Last week, we discussed that God has revealed Himself in two ways: general revelation (in which He shows Himself to all people through creation and our conscience) and special revelation (God shows Himself through Jesus and the Bible). That begs a question: If God revealed Himself through the Bible, how do we know the Bible came from God?
Here are 4 proofs (I’ll list two this week, and two next week.)
1. External evidence says the Bible is a historical book
The number of manuscript copies….
...And the short length of time between the original manuscripts and our first copies of the New Testament.
Christian theologian Norman Geisler wrote, “For the New Testament the evidence is overwhelming. There are 5,366 manuscripts to compare and draw information from, and some of these date from the second or third centuries. To put that in perspective, there are only 643 copies of Homer’s Illiad, and that is the most famous book of ancient Greece! No one doubts the existence of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, but we only have 10 copies of it and the earliest of those was made 1,000 years after it was written. To have such an abundance of copies of the New Testament from dates within 70 years after their writing is amazing.”
The extreme care with which the Scriptures were copied.
The earliest Jewish scribes followed a strict code to ensure accuracy in their copies. Here are a few of the rules they followed meticulously:
Each scroll must contain a specified number of columns, all equal throughout the entire book
The length of each column must not be less than 48 lines or more than 60 lines
Each column’s breadth must be exactly 30 letters
The copyist must use a specially prepared black ink
The copyist must not copy from memory
The space between every consonant must be the size of a thread
The copyist must sit in full Jewish dress
The copyist must use a fresh quill to pen the sacred name of God (Yahweh). The copyists held the Scriptures and the name of God in such reverence that they would even refuse to acknowledge the presence of a king while writing the name they held so holy.
Later, scribes added these requirements:
The could copy only letter by letter, not word by word
They counted the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in each book, and if it came out wrong, they threw the scroll away.
They knew the middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Old Testament. After copying a scroll, they counted forward and backward from this middle letter. If the number of letters did not match what they knew to be correct, they destroyed the scroll and started over.
Confirmation of places and dates by archaeology.
For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most famous archaeological discoveries. What’s so significant about them? Every one of the Old Testament books is found in these scrolls. Before their discovery, the earliest manuscripts we had of some of the Old Testament books were from 900 A.D.—almost a thousand years later than when these scrolls were made. Amazingly, the Dead Sea Scrolls were compared with the later manuscripts and practically no differences were found. (The 5% differences they did find were mostly word spellings.) That’s almost no changes in 1,000 years!
2. Internal evidence says it’s a unique book.
The majority of the Bible is from eyewitness accounts.
One piece of evidence that historians look for in assessing the reliability of any document is the number of generations that passed on a story before that story was written down. In other words, is the information firsthand or secondhand? The events of the Bible were primarily recorded in the generation in which they were experienced—by those who experienced them. For example, Moses was there when the Red Sea split. Joshua saw with his own eyes the wall of Jericho falling. The disciples stood together in the Upper Room and saw and heard the resurrected Lord Jesus.
The amazing agreement and consistency throughout the Bible.
Christian apologist and evangelist Josh McDowell wrote, “The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years in various places stretching all the way from Babylon to Rome. The human authors included over 40 persons from various stations of life: king, peasants, poets, herdsmen, fishermen, scientists, farmers, priests, pastors, tentmakers and governors. It was written in a wilderness, a dungeon, inside palaces and prisons, on lonely islands and in military battles. Yet it speaks with agreement and reliability on hundreds of controversial subjects. Yet it tells one story from beginning to end, God’s salvation of man through Jesus Christ. NO PERSON could have possibly conceived of our written such a work!”
*Note: much of this outline came from “Foundations” by Tom Holladay and Kay Warren