The Unique, Authentic, and Inspired Word of God
November 2022 ( Reprinted from Nov 2011)
The acceptance of authenticity and unity of the Old and New Testaments is evidenced by Jesus Himself who quoted from 22 different Old Testament books. In the book of Hebrews there are 85 Old Testament quotes. The book of Revelation has 275 Old Testament quotes from 32 different old books contained therein. The abundance of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled point to both the authenticity and inspiration of the Bible, notwithstanding the vast archeological evidence that has been discovered.
By the time of the birth of Jesus, the Old Testament had been copied and recopied over a 1,400-year time span. The scribes—sopherim, which literally means “the counters” —took great care in their work.
The scribes began using a square Aramaic script around 500 BC after the Babylonian captivity. Prior to that, since the time of King David, the scribes used the Paleo-Hebrew (early Hebrew). An example of the transition, of language translation, is evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of the scrolls are written in the rounded Paleo-Hebrew script, but most are in the square Aramaic.
The Hebrew scribes borrowed the Aramaic script to express their own Hebrew words. Both Aramaic (Syrian) and Hebrew are Semitic languages (both nations descended from Noah’s son, Shem). The script stood for the same alphabet. A similar modern parallel would be English and French. These were shaped by the same classical language, Latin.
As language progressed, the scribes had to preserve the traditional meaning of the Scriptures. The Hebrew scribes in AD 500 developed a system of showing the vowel sounds in Hebrew. By this time, they had lost the meanings of a few words, most of them ancient and rarely used in the Old Testament. These later scribes were named Masoretes. They were used to determine the meanings of words in light of the surrounding material. These became known as the Masoretic scripts.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, it was the Masoretic family named ben Asher that produced a better system of vowel markings. It was late in the twelfth century when Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, declared the ben Asher text to be the Textus Receptus (“received text”) of the Old Testament.
The ben Asher texts come to us in several different forms. Our earliest manuscript of the ben Asher is the Cairo Codex of the prophets, known as Codex C, made in AD 950. It was seized in 1099 in the crusade and later returned to Cairo. The Leningrad Codex, Codex P, was written in AD 916 and the Aleppo Codex, Codex A, was believed to be written in AD 940. Codex L was finished in AD 1008.
In 1524, Jacob ben Hayyim published a printed text of the Old Testament, using manuscripts from the ben Asher manuscripts. This became the standard for printed Bibles.
The Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew into Greek, called the Septuagint, around 300 BC. After AD 200, Jewish scholars began compiling Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament. These versions are called the Targums.
The Old Testament has come to us with great care to assure its authenticity.
Let’s look at the manuscript evidence of the New Testament. There are more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Add to that at least 9,300 early versions and 10,000 Latin Vulgate, and we have over 24,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament in existence.
The next closest historical document is the Iliad by the Greek philosopher, Homer, also famous for writing The Odyssey. His epic story of the siege of Troy has more than 640 manuscripts that have survived throughout history.
Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce said, “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of textual attestation as the New Testament.”
Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of the ancient classics, even though the earliest manuscripts were written so long after the original writings and number the extant manuscripts is, in many instances, so small, it’s clear that the reliability of the text of the New Testament is likewise assured.
For example, Homer’s Iliad was written in 900 BC, and the earliest known manuscript copy is 400 BC. There is a 500-year difference. Compared to the New Testament, written between AD 40 and AD 100, with the earliest manuscript copy found in AD 125. There is only a 25-year difference. Couple that to the large quantity of manuscripts, 24,000, and only 640 to Homer’s Iliad.
When examining how textual variations are accounted Geisler and Nix comment, “There is an ambiguity in saying there are some 200,000 variants in the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, since these represent only 10,000 places in the New Testament. If one single word is misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, this is counted as 3,000 variant readings.”