There is considerable evidence to support the claim that the Bible is the most accuractely transmitted book in the ancient world. This page reviews some of that evidence in the face of some of the antagonism of the Bible's critics, and it also presents a few quotations from Biblical scholars and textual critics which argue for the Bible's accuracy of preservation.
This page is a summary of some of the material presented elsewhere on this site.
The Bible is the most well-preserved book from the ancient world, textually speaking. We can have considerable confidence when we read it that it has been handed-down accurately over the centuries and millennia from when it was originally written. How do we know this? From several factors:
- We have more ancient manuscript evidence (copies and fragments) than for any other ancient book
- The Bible texts were considered sacred from an early date and were therefore preserved with care
- We have copies of translations of the Bible into other ancient languages like Greek (the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament), Syriac and Coptic which we can compare with the original-language manuscripts
- Because ancient authors quoted the Bible so frequently, we can assemble a very good picture of the ancient Bible text just from this patchwork of quotations. This is further corroborating evidence
- What we know of ancient scribal practices (counting words, letters and so forth) shows the level of care and dedication that was afforded to the texts
- Discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls have enhanced our understanding of accuracy and development of the Biblical text
- As well as the written texts, there was also a strong oral tradition (especially given that for much of the Biblical period literacy levels were low). Some of this oral tradition is captured in the vowel points and other marks inserted in the Massoretic text of the Hebrew Bible
The substantial agreement of the many ancient copies, quotations and translations, coupled with the supporting evidence of scribal practices and oral tradition is the basis for trust that what we hold in our hands as the Bible today is substantially the same as the original documents the authors penned.
What others have said
Here are a couple of striking quotations from scholars who have specialized in studying the accuracy of the Biblical documents:
<< quotations to be inserted here>>
Antagonism towards the Bible
Another topic to recap briefly here is the survival of the Bible. It is a potent, influential, and provocative book, and as a result of this there have been over the centuries a number of attempts to stamp it out. At times even organized religion itself has sought to suppress the Bible and murder its translators and printers because they believed they would lose political power and be exposed if ordinary people were able to read the Bible for themselves. Notwithstanding the many burnings of Bibles that have taken place (particularly as the Bible was translated and distributed in modern European languages), the Bible made it through and made its impact felt in the lives of ordinary men and women. You can read more about this on the page The Bible in English. The Hebrew Scriptures have survived captivity and dispersion; the New Testament has survived the antagonism of the Jews. Both have survived the derision of skeptics and persecutors. The Bible lives on.