The Holy Bible forms the foundation of our Christian faith. It
is more than a book. We believe it to be perfect and contains nothing less than
the very words of God. Our faith – our very lives – are staked on the
trustworthiness of holy Scripture.
But as we know, not everyone believes this. The Bible, the best selling book of
all history, is also the least understood and most criticized. No other book is
asked to withstand such a heavy weight of proof as the Bible. The combination of
prejudice and misunderstanding is an intoxicating mix for the unbeliever, who
has a desperate need to hide a diseased and rebellious heart behind a wall of
denial. In more ways than one, the unbeliever’s life is also staked on the Bible
– that it is wrong about the nature of reality, that it is wrong about one God
at the center of creation who deserves worship, and most of all, that it is
wrong about man, who, left to himself, is on a one – way journey to hell.
As Christians we believe in the Bible. But how do we defend our faith against
the nonbeliever who does not believe in the Bible? Normally this might shut the
door with such a disbelief in Scripture. In fact, such a comment can be used to
turn what was meant as a slammed door into a revolving door of new opportunity.
Many people believe the Bible cannot be trusted because the original manuscripts
do not exist. They are correct, that we do not have the originals written by
Matthew, Paul, Isaiah, etc. Let me point out the same is true for all ancient
writings, such as those by Plato, Aristotle, and Caesar. Therefore, in judging
the accuracy of ancient documents – how close they come to the originals – what
we need to know is how many copies we have and how close they are to one
With most of the ancient writings relatively few copies are available. Another
important factor to consider when judging the accuracy of ancient manuscript
copies is the time span between the copies and the original. Here are the time
spans for some of our greatest ancient writings:
Caesar and his Gaelic Wars: The earliest manuscript is 1000 years after Caesar
Plato, the great philosopher: 1300 years.
The Greek dramatists: 1400 years.
Homer and his classic the Odyssey, 2200 years later.
By these standards of antiquity, the Bible is an amazingly credible document. We
do not have just a few copies as the others. But we have 5750 Greek manuscripts
of the New Testament. In various other translations we have up to 25000 more
copies. Quotations from the New Testament are found in the writings of virtually
every one of the early church fathers – those living during the first four
centuries after Christ. The bible rests on more solid foundation than any
secular writing of ancient times.
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948, a complete copy of the Book
of Isaiah from the first century was unearthed. When comparing this manuscript
with later copies of Isaiah, we found it read verbatim with only the slightest
variation (and nothing that changed the meaning of the text). This new evidence
confirms that the Jewish scribes of early Christian centuries copied and
recopied the text of the Hebrew Bible with the utmost fidelity. Through the
centuries, God preserved His Word’s integrity.
Another objection to the Bible’s credibility is the matter of translations. The
criticism usually goes something like this: “Well, you really don’t even know
what the Bible originally said because the New Testament was written in Greek
and then it was translated into Aramaic, and from that to Syriac, and from that
to Latin and from there to German, then to French, then to Anglo-Saxon, and now
into English. So you really don’t have a clue to what it originally said.”
The issue of the number of translations, in fact, is not an issue. The New
Testament was originally written in Greek; as we have already seen, we have more
than five thousand Greek manuscript copies extant, and we have several million
people in the world today who can read Greek. We do not have to rely on
translations at all; we can read the New Testament in the language in which it
was originally written. The same is true for the Old Testament. So this argument
is utterly fallacious. The Bible at nearly any level you might wish to examine
it, is an impressively credentialed work of ancient literature.
Sometimes people like to pose an objection to the Bible not as a genuine
question but as an excuse for them not to believe. Some objections can be
answered easily, such as the one in which Peter said in Acts that Jesus ‘hung on
a tree,’ whereas the rest of the Bible says He died on the cross. Well, that’s
easy. Peter was speaking metaphorically. The cross was made out of wood, which
is derived from a tree.
One of the objections I hear the most is, “Where did Cain get his wife?” Cain,
of course, was Adam and Eve’s son who murdered his brother, Abel. Genesis says
that Cain went to live in the land of Nod, which was East of Eden, and there he
took a wife. Where did this wife come from? The answer is simple. In Genesis 5:3
we find that “Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his
own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.” Then, in the next
verse, it states, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred
years: and he had sons and daughters.” It’s quite obvious that Cain’s wife was
his sister. You might object, saying that it is forbidden in the Scripture to
marry one’s sister. Yes, but we need to be careful about ex post facto laws –
making laws after the event. The law forbidding such marriages was passed
several thousands years later. You might point out, “if one marries his sister,
he is liable to have a very strange child.” That is true today, but evidently
the gene pool was rich enough at the beginning not to constitute a problem.
In a similar way, other objections to the Bible are easily answered. If you are
troubled with Bible questions like these, I recommend investing in a good
resource such as Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.
By D. James Kennedy