An Examination of the Reliability of Biblical Scripture

In this series of essays, we will examine the evidence for the reliability of the scriptures. We will study the issue of when the scriptures were written. We will discuss the dynamics associated with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We will explore the methodologies used by the authors of scripture. We will look at the concepts of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility and address the issue of Divine inspiration.  Lastly we will discuss the canonization process to show how the Bible, as we know it, came to be.    
My name is David Kroll.  I am married and have three children and five grandchildren. I have been an ordained Christian minister for the past fifteen years and presently co-pastor a Christian church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

An Examination of the Reliability of Biblical Scripture: Part Four


       We will begin Part Four of this series by continuing to examine the concept of scriptural inerrancy and infallibility.  We will then consider the matter of prophetic hyperbole and conclude with an overview of the canonization process and a summery of what we have covered so far.


         In Exodus 6:2-3, we read the following: “God (Hebrew Elohim) also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord (Hebrew Yahweh).  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, (Hebrew El-Shaddai) but by my name the Lord (Hebrew Yahweh) I did not make myself known unto them.”  

       In Genesis 15:7 we read: “He (God) also said unto him, (Abram) I am the Lord, (Hebrew Yahweh) who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it?”   Verse 8: “But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord, (Hebrew Adonai Yahweh) how can I know that I will gain possession of it.”  Here we have God identifying Himself to Abram as Yahweh and Abram identifying God as Yahweh in direct contradiction to what God is quoted as saying in Exodus six. In Genesis 26:22, Isaac says, “Now theLord (Hebrew Yahweh) has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” In Genesis 26:25 we read: “Isaac built an alter there and called on the name of the Lord” (Hebrew Yahweh).    Jacob, in his dream about the stairway into heaven said, “There above it stood the lord, (Hebrew Yahweh) and he said: ‘I am the Lord, (Hebrew Yahweh) the God (Hebrew Elohim) of your father Abraham and the God (Hebrew Elohim) of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13).   In Genesis 28:16 we read: When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surelythe Lord (Hebrew Yahweh) is in this place.”

       Here we have examples of both Isaac and Jacob perceiving and relating to God as Yahweh in contradiction to what God is quoted as saying in Exodus 6:2-3.  There are dozens of additional scriptures in Genesis that show that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob perceived and related to God as Yahweh.  How is this explained relative to what God is quoted as saying in Exodus 6:2-3?

       Those who advance what is called the Documentary Hypothesis will explain that because the writer of Exodus 6:2-3 says that God didn’t appear to the patriarchs as Yahweh and the writer of various parts of the Genesis narrative says that He did, we are essentially looking at two different authors having two different perspectives.  While this explanation doesn’t resolve the contradiction, it at least provides a more reasonable explanation as to why the contradiction could have occurred.

        Others have contended that since the events recorded in the Pentateuch were recorded after the time that God revealed Himself as Yahweh, the writer (s) are now using that revealed name in place of whatever names the patriarchs had used in their original communication and referrals to God.   The problem with this explanation is that God is quoted in the first person as referring to Himself as Yahweh (See Genesis 15:7 & 28:13).  If indeed God is identifying Himself by some name other than Yahveh to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then the writer (s) are misquoting God throughout Genesis.

       Christian apologist, Josh McDowell, who rejects the Documentary Hypothesis, in his book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, attempts to resolve this matter by teaching that Exodus 6 is not saying that the name Yahweh was literally unknown to the patriarchs but rather that they didn’t have the relationship with God that the name Yahweh implies. In other words, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew God by His name Yahveh but not by the attributes of God that are defined by the name Yahweh. One of the main attributes ascribed to Yahweh is that of being a covenant God.  If we are to accept this explanation we will have to conclude that when the patriarchs addressed God as Yahweh, they had little or no understanding of who it was they were addressing.  Such a conclusion pictures the patriarchs as communicating with a God they knew little about.  Since language is for the purpose of giving definition to that to which the language is directed, it would seen logical to conclude that when the patriarchs addressed God as Yahweh they new what Yahweh meant.  Not knowing how the name Yahweh defined God would have made their use of that name rather meaningless in addressing God.  The various contexts where Yahweh appears in Genesis would suggest that the patriarchs understood the attributes of Yahweh.  For example, in Genesis 15:18, it’s recorded that, “the Lord (Yahweh) made a covenant with Abram.”  It would appear from this encounter that Abram would have understood that an attribute of Yahweh was His ability to make a covenant.       

