"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)
|Volume Five, Number Two||Summer 1997|
2. Concerning the Old Testament, "we do not have the abundance of close MS authority as in the N.T. until the recent discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest complete extant Hebrew MS was around 900 A.D. This made the gap 1,300 years (Hebrew O.T. completed around 400 B.C.). At first sight it would appear that the O.T. is no more reliable than other ancient literature.... With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a number of O.T. manuscripts have been found which scholars date before the time of Christ. When the facts are known and compared, there is an overwhelming abundance of reasons for believing that the MSS we possess are trustworthy . We shall see, as Sir Fredrick Kenyon put it, that 'the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries" (Evidence That Demands A Verdict, pp. 52,53).
"Samuel Davidson describes some of the disciplines of the Talmudists in regard to the scriptures. These minute regulations (I am going to use the numbering incorporated by Geisler and Nix) are as follows:  A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals,  prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew.  These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals.  Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.  The length of each column must not extend over less than 40 or more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters.  The whole copy must be first lined; and if three words " be written without a line, it is worthless.  The ink should be black, neither red, green or any other color, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.  An authentic copy must be exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least to deviate.  No word or letter, even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him.  Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene;  between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants;  between every book three lines.  The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.  Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress,  wash his whole body,  not begin to write the name of God with a pen dipped in new ink,  and should a king address him while writing that name, he must take no notice of him" (Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p.53).
This is why I don't believe that copyist errors are as plentiful in the Bible (especially the Old Testament) as some would have us believe that they are. As careful as these scribes were in transcribing these copies there is no way that the Bible could literally be filled with copyist errors. I am sure that there were some, but not as many as the critics would have us believe.
You can now see just how careful these scribes were in copying the Bible. So does the manuscript evidence that we have of the Bible match up to what it would take to make the Bible a reliable historical document? If it doesn't then there isn't a reliable historical document anywhere on earth.
We can see why it is important for the atheist to contend that the Bible isn't a reliable historical document. If it is a reliable historical document then we can use it to prove the historicity of events like the resurrection of Christ or even the historicity of Jesus Christ himself. Atheists want to discredit the reliability of the Bible for those reasons. (Continued in the next issue of Challenge).
CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.