Historical validity of Judeo-Christian Scripture

Abstract

The most scrutinized and critiqued book of all human history, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures is clearly unique. Based on the evidence of other human works, it stands out as clearly impressive. The author diversity, the time span, the different locations, the different language it’s been written in, and the meticulous translation it has undergone have, in part, led to it’s massively popular status. It’s apparent survival during attempted eradication’s have failed, and actually had and inverted effect. It’s influence has led to the transformation of not only individuals, but entire nations. The amount of original manuscript sources, the authentication from secular and religious individuals identify the book as a historically accurate. The presence of Jesus in the New Testament is the climax of the 66 canonical books, and has his teaching and life has led to an external religious following of now over 2000 years, and over 3 billion people worldwide.

January 7th, 2014

Historical validity of Judeo-Christian Scripture


“Your words are Truth…”

John 17:17

DEFINING TERMS:

Webster defines History in his 1828 edition of American dictionary as: “An account of facts…; Narration…, Knowledge of facts and events, Description; an account of things that exist….” He defines validity as: “1. Strength or force to convince…, soundness. A synonym would be verify: “1. To prove to be true; to confirm, 2. To fulfill, as a promise; to confirm the truth of a prediction…..” Scripture is defined by Webster as: “1. …A writing; any thing written, 2. Appropriately, and by way of distinction, the books of the Old and New Testament; the Bible.” The root word of Scripture is “Script”, and so the connotation with religious text’s is only that. The term “Bible”, surprisingly, has the same etymology behind it. It’s Latin and Greek roots define it as simply referring to “book, papyrus, or scroll”. The distinction is made with the modifier “Holy”, “Sacred”, or simply “religious”. The connotation is so strong however, that definitions are unanimous almost across the board in both cases in the English language. Revelation is defined as: “1. To disclose; to discover, to show, to make known something before unknown or concealed…” This term also has a strong connotation attached to Scripture, and/or God, even though nothing in the etymology of the word itself indicates such.

REVELATION

The root word of revelation is “reveal”. Revelation takes on many forms. There is General revelation, and Specific revelation. General revelation is the universally-understood truths that all have clear evidence of. Specific revelation is directed more precisely to a group, or single individual, and/or focused on a more particular topic. Divine (“Pertaining to the true God; as the divine nature, 2. Pertaining to a heathen deity…, 3. Partaking of the nature of God…, 4. Proceeding from God…”) is the modifier that should authentically situate ideas correctly as to the origin of the truth of the revelation. The Holy Bible, described from within it, is: “…Inspired by God…” (2nd Timothy 3:16, NASB). Though written by human authors, some of their professions would indicate a lack of intellectual ability to comprehend their own words alone. It is worth considered they had merely “…moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2nd Peter 1:21b, KJV)

AUTHORSHIP

There are forty recognized authors in the pages of Scripture. Among them, occupations include: Kings, Military leaders, Peasants, Philosophers, Fishermen, Tax Collectors, Poets, Musicians, Statesmen, Scholars, Shepherds, and others.i (McDowell, pp. 4) It was written in a period of 1,500 years, it contains several literary genre’s, including: historical, Psalter, Proverb, Prophetic, and Epistle (letter). It was written on three different continent’s: Asia, Africa, and Europe. The nationality of about 98% the authors is Jewish (Luke may have been a Gentile), but it is more difficult to determine what “Jew” refers to exactly. Many nations invaded the geographical location of Israel, and several of the original twelves tribes were killed off or “mixed” with other nations. The Jew by the “religion” of Judaism is still difficult, because many lived in the nation of Israel that did not practice the rules of formal Judaism. Many of the Jewish religious leaders Jesus called “hypocrites…. and white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23; 23:27).

LANGUAGE

Three different languages were used in the transcription into written form: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek. Hebrew was an ancient language, and simplistic in it’s defining concepts. It was considered a story-driven language. The Jews have carried on their traditions by the telling of history originally by spoken word. Aramaic was one of the most flexible languages of the old world, used both for casual and scholarly discussion. It is used in Judeo-Christian Scripture only in the Chapters of 4-7 of Daniel*. Greek is the language of the New Testament, and the predominant language of the Europe, until the Roman Catholic Church took over, (at which time Latin became popular, of which more then 10,000 Latin Vulgate copies have survived). Ancient Greek may be one of the most articulate languages of human language. It include several elements English does not contain including: Tense (Past, Present, Future), Voice (Passive, and Active), Cases (Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Demonstrative). Built into the words of Greek are expression that most modern languages cannot parallel. It is truly a wonder behold the depth found by the exposed meaning of a Greek word.

