A common misconception is that all religions are basically saying the same thing, or that all religious paths eventually reach the same summit - God or some realization of god-hood, or heavenly or enlightened bliss of some kind.
We begin our section on 'other religions' with a brief examination of some incorrect views held by some un-informed investigators of Other Religions - in this first case, Buddhism, and Christianity. This will show that it is simply not true that all religions are basically the same. Even when similar teachings do occur in more than one religion, the differences between them are so marked that they can easily be distinguished. In time we will investigate the growing trend, particularly in the ecumenical movement, to use similar terminology in a deliberately obtuse (deceptive) manner in order to deceive. Some of this evidence will be more obvious in the section dealing with 'Ecumenism and Roman Catholicism.' The following evidence dispels the idea that all religions are the same. Not only do they have a diversity of sacred books, but they also worship a diversity of deities.
We will begin with a brief examination of the evidence for Christianity which begins and ends in a unique book - the Bible - which gives total testimony to the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. This may best be summarised by a quote from Professor M. Montiero-Williams (cited by Sidney Collett, All About the Bible, Fleming H. Revell), formerly Boden professor of Sanskrit, who spent 42 years studying Eastern books and said, in comparing them with the Bible:What about the New Testament you ask?
'Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side - all by itself, all alone - and with a wide gap between them. For, ... there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever ... a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought."
We next call as a witness for the veracity of the Old Testament, Robert Dick Wilson, the man who mastered 45 languages and dialects:
The story of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson stands as a remarkable testimony to the reliability of the Bible. Wilson's scholarship, in many ways still unsurpassed, gave the world compelling evidence that the Old Testament is an accurate and trustworthy document. Robert Dick Wilson was born in 1856 in Pennsylvania. In 1886 Wilson received the Doctor's degree. He continued his training at Western Theological Seminar in Pittsburgh, followed by two years in Germany at the University of Berlin.
Upon his arrival in Germany, Professor Wilson made a decision to dedicate his life to the study of the Old Testament. He recounted his decision, 'I was twenty-five then; and I judged from the life of my ancestors that I should live to be seventy; so that I should have forty-five years to work. I divided the period into three parts. The first fifteen years I would devote to the study of the languages necessary. For the second fifteen I was going to devote myself to the study of the text of the Old Testament; and I reserved the last fifteen years to the work of writing the results of my previous studies and investigations, so as to give them to the world". Dr. Wilson's plans were carried out almost to the very year he had projected, and his scholastic accomplishments were truly amazing.
As a student in seminary he would read the New Testament in nine different languages including a Hebrew translation which he had memorized syllable for syllable! Wilson also memorized large portions of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew. Incredible as it may seem, Robert Dick Wilson mastered forty-five languages and dialects. Dr. John Walvoord, President of Dallas Theological Seminary, called Dr. Wilson "probably the outstanding authority on ancient languages of the Middle East."
Dr. Wilson commented on his scholastic achievements, relating why he devoted himself to such a monumental task: "Most of our students used to go to Germany, and they heard professors give lectures which were the results of their own labours. The students took everything because the professor said it. I went there to study so that there would be no professor on earth that could lay down the law for me, or say anything without my being able to investigate the evidence on which he said it.
"Now I consider that what was necessary in order to investigate the evidence was, first of all, to know the languages in which the evidence is given. So I ... determined that I would learn all the languages that throw light upon the Hebrew, and also the languages into which the Bible had been translated down to 600 A.D., so that I could investigate the text myself.
'Having done this I claim to be an expert. I defy any man to make an attack upon the Old Testament on the ground of evidence that I cannot investigate. I can get at the facts if they are linguistic. If you know any language that I do not know, I will learn it."
Wilson challenged other so-called "experts" in the Old Testament field demanding that they prove their qualifications before making statements concerning its history and text. "If a man is called an expert, the first thing to be done is to establish the fact that he is such. One expert may be worth more than a million other witnesses that are not experts. Before a man has the right to speak about the history, the language, and the paleography of the Old Testament, the Christian church has the right to demand that such a man establish his ability to do so."
Dr. Wilson met his own challenge. For 46 years Wilson had devoted himself to this great task of studying the Old Testament, carefully investigating the evidence that had a bearing upon its historical reliability. Based upon his credentials he was in a better position to speak as an expert than any other man. His findings drove him to the firm conviction that "in the Old Testament we have a true historical account of the history of the Israelite people."
