No Master Copy

Coffee! Coffee! The sun has finally risen. After my first cup of dark roast I got to thinking about the master copy of the Bible. Wouldn’t it be great if the original manuscript of the Bible existed? Wait! You didn’t realize that the original, the master copy of the Christian Bible does not exist? It has disintegrated! Poof! I am not making this stuff up!

Over the many, many years that I attended church, none of my pastors ever told me that the original Bible is nowhere to be found. You gotta ask, though! If God can give man error-free instructions on how to live, why would he not provide the materials on which to write that would last forever and ever? Sorry. That was just a passing thought that zipped right through my brain.

So, no original copy of the Bible. But, luckily, man has managed to make copies of copies of copies of copies of this Great Book over the centuries. When the printing press came along centuries later, copying got a lot easier. Up until then, man had to do everything by hand. The original apostles were illiterate so they weren’t able to dictate what Jesus had to say so they went about telling stories. These stories were passed on orally for decades until, poof, some Greek-speaking-writing guy comes along and decides to write them down. Four of them to be exact.

I don’t know about you but that makes me think again. These stories of Jesus, or what we know as the Gospels, were passed on orally for decades. Do you think that these stories might have changed just a bit, maybe exaggerated a little here and there? Oh, come on! There’s proof that the stories must have changed because this guy, Luke, wrote at the beginning of his Gospel that there were many writers out there that were telling their stories and that he wanted to write his own version. Maybe Luke thought that these other guys really weren’t inspired by God. So, if Luke’s is the correct story, then what about the other three guys?

As it turns out, the other three guys (Matthew, Mark, and John) didn’t get it right, either. Well, not if you compare them to Luke’s version. For instance, Mark and John didn’t write about Jesus’ incredible birth from a virgin. Did they not think that was important or did they not hear about it? John thought that Jesus had been around since the beginning. Luke talks about how Shepherds came to visit at Jesus’ birth and Matthew thought they were Wise Men from the East. Matthew also has this strange story about King Herod massacring a bunch of infants sometime after Jesus was born.

Oh well! It doesn’t matter to me whether or not there are any original manuscripts around or not. I’m not sure that not too many of us pay much attention to actually reading the Bible. Who knows which version of the Bible is correct. We don’t have the master copy to compare them to. But, we do things like cherry-pick certain verses that we think meet our needs. We combine the two birth stories of Jesus to make one story without thinking that these two writers heard two entirely different ones. We wouldn’t have any idea where to find doctrines of Christianity – like the Trinity, or Salvation, or the Sacraments. We condemn gay people but not sure where in scripture it says to do it. We certainly don’t greet each other with a “holy kiss” as prescribed by the Bible, either.

It’s time for another cup. Have a great day!

6 thoughts on “No Master Copy

  1. Oh Vic! I love your questioning thought process as is so similar to my own ; ) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought or even said “Who says?!. Where does it say that?!. If found – How do you know that’s what it meant?!. And What about Thou Shall Not Judge?!. Or So What if You Are Different because All Are Perfect as They Came From God which Includes Those Who Are Gay, Right?!.”

    1. Thanks, Gina! I’m glad that you’re as curious as me about a religion that I took for granted for so many years. I don’t understand how someone can say they know what the Bible says when scholars, clergy, and apologists can’t agree on anything. Thanks for you comment!

  2. Interesting, I’ve always heard the Catholics have the original hidden somewhere in the Vatican. Stories passed orally are ALWAYS the best. I can’t help but think of the children’s game where you whisper horse in the first child’s ear, then by the end of the circle, the horse becomes the Virgin Mary.

  3. What amazes me is that most christians do not read the bible! They accept what their pastor/priest tells them! There are so many contradictions and so much hate, bigotry, and violence in that collection of books and letters.

