How do we know that the Greek New Testament Texts we have today are
essentially the same as the original copies?
1. There are over 24,000 old manuscripts, that is hand written
copies, of portions of the New Testament (NT) today. Over 5,000 of
these old manuscripts are in Greek, the language the NT was written
in. Many manuscripts are in Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, or
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2. The NT was completed around 95 AD when John wrote Revelation.
Our earliest manuscript fragment, John Rylands MS, dated 130 AD has a
few words of the gospel of John. The following old Greek manuscripts
contain most of the Bible or the NT: The Vatican manuscript 350 AD=
Bible. Codex Sinaiticus 350 AD= NT. Codex Alexandrinus 425 AD= Bible.
Manuscript of Ephraem 450 AD= NT. Geddes MacGregor lists over 50
important Bible manuscripts in his book "The Bible in the Making."
While hardly any hand written copies are from the 2nd century over
25 are dated from the 3rd century (200's). Bruce Metzger lists over
30 NT manuscripts that are complete and without gaps in "Manuscripts
of the Greek Bible : an introduction to Greek Palaeography." His list
includes manuscripts 35, 241, and 1384 from the 11th century. Besides
this evidence we also have various old translations of the Bible and
NT like the Syriac and Latin versions. Jerome's Latin Vulgate 384 AD
for example. R.A. Baker Ph.D. has an article on the development
of the New Testament Canon.
3. There are more surviving manuscripts of the NT than there are of
any other piece of ancient literature.
4. The oldest surviving manuscripts of most of the ancient Greek
authors are dated at least 700 years or more after the author's
5. Scholars believe that in essence we have the original works of
the ancient Greek authors, so why wouldn't one believe we have
copies of the writings of the New Testament authors?
6. God inspired or "breathed out" through human writers and their
personalities the entire original NT so that it contained no errors of
any kind. II Timothy 3:16. However, when men made copies of the NT they
sometimes mistook one Greek letter for another letter. Occasionally
they wrote a letter, word, or phrase down twice. At times a copier
inadvertently left out a letter, word, or phrase. Sometimes he
reversed the order of letters or words. Also a few scribes
intentionally changed the text to their liking. So today, the Greek
manuscripts we have of the NT are not all exactly the same. They do
have some minor variations or differences. Where differences appear
in Biblical manuscripts very intelligent people who are fluent in a
number of the appropriate languages study these ancient documents
and apply the science of textual criticism in an effort to determine
which text is the closest to the original text.
7. Did you know only around 3 percent of the Greek words in the New Testament
are in question. Many of these questions concern the original spelling of words,
word order, etc. Some words, sentences and phrases are in question. None would change
any important teaching of the New Testament. Comparing old hand written copies of the
New Testament one finds they are 98% in agreement with each other.
8. The early Christian leaders, usually called the early church
fathers, often quoted from the NT in their letters and writings.
We could construct all but a few verses of the entire NT from their
writings. Read the writings of the earliest church fathers. Many of
the writings of the early church fathers are also available on CD.
Here is some evidence that our Hebrew Old Testament (OT) texts are
in essence the same as the original copies.
1. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 the oldest
complete copy of the Hebrew OT was dated around 1000 A.D. We also
had large portions of the OT that were written around 900 A.D.
2. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written between 200 B.C. and 68 A.D.
Among other things they contain portions of every book of the OT
3. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a copy of Isaiah. That Isaiah which
was written 125 B.C. is 95% the same as the Isaiah written around
916 A.D. and with our Isaiah today. Most of the differences are just
obvious copying and spelling errors. The differences in Jeremiah are
greater. Scholars are not sure why. It may be they copied from a
manuscript of Jeremiah that was incomplete. As an aside, I'd like to
note that textural questions in the OT often seem to involve numbers
(which are easy to confuse).
4. The Masoretic or Hebrew text that the OT in our English Bibles
is translated from is very close to the Septuagint or Greek
translation of the OT made from the Hebrew text around 250 B.C.
