Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reliability of the Bible: Part I

The Bible: The Most Bibliographically Verified Source in History
Lecture Compilation and Summary

During my week at Worldview Academy (WVA), my favorite lecture was “Reliability of Scripture,” given by Jay Winslow. Although I’ve been brought up my entire life to trust the Bible, sometimes I’ve wondered why I should believe the Bible.

How do I know that it’s true?

Several months ago, during the first day of my sociology class, our professor told us to come with an open mind, leaving our religion and biases at the door. I believe she did this because it some sense, she did not believe that faith and reason are compatible. WVA lecturer Jay Winslow, pointed out a common assumption of unbelievers, “If you believe in the Bible, you’re a little bit wacky.”

Jay Winslow’s lecture succinctly pointed out two important parts of determining the reliability of scripture: MAPS and the common experience of Christians. He demonstrated that Christians do not have faith without reason, they have reasonable faith.

Although I very much appreciated the format of Jay Winslow’s lecture, subsequent lectures by Dr. Phil Fernandes provided additional information, which I incorporated into this summary. I also referenced the Bible, several web sources, and my personal experience.


By MAPS, Jay Winslow didn’t actually mean a picture diagram of the world. MAPS stands for Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy, and Same theme all the way through.


Jay Winslow provided an excellent quote from John Warwick Montgomery,

“To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”

Worldwide, students learn a huge quantity about ancient history, much of which doesn’t have huge amounts of manuscript copies to back it up. During the lecture, students had the opportunity to see a table in the slideshow presentation, which provided numbers of copies for various historical documents.

Author, Work, Number of Copies
Homer, Iliad, 643
Herodotus, History, 8
Thucydides, History, 8
Caesar, Gallic Wars, 10
Various, New Testament, 5366

The last listing in the table shows the New Testament with 5,366 copies. However, that number only encompasses Greek manuscripts. All together, the New Testament has 25,000 manuscripts.

Dr. Phil Fernandes pointed out that there is 99.5% agreement between the 25,000 New Testament copies. That means that 5 words in 1000 are called into question. By comparison, there is 95% agreement between Homer’s Iliad copies. That means that 50 in 1000 are called into question.

In short, the New Testament is 10 times more accurate than the Iliad.

For the sake of space and time, I can’t go into Old Testament accuracy here, but Dr. Phil Fernandes has provided a chapter from his doctoral dissertation on this subject at
To Be Continued...


Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

Wow, that sounds like a great lecture. I look forward to the next part in this series.

I think God knew what he was doing when he made the Bible a historical book instead of just morals, dos, and don'ts

Wholesome Works said...

The sheer number documents, and the amazing agreement between those documents, is awe inspiring.

What an awesome God we serve.