       Since Yahweh is referred to several hundred times in Genesis, in a great variety of circumstances and contexts, it is somewhat untenable to conclude that the patriarchs and others related to Yahweh as a name only and didn’t understand its implications.  Mr. McDowell’s explanation falls somewhat short of resolving this issue.

       Is there a solution to this apparent contradiction?  One document says He was known to the patriarchs as Yahweh and another document says he wasn’t.  Exodus 6:3 clearly quotes God as saying, “but by my name the Lord (Hebrew Yahweh) I did not make myself known unto them.”  

       This is a direct quote from God which appears to contradict statements in Genesis that show God did appear to the patriarchs as Yahweh.  I say apparent because we don’t know what God’s context of thought was when He made the statement recorded in Exodus.  The writer didn’t convey God’s entire context of thought and so we don’t know in what way God perceived Himself as not making Himself known or unknown to the patriarchs.    

       I have discussed this apparent contradiction as an example of what some refer to as “difficult scriptures.”  There are a number of these kinds of passages in the Bible.  Skeptics have jumped all over these passages offering them as evidence for the unreliability of the Bible. Careful analysis of such passages will often reveal that there are possible solutions to the difficulty.  Therefore we must carefully and objectively examine such passages before drawing any conclusions.

       On the other hand, Christian apologists often assume scriptural inerrancy and proceed to examine difficult passages from within this established paradigm.  This often leads to convoluted explanations and a refusal to admit that the scriptural documents may not be inerrant as assumed.         

       I believe it is far better to examine the scriptures without any presumptions about their validity and simply allow the evidence to dictate ones ultimate beliefs.

       As said at the beginning of this series, the Biblical scriptures are a collection of documents consisting of histories, poetic and prophetic literature, and letters.  A wide variety of authors and writing styles are represented in the Bible.  No original manuscripts exist.  What we have are copies of copies that have come down to us through the centuries.  Copyists have made errors.  Translators have made errors.  Some argue that the original manuscripts were inerrant.  Since we have no original manuscripts this argument cannot be tested so it is a moot point and an argument from silence.  As shown in such recorded events as the healing of the centurion’s servant, and Christ riding a donkey (s) into Jerusalem, there are irreconcilable differences in what is recorded.  Luke and Matthew cannot both be right in their details of the healing of the centurion’s servant.  Matthew’s donkey account is significantly different from that of Luke’s and Mark.  Because of these kinds of blatant scriptural inconsistencies, I can not in good conscious conclude the Biblical scriptures are inerrant or infallible.  The evidence simple does not support inerrancy/infallibility. 

        Where these inconsistencies do exist, however, they do not invalidate the basic account provided by the author.  Even where there are obvious inconsistencies and contradictions between accounts, there is still agreement among the writers as to the basic aspects of the events being reported.  Therefore there is no reason to conclude the scriptural record as a whole is unreliable.


       In addition to the matter of scriptural inconsistencies, we must deal with the issue of prophetic hyperbole.  Hyperbole, which is defined as rhetorical exaggeration, is common throughout the scriptural narrative.  The OT writers used it all the time in pronouncing judgement on nations. Several examples should suffice to establish this fact. In Isaiah 13:9-10, in prophesying the destruction against Babylon, Isaiah writes, “See, the day of the Lord is coming, a cruel day with fierce anger, to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.   The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.”   In prophesying against Egypt, Ezekiel makes the following statements; “When I stuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars.  I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light.  All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you. I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel. 32:7-8).   In a prophecy against Edom, Isaiah says the following; “all the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll.  All the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine” (Isaiah. 34:4). Did the entire starry host actually fall?  Was the sky actually rolled up like a scroll?  Of course not.  This is just a very small sample of the hundreds of these types of apocalyptic utterances found throughout the Scriptures.

