Establishing the Reliability of the Old Testament: The Ardent Testimony of the Ancients

by J Warner Wallace

In Cold Case Christianity, I discussed the careful transmission of Biblical texts by tracing the New Testament “Chain of Custody” from the apostles to the Council of Laodicea. While it’s much more difficult to trace the lineage of Old Testament authors, it’s easy to examine the testimony of New Testament authorities and Church Fathers who trusted the Old Testament as authoritative. These leaders understood the meticulous process of transmission used by ancient Jewish scribes (a process since tested by manuscript discoveries). They were confident the Old Testament was accurate and had been reliably transmitted. They also considered these texts to be God-given scripture:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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Paul and other New Testament writers consistently quoted from Old Testament scriptures or cited their nature and the spirit of their content. Other ancient figures also talked about the canon of Old Testament Scripture:

Prologue to Ecclesiasticus
This non-canonical book refers to a threefold division of books (namely, [1] the Law, [2] the Prophets, and [3] hymns and precepts for human conduct). This division of books was known by the author’s grandfather (dating it around 200BC).

Philo
The Alexandrian Philosopher (writing around 40AD) referred to the same threefold division.

Jamnia
This teaching house of rabbis (circa 90AD) discussed canonicity. Some of them questioned whether it was right to accept Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. These discussions affirmed the existence of the existing canon.

The Church Fathers
All (with the sole exception of Augustine in 400AD) accepted the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament…

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Establishing the Reliability of the Old Testament: The Ardent Testimony of the Ancients | Cold Case Christianity