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ADD TO YOUR LEARNING - The Philippine Teaching Ministry
The Philippine Teaching Ministry ADD TO YOUR LEARNING

HOW DO I KNOW THE BIBLE HAS NOT BEEN CHANGED?

By John Oakes

How do I know the Bible has not been changed?

How do I know we are reading what the original writers wrote? Many critics of Christianity claim that the Bible we read today has been changed in major ways since the originals were written. For example, some have claimed that there are "hundreds of thousands of errors" in our present Bibles. Some have claimed that the Catholic Church in the fourth and fifth centuries made major revisions of the Bible in order to support their own peculiar doctrine. Still others have claimed that certain inspired books have been kept out of the Bible (for example the Gospel of Thomas).

All of these claims rest on the assumption that we do not have available to us the original New Testament writings. Although it is true that we do not have actual copies of the original manuscripts of the gospels or the letters, what we do have is very solid evidence that the current Greek text of the New Testament is extremely reliable. Our Greek text is based on some very ancient manuscripts. Some of the most important manuscripts available today are listed below.

1. The Codex Vaticanus, or Codex B. The Codex Vaticanus is a vellum codex on 759 pages in uncial script. The manuscript has been dated to around AD 350 . It contains the entire New Testament, except Hebrews 9:13-end, I and II Timothy, Titus and Revelation. It also contains all of the Old Testament in Greek except the first few chapters of Genesis and several Psalms. The manuscript has been kept in the Vatican since at least 1481.

2. The Codex Sinaiticus, or Codex Aleph. The Sinaiticus manuscript received its name because it was discovered at St. Catharines Monastery on Mt. Sainai in 1844 by the biblical scholar Tischendorf. It was found in a basket of old parchments which were about to be thrown into a fire. This manuscript is now in the British Museum. Like the Vatican manuscript, it has been dated to around 350 AD. It contains much of the Old Testament in Greek, but most significantly, it has the entire New Testament in Greek.

3. The Alexandrian Codex, or Codex A. This is a fifth-century codex, containing most of the Old Testament and all the New Testament except a few pages of Matthew, two from 1st John and three from 2 Corinthians. This manuscript was found in Alexandria in Egypt, but was given as a gift to the king of England in 1621. The manuscript is now located on the British Library.

4. The Washington Manuscript. This manuscript from the end of the fourth century contains the four gospels. It is especially significant, as it contains Mark 16:9-20, unlike the three manuscripts already mentioned.

5. The Chester Beatty Papyri. This is a collection of a number of papyrus codex fragments, located in the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin, Ireland. One of the papyri contains thirty leaves of the New Testament in Greek which have been dated to the late second or early third century (ie. around 200 AD). Another includes 86 of 104 leaves of the letters of Paul from around from the early third century.

6. The Bodmer Papyri. This is a group of manuscripts found in the Bodmer Library of World Literature. Included are a complete manuscript of Luke and John dated to 175-225 BC, as well as a manuscript of over half of the book of John which has been dated as early as 150 AD.

7. The John Rylands Fragment. This papyrus fragment contains only John 18:31-33 and 37,38, which would make it an insignificant find except that it has been dated to 130 AD. This fragment was copied within fifty years of the death of the apostle John.

From this list, one can see that we have manuscripts of the entire Bible from about 350 AD and of significant portions of the Bible from around 200 AD or before. Claims that the New Testament was added to, subtracted from or changed in any significant way are indefensible in the light of this evidence.

Additional evidence in support of the accuracy of the New Testament we have in our hands today is found in the writings of the early church "fathers." Writers such as Polycarp, Clement, Justin Martyr and many others wrote extensively in the first and second centuries AD, quoting from a large proportion of the entire New Testament, providing further evidence in support of the accuracy of our New Testament text.

As to the claims that there are "hundreds of thousands of errors" in our New Testament text, this is based on the nearly ten thousand manuscripts which we have. Virtually all the supposed errors are minor slips of the pen of the many scribes who copied the Greek New Testament. Through careful analysis of the thousands of manuscripts, scholars are able to reproduce a Greek text which is a virtually exact copy of the original. To quote Sir Frederic Kenyon, the world famous Biblical scholar and former director of the British Museum for twenty-one years, who sums up the evidence nicely;

"The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hands and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries."

© 2004-2008 Rolan Monje. All Rights Reserved.