Friday, May 15, 2015

The Significance Of Long-Lasting New Testament Manuscripts

If anybody is interested, I just put up a post on my Facebook account that elaborates on the significance of the article by Craig Evans that I discussed earlier this week.


  1. I didn't read the post yet, but when you said it was on your Facebook, I clicked on it to see your picture. I've known you online since, what, about 2002? And I never knew what you looked like. I had a mental image, though, and your picture didn't quite match. Weird feeling. Haha

  2. Now I read it. The original post and your Facebook comments. Wow!

  3. It's a comfort to know that those who were in a position to alter the text early on were also those who were the most worthy to alter it (e.g. make major or minor changes). It would either be the author or authors themselves, or their immediate colleagues or subordinates who would have wanted to preserve the integrity of the Christian message and the accuracy of the text (even if it meant minor changes).

    Another reason for confidence in our copies being essentially faithful to the autographs is the fact that they were public documents MEANT to be copied and distributed as far and as wide as possible. So, they would have been immediately copied and distributed widely. Making it virtually impossible to introduce unnoticeable changes or to change all of them since they're scattered throughout the Roman empire. If they were private or secret documents then it would have been much easier to make major changes. But Christianity isn't an esoteric mystery religion. From the beginning everything was open, public, historically verifiable and evangelistically spread (Gal. 6:14; Rom. 16:26; 1:5; 1 Cor. 9:19-22; Mark 4:22; Luke 1:1-4). Rather than a select elite occasionally picked out from among the hoi polloi to be initiated into the gnostic secret knowledge.

    If major changes had been added, then the last possessors of the autographs would have taken great pains to 1. tell as many people and churches as possible that there are copies floating around which are poorly transmitted or maliciously altered. 2. Make more copies directly from the autographs to float around to compete with and correct the erroneous ones. 3. They would have had serious incentive and intention to preserve the autographs for posterity to correct and challenge erroneous/forged copies.

    The fact that many or all of the autographs weren't preserved (at least publicly) would suggest to me two extreme possibilities.

    1. The circulating copies were so corrupt that it was an embarrassment to the Christian community and therefore for the sake of uniformity (and to save face) the autographs were conspiratorially destroyed or kept hidden from the public. But why not make more copies directly from the autographs to float around to compete with and correct the erroneous ones? A church possessing the unaltered originals would have had bragging rights to this very day. Though, it's not impossible that some modern Catholic or Greek Orthodox church unknowingly has some of the autographs.


    2. The last possessors of the autographs wherever and whenever they were (being likely scattered in time and place, since it's doubtful that all of the autographs were ever gathered into one collection), realized that the autographs weren't necessary to preserve and allowed them to disintegrate or be handed over to persecutors for burning since essentially faithful copies were already scattered throughout the Roman empire; and so the documents as literary works could never really be lost. So, we have good reason to believe our apographa are essentially faithful to the autographa.