The narrative of the ancient Hebrew scriptures begins at Creation. It deals with the meaning of life and the purpose of being, the problem of evil and the why of suffering, the supernatural world and the after-life. The experiences described by David in the Book of Psalms resonate with those immersed in the cut and thrust of 21st Century life. Wisdom, ancient yet surprisingly appropriate for the world we live in, bursts from the Book of Proverbs. Prophecies recorded over hundreds of years have proved amazingly accurate, and Messiah's life-giving words bring peace to the soul. These Scriptures are the world's number one best seller, yet are often left unread by those in today's materialistic society.
So the Bible is a real source of inspiration and encouragement, hope and spiritual wisdom, but it also claims to be a historical document. Opponents of the Bible exist in every age; so what evidence is there to show that the Bible we have today is reliable? To pass the test archaeology should support Biblical history, and not only that but the text itself must also come under scrutiny.
Sir William M. Ramsay (1851 - 1939) is generally regarded as one of the world's greatest archaeologists. He originally held to the Tubingen theory, believing that the book of Acts was written in the mid-second century A.D. While working in Asia Minor he was forced to examine the writings of Luke. Confronted by the evidence of his own research he was forced to change his views, and accepted that Luke's writings were from the first century. His excavations uncovered many first century items that validated what Luke had written in the Biblical book of Acts. Sir William wrote: "Luke is a historian of the first rank...this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."
Archaeological finds continue to corroborate the ancient text. The Hittites were a powerful people who receive numerous mentions in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet prior to the end of the nineteenth century, no evidence of their existence had been found. Was the Bible mistaken? No, the Tell el Amarna Tablets - discovered near the Upper Nile in 1887 - provided confirmation of the Hittite peoples as plunderers of Canaan, and even more importantly spoke of the Habiru (i.e. Hebrew) conquest of that same land. These tablets have been dated to the period immediately after the Hebrews' first foray into Canaan led by Joshua. To quote the English scholar A. H. Sayce, "All of a sudden we were digging up Hittites all over the place!" Artefacts such as this not only fill the gaps in our knowledge of ancient Middle-Eastern history, but also confirm the accuracy and reliability of the Hebrew Scriptures.
So archaeological finds from the last one hundred and fifty years show the Bible to be historically reliable, but has the rest of the text survived the passage of years? One accusation laid against more recent versions of the Bible is that they are a translation of the previous translation, and like the game "Chinese Whispers" the message has changed on its journey down the centuries. Actually this is not the case. Indeed we can say that the many newer translations are often more accurate, as they are based on earlier and more recently discovered manuscripts than their medieval predecessors.
Is the Bible as reliable as other ancient books? Take Homer's Iliad for instance. There are 643 manuscripts of the Iliad in existence. Of these the earliest copy is dated 400 B.C., and therefore was written 500 years after the original. Compare this with the New Testament; the earliest surviving manuscript (a copy of part of the Gospel of John) is dated 125 A.D. The original would have been written between 40-100 A.D., just 25-85 years before. This manuscript is known as the Rylands Fragment, and is kept at Manchester University in the UK. Compared to the Iliad's 643, the New Testament has over 24,000 manuscripts to authenticate its accuracy. No other ancient book has as much manuscript evidence.
The Hebrew scribes went to great lengths to try and ensure one hundred per cent accuracy when copying the Scriptures. This is borne out with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1947. Until then the earliest copy of the Tanakh (Old Testament) in existence was the Masoretic Text written in 900 A.D. Amongst the scrolls discovered at Qumran was a complete scroll of the book of Isaiah written in 125 BCE approximately 1,000 years before. So painstaking was the work of the scribes that the later Masoretic text of Isaiah was found to be virtually unchanged from the much earlier Qumran scroll of 125 BCE.
For detailed evidence on the existence of the historical Yeshua, click here:
Although the above is only a small proportion of the evidence for the accuracy of the Biblical text, it shows us what the
Bible's critics do not know, or do not want us to know, that the Bible is a reliable document. The Scriptures also hold their own in the field of science. The very existence of complete dinosaur
skeletons for instance suggests that there was once a flood. Unfortunately there is not enough time or space here to record all the evidence available. Books by authors: Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel
and Ken Ham amongst others are very helpful on this subject, or view the ECG website.
To discover some of these ancient writings for yourself check out Pinnacles, delve into Wisdom or take time to meditate on these deep spiritual truths.