Has the Bible been Preserved?

by Peter Salemi



Text Box: The Bible’s Claim of Inspiration
Pentateuch: 680 claims of inspiration
Prophetical books: 1370 claims of inspiration
Historical books: 418 claims of inspiration
Poetical books: 195 claims of inspiration
Entire Old Testament:2600 claims of inspiration
“Virtually every book in the New Testament contains a claim for its own authority…The culminative effect of this self testimony is an over whelming confirmation that the NT writers claimed inspiration” (Geisler & Nix General Intro to the Bible, p.97)
The Preservation of the Bible


Has the Bible been preserved accurately? Could a collection of writings scattered over 4000 years of composition, spanning many generations and authored by 40-plus writers in three languages survive such a journey intact? Jesus Christ said yes. “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” He pronounced, “but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).


The skeptics disagree. Accusations of linguistic errors, slips of the pen, unwarranted interpolations and pious forgeries have been trumpeted far and wide. Even to the average person it somehow seems unreasonable for manuscripts and documents to survive unblemished after 3/2 millennia of copying and recopying. Critical doubts and scholarly questions do not constitute refutation; the Bible exists! The document gets the benefit of any doubt. The burden of proof lies with the skeptic!


The fact is, in opposition to the skeptic ideas reveals that ancient writing was very important to the people at the time.  Halley’s explains, “Until recent years it was commonly believed that writing was unknown in the early days of Old Testament history…thus embodying only Oral Tradition. But now the spade of the archaeologist has revealed that WRITTEN records of important events were made from the dawn of history…[after citing many examples Halley’s says] the practice of recording important events was in common use from the dawn of history, making it certain that the early events of the book of Genesis could have been, and most likely were, recorded in contemporaneous documents” (Halley’s Bible Handbook, pp.44, 47, emphasis his).


The care and preservation of Israel's lively oracles was a solemn duty of professionals called scribes.


In these conditions, how easy was it to palm off forgeries on the specially chosen teachers of the tribe of Levi (Deut. 33:10)? How did educated Jews feel about the authenticity of the documents they venerated as the “holy scriptures” (II Tim. 3: 15)?


Let Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century, answer: “From Artaxerxes [Malachi ' s time] until our time everything has been recorded but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what has -preceded, because the exact succession of prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or alter anything in them” (Contra Apion. Whiston's Josephus, p. 609, emphasis added). To the Jews, the scriptures were not some people’s opinions or ideas about God. These were the very words of God, “living oracles” from the creator. No one dared to change or alter the words because they knew that these were God’s words and there was a curse to those who even tried to change them (Deut 4:2; 12:32).


Often overlooked is that the law, prophets and writings, which were accepted by Christ (Luke 24:44), formed the constitutional and legal basis of the Jewish nation. The Old Testament writings had national impact equal to Britain's Magna Carta, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Petition of Right, or America's Plymouth Rock Covenant and Declaration of Independence. Every Sabbath (Acts15:21) for three millennia the Old Testament has been read, discussed, expounded by Jews. Genesis to Malachi underlined the Jewish people's unique position in the world and their claim to the land of Israel. As one rabbi observed, “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.”


Even the many sects and divisions within Judaism acted as unwitting guarantors of the purity of the Old Testament text, the vital record of their ancestors deeds (John 8:33-59). Deletions, insertions or corruptions would have triggered an outcry in a nation zealous for their law (Acts 22:3). Tamper with the Old Testament text? One may as well consider editing the Declaration of Independence, deleting a sentence in a new copy of the Gettysburg Address or printing the Lord’s Prayer with the beginning “Our Mother.” Vital literary productions of national significance are too well known to be tampered with.


How scientific was the transmission of the text? We can get a good insight by surveying two periods of transcription: from the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to about A.D. 500, and from A.D. 500 to A.D. 916. In the first five centuries a group known as the Talmudists guarded and copied the text. A supreme effort to safeguard the Old Testament accompanied the scattering of the Jewish people after A.D. 70. “A great rabbi” Yochanan ben Zakkia by name “[reconstituted] the Sanhedrin at Jannia, between Joppa and Azotus. They considered whether canonical recognition should be accorded to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and Esther . . . the upshot was the firm acknowledgment of all these books as Holy Scripture” (Bruce, The Books and the Parchments p. 97) .


