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Ancient evidence of the Bible's reliability

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You remember playing the game 'Telephone' when you were a child, right? Your friends would sit in a circle, and you would pick a phrase to whisper to the kid next to you, who then whispered what he thought you said to the kid next to him, and she would whisper what she heard to the next kid, and the transmission would go around the circle, but when it got back to you, the words were totally different from the phrase you started with, and you all got a laugh out of the faulty transmission and the garbled result!

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It's only natural, then, to question the accuracy of the transmission of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible - how accurate can dozens of hand-written transmissions be? How trustworthy is the copy we hold in our hands today? Can we expect many errors? What if what we have today is a garbled result from the original communication from God to the writers?

First of all, we have the author's assurances that his word, which alone reveals his provision for forgiveness for our sins through his son Jesus Christ, will endure forever: "...having been born again... through the word of God which lives and abides forever....The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever." (1 Peter 1:23-25)

Second, we can see the evidence of archaeology that God means what he says very literally. Prior to 1947, the earliest manuscript of the Old Testament was dated 820 years after Christ walked the earth, and skeptics accused the early church of changing Isaiah's many precise prophecies about the Christ many years after Jesus lived to match history past. In 1947, the library of the Essenes, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, were discovered and dated to 150-250 years before Jesus lived. The ancient complete manuscript of Isaiah, complete with the prophecies of the coming Christ, was compared to the copy written almost 1,000 years later, and God's preservation of his word proved true - the manuscripts were nearly identical to the very letter, with some exceptions for conjunction and spelling changes throughout the 1,000 years (similar to our word 'honour' morphing to 'honor'). Out of Isaiah's 1,000-year handwritten transmission comparison, its 66 chapters (one of the longest books in the Bible) contain about one word difference for each chapter, and at least portions of every old testament book except for Esther were found in this library for comparison with later manuscripts.

The books of the new testament are much easier to track and compare; there are over 500 copies which date before AD 500. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, writes, "Compared with any and all other ancient manuscripts, the New Testament stands up as 10 times more sure. The next most reliable ancient text we have is the Iliad, for which we only have 50 copies that date from 500 years or less of its origin. We have only one very late manuscript of Tacticus' Annals, but no one is reluctant to treat that as authentic history."

In view of God's promises to preserve his word, and the confirmations of archaeology, we can be very certain that our Bibles today contain exactly what God wanted to communicate to all of humanity concerning his plan and desire for us: he has provided forgiveness and eternal life for all who place their faith in his provision - the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.

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