Textual Criticism Of The New Testament
The following table compares the Biblical writings along these same points of interest . This can be considered our experimental data which will be compared to our control data, just like in any scientific investigation.
|350 AD||290 yrs|
The number of New Testament manuscripts is so vast that it would be impossible to list them all in a table. As one scholar who spent years studying this issue states:
We have more than 24000 MSS copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. In comparison, the ILIAD by Homer is second with 643 MSS that still survive
A leading scholar at the British Museum corroborates this:
Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principal Greek and Roman writers yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of MSS whereas the MSS of the N.T. are counted by thousands
A significant number of these manuscripts are extremely ancient. I own a book about the earliest New Testament documents. The Introduction starts with:
This book provides transcriptions of 69 of the earliest New Testament manuscriptsdated from early 2nd century to beginning of the 4th containing about 2/3 of the new Testament text
Implications Of Textual Criticism Re The Bible
So what can we conclude from this? Certainly at least in what we can objectively measure the New Testament is substantiated to a much higher degree than any other classical work of antiquity. The verdict to which the evidence pushes us is best summed up by the following quote :
To be skeptical of the resultant text of the N.T. is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no other documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament
What he is saying is that to be consistent, if we decide to doubt the reliability of the preservation of the Bible we may as well discard all that we know about classical history in general and this no informed historian has ever done. We know that the Biblical texts have not been altered as eras, languages and empires have come and gone since the earliest extant MSSs pre-date these events. For example, we know that no overly zealous medieval monk added in the miracles of Jesus to the Biblical account, since we have manuscripts that pre-date the medieval monks and all these pre-dated manuscripts also contain the miraculous accounts of Jesus.
New Testament Manuscript Evidence
The New Testament was written in the Greek language. It was handwritten and from very early on copies were made of the originals. We currently have close to 6,000 copies in existence that contain all or part of the New Testament. The number of NT manuscripts we have compared to the number of manuscripts for other ancient writings is quite remarkable. For many ancient works, we have under 100 copies. Additionally, the gap in time between the original composition of the NT and the next surviving manuscript is far less for the NT than any other work in Greek literature. The gap for most Greek works from the date it was written to the date of a surviving manuscript is 800-1500 years. For the NT, its about 150 years for some fragments. And we have a complete copy of the NT that dates from within 250 years of the time of the writing of the NT.
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What About Different Translations
The original Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Many manuscripts of the Holy Bible still exist in these languages. However, God wanted everyone in the world to be able to read His Word. The Bible has therefore been translated into different languages. As languages change those translations need updating but every translation must agree with the ancient manuscripts. If it does not, it is not accepted. The Jehovahs witness translation, for example, is not an accurate translation of those documents. That is why Christians everywhere strictly condemn what they have done. One day God will judge them for it.
What is your answer?
The Bible is a message from God to sinful people. In it, God is calling us to have a relationship with Himself. But how is it possible for me, a sinner, to come close to the Holy God? In the Bible, God reveals to us His plan of salvation. Thats why Christians believe that there is no power that can change Gods Word.
I. DI MATTEO, `Il takhrif od alterazione della Bibbia secondo i musulmani, Bessarione 38 64-111 223-260 `Le preteze contradizzioni della S. Scrittura secondo Ibn-Hazm, Bessarione 39 77-127, E. FRITSCH, op. cit., p. 66.
IBN HAZM, Kitab al-fasl fil-milah wal ahwal nikhal, II,6 E. FRITSCH, op cit., p.55.
IBN HAZM, ibid. E. FRITSCH, op. cit, p. 64.
Grill a Christian by Roger Carswell – request your free copy!
Was The Bible Changed
Have you ever played the childrens game of telephone? A chain of people quickly whisper a message from one person to the next. By the time the message reaches the last person, it has often transformed into something almost unrecognizable from the original.
The game is fun when the message doesnt matter, but what if a persons eternal destiny relied on the message? Could the message of the Bible have been distorted through a copying process that produced the same effect as a game of telephone? New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman thinks so, and his diagnosis is grim:
Not only do we not have the originals, we dont have the first copies of the originals, we dont even have the copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made latermuch later. In most instances they are copies made many centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another in many thousands of places . . . possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms: there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament .
Fortunately, modern scholars can reconstruct a documents original manuscript by comparing all of its surviving copies. This method of reconstructing an original text by examining its copies is called textual criticism. How does it work?
