The indestructibility of Scripture is another proof that it is divinely inspired. For 2,600 years all the powers of this world have combined to destroy this book, and yet it still remains. The Da Vinci Code is simply the latest attack. I doubt it will be the final one.
One person has said that the indestructibility of the Bible is like the Irishman's wall. One Irishman built a wall four feet high and five feet thick around his farm. Someone asked him why he made it so thick. He replied, "If anyone knocks it over, it will be higher than it was before." Now this does not prove the Bible was written by an Irishman (as sad as that may seem for a Kennedy), but it does show the remarkable hand of God.
In 303 a.d., Emperor Diocletian, one of the last great persecutors of the Church, saw that the Bible was the source of courage for Christians who opposed his paganism. He ordered the confiscation of all Christian property and the destruction and burning of all Scriptures. Only ten years passed before Diocletian was dead and Constantine the Great had risen in his stead to sit upon the throne of Rome. He professed to trust in Christ as his Savior. He ordered the writing of many copies of the Scripture and encouraged everyone in the Roman Empire to read the Bible of the Christians.
Another former skeptic is author Ralph Muncaster.
He says of Diocletian's persecution:
.in 303 a.d. an edict was given from Rome that anyone just possessing a Bible (they didn't have to say they believed in Jesus Christ or anything like that) —all they had to do was be holding a Bible—and they would be executed. That is how serious the Holy Scriptures were at that point in time. That shows you how important it was for the Christians to get this message out. It also demonstrates how much they believed in this historical message. So we have documents 1) that were a very important message, 2) that people were laying down their lives for; 3) that even in spite of this persecution, where they were trying to do away with these books, where people would be executed for these books, even so today we have thousands and thousands and thousands of extant copies of ancient copies of the New Testament, far more than any ancient book that we commonly regard as history today.109 There is an interesting irony about Diocletian. His grave somehow became the cornerstone of a Christian church. For hundreds of years, worshipers have praised Jesus Christ there. You may say that they worship Jesus over Diocletian's dead body—literally!
In the Middle Ages, sometimes even the clergy placed the Bible on a list of banned books. The Synod of Toulouse forbade anyone to possess a copy of the Scriptures.
Men, such as John Tyndale, who tried to translate the Bible into the vernacular of the people, were burned alive. John Huss, who proclaimed that the Bible was the final authority, was burned alive. John Wycliffe, who translated the Scripture into English, couldn't be burned because he died too soon; but his bones were exhumed and burned and his ashes scattered into the river. Yet that river went out into the sea, symbolic of the fact that his Scriptures would be spread to all of the nations of the world.
Queen Mary, otherwise known as Bloody Mary, ordered that anyone possessing a copy of the Bible would be burned. Five years after her edict, she was dead. Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne of England. During her time as queen, she ordered no less than 130 editions of the Bible published.
In more recent times, higher critics have done their best to destroy Scriptures from within. Yet never has an elephant labored longer to produce a mouse—because all of their efforts only confirmed the reliability of the Bible. Again, The Da Vinci Code is simply the latest attack on the Bible. In a few years, hopefully soon, it too will be viewed as a fad based on fraudulent "facts."
MANY BOOKS—ONE BOOK
The writings that comprise the Bible are a very exclusive list. That list was determined by God and discovered by man. It was a discovery that took place over time in the hearts of men and cannot be pinpointed as a single event.
Man discovered what God had determined by looking for certain "earmarks of inspiration":
1) The book had to be written by a man of God,
2) who was confirmed by an act of God,
3) told the truth about God,
4) came with the power of God,
5) and was accepted by the people.
In discovering these books, the Early Church Fathers did not use the word "earmarks," but the word "canon," which in Greek and Hebrew means "measuring rod." The books of the Old Testament were written over a period of about 1,000 years, and one of the first lists was produced by Melito of Sardis in 170 a.D.
When the Old Testament canon was in process, it was divided into three parts: law, prophets, and other writings. Naturally, it was not called the Old Testament. Even today, many call it the Hebrew Bible.
The formation of the New Testament canon was also a process of discovery—the difference being that it was written over a much shorter time. All New Testament books were written before 95 a.D., and so the New Testament canon could be recognized much sooner. Jim Garlow and Peter Jones point out: "Most scholars concur that the New Testament was essentially formed in the late second century as a reaction to the canon of Marcion."™ Marcion was a Gnostic heretic who had been excommunicated by the Church. Garlow and Jones continue: "Marcion did not create the Canon. He gets a footnote in its history only because of his sheer audacity in trying to destroy it."111 In effect, there was a defacto canon at work. This included the four Gospels.
Garlow and Jones say this of the four canonical Gospels:
A Greek manuscript known as P45 and dated around a.d. 200, has all four Gospels together. The Magdelen College Greek Fragments of Matthew's Gospel is an early book that contains only the four biblical Gospels. One scholar argues that this collection comes from the first half of the second century. Another, basing his arguments on ancient writing forms, dates it as early as the first century. Whatever the case, some solid recent scholarship pushes the four Gospels much further back than what many had previously believed.112 The first complete canonical list of the 27 books of the New Testament appeared in 367 a.d. in the Festal letter of Athanasius of Alexandria. At that time, there was no correct order for the arrangement of the New Testament books. The order we have today was borrowed from the Latin Vulgate, the official publication of the Roman Catholic Church.
The late Dr. F. F. Bruce, a first-rate New Testament scholar and author of the book, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, underscored the point that the canon was more discovered to be divine than merely decreed as such:
One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirectly. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities.113 This is reminiscent of the doctrine of the Trinity. Christian worship and belief from the beginning was in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the word "trinity" is not in the Bible, it was part of the theology of the early Christians from the start of the Church. Not until the 4th century were the theological specifics nailed down. Again, belief in the Trinity was present from the start of the Church.
HAS THE BIBLE CHANGED?
Dan Brown says of the Bible, ".it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book."114 I use on a regular basis The Greek New Testament. Again, 96-97 percent of the text is not even in question. The other 3-4 percent has minor variations, nothing impacting any major doctrines in the least. Meanwhile, the var ious translations of the Bible essentially show forth the different nuances that can be found in the process of translation. Dan Brown implies the Bible (or Bibles) we have are questionable. Again, his facts are fiction.
As noted earlier, the Bible, in particular the New Testament, is the most reputable book of antiquity. When writing was first done on scrolls, the copies deteriorated with time. However, a copy was made from the original scroll. When we compare the reliability of those copies and the earliest appearance, we see the New Testament stands alone among the books of antiquity.
Dr. Ravi Zacharias says, "If you compare any other literature from that time . . . the writings of Caesar, the writings of Homer . . . there is nothing that stacks up to the original dating and the nearest extant copies."115 Indeed, the number of manuscript copies weighs heavily in favor of the New Testament, as we saw in Chapter 2. Sir Frederic Kenyon, a great scholar and author of The Bible and Archaeology, sums up the significance of the manuscript evidence:
The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.116 As in the example of archaeology, this reliability does not prove the divine nature of the Bible, but it does confirm it.
Over time, the Bible has become the most widely published book in the world. Since it has been translated and retranslated so many times, some people question if it is the same book: does it match the ancient manuscripts? This question was completely settled with a resounding "yes" when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, as we saw in Chapter 2 with the example of Isaiah.
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