        In Ezekiel 26, the prophet relates that the word of the Lord came onto him and what follows is a rather detailed prophecy against Tyre.  The Lord is quoted as saying that He would bring many nations against Tyre,  They would scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock, Tyre would become plunder for the nations, her settlements on the mainland would be ravaged by the sword and as a consequence of all this, the Lord is quoted as saying:“Then they will know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 26:1-6).  The prophecy continues with the Lord being quoted in the first person and saying that He would bring Nebuchadnezzar against Tyre who would ravage the mainland settlements and kill the people of Tyre with the sword (Ezekiel 26:7-11).  The prophecy continues in verse 12-14, “They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea.  I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more.  I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets.”  You will never be rebuilt.”

        In Chapter 27, Ezekiel continues his prophecy and speaks of all the various nations that had intercourse with Tyre and how these nations would mourn the loss of this thriving city.  The chapter concludes with the prophet saying: “you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.”  In chapter 28, Ezekiel prophesied against the king of Tyre and concludes by again saying, “you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.”

       It is clear from secular history and the Bible itself that Tyre was never completely destroyed in the sense of never being rebuilt.  It continues as a Mediterranean coastal city to this very day.  Some would argue that the destruction of Tyre was to be carried out over centuries of time and that the city would not be completely destroyed until sometime yet in the future.  Those who present this argument refer to the invasion by Alexander in 332 B.C. and subsequent invasions by the Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and Mamelukes running clearly into the fourteenth century A.D. and beyond.  This argument is based upon the statement by the Lord that, “I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves” (Ezekiel 26:3).  Some would also argue that because there is a shift from using the word “he,” referring to Nebuchadnezzar, to the word “they” in verse 12 that the “they” is referring to other invaders.

        All of this however becomes a moot point when you simply consider the context of this prophecy.  In Ezekiel 26:2-3, the prophet gives the reason for judgement to come against Tyre.  “Because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’ therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre.”  What follows is God speaking in the first person, describing what would become of Tyre and concluding with these words, "Then they will know that I am the Lord.”  It should be apparent that the “they” referred too are the Tyrinians who are being punished for having designs on Jerusalem.

       The context clearly shows that it is because of the attitude of Tyre toward Jerusalem it is going to be destroyed.  This attitude was being exhibited by the Tyrinians at the time this prophecy was written. This attitude was not being exhibited hundreds and thousands of years into the future necessitating a continuing judgement against Tyre.  God said that as a result of this destruction “they will know that I am the Lord.”  This statement was directed to the Tyrinians living at the time of this prophecy because it was those Tyrinians that had an “attitude” toward Jerusalem and that is the reason they were going to be destroyed.  Tyrinians living during the time of Alexander and into the hundreds of years after Alexander would have no idea they were being invaded because of an attitude toward Jerusalem and therefore they would not come to “know the Lord” through such invasions.  To punish Tyrinians living hundreds and even thousands of years into the future for an attitude exhibited by Tyrinians living at the time of Ezekiel would place in question the administration of justice in this matter.

       Furthermore, in Ezekiel 27, the prophet lists the various nations that traded with Tyre and how these nations would lament over the destruction of Tyre.  By simply reading through this material, it becomes obvious that the nations spoken of, and the kind of trading that was done, related to nations existing at the time of Ezekiel and are not nations existing hundreds and thousands of years into the future that would be lamenting the destruction of Tyre. 

       What then are we to make of this prophecy?  The context shows that the events of this prophecy would apply to the Tyrinians living at the time this prophecy was written.  It is obvious from both secular and Biblical history that Nebuchadnezzar did not accomplish a great deal against Tyre.  Articles in the 1978 edition of The New Encyclopedia Britannica and the 1984 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana both show that Tyre successfully withstood a 13 year siege from the King of Babylon.   In Ezekiel 29:18-19, it’s recorded that because Nebuchadnezzar and his army did not receive wages from the siege of Tyre, God would now give the spoil of Egypt to him as wages.  Thus the Biblical record itself shows what limited success the Babylonians had against Tyre.  Yet the prophecy against Tyre, that directly relates to the role that Nebuchadnezzar would play, suggests a much greater success than history reveals to be the case. 

