Preservation of the Bible’s Message

One of the 3 most common Apologias is “The Preservation of Message.”

If God said,

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever,” (Isaiah 40:8) in the Old Testament and “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” (Luke 21:33) in the New Testament,

then there should be evidence of this, right?

God could have just provided us with one historical record we could call to, but He’s done much more than that. God has kept the historical documents preserved better than any other ancient text.

-Through every eth/epoch/era/age in time, the Bible’s meaning has been maintained in the Masoretic Text (in Hebrew), the Septuagint (in Greek), the Vulgate (in Latin), and the King James (in English).

-40+ Authors (different professions), 1400+ years, 3 continents (Asia, Africa, Europe), and 3 languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). The only thing that they had in common was their faith in God.

Textual Formation: Authors Over Time and Space

 

Authors Which the Holy Spirit Used

Book

Authors

Occupations

Date

Location

Genesis Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc. First Man, Architect, Father of Nations, etc. 4000 B.C.± to 2000 B.C.± Mesopotamia/Egypt
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Moses
(Joshua)
Pharaoh’s Adopted Son/Herder/Leader 1406 B.C.+ Egypt
Joshua Joshua Warlord c. 1390 B.C. Canaan
Judges Samuel Prophet/Seer c. 1000 B.C. Northern & Southern
Israel
1&2 Samuel Unknown Historian c. 930 B.C.+ Northern & Southern
Israel
1&2 Kings Unknown Historian c. 550 B.C.+ Babylonia
1&2 Chronicles
Ezra
Ezra Priest/Scribe c. 425 B.C.+ Persia
Nehemiah Nehemiah Cupbearer/Governor c. 430 B.C.- Persia
Esther Unknown Resident 460 B.C.- Persia
Job Unknown
(Job or Onlookers)
Historian
(Landowner or Neighbors)
c. 1800 B.C.± Mesopotamia
Psalms David
(Asaph, Sons of Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan, Moses, and more…)
Sheepherder/War Hero/King
(Psalmists)
c. 1440 B.C.+ to 538 B.C.- Israel
(Egypt, Unknown)
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Solomon
(Unknown)
King/Philosopher
(Wise Men)
c. 970-930 B.C. Israel
Isaiah Isaiah Prophet/Royalty 740-680 B.C. Israel/Assyria
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Jeremiah
(Baruch)
Prophet/Priest
(Servant/Recorder)
626-586 B.C.
(586 B.C.-)
Israel/Babylonia
Ezekiel Ezekiel Prophet/Priest 593-571 B.C. Babylonia
Daniel Daniel
(Nebuchadnezzar)
Prophet/Prime Minister c. 605-530 B.C. Babylonia/Persia
Hosea Hosea Prophet/Husband 722-721 B.C. Israel/Assyria
Joel Joel Prophet 7th-5th cent. B.C.+ Judah
Amos Amos Prophet/Farmer 760-750 B.C. Israel
Obadiah Obadiah Prophet 605-586 B.C. Babylonia
Jonah Jonah Prophet (Outlaw) 793-753 B.C. Nineveh (Sea)
Micah Micah Prophet/Resident 700-650 B.C. Israel
Nahum Nahum Prophet 612 B.C.- Judah
Habakkuk Habakkuk Prophet c. 605 B.C. Judah
Zephaniah Zephaniah Prophet/Royalty 640-609 B.C. Judah
Haggai Haggai Prophet 520 B.C. Judah/Persia
Zechariah Zechariah Prophet 520-480 B.C. Judah/Persia
Malachi Malachi Prophet/Messenger 430 B.C. Judah/Persia
Matthew Matthew, also called Levi Apostle/Tax Collector A.D. 50-70 Jerusalem/Syrian Antioch
Mark John Mark Disciple/Recorder c. A.D. 55-70- Rome
Luke
Acts
Luke Disciple/Physician c. A.D. 60-90- Israel/Roman Empire
John
1 John
2 John
3 John
Revelation
The Apostle John Apostle/Fisherman c. A.D. 50-85- Israel/Roman Empire
(Ephesus, Island of Patmos)
Romans
1&2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1&2 Thessalonians
1&2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
Paul, Saul of Tarsus Apostle/Pharisee c. A.D. 48-67 Roman Empire
(partially in prison)
Hebrews Unknown
(possibly Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, or Luke)
Jewish Historian c. A.D. 67-70 Unknown/Roman Empire
James James, Brother of Jesus Leader of Church A.D. 50- Jerusalem
1&2 Peter The Apostle (Simon) Peter Apostle/Fisherman c. A.D.60-64 Roman Empire
Jude Jude, Brother of Jesus Church Leader c. A.D. 65-80 Roman Empire

(‘Book Introductions’, Zondervan NIV Study Bible. 2008)

Separated by time, location, and language, the authors of the Books of the Bible had no opportunity to have colluded to create a common message, yet this is what we see in the Bible. All the Books of the Bible corroborate and have maintained a common overall focus even though each story is unique. Even if we were to write a book with a friend, neighbor, or family member, it is very unlikely that it will agree completely on such a wide range of controversial topics like politics, ethics, and theology. This leads us to believe they have used a common Source; the Holy Spirit.

“The higher critic focuses attention upon the author. He seeks to discover all that he can concerning the time of the writing, the cultural setting, the situation which prompted the writing and the nature of the group for whom the writing was intended.” (Larue)

Newest to Oldest

New Testament

      • Manuscripts

“Over the centuries textual critics have gathered together existing manuscript copies of the Bible, and spent years examining them, and comparing them with one another. And they don’t just have a dozen or two, or even a few hundred manuscript copies, they have thousands! There are more than 25,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament alone, dating as far back as the first century A.D. And there are dozens of thousands of Old Testament manuscripts, dating as far back as the third century B.C. You can see them for yourself at places like the British Museum, the Cambridge University Library, the Smithsonian Institute, Oxford University, the Israel Museum, the National Library at Paris, etc.” -Charlie Campbell

Amount & Time Comparison

 

The Number of Manuscripts and Their Closeness to the Original

-New Testament (Bible)

Extant Greek Manuscripts
Uncials 307
Minuscules 2,860
Lectionaries 2,410
Papyri 109
SUBTOTAL 5,686
Manuscripts in Other Languages
Latin Vulgate 10,000+
Ethiopic 2,000+
Slavic 4,101
Armenian 2,587
Syriac Pashetta 350+
Bohairic 100
Arabic 75
Old Latin 50
Anglo Saxon 7
Gothic 6
Sogdian 3
Old Syriac 2
Persian 2
Frankish 1
 
SUBTOTAL 19,284+
TOTAL ALL MSS 24,970

 
-Other Greek Works

AUTHOR BOOK DATE WRITTEN EARLIEST COPIES TIME GAP NO. OF COPIES
Homer Iliad 800 B.C. c. 400 B.C. c. 400 yrs. 643
Herodotus History 480-425 B.C. c. A.D. 900 c. 1,350 yrs. 8
Thucydides History 460-400 B.C. c. A.D. 900 c. 1,300 yrs. 8
Plato   400 B.C. c. A.D. 900 c. 1,300 yrs. 7
Demosthenes   300 B.C. c. A.D. 1100 c. 1,400 yrs. 200
Caesar Gallic Wars 100-44 B.C. c. A.D. 900 c. 1,000 yrs. 10
Livy History of Rome 59 B.C.-A.D. 17 4th cent. (partial)
mostly 10th cent.
c. 400 yrs.
c. 1,000 yrs.
1 partial
19 copies
Tacitus Annals A.D. 100 c. A.D. 1100 c. 1,000 yrs. 20
Pliny Secundus Natural History A.D. 61-113 c. A.D. 850 c. 750 yrs. 7
New Testament   A.D. 50-100 c. 114 (fragment)
c. 200 (books)
c. 250 (most of N.T.)
c. 325 (complete N.T.)
+ 50 yrs.
100 yrs.
150 yrs.
225 yrs.
5366

(“Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?,” The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. 1999.)

