I told you previously of my moment in a “Crisis of Faith” about reading a book in a bookstore that said I couldn’t trust the Bible. I walked out of the bookstore mad thinking “How can they say that?!!”. Up to this point I’ve been living in a bubble with my Christian beliefs and I thought everyone knew the Bible was true but not everyone wanted to follow it. I was raised in a Christian home, attended youth activities and church, didn’t go hang out with non-Christian friends, and went to a Christian college so I never let myself get challenged with my Christian beliefs. It wasn’t until I was living on my own in Bloomington around mid 1990’s I saw the book that said “You couldn’t trust the Bible” that challenged my faith. First book I got was “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell which was in 2 volumes back then.
I was really surprised to find out there were no original manuscripts of any books in the Bible. All we have are copies of copies of copies and the the oldest New Testament is a fragment of John from around 125 AD and the oldest copy of the Old Testament is from the Dead Sea Scrolls dating around 350 BC. That bothered me since I thought of the Bible inspired word of God but I still had a strong conviction that God was real and Jesus did come down to earth to redeem us. Why didn’t God preserve us originals? I can only guess that God knew man would second guess the originals anyways or if we had originals we would make a shrine of them and people would travel far and wide then worship them instead of God or maybe God didn’t let originals survive so man would search for truth about him in the copies. I’ll explain that in another post.
I’m going focus on some numbers particularly with the New Testament. The Old Testament books were meticulously copied by scribes called the Masoretes thus their copies are called “Thr Masoretic Text”. The Masoretic Text is dated around 1000AD then the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1946 which they dated around 300BC. What’s even more amazing is the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls match 95% with the book of Isaiah. Those documents were separated by hundreds of centuries.The New Testament is different since not all copies made were done by professional scribes so in these next paragraphs I’ll show some numbers and stats. I loved reading sports statistics in the newspaper growing up because statistics can tell a story how well a team is doing or how bad they were.
Let’s start with there are 9 authors in the NT and 27 books/letters. These authors wrote from various locations to various locations across several nations. How many copies do we have? We have 5,800+ manuscripts in Greek then we have 19,000+ in other languages so all together we have just under 25,000 copies of the New Testament. The chart at the top shows all the numbers I’ll be giving. Now we need to compare the almost 25,000 copies of the New Testament to the number of copies of other Greco-Roman literature. You will see that two of the famous philosophers, Aristotle and Plato have only 56 copies combined and if we add Homer’s “ Illiad” it’s still only 699 copies and mere fraction of the total for the New Testament. Another thing from the chart is the time gap between the originals and the copies show that the gap with Homer’s Illiad is 500 years while Aristotle and Plato are well over a thousand years but the New Testament’s is just under 100 years however that was just fragment but 124 manuscripts are within two centuries. The Bible has been taken out of school and yet they still want to teach about those Greco-Roman literature with less manuscripts and bigger time gaps from originals to copies than the New Testament. The amount of New Testaments manuscripts are embarrassing riches compared to all other ancient literature yet they think Aristotle, Plato, and “Illiad” are viable documents but the Bible isn’t viable. I’m going to show next post why the Bible is reliable.