No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Tag Archives: biblical canon

The Bible… Is it Historically Reliable?


For years and years skeptics have desperately attempted to disprove the Bible. Their attempts, however, have been just that: desperate… And when a person gets desperate they start throwing out a bunch of garbage hoping that something will stick… Some examples of what they claim:  The New Testament was written hundreds of years after the death of Jesus based on corrupted oral traditions and not by any eyewitnesses of the crucifixion/resurrection, there are Discrepancies in the text…from one book to another… On and on they go, but they are far from the truth.  They have so many outlandish claims against the Word of God there is no way anyone could cover them all in just one blog… so we won’t even attempt… However, from time to time we will try to give a high level response to some of the more common “claims” against the Bible.

A while back Robert posted our first piece on this topic. In this post he briefly mentioned verses where the biblical authors affirmed the authority of and usefulness of scripture… Granted, that piece necessarily contained a large amount of what could rightly be called circular logic (using what the Bible says to claim that the Bible is accurate) – we did that on purpose – If the Bible claims to be perfect and then is proven to be false, then you can chuck the whole thing out the window and every Christian should disavow their faith.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that if the Bible is definitively proven false, I will be the first in line to bail on Christianity – I am not willing to live or die for a lie!

Before any of you skeptics get all twitterpated thinking I’m fixing to have to eat my words, rest assured that I am 100% confident that I will never have to recant my faith in Jesus or the Bible that has told me about Him.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of the things that have me so securely certain of the Bible.

One of the miracles Christians point to in the confirmation of the scripture is the consistency/preservation of the message of the original texts… The Bible goes far beyond being just a theological book, it is a historical document (i.e. it is a history book)… And it is absolutely the most reliable historical document in every way that historicity of ancient documents are measured.  In other words, there is better support for the accuracy of the Bible than there is for any other ancient historical document upon which modern history books rely to inform us of antiquity.

The reliability of manuscripts are evaluated by the abundance, dating and accuracy – so let’s look at how the Bible stacks up against other ancient writings and histories!

Number of ancient manuscripts: Compare the NT and the OT manuscripts in terms of their number of surviving ancient manuscripts to other ancient works… Plato has 7, 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, 643 copies of Homer’s works have survived… Comparatively, over 10,000 manuscripts of various OT books have been preserved… over 5,700 full ancient copies of the NT…  

Date of the manuscripts: The Dead Sea Scrolls (OT) have been dated from the 3rd century BC to the end of the 1st Century AD… the earliest NT manuscripts are dated at about 117 to 138 AD. These dates (especially for the NT) are VERY close to the events they have recorded – and the original texts from which these manuscripts were copied were first written between 50 A.D. and 90 A.D. at the latest. Specifically, the Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which recount the historical story of Jesus) were written within 15 to 40 years of the crucifixion.  It would be no different than a veteran of WWII writing a letter or book about his experience in the war, or of a personal friend or assistant  of Ronald Reagan writing a biography about him today…  Simply put, there is reliability because the manuscripts and the actual letters themselves were written and widely circulated within one generation of Christ – had the claims been false they would have been disproven and rejected by eyewitnesses who were still living then.

How do other ancient writings compare? Other notable documents accepted as historically reliable, in comparison to the NT, have a much wider gap between their origin and the earliest surviving manuscript (i.e. there is a 734 year gap for Tacitus; 900-1100 year gap for various copies of Josephus’ histories; 1000+ year gap for Caesar’s Gallic wars; Aristotle’s works have a 1,434 year difference between their originals and the earliest manuscripts). Again, the evidence for the accuracy of the biblical texts far exceeds that of other ancient documents which are widely accepted as accurate and reliable by scholars world-wide.

Reliability of the manuscripts: For the OT manuscripts (whose extremity of ages span over nearly 1000 years) the texts compare exactly (word for word) in 95% of the verbiage… the only changes can be accounted for as spelling errors and/or pen slips. Of all the variants between the manuscripts there were only a few changes in actual words, but absolutely no changes in meaning. For the NT there is 99.9% agreement between the various manuscripts (again, this is between the thousands of various manuscripts). By way of comparison, the Iliad and the Mahbarata each have 90-95% of agreement between their small number surviving ancient transcripts (The question of textual criticism – i.e. the so-called redactions and/or changes over time to the text will be more fully explored in a later post).

