Some ministers and denominations are trashing the Old Testament as being irrelevant, allegorical, or unreliable. Unbelievers, some of whom are in the Church, think there is no authenticity to it. Is this justifiable?
I promised a couple of weeks ago that I would write something on the reliability of the Biblical scriptures, so here’s a start to what will probably be an ongoing if intermittent series on the subject. I’m really just touching the proverbial tip of the iceberg here. There’s so much which could be included and covered that I’m afraid I’ll end up writing a five-thousand word post, as I was inclined to do a few years ago, which no-one wants to read past the first two-hundred words. So here’s something much more succinct.
As regular readers will know, I’m a firm believer that the Bible is God’s message to man, and as such, is totally reliable in every detail. Jesus Christ is also said to have believed it, and often quoted from what we call the Old Testament. He told the unbelieving Jews of his time:
For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? (John 5:46-47).
As I said in “The All Or Nothing Bible”, any other position than this will only serve, at worst, to calling God a liar, and begin the process of the dismantling of Scripture, so that it all becomes totally subjective and ignored. I here address the cliched and constant claim by atheists, agnostics, cult followers and unbelievers in general, that the Bible has been “changed over and over for centuries, so that you can’t possibly rely on it”.
Josh McDowell, who began his young life as an atheist, and setting out to prove how unreliable he thought Biblical Scripture was, has written some great apologetical books. In “God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture”, he summarizes some of his earlier research and some, because, he contends, evidence mounts almost daily to confirm what we have in our Bibles.
Today I’ll comment on the authenticity of our present-day Old Testament scriptures. The first point I would like to relay from McDowell’s work is the finding of of the Ebla Tablets in 1976 by an Italian archaeologist. These clay tablets demolished the secular insistence that people were not writing anything until well after the time of Moses, which meant that he could not possibly have written any of the Pentateuch. It was said to have been written centuries after the claimed time of Moses. More than sixteen thousand clay tablets (as below) were found which dated from around 2400BC* As a further note, refer to the verse above. According to the words of Jesus in our New Testament, he believed that Moses wrote down his experiences.
Consider also that the words of Jesus and his apostles throughout the New Testament contain numerous-almost countless-Old Testament quotes and references. If you want to call Jesus a liar (or his representatives) so that he didn’t really say that Moses wrote scripture, or that he didn’t know what he was talking about, or that he was misrepresented, you may as well throw away your Bible and hunt for another way to God and eternal life. Good luck with that: I’ll stay where I am.
Secondly, our present-day Old Testament is predominantly taken from manuscripts one thousand years old, such as the “Leningrad Codex”, and the “Aleppo Codex”. Note that Jewish scribes through the centuries made copies of their scrolls as the ones they had been using for some time wore out and faded. There are also some 250,000 Jewish manuscript fragments and pages of the Old Testament dated from AD 870. However, the integrity of what we have now was more than adequately confirmed by the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In total 1050 scrolls and up to 50,000 pieces were found. Of these about three hundred manuscripts were Biblical, and represented all Old Testament books but Esther. The earliest of these copies dated to 250BC.
What is significant about these scrolls, and amazingly so for us as believers, is that when they were compared with modern versions of the Hebrew Bible, the text was found to be 95 percent identical, “word for word”. The five percent of difference consisted mainly of spelling variations. As an example, of the 166 words in Isaiah chapter 53, which speaks prophetically of the Messiah’s suffering, only seventeen letters are in question. Of those, ten are related to spelling, and four are stylistic differences. No doctrine is in question.
Dr. Peter Flint, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity University in BC, shared the affect of one of the many amazing findings in the scrolls, in “God Breathed”. Psalm 22, again, speaking prophetically, is the one which says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is one of the few phrases spoken by Jesus on the cross, as found in our New Testaments. Hebrew scholars had been quick to point out that one part of this Psalm found in our New Testaments is not found in the Leningrad Codex, from which we derive much of our Old Testament: “…they have pierced my hands and my feet”.
This is therefore an example of where Christianity has been accused of adding to or changing scripture to fit what we preach. However, when Psalm 22 was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it contained the following phrase:
“…they have pierced my hands and my feet”.
Further, there is the subject of archeological discoveries confirming the Bible, including the Old Testament, which are numerous. This will be the subject of a future post.
*JOSH MCDOWELL: GOD BREATHED, chapters 11 to 13.