Notice some of the demanding discipline of the transcribers who worked from A.D. 70 to A.D. 500: “A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, the length of each column must not extend less than 48 or more than 80 lines; the breadth must consist of 30 letters. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory…Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene, between every book three lines.


“Besides this the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body” (Davidson, Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, p. 89). Transcription was letter by letter, not word for word, or phrase for phrase! Diligence, Veneration, Professionalism The hallmarks of the Talmudist tradition!


The Masoretes (Hebrew Masorah, meaning “to deliver something into the hands of another”) safeguarded the text from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 916. These dedicated scholars based in Tiberias produced the Masoretic Text used today; it is the basis for our English Old Testament of 1611. “The Massorah is called 'a fence to the scriptures’ because it locked all words and letters in their places. It records the number of times the several letters occur in the Bible; the number of words and the middle word; the number of verses and the middle verses, etc., for the set purpose of preventing the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word" (Bullinger, Companion Bible, Appendix 30).


Mr. Geisler and Mr. Nix, “the King James Bible is 98 .33 percent pure” when compared with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yet, as the accuracy of the Talmdists and Masoretes should demonstrate, the sectarians’ Dead Sea Scrolls need to be evaluated by the Masoretic text, not vice versa. Sound external evidence attests the accuracy of the transmitters of the Old Testament. It is also consistent in its doctrinal harmony and texture.


Josephus put the case very well: “It becomes natural to all Jews to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them [rather than] to say one word against our laws and the records that contain them ... whereas there are none at all among the Greeks who would undergo the least harm on that account.”


So confident were the Talmudists and Masoretes that older documents were discarded: In the words of Sir Frederick Kenyon, late curator of the British Museum, “Age gave no advantage to a manuscript.” Understanding the precision and skill of the Jewish scribes explains why. This is why Paul said of the scriptures, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1-2).  “in a word, all the books of the Old Testament, and whatsoever is contained in them; which are called so, because they are of divine inspiration, contain the mind and will of God, and are infallible and authoritative: and it was the privilege and profit of the Jews that they were entrusted with them,” (Gill’s Commentary).


But what if the Jews did not believe or practice the things written in the law, the prophets and the psalms? What if the Jews became divided into Orthodox and other sects? Does their rejection of the truth nullify the faithfulness of the written Word of God which they are required to preserve from generation to generation?


“God forbid,” (v.4) declares the Bible.


So the Jews-by the very admission of these critics-HAVE preserved the Old Testament faithfully!


Do we expect less from the first century Jewish Christians with the New Testament?


How did we get the New Testament Canon?


As one reads the entire bible, one cannot help but notice that God does not trust his word to human memory. Scripture reveals the opposite. In Deuteronomy 31:19-21 Moses was given a song to teach the people, and was specifically commanded to write it down so that it would not be forgotten. Obviously God had little faith in oral transmission. The Bible is not written in that way. He told Isaiah to “Take thee a great roll, and write...”(8:1). “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:” (30:8). He told Jeremiah also to “Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book” (30:2). The Bible is written by EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS about what God DIRECTLY TOLD THEM AND WHAT THEY SAW, NOT BY ORAL TRANSMISSION! Should we expect less from the Gospels? Remember God does NOT change his ways (Malachi 3:6).


Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me…For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:39, 46-47). Jesus said that the “writings” were a testimony to the truth of God. The Gospels are a testimony to the truth as John writes, “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24). The Gospels are eyewitness testimony to the events of Jesus, God does not change his ways. The Old Testament was an eye witness testimony to the events (see Psalm 19:7), so are the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.