*In total, the average classical Greek writer has less than 20 copies of his works to this day, and none of them have any copies to account them within the first 300 years of their writing. This is compared to the NT which has at least 124 manuscripts (12 from the 2nd century, 64 from the 3rd, and 48 from the 4th).

Pliny the Elder: 200 copies; the earliest manuscript is 700 years from the writing
Plutarch’s Lives: the earliest manuscript is 800 years from the writing
Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews: 20+ copies; 800 years as well (9th century C.E.)
Polybius: 1200 years from the writing
Pausanias: 1400 years (with massive gaps)
Herodotus: 1500 years until the first substantial copy
Xenophon’s Hellenica: 1800 years until the first substantial copy

NT Textual Critic Daniel Wallace states, “Livy and Tacitus were two of the most important Roman historians of their day and we base most of our understanding of Rome on these two authors. Livy wrote 140 volumes, but only 25% survive today and only 1/3 of Tacitus’ are still with us. … Now these are not obscure authors. They are some of the most important historians and biographers of the Greco-Roman world. Even for some of the better preserved writings, there are gaps galore. One scholar complained that the surviving copies of some of these writings are filled with gaps; corrupt, dislocated, and interpolated. [Yet] the task of filling the gaps without manuscript testimony is absolutely necessary for most of Greco-Roman literature… and almost entirely unknown for the New Testament. [This] tells us that the manuscripts present a coherent picture [and] was stable from the earliest of times.”

Wallace also states that “we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts.” Wallace goes on to say that later manuscripts [“800 years after the completion of the NT”; where a majority of the manuscripts come from] “add only 2% of material to the text.”

We have manuscript records of the NT events that are hundreds of years closer to the event than any other ancient document with thousands of more copies than any other ancient document.

One person has made the comparison this way: “If we are going to be skeptical about the Bible, then we need to be 1000xs more skeptical about the works of Greco-Roman history. Or put another way, we can be 1000 times more confident about the reliability of the Bible. It is far and away the most reliable ancient document.”

*[Note: NT scholars (such as Mike Licona and Gary Habermas) attribute the 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 creed to being the most reliable account of an the oral tradition of Jesus Christ’s Sacrificial Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Post-Mortem Appearances. Even liberal scholars agree that the Letter was written in A.D. 55 (before Paul’s death in A.D. 67) and the tradition says that he received this account (meaning the account was before A.D. 55); only 22 years from the event. So if you believe that Aristotle existed (from an account 1,300 years from his event), then you better believe Jesus did.]

-By Church

List of Codices

The Most Important “Books” of Manuscripts

Codices

– Language (Date)

