There is a popular misconception among people in general and even among some Christians. The misconception held my many today is that the Scriptures we have today are not an accurate copy of the originals but were changed by a deceptive church in the 4th Century. This idea, popularized by Dan Brown in the "DaVinci Code," might lead to breath-holding, action-packed adventure but it is not good history. The Councils which codified our modern Bible were not secret meetings of the church but open discussion of the information available, and they did not "invent" the Bible, the simply recognized the books which had already been in circulation and had been accepted already by the church from her earliest days.
Is the Bible faithful to the original autographs, or has it, as some claim, been drastically changed? The truth of the matter is we are in a position to answer this question with regard to Scripture better than with any other ancient text.
Homer’s work was written in 900 B.C. and the earliest copy we have is 400 B.C. a difference of 500 years. We have some 643 copies of Homer. Scholars assure us that based upon this information, we can rest assured that what we have from Homer today is true to Homer’s original work.
Plato’s "Tetralogies" were composed around 427-347 B.C. The earliest copy we have of this work is 900 A.D., a difference of 1,200 years. We have seven copies of Plato’s works. Scholars assure us that in dealing with ancient literature the 1,200 year time frame is "negligible" and we can be certain that what we read today in the Tetralogies are an accurate reflection of Plato’s original work.
What about the Bible? The Gospels were written between 40 A.D.-100 A.D. The earliest copies we have of them date 125 A.D.; a difference of only 25 years. Furthermore we have somewhere around 24,000 copies of this ancient text. These copies exist in various languages, but they are all congruent with one another. Dr. F. F. Bruce states, "There is no body of ancient literature in the world that enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament." John Warwick Montgomery observes, "To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of our classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."
For years some scholars argued that the Old Testament had been greatly corrupted over the years. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our oldest Old Testament text was separated from the original autograph by 1,300 years. For Plato that period of time was described as "negligible" but for the Old Testament it was considered "insurmountable."
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls we gained 40,000 inscribed fragments and from these fragments 500 copies of Old Testament books have been able to be reproduced. A study of these manuscripts have revealed that, given some differences in the nuances of language, the text of the Old Testament that we hold in our hands today is 95 percent accurate — the differences never being in major themes but only in spelling, and some grammatical constructions. Both the Old and New Testament have passed the test of rigorous scrutiny. You can be certain that the Bible you hold in your hands today is in fact an accurate copy of the originals. More evidence exists concerning this truth than does for any other piece of ancient literature, despite the fictional claims of Dan Brown.
What of the supernatural events recorded there? Surly we can’t believe those can we? We have to face the fact that just because something may be extraordinary, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. In order for one to hold that miracles never happen, that one would have to possess themselves absolute knowledge. I haven’t found anyone standing in line to accept that title.
Let me challenge you. Before you jump on the bandwagon of doubting the truthfulness of the Bible, take time to read it yourself. You may discover that it is not what you thought it to be.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.