       As stated above, the context of Ezekiel 26-28 requires the destruction of Tyre at or near the time of this prophecy.  Yet Nebuchadnezzar didn’t come close to completely destroying Tyre.  Even if we were to stretch this fulfillment into the time of Alexander, several hundred years later, (which would do violence to the context of this prophecy), we still have to deal with the prediction that Tyre would not be rebuilt, for as history clearly shows, it has been rebuilt many times and stands to this very day and was even visited by Christ and Apostle Paul as the NT Scripture records (Matt. 15:21 & Acts 21:3).  The prophet Isaiah shows Tyre being restored after a period of 70 years, (See Isaiah 23:15-18).    

       Christian apologists point out that the present city of Tyre is not on the exact location where ancient Tyre stood, nor is it anything near the great city it once was. Some have reported that fisherman have been known to spread their nets on some of the rocks of the ancient city.  The fact remains, however, that the fall of Tyre and assertions that it would not be rebuilt fall far short of the hyperbolic pronouncements made by Ezekiel.

       So what should we conclude about this matter?   Both the mainland and island parts of the city of Tyre were attacked invaded and suffered a measure of defeat.  The city has never regained its apparent former glory.  To that extent, this prophecy has been fulfilled.  Did Tyre come to a horrible end and cease to exist as Ezekiel prophesied?  No it didn’t.  Both secular and Biblical history shows Tyre survived and continues to survive.     

       There is no reason to doubt the basic historical realities of the prophesied judgement against Tyre even though this judgement is exaggerated and embellished beyond the actual facts involved.   This could be looked upon in the same vain as the prophecy against Edom being fulfilled without the sky being rolled up as a scroll as implied in the prophecy.  The scriptures contain a great deal of hyperbole, especially in the area of eschatology.  There are many OT writings where prophetic hyperbole is involved.  In many cases, God is quoted in the first person as uttering this hyperbole.

       Hyperbole is rhetorical exaggeration and is not to be taken literally.   It is figurative language and must be viewed as non-literal.  We use Hyperbole in our language all the time.  “It’s raining cats and dogs.”  Obviously cats and dogs are not dropping from the sky.  It’s an expression to show it is raining hard.  We are therefore telling the truth about it raining. We are just embellishing it a little bit.  Jesus Christ used figurative language in the Olivet Discourse and in the Revelation given to John.  It is apparent God uses hyperbolic language in His discourse with man.  Whether the OT prophets were quoting God verbatim or simply reflecting the revealed will of God in their own words is not clear.  The use of hyperbole to get a point across should not be construed as a strike against scriptural credibility.      


        Contrary to common belief, there has never been universal agreement as to what documents should be included in the Bible. There is no single canon of scripture that has ever been accepted by all of Christianity. Dictionaries define the word canon as a group of books accepted as authoritative by some religious body.  It is commonly assumed that our present canon of 39 OT documents and 27 NT documents that make up the Bible is what the Christian Church has always used as the source for its theological system.  This simply is not the case.  To this very day there is disagreement as to what documents should make up the Bible.  The Greek Orthodox Bible does not include the Revelation.  The Syrian Bible, called the Peshitta, does not include 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Revelation and Jude.  The Armenian Church Bible includes a third letter to the Corinthians taken from a document called the Acts of Paul.  This Church did not accept the Revelation into its Bible until A.D. 1200.   The Coptic Bible, adopted by the Egyptian Church, includes the two Epistles of Clement.  The Ethiopic bible includes documents such as the Sinodos, a collection of prayers and instructions supposedly written by Clement of Rome.

        All these groups look upon their particular canon as inspired sacred scripture.  Establishment of what should and should not be included as sacred scripture has been an ongoing process for thousands of years.  The first Epistle of Clement of Rome, dated around A.D. 95, is found in many ancient Bibles and was regarded as inspired scripture.  The Didache’, a manual of Christian living which dates from the early second century, was regarded as canonical scripture by Clement of Alexandria and Origen.  The Epistle of Barnabas, which cites many OT books by name and uses many phrases which appear in the Gospels is felt to have been written somewhere between A.D. 70 and 130.  This letter was included in the NT canon for a long time and appears at the end of the oldest surviving complete Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, which was transcribed in the forth century.

