The Greatest Book
by Susy Flory
Israel, 450 B.C.
Benjamin loved numbers. “Seventeen . . . eighteen . . . nineteen . . .” He remembered counting his father’s sheep each night. If he missed even one, it might be snatched away by a hungry wolf or robber and not survive the night.
Now Benjamin counted words, Hebrew letters inked onto a papyrus scroll. Benjamin worked with a team of scribes for the great priest Ezra to copy the holy writings. He sat cross-legged on the floor, working with a reed dipped in ink made from charcoal, gum and water.
The room was noisy with the sound of Hebrew words and numbers being spoken. Scribes said each word aloud as they wrote. When a line was complete, the scribe counted each letter to make sure he had not added or left out anything.
Benjamin’s job was to recount every letter, an extra measure to ensure accuracy. If there was a copying error, it was not erased or corrected. Instead the scroll was placed in a sealed room called the genizah and carefully guarded until it could be destroyed.
As Benjamin counted he smiled. These scrolls tell the story of God and His people, he thought. Benjamin realized he and the other scribes were a very important part of His story.
Preserving God’s Story
Many scribes, like Benjamin and Ezra, have worked diligently over thousands of years to protect the accuracy of God’s Word. Check out a few of the reasons you can put your faith in this amazing book.
Writing. The Bible is a collection of 66 separate books, written over a period of about 1,500 years by 40 different authors. These writers included kings, military commanders, fishermen, poets, musicians, scholars and shepherds. They wrote in different time periods, different styles, different languages and even in different countries.
What makes the Bible unique is that every book was inspired by a single author—God. And each of the 66 books points to the same central message: God created you, loves you and has a plan to save you through His Son, Jesus.
Preserving. The Bible has outlasted kingdoms, cultures and eras. It has survived wars, threats and book burnings. God promises His Word will last forever: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31). Early in the history of God’s Word, the Scriptures were kept safe in the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy place in all Israel.
For thousands of years, scribes, priests and massoretes (specialists on the Scripture) guarded biblical writings, carefully copying and counting every word, syllable and letter. Today, scholars still examine and study the thousands of existing manuscripts, guarding them against errors.
Sharing. John Wycliffe first translated the Bible into English in 1382. Before this, only churches owned Bibles, which were written in Latin. They were kept locked away, and the people had to rely on priests to hear God’s words. Today, translators continue to work diligently so that someday every person will be able to read the Bible in his or her own language.
In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Fifteen years later he printed the Bible, making the distribution of God’s Word faster and more affordable. In the last two centuries, an estimated 6 billion Bibles have been printed! In the United States, 91 percent of families own a Bible.
You. Like Benjamin, you are a very important part of God’s story. Every time you open a Bible, you’re opening a message from God. This message was written to you and carefully protected, copied, saved, translated and printed by people who loved and treasured it. A Bible professor, Wilbur Smith, called the Bible “the most remarkable volume that has ever been produced in these some 5,000 years of writing on the part of the human race.”
Does the Bible Have Mistakes?
Bible experts who study the thousands of existing Old and New Testament manuscripts have concluded that the Bible we have today is 99.99 percent accurate to the authors’ original writings.
More than 14,000 Old Testament manuscripts still exist. Although copied by hundreds of different scribes, the manuscripts are virtually identical. Of the more than 5,300 New Testament manuscripts in Greek that exist, some date as far back as A.D. 60! An additional 19,000 copies of the New Testament exist in other languages.
Compare that to Homer’s Iliad, the most renowned book of ancient Greece. The Iliad has only 643 copies, with the earliest one dating to 500 years after Homer wrote the original.
Another interesting Bible discovery took place between 1947 and 1956. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in caves near the ancient ruins of Qumran in the Middle East, provided Scriptures from every Old Testament book that dated back to 100 to 200 B.C. This proved that the messianic prophecies copied before the time of Christ are the exact ones we have in our Bibles today!
This story first appeared in the June 2007 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2007 Susy Flory. Photo © NYC Wanderer/Flickr.com, used under Creative Commons license.