Find books That is to say, with regard to the time when the New Testament was originally written until the time the printing press was invented, some have demanded that the scribes copy the text 100 percent accurately, or it cannot be considered inspired or inerrant. If we add to this number more than 18,000 New Testament manuscripts written in other languages (translations) besides Greek, the overall count swells to nearly 24,000 New Testament manuscripts! Furthermore, the variant readings, whether intentional or unintentional, exist in only a very limited portion of the New Testament. In the same manner, Christians developed the practice of reading a fixed portion of the gospels and the New Testament letters every Sunday (and on holy days). When we try to conceptualize how to reconstruct an original after 2000 years of copying, translating, and copying some more, the task appears impossible. Right side of top graphic: Flickr (Public Domain). The text has come down to us in an accurate manner, with nothing lost in its transmission. In those seven letters, Ignatius quoted from 18 different books of the New Testament. 19 A.T. Robertson, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1925), 22. Since there was no printing in those days, copies were made by hand, and copies of copies, and so on. For the best writings of the ancient Greeks—such as Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Homer—the time span between the original writings and the earliest copies is often more than 1,000 years. Other variations came about intentionally, as New Testament Greek scholar J. Harold Greenlee notes. Apologetic Arguments for the Historical Accuracy of the New Testament . The fact is, however, that the New Testament was written in the mid-to-late first century AD, and by the end of the third century AD (or within just over 200 years of the time of the New Testament writers), we have surviving manuscripts from almost every book in the New Testament. Apologists say no, and this book agrees regarding major doctrines, but says some “non-core” teachings are affected. Greek New Testament Manuscripts AD 45 – ... Another early witness to the accuracy of the New Testament text comes from the prolific writings (of hundreds of thousands of quotations of Scripture) of the ante-Nicene fathers of the church. Metzger claimed that the Hindu Mahabharata was copied at about 90 percent accuracy and Homer’s Iliad at about 95 percent accuracy.16 As noted in the illustration above, if 90-95 percent accuracy is achieved in the transmission process, it would be more than enough to communicate 100 percent of the original meaning of the text. Even within the period … That is to say, the words (verba) may vary slightly, but the voice or meaning (vox) is the same. Some apologists and sceptics will favour the statistic that most agrees with the view they are promoting. Yet, despite the bias, the message is 100 percent identical! In the case of Homer’s Iliad, the time span is about 400 years, and, as mentioned earlier, is supported by nearly 2,000 manuscripts. email. To better understand the scope of the numbers involved, as of 2017, the Institute for New Testament Textual Research, located at the University of Munster in Germany, currently lists the official number at 5,856 partial and complete manuscript copies written in the Greek language.2 These include handwritten copies of the New Testament papyri, parchment and lectionaries. Don has traveled around the world proclaiming and staunchly defending the Christian faith. 12 Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament In The Original Greek According To The Byzantine/Majority Text Form (Atlanta, GA: Original Word Publications, 1991), xvi -xvii. The New Testament (NT) contains four biographies of Jesus (the Gospels), one history book of the early church (Acts), twenty-one letters (Romans to Jude), and an apocalypse (Revelation). As you can see, there are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. Most of the New Testament is preserved in manuscripts less than 200 years from the original, with some books dating from a little more than 100 years after their composition and one fragment surviving within a generation of its authorship. But the experts say that this is overstated. I have been devouring the book eagerly. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. Sceptics will tell you there have been so many changes in transmission we can’t have any confidence in the text. I read Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted to get the sceptical view from an eminent scholar. The evidence throws doubt on the idea of a perfect set of original writings, and shows there are uncertainties in the Bible we read. Only about 400-600 variant readings seriously affect the translational sense of any passage in the entire New Testament.12. Alternatively, if any ancient work were to come down to us in only one copy, there would be nothing with which to compare that copy. 2 See the tally by The Institute for New Testament Textual Research and to keep updated on the ever-growing tally see the searchable database. 20 Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York, NY: Harper San Francisco, 2005), 55. 2019. The first point for consideration is that the authors tackle the common claim … Two of the greatest textual scholars who ever lived, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, had this to say concerning the amount of variation in the New Testament manuscripts: “If comparative trivialities, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of an article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.”10. But it also indicates that the text is well preserved with few important texts in doubt. Some apologists claim that even if we had lost the entire set of manuscripts, we could reconstruct almost all of it from the writings of christians in the second and third centuries. Up until now, I tried to read both sides and then make a judgment. 