Thursday, July 06, 2006

Some Facts about the Bible

Here's some information I've gathered from various web sites and books on the validity of the Biblical accounts and historicity.

  • Nelson Glueck - "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."
  • William F. Albright - "There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament traditions."
  • F.F. Bruce - "Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record."
  • # Merrill Unger - "Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds."
  • Miller Burrows - "Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development ... The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural."

1. For many critics the account of the birth of Jesus was held as ridiculous. They argued that there was no census, that Quirinius was not Governor of Syria at that time and that everyone did not have to return to his ancestral home for a census. Archaeology has proven the critics wrong (again) -

* The Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and held censuses every 14 years. The procedure was begun under Augustus.

* Quirinius was Governor of Syria about 7 B.C.

* A papyrus found in Egypt gives directions for the conduct of a census. Families were to return to their own governments to complete family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands might retain those belonging to them.

2. Critics said Acts was unreliable because Luke wrote that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia and Iconium was not (Acts 14:6). However, in 1910, Sir William Ramsay found a monument that showed Iconium was a Phrygran city. Later discoveries confirmed that.

3. In his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions the city treasurer, Erastus (Romans 16:23). The letter was written in Corinth. Excavations of Corinth in 1929 found this inscripion on a pavement: "Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense." The pavement dates from the 1st century A.D.

4. Many critics have blasted the usage of certain words by Luke.

* Luke called rulers in Philippi "praetors." Scholars argued that two "duumuirs" would have ruled the town. However, archaeology shows that the title of "praetor" was employed by the magistrates of a Roman colony. Luke was right.

* Luke called civil authorities in Thessalonica "politarchs." Critics said there was no such person. However, 19 inscriptions have been unearthed which use the title. Luke was right.

* Luke called Gallio "proconsul." The Delphi inscription was unearthed which reads: "As Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and the proconsul of Achaia."

Sir William Ramsay wrote of Luke: "Luke is a historian of the first rank ... this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."

Note that no single translation constitutes the only version one may consider to be inspired.
JB Phillips would tell you that it is not the word by exact word that is inspired but the meaning. The only perfect versions are the originals themselves.

We do not have them - and for good reason - given man's propensity to idolatry and the worship of 'things' it goes without saying that institutions like the RC church would venerate the originals and make idols out of them. So it's no wonder many sacred items of the past have been "lost".

However we have every reason to accept what we do have as legitimate as I will show briefly.

With the great abundance of MSS available for both OT and NT texts, and the minimal problems involved with inconsistancies between them, there really is no problem at all.

We can safely say with Sir F. Kenyon (former Director of the British Museum), "The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, or early translations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world." ...
"The interval between the dates of the 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."

And F. J. A. Hort of Cambridge University, one of the greatest textual critics of the New Testament, in his book Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek said that, leaving aside the comparatively trivial variations between the manuscripts:
the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole...and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text.

And if you really want to be honest and impartial you must also take into account the following :

Numbers of surviving manuscripts of ancient writers

The plays of Aeschylus are preserved in perhaps 50 manuscripts, of which none is complete. Sophocles is represented by about 100 manuscripts, of which only 7 have any appreciable independent value. The Greek Anthology has survived in one solitary copy. The same is the case with a considerable part of Tacitus' Annals. Of the poems of Catullus there are only 3 independent manuscripts. Some of the classical authors, such as Euripides, Cicero, Ovid, and especially Virgil, are better served with the numbers rising into the hundreds.

The numbers of manuscripts of other writers are: for Caesar's Gallic War 10, Aristotle 49, Plato 7, Herodotus 8, Aristophanes 10. Apart from a few papyrus scraps only 8 manuscripts of Thucydides, considered by many to be one of the most accurate of ancient historians, have survived.

Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy only 35 survive, represented in about 20 manuscripts. Homer's Iliad is the best represented of all ancient writings, apart from the New Testament, with something like 700 manuscripts. However, there are many more significant variations in the Iliad manuscripts than there are in those of the New Testament.

Does one feel that the above named MSS must be totally refuted or considered unreliable? Of course not. So why is it ALWAYS the bible that gets the most flack?
The answers to that question are pretty obvious - on the purely human side - it's claims are much more significant than any other book.

On the purely psychological and spiritual side - hatred or at least dislike of the idea of the Judeo/Xian God being the one true God. Indeed, the consequences are devastating for the atheist and for the uncoverted rebel.

No other book in all of history has received so much vehement persecution, hatred, multiplied 1000's of attempts to destroy it both physically and evidentially. No other MSS is history is so well supported by so many experts in the fields of archaeology and history.

No other book in history is so loved and so hated. Why?

And, In addition to Greek, we have something like 8,000 manuscripts in Latin, and an additional 8,000 or so manuscripts in other languages such as Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, Coptic, Gothic, Slavic, Sahidic and Georgian. As these translations began to be made before the close of the second century, they provide an excellent source for assessing the text of the New Testament writings from a very early date. On this latter point Charles H. Welsh, in his book "True from the Beginning", quotes from the third edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica:
This argument is so strong, that, if we deny the authenticity of the New Testament we may with a thousand times greater propriety reject all the other writings in the world.

Time gap from date of author to date of earliest surviving manuscript

Tacitus 700 years
Livy 400 years
Caesar 900 years
Catullus 1,600 years
Aristotle 1,400 years
Plato 1,200 years
Aristophanes 1,200 years
Thucydides* 1,200 years
Euripides 1,500 years
Sophocles 1,400 years
Herodotus 1,300 years

*For several papyri of Thucydides, the gap is 500-600 years.

The first complete copy of the Odyssey we have is from 2,200 years after it was written! Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscript of their works, which are of any use to us, are so much later than the originals.

The differences between the NT MSS are almost all so minor as to change nothing of the supposed original meaning. Some add a verse here and remove one there. So what!

So what does this indicate? All persistent whining and hammering against the bible is not founded on factual evidence, reason, logic or anything of the kind! It is founded upon hatred or at least strong prejudice as is easily evidenced in this forum every single hour!

I say to all wannabe bible destroyers who keep hammering at the Bible that in doing so they will only break themselves on the anvil. The bible has survived 2000 years of hammering, denial, attack, murderous persecutions and attempts to prove it wrong and it will continue to not only survive but infinitum.

"For most assuredly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter{literally, iota} or one tiny pen stroke{or, serif} shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished."

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

The Bible is still the world's best selling book.