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Authenticating the 66 books of the Bible

Filed under: Blog — Pastor David May 23, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

“No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:21

  1. The Books Included

The Old Testament contained three sections that Jesus verified as Scripture and referred to in Luke 24:44. These three sections He refers to are;  “The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the writings of Psalms.” They become the 39 books of the Old Testament and did not include the extra books added in the 1500’s by the Catholic leaders called the Apocrypha . Jesus’ statement alone, should settle the question of their validity as Scripture, since He is the Founder of Christianity.  Let us consider some of the other reasons, in addition to the statement of Jesus, that confirm and validate that these are the only books to be included as the complete Bible.

The 66 Books of the Bible

The Bible is made up of 66 Books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Why these 66 books and not others? There are over 130 other books which are real books written in ancient languages by real authors, but are not included in what is now called “God’s word” or “Scripture.”   What made the 66 stand apart from all the other books and gain the title as “Inspired of God”, classed as “God’s Word”, and set apart from the many other writings?

OLD TESTAMENT

Moses wrote the first five books which are called the “Torah”, or the “Law”, also called the “Pentateuch” meaning “five scrolls.” This includes Genesis through Deuteronomy. They lay the foundation for the rest of the books in the Bible. Because God had spoken audibly to the entire Nation from Mount Sinai, He had revealed Himself in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for 40 years and had also supernaturally provided the daily the manna, and many other miracles… it was no stretch for the nation to say that these books were Divinely inspired and were a gift from God to the Jews. The complete book of Leviticus and many other whole chapters are a direct quote from God.  It is literally,  the words of God.

The Historical Section (Joshua through Nehemiah) were written by the prophets as a Divine record of the history of the Jews. Again, these sections were attested by miracles and stories that can only be believed if you understand that God was the Source. If it were not for archeological confirmation, who could believe that the walls of Jericho really fell down flat when the Jews shouted?  How would we accept as truth the death of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night, the ministry and many miracles of Elijah and Elisha, and the other astounding works of God to protect and exile His people and then restoring them back to the Promised Land?  These are tales that only God could tell!  No one would dare to reveal such stories of broken faith by the leaders, idolatrous apostasy by the nation, or other ugly truths about our heroes if God was not revealing the truth!  The secrets of men’s hearts and prayers are all set forth in a truthful record which is unparalleled in human historical records.  Human historians covered up failures and sins, and typically only reported the victories.

Next there is the section of Poetic Prose (Job through Song of Solomon). These books answer and speak to deep philosophical issues which the current world rejected in almost all the ideas set forth. The scientific statements as well as the popular philosophies would never have produced such books. The Psalms are an unbelievable set of poems and prayers that rise above all the literature of their contemporaries in style and content. Nothing we read today rivals this collection, and even now, nothing else written gives such inspiration and comfort.

Lastly, the Prophetic books (Isaiah through Malachi) give prophecies that came true in the day of the prophets, along with over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. These prophecies proved Him to be the Messiah Who had been prophesied to come for  thousands of years. One third of the Old Testament is prophecy.  (see reason #1 for why that is so vital to the credibility that these books are from God)

What really makes these 39 Books stand apart from all other books is Jesus’ affirmation that they are the right ones to look to when searching for and ultimately finding  Him.  In Luke 24:44 Jesus remarks that the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms are the sections that confirm His identity. Jesus said the 39 Books were God’s Word and therefore we can be settled regarding  which Books we include and which books we do not include as being God’s Word. We can rest assured that we can confidently call it, “Scripture” which must be fulfilled! (2 Tim 3:16).

NEW TESTAMENT

What about the New Testament Books? The authors of these books were the followers of Jesus, they were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and Resurrection. Jesus’ ministry and Resurrection set Him apart from all others as “God in human form”.  Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, and Jesus’ two brothers James and Jude were set apart as authors. These make up most of who wrote the New Testament. The book of Mark has been called “Peter’s Gospel” because they believe Peter recited his memories to Mark. Paul influenced Luke who researched and wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts which is about one third of the New Testament. Paul wrote half of the New Testament in his many letters. The authority these books gained were primarily established from their personal encounters with the Resurrection of Jesus and the role they played in the first century as Apostles.

Peter and Paul also participated in many of the miracles that were performed during their ministries. These miracles also authenticated their writings just as the Old Testament’s authors were authenticated. Hebrews 2:1-4 cautions the early Christians to pay close attention to these books that were affirmed by many miracles. Peter called Paul’s letters “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Paul, in 1 Tim. 5:18 called Luke 10:7 “Scripture” alongside the Law as being equal in authority.  Paul referred to the Gospel message as being written “according the Scriptures”,  and as being an authority for the New Testament church (1 Cor. 15:1-11 written in 55 AD). This reference included the record of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus contained in Matthew’s Gospel which was written as early as 50 AD., and then Luke’s Gospel as well (written in 60AD.)  The writings were already considered “Scripture” within 5-10 years of being written.

