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Friday, April 22, 2011

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Historicity of the Old Testament Part 2

of the 
Old Testament

part 2

Present Old Testament scriptures consist of 39 books, and there is little doubt that these books are one and the same as books that were accepted by the Jewish peoples of Christ’s day as the inspired word of Holy Scripture. These books were not only accepted by the early Christian’s as the authentic article, but the concept was also supported by many other venues, namely; Josephus, the Jewish Historian, various statements in the Talmud, and numerous references in the New Testament. I do realize that there are doctored and decorated college professors all over America who will tell you that Josephus was wholly unreliable, but those people are usually secular and not inclined to support evidence that would interfere with their world view, and the world view that they would have their hundreds of young, impressionable students believe. People are rarely committed to the truth.

Whether or not all these sources were mistaken in their support for the veracity of scripture, is fodder for another blog at another time. At the time however, this was indeed the belief , by both Christians of the early church and also their Jewish adversaries. Most importantly to the early Christians, this was the Jewish Bible, accepted by Jesus Christ.

Division of the books went as follows: The Law of Moses, or the Torah; The books of the Prophets, including historical books; “Writings” of the other books, poetical writings of which the Psalms is a great part. Christ even mentioned this division when he spoke of prophecies devoted to himself in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Canonization of books usually comes from self authentication. They were acknowledged by the people of God as the Word of God by the witness of the Holy Spirit right from the beginning, this witness also included the authoritative character of the writings. Despite what many will tell you, it is the authoritative character and witness of the Spirit that leads to the selection of canonized books, not some council of church fathers who wanted to control society.

How could the scriptural writings have become so universally accepted over hundreds of years if indeed they were not authentic? If Moses didn’t write the books of Moses, and Isaiah was only one of several who wrote the book of Isaiah, if Daniel was not the author of the book of Daniel, then how did such opinions become the regular belief of the people who used them? 

There is little doubt that the books we have today are the same books that were used by Christ and his followers in his day, and also the Jewish scribes of the first century. However, can we say that the original text was transmitted to them in the original form as was the intent and meaning? One must keep in mind that if we possessed no support for the Old Testament from the New Testament, then we could have NONE of the Old Testament. 

Textural criticism, or the “lower criticism” is the science by which we attempt to judge the veracity of original scripture. I have already posted a blog here about the veracity of the New Testament, in all its glorified correctness, and work from the position that indeed we as mankind do have the authentic New Testament. 

For the Old Testament text, we are limited to the Masoretic text, the Septuagint version, the Latin Vulgate, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac version, and also the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is the Masoretic text that is considered authoritative by both Christian and Jew  in our day. The Masoretes were a group of Jewish scribes who around 500 A. D. developed an official text from the various texts that had come down to them over time. In the margin of this text they recorded all the variant readings of the texts that had “come across their desks” in the exercise of this cumulative work. There are only about 1200 in number, less than one per page of the Hebrew Bible. 

Transmission of the Masoretic text, prior to 1526 A.D., the date of the first printing of the Hebrew Bible, consisted of about 1,000 manuscripts. The oldest is dated 916 A. D., and of those available to us, there are scant differences between them. Due to such a large amount of scriptural copies being around 96% consistent with each other, we can have good confidence in the final product that comes from their compilation. 

Originally the text of the Old Testament consisted only of consonants. Vowels were considered understood by the reader. The present Hebrew Bible has something called “vowel points”, which guide the reader in the use of which vowels go with which consonants.  These were added by Jewish scholars around 700 A. D. , and if indeed they proved to have incorrect judgement as to their usage, due to textural criticism, then they would indeed have to be adjusted. 

As a back up check on the Masoretic text, the Septuagint is the next link in the chain. The name Septuagint comes from the seventy scribes who compiled the text in about 280 B. C.. These scribes translated the Hebrew text into Greek for use by the diaspora, the Jews cast into dispersion who would become the lost tribes of Israel. It is highly likely that the Greek version was used by the Christians of the early church. 

Latin Vulgate
The Latin Vulgate was translated by Jerome    from Hebrew and Greek into Latin about 400 A. D. . The Syriac version was translated  from Hebrew about 200 A. D. . The Samaritan Pentateuch, written by those who do not accept the rest of the Old Testament, had been handed down independently of the Jewish family line since the time of Nehemiah, about 400 B. C. 

(I realize that the A. D. and B. C. designations are to be written differently as A. D. 200 and 400 B. C., but this is MY blog.)

Although there are variations in all of these writings, the variations themselves are not so important as to make any major changes in the final product. The differences often lose out to a vote of the texts themselves as only one or two may have a variation and therefore would not be included in the final text. 

There are also numerous other books that refer to and also include the writings of the Old Testament. These books include, Jubilees, Ecclesiasticus, Josephus and Philo, the Talmud, the Zadokite fragments (Zadok being the priest of Solomon), the Targums, and also many quotes included in the New Testament.

All these sources show us that what we have today as the Old Testament is also what has been around as far back as any direct evidence can take us. I am willing to bet you have never heard an atheist tell you that.

Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls also threw its hat in the ring so to speak in supporting the veracity of scripture. Discovered in 1945, these documents are dated from the time of Christ and beyond, and are actually the oldest pen to paper manuscripts of ANY scripture to date. 

Many scrolls have been found, and in one scroll or another, the entire text of the Old Testament has been found. All of these agree to such a convincing degree with the Masoretic text, that any variations have been deemed trivialities. 

There is, therefore, no reasonable doubt that the text we have of the Old Testament is practically identical with the text in use several centuries before Christ, extending back to the time when the last books were originally written. Scribes who copied the manuscripts were known to have taken great pains to ensure the correctness of their copies. Many numerical devices were used counting letters and gematria (numerical equivalents) in the various books as cross checking devices. These scribes were men who not only believed God, but loved God, and were not those who were seeking public conquest and social power for themselves or their “King”. They were doing Holy work for the Kingdom of God, and it was their calling.

It is historically significant, that the veracity of the Old Testament scripture, being based upon such unheard of fanatical consistency, is alone in its superior existence in comparison to any other ancient writing from the same era or beyond. If the ancient writings of ANYTHING can be relied upon, it is the scripture of the Old Testament.

I’ll discuss the arguments of so called “higher criticism” in the next segment.

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