HOW WE GOT THE BIBLE
Part I: The Manuscripts
The first books of the Bible to be accepted as inspired by God originated with Moses. It is acknowledged that Moses wrote Exodus ~ Deuteronomy and that he left his copy to be copied by the Jewish leaders who then passed it down in an unbroken chain for centuries. It is believed that Moses also put together Genesis from old tablets and oral history.
Adam was still alive when Lamech, Noah’s father, was born. Shem, Noah’s son, lived 150 years after Abraham was born. Abraham died when grandson Jacob was a young man, and Jacob and his sons went to Egypt where Moses was born. So it can be seen that any accounts about the creation, Noah, and Abraham’s family could have been verified by eye witnesses who knew eye witnesses who knew eye witnesses.
The next group of scriptures were the 12 books of history ~ Joshua through Esther ~ about the rise and fall of Israel as a great nation The fact that events recorded in these history books are borne out by tested and proven prophets made them accepted as inspired.
The test of a prophet has always been whether what he prophesied about the future ever came true. Some prophesies did not come true for a century or longer, so it took some time to determine which prophets were true and which were false. There were 17 books of prophecy from Isaiah to Malachi.
The books of poetry were mixed in determining their inspiration. David was considered a prophet, and his Psalms agreed in tone and topic with the books of Law, as was Solomon’s books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s Song has been sometimes questioned. The book of Job was apparently written while the Jews were in Babylonian captivity, and it agrees in tone and topic with the proven prophets of that time.
The first five books of Law were accepted as inspired as early as II Kings 22:8ff. The Prophets were considered inspired by the end of the Daniel’s life. The By the 2nd century BC, all the prophets that we accept today as having been inspired by God had been so determine. Then in the third century BC, Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, determined to translate the Hebrew scriptures into the now-common Greek language ~ called the Septuigent. Jesus agreed with this, for he often spoke of “the Law and the Prophets.”
The Dead Sea scrolls found in caves in Israel in 1947 included several manuscripts much older than any that have survived to the present. Most notable was parts of the book of Isaiah some 1000 years older than any previous manuscript passed down to modern times.
Just as inspiration of Old Testament books built upon each other, the accepted New Testament books were partly built on whether they agreed with the Old Testament. This was primarily regarding prophecies of a Messiah, and Jesus’ life that fulfilled those prophecies. The writers of the rest of the New Testament ~ Paul, Mark, Luke, James and John ~ all personally knew the writers of the life of Christ, and so were confirmed by then.
A collection of writings by men who lived in the 2nd and 3rd generation after the apostles, called the Apostolic Fathers, called the four books on the life of Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) the “memoirs of the apostles.” Parts of these and the writings of Paul were quoted by the Apostolic Fathers. By 200 AD, what we today considered the 27 books of the New Testament were accepted in Christendom as being inspired.
In 384 AD, Jerome translated 46 books that he considered to be inspired Old Testament books and which the Catholic Church considers inspired. Protestants have discarded some because they were for the most part just history books, and have accepted 39 books as being inspired. Jerome also translated the New Testament, and all of this became known as the Vulgate translation of the Bible. This version was revised several times after that time.
A group called the Waldenses claimed they had always had copies of the Bible in their language; they lived in Italy, then Switzerland, then France. Others translated the Bible into the language of the common people:
380 Gothic translation
422 Armenian (Turkish) translation
700s English translation
800s German translation
800s Slavonic translation
Some people question the accuracy of the Bible because actual manuscripts of the actual writers have not survived. However, look at these other writings that are accepted as accurate:
Caesar written 100-144 BC 10 copies & fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1000 years after his life
Plato written 427-247 BC 7 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1200 years after his life
Tacitus written 100 AD 20 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1000 years after his life
Pliny written 61-113 AD 7 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 750 years after his life
Thucydides written 460 BC 8 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1300 years after his life
Herodotus written 480-425 10 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1300 years after his life
Aristotle written 384-322 5 copies and fragments exist Earliest-known manuscript 1400 years after his life
Yet, we have over 5000 copies and fragments of the New Testament beginning with Ignatius who lived 70-110 AD, and Clement who lived during the same time. Some of the major manuscripts are:
Codex Vaticanus written around 325-350 AD – stored in Rome beginning the 15th century; where it was before that is unknown
Codex Alexandrius written around 400 AD – stored in Constantinople until 1627 when it was sent to England
Codex Sinaiticus written around 350 AD – stored in Egypt
Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History written around 325 AD, quoted from every book of the New Testament.
For more on this, read the two volumes written by Josh McDowell called Evidence that Demands a Verdict, books that he started writing to disprove the Bible, but which reversed his decision and made him a believer. His website is www.josh.org