1 This article first appeared in Joseph M. Holden, gen. The massive number of extant New Testament manuscripts (MSS) does not prove the accuracy of the content, nor is Geisler claiming that it does. " This is one such book. I find this one rather strange. All Orthodox and heretics alike leveled this charge against their opponents, though the surviving evidence suggests the charge was more frequent than the reality.”9 The amount of intentional variation to the text was minimal. But I was still left with a vast difference in conclus… For this reason, their prolific writings remain an important witness to the New Testament. The New Testament dwarfs other books of ancient history in this criterion. Here is some of what I have learnt. However, this is an inconsequential criticism … Additional witnesses to the accuracy of the New Testament text, which are among the Greek manuscripts, are the lectionaries. As modern scholars conduct a careful analysis of the manuscript copies, it is obvious that the New Testament text contains minor scribal “mistakes.” This has led some to erroneously assume the Bible is not inspired or inerrant in all that it states, claims, teaches and implies. Based on the various kinds of evidence, it is clear that great care was taken to accurately copy the Greek manuscripts. In our modern culture, 30-300 years seems like a long time, but for historians of ancient literature, it is like yesterday! 10 B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. What now becomes unbelievable is that nowhere in this article does Metzger estimate the New Testament accuracy to be 99.5%. 13 Phillip Schaff, A Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version, (New York, NY: Publisher Not Known, 1877), 177. The New Testament has tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts that can be extensively compared to each other; plus, those manuscripts have the earliest dating to its recorded events of any historical book. That is, about 19 percent of the letters are the same. They conclude that because the scribes fell short of perfect transmission, an inspired and inerrant Bible is impossible. The church followed the custom of the Jewish synagogue, which had a fixed portion of the law and the prophets read each Sabbath. It was highly recommended by New Testament scholar the late Larry Hurtado, whose blog I used to follow and who I greatly respected. There isn’t one, single, original, preserved copy of the New Testament. That is an amazing accuracy. Every time he cited Scripture we can observe the Greek text he was using. One word of warning must be emphasized in conclusion on the subject of transmission. Without any doubt, the quantity of New Testament manuscripts, the dates from the original manuscripts to the earliest copies available, and quality of the copies of the New Testament manuscripts all serve as undeniable and powerful witnesses to the accurate preservation of God’s inspired and inerrant Word. New Testament Part 4 Manuscript Accuracy & New Testament Conclusion . The original documents that make up the New Testament had a limited life. Similarly, by evaluating and comparing the textual evidence (known as textual criticism), scholars can then work backward to establish what was originally written. The entire New Testament text is accounted for in manuscript form within 300 years of the original writing (cf. Because of this, any impartial person cannot help but be impressed with their abundant testimony. Up until now, I tried to read both sides and then make a judgment. But I was still left with a vast difference in conclusions, and had to try to make a judgment based on my own very inexpert assessment. Is today's new testament the same as the original that was written two-thousand years ago, or has the original been hopelessly lost? In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Most manuscripts of the New Testament are only manuscripts of part of the New Testament, and providing an exact count of them is a fool’s errand. 9 David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, eds., New Testament Criticism and Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1991), 103. Hickie, The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, NY: Macmillan Co., 1951), 2.2. New Testament documents are the best attested documents of antiquity . Sceptics have likened copying to a game of Chinese Whispers, where it is easy for words to be mis-heard and passed on inaccurately, justifying this by arguing that the scribes who copied the NT were amateurs, not experienced professionals. On the other hand, christian apologists say we have so many more copies than any other ancient manuscript, and this allows us to verify that copying has been accurate, there are few doubtful words and no christian doctrine is affected by the uncertainties. These fixed portions are known as lectionaries. Contrary to all other copies of documents of antiquity, such as the ancient classical writers (Aristotle, Plato, Caesar, Tacitus, Thucydides, Herodotus, etc. Other notable Bible scholars, such as Ezra Abbot, figured the copies of the New Testament manuscripts are 99.75 percent accurate. Today at 12:30 PM. John Warwick Montgomery comments on the strong bibliographical standing the New Testament enjoys when he says, “To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of the classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”5. New manuscripts continue to be discovered, usually in existing libraries or collections. Why Can We Trust the Transmission of the Hebrew Text? For example, seven letters have survived that were written by Ignatius (AD 70–110), and nearly every book of the Bible (except 2 John and Jude) was quoted by AD 110 by only three church fathers—Ignatius, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp. 18 Greek scholar A.T. Robertson places the transmission rate at 99.9 percent … Among all the known copies of parts of the New Testament there are many variant readings, due mainly to wrong spelling, accidentally missing a word, writing the wrong word, or changing the word order. It can be answered in an academic way totally unrelated to spiritual convictions by a simple appeal to facts, an apologetic technique I call “Just the Facts, Ma’am.” The objection at first glance is compelling. The charge that is often made, without qualification—especially by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman—is that copyists radically changed the substance of the text. The number of quotations from the church fathers is so overwhelming that if every other source for the New Testament (Greek manuscripts and versions) were destroyed, the vast majority of the New Testament text could be reconstructed! They derive for the most part from attempts by scribes to improve the text in various ways. Likewise, even with the many differences in the New Testament variants, 100 percent of the message comes through.15. In other words, the words may change slightly, but the meaning is still the same. