Authenticity, Validity & History of the Bible

edited November 2010 in Faith Issues

Could someone kindly tell me, using references where possible, the history of the Bible?

* How the books became published?
* Who compiled them?
* Who decided what books go into the NT and OT?
* The validity/accuracy of the Bibles
* Who decided what books go into the Apocryphia

* What proofs do we have the Bible is authentic?
* How do we refute attacks such as the Holy Bible was somehow changed/altered by men, and is therefore not the true word of God?
* What is the history of the dead sea scrolls and their association with the compilation of the Bible.

I know this is a lot to ask. But has become extremely useful for everyone here wishing to learn about the Orthodox faith. I am 110% sure that you WILL get these questions in your lifetime being asked at you. Either we help each other to learn more about these things, or we'll just live in ignorance.

Now, I promise, if someone does a research on this, I'll publish the answers to the questions that I asked on Christology and the Holy Trinity. I've read a lot, and I will give references concerning the questions I asked on this subject.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to research every single subject.

I could research this topic myself, but i've already spent enough time understanding Orthodox Christology. I will share with you my notes on these questions as soon as I've finished reading a few more books.



  • [quote author=Zoxsasi link=topic=10053.msg122805#msg122805 date=1290764817]
    Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to research every single subject.

    I think you spent more time writing up that post than I did googling it ;)

    Who compiled them?.... How the books became published?

    "The Old Testament remained in Hebrew until c.280-150 B.C. when it was translated into Greek at Alexandria, Egypt. This was known as the Septuagint. The next language change occurred when Jerome (c. 383-405 A.D) translated the Holy Bible into the Latin Vulgate. This was used by the clergy for nearly 1000 years.

    The first English translation was completed by John Wycliffe and soon after, King James authorized the English version that has come to be known as the King James Version. This was in 1611."

    The validity/accuracy of the Bibles

    "God has preserved the Bible from the first book of Genesis to the final book of Revelation. There are many translations but God has maintained His word faithfully through all the generations of scribes and translators."

    Who decided what books go into the Apocryphia

    "Four hundred years in which God did not speak through prophets. Some of the historical events that occurred during that period are recording in the Catholic Douay version of the Bible. These books are referred to as the Apocrypha. They fill in some of the 400 year period between the official canon of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was the time of the Maccabees."

    What proofs do we have the Bible is authentic?

    Only the Divine could have created this masterpiece.

    How do we refute attacks such as the Holy Bible was somehow changed/altered by men, and is therefore not the true word of God?

    Between the days of Moses and John, a time period of about 14 centuries transpired, but the Holy Bible covers over 4000 years of history. It has been nearly 2000 years since the last of the writers lived. How could Moses have written about things that occurred before Adam? The same way the prophets could write about things that would occur hundreds and thousands of years later. The writers were penning God's Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God revealed things to them that would have been otherwise unknowable.

    What are the dead scrolls?
  • [sup]* What proofs do we have the Bible is authentic?[/sup]

    The answer to this question depends on what kind of answer you want and what you mean by 'authentic'. 'Authentic' can mean many things to many poeple, so this cannot be answered without knowing what you mean. Let me explain...

    Many poeple, when they say 'Authentic' mean 'reliable'. By their use of the word 'reliable' they could be asking whether the text itself is conistent or reliable. The answer to this question is mostly yes. Most versions or manuscripts are broadly the same. The oldest surviving Christian Bibles are Greek manuscripts from the 4th century; the oldest complete Jewish Bible is a Greek translation, also dating to the 4th century. The oldest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text) date from the Middle Ages. There are various small errors and differences in different manuscripts, often due to mistakes in copying and translation. The oldest surviving manuscript of Isaiah was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls dating from about a century before the time of Christ, it is substantially identical with the Masoretic version which forms the basis of most modern English-language versions of the book. Most of the minor differences and mistakes that have crept into translations and manuscripts over the centuries have not significantly altered the main themes and meanings in the text.

    Some poeple seem to read the bible like a 'legal document'. In legal documents the wording is very important, and every word matters. My own view is that the bible is not a legal document where the accuracy of every letter and word is important. The Bible is a collection of books. And those books are a collection of testimonies written by poeple about their relationship with God. Poeple's testimonies will be different in the details, since every person's life and circumstances is different, but there will be broad commonality in the themes expressed by each testimony. It is these common themes, like the 'Love of God' that we are interested in, not whether the word on one text is different from another. The books of the bible are also written in many different styles. Some are poetry, others are stories, others are rules and regulations etc. Bu they all express certain common themes about poeple's experiences of God.

