Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October 9, 2014

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:16-17

One of the questions that raises doubts about the veracity of the Bible is some variation of this, "With all the times the Bible has been copied from one language to another, how reliable can it be?"

Yesterday I shared that new Bible translations are not copies of a previous edition of a copy but each new copy of the Bible is translated from original documents.

I showed you how meticulously the Old Testament was copied in the early days and though the methods have changed with modern technology, the integrity with which translation is done has not changed.

This morning you will discover that the documents from which the New Testament is translated are even BETTER than the highly reliable Old Testament originals.

While this gets a bit technical, you will find great encouragement from this morning's facts about how solid the foundation is that supports the New Testament! 

Your faith is only as the truths and principles it is based upon, so knowing the Bible is one of the most reliably documents in all of Human History should be reassuring!

Historians and religious scholars use three criteria to rate the reliability of a historical document:

1) The number of manuscripts available
2) The time interval between the date of the original writing and the date when the new manuscript is copied. The shorter the interval the more reliable the document is deemed to be.
3) The quality of the original manuscript from which the subsequent copies have been made is exceptional.

Here are some facts that meet and surpass the standards of reliability!

Historians have great confidence that Emperor Julius Caesar conquered Gaul because they have in their possession ten ancient manuscripts of Caesar's writing on The Gallic Wars. Likewise, there is a high degree of confidence that Socrates lived, that he taught, and that he was executed by drinking hemlock because there exist seven ancient manuscript of Plato's Tetralogies, in which he documents the death of his beloved teacher and mentor.

With those truths in mind, consider how the New Testament compared these additional highly regarded writings:

Caesar                      100-44 BC                     AD 900            1,000 Years                   10
Plato                         27-347 BC                     AD 900              1,200 Years                   7
Tacticus                     AD 100                        AD 1,100            1,000 Years                 20
Thucydides            460-400 BC                    AD 900             1,300 Years                     8
Aristotle                 384-322 BC                    AD 1,100           1,400 Years                   49
Homer (Illiad)             900 BC                         400 BC               500 Years                 643
New Testament       AD 40-100                    AD 125                  25 Years              24,000

Blind faith? I think not!

By their own standards of reliability, the New Testament has far more veracity that other ancient documents they readily consider classic historical literature!

October 8, 2014

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."  Mat. 24:35

One  of  the  most common questions about the veracity of the  Bible  is, "Considering all the times the Bible has been copied from one language to another, how much confidence can we have in what it says?"

My answer would be, "Complete confidence!"

I am a person of faith. I believe I have a strong and growing faith in God. My faith in God has changed my life and continues to do so.

But one thing I don't have is a blind faith. I wouldn't recommend a blind faith to you either! My faith is grounded on and documented by the solid truth of the Bible, God's Word!

In my posts this week I am going to share my reasons for having such confidence in the credibility of the Bible, despite its many translations over the centuries.

The fact is, the Bible is the most accurately translated book of all time! It's transmission from one generation to the next has been accomplished with great attention to detail, careful documentation and serious scholarship. Very often when people learn how meticulously Bible is copied they remark that only God could have done such an excellent job.

Here are some facts you need to know:

(1) The number of translations

Some look at the translation of Scripture much like the child's game of "telephone" where each child whispers into the ear of the next child, and the next to the next until the message is passed from the first child to the last. If the original message was something like, "I bought my dad a new took" becomes "he thought his dad was a fool".

If you are under that impression, allow me to correct your thinking. While the Bible has been translated into every language we are able to translate, those translations are not translated from a previous translation that was translated from a previous translation that had been translated from another translation. Instead, Bible scholars always translate the texts containing the original languages of Hebrew (comprising 10% of the Old Testament), Aramaic (Daniel 2:4-7:28) and Greek (the New Testament), and why they make every effort to ensure the original original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek text they use is the most reliable ones available.

(2) The Talmudim

The Talmudim (Hebrew word for "students") were responsible for the transmission of the Torah (Old Testament) from A.D. 100-500. They had great reverence for the Scriptures in their care, and as a result their process was very careful and precise.

Synagogue scrolls had to be written on specially prepared skins of clean animals and fastened with strings taken from the clean animals. Each skin had to contain an exact number of columns. Each column had to have between 48 and 60 lines and be 30 letters wide. The spaces between consonants, sections, and books was precise, measured by hairs or threads. The ink had to be black and prepared from a specific recipe. Any scribe who copied from one text to the new text did so under strict orders not to deviate from the original in ANY manner. Each scribe was prohibited from writing any words from memory. The scribe was required to wash his entire body before beginning to copy the text and had to be in full Jewish dress. Each time a scribe came to the word for "God" he had to stop and reverently wipe his pen prior to writing that holy word and before he could write the word "Yahweh", the covenant name for God, each scribe was again required to wash his entire body before copying those sacred letters.

(3) The Massoretes

The Massoretes, who oversaw the Torah from A.D. 500-900, adopted an even more elaborate means of ensuring accuracy from text to text. They numbered the verses, words and letters of each book and calculated the midpoint of each one. When a scroll was complete, independent sources counted the number of words and syllables forward, then backward, then from the middle of the text in each direction, to make sure that the exact number had been preserved!  Proofreading and revision of a completed manuscript had tole be done within thirty days. Up to two mistakes on a page could be corrected. Three mistakes on a page condemned the whole manuscript.

Transcribers treated the sacred texts so reverently that the older manuscripts were destroyed to keep them from being misread. Prior to 1947, the oldest existing Hebrew manuscript was from the ninth century. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls enabled the scholars to check the accuracy or the current texts with the ancient ones dating back to 100 B.C. When the current text was compared with the ancient manuscript (a 1,000 year gap), they found an amazing 95% of the texts were identical with only minor variations! 

So, if you were one of those who were troubled about the perversion or distortion of truth from translation to translation to translation let me put your mind at rest!

The same Holy Spirit Who inspired righteous men to put His Word to parchment also inspired each scribe who reverently copied translations from the existing text!

You can stake your life and your eternity on the Word of God! 

As Jesus promised, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."