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, The reliability of the New Testament text, All change – because the world is changing. The longer the interval between the original and the copy, the more room there is for errors, embellishments, and distortions to creep in as the text is copied and recopied. PLATO (born c. 427 in Athens, Greece) is one of the foundational … Current texts in the woman standing in the lord jesus of his work on the bible and the country. Y’ALL HAVE WON $10,000,000 [Notice the Southern bias here], Observe that of the 28 letters in line two, only five of them [in bold] are the same in line three. Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. Furthermore, significant checking was undertaken, either by the scribe himself or a supervisor, and many manuscripts contain correction in the margins. The authors are mostly young academics working and studying in New Testament textual analysis. I acknowledge the Gweagal and Norongeragal people of the Dharawal nation and language, the traditional custodians of the land and waters where I live and write this blog. The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) Moody Bible Institute. The book shows this claim doesn’t make sense. Visit their website to learn more, and follow Veritas on Facebook. To dismiss these areas of support would be self-defeating, for it would mean that every extrabiblical ancient work considered “reliable” by secular scholars—all of which are based on lesser evidence—would need to be brought into question. The scribes were mostly competent transcribers, with the result that the NT manuscripts show the same levels of care, experience and accuracy that one could reasonably expect of any ancient text. They could creep into the text through fatigue or through faulty sight, hearing, writing, memory, or judgment on the part of the scribe. But unfortunately, sometimes they use out-dated information, and sometimes they count all NT documents but only useful manuscripts for other texts, making the comparison more favourable, but not fair. To understand this issue better, we should familiarize ourselves with the process Bible scholars undertake in their effort to reconstruct the original text. Speaking to His followers, Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14). This book is both scholarly and easy to read (mostly). For example, the second-most-supported work behind the New Testament is Homer’s well-known poem Iliad, with more than 1,900 manuscripts.3 Ancient literature was rarely translated into another language—with the New Testament being an important exception. 8 Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (German Bible Society, 1994), 3-4. However, taking a different perspective, we find that, on average, scribes made one mistake or change in every 400-500 words they copied, which doesn’t sound nearly so bad. Because there were no copy machines available in ancient times, the tedious transmission process had to be accomplished by the scribe’s own hand. Greater accuracy of the new testament manuscripts discovered in heaven, which has preserved his finger wrote his life in red. Listen to messages from Pastor Chuck Smith and other Calvary leaders, dating back to the early years of Calvary Chapel. Thus, we can be confident that the text of the New Testament, as it stands today, is essentially the same text that was originally written by the authors of Scripture. The late Princetonian scholar and renown authority on New Testament textual criticism Bruce Metzger expands upon the intentional variations. Lord possessed me this are rightly guided, and rebuked them, as perhaps the sixth century. There are three main areas of textual evidence to consider when answering the question of whether the New Testament manuscripts were copied accurately: (1) the number of Greek manuscripts, (2) the dating of the manuscripts, and (3) the textual accuracy of the manuscript copies. As expected, there is no mention of the New Testament having 20,000 lines of which only 40 lines are in doubt. 18 Brooke Foss Westcott, Fenton John Anthony Hort, and W.J. So they give many examples of apologetic and sceptical claims that are not supported by the evidence, and then outline what they see as more correct conclusions, supported by impressive references. The question of authenticity is not really a religious concern at all; it’s an academic one. A Note on the Percent of Accuracy of the New Testament Text. This question takes us to manuscript evidence. For if the copies do not reflect the original writings of Scripture, we would have no idea what the original texts said. This is seen in the Gospel of Matthew, where the author cited and made allusions to the Old Testament more than 100 times. Joseph Holden, Ph.D. Download books for free. Whether one prefers to use the Byzantine text-type, which is found in the greatest number of manuscripts, or the Alexandrian text-type, which has fewer but older manuscripts, the final result will be more or less the same. Consequently, the early fathers provide us with an excellent early witness to the text. Some scholars believe that many of the variants were not accidental, but the result of trying to harmonise the text with orthodox doctrine. They all tell the same story! Because scholars do not possess the original writings of the New Testament (known as autographs),1 we must ask: How accurate are the manuscript copies (apographs)? Chester Beatty Collection, Bodmer Collection, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus). Note…that most of the variant readings found in manuscripts of other text types are trivial or untranslatable. The voice of God is heard loud and clear in the text! Our English Bible is the culmination of this textual investigation. Crucially, the editors right from the start lay out the sceptical and christian apologetic “extremes”, and make it clear that they will be avoiding both ends of the spectrum, and explain why. Instead, they are rather trivial. Even in places where loose paraphrases were used, we can still recognize those allusions as Scripture. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987), 28. I read FF Bruce’s old classic The New Testament Documents: are they reliable? A careful comparison of the papyrus documents and manuscripts of the second and third centuries has established beyond doubt that about forty Greek papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament date from this very period. If other languages are included, the number jumps beyond 25,000! The Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) outstrips every other ancient manuscript in sheer numbers and in the dates of composition from the time of its original writing. He currently hosts Pastor’s Perspective on KWVE 107.9 FM Radio. Many claims are made about the number and significance of these variants, but few explain how such a number is estimated.