The Bible: Origin

A Single Integrated Story

When we first read the Bible our first impression is that we are seeing a single book, for this is how it is presented to the world. When we do a brief examination, we find that there are 40 authors who wrote 66 books over a 1,500 year period of time.

How is it then that the entire text of the Bible is about one single subject? How could so many different kinds of people, through a long period of human history, have the capacity to write a single narrative about just one character?

From the narrative of creation in Genesis to the destruction of the universe and recreation of a new Cosmos in the book of Revelation, the point of the Bible is to tell the story of God’s redemption of man through His Son, Jesus, the Messiah.

What we discover is that the reason this is true and that so many could write so much about just one man, is because the author of the entire work is the same. Although God commissioned unique men to write His words to the world, He is the source of all that is written. Not every single word that is in the Bible is stated by God. Men were free to write their own words or to write the words that people had said as they were recorded in the scriptures. It is the actual doctrines, principles, laws, and stated purposes of God that are His and exist as perfect accounts of what God wanted to say.

How The Bible Came To Us

Some claim that the Bible is full of inaccuracies and contradictions. When we set out to discover whether this is true we find out that those who make such assertions, made errors themselves. Due to a lack of training, misunderstanding in what has been said, or many other reasons, people arrive at incorrect conclusions.

The Old Testament was copied by hand for more than 3,000 years. The New Testament, hand copied for an additional 1,400 years. All of the basic fundamentals of the original writings have remained intact. No fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith is in doubt today. Every basic requirement of salvation—which the Bible teaches, has remained the same throughout the 4,500 year history of the Bible. However, due to copyist mistakes and scribal errors—due to decay by the Papyrus, in which these ancient documents were first written upon, human errors have accumulated. Although the words of the Bible are those of the Living God, the people who duplicated the original documents and subsequent copies are human beings, prone to error. It is only the original autographs of the word of God that are guaranteed to be free of error. All subsequent copies that have been made are certain to contain human errors when copying the text from one document to another. Because the original Papyrus has long since deteriorated, they no longer exists. What remains today are many thousands of copies of the original autographs of God’s word. Taking into account—human error in the copying of the text, over the past 3,000 years, most of the inaccuracies are in spelling and grammatical conflicts. The remaining contradictions that are claimed are simply due to a misunderstanding of the text or inappropriate interpretation. Again, every basic tenet of salvation, as well as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have remained unchanged in all the copies of the original documents—since their original writing.

In examining over 100 of the most commonly objected verses of the Bible, we find the following:

  • 25 of the supposed contradictions are simply due to a misunderstanding of the historical text of the Bible.
  • 15 of the claimed contradictions are due to the text being misread.
  • 13 occasions in which a contradiction is imagined, there was a misuse of the original Hebrew language.
  • 13 of the contradictions claimed by the adversary are not contradictions at all.
  • 12 of the claimed contradictions are due to the reader not understanding the intent of the verse to which they were reading.
  • 9 of the imagined contradictions were due to an error in the copying of the text.
  • 6 of the contradictions that are claimed are because the reader did not have a complete awareness of the ancient history of Israel and the nations mentioned by the Bible.
  • 4 occasions of claimed contradictions were due to a misuse of the Greek language.
  • 4 times where a contradiction was imagined, the entire context of the verse was not read and taken into consideration.
  • 3 of the supposed contradictions are due to a literalist interpretation rather than the contextual interpretation that the verse demands.
  • 3 of the misunderstandings were by the false conclusions of the hostile evaluation and bias of the commentator.
  • 1 of the claimed contradictions was due to confusion between one event and another.
  • 1 of the contradictions that was claimed was due to the usage of an unreliable translation of the Bible.

From this short analysis of just 100 of the supposed contradictions of the Bible, it is clear that because those who make these claims of contradiction have a pre-bias to make the scriptures appear to be contradictory, it is easily accomplished when incorrect methods of interpretation are used. Those who often make these claims of contradictions or inconsistencies in the Biblical narrative are untrained themselves as well as unqualified to make these judgements. Many of those hostile to the English translation of the Bible have very little or no training in the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures and make their observations by opinion rather than scholarly diligence.

The Bible is absolutely reliable, and there are no contradictions or inconsistencies. The only certifiable problems that are known to exist are in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. All those who make claims of contradictions and inconsistencies do so for the apparent intent of discrediting the Christian gospel in order to impugn the claim that Jesus is the Messiah. The facts are: Jesus has proven His identity by His fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah—from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Oral Tradition

Before the New Testament was finalized, the true account of Jesus life, death, and resurrection was well known—by the oral tradition.

