Monday, July 03, 2006

Old Testament Reliability

I picked up the following from my church, The Valley Church of Christ. I've been meaning to post it for sometime now.


The WORD on:
Old Testament Reliability
You can know that the Bible is from God and is Accurate
(Written by Robert Kuenning, Minister)

This is a portion of Psalms 119 from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The arrow is pointing to God's Name "YHWH" in text.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm 119:9-12

Old Testament Reliability

Many know that the Bible is the perfect Word of God. They have long learned the power of its message and that it guides us into a renewed relationship with God and in a daily walk in Jesus Christ. They know by faith that the verses are true that tell us of the Bible's divine origin:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But there are many more who have not tasted the Word's delicious spiritual feast because of misinformation, doubt, or mistrust. Few realize how much confidence you can have in the Bible before you even have faith.

You see, behind the Bible is a mountain of evidence backing up its claims that it is God's Word and that we can have an accurate copy of the scriptures today. No other ancient writing comes anywhere close to having so much solid proof that its contents are true.

Accuracy and preservation isn't just important to those challenging the Bible. The way every believer, Bible student, Bible teacher, translator, researcher, ancient historian, archeologist and editor handles the Bible also hinges on the certainty of its truth. That's why there has been so much research in this subject and so many challenges to the Bibles truth.

Bibles today are translated directly from the original languages, Hebrew and Greek. The test is whether we have an accurate copy of each testament in its original language. Believer or not, you can KNOW that the Bible is accurate and reliable!

Here we will discuss the reliability of the Old Testament (OT). New Testament reliability is covered in another pamphlet like this one.

Old Testament Overview
  • The 39 books of the OT were written over a 1200 year period from approximately 1600 BC to 400 BC.
  • Starting with Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, and ending with Ezra who wrote Chronicles, the OT had a wide range of writers. They all had God's inspiration and would have agreed with David's remark:

"The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue." ~ 2 Samuel 23:2

  • The OT primarily tells the story of the Jewish people from roots to riches to ruin. It contains history, law, poetry, prophecy, and personal stories.
    "Your word is a lamp to my feet
    And a light to my path. ...
    Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word. ...
    And teach me Your ordinances.
    My life is continually in my hand," ~ Psalm 119:105-109

Layers of Evidences
Here, briefly are a few of the reasons that we can have absolute confidence in the accuracy of today's Old Testament:

  • Exacting Jewish Scribes
    • The OT was written and meticulously preserved in the original Hebrew language from the beginning through today. It was always considered sacred and therefore was very seriously guarded and copied with the utmost care.
    • The sole responsibility of the Jewish Scribes was to know, maintain, protect, and, exactly preserve the books of the OT. The levels of care that they went through is astounding:
      • The skin, ink, document size, and lines on the document were all clearly defined. The number, size, spacing, and length of lines and columns per skin were specified. The spacing of the letters, words, sections, and books and the point of ending books were to be exact.
      • The dress and cleanliness of the scribe, condition of the book being copied , and the manner in which the name for God (YWHW) was written was all specifically ordered.
      • When each book or section had been copied, the scribes would count and check the number of every verse, word, and letter of the manuscript. They even counted the times each letter occurred in each book, calculated the middle word and middle letter and checked the new with the old. Such detail seems extreme to us, but with this level of detail, we can know we have reliable manuscripts today.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls
    • An amazing event occurred in 1947 with the beginning of the discovery of 931 ancient documents found in caves near the town of Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea Scrolls:
      • Prove the OT Accurate
        The manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls date to as old as 400 BC. The OT manuscripts found are 900 to 1100 years older than the most reliable available Hebrew OT manuscripts. When the Scrolls are compared to the newer manuscripts, they prove to be amazingly accurate, nearly identical. The few differences were mostly slips of the pen, spelling changes or word substitutions (over vs. above e.g.). The extreme accuracy of the newer documents puts to death the questions of the OT reliability based on time.
      • Prove the cannon of the OT
        The Dead Sea Scrolls contained 223 OT manuscripts! Those 223 manuscripts include 38 of the 39 books of the OT! The one book missing is Esther, but other documents there refer to the story, so we know it was part of their culture.
  • Non-Hebrew & Other Jewish Evidences
    The following ancient documents give tremendous support for the accuracy of the OT.
    • The Septuagint (250 BC) is the translation of the OT into Greek. An important and powerful document, it not only gave the Jews their scriptures in the common language of the entire region, but gave non-Jews easier access to God's Word (Just in time to understand the context of Jesus' Ministry.).
    • The Hexapla (240 AD) is a comparative Greek/Hebrew OT with versions in 6 columns created by the Christian elder Origen.
    • The Samaritan Pentateuch (200 BC) is the Samaritan copy of the OT's first five books.
    • Aramaic Targums (200 AD) are paraphrases of the scriptures kept by Jewish communities to aid in understanding the OT.
    • The Mishna (200 AD) was the Law of Moses retold and explained.
    • The Gemara (200 AD) was an Aramaic commentary on the Law of Moses.
    • The Midrash (100 BC - 300 AD) are doctrinal studies of the Hebrew OT.
  • Evidence from History and Archeology
    Substantial proof for the accuracy of the OT text comes through Archeology.
    One famous Archeologist said:
    "... categorically ... no archeological discovery has ever [contradicted] a Biblical reference. Scores of ... findings ... confirm in ... outline or detail the statements of the Bible."
    Kingdoms, Cities, Countries, Personal Names, Battles, Kings, Languages, Writings, Laws, Religious Practices, and even the use of words have proven to be correctly described in the OT. Time and again historians have thought that the OT was wrong concerning an event (etc.) only to have the Bible prove right when the facts were known.
  • Prophecy in the OT has proven correct in every case expected. Hundreds of predictions have literally come true including those regarding: Edom, Tyre, Babylon, Persia, Nineveh, Israel, Greece, Jesus Christ, and many others.
  • Conclusion: The evidence is overwhelming (And this is far from all the evidence.). You do not have to guess or hope, you can KNOW that the Old Testament we have is true & accurate
  • For more on this subject, try:
    The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell
    Standing on the Rock, Boice
    Facts on Why You Can Believe the Bible, Ankergerg & Weldon
    On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Kitchen
By Robert Kuenning, Minister
If you have any questions or would like help in studying the Bible please call (907) 745-3011
Valley Church of Christ

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