THE WELL-DOCUMENTED WORD by Harold Sala

33


Ignorance can be a wonderful thing. It saves you from having to think. Therefore, you avoid the consequences of facing what you don’t know, right? Dead wrong! That lump that you thought was nothing was cancer, but you didn’t really want to know and it didn’t go away. When you could avoid the issue no longer, you faced serious consequences—all of which could have been avoided had you faced the issue head-on.

There’s also a strange, willful ignorance today when it comes to the authority of the Bible. Some folks just don’t want to know, thinking that this lets them off the hook when it comes to what Jesus Christ said and did.

Let me back up for a minute. There’s been a misconception that’s been with us for a long time that says the biblical manuscripts have been passed down from generation to generation, and like a whisper that goes around the room at a party, it’s not the same at the end as at the beginning. Thus, if the source is discredited, the whole structure comes down.

Today there are more than 5,800 ancient manuscripts of the Bible of prime importance. Of these, 4400 are over 1000 years old. Additionally there are more than 13,000 fragments of biblical writings including orders of service (called lectionaries) and sermons of the early church fathers, mostly written in Latin, quoting Scripture, which gives us the biblical text at that given period of history. To that massive body of history, add 1400 manuscripts of the Gospels alone more than 1,000 years old, with portions of them going back to the year 125 AD, shortly after the last New Testament book was written.

Now compare this vast body of documents—all of which are biblical texts—with one copy of the Roman historian Tacitus, 23 manuscripts of Plato more than 1000 years old, and 10 copies of Caesar’s Gaellic Wars. But nobody bothers to assail either the historicity of Tiberius Caesar, Tacitus, or any of the other historical figures of the first century.

The science of studying these various manuscripts, striving to determine what is the pure text as it was given when the author first wrote it, is called textual criticism, and rather than being destructive, it has given us tremendous confidence that the Greek and Hebrew texts which are the source of our modern translations are accurate, completely accurate for all rights and purposes.

The materials upon which the biblical manuscripts were written also tell a story, along with the penmanship—whether it was flowing handwriting or block letters, and understanding all of this has been aided by scientific analyses such as carbon dating and even DNA which identifies the protein structure of the materials upon which Scripture was written.

At times, God raised up schools or groups of men who dedicated their lives to preserving the Word of God. Fearing that the New Testament was about to displace the thirty-nine books we call the Old Testament, Jewish rabbis in both Tiberias and Babylon dedicated themselves to preserving the Jewish Scriptures which make up the Old Testament in your Bible. Massoretes, they were called; and between the fifth and tenth centuries these dedicated scholars preserved and codified the Old Testament Scriptures.

So what’s the bottom line? The evidence demolishes the argument of ignorance that we can’t be sure the Bible has authority and credibility. If you chose to disregard or ignore what God tells us in the Book, do so because you chose to do that, but don’t hide behind a cloak of ignorance, pretending that there is no support for its authority and credibility. The choice is obvious: either this book was given by God and has been preserved by dedicated scholars who recognize that, or else it is the world’s greatest fraud. It’s one or the other, but not both.

Resource Reading: Jeremiah 39

Text: Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29

GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – September 28, 2017