Is the bible corrupt, or is it reliable, and what kind of errors are there? If we can’t trust the bible, we can’t trust any of the ancient historical record, according to scholars.
The bible manuscripts do have scribal errors. 99% of them are spelling errors, grammar or untranslatable variants easily found and have been known for decades. Less than 1% is viable and significant, but none of them affect essential Christian Doctrine, as you will see as you read on.
Copies, Copies, Copies
The fallacy put forth by those opposed to the bible is that there are so many copies of copies of copies of copies up to 20 generations, that no one knows what the original was. That is an argument from ignorance, don’t believe it, that is not what the scholars who study the manuscripts say. It is true historians have no originals, but there are New Testament manuscripts that date back to the second century. Far too early Scholars say for legend or myth to have crept into the narrative.
There are over 25,000 manuscripts in historian’s hands, 5,600 of which are Greek; the original language of the New Testament and at least one million scripture quotes from early church fathers. That eclipses any other ancient work. Not only are there exponentially more bible manuscripts but they are much closer to the original writing than any other ancient writing.
Book of John
Papyrus 66 [original Book of John as early as 70 AD] is a Codex of most of the book of John that some scholars date to the middle of the second century, about 100 – 150 AD.¹ This early dating is based upon a very early copy discovered called P52.
In todays manuscripts John 1:1 and John 1:14 are the same as written in ancient times. Every manuscript of John scholars have says the same thing, as there are no variants in those two important verses. In the oldest full New Testament manuscript copy, Codex Sinaiticus [300 – 350 AD], these versed are identical to today’s bibles.
John 1:1 (NIV c.2011)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:1 (Papyrus 66 c.100 -200 AD)
“Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος” [In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God]
Why is this significant? Because it is here that Christianity segregates from everyone other religion and philosophy today. Only in Christianity has God become human, died and was resurrected. The 1800s saw the birth of two new religions, with men each claiming they were restoring the corruption of scripture back to its true form. The followers of these new religions are asked to trust their eternity to the revelation of a single man.
Unfortunately, the founders of those religions did not have the benefit of future discoveries. Ancient manuscripts like the Codex Sinaiticus, papyrus 66 and papyrus 46, clearly demonstrate that the eternal deity of Christ has not been corrupted. In addition to these, historians have as many as a dozen manuscripts that date back to the 2nd century (100 AD-200 AD). Given how many manuscripts date back very close to the original writings, there isn’t much time for this alleged corruption.
Galatians 1:8-9 (NIV c.2011)
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Galatians 1:8-9 (Codex Sinaiticus c.350 AD)
“But though even we or an angel from heaven preach to you a gospel beside that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, even now I say again, if any one preach to you a gospel beside that which you received, let him be accursed”
Hebrews 1:8 (ESV C2016)
“But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,”
Hebrews 1:8 (Codex Sinaiticus c.350 AD)
“But with respect to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever;”
It is remarkable that people would choose to believe a single sources claim, over dozens of sources and thousands of manuscripts that have been critically examined for centuries. Followers of these new religions argue they are not following one man, but they have no argument. Each man, each founder of these religions claimed the truth of the bible was lost, and they changed it. Both, religions have removed the eternal deity of Christ, demoting the only begotten [not first created] Son of God to a mere created being. Once these men changed the bible and substituted their “revelation”, salvation now hinges on their interpretation, their claim that what they changed is the restored truth.
I find it interesting that faithful have no trouble believing in God’s power to create the universe or to save their eternal souls, but God lacks the power to maintain the integrity of his revelation to humankind. If that is true, that God lacks that power, then he left his people wondering in the dark for over 1,500 years. Well, God has the power, and it gets more evident every year.
In fact, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has discovered 90 New Testament manuscripts since its founding in 2002.