TRANSLATION

The literary work we know today as the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible is unique in many ways (as has been previously suggested). But going deeper, it’s circulation demands attention. “More copies have been produced of it’s entirety then any other book in history.” (McDowell, pp. 8) The Bible is in more homes, based on the evidence produced by many statisticians, then any other book. The claim that billions of copies have sold is being extremely conservative. This fact alone suggests that people have respect for this profound piece of literature. When it comes to the manuscript translation – the Judeo-Christian Scriptures is the “de facto standard”. The Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures is the only piece of literature to venture beyond the “One Hundred languages” mark, let alone One Thousand. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures sets a ridiculously high standard for other books to even dream of matching. The United Bible Societies records as many as 7,000 languages in the world. They have tracked 495 languages penetrated by the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures. However, Testament’s (complete portions of the Holy Scriptures) more then double the languages penetrated. Of course, smaller portions include vastly more, but modesty will be the model kept in this paper.ii “The Bible was one the first major books to be translated.” The language it was translated into was the premier, internationally-known educated language of the day – Greek. The Translation of Scripture has advanced the language of several languages, as is the case of English, German, and undoubtedly others.* It has been the motivator of the instruction of learning written language. Whatever the reason, people want to get this piece of literature!

MANUSCRIPTS

Perhaps the best demonstration of the scope and magnitude of the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures is a comparison with another major literary work. Works of antiquity are the only viable contenders in this sector. The Classic example is Homer’s “Iliad”. This fine work has 643 copies that still exist. “The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the thirteenth century.” (McDowell, pp. 34) Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures were first translated in 250 B.C. (McDowell, pp. 9) The present manuscript copies of the Judeo-Christian Scripture surpasses anything else seen in all of history. While no original manuscripts exist today, copies are in such generous supply analysis is practically welcomed by the ancient documents. If this were not enough evidence, “The oldest complete Hebrew manuscript we possessed before the Dead Sea Scrolls was 900 AD”. (McDowell, pp. 78) There was (as if miraculously) evidence found that exactly pinpoints the Bibliographical lack of confidence that yet remained of Judeo-Christian Scripture. The Dead Sea Scrolls was the answer that emphatically shifted opinions. “One of the scrolls in the ‘Dead Sea’ caves was a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of Isaiah. It is dated by paleographers around 125 B.C.” (McDowell, pp. 78) It would bridge the gap, and reinforce the much-later edition we had, with a much earlier copy to observe alterations. The most profound discovery is that little alteration was found between them! “It demonstrates the unusual accuracy over a thousand-year period.” (McDowell, pp.78) Finally, the quality of Judeo-Christian Holy Scripture manuscripts are top quality among literature in antiquity.

INFLUENCE

Johannes Gutenberg is a renown figure in western civilization. It may be surprising to many to discover that the first book printed with this new innovation was the “Gutenberg Bible” of 1455.iii The foundation of the United States of America owes a great deal to the Bible, as the Pilgrims can be proposed to have been ardent Protestant Christians, and the first Civil-government binding document, the “Mayflower Compact”, has elements that suggest character developed by the reading the Bible. Language advancement* (red books),

EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS

The authors of the Judeo-Christian New Testament were primarily eye-witness’s of Jesus. This means there are first-hand accounts of the man Jesus, from which New Testament bases it’s Gospel message from. 1St Corinthians 15:6 states that 500 people saw Jesus, many of whom remain at the time of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians. In the Old testament, well – man lived longer. According to the account in Genesis 5, Adam lived to a ripe old age of 930. The succession scenario described in this chapter suggests that many generations after Adam were able to witness the life and testimony of him (being the direct witness of God preeminent interaction with man, pre-iniquity, and pre-curse). About the time of Methuselah. Though Adam would have been likely to near to death to pass on valuable information directly to Methuselah, the implication is that his father’s or grand-fathers had direct contact with Adam, and could relay the information clearly and distinctly. Having no reason to bear false witness to their son’s, the likelihood of any mishandling of information was less likely then would be today. If age were more extensive, then the mind could have been indeed sharper as well.