Description

g – Codex Holmiensis
European Latin
(c. 13th cent.?)
copy of the Acts (?Cent. XIII), at Stockholm: the Apocalypse in the same huge manuscript Bible (‘Gigas’) may also be called late ‘European’.
c – Codex Colbertinus
European Latin
(c. 11th cent.)
at Paris (about Cent. XI)
f – Codex Corbeiensis
European Latin
(c. 10th cent.)
peculiar version of St James is preserved in [Corbeiensis], formerly at Corbey, now at St Petersburg (Cent. X)
Ρ2 – Codex Porphyrianus
Bilingual
(c. 9th cent.)
belonging to the Russian Bishop Porfiri, noteworthy as containing, with some gaps, the whole New Testament except the Gospels. A palimpsest, written originally in Cent. IX.
D2 – Codex Claromontanus
Greek/Latin
(c. 9th cent.)
at Paris, containing the Pauline Epistles with a few gaps. Written in the sixth century. Formerly in the possession of Beza, who states that it was found at Clermont near Beauvais. After undergoing many corrections, the text was copied in another bilingual Uncial MS, E3, Codex Sangermanensis, written in the ninth century, preserved in modern times at St Germain des Prez, and since the French Revolution at St Petersburg.
Δ+G3 – Codex Sangallensis + Codex Boernerianus
Greek/Latin
(c. 9th cent.)
[Sangallensis] at St Gallen, containing the Gospels all but complete. [Boernerianus], at Dresden, containing the Pauline Epistles (Hebrews excepted) with a few gaps. The two portions originally formed a single MS, written by an Irish scribe, probably at St Gallen, in the ninth century. The Greek text of G3 was copied in a somewhat later bilingual Uncial MS, F2, Codex Augiensis, preserved and perhaps written at Reichenau near Constanz, purchased by Bentley, and now belonging to Trinity College, Cambridge.
Ξ – Codex Zacynthius
Bilingual
(c. 8th cent.)
in London (British and Foreign Bible Society), containing many palimpsest fragments of St Luke, with a marginal commentary (νIII).
L
Bilingual
(c. 8th cent.)
containing the Gospels with a few gaps (Cent. VIII).
Harklean Syriac
Syriac
(c. 7th cent.)
made by Thomas of Harkel in 616, from whom it is called. It includes all the New Testament except the Apocalypse. The margin contains various readings from Greek MSS which must either have been ancient or have had ancient texts.
r – Codex Dublinensis
European Latin
(c. 6th or 7th cent.)
(much damaged fragments of all the Gospels), in Dublin (Cent. VI or VII)
R – Codex Nitriensis
Bilingual
(c. 6th cent.)
in the British Museum, containing many palimpsest fragments of St Luke (Cent. VI).
ff – Codex Corbeiensis
European Latin
(c. 6th cent.)
formerly at Corbey, now at Paris (Cent. VI)
Ζ – Codex Dublinensis
Bilingual
(c. 6th cent.)
in Dublin (Trinity College), containing many palimpsest fragments of St Matthew (Cent. VI).
E2 – Codex Laudianus
Greek/Latin
(c. 6th cent.)
at Oxford (Bodleian Library), containing the Acts with some gaps. Written about the sixth century, perhaps in Sardinia, where it was preserved in early times; used and cited by Beda in his later commentary on the Acts; and presented to the University of Oxford by Archbishop Laud.
q – Codex Monacensis
Italian Latin
(c. 6th cent.)
at Munich, probably of the sixth century.
f – Codex Brixianus
Italian Latin
(c. 6th cent.)
at Brescia, probably of the sixth century.
D – Codex Bezae
Greek/Latin
(c. 6th cent.)
at Cambridge (university Library), containing the greater part of the Gospels and Acts: a fragment of the Latin version of 3 John shews that the Catholic Epistles were originally included. Presented tot he University of Cambridge in 1581 by Beza, who states that it was found at Lyons in the war of 1562. Written in the sixth century.
Η3
Bilingual
(c. 6th cent.)
fragments of the Pauline Epistles, scattered in several libraries on the Continent (Cent. VI).
i – Codex Vindobonensis
European Latin
(c. 5th or 6th cent.)
(part of St Mark and St Luke), at Vienna (Cent. V or VI)
Τ – Codex Borgianus
Bilingual
(c. 5th cent.?)
fragments containing nearly 180 verses of St Luke and St John (? Cent. V). Of special interest not only for the antiquity of the text, but as the Egyptian bilingual MS, having the Thebaic version on opposite pages to the Greek.
k – Codex Bobiensis
African Latin
(c. 5th cent.)
now at Turin, a small MS probably of the fifth century (portions of the first two Gospels only).
Æthiopic
Ethiopian
(c. 4th or 5th cent.)
the Version of ancient Abyssinia, dating from the fourth or fifth century. Though written in a totally different language, it has strong affinities of text with its northern neighbours. The numerous MSS containing it vary considerably, and give evidence of mixture and revision. No book of the New Testament is wanting.
e – Codex Palatinus
African Latin
(c. 4th or 5th cent.)
formerly at Trent, now at Vienna (one leaf in Dublin), written in the fourth or fifth century with gold and silver letters on purple vellum.
h – Codex Claromontanus
European Latin
(c. 4th or 5th cent.)
(part of St Matthew), formerly at Clermont, now at Rome (Cent. IV or V)
P,Q – Codices Guelferbytani
Bilingual
(c. 4th & 5th cent.)
at Wolfenbüttel, apparently originally belonging to Bobio, containing palimpsest fragments of the Gospels (Cent. VI and V respectively).
b – Codex Veronensis
European Latin
(c. 4th or 5th cent.)
at Verona (Cent. IV or V)
a – Codex Vercellensis
European Latin
(c. 4th cent.)
at Vercelli (Cent. IV)
C – Codex Ephraemi rescriptus
Greek
(c. 450 A.D.)
at Paris, containing nearly three fifths of the whole, part of almost every book being preserved. A ‘palimpsest’, the original writing having been partially washed out, and Greek translations of works of Ephrem Syrus written over.
Α – Codex Alexandrinus
Greek
(c. 420 A.D.)
in the British Museum, containing all, except about the first 24 chapters of St Matthew’s and two leaves of St John’s Gospel and three of 2 Corinthians. Preserved at Alexandria from at least the end of the eleventh century. Presented to Charles I in 1628 by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople.
Gothic
Gothic
(c. 350 A.D.)
the work of Ulfilas or Wulfila, the great bishop of the Goths, dates from the middle of the fourth century. He received a Greek education from his Christian parents, originally Cappadocians; and Greek MSS supplied the original for his version. We possess the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles (Hebrews excepted), with many gaps, in MSS of about the sixth century.
א – Codex Sinaiticus
Greek
(c. 345 A.D.)
at St Petersburg, containing the entire New Testament. Discovered by Tischendorf in 1859 in the convent on Mount Sinai.
Β – Codex Vaticanus
Greek
(c. 335 A.D.)
at Rome, containing the whole New Testament except the later chapters of Hebrews, the Pastoral Epistles, Philemon, and the Apocalypse [Revelation].
Coptic
Egyptian
(c. 2nd cent.)
the ‘Memphitic’ or ‘Boheiric’, sometimes loosely designated as the ‘Coptic’, contains the whole New Testament, though it does not follow that all the books were translated at the same period, and the Apocalypse was apparently not treated as a canonical book. The greater part of the version cannot well be later than the second century.
Diatessaron
Old Syriac
(c. 150 A.D.)
fragments of a Syriac Harmony of the Gospels preserved in an exposition by Ephrem Syrus, which has recently come to light in an Armenian translation: this Harmony, or a Greek original of it, is no other than the Diatessaron of Tatian, compiled early in the second half of the second century.
‘Thebaic’ or ‘Sahidic’
Egyptian
(?)
Upper Egypt […], was probably little if at all inferior in antiquity. It in like manner contained the whole New Testament, with the Apocalypse as an appendix. No one book is preserved complete, but the number of extant fragments is considerable.
‘Bashmuric’ or ‘Fajumic’
Egyptian
(?)
from Middle Egypt, about 330 verses from St John’s Gospel and the Pauline Epistles alone survive.
Jerusalem Syriac
Syriac
(?)
written in a peculiar dialect, is found almost exclusively in Gospel Lectionaries (a few verses of the Acts have lately come to light). The Text is mainly of ancient character: but the origin and history of the version are obscure.
Armenian
Armenian
(?)
which is complete, was made from Greek MSS, probably obtained from Cappadocia, the mother of Armenian Christianity.

(‘Summary of Documentary Evidence’, The New Testament in the Original Greek. 1946)

Each of these Codices are slightly different than one another, but “[the variations, when they occur, tend to be minor rather than substantive.] …The more significant variations do not overthrow any doctrine of the church. Any good Bible will have notes that will alert the reader to variant readings of any consequence. But again, these are rare.” -Bruce Metzger

There are many variants in manuscripts, but:
1) They are not significant, they are unintentional mistakes such as:

  • misspelling – writing a similar looking letter (cite, cjte)
  • dittography – writing twice instead of once (later, latter)
  • fission – improperly dividing one word into two words (nowhere, now here)
  • fusion – combining the last letter of one word to first letter of next word (there in, therein)
  • homophony – similar sounding words but different meanings (meet, meat)
  • metathesis – inverting a word (cavalry, calvary)
  • haplography – if a weary scribe let his eyes drop from one line to another ending in the same word thereby omitting several intervening lines

2) Where the majority manuscripts are synonymous they are more reliable in those places which differ in the minority of manuscripts.
3) The differences are all different from each other so we know it was chaos and not collusion which guided the copiers.

Example:
Manuscript 1 – Christ is savior of the whole world
Manuscript 2 – Jesus Christ is savor of the whole world
Manuscript 3 – Christ Iesus is savior of the hole world
Manuscript 4 – Jesus is savior of the wholeworld
Manuscript 5 – Christ is save or of the world
Manuscript 6 – Christ Jesus is savior of the the whole world
Manuscript 7 – Christ Jesus is savior of the whole world

Even the great skeptic Bart Ehrman has said in his book, Misquoting Jesus, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

“So rare that scholars Norman Geisler and William Nix conclude, ‘The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book–a form that is 99.5 percent pure.'” -Lee Strobel

Though words, phrases, and even language have changed, the Message has stayed the same. Any typographical errors that were made through copying have been redeemed through thousands of other copies. Mediums are relative, but truth is eternal.

Church Fathers

Quotes and Allusions

As a result of his research, [John William] Burgon compiled an index of sixteen folio volumes of more than 86,000 quotations of or allusions to Scripture which were used by the Church Fathers. These indexes were about 12″ by 18″ by 3″ in size. They are presently in London’s British Museum. They have been catalogued by Dean Burgon and his associates. Each quotation or allusion is color-coded to show the exact page and version of the Church Fathers from which they were derived. These are very valuable indexes, but as yet are unpublished.

Who were some of the Church Fathers? This is another name for the leaders of the early church, whether pro-Textus Receptus or not. They were men such as Origen, Jerome, Athanasius, Cyprian, Clement of Alexander, Augustine, Tertullian, and Eusebius.

