The Book Secure In Its Eternal Existence
The Bible has a self-evidencing nature to the effect that it consists not of merely “passing or temporary enactments, but eternal laws” (Rawlinson 112). The indestructibility of the Bible, as evidenced from history, sustains the biblical claim, and the experience of those who, as the Psalmist, can say, “I have known of old that You have founded them [Your testimonies] forever” (Ps. 119:152).
Consider the following argument concerning its indestructibility as proof of the divine origin of the Bible:
- If the Bible’s continued survival could not be achieved by unaided human effort, then the Bible’s origin must be the result of a supernatural source (i.e. God).
- The Bible’s continued survival could not be achieved by unaided human effort.
- Therefore, the Bible’s origin must be the result of a supernatural source (i.e. God).
As evidence of the remarkable continued survival of the Bible, I cite data from a mid-twentieth century (1959) classic book on apologetics and an early twenty-first century (2001) book authored by a world renowned manuscript scholar. From the former, consider the following evidence of the unique survival of the biblical revelation, which testifies to its everlasting foundation:
. . . Any ancient book had to run the gamut of the forces of decay and neglect. . . . [I]n antiquity books were produced entirely by hand and so were greatly restricted in number and distribution. Through fire, sword, decay, neglect, insects, mold, storms, and all other sorts of improvidence, the toll taken on ancient manuscripts was great.
In view of all this the survival of the Bible from antiquity with such a remarkable attestation is amazing. In reference to the Old Testament we know that the Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. . . . [T]hey kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word, and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity. . . . Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?
In regard to the New Testament there are about thirteen thousand manuscripts, complete and incomplete, in Greek and other languages, that have survived from antiquity. No other work from classical antiquity has such attestation. . . .
. . . The Bible has survived the ravages of time in all its manifold means of destruction with a numerical and textual attestation that is many furlongs beyond even the closest competitor.
. . . No other book has been so persecuted; no other book has been so victorious over its persecutions. . . .
. . . The attacks have been publicized abroad in a never-ending stream of periodicals, journals, pamphlets, monographs, books, and encyclopaedias. The larger universities of the world and hundreds of theological seminaries have taken up the cause of radical criticism. A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.
No other book has been so chopped, knived, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology . . . has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? with such venom and skepticism? with such thoroughness and erudition? upon every chapter, line, and tenet?
. . . The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions. No doubt a terrible amount of damage has been done by radical criticism, and millions have lost faith in the veracity and authority of the Bible, as tragically witnessed by the decay of church attendance, the spiritual enervation of our western culture, and the cancerous secularism of America, England, and continental Europe. But even so, radical criticism has not put the Bible out of circulation. It still remains the most published and most read book in the world of literature. Its survival through time, persecution, and criticism is remarkable. (Ramm 230-233)
Christopher de Hamel, whose book History of Illuminated Manuscripts (1994) is a standard work in its field, is a scrupulous scholar. In the early part of this decade he also authored what has been described as an “utterly gripping account of the world’s most remarkable book. Writing as an historian who is an expert in ancient manuscripts, De Hamel says,
THE HISTORY OF THE BIBLE is perhaps the biggest subject in the world. . . . It is generally and credibly asserted that more copies of the Bible have been published . . . than any other text. . . . It is more widely disseminated than any other written text, and there is probably hardly a person in the world now without achievable access to a copy, usually even in their own language. That cannot be said of any other written text. . . .
. . . The history of the Bible also includes accounts of burning and deliberate destruction. . . . The Bible exists simultaneously in many languages (in this it differs from many holy texts of other religions) but its actual text has hardly changed at all in thousands of years, except for the occasional disputed phrase here or there, or a delicate realignment of emphasis. This will reassure those who believe and use the Bible now. . . .
. . . [A]ll evidence confirms that the text of the Christian Bible as we have it today has been maintained and transmitted with extraordinary accuracy. . . . No significant variations or deliberate falsifications have ever been found to shake public confidence in the Bible as a whole. (vi, viii, 319-20, 329, emp. added).
Two thousand years of history evidence the unique indestructibility of the Bible. We believe the objective mind concludes that the Bible’s continued survival, in light of all to which it has been subjected from the negative side, evidences it is the result of a supernatural source (i.e. God). “Concerning Your testimonies I have known of old that You have founded them forever” (Ps. 119:152).
De Hamel, Christopher. The Book. A History of the Bible. New York: Phaidon, 2001.
Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Christian Evidences. 1953. Chicago: Moody, 1959.
Rawlinson, G. “The Book of Psalms: Exposition.” Vol. 3. Pulpit Commentary. Vol. 8. 1950. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962.