Can we Trust our COPY of the Bible?

Modified from Manuscript evidence for superior 
New Testament reliability,
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY  www.carm.org

Can we Trust the Authenticity of the BIBLE?

One of the criticisms of the Bible is that it has been perverted over the years and we don’t have an accurate copy of the Bible. For our discussion today we’ll focus on the accuracy of the New Testament.

The critics will only offer conjecture as evidence that the Bible is corrupted. However, to know if something is corrupt, one must have an accurate sample by which to compare.

That’s where this article comes in; to show that we do have ancient examples to compare that our newly printed Bibles are accurate to the original.

This article doesn’t attempt to lay out ALL of the evidence for the Authenticity of the Bible. It will focus on the availability of ancient copies dating as far back as the 2nd Century AD.

By just looking at the available COPIES of the New Testament and comparing them, we can be certain of its accuracy. We’ll note the number of copies found so far, the accuracy between those copies, and the earlies dates of those copies.

The bible teaches that early CHRISTIANS made COPIES for themselves and shared them with other CHRISTIANS. “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col 4:16). These were circulated, copied, and shared with other Christians, and this during the time of the operation of the Holy Spirit and the lives of the Apostles. Any error was quickly rooted out and destroyed. (cf. 3John 10; 1Cor 4:21; 2Cor 12:20-21)

There exist very OLD copies and very OLD fragments of the New Testament. By comparing all available copies, especially the OLDEST ones, we can assemble a complete translation in our modern language. This is what the translators did in the early part of the 1600’s. The New Testament was penned as late as AD68 or 70. The oldest complete copy of the New Testament is the Codex Sinaiticus which dates to about AD350.

There are OLDER, and nearly complete, copies of the NT. The Codex Vaticanus is dated to around AD325. OLD fragments of nearly complete books of the NT can be traced as far back as AD150, and some as early as AD125. (Bodmer Papyrus, the Gospel of John; John Rylands Fragment of John’s Gospel). Consider this information as you continue to read about other ancient and accepted writings.

Authors such as PLATO (300-400 bc), Aristotle (384BC), and Homer (8th century BC), are accepted despite having very few surviving copies of their works. Homer’s Iliad has only 643 manuscripts. Aristotle only has 49 MSS. Plato only has 263 copies.

Compare these number to the number of copies of the NT. We have well over 5,600 manuscripts (MSS) of the New Testament, not counting copies in other languages (Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Nubian), and not counting the multiple thousands of fragments of individual NT books dating as far back as AD150. Combine these with those copied into other languages and we are approaching 10,000 ancient copies of the NT. Following the rules of authenticity, the New Testament thoroughly passes this test..

Another reason you can trust the authenticity of the New Testament is by the number of YEARS between the writing and the number of copies. Those ancient writers of Plato, Aristotle, and Homer are separated from their copies by over 1,000 years in some cases. The ‘Clarke Plato’, the oldest manuscript for about half the dialogues of Plato, was written by John the Calligrapher in AD895. Homer wrote around 900BC, but the earlies copy of his work dates to 400BC. Aristotle lived in the 4th century BC, yet the earliest copy of his work dates to AD1100.

If scholars agree with the accuracy of those writers, (90% of the manuscripts agree in content), can we not therefore trust the accuracy of the New Testament? All of these copies of the NT, along with the various fragments, agree 99% with each other. If you assembled all of the discrepancies you could fit them on one sheet of a modern Bible. None of the differences changes the meaning of the text or alters anything about how to be saved. Besides, God is able to preserve His word as He says.

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1Peter 1:24-25). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt 24:35).

Conclusion:

  • Early Christians made Copies of the originals for personal use and distribution. (Col 4:16)
  • The Oldest copies are more numerous than any other ancient work.
    •  5,600 Manuscripts, Thousands more in other languages, and tens of thousands of fragments of nearly complete books.
  • Plato, Aristotle, and Homer are accepted as accurate despite having fewer copies than the NT and being separated by 400-1,000 years from their original authorship.
  • The copies of the NT were written within 60 years of the original writings, far surpassing the works of other ancient writings.

Just on this information alone, one can trust that we have an accurate copy of the New Testament. Combine this with other evidence, both internal and external, we can be confident that we have God’s word preserved for us today. We CAN know the truth and the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

Spencer

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