In the writings of the Church Fathers whom Burgon researched, he found that these early leaders quoted from various Greek and Latin texts of Scripture. Remember that the purpose of researching the Church Fathers was not necessarily to give word for word quotations of the Bible. It was to show that a writer, in referring to the Bible in a personal letter or document, had used a certain verse, a series of verses, or even one word or two that he found in his copy of Scripture. In many instances, this exact quotation or allusion showed whether the writer had before him the Textus Receptus-type of text or a Westcott and Hort-type of text. So, we may conclude that these early Fathers, regardless of their individual faith or convictions, had specific New Testament texts in their hands which help us immeasurably. -Edward M. Goulburn

Early Church Fathers’ Quotes

 

New Testament Quotes from Early Church Leaders

Author

Dates

Gospels/Acts

Letters

Revelation

Total

Justin Martyr 100-165 278 49 3 330
Irenaeus 120-202 1232 522 65 1819
Clement of
Alexandria
150-216 1061 1334 11 2406
Origen 185-253 9580 8177 165 17,922
Tertullian 155-220 4324 2729 205 7258
Hippolytus 170-236 776 414 188 1378
Eusebius 260-340 3469 1680 27 5176
Total   20,720 14,905 664 36,289

(“The Early Church Fathers Confirm the Bible,” Examine the Evidence. 2004.)

“There are also New Testament quotations in thousands of early church Lectionaries (worship books).

There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 to 200 years from the time of Christ.” -Ron Rhodes

Dan Wallace states that there a total of “about one million quotations of the NT from the church fathers, reaching back as early as the first century.”

For a list of the Church Fathers click here.

[As an Aside: Professor of NT Studies, Darrell Bock, says that even before Irenaeus established the first NT canon, the church had their Theology set in stone by OT Scripture (including every Book except possibly the minor prophets), schooling (oral tradition doctrinal summaries such as Romans 1:2-4, 1 Cor 15:3-8, 1 Cor 8:5-6, 1 Cor 11:23-26), singing (hymns sung such as Phil 2:5-11, Col 1:15-20), and sacrament (activities done in remembrance such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper).]

-By Opposition

Corroborating Extra-Biblical Literature

 

Ancient Historians

Source

– (Date)

Quote

Tacitus
(ca. AD 55-120)
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”

Suetonius
(ca. AD 41-138)
“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city. . . . After the great fire at Rome . . . . Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”
Josephus
(ca. AD 37-97)
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats. . . . He was (the) Christ . . . he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
Thallus
(ca. AD 52)
referenced by Julius Africanus
(ca. AD 221)
On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.

 

Government Officials

Source

– (Date)

Quote

Pliny the Younger
(ca. AD 112)
They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food — but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.
Emperor Trajan
(in response to Pliny’s letter)
The method you have pursued, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those denounced to you as Christians is extremely proper. It is not possible to lay down any general rule which can be applied as the fixed standard in all cases of this nature. No search should be made fore these people; when they are denounced and found guilty they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that when the party denies himself to be a Christian, and shall give proof that he is not (that is, by adoring our Gods) he shall be pardoned on the ground of repentance, even though he may have formerly incurred suspicion. Informations without the accuser’s name subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and by no means agreeable to the spirit of the age.
Emperor Hadrian
(ca. AD 117-138)
I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if any one would bring an accusation, that you should examine it.

 

Other Jewish Sources

Source

– (Date)

Quote

The Talmud
(ca. AD 70-200)
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward ad plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!
Toledoth Jesu
(ca. 5th cent. AD)
This anti Christian document not only refers to Jesus, but gives an interesting account of what happened to Jesus’ body after his death. It relates that his disciples planned to steal his body. However, a gardener named Juda discovered their plans and dug a new grave in his garden. Then he removed Jesus’ body from Joseph’s tomb and placed it in his own newly dug grave. The disciples came to the original tomb, found Jesus’ body gone and proclaimed him risen. The Jewish leaders also proceeded to Joseph’s tomb and found it empty. Juda then took them to his grave and dug up the body of Jesus. The Jewish leaders were greatly relieved and wanted to take the body. Juda replied that he would sell them the body of Jesus and did so for thirty pieces of silver. The Jewish priests then dragged Jesus’ body through the streets of Jerusalem.(46)It is true that the Toledoth Jesu was not compiled until the fifth century A.D., although it does reflect early Jewish tradition. Even though Jewish scholars scorn the reliability of this source,(47) the teaching that the disciples were the ones who removed the dead body of Jesus persisted in the early centuries after Jesus’ death. As reported in Matt. 28:11 15, this saying was still popular when the gospel was written, probably between 70 85 A.D. Additionally, Justin Martyr, writing about 150 A.D., states that the Jewish leaders had even sent specially trained men around the Mediterranean, even to Rome, to further this teaching,(48) which is confirmed by Tertullian about 200 A.D.(49) In other words, even if the Toledoth Jesu itself is too late or untrustworthy a source, in spite of its early material, the idea that the tomb was empty because the body was moved or stolen was common in early church history, as witnessed by other sources.

 

Other Gentile Sources

Source

– (Date)

Quote

Lucian
(ca. 2nd cent. AD)
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.
Mara Bar-Serapion
(between 1st-3rd cent. AD)
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment fort heir crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.

 

Gnostic Sources

Source

– (Date)

Quote

The Gospel of Truth
(ca. AD 135-160)
For when they had seen him and had heard him, he granted them to taste him and to smell him and to touch the beloved Son. When he had appeared instructing them about the Father . . . . For he came by means of fleshly appearance. . . . Jesus was patient in accepting sufferings . . . since he knows that his death is life for many . . . he was nailed to a tree; he published the edict of the Father on the cross. . . . He draws himself down to death through life . . . eternal clothes him. Having stripped himself of the perishable rags, he put on imperishability, which no one can possibly take away from him.
The Apocryphon of John
(ca. AD 120-130)
“It happened [one day]when Jo[hn, the brother] of James,—who are the sons of Ze[bed]ee—went up and came to the temple, that a [Ph]arisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him, “[Where] is your master whom you followed?” And he [said] to him, “He has gone to the place from which he came.” The Pharisee said to him, ‘[This Nazarene] deceived you (pl.) with deception and filled [your ears with lies] and closed [your hearts and turned you] from the traditions [of your fathers].'”
The Gospel of Thomas
(ca. AD 140-200)
Jesus said, “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.
The Treatise on Resurrection
(Late 2nd century AD)
The Lord . . . existed in flesh and . . . revealed himself as Son of God . . . Now the Son of God, Rheginos, was Son of Man. He embraced them both, possessing the humanity and the divinity, so that on the one hand he might vanquish death through his being Son of God, and that on the other through the Son of Man the restoration to the Pleroma might occur; because he was originally from above, a seed of the Truth, before this structure (of the cosmos) had come into being. . . . For we have known the Son of Man, and we have believed that he rose from among the dead. This is he of whom we say, “He became the destruction of death, as he is a great one in whom they believe.” Great are those who believe. . . . The Savior swallowed up death. . . . He transformed [himself] into an imperishable Aeon and raised himself up, having swallowed the visible by the invisible, and he gave us the way of our immortality. Do not think the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth. Indeed, it is more fitting to say that the world is an illusion, rather than the resurrection which has come into being through our Lord the Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Other Lost Works

Source

– (Date)

Quote

Acts of Pontius Pilate
{referred by Justin Martyr ca. AD 150
and Tertullian ca. AD 200)
And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate. . . . Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.
Phlegon
(ca. AD 80 referred by Origen and J. Africanus)
Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events (although falling into confusion about some things which refer to Peter, as if they referred to Jesus), but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions. . . . And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place, Phlegon too, I think, has written in the thirteenth or fourteenth book of his Chronicles.

