What follows will be a mixture of links to lectures, debates and interviews about the ancient manuscripts that are extant and copied text on the same subject. It is important to be able to see the history and foundation of the modern Bible and see that God preserves his word regardless of the many altered versions that permeate this world.
This website holds that if we want to see God’s complete word we can find it in 3 versions: The King James Bible, The New International 1984 edition and the New American Standard version. Many others will disagree with this selection but the more modern the version the more God’s word could have been tampered with.
By tampered with we mean that too many versions are seeking the original words that were penned in the original autographs yet there is no hope of verifying that goal once it is claimed to have been reached.
We do not have the original autographs thus we need to take it by faith that God will lead us to the right versions regardless of scholarship and scholarly endorsement. The Daniel Wallace videos are quite good, though not everything he says is accurate, and well worth the time to listen to them. He presents a lot of numerical information that is important for the believers’ lives and faith.
The believer needs to keep in mind that those who do not believe the Bible as God had it written will tend to edit the current Bible to fit their religious views. Some, like Marcion and Thomas Jefferson, would edit out large portions of the Bible or New Testament simply because they didn’t like those parts.
The Jehovah Witness cult also edits the Bible to fit their views so one must be careful not to take their copy and think it is coming from a Christian church. The one question we have about people making their own translation is ‘Did God lead them to do it?’ Many people offer their own translation of God’s word and they tend to change the words to fit modern secular culture and not God’s will.
Secularists will do this so a believer needs to be aware of these traps. The words they change are usually key words which change the important teachings of the OT & NT. Another question to ask when a new version of a Bible comes out is, ‘Why would God change certain words now when other words have stood for hundreds if not thousands of years?’
The changing of the word is important as it can change the meaning of a text or what actually took place so we need to be careful when looking at adopting new versions of the Bible. The best thing to do is follow the Holy Spirit and let him lead you to the correct version where God’s word has been preserved.
The other thing is to be wary when people charge that certain words or texts were changed to fit the scribes theological traditions. They could mean what was said immediately above or they could mean certain true doctrines of the Bible. For example, Paul’s teaching on women and the church. Such accusations do not come from God but from people’s personal viewpoint or the current trend in secular culture.
The ABMC is a non-profit research institute of the Claremont School of Theology that is devoted to preserving photographic and digital images of ancient Jewish and Christian manuscripts and to making those images conveniently available to students and scholars for research purposes….
For over 3,000 years, scribes copied the texts of the Bible from manuscript to manuscript by hand. No scribe, no matter how committed, diligent, or unbiased, produced an error-free copy. Indeed, many scribes felt compelled to change the text in accordance with their own theological traditions.
Since significant differences exist among all Biblical manuscripts, today each surviving manuscript represents a unique witness that must be studied in comparison with others. Unfortunately, extant manuscripts are scattered around the world, and geographical, financial, and political barriers hinder scholarly access.
The ABMC serves as an archive for accurate copies of original source materials of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The mission of the ABMC is two-fold: preservation and research. Above all, the ABMC seeks to foster greater accuracy in textual work on the Bible.
The ABMC seeks to foster the use of original source materials by researchers engaged in the study of the biblical text and the preparation of critically responsible texts of the Bible for use in universities, colleges, seminaries, synagogues, and churches, and for reliable translations. We offers access to the film collections both on-site and through Interlibrary Loan (ILL).
In addition, the ABMC has published several texts. Our publications are intended to provide scholars with better tools with which to work.
#3. Daniel Wallace Debates and Interviews
Although there are many ancient Biblical manuscripts, the importance of the Leningrad Codex and the Aleppo Codex, codices created by the Masoretic scholars, lies in the annotations that the texts contain. Ancient Biblical manuscripts written in Hebrew are largely without vowels, so even if there is no question regarding the letters of a given text, there still may be a question as to how a particular word should be pronounced and what it means.
Likewise, ancient Biblical manuscripts—such as the Dead Sea Scrolls—may contain no indication as to how the Torah portions and the prophetic readings should be chanted in the synagogue.
Dramatically, when the Bible manuscripts are compared to other ancient writings, they stand alone as the best-preserved literary works of all antiquity. Remarkably, there are thousands of existing Old Testament manuscripts and fragments copied throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean and European regions that agree phenomenally with each other. 1 In addition, these texts substantially agree with the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which was translated from Hebrew to Greek some time during the 3rd century BC. 2 The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in Israel in the 1940’s and 50’s, also provide astounding evidence for the reliability of the ancient transmission of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. 3
The manuscript evidence for the “New Testament” is also dramatic, with nearly 25,000 ancient manuscripts discovered and archived so far, at least 5,600 of which are copies and fragments in the original Greek. 4Some manuscript texts date to the early second and third centuries, with the time between the original autographs and our earliest existing fragment being a remarkably short 40-60 years. 5
Interestingly, this manuscript evidence far surpasses the manuscript reliability of other ancient writings that we trust as authentic every day. Look at these comparisons: Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts remain, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph); Pliny the Younger’s Natural History (7 manuscripts; 750 years elapsed); Thucydides’ History (8 manuscripts; 1,300 years elapsed); Herodotus’ History (8 manuscripts; 1,350 years elapsed); Plato (7 manuscripts; 1,300 years); and Tacitus’ Annals (20 manuscripts; 1,000 years).