As a professor at Princeton, Dr. Wilson won international fame as a scholar and defender of the historic Christian faith. The emphasis of Professor Wilson's teaching was to give his students ''such an intelligent faith in the Old Testament scriptures that they will never doubt them as long as they live. "He tried to show them that there is reasonable ground for belief in the history of the Old Testament." (Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions skeptics ask about the Christian faith', Campus Crusade for Christ, Pub. Here's Life Publishers Inc., San Bernardino, California, 1980)
In case anyone tries to lay doubt on the Old Testament in the light of the evidence of experts, we quote Sir Frederic Kenyon, the textual scholar who, shortly after the 1948 printing of his excellent book Our Bible and Ancient Manuscripts, had this to say:
"There is indeed no probability that we shall find manuscripts of the Hebrew text going back to a period before the formation of the text which we know as Massoretic. We can only arrive at an idea of it by a study of the earliest translations made from it .." (cited by Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, p. 107).
At the same time his book was being printed, discoveries began in 1947 that would render any further statements like Kenyon's impossible. Until this time, scholars had only the clay tablets of Babylon and the Egyptian papyri to help them understand background information on the Bible, since no ancient Old Testament manuscripts were known to have survived.
However, all that changed with a discovery of some scrolls in caves along the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. These scrolls brought to the world manuscripts of Old Testament books 1,000 years older than any previously in existence. There was immediate excitement over the find. Dr. William F. Albright, one of the world's leading archaeologists wrote to John Trever, who had an integral part in revealing the find:
"My heartiest congratulations on the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times! There is no doubt in my mind that the script is more archaic than that of the Nash papyrus (a very small portion of the Old Testament dated between the second century B.C. and first century A.D.) ... I would prefer a date around 100 B.C. ... What an absolutely incredible find! And there can be happily not the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript."
Before the discovery of these scrolls, the oldest complete copy of the Old Testament in Hebrew was Codex Babylonicus Petropalitanus from A.D. 1008, more than 1,400 years after the Old Testament was completed. Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls now closed the gap by a thousand years and left the world waiting to see if the text had been transmitted accurately. The answer was a resounding 'Yes' then, and this remains so to this day. The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated unequivocally the fact that the Jews were faithful in their transcription of Biblical manuscripts. This reverence for the Scriptures was summed up long ago by the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus:
"We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew from the day of his birth to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. Time and again ere now, the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres, rather than utter a single word against the Laws and the allied documents" ("Flavius Josephus Against Apion," in Josephus, Complete Works, translated by William Whiston, Grand Rapids, Kregel Pub., 1960, p. 179-180).
The attitude that Josephus related is borne out by the comparison of the Massoretic text, which is the basis of our Hebrew Bibles, and the scrolls from the Dead Sea. Among the fragments discovered are complete copies or parts of every Old Testament book except Esther, and the variations in the text after a thousand years of copying are minimal. Thus any appeal to the Dead Sea Scrolls as casting doubt on the Bible's reliability is invalid.
Charles Pfeiffer had this to say along that line:
"It should be noted that, while negative higher critical views of the Bible cannot be refuted by a study of the Qumran scrolls (Qumran is the main location in the Dead Sea area where the scrolls were found), there is no evidence from Qumran to justify a major reassessment of the traditional views of the origin of biblical writings. The Old Testament books from Qumran are those which we find in our Bibles. Minor textual variants occur as they do in any document which depends on hand copies for multiplication, but the biblical tests may be regarded as essentially reliable" (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, p. 114 Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House, 1967).
Therefore, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls only supports the belief that we have the Old Testament books as they were preserved by the ancients, and which we have in our possession today. Thus the common misconception that the text of the Bible has not come down to us as it was originally written, and accusations that 'unknown' zealous monks changed the biblical text throughout Church history, are thoroughly dispelled.
The New Testament was originally composed in Greek. There are approximately 25,000 copies in existence that contain all or part of the New Testament. Although we do not possess the originals, copies exist from a very early date. The earliest fragment dates about AD. 120, with about 50 other fragments dating within 150-200 years from the time of composition and the oldest fragment probably 25 years after the original.
The significance of the number of manuscripts documenting the New Testament is even greater when one realizes that in all of history the second book in terms of manuscript authority is The Iliad, by Homer. It has only 643 surviving manuscripts.
Two major manuscripts of the New Testament, Codex Vaticanus (AD. 525) and Codex Sinaiticus (A.D. 550), a complete copy, date within 250 years of the time of composition. This may seem like a long time span, but it is minimal compared to most ancient works. The first complete copy of the Odyssey is from 2,200 years after it was written. The New Testament Greek scholar J. Harold Greenlee notes:
Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of the ancient classics even though the earliest MSS were written so long after the original writings and the number of extant MSS is in many instances so small, it is clear that the reliability of the text of the New Testament is likewise assured (J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, Grand Rapids, MI: William b. Lerdmans Publishing Co., 1964, p. 15).
Many ancient writings have been transmitted to us by only a handful of manuscripts (Catullus, for example, has only three copies surviving, the earliest one copied 1,600 years after he wrote; Herodotus has only eight copies and a 1,300 year gap!). Many people consider Thucydides to be one of the most accurate of ancient historians, yet only eight of his manuscripts survived. Of Aristotle, it is 49 manuscripts surviving.