In light of the overwhelming evidence in support of the accuracy and unadulterated transmissions of the original Biblical texts, I don’t plan on abandoning or doubting the biblical record any more than I plan on rejecting the majority of information I learned in my High School and Collegiate history courses (and I had A LOT of them since my second degree was a BA in secondary ed. with an emphasis in Social Studies).

Note:  For more details on the reliability of the Biblical texts, check out Josh and Sean McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter (specifically chapter 6). For one honestly trying to find answers to their general skepticism about God another good place to look is Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God.

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Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 1


Robert – Here are the points where I believe that gifts (or sign gifts as Kevin would call them) are still active today:

  1. The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.
  2. I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize.  The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves.  None of them are identical.
  3. Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped. 
  4. 1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.
  5. The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.

Kevin – Let me clarify… I have never said that Spiritual Gifts are not active today. They absolutely ARE. I do believe, however, certain Spiritual Gifts (a.k.a. “sign gifts”) have served their purpose and, according to Paul’s prophecy in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, have ceased.

Robert – First let me begin by saying that these points were not chosen randomly.  They are the most common points argued for and against the use of tongues and prophecy.  I hardly think that we will be breaking new ground here but at the very least these arguments will be our own.  So the first point…

The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.

Robert – Acts 1:8 provides a pretty clear connection to the commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  The Holy Spirit delivers these powers for the witness.  As the great commission has not been fulfilled… the gifts of the Holy Spirit are continuing to be delivered.

Kevin – Again, we are not talking about ALL gifts here… However, the premise that spiritual GIFTS were given to fulfill the Great Commission is based on a flawed hermeneutic – Robert here is confusing a function/role of the Spirit (Empowerment – which is general and thus universally belongs to all believers to carry out the Great Commission), with specific gifts of the Spirit (of which there are many and assigned individually to believers at salvation – i.e. no believer has every spiritual gift.)

When studying the Holy Spirit one should look at Him from every angle: His Role, His Work, His Fruit… We don’t have time and space to chase all that down here, but suffice it to say that empowering people to live the Christian life and imparting Spiritual Gifts to believers are two different aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work that should not be confused.

  • So, why are they given? Spiritual Gifts ARE given to build up the body (1 Corinthians 12-13, especially 12:7) and to confirm the validity of authoritative teaching of the apostles (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4)

The context here points to the surrounding passage as talking to believers in how they are to function together within the context of the church. Spiritual gifts (especially the ones listed in 1 Corinthians) are, then, more for the building up of the Church rather than evangelism. An integral part of building up the early church was confirming what teaching should be considered authoritative and what should be disregarded as heretical. God used spiritual gifts to confirm which teachings were false and which were true (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

Robert – Kevin, you talk about how the gifts were to be used.  I am confused.  Weren’t ALL gifts given to build the church?  If the body of Christ is the Church then don’t all gifts support the body of Christ?  I understand that not every believer has every spiritual gift, and I make no assertion of that kind.  You say that I am confusing the function and role of the Holy Spirit with the specific gifts, but I make no mention of former.  I think you are unnecessarily bringing in the function and role of the Holy Spirit.  You call it bad hermeneutics, but I call it plain reading…

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Emphasis on and you will be my witnesses. 

For  some reason you are wanting to isolate two specific gifts (tongues and prophecy) from the list.  Do these two gifts not build up the body of Christ as well?  According to Paul they do if done correctly (1 Corinthains 14).  If tongues and prophecy were not intended to be a gift, why did Paul list them?  Kevin…you have the last word.

Kevin: When I say your interpretation of Acts 1:8 is a case of bad hermeneutics it is because Acts 1:8 doesn’t specifically talk about spiritual gifts, yet you are tying it to spiritual gifts – forcing scripture to say something it doesn’t isn’t plain reading it’s bad logic. Acts 1:8 says that “you will receive power”. Without getting overly technical the original Greek word here is not the same word as is used for spiritual gifts… Therefore, to say that God is talking about spiritual gifts here is mistaken. I draw the distinction between different roles of the Holy Spirit because there is no link between Acts 1:8 and spiritual gifts. The word for “power” used in Acts 1:8 does not refer to specific talents, skills, or spiritual gifts, but rather the general strength to complete the task God has assigned – One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to obey God (in general) and to embolden us to fulfill the Great Commission.

Robert, before linking spiritual gifts to Acts 1:8 you should take a hard look at 1 Corinthians 14:20-25. This passage clearly states that not all spiritual gifts are for evangelism, therefore, they should not be linked to the Great Commission, which is a command to evanglize.

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