        One of the first written texts to become universally popular and an object of praise among the early Christian community was The Sheppherd of Hermas.  This document contains a collection of "visions, mandates, and similitude’s" which are also the names of the three books that comprise it.  Hermas was written some time in the early 2nd century, and there are papyrus fragments from that century to prove it. Some feel it dates from the 1st century.  Both Origen and Jerome thought the author was the very Hermas known to Paul, (Romans 16.14).  So popular was the Sheppherd that it was widely regarded as inspired. It is included, along with the Epistle of Barnabas, as the final books in the Codex Sinaiticus, a forth century copy of the Greek Bible.  Hermas never names or quotes exactly any NT text.  It does, however, contain many statements which resemble those in various NT books.

        In A.D. 144 Marcion, who taught that Christ did not have a flesh and blood body and rejected the idea of hell, was the first to establish a canon, consisting of ten of the Epistles and the Gospel of Luke. A man named Tatian produced a Syrian canon around A.D. 160 consisting of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He wove them all together into a single document.  This for a long time was the official Gospel text of the Ceric Church centered at Edessa.   Some time after A.D. 177, a man named Airiness composed a treatise in which he quotes from almost every book in what is our present Western canon, thus showing that the books of our present canon were in use at this time. Airiness also includes the Sheppherd of Hermas as scripture.  Around A.D. 180, Irenaeus wrote a work entitled, "Against Heresies" in which he quotes 1,075 passages from almost all the documents that make up our present day New Testament, including the Revelation.

       Around A.D. 200 we find Clement of Alexandria supporting the Titian selection and also acknowledging the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter, Sheppard of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache’ as authentic.  The Apocalypse of Peter is said to have been written between A.D. 125 and 150 although some felt Peter himself wrote it.  It remained in various church lists as a canonical text for centuries.  The Gospel of the Hebrews was used as an authority in Syria as late as the forth century.

        In A.D. 230, Origen established a seminary at Caesarea.  Origen declared the Gospel of Peter and the Book of James as trustworthy and approved by the church.  He called the Sheppard of Hermas divinely inspired.  He also considered the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas as scripture. Origen doubted the authenticity of 2 and 3 John and 2 Peter.  Origen also appears to have accepted much of the NT as it appears in its present form.  Bishop Cyprian, writing in the middle 200's rejected Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and Jude.

        In A.D. 367, after many additional years of numerous declarations of what the scriptures were suppose to be, Anthanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, declared what he thought should be the NT canon which reflects the text we currently have.  However, there continued to be much controversy as to what documents should be in the canon and it wasn’t until A.D. 692, at the Trullan Synod, that the Anthanasius canon became official. 

       It wasn’t until A.D. 1443, at the Council of Florence, that the church leadership pronounced what documents belonged in the Bible.  This canon was made an absolute article of faith at the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546.  Yet this pronouncement only carried in the Western churches. After the Reformation, the Protestant world followed the Catholic canon with the exception of the OT apocrypha.  It is interesting that Martin Luther did not treat all scripture in the NT canon as equally valid and actually listed the NT documents in order of descending credibility.

        The forgoing is but a thumbnail sketch of the dynamics involved in determining a NT canon. Much could be said about how choice of documents was often determined by the doctrinal perspectives of those making the choices and how church officials would change their choices as they changed their theology.  Much could be said as to how choices were made based on personal preference rather than objective investigation.  For a complete overview of the development of the NT canon, I highly recommend Bruce Metzger’s The Canon of the New Testament: It’s Origin, Development and Significance.

       The canonization of the OT was an historical process which took place over many centuries in three steps that came to form the tripartite canon of Law, Prophets and Writings. The first collection to be canonized consisted of the first five books of the Bible and was variously called the Law (Hebrew Torah) or the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses). This collection was canonized about 400 B.C. The second collection was that of the prophetic scriptures which was canonized about 200 B.C.  The Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) were canonized about A.D. 90. This last canonization was actually a ratification of a completed collection of writings in common use since the second or first century B.C.  The prophetic book of Daniel was accepted in this collection, having been earlier rejected for inclusion among the prophetic books.   History shows that, as is true with the NT canonization process, there were a number of documents that were variously accepted or rejected at different periods of canonical development. 