NON-CHRISTIAN HISTORIANS

The bias of Christians can blur the lines of reliability when discussing Judeo-Christian Holy Scripture. Several character’s emerge from the grave to reveal the abundance of evidence that the content stated in the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures is in fact genuine history. Tacitus, (a Roman of the first century), is regarded as one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world. (McDowell, pp. 55). He mentions “Christians” in an account, but it is theorized that he hints at the greater events regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, to which he attributes the rising of a “mischievous superstition” in his “Annals” 15.44. (McDowell, pp. 55) Suetonius also confirms the statements of the “on trial Scriptures”. He served as chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, around the time of 120 A.D. He confirms a statement in Acts 18:2. (McDowell, pp. 55) Josephus, was a Jewish historian who lived around time of 37 A.D. To 100 A.D. He was working under Roman authority, and was careful not to offend the Romans. (McDowell, pp. 55) While he is Jewish, and a bias may potential remain in regards to defending a sacred book of his traditional upbringing, many Jews did not convert to Christianity, so his exposition of the events of more recent Jewish activities (A.D. 1 and onward) were likely simply circumstantial. Pliny the Younger is another Roman author and administrator. He had witnessed an early “Christian worship practice”, as plainly implied by a letter to Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D. (McDowell, pp. 55). The list goes on and on. Lucian was a 2nd Century Greek writer, and he mocked their resolve. The “Gnostics” were a cult of the early Christian church, with their own collection of text’s and mythology. These add to the stability of the events in of Christian history. As to the testimonies that may be considered “biased”, early church leaders are in substantial quantity – and quite well known. As Constantine was the first to make the shift of the Roman Empire in Byzantium to an official “Catholic” (true) Christian religion. Augustine, Origen, Clement, and many others are famous testimonies that there was a substantial movement broke out in Europe, having been supposedly transported by the first Christian missionary “Paul” the apostle.

ARCHEOLOGY

The physical evidence itself may perhaps be the most irrefutable evidence validating the Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures. Ironically, the imperfection of modern empirical science is that it cannot prove something that does not have physical presence. This science (of archeology) can, at best, place all of the events at the time stated in the dates of antiquity in question, and evidence that suggests it couldn’t have happened at another time. It better defines the negative-space boundaries rather then the events described directly. McDowell makes the picture more clear with this statement:

Archeology cannot “prove” the Bible, if by this you mean “proves it to be inspired and revealed by God. But if by “prove” one means “shows some biblical event or passage to be historical,” then archeology does prove the bible.” (McDowell, pp. 92)

The evidence of the ark is surprisingly hinted at in a lot of the early archaic stories of the origins of many nations. “FU XI” and “Nu-WA” are some names of that some of the Chinese oral traditions have passed down. (Chinese Mythology…) “The Epic of Gilgamesh” also has many similarities with the early biblical accounts, as well as several other ancient written works: “Sumerian Eridu”; and “Atra-hasis”. (Rudd)

THE CHARACTER OF JESUS HIMSELF

In the case of an authentication paper such as this, it is acceptable to put the very “Son of man” on the witness stand Himself, as He was in the Sanhedrin, days before His horrendous crucifixion. Jesus never actually wrote anything in Scripture. This surprising fact is brought to bare because of it’s obvious potential implications. Was Jesus simply illiterate? If so, He could not have “amazing”(ESV) questions in the Jewish Temple, and also given answers, at the age of 12. Luke 4:16-19 states that Jesus “read” from a scroll of the Prophet Isaiah among the Jews in a synagog in His home town of Nazareth. Certainly he was not ashamed of the fame of a literary accomplishment, because the Jews were an occupied nation at the time, and Jews have not had a good track record of being well-respected among other nations or peoples. However, Jesus did quote from the Septuagint (or LLX), a Greek tranlation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The four different Gospel accounts beginning the New Testament of Judeo-Christian Holy Scriptures tell of many cases where Jesus ‘flipped the tables’, but esspecially among the religious among him.

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECIES

Part of the uniqueness of Scripture is it’s monumental self-set standard to hold true to it’s words. Let’s take at the words of Dr. Hugh Ross, in his article “Fulfilled Prophecy: Evidence of the Reliability of the Bible”: “Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately, 2500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter – no errors.” How many books even make prophetic statements, let ancient books, and beyond that, more then a couple? Ross proceeds to list in his article, 13 prophecies. He expands on the probability of these predictions to come to pass in reality, as they are specific, and often long the prophet is dead and gone. He then culminates with the probability of all thirteen occurrences happening by chance. The exponent-ed figure he uses in this quote is: 1 in 10138. The number, in Layman’s terms is GARGANTUAN! The odds of all of 2000 prophecies is simply miraculous, to put is mildly…

CONCLUSION

The evidence here is an attempt to objectively validate Scripture as a historically realistic book, serving as an authentic source for historical content of the history of man and God. What it says can be trusted. It’s words are not the words of medieval attention-desperate monks high in Monastic window seals. This simple analysis is far from exhaustive by any means, but is an “appetite-wetter” for serious-searchers. The hope is that readers will look at the sources listed in the footnotes for more extensive personal research, from authentic, objective sources.

References:

iJosh, McDowell. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999. Print. http://www.Josh.org

ii“Bible Translation.” United Bible Societies. United Bible Societies, 2014. Web. 06 Jan. 2014. <http://www.unitedbiblesocieties.org/sample-page/bible-translation/&gt;.

iii“The Gutenberg Bible.” The Gutenberg Bible. Harry Ransom Center | UT Austin, n.d. Web. <http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenbergbible/&gt;.

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