Evidence for the Bible

The Bible meets the criteria for being a witnesses for truth. It is the most widely published book in human history. Although it has been translated into hundreds of languages and re-translated from time to time to keep up with changing language styles, it has never needed revision since the original councils canonized it under inspiration nearly two thousand years ago. It has been in continuous use since its original writing. It has clearly stood the test of time. Contrary to popular understanding, the major English translations of the Bible, including the KJV and the NIV, are the result of a single translation in each case from the original Hebrew of the Old Testament and the original Greek of the New Testament, not from successions of translations. (Although the KJV translators made extensive use of previous translations.) Furthermore, scholars can verify the accuracy of those translations to this day since the original language manuscripts that were used are still in existence today. There may be some question about transcription since the original manuscripts of the original authors are no longer available, but there can be no dispute about the accuracy of the translation.

Cave Above Qumran (Photo by Author)

As recently as 1947, a major breakthrough occurred that provided important verification of the accuracy of the Bible. In that year, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves above the ancient village of Qumran near the shores of the Dead Sea. Prior to that time, the oldest manuscripts of Old Testament were about a thousand years old. But the Dead Sea Scrolls contain every book of the Old Testament except Esther, and multiple copies of many of the books. They were buried in 70 AD, and many of the manuscripts were hundreds of years old at the time that they were buried. Therefore many of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts had been transcribed within a few hundred years of the original Biblical manuscripts, and as a group they were about twice as old as the oldest Old Testament manuscripts prior to that time. This provided an important test of the accuracy of Biblical transcriptions since the Dead Sea Scrolls were many generations of transcription older than any available prior to 1947. Yet there were no consequential discrepancies! No respected scholar has ever recommended revisions to the KJV Bible as a result of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (The now popular NIV translation, a contemporary English translation, was completed in 1978 and made use of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the original language transcripts used by the KJV translators.) And if the transcriptions had been that accurate for the additional thousand years transcended by the Dead Scrolls, there is no basis for doubting the accuracy of transcriptions for the few hundred years before that. This is consistent with the careful process that was used through the centuries by Jewish scribes to check the accuracy of transcripts as they were produced.

As far as the New Testament is concerned, there are nearly a thousand ancient Greek (untranslated) manuscripts of its books available to scholars today, dating between 100 and 1000 AD. Furthermore, as archeologists have unearthed additional ancient copies of New Testament manuscripts, no doctrinal discrepancies have been found relative to our Bible of today. For example, a fragment of the Book of Matthew has been found in Egypt that scholars believe was transcribed within a few decades of its original authorship. There is no other ancient book, religious or otherwise, that is anywhere near the Bible in verifiability. (See The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Zondervan Publishing, 1998)

Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and principal librarian, British Museum has stated, "The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."

Jerusalem (Photo by Author)

Furthermore, the Bible corresponds with history and archeology. The places, dates, and names of major leaders documented in the Bible are independently verifiable through historical records. In addition, archeology continues to verify the specifics of the Bible. For example, commemorative inscriptions regarding King David were unearthed in Jerusalem in the 20th Century. This correlation applies not only to historical events that are chronicled in the Bible, but also to events that are prophesied by the Bible. Every event that the Bible predicted to have come true by now has come true, precisely as predicted by the Bible. Some of these events are documented in books of the Bible whose oldest extant manuscripts predate the actual historical events. (See A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Moody Press, Chicago, 1994)

Two of the earliest cities in the Bible are Ur, Abraham's place of origin in Mesopotamia, and Haran, Abraham's place of settlement northeast of the Levant (now Israel), according to Genesis 11:31. Both cities are independently documented in secular history. (The Harper Concise Atlas of the Bible, Harper Collins Publishers, 1991, p. 14.) An extensive archaeological dig of the great city of Ur has been under way for many years. (Past Worlds, Harper Collins Atlas of Archaeology, 1988, pp. 126-127.) The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, first mentioned in Genesis 10:19, were completely destroyed (totally vaporized) around 2070 BC according to the Genesis 19:24-28. Yet, even these cities are independently documented by stone inscriptions found in the excavations of the nearby ancient city of Ebla. (Surprised by Faith by Donald A. Bierle, Emerald Books, 1992, p. 39.)

Egyptian history and archeology provide clear evidence that large numbers of Semitic people from the Levant lived in Egypt between the end of the Old Kingdom (2190 BC) and the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty (1550 BC), which encompasses the time period from Joseph to just before Moses. (Israel in Egypt by James K. Hoffmeier, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 68) A papyrus from the reign of Ramesses II indicates that from the early part of the Eighteenth Dynasty until the accession of Rameses II (when many date the exodus), Egypt was teeming with Semitic-speaking peoples as indicated in Exodus 1:7. (ibid., p. 114) The fact that the descendants of Israel were not mentioned by name is consistent with the Egyptian tradition of not documenting the names of enemies and slaves. (ibid. p. 109) A scene on the tomb of Rekhmire (1479-1425 BC) shows slaves at various stages of brick making as described in Exodus 1:14. (ibid., p. 114) The city of Pi-Ramesses that the Hebrew slaves were building in Exodus 1:11 has been positively identified near the town of Fakus by archeologists based on building and monument inscriptions bearing the name of the city. (ibid. p. 117)

There is independent verification of the Biblical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth from historians, such as Josephus. In addition, the Jewish Talmud, written in the first few centuries after Christ, also makes reference to Him. The widespread earthquakes and three hours of darkness at the crucifixion of Christ that are described in Matthew 27:45 & 51 are corroborated by a Roman historian named Thallus, writing in 52 AD. In addition, Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia, corroborates the rapid rise of the church described in Acts and in the New Testament Epistles. He describes in a letter written shortly after 100 AD his execution of Christians because they refused to recant their faith in Christ. (See The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Zondervan Publishing, 1998)

Advances in deep space astronomy and other technologies during the 1990's have shown that the Bible and science are correlated with each other. In addition, the sequence of events in the Genesis creation account is correlated with astrophysical models and geological and fossil evidence that describe the formation of the earth and its inhabitants from the perspective of Genesis, that is the earth's surface. (See The Genesis Question by Dr. Hugh Ross, Navpress, 1998)

The Bible, however, should not be considered as a document that teaches history or science.  Its purpose is to proclaim God's purpose in creation and the good news of salvation, and its structure is often symbolic rather than literal. It is rich with symbolism, particularly in its opening eleven chapters (in Genesis) and its closing 19 chapters (in Revelation).  For example, the devil is not literally a serpent as depicted in Genesis nor a seven-headed dragon as depicted in Revelation.

The existence of so many ancient manuscripts from so many different time periods and locales and with such precise consistency between those manuscripts provides compelling evidence that the today's Bible is an accurate transcription of the writings of the original authors. And since numerous ancient manuscripts of all of the books of the Bible exist today that have not been subjected to the translation process, there can be no question whatsoever regarding the accuracy of the translations of the Bible. Therefore, the only remaining option for those who do not want to trust the Bible is to assume that the original writers were wrong. But there is no evidence to support even this position, leaving only personal emotional doubt as the basis for this last option. The Bible is so consistent from Genesis through Revelation on doctrinal details and prophecies about the future, even to the most minute level, it appears to have been written by a single Author. Yet, there is unquestionable evidence that it was written gradually over a span of time that exceeded a thousand years. In these characteristics, the Bible is unique among all of the world's sacred religious writings.

2004 William C. Hamer