(“Ancient Non-Christian Sources,” The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. 1996.)

Even if we lost every New Testament Gospel on earth we can actually rebuild it through strictly non-Christian sources on subjects such as:

-The Life and Person of Jesus
-The Teachings of Jesus
-The Death of Jesus
-The Resurrection of Jesus
-Christian Teachings and Worship
-The Spread of Christianity and Persecution

“Jesus, of course, wasn’t the emperor of the Roman Empire. He wasn’t some autocrat that had conquered half the world. But he did leave an impact on his own environment and created a movement that grew from there. And there is a remarkable amount of documents [written by others that corroborate]. It’s like a stone thrown into a pond. The ripples go out and out and everywhere [it is] felt. It’s a very impressive record taken as a whole.” -Craig A. Evans

We have more documentation for 3 1/2 years than any other event in history. No biography has ever been more validated than the biography of Jesus’ Life. His Life was validated by those who Loved Him, those who hated Him, and those who were unbiased either way about Him.

For a non-Christian Synopsis click here.

      • Archaeology

“For the past 150 years archaeologists have been verifying the exact truthfulness of the Bible’s detailed records of various events, customs, persons, cities, nations, and geographical locations. Dr. Nelson Glueck probably the greatest modern authority on Israeli archeology, has said, “No archeological discovery has ever controverted [overturned] a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.

In every instance where the Bible can be, or has been checked out archaeologically, it has been found to be 100% accurate. The Bible has proven so accurate that archaeologists often refer to it as a reliable guide when they go to dig in new areas. In fact, even though less than 1% of the material available to excavate in the tells in Israel has been excavated, there have been more than 25,000 discoveries within the region known as the “Bible Lands” that have confirmed the truthfulness of the Bible. Entire books have been written on this topic.” -Charlie Campbell

Whole Cities

-There are so many archaeological findings which validate the Bible that it is much better to just show the amount different cities which have either been found or have evidence backing its existence. To check out some of the many archaeological discoveries, check out the site BiblicalArchaeology.org in the “External Links” below.

Geography

 

Well-Known Sites of the New Testament

Jesus’ Ministry

Palestine

Site

Description

Bethany Site where Jesus apparently lived during His last week of ministry (Matthew 21:17). Jesus was anointed there (Matthew 26:6).
Bethlehem Birthplace of Jesus (Matthew 2:1). Magi visited Jesus there (Matthew 2:9). Herod slaughtered children (Matthew 2:16).
Bethphage Site where Jesus sent disciples to retrieve a donkey for His final entrance into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1)
Bethsaida Village in which Jesus healed a blind man (Mark 8:22). Site where Jesus fed 5000 (Luke 9:10).
Caesarea (Maritima) Important port. Site of conversion of centurion by Peter (Acts 10:1) and Paul’s trial (Acts 23:33)
Caesarea Philippi City where Peter first proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).
Cana City where Jesus performed first miracle–turning water into wine (John 2:1).
Capernaum Headquarters of Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:13). Many miracles performed. Home of Peter.
Emmaus An early appearance of Jesus after the resurrection occurred on the road to this town (Luke 24:13)
Gennesaret Jesus arrived here after calming the seas. People brought sick people to be healed by Jesus (Matthew 14:35).
Gadara Demon-possessed man came from the region bearing this city’s name (Luke 8:26).
Gergesa Actual site on Sea of Galilee where the demon-possessed pigs ran down a steep bank into the sea (Matthew 8:28).
Jericho Just outside of this city, Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46).
Jerusalem Most important Jewish city. Site of temple. Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected there.
Magdala Fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. Believed to be the home of Mary Magdalene.
Nain Site where Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11).
Nazareth Important trade crossroad. Home of Jesus during His youth. Site of limited number of miracles (Mark 6:5)
Sepphoris Capital city of Herod Antipas. Very close to Nazareth. It’s possible Jesus worked there as a carpenter.
Sidon Important Mediterranean port city. Jesus visited to minister to Gentiles (Matthew 15:21).
Sychar City in Samaria where Jesus met the woman at the well promising her “living water” (John 4:5).
Tyre Important Mediterranean port city. Jesus visited to minister to Gentiles (Matthew 15:21).

 

Paul’s Ministry

Near-East

Site

Description

Antioch (Pisidia) Paul preached in synagogue and founded church there (Acts 13:14-49)
Antioch (Syria) Base for missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3; 15:30-41; 18:22, 23).
Assos Roman seaport visited by Paul (Acts 20:13, 14).
Athens Capital of Greece, visited by Paul (Acts 17:15)
Berea Paul preached here with great success (Acts 17:10).
Caesarea (Maritima) Port of embarkation. Paul tried and imprisoned here until final trip to Rome (Acts 23:33).
Cenchrea Paul sailed from this seaport (Acts 18:18).
Corinth Most important trade center of Greece. Paul established influential, flourishing church (Acts 18:1-18)
Derbe Refuge for Paul on two journeys (Acts 14:6; 16:1).
Ephesus (Large economic center where Paul established a prominent church (Acts 19:1; 20:16)
Iconium Refuge of Paul and Barnabas after expulsion from Antioch, Pisidia (Acts 13:51).
Lystra Refuge for Paul after Iconium. Home of Timothy (Acts 16:1) Paul stoned here (Acts 14:19).
Malta Small island between Sicily and Africa, where Paul was shipwrecked (Acts 28:1).
Miletus Seaport visited by Paul. Farewell message to elders of church of Ephesus there (Acts 20:15-38).
Mitylene Wealthy island city visited by Paul (Acts 20:14).
Paphos Paul, Barnabus, John Mark visited (Acts 13:6). Paul met Sergius Paulus, a believer (Acts 13:12).
Patara Paul transferred ships to return to Tyre (Acts 21:1).
Pergamum Site of one of Revelation’s seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2:12).
Philippi Historically important city where Paul started an important church (Acts 16:12; 20:6).
Puteoli Grain shipping port visited by Paul (Acts 28:12).
Rome Capital of Roman Empire. City where Paul was imprisoned, wrote letters, and possibly was martyred.
Salamis Port city visited by Paul, Barnabas (Acts 13:5).
Seleucia Seaport where Paul, Barnabas started first missionary journey (Acts 13:4).
Tarsus Birthplace and refuge of Paul (Acts 21:39; 22:3).
Thessalonica Visited by Paul, successful church established there (Acts 17:1).
Troas Visited often by Paul. Saw vision of invitation to preach the gospel in Europe (Acts 16:8,9).

 

(“The Sites of Jesus’ Life and Ministry” and “The Sites of Paul’s Ministry,” Can Archaeology Prove the New Testament?. 2000.)

[As an Aside: Scottish Archaeologist and NT Scholar, Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (March 15, 1851 – April 20, 1939) was a skeptic who turned into a Christian after setting out to prove that the details recorded in Acts were wrong. After his life-long study Ramsay stated, “Further study . . . showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement. … I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it there [in Acts]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment…’ Ramsay also verified that all 13 of the letters attributed to Paul actually were written by him.]

