The Evidence

for the

Reliability of the Bible


What we are establishing here is the historical reliability of the Bible, and the historical reliability of the Scripture should be tested by the same criteria that all historical documents are tested. In the book, Introduction to Research in English Literary History, C. Sanders lists and explains the three basic principle tests of historiography which is the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods. These are

The Bibliographical Test for the Reliability of the Bible

The bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, not having the original documents, how reliability are the copies we have in regards to the number of manuscripts (MSS) and the time interval between the original and extant copy?

The Internal Evidence Test for the Reliability of the Bible

In this test one must listen to the claims of the documents under analysis and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies. In the Bible no contradictions have been proven and many alleged contradictions have been cleared by archaeology and systematic understanding. A lack of systematic theology has led to the confusion of many.

The External Evidence Test for the Reliability of the Bible

History, science and archaeology have externally confirmed the authenticity of the Bible. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote that "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference."1

Archaeologist W. F. Albright (The Biblical period from Abraham to Ezra, Harper, 1960) writes that critics used to say the following: "Until recently it was the fashion among biblical historians to treat the patriarchal sagas of Genesis as though they were artificial creations of Israelite scribe of the Divided Monarchy or tales told by imaginative rhapsodists around Israelite campfires during the centuries following their occupation of the country. Eminent names among scholars can be cited for regarding every item of Gen. 11-50 as reflecting late invention, or at least retrojection of events and conditions under the Monarchy into the remote past, about which nothing was thought to have been really known to the writers of later days."

Now it has all been changed, says Albright: "Archaeological discoveries since 1925 have changed all this. Aside from a few die-hards among older scholars, there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity of patriarchal tradition. According to the traditions of Genesis the ancestors of Israel were closely related to the semi-nomadic peoples of Trans-Jordan, Syria, the Euphrates basin and North Arabia in the last centuries of the second millennium B.C., and the first centuries of the first millennium.1

In 1872 when an amateur scholar of cuneiform called George Smith who had been a bank-note engraver by profession, announced that in working through the tablets from Assurbanipal's library in Nineveh, now held by the British Museum, he had come across part of a Babylonian version of the biblical Flood story. Part of the story is quoted here, to show the similarities to the Old Testament account. Here, Noah figure Uta-Napishtim, has built his boat and is about to embark:2

'What I had, I loaded thereon, the whole harvest of life
I caused to embark within the vessel; all my family and relations,
The beasts of the field, the cattle of the field, the craftsmen,
I made them all embark.
I entered the vessel and closed the door ....

When the young dawn gleamed forth
From the foundation of heaven a black cloud arose;
Abad roared in it,
Nabu and the King march in front ....
Nergal seizeth the mast,

He goeth, Inurta leadeth the attack ....
The tumult of Abad ascends to the skies.
All that is bright is turned into darkness,

The brother seeth the brother no more,
The folk of the skies can no longer recognize each other.
The gods feared the flood,
They fled, they climbed into the heaven of Anu,
The gods crouched like a dog on the wall, they lad down ....
For six days and nights
Wind and flood marched on, the hurricane subdued the land.
When the seventh day dawned the hurricane was abated, the flood
Which had waged war like an army;
The sea was stilled, the ill wind was calmed, the flood ceased.
I beheld the sea, its voice was silent
And all mankind was turned into mud!
As high as the roofs reached the swamp! ....
I beheld the world, the horizon of sea;
Twelve measures away an island emerged;
Unto mount Nitsir came the vessel,
Mount Nitsir held the vessel and let it not budge ...
When the seventh day came
I sent forth a dove, I released it;
It went, the dove, it came back,
As there was no place, it came back.
I sent forth a swallow, I released it;
It went, the swallow, it came back,
As there was no place, it came back.
I sent forth a crow, I released it;
It went, the crow, and beheld the subsidence of the waters;
It eats, it splashes about, it caws, it comes not back.'

In 1872 the public reacted with astonishment as, for the first time, an Old Testament story was seen as part of a much wider western Asiatic tradition. This idea is commonplace now, but then it was unfamiliar and to many people unacceptable. The story made newspaper headlines at the time and, indeed, the Daily Telegraph offered Smith 1,000 guineas to go to Nineveh himself to find the part of the story that was still missing. Smith made the trip in the spring of 1873 and within a matter of days found a fragment, seventeen lines long, which filled the only serious gap in the British Museum. Since that time other versions of the Flood story have become available, including a Sumerian version in which the Noah figure is called Ziusudra, in place of Uta-Napishtim of the Akkadian version: there is now little doubt of the ultimate Sumerian origin of the Old Testament Flood story.2

When we study the development of early civilizations, the evidences presented by the scholars clearly portrays the event that took place as recorded in Genesis XI in the Bible,

So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:8-9

Scholars indicate that when comparatively studying the three great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Indus Valley,

There is no question of Egyptian or Indus civilization being established by colonists from Sumer. There are no close similarities of culture of any kind; indeed it is hard to emphasize sufficiently the differences between these civilizations. What similarities exist are all on the conceptual level: the practice of irrigation agriculture, the existence of cities, of monumental art and architecture, of writing, the use of mud-brick and so on. The actual nature of the irrigation works, the form of the cities and their buildings and the nature of the written script are completely different in all three areas.2

The evidence clearly shows the break up of the community, linguistic separation and scattering that would have taken place when the single speech was broken up into many languages by God. After the scattering, these civilizations developed independently and at a later date started trade relations with each other, and this with time resulted in cultural and religious exchanges.

Another interesting fact in this evidence is the use of brick in the scattered locations. The building technology known prior to the scattering as seen in Genesis is,

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. Genesis 11:3

Thus this known technology was carried by the various groups divided by language to their various areas of settlement (see Indus Valley) when they were scattered by God over the face of the earth.

Summary

In conclusion, when we note that the Bible was written by a diversity of human writers over an extended period of time, no such writing can truly stand up to the above tests except when the author of such a writing was God himself and men wrote as they were inspired by His Spirit. The Divine Authorship of the Bible is without any shadow of doubt, and is the only written Standard for all mankind.

References

1 'Evidence that Demands a Verdict', by Josh McDowell, Campus Crusade for Christ International, California, USA, 1972.

2 'The First Cities', Ruth Whitehouse, Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1977.


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