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The Cambridge Revisions Of 1629 And 1638
The original 1611 editions of the King James Version contained errors, as seen in the He and She Bibles, as well as many others. Some of the errors were due to the desire to maintain a consistent appearance of the text in columns, and led to inconsistent use of contractions, spellings, and other issues. Careless printing also led to errors, including the infamous omission of the word not in an edition which became known as the Wicked Bible, which exhorted its readers Thou shalt commit adultery. By the 1620s there were over 1,500 errors of printing in editions of the Authorized Version, and an attempt was made in two revisions at Cambridge to correct them in 1629 and again in 1638.
The Cambridge editions addressed the inaccuracies induced by poor quality control, attempted to standardize the spelling to match that of the English of the time, and made more than 200 changes to the text provided by the original translators. The Cambridge revisions were not new translations, but revisions to the existing 1611 translations, and mainly inserted marginal notes, many of which had come from the Geneva Bible, into the main text of the work. Thus the main text of the Authorized Version was changed without additional reference to the source data provided by the original manuscripts, in an attempt to render the work in the vernacular of the people who were not educated in the ancient languages of Latin and Greek.
Why The Old Testament Is Original
Viele Menschen behaupten, dass die Bibel, die wir heute haben, nicht original ist und dass sie verändert wurde. We have three main Old Testament manuscripts: first the Masoretic text, a Hebrew text dating from about AD 1000. Second, the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew text dated 3rd century BC. And lastly the Dead Sea Scrolls from 408-318 BC. All these are in significant agreement, although there are some minor differences. Therefore, we can be sure that the Old Testament we have today is the same as the one Jesus used and is the same as Jews were using 400 years before Jesus came!
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The Number Of Ancient Manuscipts
Manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments dating back to several hundred years before the rise of Islam are displayed in well-known museums across the world . Anyone can compare the Bible we have today with these manuscripts and see that it has not been corrupted. These all confirm the integrity of the text Christians use to this day.
An Abundance Of Evidence
Secondly, we have an abundance of evidence to work with. The field of scholarly criticism currently has nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament available to study and compare, not including over 10,000 Latin copies and between 5,000 and 10,000 others.
On top of this, the early church leaders recorded so much of the New Testament in their own writings and letters that we can reproduce the entire thing over and over and over again just from their writings.
Its easy to get hung up on the fact that we do not have the original papyri which the New Testament documents were written on until we realize that we dont have the original manuscripts of any historical work of antiquity which we hold to be reliable today.
In fact, the 20,000+ manuscripts which we have of the New Testament are more than any other historical work of antiquity. How much more? Second place goes to Homers Iliad with around 2,000 copies. Things get a lot shakier after that. The average ancient Greek author has less than 20 manuscripts still around today, and often only two or three.
New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace asserts that on the basis of manuscript evidence, we have 1,000 times more evidence that Jesus Christ existed than that Alexander the Great existed.
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The Oxford Edition Of The King James Version Of 1769 Is The Basis Of Most Printings Today
Blayneys Oxford edition, like that of the original translators in 1611, included the Apocrypha, though many of the cross references to the Apocrypha, included in the original translation, were removed, signifying further that the books were not considered scriptural. More than 24,000 changes, many of them standardizing spelling or adjustments to punctuation, exist between Blayneys 1769 Oxford edition and the 1611 edition produced by 47 scholars and clergymen. There still existed spelling and grammatical differences between the Cambridge and Oxford editions, but for the most part the Authorized Version had evolved to the same book which remains in print in the 21st century.
The Fool Who Says There Is No God
Psalm 14 is a song about atheism. It talks about the fool who says, There is no God, and it criticizes them as selfish, corrupt people who focus on their own narcissistic interests while leaving the poor to starve.
Depending on the copy of the Bible you have, though, it can go a lot further than that. In some the earlier English translations of the Bible, the song gets really harsh:
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known.
Its a pretty big leap to go from you evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, which just says atheists are kind of insensitive, to their feet are swift to shed blood. Some early Biblical translator, though, apparently thought the song wasnt harsh enough, so he slipped in some accusations that atheists go around straight-up murdering people.
None of this is in the original manuscripts. The original Psalm is just a call to take care of the less fortunate. The Bible doesnt really say atheists are secretly plotting your death.
