It was almost 3,500 years ago when Moses wrote the first books of the Old Testament. While we still have his words with us today, those original documents have long since been destroyed. So how do we know what we have today is what Moses penned many years ago.
The answer lies in how those words arrived in our hands. In ancient times, there were diligent Jewish scribes who spent their entire careers copying material. These individuals were very meticulous in regard to providing an exact duplicate of the original document. One group of scribes, known as the Masoretes, set its standards much higher than all the other scribes. The Masoretes counted every single letter, word, and verse of the Old Testament in order to preserve its accuracy.
An obvious question then becomes: If these men spent their entire lives doing little more than making thousands of copies of the Old Testament, then why do we not have innumerable copies still in existence? The fact is, only scarce copies from these ancient scribes are still in existence today. But the reason so few remain has to do with the people responsible for making the copies. They took great pride in their ability to copy without error, so that anytime a copy began to fade or show signs of wear, the scribes would either burn it or bury it in the ground. They did not want anyone obtaining a poor copy that could be misread or recopied incorrectly. After all, it was Godís Word that they were responsible for accurately passing on to posterity.
So how, then, can we be sure today, when we read accounts such as those of the Noahic Flood or Moses parting the Red Sea, that such events were recorded accurately? Consider the evidence. In 1948, an Arab boy was looking for a lost goat. As most children would, this young boy entertained himself by throwing rocks as he walked. He threw one of those rocks into a small cave, and heard the sound of pottery breaking. Scampering up the hill and into the cave, the boy found some leather scrolls with ancient writing on them. Amazingly, he had stumbled across what is known today as the Dead Sea scrolls. Inside the cave were hundreds of scrolls, most likely written by a group of people known as the Essenes.
Among the important discoveries from the caves were copies of several books of the Old Testament. These copies were produced from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 100, making them almost 900 years older than the oldest available copies of Old Testament books. Keep in mind, the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1948, and the King James Bible was translated into English in 1611.
One scroll found in the Dead Sea caves was of particular importance. It was a scroll of the book of Isaiahófrom which only a few words were missing! What was amazing about this scroll was that, when it was compared to the text of Isaiah produced 900 years after it, the two matched almost word for word! Thus, we can be confident that the Old Testament we hold in our hands today is worded exactly as the original writers wrote it.
But what about the New Testament? How can we feel confident that Bibles being printed in 2003 still contain the words that God inspired approximately 2,000 years ago?
|How Does the New Testament Measure Up
to Other Ancient Books?
|Title of Ancient Book||Date It was Written||Date of Earliest Manuscrip
||Number of Manuscripts|
|Homerís Illiad||700 B.C.||unknown||643|
|History of Herodotus||425 B.C.||A.D. 900||8|
|Josephusí Jewish Wars||A.D. 70||A.D. 400||9|
|Histories of Tacitus||A.D. 100||A.D. 900||2|
|New Testament||A.D. 35-100||A.D. 125||5,735|
The New Testament was written between approximately A.D. 35 and A.D. 100. Among the books in the New Testament are letters that were sent to congregations of the Lordís church from the apostle Paul. Those letters were priceless to those who received them. Because of that, copies sometimes were made.
|Click image to view
a larger version.
The total number of manuscripts is amazing, especially when compared to other ancient books. For example, Homerís Iliad is one of the most famous ancient books in history. But there are less than 700 copies of his book.
Also, consider that many of the New Testament manuscripts were produced just decades after the apostles died. One manuscript, the John Rylandís Papyrus, has portions of the gospel of John written on it. It was discovered in Egypt, and dates back to A.D. 130ójust a few years after the New Testament was completed.
You may rest assured: the Bible you hold in your hand today is the inspired Word of God.
Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may be copied, on the condition that it will not be republished in print unless otherwise stated below, and will not be used for any commercial purpose, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (4) textual alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden; (5) Some illustrations (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, etc.) are not the intellectual property of Apologetics Press and as such cannot be reproduced from our site without consent from the person or organization that maintains those intellectual rights; (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original written content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken. Further, documents may not be copied without source statements (title, author, journal title), and the address of the publisher and owner of rights, as listed below.
For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558