    Now, if by your questions "is the Bible Authentic" you mean "Is wat the bible teaches true or trustworthy when applied in real life?" you are asking a very different question. The only way to know this is to apply its teachings and live according to the main themes in it. If you do, and you experience many of the same things that the authors of the Biblical books experienced, then what it teaches is trustworthy and true. This question can only be answered by those Christians alive today, through their testimonies, as well as your own testimony and experience. Here the shared common experiences and tstimonies of the Church is important.

    So, depending on what you mean my 'authentic' the answer to your question might differ.

    Best Wishes

  • Thank you for searching out some information TITL,

    But let me caution us all in the web sites we do turn to. This particular one is Protestant and therefore has a Protestant slant on everything. I do not, for instance, agree with the comments it makes on the Apocrypha. It is only Protestants who have a problem with these books which are part of our Bible and not separate to it. This is not a criticism of TITL's effort which I commend.

    I wonder if Father Tadros Malaty has written on the subject of the Bible. Certainly there must be some Orthodox writers in English. I am even hesitant of Eastern Orthodox writers unfortunately. I picked one at random, a very well respected modern scholar, and discovered him saying that our holy Church had only recently started calling itself Orthodox!!!!!!!

    The bare facts can be found in many serious writings, but we must always use care and discretion in what we read. There was a very sound reason for the Churches having a censor who would authorise various books as suitable to be read by the laity. It is the case that in the present time many books which are very popular even among Copts would not be allowed.

    But back to the topic.

    This looks a very serious book and I might get hold of it myself.

    It shows that the issue of the canon is not straightforward.

    The trouble with websites is that anyone can produce one and say anything. For a serious answer we must either turn to recognised Orthodox authorities, or to serious scholars whose work is consistent with Orthodoxy.

    But where are these sources? Where are the young men and women who will be the authoritative teachers of tomorrow? Thank God there are some. But let us all consider the part we have to play. Ignorance is a great enemy of faith. If we have shelves full of books about medicine, or engineering, or computing, how much more should we be serious students of our faith.

    I thank Gerhard for his interesting and informative posts on this subject and hope that he will continue to post on this topic.
  • * Who decided what books go into the NT and OT?

    Regarding the New Testament:

    - The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected forms by the end of the first century AD.
    - The first major figure to codify the Biblical canon was Origen of Alexandria. Origen decided to make his canon include all of the books in the current Catholic canon except for four books: James, 2nd Peter, and 2nd and 3rd epistles of John. He also included the Shepherd of Hermas which was later rejected.
    - A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 160.
    - By 200 the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels.
    -  The major writings of the New Testament were accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the third century.
    - In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books that would become the New Testament canon. Athanasius also included the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah in his Bible. He also eliminated the book of Esther from his Bible.
    - The African Synod of Hippo, in 393, approved the New Testament, as it stands today, together with the Septuagint books, a decision that was repeated by Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.
    - Full dogmatic articulations of the canons were not made until the Council of Trent of 1546 for Roman Catholicism, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for British Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for the Greek Orthodox.

    In short, the Canon of Scripture became more defined through its use in the life of the Church and by common agreement. Again I would like to make the point that although different groups disagree about some texts, they do agree about the majority of them.

    Even if there is disagreement about the exact number that needs to be included this does not generally change the main tenets of the Christian life and faith. The life of the church is not just determined by scripture, but by the living of the faith, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the continued presence of Christ in his Church. This is the proof for the faith, not whether everyone agrees on which books should be bound together. The proof of scriptures is in the life of the church and in the everyday experience of believers.

    Best Wishes

  • Thank you Father Peter, I did not have a chance to read your post before I added my next post. I think you and I were posting at the same time  :). If there are major issues in what I say you are always welcome to correct me.

    Best Wishes

  • Dear Gerhard,

    I am sure there is no need to correct anything you write, and I will be very interested to read it. What concerns me about some of the random websites out on the net is that they have an agenda which tends to dominate the material they publish.

    Father Peter

  • Father Peter wrote:

    What concerns me about some of the random websites out on the net is that they have an agenda which tends to dominate the material they publish.

    Very true. You almost need the skill of an academic to access accurate information on this topic. I suspect the best answers to some of these issues are in academic sources. (Although academics have biases as well.) ;D

    Best Wishes

  • Thanks Gerhard and Fr. Peter for your responses.

