Our knowledge of the ancient past is normally obtained through written sources
which have been copied and passed down over the years.? The accuracy of these
written accounts is verified by making? comparisons with other written documents
from a similar time period.? Further confirmation of historical events can be
obtained through physical evidence uncovered by archaeologists.? In assessing
the reliability of ancient texts in our possession today, historians are concerned
with the interval between the time of writing of the original document and the
date the oldest existing copy of the document was made.? No originals (called
autographs) of any major work of antiquity, including the Bible, remain today.
This is not suprising since the originals were normally discarded as newer copies
were made.? When compared to other works of antiquity, the Bible stands out
significantly due to the comparatively short interval between the date of writing
of the original documents and the oldest copies in existence today.
?The Transmission of Various Ancient Manuscripts
The Transmission of the Bible
The New Testament was written approximately 50 to 100 AD.
Manuscripts of the entire books of the N.T. date from 200 AD.
Thus the interval in this case is only 100 years!
The earliest fragment of a N.T. manuscript dates from 125 AD, of the Gospel
of John – written only 30 years earlier!
The oldest copy of the complete N.T. dates from 350 AD – a gap of only 250 years.
compared with gaps of 4 or 5 times as long (1000 years or so for most works
of classical authors).
The gap for most Old Testament books, for comparison, is as little as 200-400
As to the idea that Moses could not have authored any books since he did not
have a functioning alphabet… some fellows discovered the "Black Stele" It
had wedge shaped characters on it and contained the detailed laws of Hammurabi.
Was it post-Moses? It was pre-Mosiac; not only that, but it preceded Moses’
writings by at least three centuries. (pg. 21)
There are over 5000 ancient Greek copies of the New Testament.
Including ancient copies in other languages, there are well over 40,000 complete
and partial manuscripts of the N.T.
There are well over 35,000 quotations from the N.T. in early writers, almost
all of which date earlier than the oldest surviving N.T. manuscripts! Thus,
even if all out N.T. manuscripts were lost, it would not be difficult to reconstruct
most of the N.T. from these references.
In what ways have the discoveries of archaeology verified the reliability of
Over the years there have been many criticisms leveled against the Bible concerning
its historical reliability.? Since the Bible is a religious book, many scholars
take the position that it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating
evidence from extra-Biblical sources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until
proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account
This standard is far different from that applied to other ancient documents,
even though many, if not most, have a religious element. They are considered
to be accurate, unless there is evidence to show that they are not. Although
it is not possible to verify every incident in the Bible, the discoveries of archaeology
since the mid 1800s have provided an astonishing confirmation of the Bible narrative.
Here are some examples:
The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970s has shown the
Biblical writings concerning the Patriarchs to be viable. Documents written
on clay tablets from around 2300 B.C. demonstrate that personal and place names
in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. The name "Canaan" was in use in Ebla,
a name critics once said was not used at that time. The word "tehom" ("the deep")
in Genesis 1:2 was said to belong to a more recent vernacular, demonstrating
a late writing of the creation story. "Tehom" was part of the vocabulary at Ebla,
in use some 800 years before Moses. Ancient customs reflected in the stories
of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from Nuzi and Mari.
The Hittites were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital
and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey.
?It was once claimed that there was no Assyrian king named Sargon, as recorded
in Isaiah 20:1, because this name was not known in any other record. Then Sargon’s
palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq.? His capture of Ashdod, mentioned
in Isiah 20, was recorded on the palace walls. Fragments of a stela commemorating
the victory were also found at Ashdod.
Another king who was in doubt was Belshazzar, king of Babylon, named in Daniel
5. The last king of Babylon was Nabonidus according to recorded history. Tablets
were found showing that Belshazzar was Nabonidus’ son who served as coregent
in Babylon. Thus, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel "third highest ruler
in the kingdom" (Dan. 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall, the highest
?Is there any confirmation of Biblical events from written sources outside the
The most documented Biblical event is the world-wide flood described in Genesis
6-9. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the
The Sumerian King List mentions kings who reigned for long periods of time.
Then a great flood came. Following the flood, Sumerian kings ruled for much
shorter periods of time. This is the same pattern found in the Bible. Men had
long life spans before the flood and shorter life spans after the flood. The 11th
tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds
sent out during the course of the flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and
a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.
The Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to
the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language mentioned in the Biblical
narrative about the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). There was a golden age
when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god
Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed
a temple tower and "scattered them abroad and made strange their speech."
Other examples of extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events:
Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the
walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
Fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria,
as recorded on his palace walls.
Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isa
iah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.
Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16),
as recorded on the Taylor Prism.
Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish
Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37), as recorded in
the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
Fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15),
recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14), as
recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16), as recorded
on the Babylonian Ration Records.
Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), as recorded on the
Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded
on the Cyrus Cylinder.
The existence of Jesus as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the
Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.
Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) (Acts 18:2),
as recorded by Suetonius.