I have a question for you. I was wondering if you could give me advice on
helping people who argue that the Bible we have today cannot possibly be
the original Bible. I obviously cannot tell them that I believe by faith
that it is the inspired word of God and that He protects His word- they
don’t get that. Especially with that book by Dan Brown – The DaVinci Code
being so popular – I have had several people question the integrity of the
Bible. For example, “how can we be sure that the Bible has not been
changed thru the years by translations?” “How do we know that during the
Renaissance when the Catholic church was in power, they did not change the
Bible to purposely omit certain facts, or change certain things?” “What
about the Dead Sea Scrolls and other lost text -there could be things that
were purposely lost or left out – things that would weaken the Catholic
church for example” “How do you know Jesus wasn’t married and they changed
the Bible to leave that out?

I definitely agree that simply telling someone to have faith is
not a good practice. In 1 Peter 3:15 when Peter admonishes us to “always
be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have.” I do not believe just telling people to have
faith would qualify as a prepared answer!!

I have read the DaVinci code and understand why this book has
caused so many questions. I would say that this book is a fun read and it
reflects a lot of research. What it definitely does not reflect, however,
is good scholarship. The author of the DaVinci Code has a very strong bias
against the reliability of the Bible to say the least. His methodologies
represent the worst kind of scholarship. What this author conveniently
fails to notice is that we have thousands of Greek manuscripts which
testify to the amazing quality of our Greek text of the New Testament. We
have entire Greek manuscripts from well before the time period in which
the Roman Catholic Church held sway over Christendom. These manuscripts
include the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus and the Alexandrine
Codex, all from the AD 300’s, as well as many fragmentary papyrus
manuscripts such as the Beatty papyri from about AD 200 and the Rylands
fragment of John from about AD 125. In addition, there are literally
thousands of quotes from the New Testament letters which are contained in
the writings of the ante-Nicene church fathers (ie Christian authors from
before the council of Nicea in AD 325). All this evidence makes any claim
that there were wholesale changes in the New Testament documents under the
influence of the later Roman Catholic Church completely unsupportable.
Scholars of the New Testament are unanimous in declaring that we have the
Greek New Testament in virtually the exact form of the original. You will
find quite a bit more specific information on this topic in my book
“Reasons for Belief.

The case for the present text of the Hebrew Old Testament being an
exact copy of the original is a little bit weaker. The oldest manuscripts
we have of the Hebrew text are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were
copied in the 200-50 BC time period. There is still a fairly long time
between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the time of the original writings, which
were from no later than about 450 BC. Nevertheless, the Old Testament
manuscripts are amazingly reliable as well. The case for this claim is
greatly boosted by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Before their
discovery, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts we had were from the 9th century
AD–about 1000 years after the Dead Sea Scrolls. The striking thing is
that there are only a fairly small number of differences, for example,
between the Isaiah scroll found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls and the
Masoretic text of over a thousand years later. Having said all this, given
the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew into the Greek and the Dead Sea
Scrolls there is zero chance that the later Catholic could have made
significant changes to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament without such
changes being detected by scholars.

Those with a desire to discover the truth should take a hard look
at the evidence Brown has for his claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene.
The only hard evidence he has is that many have believed this to be true
in the past. Simply stating that people have believed in something for a
long time is certainly not the kind of evidence which scholars will
accept. Bottom line, there is literally not even a single piece of bona
fide evidence which would support the outrageous claims of Brown in his

What you can do to help people with these kinds of questions is to
study out the subject for yourself. I also suggest you offer them books to
read such as by Reasons for Belief. You will find a number of other
references at the web site if you go to the front page and click on Books.

John Oakes, PhD

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