 

Selected NT Finds

 

Find
Discovered Importance
The Pilate Stone Inscription 1961, Caesarea Maritima Confirmed the existence and office of Pilate
The Delphi, or Gallio, Inscription 1905 Fixed the date of Gallio’s proconsulship at A.D. 51-52, providing a way of dating Acts 18:12-17, and as a result, much of the rest of Paul’s ministry
Caiaphas Ossuary

1990, near Jerusalem Confirmed the existence of Caiaphas
Sergius Paulus Inscription 1877, Paphos, Cyprus

Confirms the existence of Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:7
Pool of Siloam 2004, Jerusalem Site of Jesus’ miracle recorded in John 9:1-11
Skeleton of Yohanan 1968, Jerusalem Only known remains of crucifixion victim; corroborates the Bible’s description of crucifixion
Rylands Papyrus P52 1920 Oldest universally accepted manuscript of the New Testament, a small fragment of John’s Gospel dated by papyrologists to A.D. 125
Bodmer Papyrus II 1952, Pabau, Egypt Contains most of John’s Gospel and dates from A.D. 150-200
Magdalene Papyrus 1901, Luxor, Egypt Contains fragments of Matthew and has been dated as being earlier than A.D. 70, though there is debate concerning the date [Ranges from 37 A.D. to 200 A.D.; cf. Thiede, Bell, Skeat and Turner]
Chester Beatty Papyri acquired 1931-35, Cairo, Egypt Three papyri dating from A.D. 200 that contain most of the New Testament
Codex Vaticanus In the Vatican Library’s earliest inventory (1481) Dated A.D. 325-50 and contains a nearly complete Bible
Codex Sinaiticus 1859, Mt. Sinai, Egypt Codex containing nearly complete New Testament and over half of the Old Testament (the books at the beginning of the Bible appear to have been lost to damage), dated at A.D. 350
7Q5 1955, Qumran, Israel Possible fragment of Mark that can be dated no later than A.D. 68 which would make it the oldest extant New Testament fragment if confirmed
Galilee Boat 1986, near Tiberias, Israel The boat, 30′ x 8′, held approximately 15 passengers and would be like the boats Jesus’ disciples used in crossing the Sea of Galilee. Carbon 14 dating places the boat between 120 B.C. and A.D. 40.

(“Selected Important New Testament Archaeological Finds,” The Apologetics Study Bible. 2007.)

 

Old Testament

Manuscripts + Archaeology
(including all B.C. documents mentioned above^)

“We have more than 14,000 manuscripts and fragments of the Old Testament of three main types: (a) approximately 10,000 from the Cairo Geniza (storeroom) find of 1897, dating back as far as about AD. 800; (b) about 190 from the Dead Sea Scrolls find of 1947-1955, the oldest dating back to 250-200 B.C.; and (c) at least 4,314 assorted other copies.”

  • By Hebrews and Others
Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Dates and Numbers of Carbon Dated Scrolls

Period

Number of Scrolls

250-150 BC 21
200-150 BC 20
150-50 BC 224
75-1 BC 5
50 BC-AD 68 418

 

Number of OT Scripture Scrolls

The Law

Genesis 20
Exodus 18
Leviticus 16
Numbers 11
Deuteronomy 30

The Former Prophets

Joshua 2
Judges 3
Samuel 4
Kings 3

The Latter Prophets

Isaiah 21
Jeremiah 6
Ezekiel 10

The Writings

Psalms 40
Proverbs 2
Job 4
Song of Songs 4
Ruth 4
Lamentations 4
Ecclesiastes 2
Esther no scroll
Daniel 8
Ezra-Nehemiah 1
Chronicles 1

(“How Well Is the Bible Preserved in the Scrolls?” Holman QuickSource Guide to The Dead Sea Scrolls.)

 

Geography

 

The Sites of the Old Testament – Ancient Palestine

Site

Description

Beersheba Tribe of Simeon, southern border of David’s empire–Edom to the south
Bethel Referenced more in Bible than any site except Jerusalem
Damascus Capital of Syria; oldest continuously inhabited city in the world
Dan Tribe of Dan; often used to define northern border of Israel
Ezion-geber Site of important port city built by Solomon (1 Kings 9:26; 10:22)
Gaza Philistine stronghold, captured by Solomon, punished for sin (Amos 1:6,7)
Gezer Captured by Joshua (Joshua 10:33; 12:12), later lost to Philistines
Hazor Large size and strategic location–one of Joshua’s key cities (Joshua 11:10)
Hebron Highest city in Israel–key city for Abraham (Genesis 13:18; 23:19); site of patriarchs’ graves
Jericho Maybe oldest city in the world; stronghold–first captured by Joshua
Jerusalem Most important city of Israelites; location of temple
Megiddo Strategic military stronghold; horse, chariot city of Solomon (1 Kings 9:15-19)
Petra Spectacular trade city with buildings cut into rocks; narrow entry–easy to defend
Qumran Isolated home of Essene sect; location of Dead Sea scrolls.
Samaria Capital of northern kingdom; stronghold, but fell to Assyrians in 722 B.C.
Shechem Destroyed and rebuilt often; northern kingdom capital before Samaria
Succoth Key city of Jacob after he left Esau (Genesis 33:17); punished by Gideon
Sidon Oldest and key Phoenician trade city; founded by son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15)
Sodom and Gomorrah Wicked cities of the plain–destroyed by God (Genesis 19); modern site: Bab edh-Dhra
Tyre Became greatest Phoenician trade city; conquered by Alexander the Great
Ugarit Important archaeological site; provides key Old Testament insights into culture, language

(“Key Sites of Palestine” and “Ancient Discoveries: Creation to 1900 B.C.,” Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament?. 2000.)

 

Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament

[Chronological Order]

Ancient Near-East

Ancient Texts


Language (Date)

Description and Relation to the Bible

(c.f. – compare, confer; Ge – Genesis etc.)