Not only do the New Testament documents have more manuscript evidence and closer time interval between the writing and earliest copy, but they were also translated into several other languages at an early date. Translation of a document into another language was rare in the ancient world, so this is an added textual verification for the New Testament. The number of copies of these versions is close to 25,000. This is further evidence that helps us establish the New Testament text.
Less than 20 years ago, 56,000 quotations of the Scriptures by the early church fathers could be documented. But, as a result of research done at the British Museum, we are now able to document 89,000 quotations in early church writings, from the New Testament. Our Bibles and manuscripts could all be thrown away or burned and we could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 and 200 years of the time of Jesus Christ.
New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce made the following observation:
The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning ... and if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt (F.F. Bruce The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Rev. ed., Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977, p. 15).
Note that this effectively means that, if you reject the Bible as an authentic record of ancient history, you must also reject ALL other ancient history. So, for you, the Greek philosophers never existed and Julius Caesar and the Roman Wars can be placed in the dustbin of history! No reputable historian or paleographist would accept this path.
Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, was one of the foremost experts on ancient manuscripts and their authority. Shortly before his death, he wrote this concerning the New Testament:
The interval between the dates of original compositions (of the New Testament) and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established (Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology, New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1940, pp. 288, 289).
Of The Iliad by Homer, Bruce Metzger observes:
In the entire range of ancient Greek and Latin literature, The Iliad ranks next to the New Testament in possessing the greatest amount of manuscript testimony ... Of all the literary compositions by the Greek people, the Homeric poems are the best suited for comparison with the Bible (Bruce Metzger, Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, p. 144-145).
Thus the following chart summarises the disparity between the utterly superior nature of the Biblical record and all other ancient texts, whether religious or secular:
(ref. Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, The Islam Debate vs. Ahmed Deedat, Campus Crusade for Christ, Pub. Here's Life Publishers Inc., San Bernardino, California, 1983)
Thus we can state that, if you chose to reject Christianity on the basis of unreliability of the Bible, you do so on the grounds of emotion and using the kind of logic demonstrated by this student:
During a discussion of William Shakespeare, a student asked the old professor about the en vogue theory that Shakespeare did not write the plays ascribed to him.
The professor growled, "Young man, if Shakespeare did not write those plays, then they were written by someone who lived at the same time and had the same name!"
Speaking of Shakespeare, it is a little known fact that there is more variation in the surviving manuscripts of his works than in the Bible manuscripts, and he only lived a mere 400 years ago!
Concerning the New Testament, the conclusion of another excellent scholar, Fenton J.A. Hort, was expressed as: ' ... the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text'. (Hort, Fenton J.A. and Westcott, B.F., The New Testament in the Original Greek, New York, MacMillan Co., 1881,Vol. I)
A thousandth part is 0.1%! Concerning the comments of Hort, experts Geisler and Nix made this statement:
"Only about one-eighth of all the variants had any weight, as most of them are merely mechanical matters such as spelling or style. Of the whole then, only about one-sixtieth rise above 'trivialities', or can in any sense be called 'substantial variations.' Mathematically this would compute to a text that is 98.33 percent pure." (Geisler, Norman L. and Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible, Chicago: Moody Press, 1968)
Thus, taking the WORST cases, which we have no need to do, we could still be certain of the accuracy of our Bible. This is probably best explained by comparing a sentence which might appear in five different constructions in different manuscripts, such as:
Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord
Jesus Christ is Lord and the Saviour
Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour
Christ Jesus is Lord and Saviour
The variation in sentence construction does not substantially alter the meaning and this holds true for virtually every sentence in the New Testament.
This speaks volumes for the Christians' claim that God preserved His Word for all generations to know His truth and Will and the reason the apostle Paul could write to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-17):
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
In Timothy's era, Jewish boys formally began studying the Old Testament Scriptures when they were five years of age. Timothy had been taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother beginning from childhood. Clearly, verse 15 indicates that the Scriptures alone were sufficient to provide Timothy with the necessary wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ. And for orthodox Christians today, the Scriptures alone are still the sole source of spiritual knowledge.
The Bible's claim to be the Word of God is supported by a vast body of evidence so irrefutable that no one has any excuse for doubting. The major proof which the Bible offers is the fulfilment of hundreds of specific prophecies. Let us consider three clear prophecies which are generally overlooked. God's declaration that Israel would be without a king, priesthood or sacrifices (Hosea 3:4) remains true today. Yet God also said that Israel would keep the Passover 'as a feast by an ordinance for ever' Exodus 12:14) and Jews, in spite of their unbelief, have done so continuously for 3,500 years. Similar claims made by pagan religions have failed. The sacred fires tended by the Vestal Virgins in the temple of the goddess Vesta in Rome, and the sacred Zoroastrian fires of Persia, were never to go out. They burn no longer, but the Passover remains.