    Could you also attempt to answer the questions on Christology and the Trinity that I asked?

    I really would still like all the input I can get.

  • I apologise for making so many posts at one time. I have some time on my hands (a rare thing), so I thought I would use it to reply to this thread.

    You asked:

    * How do we refute attacks such as the Holy Bible was somehow changed/altered by men, and is therefore not the true word of God?

    At first glance this question might apear to be clear, but it isn't. As with some of the other questions you ask we have to be clear what you or those asking the question mean. Often this kind of question is loaded with many assumptions. The first major assumption in this kind of question is:

    True = Unchanging

    This assumption is erroneous. The core message of a book can remain true, even if the details around it change. If this was not the case we would not have been able to translate the Bible or any other book. If we take any book in the Bible we can translate it into different languages, using differing alphabets, and using different wordings, yet if that translation is done responsibly the main themes and message remains the same. The Bible can thus change its form to fit different cultures all over the world, while still containing the main themes and teachings. Meaning can remain stable, while form changes. Just because God and his revelation are eternal, does not mean that its expression in human culture must necessarily be the same everywhere. By making the records and testimony of His revelation adaptable God ensures that his revealed Truth can be translated into many different cultures across time, since culture changes across time as well. The fact that the Bible is adaptable means that it remains relevent and accesible for everyone today, and potentially for everyone who might read it in the future, when we are long gone from this earth.

    In this way God shows that our life with Him is one where he requires our co-operation and involvement. He does not just impose something on us. We become co-workers with Him, even in relation to the Scriptures. He allows us to be involved in its translation, and in the process of making it understandable to all poeple and all cultures. This view that the scriptures can be adapted and changed with our help, so that they can be better understood by different poeple and cultures, while the central messages and themes of the gospel remain the same is a greater miracle than some unchanging book falling from the sky.

    Poeple who often attack our faith by saying that the scriptures were changed by men, often want to sell us the idea that their own scriptures are unchanging and therefore perfect. I have yet to find any book or holy scripture that has never been altered by men, whether on purpose of by mistake. Even Islam, which claims that their scriptures are an exact record of their revelation were edited and compiled by men.  Shortly after Muhammad's death the Qur’an was established textually into a single book form by the order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr. During the reign of Uthman, the third Caliph, the Qur'an was standardized: Uthman compiled Abu Bakr's copy of the Qur’anic text, set it in the standard Quraish dialect called Fus'ha (Modern Standard Arabic), made several copies of the now standardized text and burned the non-standard texts. Therefore the Quran was compiled and edited. It did not just pop into existence unaltered.

    One last issue related to this question is what is meant by the 'true Word of God'. The true Word of God according to my limited understanding is our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, not a book. He definitely remains unchanging. It is He that makes our faith a living one, together with the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are one of the sources that testify about him, but the Church and the Holy Spirit are the other sources. Our faith remains living exactly because it does not just rely on Scripture, but on the living presence of God in his Church.

    Best Wishes


  • Father Peter,

    Please forgive me, but I do not see how there is a Protestant slant in this:

    "Four hundred years in which God did not speak through prophets. Some of the historical events that occurred during that period are recording in the Catholic Douay version of the Bible. These books are referred to as the Apocrypha. They fill in some of the 400 year period between the official canon of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was the time of the Maccabees."

    They are simply stating the facts, with no biased opinion. Why do you disagree?
  • I guess I disagree because it is the Protestant view that there are books which should not be in the Bible but should be put in a separate category called the Apocrypha, while in the Orthodox Bible these books are part of the Bible.

    In the Septuagint, (and here is a recent scholarly translation -, the books of the Maccabees are part of the Bible. They are not in an Apocryphal section. The link above shows the books in the Septuagint Old Testament. These books are also in the Latin Vulgate, the Old Latin version of the Old Testament. Jerome, the author of the Vulgate translation, noted that some of these books were in the Septuagint but not the Hebrew text, but they became part of the early Latin Bible in any case.

    So this is the issue I had. That it is the Protestants who separate these books, not the Orthodox or Catholics, and therefore it is not a categorisation that we should follow.

    God bless you

    Father Peter
  • Oh, you don't like how they call them the Apocrypha. That makes sense.