Matthew the Tax Collector


Matthew had quite a role to play in recording the events of Jesus life. Theide writes, “But who was St. Matthew? The oldest available tradition identifies him as Levi-Matthew, called upon by Jesus while he was sitting at his customs post near Capernaum (St. Matthew 9:9; St. Mark 2:14; St. Luke 5:27-28). He was much more than a mere "tax collector," He was a telones, which in Greek could be used to refer to an official who was in charge of a customs station. In his case, he was in charge of a major border crossing…Recent research has been able to establish that Levi-Matthew was an influential customs official, perhaps even the leaseholder or tenant of' the station, in accordance with the bureaucratic practice of the time…Matthew himself would have been, underlines the status and wealth of Levi­-Matthew in a cameo describing the scene after his calling (5:29): ‘Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house’ (New International Version), or, in the refined, stately terminology preferred by the Re­vised English Bible: ‘Levi held a big reception in his house for Jesus.’ Such a man had to have both professional qualifications and financial resources. It goes without saying that he was fluent in Aramaic and Greek, and some scholars have suggested that shorthand writing was another of his skills…[one] British New Testament scholars whose research remained refreshingly untrammeled by trends and theological correctness, the late C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge University. The disciple Matthew may well have painted a kind of self ­portrait by quoting a particular saying of Jesus in chapter 13:51-52 of his Gospel (‘Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his store­room new things as well as old’). Moult suggests that this ‘scribe’ was not a ‘teacher of the law,’ as many translations have it, not a rabbinical scribe in other words. Instead, the Greek word grammateus here suggests the well-trained writer. For, as Moule comments: ‘The writer of the gospel was himself a well-educated, literate scribe in this sense. But so must also have been that tax-collector who was called by Jesus to be a disciple. Is it not conceivable that the Lord really did say to that tax-collector Matthew: You have been a ‘writer’… you have had plenty to do with the commercial side of just the topics alluded to in the parables- farmers stock, fields, treasure troves, fishing revenues, now that you have become a disciple, you can bring all this out again-but with a difference”’ (Eyewitness to Jesus, pp.16-18, emphasis added).


Do we find evidence of shorthand writing the in the Gospel of Matthew? Theide continues, “Shorthand writings was a virtually compulsory skill for a trained scribe…Jewish and Christian Greek shorthand writing, in other words, was a normal, everyday element of the social world in which the New Testament came into being…Among the disciples of Jesus, Levi-Matthew, the former customs official at one of the most important land-and-sea borders in Galilee, would have had a working knowledge of tachygraphy. Naturally enough, scholars have suggested that he was quite capable of taking down the long Sermon on the Mount verbatim, much as Tertius would have been ready to take down St. Paul's utterances.” (ibid, p.136, emphasis added). The Sermon on the Mount is one such example of shorthand. The “Holy names” is another such example. Basically Matthew was an eyewitness account of what Jesus said and did.


In fact the whole New Testament was written by professional scribes employed by the Apostles, “Paul's circle of friends was accustomed to notebooks with a Latin name, the membranae. Another widespread custom, common among Greeks and Romans, was also employed by Christian authors and their scribes: the system of using secretaries or amanuenses, trusted helpers who were well versed in literary techniques and scribal methods Some of them are mentioned by name in the NT others have remained anonymous. In a broad sense, St. Luke refers to them at the beginning of his Gospel: 'Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have reached their fulfillment among us, as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word ...' (St. Luke 1:1-2). Note the importance St. Luke attributes to the eyewitnesses behind the written records (including those preceding his own); and the 'ministers of the word''' (ibid, p.134). These all did what Matthew did, write everything they heard and seen with their eyes and ears and committed it to writing.


Dating of the New Testament


As we have proved above, these events were eyewitness accounts of Jesus and the Apostles. These events took place in the first century A.D. Is there evidence of this?


Theide makes the argument that the Gospels were written on “scrolls” not books. One fragment of Mark’s Gospel was found among the Dead Sea scrolls, and it was written on a scroll, not a book, a later Christian invention. It only makes sense, the Jews at the time wrote on scrolls. The fragment of Mark’s Gospel was dated at around 50 A.D. The codex or book form for the New Testament began around 62 A.D. and then eventually took over after 70 A.D. after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.


