"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)

Volume Five, Number One Spring 1997


(Part 4)

Jerry D. McDonald

Argument Number Two: The Bible is a historically reliable document. The reliability of the Bible should be tested by the same criteria that all historical documents are tested. "C. Sanders in INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH IN ENGLISH LITERARY HISTORY, lists and explains three basic principles of historiography. They are the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test and the external evidence test" (Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p.39). These are the three tests that we will use to test the historical reliability of the Bible.

[A] The Bibliographical Test For The Reliability Of The New Testament. "The Bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts (MSS) and the time interval between the original and extant copy...? F.E. Peters points out that 'on the basis of manuscript evidence alone, the works that made up the Christians' New Testament were the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity.'" (Ibid).

1. The manuscript evidence for the reliability of the New Testament is far greater than that of any historical document extant today. The following is a break down of the number of surviving manuscripts for the New Testament. There are 267 Greek Uncials; 2,764 Greek Minuscules; 2,143 Greek Lectionaries; 88 Greek Papyri; 47 Greek Recent Finds which gives a total of 5,309 extant Greek Manuscripts. PLUS there are 10,000 Latin Vulgates; 2,000 Ethiopic Versions; 4,101 Slavic Versions; 2,587 Armenian Versions; 350 Syriac Versions; 100 Boharic Versions; 75 Arabic Versions; 50 Old Latin Versions; 7 Anglo-Saxion Versions; 6 Gothic Versions; 3 Sodigan Versions; 2 Old Syriac Versions; 2 Persian Versions; and 1 Frankish Version which gives a grand total of 24,593 Greek Manuscripts and ancient versions extant, which does not account for the manuscripts and versions of the Old Testament. No other historical document comes to this number. In comparison Josh McDowell wrote: "...the Iliad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive" (Ibid).

Obviously this alone does not show that the New Testament is inspired by God. However, the point is that no other historical document even comes close to the number of existing manuscripts that the New Testament has. No one doubts the reliability of the manuscripts of Iliad by Homer, yet it only has 643 extant manuscripts. Why then, doubt the reliability of the New Testament with all the manuscript evidence that it has? One reason, and one reason only; they have to doubt the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts because to fail to do so would do irreparable damage to their argument that the New Testament is not reliable, therefore not inspired.

There has to be something special about the New Testament. It has survived all these years with all of this manuscript evidence. No other book (written solely by man) has survived as well. If the Bible was written solely by man; if it was not of divine authorship, then why is there so much manuscript evidence for it? What other book of antiquity has survived like the Bible has? NONE! Divine inspiration and providence is the only logical answer.

John Montgomery states in his book History And Christianity: "to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament" (p.29). Atheists and skeptics will admit that the ancient works of men such as Plato and Aristotle are valid and authentic, but they still contend that the New Testament is not. Yet the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is more than four times that of the "Iliad" by Homer, which has more manuscript evidence than any other (not counting the New Testament) ancient work of history. Why then, with all this manuscript evidence, do they continue to reject the Bible? If they can discredit the Bible in their own minds, then their conscience will be easier to live with. I can't think of another reason they would be so evangelistic.

O, they tell us that the reason that they are evangelistic is because the Bible does so much harm to society. Really! In what way? Is teaching one to love his neighbor, and even his enemy harmful to society? (Mt. 5:43-48) Maybe teaching one to be honest is harmful to society (Rom. 12:17). Maybe they are talking about providing for the needy (Gal. 6:10; Jas. 1:27; 2 Cor. 9:13). Well, I don't believe that these things are harmful to us. I think that the world would be better off if everyone lived according to the Word of God. More to come.

CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.

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