Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Bible

The Bible has been analyzed far more than any work in the history of the world. It has survived despite the many times in history that it has been made illegal (it is illegal even today in apparently 51 countries), the times that all found copies were burned (For example, in A.D. 303, an edict to destroy all Bibles was decreed by Rome. Anyone found with a Bible was killed), etc. The Bible has been one of the most censored books of all time. It has also had more translations and more editions than any other book in the history of publishing.

Papyrus and parchment were used until paper was invented in A.D. 105. Many major ancient writings written on such vulnerable material vanished altogether. Yet there are a number of surviving manuscripts of the Old Testament written before the birth of Christ. Many works of antiquity have simply disappeared over time. One scholar indicated that all works in existence from the A.D. 50's and 60's would fit between bookends placed a foot apart. Even great works of history and literature have very few early manuscripts in existence. Unlike the Bible, the earliest existing copies of other great works were actually completed hundreds of years after the originals. The Bible, in contrast, has many more copies that were written much closer to the events they document. Major existing manuscripts for classic literature include: Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar (we have 10 early records, and there is a span of 1000 years from them back to the actual event); History by Pliny the Younger (we have 7 early records, which were written 750 years after the event); History by Thucydides (we have 8 existing early records, and the first existing manuscript was made 1300 years after the event); History by Herodotus (we have 8 existing manuscripts today, made 1300 years after the actual event); Iliad by Homer (the second most prevalent writing) (we have 643 early records, and there are 500 years from the actual event to the first existing manuscript). And the New Testament? We have over 24,000 early records and there was a mere 25 years from the actual event to the first existing manuscript!

The Bible contains many facts regarded as ridiculous at the time, which have been verified as fact today. It gives instructions on dealing with things like mold, as well as infectious and contagious diseases, and introduces quarantine---before things like microscopes existed, or people knew anything about germs or air-borne diseases.

Archaeology has unearthed such things as the walls of Jericho and other conquered cities, found precisely as indicated in the Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided phenomenal evidence for the credibility of biblical scripture. For example, the nearly-intact Isaiah Scroll is almost identical to the most recent manuscript version of the Masoretic text from the 900's AD (Scholars have discovered a handful of spelling and tense-oriented scribal errors, but nothing of significance), corresponding to Isaiah 53 in today's Old Testament---yet this text was dated 100 to 335 years before the birth of Jesus Christ!

The word "Bible" comes from the Egyptian word for parchment, byblos. The Greek word biblios means 'books' or 'scrolls.' Later, it was translated into Latin, biblia, meaning "book." The Bible is more than a single book. It is a library--ta biblia, which means "the books." It consists of 66 books written by over 40 authors from all walks of life: Kings (David and Solomon), a political leader (Moses), a prime minister (Daniel), a Pharisee (Paul), a military general (Joshua), a shepherd (Amos), a tax collector (Matthew), a doctor (Luke), a cupbearer (Nehemiah), and fishermen (Peter, James and John)---a very unlikely group to author the most revered book on earth. It contains books of history, law, prophecy, poetry, proverbs, and songs. It was written over a span of 1500-1600 years in about 13 different countries on 3 different continents in at least 3 different languages. It was written under different situations: in a palace (Daniel, 540 B.C.); in a prison (Paul, A.D. 60); while traveling (Luke, A.D. 60); while fighting (Joshua, circa 1390 B.C.); in the wilderness (Moses, circa 1430 B.C.); in a dungeon (Jeremiah, 600 B.C.); during times of joy and despair (David, 1000 B.C. and Jeremiah); etc.

Adding complexity to the divine design of the Bible are the vastly different styles in which various books are written. Yet they miraculously tie together in theme, message and even many detailed cross-references. A God Who wants to communicate to all kinds of people in all kinds of situations would use all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Writing styles are also designed to communicate in different ways.

References that were used for research for this article:
-"Is the Bible Really a Message from God?" by Ralph O. Muncaster
-All About Archaeology
-Daily Word of Life
-The Word website
-100 Banned Books: A Review
-Yahoo! Answers

4 comments:

satire and theology said...

A good summary, Jeff.

The Bible is well supported by manuscript and historical evidence.

I picked up 21 more books tonight at the TWU library and have perhaps 70% of the books I need.

The old Lochness Monster article on satire and theology has taken off slightly with several days of 100 plus traffic on the blog and over 200 each of the last two days. I doubt this will last.

Jeff said...

Russ,

I picked up 21 more books tonight at the TWU library and have perhaps 70% of the books I need.

Wow, 21 more books, and that's only 70% of what you need? That is incredible...and expensive.

The old Lochness Monster article on satire and theology has taken off slightly with several days of 100 plus traffic on the blog and over 200 each of the last two days.

Cool! Maybe I should try to 'borrow' that video from you and post it here, to increase my traffic! ;) LOL!

thekingpin68 said...

Twenty-one plus another sixteen I borrowed from another library plus fifteen plus articles off the web is about 70% yes.

I will use portions of course.

Russ

Jeff said...

Wow, that is overwhelming. Obviously you won't read all of that material, but even scanning through all of those for quotes and references seems like a huge job.