A Case for the Bible: Part 3, Scribal evidence
(This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?)
Historical Evidence moves us a long way towards demonstrating our belief; as a result, the faith that is necessary to fill in the remaining gap is reasonable. -Craig Blomberg
As I continue to present evidence for the reliability of the Bible, and the overall case for Christianity, it is important to keep in mind that what I am doing is building a cumulative case. If you take all of the evidence presented in these blogs and apply the standards used in a court of law for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt I believe you will have to come down on the side of conviction (guilty of being true). Beyond a reasonable doubt would be somewhere in the area of 80% certainty (although they do not usually give a percentage), but what if you were somewhere around 51%, would you continue to explore Christianity? What if there was even a small chance, say 10% that what Christianity teaches is true and that the Bible could be the Word of God, is it worth your eternal soul not to check it out further? If I told you that there was a 10% chance that a bomb was planted in the room you are in right now would you say oh well, I don’t have enough certainty so I’m going to ignore it? Or would you by all means and effort get out of that room immediately? I believe that answering the question of the validity of Christianity and the Bible is more important than that because it has eternal consequences. Let’s look at another piece of historical evidence:
I. External Evidence
A. Physical Evidence
2. From Jewish History and Scribal copying
Skeptics will claim that since the Scriptures were copied over and over so many times they cannot be accurate.
- Last time we looked at the extremely reliable oral transmission of history along with written transmission up to and through the printing press era.
- Moses was assigned by God to write down all he was given (Exodus 21:1; 24:3 and 31:18) and extra-Biblical sources confirm historical accuracy in Moses’ accounts. (Wouldn’t the rest of his writings be accurate as well?)
- Following Moses, the Scribes were assigned and required to protect and preserve the writings through the generations and this continued after the time of Christ.
- Copying of the Scripture (the Bible) had extremely strict rules…
Here are just a few examples of the strict rules Scribes had to follow for copying Scripture:
- Each scroll must contain a specific number of columns, all equal throughout the entire book.
- Each column’s length must not be less than 48 lines or more than 60.
- Each column’s breadth must be exactly 30 letters.
- The copyist must use a specially prepared black ink.
- The space between every consonant must be the size of a thread.
- The copyist must sit in full Jewish dress.
- The copyist must use a fresh quill to pen the sacred name of God.
- The copyist could copy only letter by letter not word by word.
- The copyist counted the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in each book.
- The copyist knew the middle letter of the Pentateuch and the middle letter of the entire Old Testament.
- After copying the copyist counted forward and backward from the middle letter.
- The copyist must count all letters and spaces.
- The copyist must not be interrupted, even if the King walked in, they could not stop (which could result in their death).
- Each manuscript would be compared and read out-loud before the people.
- Any mistake in any area would require the copyist to burn the copy, tear it up or bury it and start over.
The scribes believed with all their hearts, souls and minds that this was the Word of God they were responsible for and they had a reverent fear for what they were doing and since the time of the Levitical Law it was the Levites who were to be the protecters of the Scriptures (Leviticus, Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Deuteronomy 31:9-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
There would be no benefit for any of the Scribes to purposefully change any of the texts and they were considered to be of the highest moral and ethical standards, willing to die for what they did, (see Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 28:58-69; Matthew 5-7; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
This evidence was solidified with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The oldest manuscripts of the Old Testament had previously dated back to 895 A.D. In 1947 a shepherd boy discovered some scrolls inside a cave West of the Dead Sea. These manuscripts dated between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. Every book in the Old Testament was represented in this discovery (except Esther) and what they found was an almost identical match to what we have today, especially the full scroll of Isaiah which contains some of the most profoundly fulfilled Messianic prophecies.
Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them upon your children … Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NIV)
Recommended reading or viewing of DVD: Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” and for more in-depth study read Kenyon, Frederick G. ‘Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts’ Harper & Bros. 1941 or any of Bruce Metzger’s work.
Join us next week as we continue to examine the historical literary evidence for the reliability of the Bible in the manuscripts: Are there early reliable copies that we can compare our Bibles with today?
Let me know what you think: Which direction do you think that the evidence is pointing to, in favor of the inspiration of the Bible or away from it? What percentage of belief are you at?
Over the next several blogs I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15