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                          "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   A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT...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   A. THIS TEST IS APPLIED TO ALL ANCIENT HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS...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, 1999. You may freely use, copy, or distribute this material, provided it is done at no cost to others. "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

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