The Bible and the Historical Provenance of Christianity

The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the caves of Qumran that located on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel.

Many people say they “do not believe” the Bible. But, what does that mean? The Bible is an ancient document that has been around in the same form for centuries. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts verify that and reveal that very little (maybe less than 1%) of the substance of the Bible has changed over the centuries.

Some argue over which writings should be included or not included in the canon which we call the Bible, but no one argues that it does not exist and has existed in virtually the same form for over a couple thousand years.

It is an historical record of people and places. Many of those people and places have been cross referenced by other sources. Archaeological finds have also verified many of the people and places in the Bible. People may argue whether every person and place referenced in the text is actual, accurate and factual, but few people seriously argue that it has no historical value.

It is also a collection of stories, poems, songs and sayings. As literature, it is full of imagery, compelling stories and words of wisdom. It has great literary value. The Bible is a collection of writings covering a span of about 1600 years by various authors focusing on particular people in a particular geographical area of the Middle East.

Some of the writings purport to be relatively contemporaneous accounts, and others seem more like historical accounts. Scribes were trained and devoted their lives to the careful transcription of the text from generation to generation. The writings have been collected and preserved by the people who have been passed them down from generation to generation as sacred text.

What is most likely meant when people say they “do not believe the Bible” is that they do not believe the Bible is the “Word of God”. People do not believe it is divinely inspired. Perhaps, the thing that people stumble over the most is the fact that it purports to be just that: a collection of God’s communications with people in history. When people say the do not believe the Bible, they most likely mean they do not believe the Bible can be taken at face value.

Various people have various theories about the Bible. I have even recently heard people say that the Bible was put together by Roman dictators to “control the people” by giving them something to believe in. Really?! There is no scholarly support for that position by the way, but there are other pet theories.

Most scholars agree that there is some “truth” to the Bible. What I mean by that is that there seems little doubt that the collection of writings have been preserved from antiquity in roughly the same form as they are today, through various translations that are pretty amazingly similar, and that the Bible has some historical value, as any ancient text does.

The evidence suggests that all of the Old Testament writings pre-date the first Century. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which pre-date the First Century, include manuscripts from every book in the Old Testament except for Esther. Among the manuscripts found in the Qumran caves that we call the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a complete scroll of the Book of Isaiah dating to at least 200 BC.

In fact, the Bible is the most well-preserved and well-attested of any ancient text. We have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible, by a huge volume, than any other ancient text. It gets even more compelling with the New Testament.

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