No, The Bible Is Not Corrupted

Barbershops are urban, intellectual proving grounds for aspiring savants and seasoned pundits. They gather to be groomed and wax eloquently about current events ranging from politics to religion.

At other times, however, they bear more similarities with the Hunger Games, and as one of my young disciples walked into the shop with a cross around his neck, his proverbial name was called to represent his district.

The Muslim barber began challenging his Christian convictions: “Why are you wearing that cross? Don’t you know that the Bible is full of errors? It’s corrupted! C’mon, wisen up, young brother!”

Say It Ain’t So!

After getting lined up, the mentally frazzled young man headed to my house. As he sat on the couch he asked, “Pastor Ern, is the Bible really corrupted? Is it full of errors, like they said?”

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a similar scenario and have struggled to dispel the misnomer, or maybe you’re just curious about the subject.

If so, here are 3 reasons (with more forthcoming) why we CAN trust the Bible.

1.  The Bible Is Not Simply a Religious Book; it’s a Historical Document

From my experience, I’ve noticed that many skeptics of the biblical text have not taken the time to actually read it.

If they did, they’d be surprised to find that it’s not a collection of fantastical tales & allegorical stories. Neither is it a book chalked full of religious ideology & ethics or even a code of conduct for acceptance into the afterlife.

No! It’s a sacred, self-affirming, historical document and it should be scrutinized as such.

When examining the authenticity and reliability of the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament writings, we should approach it as we would the writings of Plato, Homer, Pliny, Aristotle, or any other ancient works of antiquity.

Dr. Luke, the author of The Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, compiled an “orderly account” of the life and teachings of Jesus (Luke 1:3), and though the historical writing in the first century differs from today, he researched the events and sought to write about them with historical certainty. [1]

This is important because from that standpoint, we can apply the same standards to this sacred historical book that we would to any ordinary secular writings. [2]

 2.  The Bible is The Most Historically Reliable Book of Antiquity – BY FAR!

You’ve heard the rhetoric: the scriptures cannot be trusted because we do not have the original documents. We only have a few copies of copies; therefore, we have no way of knowing what was originally recorded. [3]

There is no element of truth to this notion. Although we do not have the original autographs of Paul, Peter, John, Mathew and alike, the same can be said of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Caesar, as well. We only have copies of these great literary works, and the New Testament is no exception.

Here’s the big question – how can we judge the accuracy of these documents if we do not possess the originals? In other words, how can we be sure that the Scriptures have been transmitted accurately through the centuries? I’m so glad you asked.

Before I answer, let me ask you a question – Do we need to possess the original documents to actually know what the authors wrote? [4]

Even though we do not have the originals, we do have a rich manuscript tradition. During the first century, writing was done on perishable material (such as papyrus, which the originals were likely written on) and copies had to be made within decades of the original to preserve its content.

Preservation methods were meticulous because people in the ancient world greatly valued books. They tended to take better care of them than we do today.

Scholars suggest that since it took months to copy one book, some could be in circulation for up to 150 years!

With that in mind, the NT documents had been finished by the mid to late first century (50-100 AD). The first known copies were written from 125 to 200 AD. Some are only fragmentary, but others cover large portions of the Gospels and Paul’s letters.

That means that there was only a 45-75 year gap between the original and the copies. It may sound like a large span of time, but it simply is not, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.

Consider Caesar’s Gallic Wars; an entire millennium spans between the original work and the subsequent copies, and today we only have 10 existing manuscripts in possession. The same can be said of the 142 Books of Roman History. Only 35 books survived and 20 manuscripts have been preserved. The writings of Tacitus were written in the first century and the first known copy is dated in the 9 century AD. On top of that, only 3 known copies exist.

3.  The Bible Has a Rich Manuscript History

How different the New Testament is by comparison!

There are well over 5,700 manuscripts (some scholars believe there even are more) that can be that dated as far back as the 2nd century.

It’s translated with 99.5% accuracy, and most the 0.5% represents non-consequential variants which consist of simple disputes over singular verses, plural pronouns, inverted word order, and so on and so forth.[5]

Ultimately, none of the textual variants affect any Christian doctrine (we’ll deal with this extensively in a later post). [6]

That means that these variants do not affect the deity of Christ, his resurrection, his virginal conception, justification by faith, or the Trinity. None of these doctrines are in question.[7]

This type of reliability cannot be boasted by ANY other ancient work.

So it can be rightly asserted that many of the original manuscripts would have been preserved and then probably used to make countless copies for decades or even centuries before they were lost!

It also implies that if counterfeit copies of the originals were circulating, those who were familiar with the original documents would have surely disputed their validity.

The copies-of-copies argument doesn’t hold weight.

With 12 manuscripts from the 2nd century, 64 from the 3rd, and another 48 from the 4th for a total of 124 manuscripts in the first four centuries, we have more copies of the NT scriptures than most works of antiquity have in 1500 years! [8]

This number is astounding, and that’s why we can confidently assert that the New Testament is the best-attested work of Greek and Latin from the ancient world.[9]

No other ancient writing rests on as solid of a foundation as the Bible.

Concluding Thoughts

We can be confident that the scriptures ARE NOT corrupted, and that they accurately articulate the heart and mind of God!

The burden to prove that the Bible has been inaccurately transmitted over time clearly falls on those who levy this accusation.

So not only has the NT been accurately transmitted throughout history, but you’d be hard pressed to find any “corruption.”

That’s it for now, but don’t worry!

Over the course of the next few weeks we will explore extra-biblical and archeological evidence, as well as tackle some common objections like:

  • Why Are There So Many Translations?
  • How Do We Know We Have The Right Books?
  • Isn’t the Bible Full of Errors?
  • The Reliability of The Old Testament

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Be sure to hit me on IG, FB, & Twitter!

Grace and peace.

 

[1] Gilbert, Greg. Why Trust the Bible? (9Marks) Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015, Kindle Location 192.
[2] Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003, 10.
[3] Kennedy, D. James. Skeptics Answered: Handling Tough Questions about the Christian Faith. Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Books, 1997, 25.
[4] Gilbert, Kindle Location 491
[5] “Legal Scholar David Limbaugh Probes Bible, Finds It ‘99.5%’ Accurate.” Washington Examiner. 2016. Accessed March 14, 2016. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/amen-legal-scholar-finds-new-testament-jesus-story-99.5-accurate/article/2552982.
[6] Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: Harper SanFrancisco, 2005, Appendix
[7] Grudem, Wayne A., C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner. Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, Kindle Location 118
[8] Brooks, Christopher W. Urban Apologetics: Understanding the Questions and Questioners in the Inner City, 117.
[9] Wallace, Daniel B. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011, 29.

Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications

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