John 1:14; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,”
John 10:17; “…I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” – Jesus
The core message of the gospel is the authority of Jesus Christ who came to redeem the world. Jesus is the door to salvation and if you alter that truth, salvation is lost. Jesus is God, or he is not. Christ was resurrected and provided humankind with salvation or he did not. If scripture is not reliable on this point, the rest of the bible is immaterial because there is no salvation.
Acts 4:12; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”
Seek scholarly opinion, from those trained and educated in the skill of textural criticism, including skeptics. See what they are saying regarding the empty tomb and the reliability of the apostle’s testimonies for the resurrection of Jesus. It is well worth your time to watch this video, “Jesus Resurrection Supported by Skeptical Scholars” (54:00)² (+26:00 Q&A)
Below is a (2:38) clip from biblical scholar and expert in critical resurrection scholarship, Gary Habermas
Some don’t care how much evidence there is, they just ideologically oppose Jesus Christ and no amount of “proof” is going to sway them. Their goal is only to discredit, not to critically assess the evidence.
Do not trust your eternity to the opinions of the media and atheists. Do some research and determine for yourself what scholars are saying. Jesus Christ and the resurrection are better represented than any other ancient account. So if you are ready to disbelieve it, you have to throw out all of history as suspect.
Here is a (1:46) clip on what a leading skeptical (atheist) biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has written regarding the reliability of the core, essential doctrines of the New Testament.
Papyrus 46 [Original writings of Paul, about 52 AD] contains most of the apostle Paul’s letters, Romans, Hebrews, 1&2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 1 Thessalonians.This copy’s dating is currently under debate by scholars as being written between 80 AD to 200 AD.
We shouldn’t be looking at this evidence for the crumb that may feed your skepticism. The fact that there is debate among scholars shows in itself, there is credible data supporting reliability of biblical manuscripts. If there is even the slightest chance that the manuscripts are trustworthy and we may be heading for judgment, we should be investigating these claims rigorously.
I encourage you to avail yourself of the resources page, the links below and other posts on this blog. You will find archaeological, scientific, extra biblical and biblical evidences that all suggest the claims of bible are at least reasonable.
Ultimately, no one is going to convince you Jesus is who he says he is. That is between you and him. You can always find someone who agrees with really, any opinion you might have if that is what you are looking for. For example there are thousands of people following a man in Florida who claims to be Jesus Christ himself. Some are even handing over millions of dollars to him.
The critical reliability of the bible is only one aspect to scripture. The spiritual significance and the power of God’s word to save us is the other. He reveals his love for us, his will and character to us through scripture.
Hebrews 4:12-13; “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
James 1:21; “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17;
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
1 Corinthians 2:10:16
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,”
- The Bible vs Ancient Manuscripts – Dr. N.T. Wright Scholar (8:02)
- New Testament Reliability – Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D Textural Critic (10:30)
- Explaining the variants in the New Testament Part 1 (4:44)
- Explaining the variants in the New Testament Part 2 (4:54)
- Are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the actually authors – Dr. Darrel Bock (5:18)
- New Testament manuscripts vs Other Ancient Text – Dr. Ed Gravely (5:39)
- A Ph.D Historian- Why I Believe the Bible is Reliable (5:36)
- Bible Reliability – Sean McDowell, PhD (51:02)
- Jesus Resurrection Supported by Skeptical Scholars – Gary Habermas Ph.D (55:00 plus Q&A)
- The Historical Reliability of the Gospels – Dr Craig Blomberg Scholar (47:34)
- Did the Early Church Corrupt the Canon – Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D (4:46)
- Gnostic Gospels Manuscript Evidence – Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D Textural Critic (3:32)
- The Resurrection: Illusion or Delusion
- Was Jesus Historical?
- How Can I be Saved?
- Herbert Hunger. “Zur Datierung des Papyrus Bodmer II (P66),” Anzeiger der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften philosophisch-historische Klasse 97 (1961) 12–23.
- Gary Habermas Ph.D biblical Scholar who teaches Ph.D level students