The Bible’s Reliability and Its Handwritten Copies

Often skeptics and liberal theologians unite in the media and as “history” on TV to slam the Bible and project doubt onto the world. These scholars claim an elite and prominent status among themselves. As though having opposing worldviews, liberal and secular unite in casting doubt upon the Bible’s reliability. However, they keep back much information about how the Christian Scriptures remain preserved from the most attested and reliable ancient manuscripts.

Many Differences among Numerous Handwritten Scriptures

The secular and liberal theological elites proclaim to reveal the “unreliability” of the Bible because of 27,000 plus “irreconcilable” manuscripts. They claim more variations among these handwritten copies than the 138,000 words in the New Testament. These critics like to present how the original copies of the Christian Scripture no longer exist. They want all to share their doubt by appealing to the possibility that the Scriptures are unreliable. They also note the 1,400 debated variants between 5,700+ Greek copies of the New Testament. They want you to question the authority of the Bible and wonder if the most fundamental teachings of the Bible are the result of alterations of men conspiring for an orthodox faith. The truth is that middle-school students though illiterate of ancient languages have the critical thinking skills to analyze variants between Biblical manuscripts. (See the NET Bible to introduce yourself to such variants.)

However, the reader should notice that the Bible far exceeds other ancient texts in manuscript support. The New Testament is closer to its originals in date than any existing manuscripts for any other ancient text. Because there are numerous manuscripts, scholars can count the various differences of each handwritten manuscript. They also admittedly have resolved 99% of the differences while the remaining differences effect no teaching in the Bible (Metzger, The Text of the New Testament).

The Irrational Rejection of the New Testament

Imagine one thousand years from now, some scholars dust off some of our English translations of the Bible and accept the New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness version), the Message, the Good News Bible, the additions of Joseph Smith to the King James, and the Jefferson Bible. Envision them taking these as equals to the King James, New King James, New American Standard, and the English Standard translations. What if they listed thousands of variants between these translations, and concluded that the Bible was therefore polluted and is then untrustworthy. What an outrage and irrational conclusion that would be! That is exactly what the secular scholars and critical progressives of today are doing! People are believing them because they are on the history channel!

What these opposing theologians and their allies have not told everyone is what they are incapable of proving. Their learning consists of a vast knowledge from a limited reading of some manuscripts. These men have already accepted and invested in a critical Greek Bible. They assert various differences between manuscripts transcribed by men who did not know the language that they were writing (see manuscripts known as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). They use these handwritten copies to produce an necessary doubt in the words of Jesus! This is an effort to capture the minds of young students. These critical scholars propagate that the Bible is like the “broken telephone” game (more info).

An Examples of New Testament Reliability

Imagine that five groups claim to have passed down one specific passage of Scripture through fifteen centuries until the printing press. However, the passage differs among the five groups. How does someone determine the original text?

Scholars are seeking the original phrase the passage among these five groups and the date of the text. Manuscript dates may mislead one to perceive that a reading dates earlier than another. However, one must date each textual family and not according to manuscripts.

These five groups are Traditional (TR), Byzantine (B), Alexandrian (A), Western (W), and Eclectic (E). Hypothetically, here are the final messages that were passed down: the Traditional, the Byzantine, the Western, and the Eclectic state “The Word of God.” The Alexandrian was “The Word.” What meaning was lost?

Now examine how these messages developed from earlier to later, and one can determine the original phrase from the messages though three stages (representing 5 centuries each).

(TR)  1st [unknown]; 2nd [unknown]; 3rd concluded with “The Word of God”

(B)  1st “The Word of God”; 2nd “The Word of God”; 3rd concluded with “The Word of God”

(A)  1st “The Word”; 2nd [unknown]; 3rd [unknown]

(W)  1st [not known]; 2nd “The Word of God”; 3rd [not known]

(E)  1st [not known]; 2nd “The Word”; 3rd concluded with “The Word of God”

What was the original phrase? It takes a little critical thinking, but the conclusion is clear. Which are the reliable sources? The conclusion again is clear. The critics look at this and say, “Well, we just can’t know since we don’t have the originals.” The reader can see the originals! This is as simple of an illustration to show how one can know that original words of the Bible without any lack of faith.

The Agenda of Critical Scholars

Critical scholars want to muddy the water, because it suits their agenda. Notice how the variants above are minor. The variants above could have included erring and heretical phrases, yet this would only make the truth clearer and the errors removable. Critical scholars should seek to learn and think to gain the truth, and not to tell others what to believe. The student must test these “scholarly” presentations on TV, in magazines, in papers, on sites, and on blogs. A lot of these “truths” are simply bold assertions. These doubtful academics are not any more free from corruption than the agenda that moves them.

No Doubt Conclusion

There is no reason to doubt the Bible because of variant synonyms and slight changes of word order between handwritten copies passed through the centuries. What should people expect? The reliable lines of manuscripts will always show the Truth of what the authors originally wrote. Jesus declared, “My Words will never pass away.” The longer that opponents of the Bible can continue their “debate” then the more they accomplish their mission of spreading doubt enough doubt to win their agenda. Biblical manuscripts will have variants just as there are among English translations. However, no honest person can throw out all the translations as all faulty and unreliable because translation differ. Word order and varying synonyms just do not matter to the Truth presented in our English translations or the ancient Christian Scriptures. God has blessed humanity with so many manuscripts that someone can determine the truth between variants and rely on reliable families of handwritten copies through the centuries.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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