Is Our Bible Reliable? (Con’t from 8 June)

By Not Known

The sheer weight of manuscript evidence gives us confidence that the New Testament has been transmitted to us accurately.  We now possess more than 5,750 ancient New Testament Greek manuscripts with some of them dating as early as A.D. 100.  Seven fragments from chapters 4, 5 and 12 of Mark’s Gospel dating from A.D. 50 discovered by the Jesuit Prof Jose O’Callagan of the University of Barcelona from Cave 7 at Qumran, appear to be the oldest writing of the New Testament ever discovered.  They take us back to about 17 years from the time when our Lord Jesus walked the earth!  In addition, there are also portions of Acts 27 (dated about A.D. 50), Romans 5, I Timothy 3, II Peter 1 and James 1 (dated around A.D. 70).

There are also thousands of manuscripts in old Latin, Aramaic, Syriac and Coptic dating from the 1st-5th Centuries A.D. as the Bible had been translated into various languages as the Christian faith spread very early throughout the Middle East.  There are over 1,000 manuscripts and more than 86,000 Biblical quotations from the sermons and writings of the early Church Fathers.  The earliest New Testament manuscripts we have were discovered less than 100 years after they were written, which attest to the accuracy of the apostolic writings.  In contrast, there are only 13 manuscripts of Plato (427?-347 B.C.), 8 manuscripts of Thucydides (c.460-c.395 B.C.) and merely 2 manuscripts belonging to the Roman historian, Tacitus (A.D. c.56-c.120) which were discovered nearly 1,000 years after the originals.  These were dated not much earlier than A.D. 500.  Almost all knowledge of these ancient writers are derived from the works of later copyists particularly from the Middle Ages.

The materials used by the ancient writers are mainly the fragile and highly perishable papyrus which unfortunately deteriorated with time.  It was only after 300 A.D. that far more durable parchments (from sheepskin or goatskin) became more commonly used as the Church grew stronger and wealthier.  As a result, a greater number of New Testament manuscripts survived, although this ironically made the text less completely settled.  The more variants found within the New Testament manuscript tradition mean that more manuscripts are available for comparative study and the result is greater accuracy.

The four canonical Gospels in our New Testament were accepted as Scripture and they came together relatively early after the Apostle John completed the Gospel that bore his name around A.D. 85.  Acts, written sometime in A.D. 62-64 continued where Luke’s Gospel left off. 13 letters from the Apostle Paul were arranged by length − the longest, Romans and the shortest, Philemon – while the remaining 8 letters – Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, the three letters of John and Jude – were known as the general or catholic epistles. Revelation written probably in A.D. 95-96, closes the Biblical canon and provides a logical conclusion not just to the New Testament but to the Bible as a whole.  That the Bible has been accused of being copied and recopied to the extent that what we have today varies so much from the original is now disproved.  The bible is fully reliable. a mere myth.  It simply no longer holds water as it does not tally with the facts we now possess.


Joseph Teng