       Around 250 B.C., the OT was translated from the Hebrew into the Greek language and called the Septuagint or LXX.  Septuagint means seventy.  It is believed this translation was completed in seventy days by a group of 70 (some say 72) Jewish scholars.  It includes the Apocrypha, a collection of writings not found in the Hebrew Scriptures but nevertheless included in the Septuagint.  A number of these writings are included in the Catholic Bible but have been rejected by the Protestant community.  It is interesting to note that when writers of the NT quote OT scripture; such quotes are seen to be from the Septuagint translation.

       It is difficult to believe that canonization has been a divinely driven process.  To this very day there is not a unified canon that all branches of Christianity accept.  While canonical history does show that the documents in our present Protestant Bible were, by and large, recognized from early on, this history also shows that many other documents were also recognized.  Christians lived for centuries using a great variety of documents to formulate their particular theological perspectives.  Where such documents any more or less sacred than our present canon? For that matter, what makes a document sacred?   What are we to conclude about the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the many documents that have been and are presently being used by the Christianity community?   We will address these issues in our final essay of this series.

       Let’s sum up what we have determined so far in this series on the reliability of the Biblical scriptures. The Old Testament scripture is essentially a historical document.  It is a collection of writings that reflect the development of the nation of Israel and its interaction with the nations around them.  Much emphasis is placed on its religious system and how adherence or non-adherence to that system affected its survival. While the writers of these documents may have used a significant amount of figurative language and hyperbole in predicting and recording events, there is every reason to believe that the events recorded by these writers did take place and are not fictional fabrications. There is corroborating evidence from the testimony of a variety of canonical writers, other historians, archaeological research and non-canonical writers, that the essential elements of what is recorded in the OT scriptural record is correct.  While these records are ancient when compared to such recent history as the civil war, there is every reason to believe that the events recorded by the writers of scripture are real events.

       We do not doubt the basic validity of historical documents reciting the history of ancient Egypt, or other ancient civilizations.  While we my not believe that all details of such histories are correct, we still accept them as reasonable reflections of history. I see no reason to treat the scriptural record any different. There’s little question that authors of history, including Biblical history, were influenced in their writings by the political, cultural, social and religious climate in which they worked and lived. This does not, however, negate the basic facts of their histories.

       In regard to the The New Testament documents, all evidence indicates they were produced within less than 40 years of the death of Jesus Christ and passed along throughout the centuries in a reasonably faithful manner. In fact when it comes to the NT, there are copies of segments of the NT commencing within a couple of generations from the writings of the original texts.  There are 5,664 Greek manuscripts or parts of manuscripts that have been identified, with the earliest being a fragment of the gospel of John believed to go back as far as the beginning of the second century.  There are a number of Papyrus dating from the second and third centuries that contain sizable sections of various parts of the NT.  There is no other body of ancient literature in the world that enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation, as does the NT. These manuscripts do not vary appreciably from what we have today.  Therefore, we can be confident the NT authors of record are the actual authors of these documents and they were not written in the second or third centuries as some claim but in the first century before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.

       Providing additional support for this conclusion is that Ignatius (A.D 35 to A.D. 110), Bishop of Antioch Syria, and Clement who became Bishop of Rome in the first century, both quote extensively from what became canonized NT scripture.  Thousands of Christian writings have been recovered from the the early centuries of the Christian church which contain quotes from what became the NT canon. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has given equal attestation to the authenticity of the OT documents and some Dead Sea Scroll fragments appear to support NT writings.

       This being said, we can's ignore the fact that inconsistencies and outright contradictions have been identified in the Biblical scriptures.  We have labored to understand the validity of Matthew’s methodology in taking OT prophecies out of their original context and applying them to the Christ event.  We have sought to understand the validity of the prophetic literature which is often presented in a context of rhetorical exaggeration.  We have briefly looked at the canonization process and found it to be problematical. 

     In Part five of this series we will address the issue of how we can confidently trust and use a less than perfect set of documents to define a religious system involving moral absolutes and eternal imperatives.