The Reliability of the Bible, Part 2
In Part 1 of this series on the reliability of the Bible, I gave an overall synopsis of the issue. Turning to the manuscript evidence for the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament, there is some very strong evidence to support its authenticity and accuracy. Let’s begin with language. Most of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures were written in the Hebrew language, though a few of the later portions are in a related language called Aramaic. The material of the Hebrew scriptures was probably composed sometime between 1400 and 400 BC by several dozen different authors, including Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Ezra, and others.
Until 1949, the best and earliest manuscripts for the Hebrew Scriptures were known as the Masoretic Text. These documents were copies of a chain of earlier manuscripts (now lost) made by Eastern European Jews between AD 800 and 1000. These texts had been the main source for the material used by both Jews and Christians for the Hebrew portions of the Bible. From the eighteenth century Enlightenment until the mid twentieth century, many critics of the biblical text argued that the accuracy of these fairly late manuscripts is likely to be very poor because of the long time-span (at least 1,300 years) from originals through a series of copies to the Masoretic Text.
However, in 1947, through what some would call the providence of God, the textual integrity of the Hebrew Scriptures was overwhelmingly confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Almost overnight, the argument that the manuscript evidence for the Hebrew Scriptures was doubtful suddenly became much less convincing. In addition to the Hebrew manuscript copies, there is also an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made around 200 BC known as the Septuagint. A study of this translation in comparison with the Hebrew text further confirms the integrity of the manuscripts. So, based upon the evidence of the meticulous care with which the Jews copied their scriptures, as well as the insight provided by the Septuagint, we can have confidence that the material of the Hebrew Scriptures has a high degree of accuracy.