Getting the Bible was a painstaking process of copying. Long before the printing press of the 15th century not to mention computers, copies of Scripture had to be preserved by painstaking copying, one letter at a time. Some copies were made individually. Others were made in scriptoriums where someone read the text. In these locations, many copies were made at once as several scribes listened and wrote. I often tell people the Bible they hold in their hands is possible because many people faithfully over several centuries copied the text to replace worn out copies. Those copies were not perfect, but the fact we have many manuscripts of these texts allows us to reproduce the text with a high level of certainty. Where we are not sure, we do know what the likely options are. Good Bible translations signal the options to you by having a note int eh margin that reads “or” with the variant noted. We have over 5800 Greek manuscripts. The best ancient texts of other works have 100-200 copies. In most cases we are confident what the text should read. In no case do these differences impact the overall teaching of the faith. What they impact is which verses teach and idea and so how many relate to a specific theme.
This copying process can be tested in terms of its accuracy by the many manuscripts we have. Some of the examples of this are amazing. When the Dead Sea scrolls were found we discovered a manuscript of Isaiah 1000 years older than any other version of Isaiah we possessed. The discovered text was virtually identical to its 1000 year older descendant. Although some issues remain in particular spots, the text we have today is a solid reproduction of what was produced.
(5 min read; 1,228 words)
How Did We Get the Bible and Can We Trust It? – The Gospel Project.
A new website has been launched combat declining biblical literacy. It is an effort led by Professor Kenneth Berding of Biola University. From the “About” section of the website:
Bible Fluency is a free learning program for those who desire to know the Bible but don’t know how to find their way around it!
Our vision is to come alongside churches, Bible societies, schools, and other groups to address head-on a growing epidemic—biblical illiteracy. We who have worked on this project believe that no one should accept the status quo where people know so little about the Bible they claim to believe. The fluency program employs high-quality music, visuals, flashcards, workbooks, small group activities, and much more to equip people to recognize and locate the Bible’s 400 most important events, characters, and themes. Someone who has gone through the program will instantly be able to recall that the story of Abraham is in Genesis, the “suffering servant” is described by Isaiah, the parable of the Good Samaritan is recorded in Luke—not Matthew, Mark, or John—and “faith apart from works is dead” is in the letter of James.
Welcome! / Home / Bible Fluency.
Jim Wallace compares the biblical witnesses with hostile Jewish and Gentile witnesses.
(13 min read; 3,110 words)
Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | Cold Case Christianity.
Jim Wallace provides overwhelming evidence to refute the absurd claim that early Christians were not persecuted.
(7 min read; 1,786 words)
Were the Early Christians Really Persecuted? | Cold Case Christianity.
(HT: Greg West of The Poached Egg from Ratio Christi)
This is a chart of ancient authors which indicates the number of manuscripts and the dating of the oldest manuscript for each. It is similar, though more extensive, than a chart by Rich Deem to which I have also linked.
Related post from me: Authors of Antiquity
Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability|Accuracy of the New Testament | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM).
…when it comes to the quantity of manuscripts, the New Testament is in a class all its own. Although the exact count is always changing, currently we possess more than 5,500 manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek alone. No other document of antiquity even comes close.
Even though we do not possess the autographs, textual scholars have acknowledged that the multiplicity of manuscripts allows us to access the original text. Eldon Jay Epp notes, “The point is that we have so many manuscripts of the NT . . . that surely the original reading in every case is somewhere present in our vast store of material.”
Gordon Fee concurs: “The immense amount of material available to NT textual critics . . . is their good fortune because with such an abundance of material one can be reasonably certain that the original text is to be found somewhere in it.”
(5 min read; 1,203 words)
The Difference Between Original Autographs and Original Texts | TGC | The Gospel Coalition.
(HT: Greg West of The Poached Egg at Ratio Christi)
From the opening of Frank Viola’s “Why I Am a Christian” post:
In 1927, the famed British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Am Not a Christian.”
Russell’s essay inspired the title of this post.
By “Christian,” I mean someone who has trusted their life to Jesus Christ as Crucified Savior and Resurrected Lord and seeks to follow Him each day. (I’m keenly aware that the term “Christian” has been hijacked to mean different things, hence the need to define.)
(3 min read; 768 words)
Why I’m a Christian: 12 Reasons – Beyond Evangelical | The Blog of Frank Viola.
(HT: Greg West of The Poached Egg at Ratio Christi)
I’ve often posted links on this reference shelf to the work of J. Warner Wallace. Here’s an indication of the degree of professional competence he brings to his apologetics work.
Nightline clip about J. Warner Wallace and Deputy D.A. John Lewin on YouTube
Whether you know next to nothing about the Bible and want to become more knowledgeable or you consider yourself an expert, it might be worth checking out a new website entitled “Bible Odyssey: People Places and Passages.”
Bibleodyssey.org explores the origins of the Bible and includes contributions from what’s described as the world’s leading scholars who share the latest historical and literary research.
New website explores the history of the Bible and takes questions from site visitors | cleveland.com. [Editorial note, November 22, 2016: Cleveland.com is no longer maintaining this page so I had to delete the link. Sorry. The link above to Bibleodyssey.org above, however, still works.]