Press of the BeComing-One Church

Stacks Image p4_n30

Welcome Audio

 

BP3: Bible Paper

Typical Criticism

Three Tests to Give

 

bp63» The BeComingOne Papers uses the Bible.  Now to some the Bible is a book of tales, a book so unscientific that it isn’t worth the paper it is written on.  I can empathize with this opinion. At one time I held a negative view concerning the Bible. But this is a very biased, unfair, and incorrect view.  It is a view of a mindset. Like other mindsets it is imbedded in brain cells, thus, making it very difficult to change. Just as Ptolemy’s geocentric theory of the universe seemed to be very sound to the generations of the past (see “Mindset Paper” [BP2]), today’s myths and mistaken theories seem very scientific to today’s pop-educated generation. Just because those of Ptolemy’s generations believed in his theory, doesn’t mean they were stupid. Many were quite smart, but nevertheless quite wrong. They could not recognize their mistake because of their mindset. Irrespective of today’s mindsets concerning the Bible, it is a very worthwhile book.

bp64» The Bible is a historical document. Its history goes back to the beginning of mankind. It is an accurate document. Especially in the last hundred and eighty years, archeology has repeatedly confirmed facts recorded in the Bible that previously had no other confirmation. In comparison to other ancient writings, the Bible is by far, let me repeat, the Bible is by far the most accurate historical document in the world, especially considering the size of the Bible.

bp65» The Bible is filled with specific place names, proper names, topographical descriptions, descriptions of ancient customs and nations, descriptions of ancient artifacts, temples, religions, and human behavior. Until the last 180 years the cynics used to call many of the nations, cultures, and customs described in the Bible myth, or just oral traditions that have lost their truth. But archaeological finds have made a mockery out of such outdated skepticism. Mythical books do not have the abundance of specific information as does the Bible. Details after details are abundant throughout the Bible. Today it is ludicrous to call the Bible anything but an accurate historical document. Yet, as a mindset filters a person’s perception so does the mindset of anti-Biblical scholars. It is amazing to me how they can ignore the archaeological finds of the last 180 years and still cling to naive views about the Bible. Even this year (1988) as I write I have seen a news story about a group of “scholars” voting on various drafts of a revision on what were Christ’s real sayings. They refuse to believe that the words written in the Bible were really spoken by him, and they have the naivete to vote on a new version. This is the height of arrogance, for no other ancient character has more proof for his person or words than Christ (He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus, Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson, 1988). There is far more proof of Christ’s existence than Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Homer, etc.

bp66» I have had different mindsets concerning the Bible. First I believed in the Bible because I was reared to believe in it, at least as the church interpreted it for me (the Catholic view). But I never studied it when I had that mindset. Next through reading too many biased liberal books, I concluded that the Bible was of little significance. It was only after I studied the Bible itself and read other pro-Biblical views that I came to a different view: The Bible is a very important book, an accurate book, a historical book, a revealing book, etc.

bp67» Unlike what cynical people biased by their mindset attest, no other document comes close to the legitimacy of the Bible. The Bible has the oldest manuscripts of any other ancient document of its size. The intra-cohesiveness of these old manuscripts prove that today’s Bible very closely, if not exactly, reflects the original documents. Remember there were no copy machines when the manuscripts of the Bible were handed down. The information age is a very recent phenomenon. The copying of old manuscripts was done by hand. Because it is almost impossible to copy a document the size of the Bible without some mistakes, there are some variations between the ancient manuscripts and today’s, but most of these variations concern different spelling of words or omission of words or concern words or phrases that were added by scribes so as to clarify the meaning of the text. Very little to none of the variations affect the meaning or doctrine derived from the Bible, especially if you believe that the antitypical sense of the Bible is the real sense of it (see “Duality Paper” [BP4]).

