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- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
HOW ACCURATELY HAS THE BIBLE BEEN COPIED THROUGH THE CENTURIES
The Bible is the most accurately transmitted book from the ancient world.
The reliability of Old Testament manuscript is based on three factors:
- their abundance
Most works from antiquity survive on only a handful of manuscripts: only seven (7) for Plato, eight (8) for Thucydides, eight (8) for Herodotus, ten (10) for Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and twenty (20) for Tacitus. Only the works of Demosthenes and Homer number into the hundreds. Before 1890 a scholar named Giovanni de Rossi published 731 Old Testament manuscripts. Some ten thousand Old Testament manuscripts has been found since that time in the Cairo Geniza, and in 1947 the Dead Sea caves at Qumran produced over 600 Old Testament manuscripts.
The manuscripts’ accuracy is known from internal and external evidence:
- It is well known that Jewish scribal reverence for Scripture led to its careful transmission.
- Examination of duplicate passages (e.g., Psalm 14 and 53) show parallel transmission.
- The early Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, substantially agrees with the Hebrew manuscripts.
- Comparison of the Samaritan Pentateuch with the same biblical books preserved within the Jewish tradition shows close similarity.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls provide manuscripts dating a thousand years earlier than most used to establish the Hebrew text.
The reliability of the New Testament is established because the number, date, and accuracy of its manuscripts enable reconstruction of the original text with more precision than any other ancient text. The number of New Testament manuscripts is overwhelming (almost 5,700 Greek manuscripts) compared with the typical book from antiquity (about 7 to 10 manuscripts; Homer’s Iliad has the most with 643 manuscripts). The New Testament is the best textually supported book from the ancient world.
To Sum it up, the vast number, early dates, and unmatched accuracy of the Old and New Testament manuscript copies establish the Bible’s reliability well beyond that of any other ancient book. Its substantial message has been undiminished through the centuries, and its accuracy on even minor details has been confirmed. The Bible that we have today is a highly trustworthy copy of the original that came from the prophets and apostles.