A noted scholar wrote in a book (other noted scholars have said the same) that the New Testament manuscripts, copied by hand before the printing press, have 400,000 variations (mistakes in the copying) made by the scribes.
Uh oh, can we trust the Bible that we read today in English?
Or is that noted scholar an idiot? Let’s delve deeper into how we got our English Bible in the next few paragraphs but for those of you who can’t wait for my conclusion…
Yes, that scholar is an idiot!
The New Testament, originally written in Greek and with no printing presses, needed to be copied by hand. Were so many mistakes made during this hand-copying process that what we read today is unreliable? This is important, as I believe, and you probably do as well, that the originals were inspired by God and have been faithfully (miraculously) preserved throughout history.
Back to those 400,000 mistakes, variations, errors.
If you were copying a book of the New Testament, you would write the Greek in capital letters with no punctuation. Sentences would flow together. Please note below:
The chapters were put into place in A.D. 1227 by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury in London. The verses were added by a French printer named Robert Stephanus in 1551. There is a legend that Stephanus put the verses into the New Testament while riding on a horse during a trip. As far as I know, we have the name of the guy who put in the chapters and the name of the guy who put in the verses but not the name of the horse.
If you saw an early Greek manuscript, Romans 16:28 would look like:
Correctly copied, Romans 16:28 would read, “In 2020, Pastor Grant will begin to write Interruptions. You need to read them to know the exact day and time of the second coming.”
I know there is no Romans 16:28 as Romans ends with Romans 16:27 (even in the OGV). Don’t throw stones; this is an illustration!
The 400,000 mistakes?
You copy Romans 16:28 in A.D. 71 and it reads, “Pastor Grand,” not “Pastor Grant.” Yes a mistake, and if a thousand people copy your mistake, according to some scholars, that is 1,000 mistakes.
Only a scholar who has little faith would consider those 1,000 mistakes to have any consequence, and the experts of texts would quickly eliminate “Pastor Grand” and place “Pastor Grant” as the original Greek wording.
On and on it goes with miss-spellings, transposed words, missing pronouns, and differing breathing marks.
Scholars with faith, who don’t promote a skeptical agenda, conclude that out of the entire New Testament only two passages of scripture are in serious dispute: the end of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) and the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 7:53-8:11.
I know, it is heartbreaking that the story of the “Woman Taken in Adultery” can be seriously disputed as original. And being honest, I recently preached on the passage and didn’t mention the dispute simply because I believe it aligns with the message of Christ.
So, 400,000 variations down to 23 verses. There are other individual discrepancies but as one scholar writes, “Only about a tenth of one percent are interesting enough to make their way into footnotes in most English translations.”
And no orthodox doctrine or ethical practice of Christianity depends upon the variations.
Let’s consider this mistake matter from another perspective. There are 25,000 early manuscripts of the New Testament (in Greek and other ancient languages). Only a tenth of one percentage point of the variations is open for serious dispute.
That is about a half page of the New Testament.
The New Testament was penned originally by those inspired by the Holy Spirit and then faithfully preserved through thousands of copyists, and thousands of manuscripts, through 2,000 years of history to the Bible that you read today.
The problem isn’t about the authority and reliability of the Bible; but, did you read the Bible today?