Seven Lean Years Tradition
Egyptian (2nd century B.C.)
Egypt experiences 7 years of low Niles and famine, which, by a contractual agreement between Pharaoh Djoser (28th century B.C.) and a god, will be followed by prosperity (cf. Ge 41)
Dead Sea Scrolls
Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek (3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D.)
Several hundred scrolls and fragments include the oldest copies of OT books and passages.
Murashu Tablets
Akkadian (5th century B.C.)
Commercial documents describe financial transactions engaged in by Murashu and Sons, a Babylonian firm that did business with Jews and other exiles.
Elephantine Papyri
Aramaic (Late 5th century B.C.)
Contracts and letters document life among Jews who fled to southern Egypt after Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.
Nabonidus Chronicle
Akkadian (Mid-6th century B.C.)
The account describes the absence of King Nabonidus from Babylon. His son Belshazzar is therefore the regent in charge of the kingdom (c.f. Da 5:29-30)
Lachish Letters
Hebrew (Early 6th century B.C.)
Inscriptions on pottery fragments vividly portray the desperate days preceding the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 588-586 B.C. (cf. Jer 34:7).
Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle
Akkadian (Early 6th century B.C.)
A chronicle from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II includes the Babylonian account of the siege of Jerusalem in 597 B.C.
Jehoiachin’s Ration Dockets
Akkadian (Early 6th century B.C.)
Brief texts from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II refer to rations allotted to Judah’s exiled king Jehoiachin and his sons (cr. 2Ki 25:27-30).
Cyrus Cylinder
Akkadian (6th century B.C.)
King Cyrus of Persia records the conquest of Babylon (cf. Da 5:30; 6:28) and boasts of his generous policies toward his new subjects and their gods.
Sennacherib’s Prism
Akkadian (Early 7th century B.C.)
Sennacherib vividly describes his siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C., making Hezekiah a prisoner in his own royal city (but cf. 2Ki 19:35-37)
Sargon’s Display Inscription
Akkadian (8th century B.C.)
Sargon II takes credit for the conquest of Samaria in 722/721 B.C. and states that he captured the exiled 27,290 Israelites.
Siloam Inscription
Hebrew (Late 8th century B.C.)
A Judahite workman describes the construction of an underground conduit to guarantee Jerusalem’s water supply during Hezekiah’s reign (cf. 2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:30)
Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone)
Moabite (9th century B.C.)
Mesha, king of Moab (see 2Ki 3:4), rebels against a successor of Israel’s king Omri.
Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk
Akkadian (9th century B.C.)
Israel’s king Jehu presents tribute to Assyria’s king Shalmaneser III. Additional Assyrian and Babylonian texts refer to other kings of Israel and Judah.
Shishak’s Geographical List
Egyptian (10th century B.C.)
Pharaoh Shishak lists the cities that he captured or made tributary during his campaign in Judah and Israel (cf. 1Ki 14:25-26 and note on 14:25)
Gezer Calendar
Hebrew (10th century B.C.)
A schoolboy from west-central Israel describes the seasons, crops and farming activity of the agricultural year.
Pessimistic Dialogue
Akkadian (Early 1st millennium B.C.)
A master and his servant discuss the pros and cons of various activities (cf. Ecc 1-2).
Amenemope’s Wisdom
Egyptian (Early 1st millennium B.C.)
Thirty chapters of wisdom instruction are similar to Pr 22:17-24:22 and provide the closest external parallels to OT wisdom literature.
Babylonian Theodicy
Akkadian (Early 1st millennium B.C.)
A sufferer and his friend dialogue with each other (cf. Job).
Sargon Legend
Akkadian (1st millennium B.C.)
Sargon I (the Great), ruler of Akkad in the late 3rd millennium B.C., claims to have been rescued as an infant from a reed basket found floating in a river (cf. Ex 2).
Wenamun’s Journey
Egyptian (11th century B.C.)
An official of the Temple of Amun at Thebes in Egypt is sent to Byblos in Canaan to buy lumber for the ceremonial barge of his god.
Merneptah Stele
Egyptian (13th century B.C.)
Pharaoh Merneptah figuratively describes his victory over various peoples in western Asia, including “Israel.”
Amarna Letters
Canaanite Akkadian (14th century B.C.)
Hundreds of letters, written primarily by Canaanite scribes, illuminate social, political and religious relationships between Canaan and Egypt during the reigns of Amunhotep III and Akhenaten.
Hymn to the Aten
Egyptian (14th century B.C.)
The poem praises the beneficence and universality of the sun in language somewhat similar to that used in Ps 104.
Ras Shamra Tablets
Ugaritic (15th-14th centuries B.C.)
Canaanite deities and rulers experience adventures in epics that enrich our understanding of Canaanite mythology and religion and of OT poetry.
Ishtar’s Descent
Akkadian (18th century B.C.)
The goddess Ishtar temporarily descends to the nether world, which is pictured in terms reminiscent of OT descriptions of Sheol.
Hammurapi’s Code
Akkadian (18th century B.C.)
Together with similar law codes that preceded and followed it, the Code of Hammurapi exhibits close parallels to numerous passages in the Mosaic legislation of the OT.
Mari Tablets
Akkadian (18th century B.C.)
Letters and administrative texts provide detailed information regarding customs, language and personal names that reflect the culture of the OT patriarchs.
Sinuhe’s Story
Egyptian (20th-19th centuries B.C.)
An Egyptian official of the 12th dynasty goes into voluntary exile in Aram (Syria) and Canaan during the OT patriarchal period.
Tale of Two Brothers
Egyptian (20th-19th centuries B.C.)
A young man rejects the amorous advances of his older brother’s wife (cf. Ge 39).
Ludlul Bel Nemeqi
Akkadian (Late 2nd millennium B.C.)
A suffering Babylonian nobleman describes his distress in terms faintly reminiscent of the experiences of Job.
Mursilis’s Treaty with Duppi-Tessub
Hittite (Mid-2nd millennium B.C.)
King Mursilis imposes a suzerainty treaty on King Duppi-Tessub. The literary outline of this and other Hittite treaties is strikingly paralleled in OT covenants established by God with his people.
Nuzi Tablets
Akkadian (Mid-2nd millennium B.C.)
Adoption, birthright-sale and other legal documents graphically illustrate OT patriarchal customs current centuries earlier.
Lamentation Over the Destruction of Ur
Sumerian (Early 2nd millennium B.C.)
The poem mourns the destruction of the city of Ur at the hands of the Elamites (c.f. the OT book of Lamentations).
Atrahasis Epic
Akkadian (Early 2nd millennium B.C.)
A cosmological epic depicts creation and early human history, including the flood (cf. Ge 1-9)
Gilgamesh Epic
Akkadian (Early 2nd millennium B.C.)
Gilgamesh, ruler of Uruk, experiences numerous adventures, including a meeting with Utnapishtim, the only survivor of a great deluge (cf. Ge 6-9)
King Lists
Sumerian (Early 2nd millennium B.C.)
The reigns of Sumerian kings before the flood are described as lasting for thousands of years, reminding us of the longevity of the preflood patriarchs in Ge 5.
Enuma Elish
Akkadian (2nd millennium B.C.)
Marduk, the Babylonian god of cosmic order, is elevated to the supreme position in the pantheon. The 7-tablet epic contains an account of creation (cf. Ge 1-2)
Ebla Tablets
Sumerian, Eblaite (Mid-3rd millennium B.C.)
Thousands of commercial, legal, literary and epistolary texts describe the cultural vitality and political power of a pre-patriarchal civilization in northern Syria.

(“Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament,” (ANET) 1992.)

[As an Aside: Many scholars believe that the Ancient Jews/Hebrews would record history through oral tradition. This may sound unreliable after playing a game of “Telephone,” but it was not. Craig Bloomberg states that “Rabbis became famous for having the entire Old Testament committed to memory.” They lived in “an oral culture, in which there was great emphasis placed on memorization.” In orating Scripture, “there were always fixed points that were unalterable, and the community had the right to intervene and correct the storyteller if he erred on those important aspects of the story.” Craig goes on to say that “if you really wanted to develop [the Telephone] analogy in light of the checks and balances of the first-century community, you’d have to say that every third person, out loud in a very clear voice, would have to ask the first person, ‘Do I still have it right?’ and change it if he didn’t.” And even apart from oral transmission, it is also possible that there would be written sources (such as scrolls or tablets) to read from.]

