The Evidence of the Biblical Text


The Reliability of the Bible

In 1947, a shepherd boy looking for his lost goat made a tremendous discovery: Several caves (near the ruins of Qumran) full of clay jars containing manuscript scrolls of every book of the Old Testament Bible except Esther. The significance of the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls was in its great value in affirming the accuracy of the Scriptures and the Bible that we read now. Until then, the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible was approximately 1000 A.D.  Manuscripts found in the caves at Qumran can be dated back to a thousand years earlier or 125 B.C.

In addition, the entire book of Isaiah was found on a single scroll, which validates the belief that there was only one author of that key prophetic book.  To validate the accuracy of the text, a comparison was done between the prophetic Isaiah chapter 53 manuscript dated from 125 B.C. and the MS from 926 AD.  Of the 166 words in that chapter, only 17 letters are in question. Ten of these letters are only a matter of spelling. Four letter are only stylistic changes (conjunction), and three comprise the word, “light”. This comparison reveals the unusual accuracy of the scribes of the Scripture and their painstaking efforts to maintain the sacredness of the Text.

The fact that the text, even among the passage of some thousand years, remains accurate affirms the reliability of the Old Testament canon in lieu of meaning and doctrine. Truly, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). A believer trusts in the sacred text of the Bible by faith. However, the scholarly evidence of the accuracy of Scripture found in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirms the believer’s trust.

Old Testament Book Number of Qumran Manuscripts (? = possible fragment)
Genesis 18+3?
Exodus 18
Leviticus 17
Numbers 12
Deuteronomy 31+3?
Joshua 2
Judges 3
1-2 Samuel 4
1-2 Kings 3
Isaiah 22
Jeremiah 6
Ezekiel 7
Twelve (Minor Prophets) 10+1?
Psalms 39+2?
Proverbs 2
Job 4
Song of Songs 4
Ruth 4
Lamentations 4
Ecclesiastes 3
Esther 0
Daniel 8+1?
Ezra-Nehemiah 1
1-2 Chronicles 1
Total 223 (233)



Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 78, 80.







The Large Volume of New Testament Manuscripts Compared to Other Ancient Texts

Author Book Date Written Earliest Copies Time Gap No. of Copies
Homer Iliad 800 B.C c. 400 B.C c. 400 yrs. 643
Herodotus History 480-425 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,350 yrs. 8
Thucydides History 460-400 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,300 yrs. 8
Plato 400 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,300 yrs. 7
Demosthenes 300 B.C c. A.D.1100 c. 1,400 yrs. 200
Caesar Gallic Wars 100-44 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,000 yrs. 10
Livy History of Rome 59 B.C-A.D. 17 c. 4th cent. (partial)
mostly 10th cent.
c. 400 yrs.
c. 1,000 yrs.
1 partial
19 copies
Tacitus Annals A.D. 100 c. A.D.1100 c. 1,000 yrs. 20
Pliny Secundus Natural History A.D.61-113 c. A.D.850 c. 750 yrs. 7
Various New Testament A.D.50-100 c. 114 (fragment)
c. 200 (books)
c. 250 (most N.T.)
c. 325 (complete N.T.)
+50 yrs.
100 yrs.
150 yrs.
225 yrs.

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