<< Previous | Index | Next >>"CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS" Manuscript Attestation For The New Testament INTRODUCTION 1. In an effort to demonstrate the RELIABILITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AS A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT... a. We considered evidence which confirms that the New Testament was WRITTEN AND BEING CIRCULATED SOON AFTER THE EVENTS TOOK PLACE; e.g.: 1) The internal evidence 2) Papyri fragments 3) Patristic writings b. We noted that ARCHAEOLOGY CONFIRMS THE NEW TESTAMENT RECORD (as we have it today) in those areas which can be checked; e.g., references to: 1) People 2) Places 3) Events 2. But ONE MORE QUESTION REMAINS in order to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the historical reliability of the New Testament: "What assurance is there, that what we have today in the form of the New Testament, is that which was penned by its original authors?" 3. In other words, since we don't have the original "AUTOGRAPHS" (the manuscripts penned by the authors), how do we know... a. There hasn't been SIGNIFICANT CHANGES OR ERRORS made in the process of copying over the years? b. There hasn't been COLLUSION (secret cooperation for deceitful purposes) among those who possessed the early copies of the originals? 4. This is where "THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST" in attesting ancient manuscripts can be applied to help answer such questions! [The answer this "test" gives to the historical reliability of the New Testament is an amazing one! But first, it may help to briefly explain...] I. THE "BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST" A. THIS TEST IS APPLIED TO ALL ANCIENT HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS... 1. Such as: a) Julius Caesar's "Gallic War" b) "Histories" of Tacitus c) "Annals" of Tacitus d) The New Testament 2. In an effort TO ESTABLISH THE LIKELIHOOD THAT WHAT COPIES WE HAVE: a) Are faithful representatives of the originals b) And have come to us free of changes, errors, or collusion B. QUESTIONS RAISED IN THIS TEST... 1. "How many copies of the document in question are available?" a. In order to compare them with one another b. The more, the better 2. "Where were the copies found?" a. If they all came from one place, collusion is possible b. But if they are from places far removed by time and location, collusion is unlikely 3. "What length of time passed between the original and the earliest copies?" a. If the earliest copies we have were written hundreds of years after the original, a lot of changes could have been made and we would not know it b. But a short interval of time would increase our assurance in the reliability of the copies 4. "What variances exist between the copies?" a. If the copies of a document are filled with significant differences, then it would not be possible to know what the original author wrote! b. But if the variances are few and minor, then the process of copying over the years has been faithful to the original! [What answers do we find when these questions are applied to the New Testament? And how does the New Testament compare with other historical documents of antiquity?] II. THE "BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST" FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT A. HOW MANY COPIES OF NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE? 1. Over 4,000 Greek manuscripts; 13,000 copies of portions of the New Testament in Greek! 2. Compare this with other ancient historical writings: a. Caesar's "Gallic Wars" - only 10 Greek manuscripts b. "Annals" of Tacitus - 2 c. Livy - 20; Plato - 7; Sophocles - 100 B. WHERE WERE THESE COPIES FOUND? 1. Various places: Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy 2. Such varied locations would make COLLUSION very difficult C. WHAT LENGTH OF TIME PASSED BETWEEN THE ORIGINAL AND THE EARLIEST COPIES? 1. We saw in the previous lesson that several PAPYRI FRAGMENTS have been dated to within 50-100 years 2. We have several nearly complete New Testament GREEK MANUSCRIPTS which were copied within 300-400 years, for example: a. Codex Sinaiticus, found near Mt. Sinai b. Codex Alexandrinus, found near Alexandria in Egypt c. Codex Vaticanus, located at the Vatican in Rome 3. But COMPARE THIS WITH MANUSCRIPTS OF VARIOUS CLASSICAL HISTORIES: a. "Histories of Thucydides" - earliest copy is 1300 years removed from the original b. "Histories of Herodotus" - earliest copy is 1350 years removed from the original c. Caesar's "Gallic War" - 950 years d. Roman History of Livy - 350 years (and the earliest copy is only a fragment) e. "Histories" of Tacitus - 750 years f. "Annals" of Tacitus - 950 years (and there are only two manuscripts) D. WHAT VARIANCES EXIST BETWEEN THE COPIES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT? 1. It is true that there are SOME VARIATIONS between the many thousands of manuscripts available a. But the vast majority are very minor (spelling, differences in phraseology, etc.; modern translations often note the differences in footnotes) b. Only 1/2 of one percent is in question (compared to 5 percent for the Illiad) 2. Even then, it can be stated: "No fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading...It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain: especially is this the case with the New Testament." -- SIR FREDERICK KENYON (authority in the field of New Testament textual criticism) CONCLUSION 1. In regards to the "BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST" in attesting the manuscript evidence for the New Testament: a. The New Testament not only passes with flying colors... b. It does better than ANY other historical document come down to us from antiquity! 2. "The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be as beyond all doubt." -- F. F. BRUCE 3. JOSH MCDOWELL makes some interesting comments: "After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scripture, I came to the conclusion that they are historically trustworthy. If one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then he must discard almost all literature of antiquity." "One problem I constantly face is the desire on the part of many to apply one standard or test to secular literature and other to the Bible. One needs to apply the same test, whether the literature under investigation is secular or religious." "Having done this, I believe one can hold the Scriptures in his hand and say, 'The Bible is trustworthy, and historically reliable.'" 4. Why then would anyone question the New Testament record concerning Jesus? a. It is because reference is made to miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead b. In our next study, we shall consider whether it is reasonable to believe that the New Testament is a LIE when it speaks of such things...
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The Executable Outlines Series, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2001
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