Monday, October 11, 2010

Is the bible true?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bible proven false?

A Hyde Park orator was denouncing the feeble efforts of the Jews to resist the Roman oppression in the first century of the Christian era, and suggested that if they had appealed more to the sword and less to the sacred writings, they might have fared much better.

One in the crowd asked, "But where are the Romans today?"
"Nowhere," was the quick answer.
"And where are the Jews today?"
"Everywhere," was the sarcastic but true reply-to the evident appreciation of the hearers.

One book is hated and feared by Communists, humanists and other atheistic groups. They claim that it is only a book of myths and legends, but they cannot tolerate it.

Here are some quick, short and of course non exhaustive statements and evidences for the bible's ongoing demand for credibility and respect. Much of this is stuff I've gathered up over the years from various sources.

# 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."

Concerning translations:

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 version is the originals themselves.

And they are not here 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 gods 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 (historic manuscripts) available for both Old Testament and New Testament texts, and the minimal problems involved with inconsistencies 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 facts:

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 and demands are much more significant than any other book.

On the psychological and spiritual side we can cite 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 all other "gods" such as Zeus, Shiva etc..

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? The answers are both obvious and subtle. Anyone not wishing to have moral claims laid upon their lives will not like the books of scripture. That much is obvious. Those who wish to worship other gods or define God as they please will not like it either. That is a bit more subtle.

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 - 1600 years
  • Aristotle - 1400 years
  • Plato - 1200 years
  • Aristophanes - 1200 years
  • Thucydides* - 1200 years
  • Euripides - 1500 years
  • Sophocles - 1400 years
  • Herodotus - 1300 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 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!

Here are some interesting quotes from a few famous people on the bible:
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
George Washington (1732-1799)

"That Book accounts for the supremacy of England."
Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

"I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

"I have known ninety-five of the world's great men in my time, and of these, eighty-seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is stamped with a Specialty of Origin, and an immeasurable distance separates it from all competitors."
William Gladstone (1809-1898)

"The Bible is the sheet-anchor of our liberties."
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)

"The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it."
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

"It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom."
Horace Greeley (1811-1872)

"There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history."
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

"All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more the Truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures."
Sir William Herschel (1738-1822)
Quotes prove nothing of course and one could list many 1000's of them both for and against the bible but I found the above interesting and pertinent.

Those who continue to hammer away at the bible will only break themselves on the anvil. The bible has survived 2000 years of incessant hammering, denial, attack, murderous persecutions and multiplied attempts to prove it wrong or false - and it will continue to do so 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." Whether we like it or not and whether we believe it or not.