Jesus prophesied His own death and Resurrection, along with the fall of Jerusalem, with painful and pinpointed accuracy. The Book of Revelation is a prophetic view of the future yet to come. We are already seeing, in our time of history, that the time is near and that we may very well hear the thundering trumpet of God and be ushered into the recorded prophetic  events surrounding the Second coming of Jesus. Prophecy has laid the same foundation for why we regard Revelation in the same way as the Old Testament prophetic books. So far they have not been proven wrong!

In summary, the same mark of authentication was on these 27 books as that which was on the previous 39: miracles, prophecies, and most importantly… the Resurrection of Jesus.

This process was finalized about two centuries after the Books were written giving plenty of time for the church to compare and confirm what books should be raised above the many others and should be qualified to be called, “Scripture”, or “God’s Word.” The “Peshitta” (the Aramaic Bible), was the first book to combine these 66 books into one (in the year 160 AD).  This was only 60 years after the original books were written. Later, in about 400 AD, Jerome, ( a translator in the 4th century) put together a Latin collection with the same 39 and 27 books and this became the Bible for the next 10 centuries. It was called the “Latin Vulgate” or “the common Bible” for all to read. Unfortunately, only the scholars and wealthy read it. The poor and uneducated people for whom it was written were not able to access the books. In 1454 the first printed Bible, the “Gutenberg Bible”, was published.  We will talk more about that in a later reason for the Bible’s credibility. Needless to say, this historical event brought about what we now experience, the Bible being able to be in the hands of the poorest and/or uneducated man!  This is the Bible that has always been declared as the “Word of God.” The same 39 and 27 books that we hold today!

Jesus said, “Your Word is truth; make them holy by Your truth.” (John 17:17)

Filed under: Blog,Leadership — Pastor David May 16, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

We have learned that Prophecy is a strong argument as to why we can trust that the Bible is what it claims to be: the Word of God.  The next reason I give for us to trust that the 66 Books given to us are truly from God is the very process, itself,  used in copying the original manuscripts.  This careful process has handed down to each generation a faithful copy of what was originally given.  There is no other book that even comes close to how carefully the originals were copied, as the Bible.

  1. The Copies Themselves, of the Originals

The original manuscripts have long ago disappeared.  How, then, do we know that we have what was originally stated? The copies have confirmed that what we now hold in our hands is exactly what the original authors said and wrote.  Let’s discuss the Old Testament books first, and then we will discuss the New Testament books and the process of how they were copied to establish the credibility that what we now have is most certainly what the authors wrote. The copies make it very clear that there has been little variation from the originals. Jesus said, “Your Word is truth; make them holy by Your truth.” (John 17:17)

  1. Old Testament Books

The process for the Old Testament copyist provided an incredible safeguard for them to write exactly what had been written, the reason for such carefulness was their highest regard for what was being written. Every document copied went through an exacting process. The Old Testament was copied with such great precision that if a finished scroll was edited and even one mistake was found they would destroy the entire scroll. Their editing process was to count the letters on every section, all the a’s then b’s, etc. if the count was different then the original being copied, they destroyed the complete scroll as well. The copy was to be only copied from an authentic original or that copy was not regarded as an “authentic” copy. In contrast, the Quran, was written by nine different men who heard the visions of Mohammed (he was illiterate). There are copies of these nine authors available today. The variants in each copy are so many and so different that we virtually do not know if what the Quran says is at all what Mohammed said. Why? Their process of copying was not nearly careful enough to guard from someone adding or taking away what was originally said by Mohammed.

 Every copyist agreed to the following:

  1. Every scroll would be written on a new writing surface prepared in a special way to be a certified copy.
  2. Every copy had a certain number of columns with 30 letters width, with every letter written right above the other in order to see mistakes immediately.
  3. Every copy was written in a certain color and quality of ink.
  4. Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory.  Every letter was written letter by letter, not word for word. No letter could overlap or touch another letter.
  5. Every letter of every page was counted and compared to the original. They would count to the middle letter of each page, and then to the entire book, and if it was not the same as the original, they destroyed the scroll. Every book copied had this scrutiny behind it. These copyist’s dedicated their lives to producing just a few copies in one lifetime, due to this scrutiny.

This process protected the scrolls from any variation so much so that when the Dead Sea Scrolls (written about 400 BC to 300 AD) surfaced,  scholars thought that they would find numerous errors and discrepancies between the copies and the Dead Sea copies since there was only a 30 year gap from the originals compared to the copies we had that were 900 years later. They found no discrepancies at all. The accuracy astounded scholars and added a new respect for what copies we already had of the 39 books of the Old Testament.  This set of books is unparalleled in the world for accuracy in the copies!

  1. New Testament Books

The New Testament manuscripts were written in Koine Greek from three major areas. The manuscripts written around the area of Jerusalem to Egypt were called, the Caesarian copies. There were copies made in North Africa called Alexandrian. And there were copies made in Asia Minor or near Rome the capitol in the first century called, the Western copies. Thousands of copies were made in a short time, unlike the Old Testament copies which were written in a much slower process. Surprisingly, only one tenth of one percent is different in all of these copies. The variations are not regarding the teaching of the books, but in the numbers or city names and small details like that.

