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Veracity of Scripture

Is the Bible historically unreliable? Many claim so, but early manuscripts, archaeology, and Biblical prophecies prove that the Bible is historically reliable.

Manuscripts are early copies of Biblical texts, from which our Bibles were and are written. Since we do not have the original Biblical texts, we must determine if the manuscripts are accurate copies of the original. If there is a high number of manuscripts, and if they are dated early, there is a smaller chance that there are errors in the manuscripts.

There are about 15,000 manuscripts and fragments of the Old Testament. The most important of these are the Dead Sea Scrolls, of which the earliest manuscripts date from 250 B.C. Among the manuscripts was a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. When comparing this manuscript with the oldest copy extant at that time (980 A.D.), it was discovered that 95 percent of the texts were word-for-word the same. The other five percent consisted of spelling variations and stenographical errors. As for the New Testament, there are over 5000 manuscripts and fragments. Close to 1000 were made before 1000 A.D. The earliest manuscripts were written no less than 60 years after the originals, and the entire Bible is found in manuscript form 250 years after the originals. Furthermore, there are so many New Testament quotes from the early church fathers and early lectionaries that even if we did not have a Bible, we could reconstruct the entire New Testament with their writings (up to 300 A.D.) save for 11 verses. There is more bibliographic support for The Bible than there is for other ancient writers such as Pliny, Aristotle, and Homer. Most of these secular works have few manuscripts, dated many centuries after the authors wrote. The scribes knew they were recording and preserving what they believed to be the Word of God, so they made sure that the text was rendered faithfully. Jesus–God Himself–quoted the Old Testament as inspired scripture, so must have believed the Old Testament Scriptures were accurate. God, who authored Scripture, would have also made sure inspired Scripture was faithfully transmitted.

Critics point to the fact that there among the manuscripts, there are over 100,000 discrepancies. However, it is also true that almost all of them are insignificant, and consist in a missing letter or word, or the reversal of words. Here is an example: "Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl"; "Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world"; "Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world"; "Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world"; "Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld". In none of these passages is the meaning changed, which is typical of the other discrepancies. In those passages where there is a significant difference (which number about 50), no doctrine or teaching is affected by the change.

It is also clear that the witnesses of Biblical events–the authors and those the authors interviewed–are reliable. Moses, the author of the Pentateuch, witnessed the events he wrote about. Luke "carefully investigated everything" (Luke 1:1-4), recording what the "original eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" had to say, and Peter said that the disciples did not teach "cleverly concocted myths"; rather, they were "eyewitnesses" (2 Pet. 1:16-17). Furthermore, the people (including Jesus), places, and events (including what is recorded in the New Testament) of the Bible, are backed by secular writers such as Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, and Pliny the Younger (c. 100 A.D.).

Archaeology also proves the veracity of Scripture. Many accounts of Biblical people, places, and events, once thought fictional, are recorded or seen elsewhere–a huge ship resembling Noah's Ark has been spotted on numerous occasions on Mount Ararat (Gen. 8:4); the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah (now called Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira) destroyed just as the Bible describes (Gen. 19:24); the names of Gad (the Mesha Inscription), Asher (the inscriptions of Rameses II–king at the time of the Exodus), and Judah (inscription of King Tiglath of Assyria) as tribes; the existence of Balaam (Num. 22-25), as found in the Deir Alla text; the ruins of Jericho show that something similar to, but something other than, an earthquake, flattened the walls, and that the town had been set on fire (Josh. 6); two Philistine temples have been found with two supporting pillars six feet apart, similar to the story of Samson (Judg. 16); the existence of David, according to the Tel Dan Inscription and the Moabite Stone; the revolt of Moab (2 Kgs. 3) on the Mesha inscription; the Hittites' records and capital were discovered in Turkey; King Sargon's existence, and his capture (Isaiah 20) was recorded on his castle walls, as seen after the castle's discovery; also on the palace walls was the account of the fall of Samaria (2 Kgs. 17); The Biblical stories concerning Sennacherib (2 Kgs. 18-19) as recorded on the Taylor Prism, the Lachish reliefs, and the annals of Esarhaddon; Nebuchadnezzar's capture of Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 24) recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles; the freeing of captives by Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4); and Belshazzar's existence (Dan. 5), who was the son of King Nabonidus, and took over in his absence, according to ancient tablets.