  4. Vic, your logic on the accuracy of the Bible, especially the New Testament is really weak. If we assume that your logic is correct, then all of recorded human history, prior to the printing press is bogus. The Iliad and the Odyssey and all works by man are inaccurate because you don’t have the original copy. You’re kidding right?
    Regarding the books of the New Testament you are completely inaccurate when you say the stories of the Apostles and the books of the New Testament were just orally communicated for hundreds of years. Simply not true. In fact almost all New Testament scholars agree that ALL the books of the New Testament were written 30 to 55 years after Jesus death.
    The Biblical Manuscript Evidence
    By comparison with secular texts, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning. The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style)![7]
    Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries.[8]
    Uncial manuscripts provide virtually complete codices (multiple books of the New Testament bound together into one volume) back to the 4th Century, though some are a bit younger. Codex Sinaiticus, purchased by the British government from the Soviet government at Christmas, 1933, for £100,000,[9] is dated c. 340.[10] The nearly complete Codex Vaticanus is the oldest uncial, dated c. 325-350.[11] Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th Century to the early 5th Century.
    The most fascinating evidence comes from the fragments (as opposed to the codices). The Chester Beatty Papyri contains most of the New Testament and is dated mid-3rd Century.[12] The Bodmer Papyri II collection, whose discovery was announced in 1956, includes the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John and much of the last seven chapters. It dates from A.D. 200 or earlier.[13]
    The most amazing find of all, however, is a small portion of John 18:31-33, discovered in Egypt known as the John Rylands Papyri. Barely three inches square, it represents the earliest known copy of any part of the New Testament. The papyri is dated on paleographical grounds at around A.D. 117-138 (though it may even be earlier),[14] showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 30 years of its composition.
    Keep in mind that most of the papyri are fragmentary. Only about 50 manuscripts contain the entire New Testament, though most of the other manuscripts contain the four Gospels. Even so, the manuscript textual evidence is exceedingly rich, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.
    Ancient Versions and Patristic Quotations
    Two other cross checks on the accuracy of the manuscripts remain: ancient versions and citations by the early church Fathers known as “patristic quotations.”
    Early in the history of the Church Greek documents, including the Scriptures, were translated into Latin. By the 3rd and 4th Centuries the New Testament was translated into Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, etc. These texts helped missionaries reach new cultures in their own language as the Gospel spread and the Church grew.[15] Translations of the Greek manuscripts (called “versions”) help modern-day textual critics answer questions about the underlying Greek manuscripts.
    In addition, there are ancient extra-biblical sources—characteristically catechisms, lectionaries, and quotes from the church fathers—that record the Scriptures. Paul Barnett says that the “Scriptures…gave rise to an immense output of early Christian literature which quoted them at length and, in effect, preserved them.”[16] Metzger notes the amazing fact that “if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [the patristic quotations] would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.”[17]
    The Verdict
    What can we conclude from this evidence? New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential—spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.[18]
    Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.[19]
    Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”[20]
    This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason. Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.
    Has the New Testament been altered? Critical, academic analysis says it has not.
    Reply

  5. One great piece of deductive evidence that the Gospels and the New Testament were written soon after the death of Christ and in the lifetime of the ascribed writers is that the accuracy of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and it’s Temple was never written about in the New Testament. Jesus predicted that Jerusalem and it’s Temple would be completely destroyed and the Romans did just that in 70AD. If the New Testament books were written after 70 AD don’t you think the authors would have been sure to point out that Jesus was correct in His prediction?
    FYI
    Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE)
    The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE was the decisive event of the First Jewish–Roman War, in which the Roman army captured the city of Jerusalem and destroyed both the city and its Temple. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been controlled by Judean rebel factions since 66 CE, following the Jerusalem riots of 66, when the Judean provisional government was formed in Jerusalem.
    The siege of the city began on 14 April 70 CE, three days before the beginning of Passover that year.[3][4] The siege lasted for over four months, with the battle for the city lasting for close to another week after that. The siege ended on 30 August 70 CE,[5] with the burning and destruction of the Second Temple, and the Romans entered and sacked the Lower City. The destruction of both the First and Second Temples is still mourned annually during the Jewish fast on Tisha B’Av. The Arch of Titus, celebrating the Roman sack of Jerusalem and the Temple, still stands in Rome. The conquest of the city was complete on 8 September 70 CE.
    According to Josephus, 1.1 million non-combatants died in Jerusalem, mainly as a result of the violence and famine. Many of the casualties were observant Jews from across the world such as Babylon and Egypt who had travelled to Jerusalem wanting to celebrate the yearly Passover but instead got trapped in the chaotic siege.[1]
    He also writes that 97,000 were enslaved.[1]
    Matthew White, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things (Norton, 2012) p.52,[2] estimates the combined death toll[clarification needed] for the First and Third Roman Jewish Wars as being approximately 350,000
    Vic, if the books of the New Testament were written, not oral, after 70 AD that the authors wouldn’t have gloated about Jesus’ prophecy coming true? But the actual destruction of Jerusalem is never mentioned, at all, anywhere in the New Testament.

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