These three sets of copies were taken and joined making another copy which combined all the variations into one. This copy is called the Byzantine copies. So a verse will say “Jesus answered and said….” Instead of “Jesus said” or Jesus answered.” Using all three of the major copies I spoke of above the results are put together into one.

Today there are still over 24,000 copies available to compare each other with and verify for anyone who wants to take the time to compare and inspect and verify that the copies are the same as each other. The accuracy is still there, with only  a few questions remaining. Items that are in discussion for those studying this are, for example, in the ending of Mark 16, or 1 John 5:7 and others which are under scrutiny seeking to authenticate what was actually on the original manuscript. These questionable sections are noted in most translations today so the reader is aware that they are reading a disputed part of the book or chapter. Look at the chart below and compare the ancient documents to others ancient documents to see the unparalleled comparison that we have for the 27 books of the New Testament.

Author Written in Earliest copies Time span No. of copies
Plato 427-347 BC 900 AD 1200 years 7
Sophocles 496-406 BC 1000 AD 1400 years 100
Homer 900 BC 400 BC 500 years 643
Euripides 480-406 BC 1100 AD 1500 years 9
Aristotle 384-322 BC 1100 AD 1400 years 5
NT 40-95 AD 125 AD 30 years 24,000+

 The comparison is shocking is it not? Once again, the things from God have been lavishly provided for and demonstrate the credibility of these ancient copies above any other groups of manuscripts.  This is scientific evidence for all to see!  It helps remove any doubt as to the fact that the Bible you hold in your hand is a Book that is exactly what was first written by the original authors!

Is the Bible really a book from God? Can we trust the Bible?

Filed under: Blog,Leadership — Pastor David May 9, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

Is the Bible really a book from God?  Can we trust the Bible?

            “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction (healing or transforming), for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  2 Tim. 3:16-17

There are 66 Books that make up today’s Bible, 1189 chapters. The Bible refers to Itself as “the Word of God” 3800 times.  It is not like any other holy book; the Quran, the Hindu writings, or even any other cultic source of authority like the Watch Tower (Jehovah Witnesses),  The Pearl of Great Price (Mormons) or even the Book of Mormon, itself.  No other book refers to Itself as God speaking to humanity.

The most important question we ask regarding the Bible :  “ Is the Bible trustworthy, and should we regard it as a Book from God?” There are 6 reasons  to assure us that we can and should answer these two questions with, “Yes!”

  1. Prophecy

Prophecy in the Bible provides the proof that this Book is not merely the words or writings of men.  One third of the Bible is prophecy.  The prophecies written must be without error, for they  are “inspired by God.” Unlike the Quran, which are the words of Mohammed a suggested “prophet”, who does not give even one prophecy in the entire 39 Surats (revelations he said he received from God, or Allah).  On the contrary, the Bible predicts one event after another and these events are now documented as a reality in our history. If a person said they were “speaking from God” and what they wrote or spoke did not come true, they were to be executed for being a false prophet (see Deut. 18:20-22).  If the person is stating something that the Infallible God has told him to say,  then his words must also be infallible! These words that are spoken or written as Prophecy must pass the highest critique!

Specific names are used in the prophecy of the Bible.  For example, Josiah and what he would do was prophesied 400 years before he was born (1 Kings 13:2 and fulfilled in 2 Kings 23:15-16). Cyrus the king who would come and help Israel was prophesied 200 years before he was born (Isaiah 45:1-3). Specific nations were prophesied to rule the world, Babylon, Media Persia, Greece, and the Roman empire (see Dan 2 and 7,8). Other nations are now extinct that were at one time flourishing  when a prophet would foretell of their overthrow.

Jesus, Himself, was prophesied about in over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled from 4Bc to 32ad. His place of birth, the ranting of Herod, the location He grew up in, where He started His ministry, etc. etc. how He died and what was said at the cross event was fulfilled to the letter! The cross execution was prophesied during a time when this form of execution was not yet even used.  

So far, in history, the Bible has a perfect record when it comes to prophetic fulfillment, 100 percent accuracy!  No other source of predicting the future has anything close to that. This reality gives credibility to the Words said and written as having come from God.   No man has the ability to predict the future with 100% accuracy.   This level of accuracy gives us confidence to believe what God has also said about things still not fulfilled or what He has told us about things we do not see or understand like the realities of heaven and hell. These places only He knows. No man can talk about the reality of heaven with credibility for he has never seen it or been there. God can talk about heaven and hell with authority because it is His world and realm.  One reason that we are able to trust God regarding these places is because of His accuracy revealed in prophecy.

Every word of God is true. His promises can be trusted. His warnings must be taken seriously. He speaks with truth. We believe His words are truthful because He is truthful. Prophecy is a very important proof of that!