Also, similar stories from other sources tend to confirm Biblical events–the Story of Adapa is similar to the story of Adam and Eve; the epic of Gilgamesh tells a story strikingly similar to the story of Noah and the Great Flood (Gen. 6-9); Sumerian tablets give an account of a common, worldwide language, the destruction of a tower, and the dispersal of people, and the confounding of their speech (Gen. 11); the names of places in Genesis are verified by the Elba archive, dating back to 2300 B.C.

Further evidence includes likenesses and statuary found for Biblical characters such as Shishak (1 Kgs. 14:25); Jehu (2 Kgs. 9-10); Hazael (2 Kgs. 8:7-15); Sargo II (Is. 20:1); Tirhakah (2 Kgs. 19:9); Xerxes (Esther); Darius I (Ezra 4:24); and Augustus (Luke 2:1). Many Biblical structures have been discovered–the palace of Jericho (Jud. 3:15-30); the gate of Sheckem (Jud. 9:34-38); the pool of Gibeon (2 Sam. 12-32); the palace at Samaria (1 Kgs 20:43, 22:39); the pool of Samaria (1 Kgs. 22:29-38); the tunnel beneath Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 20:20); and the royal gate and Square at Susa (Est. 2:3, 5, 9, 16, 19, 21).

Another proof of the veracity of Scripture is the prophecies that are found throughout its pages, and the fulfillment of them as recorded by later Biblical writers or by extra-biblical sources. Take for example the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We find in the Old Testament books that He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:3; 17:19; Num. 24:21-24); He would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), and of a virgin (Is. 7:14); He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12); He would be crucified with criminals (Isa. 53:12); His hands and feet would be pierced (Ps. 22:16); soldiers would gamble for his clothes (Ps. 22:18); his side would be pierced and not a bone on his body would be broken (Zech. 12:10; Ps. 34:20); He would be buried with the rich (Isa. 53:9); and almost 500 other prophecies. It is known that these prophecies were made and recorded years and even centuries before the events (the Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, pre-date Christ's birth), contrary to skeptics who say Biblical prophecies were written after the events. These prophecies would have been impossible for Jesus to deliberately fulfill.

Furthermore, there are over 2500 prophecies in the Bible, over 2000 of which have already been fulfilled. Take the example of Tyre. When Tyre was a great city, Ezekiel predicted the unthinkable–that many nations would oppose it (26:3); Nebuchadnezzar would attack it first (26:7); its tower and walls would be destroyed (26:4,9); its remains would be tossed into the sea (26:12); it would become a bare rock, a place for fishermen to dry their nets (26:4-5,14); and it would never be rebuilt (26:14). This is exactly what happened. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Tyre, and destryoed the walls and towers; years later, the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and Crusaders attacked it; Alexander the Great built a causeway from Tyre to his island fortress and scraped it as bare as a rock. And most surprisingly, Tyre has never been rebuilt, despite the fact that it is in a prime location on the Meditteranean Sea, where springs pump a plentitude of fresh water. There are many other prophecies. The great city of Babylon, thought to be indestructable, was predicted to fall according to the Biblical prophecies (Is. 13:17-22; Jer. 51:26,43), that travelers would avoid its ruins, the city would forever remain uninhabited, and its ruins would not be used as building material. Also fulfilled was that the Jews would be conquered twice (Babylon in 607 B.C. and Rome in 70 A.D.) and enslaved, and would be scattered throughout the world before re-establishing their nation (in 1947) (Deut. 29; Is. 11:11-13; Jer. 25:11; Hos. 3:4-5; Luke 21:23-24). Edom, once fertile and in large abundance of water, is now barren and abandoned (Jer. 49:15-20; Ez. 25:12-14).

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