bp68» Among other things, the Bible is a book of the history of man and man’s relationship with God up to Israel (Jacob), from there a history of Israel up to Christ, and from there a history of the Church of Christ up to around 40-70 AD.  The Bible is mainly concerned with the behavior of mankind and his relationship with God and the coming of the Messiah. In this the Bible is a very different book when compared to most other ancient books, or for that matter contemporary books. The Bible actually thinks there is something called evil in mankind’s behavior, and that there is a God or Power that cares about mankind’s behavior. The Bible indicates that wrong behavior actually causes grief and death. This is hard for some today to believe. Some who have a humanistic mindset, believe in one form or another that there is no real evil in mankind, but just some form of miseducation. To this mode of thinking it is society who is to blame, not the individual.

bp69» The Bible starts out describing the CREATION of the heavens and earth, or as we call it today — the universe.  But what about evolution? Did an intelligent Power (God) create or did evolution create? Contrary to what most schools of today teach, the “creation by God” answer is more scientific than evolution.  Evolution is nothing but a faith — a faith based on the ludicrous chance that the complex universe somehow evolved.  I know how dogmatic the scientists seem, but if you read their journals you know that they too have dissimilar views on many aspects of life, and that the foundations of many of their views are very slim and in contradiction to each other. Some of today’s most celebrated theories are based on a very thin film of evidence and on a very precarious set of conclusions based on this evidence (see my, Science Papers).

bp70» There are forms of mysticism in science today as there are in many if not most religions. But because we are not taught to analyze the foundations of branches of science, we have a mindset that cannot perceive the mysticism in science. In fact there is a close parallel between mysticism, science, and religion. See the list of Creation books and organizations in the back of this paper if you want greater details on the evolution versus creation controversy. There is more to the idea of Creation than to the mindlessness of evolution.

bp71» Christianity, Judaism and Islam base their belief and knowledge of God on information found in the Bible. The non-believers think the Bible is too legendary and therefore cannot be the word of God. To the disbeliever the Bible is full of exaggerated stories orally passed on through generations.

 

Bible’s Rich Metaphorical Word Usage

bp72» The Bible is a historical document that includes poetry and a rich use of figures of speech. The Bible uses similes, "his eyes were as a flame of fire" (Rev 1:14). The Bible uses metaphors, "tell that fox" (Luke 13:32). The Bible uses metonyms, "if the house be worthy" (Mat 10:13). The Bible uses synecdoches, "all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1). The Bible uses personifications, "the earth mourns and fades away" (Isa 24:4). The Bible uses apostrophes, "O death, where is thy sting?" (1Cor 15:55) The Bible uses hyperboles, "the light of the sun shall be sevenfold" (Isa 30:26). The Bible uses allegories, "this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia."(Gal 4:24) The Bible uses parables, "behold, a sower went forth to sow" (Mat 13:3). The Bible also uses irony, riddles, and fables (1Kings 18:27; Rev 13:18; and Judg 9:8 ff & 2Kgs 14:9 ff). So we see that the Bible is rich in its use of language. (The serpent did not literally speak to Eve, only figuratively did the serpent speak to Eve.) Yes, the Bible does have a few fables, riddles and metaphorical serpents talking within its pages. The Israelis were creative writers. Figures of speech are used to draw attention and interest to the meaning of the words, and to aid in the remembrance of the text. A text of poetry is easier to remember than a boring academic document. The fact that the Bible used colorful word usage to convey its message does not mean it does not convey a truthful picture of history and important philosophical and theological messages from God. It may just as well mean that God used man’s colorful ways of expression to convey his word so as to better brand the message into the mind of man. Figures of speech can also breed misunderstanding if the hearer/reader takes literally a story that was only meant to teach a lesson. Trees clapping their hands and snakes talking are metaphorical, not literal. Poetry and metaphors grace the Bible throughout.

