Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Long-Lasting Autographs of the Bible

I sometimes enjoy looking at older evangelical theological and apologetic arguments (from the 19th and early 20th centuries) concerning the veracity of the Christian scriptures (whether the Old Testament or the New Testament). I find it fascinating when I discover that many arguments for and criticisms against the trustworthiness of the various aspects of the scriptures are not as recent as I had once thought. One such example I discovered while flipping through the old "The Fundamentals of the Faith" volumes. These were originally published as ninety or so articles in a twelve-volume pamphlet series known as the "Fundamentals of the Faith," which appeared from 1910 to 1915. R. A. Torrey then collected these articles and republished them in a four-volume set in 1917 entitled, "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth." Over one million volumes of these republished articles were distributed and they became widely influential.

In the fourth volume appears an article by A. C. Dixon, "The Scriptures" where the author first attempts to define the term "scriptures" and then proceeds to argue for the preservation of the Torah manuscript that Moses was commanded to write after his encounter with God (Exodus 17:14, Deutoronomy 31:9; Dixon, "The Scriptures," p. 264). I quote the relevant passage at length below,

"The Bible is literature written by the command of God, under the guidance of God, and preserved by the providential care of God. Moses commanded that the book of the law should be placed by the side of the Ark. No safer place could have been found, and the more I study the history of the Bible the more profoundly am I convinced that God has kept His book by the side of some ark all through the ages. As the Church has been under His care and protection, so has the Book.
It is not difficult for me to believe that the manuscript which Hilkiah found in the Temple [that Josiah commanded to read out] was the identical book which Moses wrote in the wilderness, and that this very manuscript was in the hands of Ezra on the pulpit of wood as he preached in the open air [Nehemia 8]. It is only one thousand years from Joshua to Josiah and only one hundred and seventy-five years from Josiah to Ezra. There are now in our libraries scores of manuscripts which we know to be over a thousand years old, and two or three which have certainly been preserved more than fourteen hundred years. With the kindly oriental climate and the care which the Jewish reverence for the book would naturally lead them to have, it is not at all improbable that the manuscript of Moses should have been preserved for more than a thousand years. And the history of the Bible from the time of Christ to the present confirms the proposition that it has been preserved by the providential care of God." (Dixon, "The Scriptures," p. 266)

Here Dixon uses the (modern) phenomena of manuscripts that are over a thousand years old surviving in libraries as support for his proposition that the physical autograph of the Torah from the hand of Moses must have also survived for over 1,000 years.

In it's basic sense, Dixon's argument is strikingly similar to other arguments put forward in more recent times with regard to the autographs of the New Testament. This arguement goes like this, if some ancient manuscripts could last X years, then Biblical autograph(s) must have lasted X years too.


A. C. Dixon, "The Scriptures," pages 264-272 in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (Volume IV. R. A Torrey, et. al. eds. 1917. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008)


  1. Nothing new under the sun? Nice reminder of older scholars. This calls to mind Lydia Mcgrew's comments thanking her husband in her book, The Mirror or the Mask, p. x: "He has taught me to love older writers who faced similar objections and wrong-headed theories and answered them long ago. He has taught me that we read to know that we are not alone and that the democracy of the dead and the communion of saints have a better right to a voice in our councils than the temporary consensus of those who happen to be on earth at the same time as ourselves."

    1. That's such a wonderful quote, thank you. I do enjoy sitting down and reading from the great thinkers of the past.