Renowned Bible scholar F.F. Bruce declares:
There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament. 7
Every English Bibles is a translation because no biblical Source wrote in English. The biblical Sources wrote their documents in Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew. None of these documents are known to exist and neither are they mentioned in the writings of early Christians or Jews. Historians tell us that soon after the original documents were made they were copied by members of different communities and passed around to other groups. Copies of those copies were made and then copies of those copies. This process continued for many centuries.
The earliest known Hebrew biblical manuscripts are the Cairo Codex and the Leningrad Codex of the Prophets. The Cairo Codex was made about 895 CE and the Leningrad Codex of the Prophets in 916 CE. The Codex of the Pentateuch (tenth or eleventh century CE) is another Hebrew manuscript that has been important manuscript for translators and is kept at the British Museum . The oldest known manuscript that contains the entire 39 books of the Old Testament is the Leningrad Codex, which was completed in 1008 CE. There are many other manuscripts, but the foregoing are the primary witnesses to the Hebrew text.
Until the age of the printing press, the Hebrews scriptures were laboriously copied by hand. Jewish history records how the ancient Hebrew scribes oversaw the process of copying with an almost fanaticism. There developed at an early age various groups of Jewish scholars who were dedicated to the purity and preservation of the Hebrew text. From this group came Jewish scholars who became generally known as the Masorites. Their work consisted of editing and correcting the Hebrew text during the period from the seventh through the tenth centuries CE. It is from their work that the modern Masoretic Text comes; these are the texts found in synagogues today. One fact that we must be of is that there is more than one Masoretic Hebrew text and they are no all identical.
In 323 AD, Constantine became Emperor of Rome and declared Christianity the state religion. Prior to this time, during periods of persecution, Christians copied and kept the Bible at the risk of their lives. Bibles were burned by the pagans whenever they were in Christendom.
The oldest New Testament Greek vellum manuscripts were probably written during the reign of Constantine in the 4th Century. It has been suggested that Codex B was one of 50 copies which Constantine had made to produce a common Bible, satisfying all factions in Christendom. In the 7th Century the Egyptian, Syrian and North African Churches were largely eliminated by the Mohammedan invasion.
In Rome, Latin early became the sacred language and replaced Greek in the copies of scripture. This influence spread to the North African Provinces of the Roman Empire. At the end of the 4th Century, Jerome stated that there “were as many Latin Texts as there were manuscripts.” Hence he was asked by Pope Damasus (382AD) to produce the authoritative Latin Version, which came to be known as the Latin Vulgate.
The Greek speaking Byzantine Empire, preserved from the Mohammedan invasion, continued till the 15th Century, (the advent of printing). It was here, where the original language of the New Testament was spoken, that God preserved for us the majority of the Greek manuscripts.
Just as the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament was preserved among the Hebrew speaking Jews, so the Greek Text of the New Testament was preserved in the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire. Thus the Byzantine Text, the Traditional Text, — ‘The Greek Vulgate’ and the Received Text are synonomous terms each describing the ‘True Text’ as it has held sway in the hearts of Christians from the earliest times. It is in fact the “majority text” — the text preserved in the majority of manuscripts.
In 1516 AD, the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament was published by the brilliant scholar, Erasmus. It is evidence of the overruling providence of God, that although he used only a few Greek manuscripts, his text is in general agreement with 90% to 95% of the 5,000 or more manuscripts available today! The manuscripts he used, were therefore representative of the commonly accepted text.
It is noteworthy that, though Erasmus had correspondence with three (3) Popes, (Julius II, Leo X and Adrian VI) and spent some time at Rome, he did not use Codex Vaticanus (b) when compiling the first printed text. (Codex B was the prime authority used by Westcott and Hort whose text is the basis for most modern translations.)
Reliability of the New Testament as Historical Documents
- “Astounding” number of ancient manuscripts extant: 5,000 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin and 9,000 other–totaling over 24,000 manuscript copies or portions of the New Testament. These are dated from 100 to 300 years after the originals. (There are no original manuscripts [“autographs”] extant, but the number and similarity of copies allows scholars to reconstruct the originals.)
- Early fragments: John Ryland manuscript 130 A.D. in Egypt; Bodmer manuscript containing most of John’s gospel 150-200 A.D.; Magdalen fragment from Mat. 26 believed by some to be within a few years of Jesus’ death; Gospel fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls dated as early as 50 A.D.
- Comparison with other ancient documents (available copies versus the originals):
Caesar—10 copies—1000 year gap
Tacitus—20 copies—1000 year gap
Plato—7 copies—1200 year gap
- F. F. Bruce: “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good attestation as the New Testament.”
- William F. Albright: “Thanks to the Qumran discoveries, the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers circa.25 and circa. 80 AD.”
Quotations from Early Church Fathers:
- Clement of Rome (a disciple of the apostles) cited Matthew, John, and 1 Corinthians in 95 to 97 A.D. Ignatius (who knew the apostles well) referred to six Pauline Epistles in about 110. Polycarp (disciple of apostle John) quoted from all four Gospels, Acts, and most of Paul’s Epistles from 110 to 150. Taitian’s harmony of the Four Gospels completed in 160 A.D. Irenaeus (who apparently heard the apostles) quoted from Matthew, John, Acts, and 1 Corinthians in 160 A.D.
- Of the four Gospels alone, there are 19,368 citations by the church fathers from the late first century on. Even if we had no manuscripts, virtually the entire New Testament could be reconstructed from these quotations. This argues powerfully that the Gospels were in existence before the end of the first century, while some eyewitnesses (including John) were still alive.