    Thank you :-)
  • I was wondering if someone could answer Zoxasi's question about the accuracy and validity of the Bible from an objective point of view.
  • Dear Amoussa01,

    You said:

    I was wondering if someone could answer Zoxasi's question about the accuracy and validity of the Bible from an objective point of view.

    I am not sure what standard of objectivity, accuracy or validity you have in mind when asking us to answer this question objectively.

    Could you please clarify what you mean by 'accuracy' of the bible? Do you mean how accurate it is about historical facts, such as in relation to archeology or in relation to other documents written at the same time? Do you mean accuracy in relation to how different manuscripts (masoretic etc) compare with each other or across time? Do you mean accuracy in terms of how accurate translations are?

    Could you please clarify what you mean by 'validity'? Do you mean the extent to which the bible corresponds accurately to the real world (Archeology? Does its teachings work? Is its teachings an accurate reflection of the metaphysical or spiritual realities it describes?).

    By the word 'objective', do you mean using archaeological evidence? Or using philosophical or social science tools to show some kind of internal consistency in the text? By objective do you mean putting forward some evidence of double blind studies conducted on the positive effects its teachings have on people's lives? 

    Please clarify.

    Best Wishes

  • What I meant was, how do we know that the Bible is credible? How would I explain to a non-believer why I believe the Bible is the Word of God (without using the Bible itself, obviously). I would like those who wish to post an answer to have a good understanding of our faith and are experienced in this subject matter (i.e. Father Peter).
  • Dear Amoussa01,

    I will bow to your wisdom in this instance, or rather, bow out of the conversation under your wisdom. Clearly the time and effort I made many years ago at university studying Hebrew, translation, ancient middle eastern studies, biblical studies, as well as the many years of missionary work, and my faith has ill prepared me for this conversation. Clearly you are more experienced, and seem to know that there is one set of right and 'objective' answers to the question, and would like Father Peter to answer 'objectively'. I on the other hand believe  "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Cor 13:12)

    I wish you and everyone the best.

  • I am also not entirely sure what the question is asking. I am not sure that it is possible or necessary to prove the Bible is true (that needs unpicking in any case) without using the Bible as a witness. I have yet to find anyone who becomes a Christian by proof. To be a Christian requires an encounter with Christ.

    But it is necessary to show that it is reasonable to trust the Scriptures. And that seems to me to be possible.

    I hope Gerhard will post more on this subject as I value his insights and knowledge. To be a priest is to receive grace for service but it does not provide the fruits of years of study.

    Forgive me, I cannot post much, I am on a bus. But I will try to spend some time on later.

    Father Peter
  • Dear Father Peter

    You said.

    I am not sure that it is possible or necessary to prove the Bible is true (that needs unpicking in any case) without using the Bible as a witness. I have yet to find anyone who becomes a Christian by proof. To be a Christian requires an encounter with Christ.

    But it is necessary to show that it is reasonable to trust the Scriptures. And that seems to me to be possible.

    I agree fully with you. I' am not trying to undermine the Bible or its authority through my posts, nor do I wish to imply that we should not give a good account of our scriptures. You are right that it is possible, but often not in the way people think.

    I think that the issue and the question of whether the Bible is completely accurate in every word and detail has become an obsession for many people because they buy into some kind of 'Sola Scriptura'. This question of whether the Bible is completely accurate is usually loaded with the assumption that if it is in some or other way proved to be inaccurate in any way, the faith falls. This of course is not true. The witness of the Church supports the Scriptures, and the Scriptures support the Church. The Scriptures and the Church are in dialogue with each other and this dialogue is guided by the the Holy Spirit.

    To 'prove' the scriptures is in some or other way trying to force a position on someone else. It is a mild form of spiritual violence. This does not mean that we should not try to provide a good defence of the scriptures, it just means that we should say to someone else "Look, this is the best evidence we have, what do you think?" or "Look, this is the best evidence we have for the scriptures, now what are you going to do with it?" 

    When we engage in evangelism and someone asks us to provide them with evidence for the scriptures, so that they can know that they are accurate or reliable, we should usually ask ourselves or them "What do you mean by that?" We need to unpick the question in order to determine why they felt the need to ask that question. Did they ask it just to disprove your faith? Well, chances are that you won't convince them intellectually if they don't want to be convinced. So the next question might be "Why is it so important to you to disprove our scriptures? This kind of conversation starts to open up the real questions and needs and hurts the person might have.  This opens up space for a real conversation between human beings, not just a battle of minds and wills. The chance that you might have a meaningful conversation at this level, and that Christ might meet the person's needs through you, is far more likely than through having an intellectual debate. My point is that in the context of Evangelism the question about accuracy and reliability is often a loaded question, with ulterior motives behind it. Those motives might be personal, political, financial etc., and those motives arise from basic human needs. Look beyond the surface of the question and meet the persons needs. I hope this makes sense. 