 

Bible, an Ancient Text with Abundance of Details

bp73» The Bible’s history goes back thousands of years. Especially in the last hundred and eighty years, archeology has confirmed facts recorded in the Bible that previously had no other confirmation. In comparison to other ancient writings, the Bible is as accurate, if not more accurate than any other historical document in the world (See my Chronology Papers). Most ancient historians give a skewed view to make their ethnic group look better than they did in reality. Not so with the writers of the Bible. They wrote, not only of the glory, but of the foibles of their people.

bp74» The Bible is filled with specific place names, proper names, topographical descriptions, descriptions of ancient customs and nations, descriptions of ancient artifacts, temples, religions, and human behavior. Until the last couple of centuries the skeptics used to call many of the nations, cultures, and customs described in the Bible – myth, or just oral traditions that had lost their truth. But archaeological finds have helped to alleviate some of this skepticism.

 

Typical Criticism

bp75» Typical criticism: The Bible is a mythological book that contains orally transmitted myths that were passed down through generations until about the time of Ezra who compiled most of the Old Testament. Moses did not write five books of the Bible because for one thing, there were few in his day who could write: the Hebrews used oral tradition and/or he was illiterate and so could not write it.

 

bp76» First about Moses: I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it specifically says that Moses wrote every single word of the first five books of the Bible. Of course he compiled sections from other writings and placed them within his books. He may have had scribes helping him; Jeremiah had a scribe to help him. I don’t see in the Bible where it states specifically who actually penned each book. Some of the Torah (first five books of the Bible) was composed after Moses’ death because it mentions his death and other facts that were impossible for him to write himself. The Torah also included information about the creation, the flood, Abraham, and genealogy that Moses or his scribe (at his direction) copied from older writings. I also don’t see any proof that Moses did not know how to read or write, after all, he was brought up by the Pharaoh’s daughter in the palace, so of course, he was taught to read and write. Evidence has come forward lately of an alphabetic script and inscriptions on stone that predate the time of Moses and that very much looks like early Hebrew (Douglas Petrovich, The World’s Oldest Alphabet [2016]; The movie, Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy [2019], Etc.). The general criticisms of Moses and the Bible are sometimes petty, merely trying to find fault, and not giving the authors the benefit of the doubt. While others’ criticism seems to be mere scholarly exercises, although they do point out apparent paradoxes in the text and in its depiction of the Hebrew God. Books like Richard Simon’s, A Critical History of the Old Testament [1682, English Trans., (find at www.archive.org)], seem to be anti-Jewish in tone by attempting to prove that the caretakers of the Hebrew text made many mistakes in copying, while the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls is proof of the immense care they took in preserving the Hebrew Bible. [Go here for info about the Isaiah scroll.] To make his case Simon seems to point out every trivial criticism he could think of (the text repeats itself too many times, the text uses synonyms, it wasn’t written in a style he appreciates or understands, laws are written with different words at different places within the text and so forth). Notice that Simon’s book goes back two centuries before the 19th century criticism.

bp77» The general criticism is not that solid especially when we examine archaeological finds of the last few centuries. For example, the Ebla tablets, discovered in the 1970's prove that there was written text before Moses at least back to about 2250-2000 BC (see my Chronology Papers). In the 1975 season over 15,000 tablets were found, about 18,000 complete clay tablets were eventually found. The language of the tablets was Sumerian script and the Eblaite language, the earliest known Semitic language. Personal names, geographic names, lists of animals, professions, names of officials, vocabularies, sacrificial systems, rituals, proverbs, hymns, and so forth were found. Most of the tablets dealt with economic matters such as bills of sale, receipts, tariffs, contracts of sale, etc. Among the tablets were copies of treaties, one was between Asshur and Ebla. Asshur is mentioned in the 10th chapter of Genesis. The language of Ebla was Semitic and the closeness to Hebrew is striking. The vocabularies were the oldest found so far in history, about 500 years earlier than any previously known. There are tablets with case law on them. This proves that hundreds of years before Moses there was written law. Moses didn’t invent law, he merely put it in a Hebrew form. What is unique about Moses’s law is the patterns in it and its God. These tablets named the five cities of the plain mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Bible, proving these cities were not mythological. The tablets reflect the culture of the patriarchal period and even mention people’s names that appear in the book of Genesis. (see Beld, Hallo, and Michalowski, The Tablets of Ebla: Concordance and Bibliography, 1984; Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, 1981; Clifford Wilson, Ebla Tablets, 1977; Benner, Jeff A., “The Archives of Ebla and the Bible,” http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/bible_ebla.html etc.)