The ancient world which did not have the ability to write, publish, and distribute materials to the masses, relied on the oral tradition. More than the telling of stories, the oral tradition was a major part of education and viewed as essential to conveying the facts of history—which required preservation. In the Hebrew oral tradition, teachers memorized entire books, by simply listening to them as they were spoken over and over. Students were taught to memorize everything that their teachers said or taught. When accounts of what God had said were being revealed, students memorized these accounts word for word. These student were later tested for accuracy by recounting what they had learned—back to their teachers. In this early world before the distribution of books, this was considered the greatest and most important part of their life as followers of God. Because of their high regard for the oral tradition, used by those who memorized the words of God, we have great confidence today that what is written in the Old Testament scriptures are absolutely reliable and are an accurate account of the true words of God.⁠[1]

It is well understood today that the oral traditions of the Jews were also highly respected during the early days of the Christian church. Regarded as authentic and reliable, the oral tradition continued during the time of Jesus ministry here on the earth. Because of the high esteem attached to the memorization of scripture and the retelling of God’s word—orally, the writers of the New Testament continued this extreme desire for accuracy in recording the events of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. These were honest men who were radically changed by their new relationship with Jesus and considered their honesty in accurately describing what Jesus had said and done—their highest priority. For this reason, the Gospel accounts of Jesus are considered—today—absolutely reliable and credible accounts of the actual events which took place in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.⁠[2]

The New Testament

The disciples of Jesus had committed to their memory, each of the important events which occurred during His brief three and one half year ministry—rehearsing these events over and over—retelling them to groups of people who would also memorize the events and teach others. The evidence that the early church considered these oral transmittals of the actual events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as scripture—equal to the Old Testament, is proven by the mass distribution of these letters to the churches in Asia, by multiplied copies.

The accounts of almost all ancient historical events were very often recorded much later than they occurred. Only the historical accounts of Jesus Christ are written by the actual men who witnessed His resurrection and then recorded these events for us.

Some liberal scholars have criticized the Gospel narrative as unreliable due to no original manuscripts surviving to the present day.

The most likely scenario which occurs when a significant event takes place in history, is that first, someone writes about the event. This writing is then copied and distributed to others, and the process is repeated many times. Eventually, over the course of several hundreds of years, the original writings are lost by time and decay. What remains are later writings which have survived and are recopied over and over. This is the case regarding the New Testament documents that we have in our possession today. We know for certain that the records of the New Testament which were written by Paul and the other disciples, were distributed to the local churches by a circular postal route in the region of Asia. Often the letter would have the name of the church on the top of the document which is evidenced by the titles given to many of the New Testament letters. “Ephesians,” written to the church at Ephesus; “Corinthians,” written to the church at Corinth, and so on.

The fact that so many copies of the original documents exist today, confirms these were extremely important events that took place regarding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. From the beginning of Jesus church, these documents were recopied and distributed to Christians all over the known world.

Literary experts have examined the extant records of the New Testament and concluded that the copies which are in our possession today, surviving in such great numbers, fully substantiates the reliability of these texts.

In regards to Dr. Greenleaf’s examination of these copies of the New Testament, he said this:

“If it be objected that the originals are lost, and that copies alone are now produced, the principles of the municipal law here also afford a satisfactory answer. For the multiplication of copies was a public fact, in the faithfulness of which all the Christian community had an interest; and it is a rule of law, that: In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs.”⁠[3]

In other words, the copying of ancient manuscripts is a well-known fact in the courts of justice for the United States. It is also firmly established that these documents which have been copied by the early Christian church, are proven to be of substantial value and immense importance—by the shear number of copies which exist, to the present day. According Dr. Greenleaf, the laws of evidence demand that all of these copies of the original documents would be received without hesitation as a valid transmittals of the true accounts of the events they describe, were they submitted to any court of law.

Confidence Is High

Moreover, Dr. Greenleaf states that the New Testament documents are “entitled to an extraordinary degree of confidence.”

“The persons, moreover, who multiplied these copies, may be regarded, in some manner, as the agents of the Christian public, for whose use and benefit the copies were made; and on the ground of the credit due to such agents, and of the public nature of the facts themselves, the copies thus made are entitled to an extraordinary degree of confidence….”[⁠4]

The courts of the United States have frequently had to deal with documents that are copies of earlier records which have been lost or destroyed. In the case of the four gospels of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, all of these documents should be “received in any of our courts of justice” as valid and accurate—“without the slightest hesitation.”

“If any ancient document concerning our public rights were lost, copies which had been as universally received and acted upon as the Four Gospels have been, would have been received in evidence in any of our courts of justice, without the slightest hesitation.”[⁠5]

This is precisely what we find when we investigate the writings of the New Testament. They have been used in the Christian Church for nearly 2,000 years. They have never been successfully impeached or considered invalid records of the events they describe, during the entire history of the church. According to scholars Scott Kellum, Andreas Köstenberger, and Charles Quarles:

“There is no known example of a book falsely claiming to be written by an apostle (a “pseudepigraphical” work), orthodox or not, that was accepted by the early church as canonical.”[⁠6]

Early Historical Validation Of The Bible

The prophet Isaiah wrote the prophecies of his book, nearly seven hundred years before the object of his predictions would make His arrival. The 131 prophecies of Isaiah  are some of the most extraordinary words that are in the Bible.

