Testament describes the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a redeemer. 

3)  Fulfilled Prophecy.  God has told us that fulfilled prophecy is one way that we will know something is from Him. 

You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?'  The Bible tells us:  "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…"  Deuteronomy 18:21-22a

The Bible itself is replete with evidence of confirmed prophecy (over 600!).  Consider these two famous examples: 

 

 

Prophecy

Fulfillment

[The Lord] says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."  Isaiah 44:28

When the prophet spoke these words, both the temple and Jerusalem were intact and strong.  'Cyrus' was an unknown entity to them at the time.  100 years later, in 586 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed both.  In 537 B.C., King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews be released to rebuild (a stone cylinder was found confirming Cyrus' decree!)

"I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.  They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock.  Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets…  Ezekiel 26:3b-5a

In ~550 B.C. when this prophecy was written, Tyre was one of the most powerful sea ports in the world.  In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great began a siege of the island city (that was inhabited due to the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, also as prophesied).  Today, the ancient mainland of Tyre remains flat as a rock, used by fishermen to dry nets!

 

Another amazing example is the prophecy concerning the Jewish people:

 

 

Prophecy

Fulfillment

…if you do not obey the Lord you God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees…all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other.   Deuteronomy 28:15bc, 64a

The history of the Jewish people is most unique.  There have been many races of people who have held positions of power and influence in the world, but none share such amazing changes of fortunes as the Jews.  Their history (Biblical AND extra-Biblical) show them both as conquerors and then slaves.  The small portion of the world they currently occupy remains a focal point of world concern.  What other race of people can you recall that has been dispersed, yet retained their heritage?  World history has always referred to Jewish people as Jews, whether they were Polish Jews, Russian Jews, German Jews, etc.  They uniquely maintained their culture despite being disbursed, as the Bible predicted in Deuteronomy.  For a long time, the prediction of Ezekiel was embarrassing, and seemed impossible.  NO ONE could have predicted that a World War would focus on this race, and result in their gathering together again in their homeland!

"I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." Matthew 24:2b  "The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you…they will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."  Luke 19:43a, 44b

I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries…I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.  Ezekiel 36:19a, 24

 
4)  A 'Super Natural" Message.  The Bible is unique in its message, in addition to the content described above.  In no means does its message benefit any man or institution, as one might expect from a man-made document (indeed, this is one acid test for the other so-called 'sacred texts'.  With a universal 'religious' nature, a natural means of manipulation would be to tap into this nature, and purport to have an answer for the masses, especially one that the particular 'human' writer can fulfill, for a 'price'!)  But the Bible is different!  It does not describe how mankind can redeem itself, as does Buddhism or Naturalism, or many other 'religions'.  The Bible is unique in the message that God is indeed looking for us – and has provided a means to reach him that we cannot achieve ourselves!  There is nothing to be paid, or practiced, only a trust in Him and His grace is required!  Again, this message is unique among all 'religions' that promise a 'peace' that can be earned upon this earth, by human means. 

So is the Bible 'Infallible'?  Is it 'perfect', inerrant, exactly the way that God intended it to be, even in our newest translations?  Christian orthodoxy maintains that the Scriptures were inerrant in the original.  What exactly does this mean?

Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." 

     Proverbs 30:5

Wayne Gruden, author of Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, defines inerrancy thusly:  

The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.  There are several key messages that need to be understood about inerrancy.  1) The Bible must be interpreted as it was intended.  We should read allegory as allegory, statement of fact as statement of fact, description as description, etc etc.  When we say that we take the Bible 'literally', we mean that we interpret what it says as it was intended to be interpreted.  For example, when Jesus says "I am the vine and you are the branches", we do not interpret the Bible as saying that Christ has transformed Himself into a plant and expects us to as well!  (While painfully obvious, that example is a good reminder to those who claim to 'woodenly' take Scripture literally, to the detriment on what was meant in the writing!)  2)  Perspective of original authorship must be allowed.  To claim that a portion of Matthew's gospel conflicts with say, Mark's gospel because they may have documented an instance in a manner that appears contradictory.  We must remember that it is the intent of the passage that meant to be brought across.  Most of the so-called 'errors' of the Bible can be attributed to improper interpretation, or of a mistaken (more on interpretation of the Bible later.)   3)  Orthodoxy does not insist that the modern 'translations' are inerrant.  Does this mean that they are 'wrong'?  What it means is that the Bible is meant to be studied seriously, to determine the intent of the Creator is His originals.  A cursory reading of the Bible is likely to lead to errant interpretation.  When studying the Bible, with the intent of truly determining God's word and will, we must make a diligent effort of pursuit, and work to understand the intent, syntax, context, and history of the passages and translations (more on translations of the Bible later.)

Finally, regarding the inspiration and the Bible, we must remember God's edict to us to follow when considering the Bible, and His purpose of giving it to us:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  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 3:14-16