The Historicity of the Bible – A letter to a fictionally editor defending the historicity of the Bible

Dear Editor:

I’m writing in response to the article titled Belief in a False Book: Why So Many Still Believe a Biblical Jesus, from the April 26, 2010 issue of The EVA Times. Ultimately I hope to shed some light on the topic at hand, as the author of the article failed to accurately portray what the Bible represents, an accurate, historical account of ancient events that are firmly based on evidence.[1]

Sir, the Bible is unlike any other book and should be treated as such. Throughout the entire Bible we see the central message of redemption even though it was written over a period of 1400 years, authored by forty different people, on three continents, using three different languages.[2] There is no other book that is as complicated, traversing this amount of time of history. The reason the Bible has remained constant is because of the lengths people went to copy or transmit its contents accurately.[3] It’s here, the reverence for the Bible as God’s Word, that we should not only start in examining the reliability of the Scriptures but I argue any intelligent seeker should start their quest.[4]

The transmission of the Bible is a sticking point for many people. Transmission refers to the process by which an ancient document is passed down from generation to generation. When examining the issue of transmission it’s important to point out that the Scriptures were not written and compiled in book form but is individual letters, etc. They were written on clay, Stone, Papyrus, parchment, and leather. It was written in Hebrew and Aramaic.[5] Most importantly, from the very beginning the texts were treated with respect and honored as more than stories. One of the reasons the Scriptures were treated so carefully is because of their prophetic value.[6] Because of the value they saw in the Scriptures the treasured them and when copied they made sure everything was transmitted exactly as it appeared in the originals. [7]

The Jews have a long and storied past, a past revolving around one book. They have always revered that book and took extreme care of it. For this we can be sure the copies we have now are both genuine and authentic. Jewish scribes were responsible for copying and caring for the sacred texts, assuring the proper transmission for generation to generation. These scribes developed the Masoretic Text. Over time, this text has become incredibly trustworthy. The reason for this are the methods used by the scribes when copying the originals and the subsequent copies. They produced strict measures to be sure that every copy was an exact reproduction of the original. When errors were made, they made note of them or marked the text indicating that a mistake had been made. They also counted each word and letter numerous times to make sure everything was perfectly copied.[8]

These manuscripts have been verified accurate because we’ve been able to compare so many different copies. There are thousands of copies of the Old Testament documents from a variety of dates. While comparing all the texts it’s been found that there are few errors. The errors that are found are minor misspellings or grammatical, not changing the meaning of the passage. [9]

We’ve seen that the Old Testament is reliable; in similar fashion we can be sure that the New Testament is just as accurate and trust worthy. Similar to the Jews view that the Old Testament was sacred, the early believers viewed the apostolic writing as sacred. Much of this had to do with the fact that the witnesses were dying or dead and they wanted to make sure an accurate account of the events was recorded.[10]

Like the Old Testament, we are able to conclude that the New Testament is accurate and reliable by comparing a multitude of manuscripts. Between the second and fifteenth centuries 5,366 partial and complete manuscript were reproduced. Compared to each other we see amazing accuracy and likeness. When compared with other ancient writings like the Iliad with it’s 643 manuscripts and Caesar’s Callic Wars with it’s 9 or 10 manuscripts, these 5,366 Greek manuscripts far surpasses them.[11]

Even more amazing is time that transpired between the original writings and the first copies. We have most of the New Testament manuscripts dated within 200 years of the events. We have some books dating to within 100 years of the events.[12] And we have one fragment which comes within a generation. Compared to ancient literature; the oldest known manuscript of Gallic Wars dates to 900 years after the death of Caesar.[13]

“Not only are there thousands more manuscripts and portions of the New Testament than other ancient books, but the oldest New Testament manuscript portions are centuries earlier,” resulting in the ability to reconstruct them with a “greater degree of accuracy than” any other ancient book.[14]

We’ve seen that the manuscripts of Scripture outnumber every other writing from antiquity but now it’s important to see if all the copies agree. Textual critics try to recreate the original texts of the lost document by comparing copies of the writings, in this case the ancient Old and New Testament documents. What this process yields that the Bible has not only been preserved in the largest number of manuscripts of any book from the ancient world, but that it also contains fewer errors in transmission. Of these errors only 10 percent affect the meaning of the passage, none effecting Christian doctrine.[15]

In light of these evidences we can be certain that what we’re reading today is the Word of God, line for line, word for word, and letter for letter.[16] I would say that this has significant ramifications. Ramifications, which I feel the author of Belief in a False Book failed to consider and research. Leaving the main premise of the article, that the Bible is simply a collection of myths with little basis in history spinning on its head. Is there 100 percent certainty? No, but we make commitments every day on less than 100 percent certainty. So I ask you Sir, is there enough evidence to warrant a 100 percent commitment to Jesus Christ? And I leave you with the answer; in deed there is![17]

For His glory,

Jonathan Noyes

[1] Craig Hazen, “Evidence for the Resurrection” Defending the Faith Lecture Series, (Biola University, La Mirada, CA, 2010)

[2] Norman L. Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008), 146.

[3] Ibid 157

[4] Hazen

[5] Geisler 144-146

[6] Ibid 153

[7] Ibid 160

[8] Geisler 158

[9] Ibid

[10] Joe Hellerman, “Defending the Gospel Accounts of Jesus” Defending the Faith Lecture Series, (Biola University, La Mirada, CA, 2010)

[11] Hazen and Hillerman Lectures w/ Geisler 159-160

[12] Lee Strobel, “A Case For Faith” Defending the Faith Lecture Series, (Biola University, La Mirada, CA, 2010)

[13] Geisler 159-160

[14] Norman Geisler and W. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), p. 405.

[15] Geisler 159-161

[16] Strobel

[17] Hellerman


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