John I know that you have raised many questions about the validity of the different translations of the bible. here is some information I think you may find interesting.
MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE FOR THE BIBLE
Talk About It
Is the Bible a credible history book? Weren't there a number of changes made to the Bible over the centuries? What about all those interpretations of the oral tradition?
When it comes to the biblical text, there's a common misunderstanding about interpretations and translations. Yes, the Bible has been translated from its original languages, but it has not been changed or interpreted along the way. Translations such as the King James Version are derived from existing copies of ancient manuscripts -- the Hebrew Masoretic Text (Old Testament) and the Greek Textus Receptus (New Testament).
Today's Bibles are not translations of texts translated from other interpretations - they go right back to the ancient source manuscripts. The primary differences between today's Bible translations and those from earlier periods are based more on the need to update the target language than on the fact that our ancient manuscripts are not reliable. For example when it says in the old King James Version that Caiaphas "rent" his clothes (Matthew 26:5), it does not mean that he let someone else use his clothes for money. In 16th Century English "rent" meant "to tear." A modern translation needs to update based on the change in word meanings in a living language.
Dramatically, when the Bible is compared to other writings, it stands alone as the best-preserved literary work of all antiquity. 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 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.4 Some manuscript texts date to the early 2nd and 3rd Centuries, with the time between the original autographs and our earliest existing fragments 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:
o Homer's Iliad (643 manuscripts remain, with the earliest one dating to 400 years after the original autograph);
o Julius Caesar's The Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts remain, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph);
o Pliny Secundus' Natural History (7 manuscripts remain; with the earliest one dating to 750 years after the original autograph);
o Thucydides' History (8 manuscripts remain; with the earliest one dating to 1,300 years after the original autograph);
o Herodotus' History (8 manuscripts remain; with the earliest one dating to 1,350 years after the original autograph);
o Plato's essays (7 manuscripts remain; with the earliest one dating to 1,300 years after the original autograph);
o Tacitus' Annals (20 manuscripts remain; with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph).6
When it comes to credibility and accuracy, the huge number of biblical manuscripts is powerful. Like all other ancient documents, we don't have the original autographs. However, the sheer number of biblical manuscripts allows scholars to reconstruct the entire original with near complete accuracy!
In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.7
But if you don't read the text of the Bible for yourself, it doesn't make any difference to you how accurate it is!
1. Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, 71-73.
2. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol.1, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979, 58-59.
3. Ibid. 56-57.
4. McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 34-36.
5. John Ryland's Gospel of John fragment, John Ryland's Library of Manchester, England. See also, Ibid., 38.
6. McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol.1, 42.
7. Ravi K. Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? Word Publishing, 1994, 162.
TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE BIBLE
Talk About It
When examining the accuracy of the New Testament texts, scholars now have nearly 25,000 ancient manuscript copies and fragments to compare against each other. Almost 5,700 of these texts are written in the original Greek. When read together, we're now assured that nothing's been lost - the New Testament we read today is nearly identical to the New Testament texts being circulated by the end of the 1st Century AD. In fact, all of the New Testament except eleven minor verses can now be reconstructed outside the biblical manuscripts from the ancient writings of the early church leaders in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD.1
The academic discipline of "textual criticism" guarantees us that the Bible translations we have today are essentially the same as the ancient manuscripts, with the exception of a few inconsequential discrepancies that have been introduced over time through copyist error. We must remember that the Bible was hand-copied for hundreds of years before the invention of the first printing press in the mid-fifteenth century. Nevertheless, the text is exceedingly well preserved.
Homer's Iliad, the most renowned book of ancient Greece, is the second best-preserved literary work of all antiquity, with 643 copies of manuscript support discovered to date. In those copies, there are 764 disputed lines of text, as compared to 40 lines in all the New Testament manuscripts.2 Do you see how powerful this is? Of the approximately 20,000 lines that make up the entire New Testament, only 40 lines are in question! These 40 lines represent one quarter of one percent of the entire text and do not in any way affect the teaching and doctrine of the New Testament.
In comparison, of the approximately 15,600 lines that make up Homer's Iliad, 764 lines are in question. These 764 lines represent over 5% of the entire text, and yet nobody seems to question the general integrity of that ancient work.
Many ask, "Why don't we have surviving originals of the biblical texts?" Simply, there are no original manuscripts for any ancient works. In fact, many people are unaware that there are no surviving manuscripts of any of William Shakespeare's 37 plays (written in the 1600's), and scholars have been forced to fill some gaps in his works.3
The Bible is better preserved -- by far -- than other ancient works we read and accept as accurate every day, such as Homer, Plato and Aristotle. Through time-tested literary techniques, scholars have clearly determined that the Bible was not changed or interpreted from the ancient source texts. As the Bible was carried from country to country, it was translated into languages that don't necessarily mirror the original languages of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. However, other than some grammatical and cultural differences, the Bible is absolutely true to its original form and content, and remarkably well-preserved in its various translations.
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.4
Of course if a text isn't read, it doesn't make any difference how accurate it is. Why not carve out some time in your daily schedule to read the Bible. You can even download it on your pocket PC so that you can read it anytime!
1. Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol.1, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979, 50-51.
2. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, Revised and Expanded 1986, 366-67.
, Dana Spradley, Publisher, 2002.
4. F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1950, 178.
Edited by seafox14, 04 March 2007 - 09:28 AM.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Donít be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world