In this week’s podcast, we continue to make the study of Apologetics easy, by looking at different ways to test the reliability of ancient documents.
Think about this: If an original manuscript was mandatory for proving if an event really happened, then all ancient history would be wiped away. So much history occurred long before the printing press, or any other type of manuscript creation. That being said, experts turn to the Bibliographical Test.
The Bibliographical Test asks:
“Does it conform or match up with other reliable or proven documents of that era? In other words, if there are other events that we know to be true, does the document under examination match up with these events?”
You see, if you think about the world before Gutenberg’s printing press, many people have used this claim against the validity of the Bible: “We can’t know what the Bible really says because there are no original manuscripts of the Biblical texts. All we have are copies of copies of copies.”
The Bibliographical Test addresses this very discussion.
For starters, know this – there is no full original documentation of any document written before the printing press. Therefore, everything we know about ancient history comes from copies of copies of copies of ancient texts. There are no original manuscripts of Homer’s Odyssey, or the works of Aristotle or Plato; there are not original copies of ancient Chinese or Roman historical documents or Hammurabi’s Law or ancient African history. All ancient history would be ruled out as “improvable and unbelievable” if we insisted on original documents in order to prove reliability.
Therefore, any skeptic who dismisses the Bible based on the lack of original documents yet accepts ancient history from these other sources begins with an invalid argument.
So, there are three tests within the Bibliographical Test. The first asks:
“How far from the original writing is the copy we have? Within 1,000 years or so?”
So, say archeologists find a copy of Homer’s writings that dates back to the first century A.D. Even though the document was copied after Christ’s birth and Homer wrote around 800-1,000 years before Christ, it is still considered a reliable copy.
The second question that the Bibliographical Test asks is: “How many copies do we possess?” We can compare these copies to one another. Five to ten copies are desired. Now, we have only two copies of some of Plato’s works, but his works are considered to be reliable and are taught worldwide.
The Bibliographical Test does not determine truth, but simply the reliability of the documents in question.
SO, do the 27 books that make up the Bible’s New Testament pass this test?
We have over 25,000 copies of the New Testament in multiple languages, and complete copies dating as far back as 250 A.D.
So, yes… the New Testament indeed passes the Bibliographical Test!