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Why Was The King James Bible Revised
In 1604, soon after Jamess coronation as king of England, a conference of churchmen requested that the English Bible be revised because existing translations were corrupt and not answerable to the truth of the original. The Great Bible that had been authorized by Henry VIII enjoyed some popularity, but its
The Addition Of Words Were Part Of Each Translation Of The Bible
The translators who produced the first edition of the King James Version in 1611 were given specific instructions regarding aspects of the work. The substitution of words was allowed for the purpose of improving readability. Supplied words, that is, words which were not translations from the original texts but which were added for the purpose of sentence structure were to be presented in a different type face. The procedure was not applied consistently by the companies which worked independently translating different portions of the Bible, and was barely used at all in the New Testament books. Subsequent editions and revisions corrected that discrepancy in some areas.
It was the translators of the King James Bible who removed Yahweh, which appeared as YHWH , and replaced it with The LORD, rendered in small capital letters. Where YHWH appeared with the Hebrew Adonai the translators presented it as Lord God, again in small capitals. IEHOHAH appeared in four of the Old Testament books, Exodus, Psalms, and twice in Isaiah. The Hebrew books of 1 and 2 Esdras were renamed as Ezra and Nehemiah respectively, a practice adopted from the Geneva Bible rather than the source documents, and 3 and 4 Esdras, which were in the Apocrypha, were renamed 1 and 2 Esdras.
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How Can We Be Sure That There Are Not Many More Errors Waiting To Be Found
At this point, so many manuscripts have been discovered that it is easier than ever before to detect errors. * What has a comparison of these documents revealed regarding the accuracy of the Bible today?
Regarding the Christian Greek Scriptures, or New Testament, Bible scholar F. F. Bruce wrote: 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.
Sir Frederic Kenyon, a noted authority on Bible manuscripts, stated that one can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.
Bible Verses That Were Changed In Translation
The word of the Holy Bible isnt always as clear-cut as wed like it to be. It didnt fall from the sky, bound in leather, with every word in perfect English. Instead, its something countless scribes have spent thousands of years deciphering, working off age-old manuscripts that dont always say the same things.
They dont always get it right. Some of the best-known verses in the Bible have been mixed up, rewritten by translators, or even just snuck into the Good Book from scratch, pulled from nothing more than a scribes imagination.
And that can be a big deal. If you believe that the Bible is the word of God, every little detail matters. The slightest typo could completely change the way millions of people lead their lives.
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Descriptions Of The Crucifixion Have Also Been Changed
In the Gospel of Luke, as Jesus was dying upon the cross, he addressed the two criminals being crucified alongside of him, though the version currently appearing in the Bible is at odds with the earliest extant copies of the gospels. Another change in Luke, which does not appear in the early copies of the Gospel attributed to him, is that Jesus asked forgiveness of his executioners, because they did not know what they were doing. The oldest known copies of Lukes gospel do not recount the forgiveness bequeathed from the cross, the story was added in the fifth century in the Greek documents. As with many additions, it was likely added to reflect the Christian teaching which had evolved by that time.
As has been noted, the translators of preceding Bibles who created the King James Version were under specific instructions from their sovereign to create a work which reflected and supported the dogma of the Church of England. When they referred to existing works, the Geneva Bible for example, they were using versions which had too been written with a particular set of beliefs in mind, Calvinism for example. The same method of translation had already been in place for centuries, with stories moved about, amplified upon, or newly created wholesale by copyists, to reflect the evolution of the Christian beliefs at the time, and to explain why they had evolved as they had. The Bible has not only recently been changed, it has always been subject to change.
Has The King James Bible Been Changed Over The Years
Question: I thought I had heard that the King James Bible that we have and popularly use today is from the 1700s, and that the 1611 King James Version uses much more archaic English words and spellings. Please let me know if this is how you understand this, or if you have a different understanding.
Is the King James Only position established by the history of the King James Version? Many King James Only writers argue God had the King James Version written so that, through the translators, He could produce an inerrant English Bible. In fact, it was written for a far more mundane reason: to produce a good standard translation that would be most acceptable to all concerned. Understanding the background of the King James Version will help us comprehend the issues involved.
How did we get the King James Version? The King James Version Bible was first published in 1611, and subsequent printings or editions corrected a number of translation errors . What this means is that each one of these versions differed in certain places from the previous edition. (In fact, there were two slightly different 1611 editions and six slightly different editions in the 1650s.
The King James Version Bible we use today is actually based primarily on a major revision completed in 1769. This was 158 years after the first edition.
Some of the problems which Erasmus bypassed in his hasty work have been summarized by noted Princeton scholar Bruce M. Metzger:
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