Skeptics often charge that the Old Testament was tampered with and changed over all the centuries since it was written. Can we prove otherwise?
Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the oldest Old Testament copies were manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. With such a gap in time between these and the originals, there was a possibility transmission mistakes had been made despite the carefulness of the scribes. When the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls was examined, it demonstrated that in fact the text of the Old Testament had been copied and transmitted with amazing and unparalleled accuracy over a period of one thousand years! This showed that the accuracy of the Jewish copiers of the Old Testament was unequalled in any other ancient literature.
An example of the accuracy of transmission was found in the Isaiah scroll, dated 125 B.C. When compared to the Masoretic text copy of Isaiah, dated one thousand years later, the differences were next to nothing!
Gleason Archer, a modern Old Testament scholar, states: “It should be clearly understood that in this respect (to transmission), the Old Testament differs from all other pre-Christian works of literature of which we have any knowledge. To be sure, we do not possess so many different manuscripts of pagan productions, coming from such widely separated eras, as we do in the case of the Old Testament. . . But where we do, for example, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the variations are of a far more extensive and serious nature. Quite startling differences appear, for example, between chapter 15 contained in the Papyrus of Ani (written in the Eighteenth Dynasty) and the Turin Papyrus (from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty or later). Whole clauses are inserted or left out, and the sense in corresponding columns of text is in some cases altogether different. Apart from divine superintendence of the transmission of the Hebrew text, there is no particular reason why the same phenomena of divergence and change would not appear between Hebrew manuscripts produced centuries apart. . . .
“Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. . .The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. . . They do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest.”
The Dead Sea Scroll evidence is a clear answer to those who claim that the Old Testament has been tampered with or transmitted carelessly throughout the centuries. It is one more reason to believe we have a reliable copy of the Old Testament.
 Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 28-29.
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