When Alexander the Great was conquering the world, he wanted his citizens to be united under one language. As the Greeks were the world power at that time, it was the Greek language that was spoken by a majority of people. The Hebrew language was forgotten and fell into disuse. Jews, who wanted to read their Hebrew scriptures in Greek, requested that their ancient Hebrew scriptures would be translated into the Greek language. Between 285 and 246 B.C., Ptolemy II Philadelphus commissioned seventy Hebrew scholars to translate the Five Books of Moses, into Koine Greek. This translation became known as the “Septuagint Version,” (from the Latin septuaginta, “seventy”).

Their completed translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, known today as “LXX,” contained the whole text of Isaiah and Daniel, as well as all the prophets who are the subject of this book. For this reason, we know that the prophecies of Isaiah; some 131 in-total, were in existence, at least 300 years before Jesus fulfilled their prophecies.

Critics have claimed that the reason that Isaiah, Daniel, and the other prophets of the Old Testament, were able to write such stunningly detailed predictions, is because they wrote these prophecies after the events took place. This assertion is impeached by the presence of the Greek version of all these prophets—hundreds of years before the events transpired. In 1947, a young Bedouin shepherd discovered a cave at Qumran, just south of Jericho, that contained several leather scrolls, including one complete scroll of Isaiah. Scientific confirmation, by radio carbon dating and Paleographic comparison, confirmed that this scroll of Isaiah is dated at least 150 years before Jesus came to Jerusalem.⁠[7]

Extraordinary Narrative

There are many factors that are considered in validating the authenticity of ancient literature. One of these considerations is the truthfulness of the actual story that is being described. The accounts of a poor man with no home, opening the eyes of the blind, commanding the paralyzed to stand and walk, raising the dead, walking on water, and commanding a storm to calm, is not ordinary. The mere idea that such a man could exist is impossible for some modern theologians and other critics of the Bible.

The prophet Isaiah wrote nearly 700 years before Jesus arrived at Jerusalem that when the Messiah arrived, few would believe the report of His miraculous works. Isaiah begins his prophecies of Messiah in chapter 53 with the words:

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  —Isaiah 53:1

When John wrote that Isaiah’s prophecy was written for, and fulfilled by, Jesus, he was just as shocked at the revelation of this truth as the world is today. Incredibly, John uses the same words as Isaiah to describe his own accounting of Jesus which he saw with his eyes and heard with his ears.

New Testament Fulfillment:

But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. —John 12:37-43

Who would believe this amazing story of the Messiah when it was told them? Even so, the prophet continues that this is how the arm of the LORD is revealed. The arm of the LORD is a reference to His power. Who would imagine that the great power of the eternal God, which He predicted, would be revealed by the coming of the Messiah—under such difficult circumstances?

  • Born to a poor family
  • An attempt on His life as a baby
  • Fleeing to Egypt to save His life
  • Growing up as the son of a carpenter
  • No home of His own
  • No possessions except what He wore
  • Rejected by the leaders of Israel
  • Rejected by the people of Israel
  • Arrested and convicted of crimes He did not commit
  • Beaten so severely, He was not recognizable as a man.
  • Crucified between two criminals
  • Mocked, spat upon and ridiculed while He is dying

Isaiah asks the question: Who has believed our report? No one could have anticipated that God would send His Son into the world under such dire and difficult circumstances. Worst of all, though He came and endured such horrible treatment, His own brothers, the leaders of Israel and the common people of Israel did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they rejected Him.

NEXT:

Part 2: The Bible


NOTES:
[1] Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel by Douglas A. Knight 1973. Semeia (1976a), The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (1984) An encyclopedia on oral tradition by Robert E. Coote in 1976 Leander E. Keck, “Oral Traditional Literature and the Gospels: The Seminar” (1978). Werner Kelber’s work (1979, 1983) Güttgemanns (1979, original German 1971)
[2] Gerhadsson, B. (1998). Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity with Tradition aand Transmission in Early Christianity Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co
[3] Simon Greenleaf. The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Kindle Locations 125-133). Kindle Edition.
[4] Ibid, Simon Greeleaf.
[5] Ibid, Simon Greenleaf.
[6] Kellum, L. Scott; Köstenberger, Andreas J.; Quarles, Charles L (2009-08-01). The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Kindle Locations 571-572). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
[7] Source: “The Greatest Archeological Discoveries and their Effects on the Bible,” Thomas Nelson, 1996, Open Bible Notes and Commentary. William White, Ph.D, Consulting Editor, Warrington, Pennsylvania.