 Because these tablets were found in Syria near the modern city of Aleppo, apparently the information that ties these tablets to the Hebrews is being censored by Syria because of the fear of giving any credence to the Jews’ rights to the ancient land of Israel.

 

Three Tests

bp78» There are three tests we can use to determine the reliability of the Bible. (1) Bibliographical Test: Not having the original documents of the Bible, how reliable are the copies we have? (2) Internal Evidence Test: Is the written record credible? (3) External Evidence Test: Does other historical material confirm or deny the material in the Bible?

 

Bibliographical Test

bp79» How reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the interval of time between the original and the surviving copy? Concerning New Testament manuscripts there are about 22,000 copies of manuscripts with at least partial contents of the New Testament. The closest ancient work next to the Bible is the Homer’s Iliad (700?? BC), but it only has about 643 manuscripts. Such works as Aristotle (c. 340 BC) have only about five manuscripts for any one of his works, the earliest copy is dated about 1100 AD, about 1400 years after he lived and wrote his work. The history of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) has just eight manuscripts and the earliest copy is from about 900 AD. Pliny the Younger’s History has only 7 copies, the earliest copy from about 850 AD. Plato’s work has only 7 copies, the earliest from about 900 AD. Livy’s work has only 20 copies. Contrariwise the New Testament manuscripts are about 22,000 in number, with one of the earliest (John Ryland MSS) dating from about 130 AD, about a century after Christ. The Chester Beatty Papyri located in the Beatty Museum in Dublin has three manuscripts containing major parts of the New Testament. Two of these papyri manuscripts are dated in the second half of the third century (250-300 AD). But manuscript p46, which was originally dated about 200 AD has since been dated to 100 AD on paleographical grounds (Biblica 69:2 [1988], pp. 248-257). “Paleography (literally, old writing) is the study of the manuscripts themselves rather than the text they contain. In attempting to date manuscripts, paleographers are especially concerned with the script, i.e., the style of the letters used. We have so many papyri from Egypt that a definite progression in the style of script from one period to the next can be seen” (Darrell Hannah, “New Testament Manuscripts,” Bible Review, Feb. 1990, p. 7). [Some of this paragraph’s info was taken from Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 800 pages, 1999.]

bp80» Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the oldest Old Testament manuscript was dated about 900 AD. This was about a 1300-1400 year gap from when the Bible was completed. Because of the reverence for the scriptures, the Jewish community went to great lengths in making new copies of the Old Testament as accurate and perfect as humanly possible. “Besides recording varieties of reading, tradition, or conjecture, the Massoretes undertook a number of calculations which do not enter into the ordinary sphere of textual criticism. They numbered the verses, words, and letters of every book. They calculated the middle word and the middle letter of each. They enumerated verses which contained all the letters of the alphabet ... These trivialities ... had yet the effect of securing minute attention to the precise transmission of the text; and they are but an excessive manifestation of a respect for the sacred Scriptures...” (Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 1941). Because of this meticulous care of the Jewish caretakers of the Bible, it has been believed the Bible copies were highly accurate. The Dead Sea Scrolls helped to confirm this belief.

bp81» The Dead Sea Scrolls are made up tens of thousands of inscribed fragments from over 900 texts. The texts can be divided into three groups: Biblical manuscripts (copies from the Hebrew Bible) make up about 40% of the total; Apocryphal texts, which make up about 30% of the total; and Sectarian manuscripts. They are dated from about 150 BC to 70AD. One complete scroll of the Old Testament book of Isaiah was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. According to Gleason Archer, the Isaiah scroll “proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text, but in 1QIsb [a partial text about 1/3 of Isaiah], (ca. 75 B.C.) the preserved text is almost letter for letter identical with the Leningrad Manuscript. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling” (Gleason Archer, A Survey of the Old Testament, 1994, p. 29).