Internal and external evidence of the New Testament and its manuscripts reveal that the whole New Testament was written before 70 A.D. John A.T. Robinson’s Redating of the New Testament after rigorous scholarship and study he being a liberal had to come to the conclusion that the NT was written before 70 A.D. Klaus Berger another NT scholar “improving on Robinson’s thesis, he argued for a date of A.D. 66 for John’s Gospel and of A.D. 68/69 for Revelation” (ibid, p.20).


The evidence confirms the true Canon of Scripture had already been set before 70 A.D.-in the lifetime of the Apostles. This fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 8:16: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” This Old Testament prophecy shows that Christ’s disciples would be responsible for rounding out the Canon-making it a complete unit.


Bible itself Reveals How It Happened. When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, “his departure was at hand” (Chapter 4,verse 6) -Paul was ready to be martyred. Here is what he wrote: “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry…The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but ESPECIALLY THE PARCHMENTS”(2 Tim 4:11, 13). What were these parchments? Why were they so important? It seems quite obvious! These must have been THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT!


Notice! There was Paul who wrote the fourteen epistles. There was Luke who wrote his gospel and the Acts. There was Mark who also wrote one of the gospels. Of the early writers, only Matthew was not there-and his gospel had been written some years before. Paul could now entrust these sacred books to the other disciples after his death. This was around the year of 67 A.D. when Paul was martyred. But to whom did these books pass?


Peter was responsible for gathering up all the New Testament books written by the other disciples. He was martyred just shortly after the Apostle Paul. “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle [Peter was ready to die], even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

“Moreover I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease TO HAVE these things always in remembrance” (2 Peter 1:14, 15). He was to gather together the bulk of the New Testament Canon. He collected the writings of Paul and the other extant scriptures. Notice what Peter wrote: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15, 16). The New Testament was regarded as “scripture.”


The Apostle Paul himself quoted Old and New Testaments and called it “scripture.” “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” The latter half of this “…sentence is found nowhere in the Bible except Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7; evidence that Matthew or Luke was then in existence, and regarded as ‘scripture’’’ (Halley’s Bible Handbook, pp.741-742, emphasis added).


After the death of Peter who was the guardian of the canon?


The Apostle John was the last direct eyewitness to the events of Jesus, and the one who preserved the New Testament canon. Living a good old age The Apostle John’s final words in Revelation reveals a clue for us showing that HE WAS RESPONSIBLE for gathering the final books of the New Testament Canon.


“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev 22:18-19).


With the writing and addition of The Revelation to the Canon an amazing sevenfold division of God’s Word occurred: Law, Prophets, Psalms, Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation. Seven is God’s NUMBER OF Completion.


When John wrote and under divine inspiration added this book of Revelation to the New Testament Canon-God’s book became complete.


We have seen that the total Canon of Scripture was completed before 70.A.D, and the various books of the bible were written before 70 A.D. But what happened after this?


The Preservation of the Bible takes Place


During the first century of the Christian church, as believing Jews they continued like the non-believing Jews preserving and copying the “lively oracles” of God accurately. Spreading them wide and far like their non-believing counterparts with the Old Testament. Like their non-believing brethren if someone tampered with the text it would have triggered an outcry in the church who were zealous for the law (Acts 22:3). Also, the eyewitnesses were there to preserve the word. And, the Bible was so widespread that no one would get away with it without the Christian community knowing.  F.F. Peters writes, “[The] New Testament... [was] the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity” (The Harvest of Hellenism, p.50). It was impossible for one group to control the Bible. Not to mention the curses that Jesus said would happen to those that would try to add or subtract to the word of God. No one would dare to try and change it. Also at that time people saw the miracles done by the Apostles, and people believer or not fear them (see Acts 2:43; 5:1-16), so they knew not to tamper with the work of the church.