5. Durning the 5th century B.C. the first five books of the OT were
written in the Samaritan text. This text agrees with our 10th century
copy of the Masoretic or Hebrew OT.
6. We have over 2000 manuscripts of the OT.
"Evidence That Demands A Verdict" by Josh McDowell, "How The Bible
Became A Book" by Terry Hall, and "Encyclopedia Of Bible
Difficulties" by Gleason Archer contain much more detailed
information about why we can trust the Bible.
The Bible is one of the few books that claims to be God's Word. It
makes this claim over 2000 times. Over 40 men, on three different
continents, writing in three different languages wrote the 66 books
of the Bible as God directed them to. The Bible is 66 books written
by many men, yet inspired or "breathed out" by God. II Peter 1:21.
II Timothy 3:16. The original writings of the Old and New
Testaments had absolutely no scientific, historical, or doctrinal
errors. Here's how the Bible came to be.
Adam and Eve, our first parents, didn't have any Bible. God talked to
Adam and Eve and their children directly and through visions, dreams,
and angels. Adam was created extremely intelligent and he could talk.
We know Adam could talk because Adam talked with God and he also named
all the animals. Later God began to talk to his people through prophets.
A prophet was someone that God talked to. Then the prophet told the
people around him what God said. Around 1450 B.C. God talked to the
prophet Moses. God told Moses to write down what He told him in a book.
Exodus 34:27. Numbers 33:2. Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-26. So Moses wrote
the first five books of the Old Testament.
Jesus, our Creator who has always existed, considered the Old
Testament to be true. Matthew 12:40; 19:4; 24:38-39. John 10:35.
After Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old
Testament, Joshua and many other prophets wrote books as they were
moved to by God. Sometimes prophets like Joshua wrote an appendix
or ending on to the previous authors work. Everyone in those days
knew these books were written by prophets, men who spoke for God.
They knew these men were prophets because they could perform miracles
and when they said something would happen it always happened.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22. So the Hebrew people as a nation
accepted these books that claimed to be the Word of the Lord as such
and saw to it that they were read and carefully copied. It
should be noted that at least once they became very careless in
keeping track of God's Word. 2nd Kings 22:1-23:3
Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament was written about four
hundred years before the birth of Christ. Between the writing of
Malachi and the first book of the New Testament there were four
hundred years of silence - no messages from God.
Between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. several apocryphal (hidden) books were
written. The Jews did not consider them to be Scripture. Yet, the
only difference between the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible
is that the Catholics include a number of apocryphal books in their
Old Testament. However, many, but not all, believe they were not
officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church until 1545 A.D.
All of the New Testament was written before the close of the first
century. Every book in the New Testament was written either by an
apostle or an apostles friend or secretary. As these letters from
the apostles were sent to individuals and churches they were
recognized as being inspired, breathed out by God, and they were
circulated so they could be read publicly in the church services
of many groups. The Christians in various churches copied these
letters carefully and distributed them to other Christians and
churches. By 170 A.D. there was almost complete agreement by
everyone that the 27 books we now have in our New Testament were
inspired, breathed out by God. So when the canonization councils met
they were but formally confirming or setting forth a list of the
books that had already come to be recognized and accepted as
scripture or prophecy.
The Unique Unity And Message Of The Bible
The Old Testament is the agreement God had with man before Christ
came. The New Testament is the agreement God has with man now that
Christ has come. In Jeremiah 31:31 God foretold he would make a new
covenant with his people.
The Old Testament is built around the coming of a Redeemer, a
Savior, Jesus Christ. There are many very specific prophecies in
the Old Testament that point to the coming of the Savior or Messiah,
Jesus Christ. Jesus said that all the prophecies in the Old Testament
would be fulfilled. Matthew 5:17-18. The New Testament is built upon
the fact that Jesus came to this earth, lived, died, was buried,
rose from the grave alive, ascended into heaven, and is coming
The main message of the Old Testament is Jesus is coming! The main
message of the New Testament is Jesus has come! The main message of
Revelation is Jesus is coming again! The main message of the Bible