It is amazing that major evidence of the accuracy of the Bible comes from several ancient historians who were not believers themselves…
At the beginning of a lasting relationship with the Bible, it would be natural to want to know the truth about the origin of The Holy Bible and how it came to be accepted by the whole world.
Forty writers wrote the different books of the Bible during different decades over 1500 years. Though these writers came from different backgrounds, places, and people, and had individual writing styles and personalities, they focused on one central message: God, who created each one of us, desires a relationship with us. Through the different books of the Bible, He calls us to know Him and trust Him. This fact amazes all who go through the pages of the Holy Book – how persons who were largely unconnected and unknown to each other, and mostly had no access to one another’s writings could have had the same central purpose and mission. That is where divine inspiration is recognized and acknowledged.
Based on textual evidence, two key doctrines were established:
- The Doctrine of Revelation: Revelation is the act of revealing or disclosing something not known or seen before. In biblical terms, revelation is the content and process of God is making Himself known to human beings He created. Biblical emphasis points to Jesus Christ as God’s final revelation.
- The Doctrine of Inspiration: Here the reference is to the supernatural means by which the writers of Scripture received and recorded God’s truth accurately. He directed them to record the contents. He wanted it recorded without destroying their individuality, literary style, or personality. Hence, you find poetry, prose, first person, and third person accounts, and even a book like Ruth, which reads, like a modern love story. The consistent thought toward humanity was thus received and recorded sans error or contradiction so it could culminate into an infallible document in the original writings with each word being supernaturally written and preserved.
The Bible reads as a genuine news account of real events, places, people, and dialogue. Historians and archaeologists included non-Christian professionals from these categories have come across facts that have compelled its authenticity:
Archaeology: This subject can be considered both a social science and a branch of humanities. While Archaeology cannot prove that The Holy Bible is God’s written to us, it certainly substantiates the Bible’s historical accuracy. Archaeologists have frequently only later discovered the names of government officials, kings, cities, and festivals mentioned in the Bible – in many cases, historians began with disputing such people or places existed, until excavation and exploration proved otherwise. To give one such example: In the Gospel of John we read of how Jesus healed a cripple next to the Pool of Bethesda. In the text, we come across the five porticoes or walkways leading to the pool. Scholars refused to accept that the pool existed until archaeologists found it forty feet below the ground, with the five porticoes almost intact!
History: They were not believers themselves, and considering the fact that ancient historians focused on political and military leaders (not on obscure rabbis from a sprinkle of provinces in the Roman Empire), it is amazing that major evidence of the accuracy of the Bible comes from several ancient historians:
- Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian wrote in his Jewish Antiquities: “Jesus was a wise man who did surprising feats, taught many, won over followers from among Jews and Greeks, was believed to be the Messiah, was accused by the Jewish leaders, was condemned to be crucified by Pilate, and was considered to be resurrected.”
- Cornelius Tacitus, an historian of first-century Rome, is considered one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world. About the Roman emperor Nero, he reported: “He inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class called Christians who got their name from Christus (Christ) who suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…”
Has the Bible changed?
The fact is that the original books of the Bible were written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic source texts based on thousands of ancient manuscripts. Considering that, the Bible has been translated so many times and into so many different languages, could it have become corrupted through stages of translating?
That could have been the case, if translators were copying or enhancing one another’s translations. However, every translation is made directly from the original source texts.
As recently as 1947, an archaeological discovery along today’s West Bank in Israel confirmed the accuracy of the Old Testament: ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’ contained Old Testament scripture dating 1,000 years older than any manuscripts translators had. Neutral journalistic investigations reported agreement among different translation manuscripts 99.5% of the time. The 5% differences included minor spelling variances and sentence structure that did not change the meaning of the central text.
The New Testament is accepted as humanity’s most reliable ancient document. There are thousands and thousands copies of New Testament sometimes printed on parchment and animal skin, all dated closely to the original writing. From this stems the confidence that the New Testament remains as its writers originally wrote it – just as do the writings of Plato, Aristotle, or Homer’s Illiad.
Pope Benedict XVI was unequivocal about his authoritative conviction that while Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is true, one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and claim that each one is literally true.
In its 5 May, 2011 edition, the Catholic Herald, UK, reported, “The Pope insists the Bible’s truth is found in its totality.”
Elaborating on that thought, in a message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Pope said, “It is possible to perceive the Sacred Scriptures as the Word of God only by looking at the Bible as a whole, a totality in which the individual elements enlighten each other and open the way to understanding.” The occasion for the message was the Commission of Biblical Scholars, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which met regularly at the Vatican to have ongoing discussions about “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible.”
He said it was not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, “extrapolating a single phrase or expression.”
The Pope emphasized that clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature while others believe that every word was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said.
An interpretation of the Bible that disregards or forgets their inspiration “does not take into account their most important and precious characteristic, that they come from God,” he said.
He defined the Catholic position succinctly: “The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers so that human words express the Word of God.”
“Through His Word, God wants to communicate to us the whole truth about Himself and His plan of salvation for humanity,” the Pope wrote. “A commitment to discovering ever more the truth of the sacred books, therefore, is a commitment to seeking to better know God and the mystery of His saving will.”