Pamela Binnings Ewen sums up all of the above, “The copies are highly reliable. The copying of manuscripts in the first century was an important task, and it was performed by hand with great precision. Thousands of copies of the original manuscripts were made in the first century after Jesus death…Rules governing the integrity of the copy of manuscripts were strictly enforced and severe penalties were imposed for carelessness…A study of the textual variants in the exist­ing New Testament manuscripts can be somewhat confusing because if one word is misspelled in three thousand different manuscripts, textual critics will count this as three thousand variants rather than one. After adjusting for that procedure however, it has been estimated that the degree of substantial purity of extant texts of the New Testament is 98 to 99 percent…Most of the scribes responsible for making copies of the Gospels were Jews with a background of great respect for religious teaching and writing. Strict rules governed the work of the scribes, whether the books were viewed as sacred Scripture or literary works. The four Gospels, however, are believed to have been treated as sacred books from the beginning. Established patterns required to be followed by Jewish scribes copying Old Testament Scriptures are evident in the manu­scripts that were copied for what is now known as the New Testament. For example, special abbreviations designating holy names are found in both New and Old Testament manuscripts. The New Testament papyri and manuscripts have been found to have been produced with extreme care by educated and professional scribes, many influenced by the methods of scholarship required for work in the scriptorium for the library at Alexandria in Egypt…It is also important to recognize that at the time that copies of the original manuscripts of the four Gospels began to be created and circulated in the first century, the great interest of the Christian communities in the accurate preservation of the original language provided a natural monitor for the work of the scribes…It was well known that copies of the original manuscripts, incorporating the public teachings, were being made and circulatedInaccuracies in the manuscripts would have been subject to public criticism. Since no such contemporary criticism is of record, it can reasonably be assumed that the testimony in the manuscripts represented the consensus of the community” (Faith on Trial, pp. 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, emphasis added).


As mentioned, The apostle Paul often dictated his thoughts to a male secretary, called a scribe, who would write them on a scroll that could be as long as 35 feet. Romans 16:22 reads: "I Tertius [Paul's scribe for this book], who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord." Here Paul wanted to share his thoughts with a number of churches, and therefore he had to have copies made.


People wishing to have copies of a letter or other documents made would take the original to a scriptorium. This equivalent of a modern day publishing house employed professional copyists called scribes. For serious matters however, such as the sacred thoughts of an apostle, “one single scribe would copy from an original manuscript word for word. He would repeat the process again and again, constantly comparing his work with the original manuscript to ensure that the copy was as accurate as humanly possible. After its completion, the copy would he carefully checked by a proofreader, perhaps even by the author himself. The original copy was called the autograph.” (Incredible Facts from you Amazing Bible, Marvin Hunt, p.23, emphasis added). This is how careful the New Testament Church was in accuracy and preservation. The church supervised the copying and transmission and distribution of the bible, they were “hands on” during the process and did not leave it up to any  "scriptorium" to do it ensuring its accuracy.


So the New Testament was preserved and distributed widely by the Apostles up till the time of John. The New Testament was then offered to the Jews, but the Jews rejected it. What did God, in His wise foreknowledge, do? He revealed His New Testament message to the Gentiles and especially the Greeks for a very great purpose.


Greeks Preserve New Testament


Notice Paul's statement. The Jews ORIGINALLY had the advantage over the Greeks because the Jews received the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-4). NOW, however, declares Paul, “THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him” (Rom. 10:12). No difference? Why?


Continuing with verses 14 and 15: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? ...”


SO the Greeks, too, received “the word of God.” God sent to them a special apostle Paul. Though he spoke to Gentiles in general wherever he went, Paul went almost exclusively to Greeks. He spoke to others only as they were found in the Greek-speaking world. Paul wrote to Greek-speaking churches, not to Ethiopian-, Chinese-, German-, or Persian-speaking churches. There was a very special reason.


Let us read further -- Romans 10:19-20: “But I say, 'Did not Israel know?' [That is, did not Israel recognize the New Testament message? But they refused it and were in part blinded spiritually.] First Moses saith, ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation [the Greeks were indeed a foolish nation, filled with vanity of mind] I will anger you.’ But Esais is very bold, and saith, ‘I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.’’’


Notice that Paul applied these prophecies to his day- the New Testament period. Why? Because the Jews refused the New Testament oracles which now were sent to the Greeks! The GREEKS ALONE of all peoples copied, generation after generation, the New Testament in the very language God inspired it to be written! No other people did it! Only the Greeks have accurately copied it in its original language.