 

Internal Evidence Test

bp82» When you analyze the Bible itself you must be fair. To use what some call Aristotle’s dictum: 2 “the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, and not arrogated by the critic to himself.” You should not assume fraud or error unless you find contradictions of known fact.

“Giving "benefit of the doubt" until further evidence is uncovered and investigation undertaken is hardly incompatible with a healthy skepticism. Extreme incredulity is no more inherently virtuous or useful than extreme credulity. Indeed both represent a mindset not conducive to honest and fair examination of a particular claim....

It is no coincidence that atheists, and skeptics come down on the side of the burden of proof falling upon the document while Conservative Christian scholars come down on the side of the burden of proof falling to the critic.... the burden of proof issue often says more about the person examining a particular text than about the text itself. It often reveals the presuppositions and philosophical assumptions of the contemporary historian.

“Those who accept the empirical claims of a historical text bear the burden of proof just as much as those who assert their falsehood; in the absence of such proof we should suspend judgment. Empirical uncertainty thus forms the middle ground between the claim that empirical claims are certainly true and the claim that empirical claims are certainly false.” [Jeff Lowder] 3

bp83» The biggest problem that the secular intellectuals find with scriptures is God and his supernaturalness. According to their system of thinking any supernaturalness is automatically thrown out. But at the same time the magic of evolution, the cosmic non-intelligent soup that by some miracle created the universe, is not thrown out. This is the result of a mindset. The writers of the New Testament were eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-3; John 19:35; 1 John 1:3; 2 Peter 1:16; etc). They spoke to others who were eyewitnesses (Acts 2:22; 26:24-28; etc.). At first they did not believe in Christ’s resurrection, and admitted this very thing in their writings (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11, 25; John 20:24-29). But later they saw the resurrected Christ and believed (Luke 24:48; John 20:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2:24,32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16; 1 Cor 15:4-9, 15; 1 John 1:2). Later many of them died because of this belief (Acts 7:58-60; 9:1; Rev 6:11; Heb 11:35-12:1). Tradition has it that 11 of the apostles were martyred for their belief. If it was all a lie, if they made it up, why did they allow themselves to die for it? Even when they lived they gained nothing materially from their belief. They must therefore have believed it because they saw the things they wrote about.

 bp84» Sir William Ramsay, one of the great archaeologists, is another witness to the Bible’s accuracy:

“He was a student of the German historical school that taught that the Book of Acts was a product of the mid-second century A.D. and not the first century as it purports to be. After reading modern criticism about the Book of Acts, he became convinced that it was not a trustworthy account of the facts of that time (A.D. 50) and therefore was unworthy of consideration by a historian. So in his research on the history of Asia Minor, Ramsay paid little attention to the New Testament. His investigation, however, eventually compelled him to consider the writing of Luke. He observed the meticulous accuracy of the historical details, and his attitude toward the Book of Acts began to change. He was forced to conclude that ‘Luke is a historian of the first rank ... this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.’” (J. McDowell, He Walked Among Us, p. 110)

More could be said on the internal evidence, but we will let other books speak on this matter (see book lists below).

 

External Evidence Test

bp85» Does other historical material confirm or deny the testimony in the Bible? For one thing the names and descriptions of kings, cities, geography, customs, events, wars, and so forth are well attested and confirmed by secular findings such as archeology. In our Chronology Papers we give some evidence of this. The books in the book list below as well as the evidence and books referenced within these books also attest to this. Joseph P. Free, in his Archaeology and Bible History, said “Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts” (p.1). Read the many books available on this subject.

bp86» The following short list [updated 2019]of books will help you in your search:

  Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 868 pages, 2017

  F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, 2013

  ■ Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus, 1988, 2011

  Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament, 1954, 2009

  J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 1969, 2010

  Jack Finegan, Archaeological History of the Ancient Middle East, 1979, 1996

 

Also see all films in the series: Patterns of Evidence.