The Ancient Scrolls
We live in a world filled with ancient scrolls but there must be a standard that we go by to determine the accuracy and the authenticity of such scrolls.
The Book we use has 66 ancient scrolls and one of my favorite remarks is in the scroll we call Deuteronomy (repetition) says,”if a prophet speaks something that is not true that prophet shall be put to death.”
The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the entire garment of Greek and Latin literature. Even though they use the words, profit and prophecy, can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, or any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race? Mohammedanism cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any ancient texts specifically foretelling their appearance. (Smith, IB, 9-10)
Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the book of Mormon, and parts of the (Hindu) Veda. But none of those books contain predictive prophecy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique divine authority of the ancient scrolls we call the Bible (which comes from the Greek word ‘book’). (Geisler/Nix, GIB ’86, 196)
in my opinion prophecy proves that these ancient scrolls were inspired by an all-knowing God, simply because he, and he alone, could know the future. Consider this, it’s approximately 50 generations from the life of Jesus to today. For one prophecy to be fulfilled in 50 generations is 1 in 50; for 2 to be fulfilled would be 50 x 50 or 1 in 2,500, and for 10 to be fulfilled would be astronomical. But if you look at the life of Christ and the prophecies that were to come to pass after his life, we have well over ten. If you look at the prophecies spoken about him before he was born you will find over 300.
So why don’t all of the other great holy books have prophecies? It’s simple, they were written by men and not God.
The Bible is made up of a total of 66 ancient scrolls that were correlated into one book approximately 500 years ago. These scrolls were written over, approximately 1400 years, on three different continents; Asia Africa and Europe. In three different languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. They were written over 40 generations by 40 different individuals who, for the most part, did not know each other. They were written by fishermen, a king, a farmer, priest, soldier, tent maker, and on and on.
The first 39 manuscripts were written before Jesus Christ was ever born. Yet they tell the day he would be born, the town he would be born in and his name. They even describe his death on the cross, and death by crucifixion, 700 years before it existed.
The last 27 manuscripts were written after the crucifixion by men who did not believe that Jesus Christ was who he said he was until they saw him after his resurrection.
We have documented accounts of over 300 prophecies being fulfilled in the life of Christ and numerous other prophecies that were to take place after his resurrection. The odds of that occurring would be equivalent to covering the earth with 10 feet of sand, take one blue grain of sand and hide it somewhere in the earth. Then you climbing into a helicopter, blindfolded, circle the earth, jump out, and find that one blue grain. Sound possible? It is and so is everything else I just explained.
Here’s a few ways to verify the historical account of these scrolls:
The most ancient scrolls were written on papyrus but the problem with papyrus is that it is a perishable material. “All… Autographs have been long lost. It would not be otherwise, if they were written on papyrus, sense…. It is only in exceptional conditions that papyrus survives for any length of time.” (Bruce, BP, 176)
The oldest papyrus fragment known dates back to 2400 BC. The earliest manuscripts were written on papyrus and it was difficult for any to survive, except in dry areas such as, the sands of Egypt or in caves, such as the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
Usually what we are dealing with today when it comes to ancient manuscripts is called parchments. Parchments were animal skins, sheep, goats, antelope, and other animals. The ancient papyrus scrolls that we will be dealing with were transferred to parchments by scholars who would transfer Word for Word. As a matter of fact, concerning the ancient manuscripts that we focus on, a scholar could be put to death if they failed to transfer the manuscript correctly.
We could look at numerous ancient manuscripts such as Homer’s Iliad, Herodias, Plato, Caesar, Tacitus or Pliny.
Keep in mind that in this article, we are establishing the historical reliability of the New Testament, not its inspiration.
C. Sanders, in introduction to research in English Literary History, list’s and explains the three basic principles of historiography.
These are the Bibliographical Test, the Internal Evidence Test, and the External Evidence, (Sanders, IRE, 143 ff.)
There is more evidence to support the 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament than any of the ancient philosophers or scholars we previously mentioned, which is taught in our universities today as being factual.
But again, because of space and time, we will only give one example of each of the three test.
THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST
This is the test that examines the textual transmission by which documents reach us. Since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and the existing copies.(Montgomery, HC,26)
We have close to, if not more than, 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and a test station. In comparison, Homer’s Iliad is second, with only 643 manuscripts that still survive. The first complete reserve text of Homer dates from the 13th century (Leach, OB, 145)
Debbie F Albright informed us; “no other work from Greco-Roman antiquity is so well attested by manuscript tradition as the New Testament. There are many more early manuscripts of the New Testament than there are of any classical author, and the oldest extensive remains of it date only about two centuries after their original composition.” (Albright, AP, 238)
INTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST
On this test John Warwick Montgomery writes that literary critics still follow Aristotle’s dictum that, “the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself.” (Montgomery, EA, 29)
Montgomery goes on to say, “one must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualified himself by contradiction or known factual inaccuracies.
When reading the ancient manuscripts, should you come across what you think is a discrepancy, keep these points in mind:
1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.
2. Understand the content of the passage.
3. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.
4. Don’t base teaching on obscure passages.
5. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.
6. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.
7. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST
“Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves?” (Montgomery, HC, 31)
Once again, there is more external evidence than we care to report on. However, I would like to share with you from the acts of Pontius Pilate, a non-Christian. The acts of Pontius Pilate did not survive; it is referred to by Justin Martyr in around A.D. 150 and by Tertullian in about A.D. 200.
“And the expression, they pierced my hands and my feet, was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in his hands and feet. And after he was crucified they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that had crucified him parted among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain from the acts of Pontius Pilate. (Martyr, FA, 35). Justin also claims that the miracles of Jesus can be confirmed in this document.