Parish Newsletter: Reliability of the Scriptures by Pastor Karl Weber

This is a newsletter article written by Pastor Karl Weber, author of our posts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If you have written an article for your parish newsletter that you think might be useful to a wider audience, please submit it to us.



On occasion parishioners ask me how they ought to respond to skeptics who poke holes at the reliability of the Scriptures. In addition to non-Christians who raise these questions of doubt, there are also Christians who ask the same questions in order to be strengthened in the faith. This is a good thing.

In addition to pointing Christians to the presence of the Holy Spirit we can also point people to the historical record of manuscript evidence from antiquity. Follow the chart that I obtained from Focus on the Family.

SUBJECT Years Written
After the Fact
# of Manuscripts
That Exist
Homer’s Illiad 500 years 643
Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars 1,000 10
Pliney’s History 750 7
Thucydides History 1,300 8
Herodotus’ History 1,300 8
BIBLE (NT) 30 5,000 + Greek manuscripts
19,000 + non-Greek

This chart clearly shows the superiority for Christian manuscripts as opposed to any secular manuscript evidence. This is seen on two fronts.

The New Testament documents were written as early as thirty (30) years after the events they record. The earliest secular manuscript is Homer’s Illiad written some five hundred years after the event it records. A lot of faulty memories can arise over a five hundred year time period as opposed to a thirty year time period.

Additionally one can point to the number of manuscripts that exist recording the event. Again I reference Homer’s Illiad which has some 653 manuscripts from antiquity that mention the event. This might seem like quite a lot when measured against the seven manuscripts from antiquity that contain Pliney’s History, or the ten manuscripts that detail Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

However, these 653 manuscripts detailing Homer’s Illiad are dwarfed by the 5,000 plus Greek manuscripts from antiquity recording New Testament books. And if that weren’t enough, compare that to the 19,000 plus manuscripts in a tongue other than Greek from antiquity that record various New Testament books. Clearly the weight of evidence is on the side of the Holy Spirit’s working ? .

Now obviously a non-believer may use his freedom to still reject the New Testament evidence in favor of his preconceived prejudices. Clearly he has that freedom to do so, but at peril of his soul.

However, gently point out that if our non-Christian friend rejects the super abundant manuscript evidence for the New Testament documents what would that lead him to say about the secular documents we have looked at? Honesty and genuine scholarship would lead to only one answer.

Have confidence my friends in the miracle working activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. The record of the Savior’s act of saving our souls from judgment for life eternal is well attested to. Jesus Christ is so merciful to us in shedding his blood to forgive our many sins, and, in leaving such abundance testimony of his saving acts for us in the pages of Scripture.

Pastor Weber
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Ottertail, MN

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