The secular humanist, Gerald A. Larue has said, “Like other historians, the biblical scholar seeks to fix with certainty the factual nature of a reported event. He reaches conclusions by examining all relevant data from written sources, archaeological discoveries, sociological and anthropological research and, in some instances, geography. His conclusions must be true to all available facts and must be credible. … Such coincidence of data [such as the Taylor Prism corroborating with 11 Kings 18:13] provides what one scholar has labeled ‘controlled history.’ Having achieved a fixed ‘fact’ in history, the historian next seeks to arrange other data around the event to establish a chronology on the basis of deductive reasoning.
Because the deductive process involves movement from the known to the unknown, from the factual to the probable, from fixed data to the schematic arrangement of related data, results are always tentative. Therefore, it is necessary to preface each section of this book with the acknowledgment, ‘Here is where we stand in the light of the evidence available at this particular moment. Tomorrow may bring new information that will necessitate a change in this conclusion.’”
Yet even a skeptical scholar like himself, using this sort of minimalistic methodology, admits that “it is clear that the Bible reports events with a high degree of accuracy.” (Larue)]
 

Today

-In the 18th century, Voltaire said the Bible would be gone in 100 years. Today (since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century), Josh McDowell has reported that 585 Million copies of the Bible (and portions of copies) had been distributed by the United Bible Societies in the year 1998 alone. And Guinness World Records points out that,

          “Although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, there is little doubt that the Bible is the worlds best-selling and most widely distributed book. A survey by the Bible Society concluded that around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion.
          By the end of 1995, combined global sales of Today’s English Version (Good News) New Testament and Bible (copyright for which is held by the Bible Societies) exceeded 17.75 million copies, and the whole Bible had been translated into 349 languages; 2123 languages have at least one book of the Bible in that language.”

Country Total Population Christian % Christian % of Christian Total
Africa 999,956,000 516,240,000 62.60% 22.43%
Americas 910,120,000 804,140,000 85.99% 37.41%
Asia 4,119,629,000 330,273,000 8.75% 12.94%
Europe 737,083,000 565,911,000 76.27% 25.63%
Oceania 35,103,000 25,754,000 73.36% 1.19%
Middle East 365,305,000 17,354,000 4.75% 0.80%
Total 7,167,196,000 2,259,672,000 32.53% 100.4%

(“Christianity By Country,” Wikipedia. 2012.)

 

This shows that, not only does God preserve His Word in writing, but He also Preserves His Message in people that listen to His Word and carry out His mission.

“Not only is it the most bought book, it is the most given book and donated book.” -Dr. David Jeremiah

Importance

No document has ever been as well preserved as the Message of God and no biography has ever been substantiated more than the biography of Jesus (and the entire Bible is His biography). The coherent and corroborative meaning of the original texts can be found in the preserved manuscripts. In particular, the “Ministry of Jesus” lasted only three years, yet it has more evidence than the life of any man in the world today. The Life of Jesus has lasted since “before” the beginning of time; and it has been documented up to this day. In that sense, the Bible is like an truism. It is undeniable in that its own evidence is the fact of its perpetual existence.

Quote

“The Christian evidence for Christ begins with the letters ascribed to Saint Paul. Some of these are of uncertain authorship; several, antedating A.D. 64, are almost universally accounted as substantially genuine. No one has questioned the existence of Paul, or his repeated meetings with Peter, James, and John; and Paul enviously admits that these men had known Christ in his flesh. The accepted epistles frequently refer to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion…. The contradictions are of minutiae, not substance; in essentials the synoptic gospels agree remarkably well, and form a consistent portrait of Christ. In the enthusiasm of its discoveries the Higher Criticism has applied to the New Testament tests of authenticity so severe that by them a hundred ancient worthies, for example Hammurabi, David, Socrates would fade into legend. Despite the prejudices and theological preconceptions of the evangelists, they record many incidents that mere inventors would have concealed the competition of the apostles for high places in the Kingdom, their flight after Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, the failure of Christ to work miracles in Galilee, the references of some auditors to his possible insanity, his early uncertainty as to his mission, his confessions of ignorance as to the future, his moments of bitterness, his despairing cry on the cross; no one reading these scenes can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so loft an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospel. After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of the life, character, and teaching of Christ, remain reasonably clear, and constitute the most fascinating feature of the history of Western man.” -Will Durant (The Story of Civilization, Vol III: Caesar and Christ.)

“Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth.” -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“The Bible always rises up to outlive It’s pallbearers.” -Ravi Zacharias

References

Barker, Kenneth L. NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2008. Print.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1999. 34-38. Print.

Wallace, Daniel B. “Dr. Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?” Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). N.p., 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.dts.edu/read/wallace-new-testament-manscript-first-century/ >.

Muncaster, Ralph O. Examine the Evidence. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2004. 226. Print.

Westcott, Brooke Foss, and Fenton John Anthony Hort. The New Testament in the Original Greek. New York: Macmillan, 1946. Print.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. 42-65. Print.

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980 (1968 reprint). 361. Print.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ (Movie). Atlanta, GA: Carmel Entertainment Group, 2007. 51:00-52:00. Video.

Waite, D. A., and Edward M. Goulburn. “Who Was Dean John William Burgon?” Who Was Dean John William Burgon? Dean Burgon Society, n.d. Web. 08 July 2012. <http://www.deanburgonsociety.org/DeanBurgon/whowasdb.htm >.

Wallace, Dan. “Ehrman vs Wallace: Round Three.” Parchment & Pen Blog. Credo House Ministries, 5 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Dec. 2012. <http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/02/wallace-vs-erhman-round-three/ >.

Ehrmanproject, and Darrell Bock. “With No Scripture in Place, What Controlled Doctrine in the 1st Century?” YouTube. Ehrman Project, 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 29 Dec. 2012. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPFtDaQdkfo >.

Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Pub., 1996. 187-218. Print.

Muncaster, Ralph O. Can Archaeology Prove the New Testament? Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2000. Print.

Ramsay, Sir William Mitchell. The Bearing of Recent Discovery On the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915. 85-89. Print.

Cabal, Ted, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, and J. P. Moreland. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Pub., 2007. Print.

Evans, Craig A. Holman Quicksource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nashville, TN: B & H Group, 2010. Print.

Muncaster, Ralph O. Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2000. Print.

Larue, Gerald A. “Old Testament Life and Literature (1968).” Chapter 2: How Do We Read? N.p., 22 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. .
Larue goes on to say, “it cannot be assumed that all biblical history is accurate” and gives the example of the discrepancy of Joshua’s conquering of the city of Ai in Joshua 8:28. Archaeology shows it to have been in ruins centuries before Joshua’s time. Yet Larue himself cites plausible answers; he is just not satisfied with them:

One theory labels the account a fabrication designed to explain the heap of ruins at Ai; another suggests that the men of Bethel (a city about a mile and a half away) made a stand at Ai before falling back to Bethel; and a third suggests that the account of the fall of Bethel was transferred to Ai. Cf. John Gray, Archaeology and the Old Testament World (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), P. 93; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962), p. 81.

“Guinness World Records – Officially Amazing.” Best Selling Book of Non-fiction. Guinness World Records, n.d. Web. 06 July 2012. <http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1/best-selling-book-of-non-fiction/ >.

“Christianity by Country.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 July 2012. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country >.
 

External Links

British Library: Catalogue of Manuscripts
http://bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/welcome.htm

The Historical Jesus
http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm

Church Father Quotes
http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

Daily Bible Archaeology Findings
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/

Flood Legends From Around the World (w/ links)
http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html
 

Similar Articles

Wesley Ringer
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibleorigin.html

Charlie Campbell
http://www.alwaysbeready.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=93
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2406797/posts

Ron Rhodes
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Manuscript.html

David Hocking
http://www.blbi.org/library/pdf/31/031_08.pdf

Dan Wallace
http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/02/wallace-vs-erhman-round-three/

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http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/does-christianity-need-the-bible/

N/A
http://www.allabouttruth.org/origin-of-the-bible.htm

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