    The other point I wish to make is that our Faith is not just intellectual. Yes, we should offer people the best evidence possible for our scriptures, but our Faith is a Faith that engages our emotions and our bodies as well. I know of another priest who sometimes advise people who ask him questions about the bible or about doctrine etc (even if they are not believers) to first go to liturgy, to start to pray even if they don't think God is there), and to engage in the life of the Church. He knows that we do not just encounter Christ with our intellect, we encounter Him with our whole being. Sometimes the certainty we crave about the Scripture or about some other issue comes through another channel, like body or a feeling of certainty (emotion.)

    So, Zoxasi, my answer to your questions is. If someone asks you any of those questions you listed, or if you struggle with them, try to think about what the need or question behind the question is. Is it a need to attack, or is it a need for certainty? If it is certainty they or you crave, it cannot be obtained independently of God's help. This is my last word on the subject for the time being.

    If you want factual information you can find a lot in academic sources or on the internet, but as Father Peter said, you should be careful and discerning in what you read. A lot of the material on the internet is there to try and convince you the Bible is objectively accurate, because those who wrote the information believe in 'Sola Scriptura', and Sola Scriptura often stands or falls on issues such as accuracy etc.

    May you be blessed in your quest.

  • To gerhard and Father Peter,

    The reason why I asked this question was so that I could explain to someone why I believe Christianity is the real path to salvation. I mean, there should be a reason why I believe the Bible is the Word of God (not because I was born into believing it; otherwise my faith is shallow). I also believe that we do not base our faith and religion on chance and circumstance. There is a more logical reason behind it.

    I am not asking for proof per se, (I realize that if we were able to prove it, then there would be no faith), I just want a valid reason why I can claim that the Bible is the Word of God and why I believe Christianity is the only way. I know that to be a Christian requires encounter with Christ but, to an unbeliever, they do not know Him. First, I need to intellectual explain why he or she should experience Christ!

    Forgive me if this is a heavy question, but I feel that we should know how to stand up for our faith and explain it to others who are ignorant of Christ. We should be able to give reason for our beliefs without having to excuse them saying "My parents raised me into it" or "Because I just know."

    God bless
  • There is no problem with your desire to be able to defend and explain your faith. This is entirely commendable. Bear with me, and others, and I am sure you will get some very useful answers.

    But in the first place, as an exercise, perhaps we could try the old thing that marketing people do (not that I think evangelism is the same as marketing). But if we were in a lift and had 1 minute to make a statement...

    Why are you a Christian?

    Why do you believe Christianity is true?

    Why do you believe Christ is real and is God?

    We could all choose one of these and provide 100 words of an answer. Indeed this might be interesting. What would YOU say to any one of those questions if you had 100 words? Why not write an answer, and anyone else who is following this thread. Choose one of these questions and write a 100 word answer. Don't try to be intellectual or academic.

    Father Peter

  • I believe Christianity is true because I know there is a correlation between prayer and power. The days I do not pray in the mornings, I feel that I am weak and powerless against the enemy. I fall into sin quite quickly. With little prayer, comes little power and with great prayer comes great power. I have experienced this first hand. Second of all, the words of wisdom from a Christian and a non-Christian are statistically different: one comes from God and the other comes from men’s own intellect. One gives peace and the other glory. I am not satisfied when reading the quotes of Aristotle or Einstein as I am from St. John Chrysostom or St. Cyril.  That’s 114 words. I'm not done yet.
  • That's good TITL, and the sort of thing that we must all be able to state for ourselves from our own experiences. If what we say is not what we really believe then it will not have any/much force at all.

    Here is my first effort...

    I believe that Christianity is true because over the last forty years of my life it has proved itself to work in a way that nothing else has done. It describes the personal problems I have, and provides an answer that makes a difference every day. It tells me about a God who cares for me, and shows me how to experience a relationship with Him for myself. I have had to face many desperately difficult situations in my life but the presence of God has given me a strength, a peace, and even a joyfulness that is not simply hoping for the best but I believe really does prove to me the existence of a loving God.
Sign In or Register to comment.