Today about 4500 examined Greek manuscripts “all confirm the integrity and purity of the New Testament text,” wrote Cobern in “The New Archeological Discoveries.” In 1935 a fragment of John's Gospel in Greek, dating from the time of Emperor Trajan, 98-117 A.D., was discovered in Egypt. The fragment was part of a codex or book, indicating that the entire New Testament IN PROPER ORDER was circulating within a score of years following the death of the last apostle. This fragment confirms our present text. All these fragments and texts witness to the accuracy with which the New Testament has been preserved through fire and sword. OVER 95% OF ALL NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS HAVE BEEN PRESERVED BY THE GREEKS. These were the manuscripts basically used in the King James Version.


The Greek texts of the early Reformation printers are the source for the English translations including the renowned King James Version of 1611. The official Greek texts were preserved in various parts of Greece, PARTICULARLY IN MOUNT ATHOS where the bulk of New Testament manuscripts are still located. It is from these manuscripts from which the “Textus Receptus” or "Received Text" was taken. In 1516 Erasmus compiled, edited and printed this version that the Protestant Reformers knew to be the word of God. The King James came from this.


Public Preservation


God made sure that the text must be publicly available and preserved in the community which does the preserving, whether Jewish or Greek. In other words, anybody could have gone into the Greek world at any time and had the Biblical record. The Bible was not hidden away!


If some group had their own version of the Bible, if it were God’s revelation, then it was as it were hidden from the world until it was found today, is against what God wants. God made this His policy: Whatever he has not chosen to reveal is His; but that which He has chosen to reveal “belongs to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29)!


So the Masoretic text of the Old Testament multiplied, copied, produced and available to the public is the accurate version of the Old Testament.


The “Byzantine.” In the Western world the Protestant form of that text is called the Textus Receptus , which is essentially the same as the Byzantine, the Greeks as a people have within their national and religious body, produced a whole series of manuscripts that is available to the scholarly world. In the Greek community in general-with Mount Athos as a religious center, or Athens, or Constantinople. Mount Athos was the center of the multiplication of the text of the Greek world.


Are the Original Manuscripts still in Existence?


Many have wondered if the original copies penned by the Apostles actually still exist. I believe that they do still exist. Remember, the scriptures were like our national treasures that we have today. Would the United States, or Britain risk losing the founding documents of their countries? Absolutely Not! What about the Bible, the very word of God? THE WORD OF GOD! Do we actually think that the Israelites and the Apostles would let the word of God be destroyed? Absolutely Not! Is there any evidence for this? I believe that there is.


Many believe that before the Babylonian  Invasion, Jeremiah hid the national treasures of Israel; the Ark of the Covenant which housed the Bible, and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. God was not going to allow the very throne of God to be taken (read what happened to the Philistines 1 Samuel chapters 4-7). These treasures are stored away and preserved ready to be discovered once again. What we have today are the copies.


What of the New Testament? Interesting that there are two or three places that address whether the originals survived into the second century. Tertullian, writing in c. 180 CE, said, “Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over [to] the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally” (De Praescriptione Haereticorum, Chapter 36). The key term here is authenticae (‘authentic’). Schaff has a note on this as follows: “This much disputed phrase may refer to the autographs or the Greek originals (rather than the Latin translations), or full unmutilated copies as opposed to the garbled ones of the heretics. The second sense is probably the correct one.” However, The Oxford Latin Dictionary offers this definition for the nominal cognate, authenticum: “An original document, autograph.” There is no other definition given. For the adjective, authenticus, which is used by Tertullian, OLD gives the meaning as “(of documents) Original.” So in the 2nd century these original documents were still in existence. Tertullian goes on to discuss each of these "authentic writings" as being found in the very churches to which they were written. He mentions Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and Rome. He urges his reader to visit these sites to check out these authentic writings. Also in his day, "...it suggests that by his day carefully done copies of the originals were considered important for verifying what the apostles meant, and such copies had a strong connection to the churches to which they were originally written...by Tertullian’s day carefully done copies of the originals were apparently considered important for verifying what the New Testament authors wrote. There was an awareness of the variants and an appreciation for the original text. Even taking the worst case scenario, Tertullian’s statement tells us that some early Christians were concerned about having accurate copies and that the earliest ones still in existence were not quietly put on the shelf." (Article, Did the Original New Testament Manuscripts still exist in the Second Century? by Daniel B. Wallace, emphasis added).  But what happened to them? "It must be remembered that until Constantine in the fourth century, the Christian community was persecuted because its religion was illegal (or more precisely, as a late religion it had unprotected status) in the eyes of the Romans authorities. Its books could not be legally circulated and were often confiscated and destroyed" (Price, The Original Bible, p.52, emphasis added). Do you think the Christian church would let that happen to the original sacred writings of the Apostles?


