Moses wrote the first five Books of the Bible (Genesis – Deuteronomy) during the 15th century BC as the nation of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years. That was plenty of time for Moses to meet with God and receive all the information we now read in what’s known as the Torah (Hebrew) and Pentateuch (Greek). We’ve already seen that Jesus quoted from those Writings and credited Moses as the author, but how do we know that what we have in our Bible today is what Jesus read during His Ministry in Israel?
The oldest complete Hebrew Bible we have is from the 10th century AD. Fragments of the Hebrew Bible exist from as far back as the 6th century BC, with the largest group from the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were discovered in 1947 AD and date from the 1st century BC. The oldest Greek texts of the Old Testament we have are from the 2nd century BC. What may be most important in all of this evidence is the accuracy of the texts through the centuries. Biblical scholars compared the Dead Sea Scrolls from the 1st century BC with the Masoretic texts from the 10th century AD. The words were almost identical and minor differences in spelling or usage produced no change in meaning. This demonstrates that the Hebrew text Jesus read from when He was on earth in the 1st century AD is the same as the Hebrew text used to translate the Old Testament into our language today.
One reason for this is the commitment Hebrew scribes and copyists have had for the Word of God for thousands of years. They had a “high view” of Scripture – meaning they believed it contained the Spoken Words of God and should be treated with great reverence and care in copying. Another reason is that God intended that His Word would be protected from generation to generation. Jesus gave the people of Israel some insight into that when He told them – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18) The Bible is a “supernatural” Book and has supernatural protection.
The history of ancient Israel is somewhat chaotic (to say the least), so there are questions about what happened to the Writings of the Old Testament during that chaos. We know that during Israel’s “golden period,” King David and his son Solomon had accurate copies of the Law of Moses, Joshua and Judges. Though the author of Judges is unknown, many scholars believe God revealed it to Samuel who was the last judge of Israel. Samuel was also a prophet, priest and kingmaker. God used Samuel to select David to become Israel’s king and would have confirmed to David what God had revealed to him about Israel’s history. David would have known what was true because of his own prophetic relationship with God. Here’s what David thought about the Scriptures he held in his hands.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11
God Spoke through prophets for centuries to call His people back to Him. In our next study, we’ll see how God kept His Word pure through the amazing prophets of Israel.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”