Notice what Michelle R Brown, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Library, London, says, "Some have remained in ancient monastic libraries Or cathedral treasuries since they were written; others have languished, concealed in desert Caves, sealed up in long forgotten rooms, or buried to await resurrection by archaeologists from the ground itself; many have passed from hand to hand down the centuries and are now preserved in great public libraries, museums, and private collections" (In the Beginning Bibles before the Year 1000, p.5, emphasis added). I do believe the originals are hidden away waiting for the day to be discovered just like the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.


New Testament Reliability


Geisler writes, “The overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts over other books from the ancient world is summarized in the following comparisons… The importance of the sheer number of manuscript copies cannot be overstated. As there are no known extant (currently existing) original manuscripts of the Bible. Fortunately, however, the abundance of manuscript copies makes it possible to reconstruct the original with virtually complete accuracy.” (Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, p. 386.)”:


(Complete N.T.).

Author/ Book New Testament Date Written-A.D. (30A.D.) 50-100(68A.D.)

Earliest copies- c..50A.D. Thiede’s work (fragments) c.114 (fragments) c. 200 books c. 250(most of N.T. c. 325)

Time Gap-+20 yrs, 100 yrs, 150 yrs, 225 yrs.

No. of Copies-5,366 % Accuracy-99+

(From Geisler and Nix, General Introduction To The Bible, p.408; Theide’s addition from Theide’s Work Eyewitness to Jesus, emphasis added).


The accuracy of the Bible is 99%, (see also Bruce Metzger, Chapters in the History of New Test Criticism says 99:5%).


There are errors in the bible, but those errors constitute LESS THAN 1% of the New Testament. And, most of these errors in the N.T are “copyist errors” (ibid, p.467). But none of these affect the message of the Bible. These are mostly spelling errors that are easily fix and again are only 1% of the test.


So definite is the evidence for the New Testament that no less a scholar than Sir Frederic Kenyon could write: “The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.” (Bible and Archaeology, p.288, emphasis his and mine)


Compared to Other ancient Documents? There seems to be no comparison between other ancient writings and the New Testament. 300 to 1400 years elapsed before copies are found of the original manuscripts. This is a long gap between the writing of those ancient classics and their existing copies! In contrast, copies of part of the New Testament can be traced as early as 50 years and less from their originals, “Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.” (Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev ed. (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here's Life,1979), p. 42, emphasis added). Why is the New Testament?



When Written

Earliest Copy

Time Span

No. of Copies


100-44 BC

900 AD

1,000 yrs.



59 BC - AD




Plato (Tetralogies)

427-347 BC

900 AD

1,200 yrs.


Tacitus (Annals)

100 AD

1,100 AD

1,000 yrs.


 also minor works

100 AD

1,000 AD

900 yrs.


Pliny the Younger (History)

61-113 AD

850 AD

750 yrs.



460-400 BC

900 AD

1,300 yrs.


(De Vita Caesarum)

75-160 AD

950 AD

800 yrs.



480-425 BC

900 AD

1,300 yrs.





900 yrs.



430-406 BC

1,000 AD

1,400 yrs.



Died 55 or 53 BC


1,100 yrs.



54 BC

1,550 AD

1,600 yrs.



480-406 BC

1,100 AD

1,500 yrs.



383-322 BC

1,100 AD

1,300 yrs.



384-322 BC

1,100 AD

1,400 yrs.



450-385 BC

900 AD

1,200 yrs.


*All from one copy. **Of any one work.

From Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev ed. (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here's Life,1979), p. 42.

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