Regarding Its Preservation And Translation?

Taken from: Executable Outlines


1. Has the Bible we have today been altered or corrupted...?

   a. We have no original "autographs" (manuscripts penned by the


   b. All we have are copies of copies, made over the years

2. How do we know there hasn't been...

   a. Significant changes or errors made in the process of copying?

   b. Collusion (secret cooperation for deceitful purposes) by those who

      possessed the early copies?

3. It is not uncommon to hear such statements as...

   a. "The Bible was corrupted by the Catholic church who possessed it"

      (Mormons, JWs)

   b. "Only Catholic Bibles are reliable, since the church possesses the

      oldest copies" (Catholics)

4. Yet it possible to have confidence in the Bible, that it...

   a. Contains the Scriptures as they were originally written

   b. Is free from attempts to twist the Scriptures to support a

      particular church or doctrine

[This confidence comes from keeping two things in mind:  1) Textual

evidence for the Biblical documents, and 2) Translation guidelines for

selecting a translation of the Bible.  [Let's first take a look at




      1. The Massoretic Text (900 A.D.)

         a. Earliest complete text of Hebrew OT, copied by Jewish

            scribes called the Massoretes

         b. Comparison with earlier Greek and Latin versions

            1) Reveal vary careful copying

            2) With little deviation during the thousand years from 100

               B.C. to 900 A.D.

      2. The Dead Sea Scrolls (150 B.C. - 70 A.D.)

         a. Discovered in 1947, containing copies of OT books dating

            back to 100 B.C.

         b. Compared with the "Massoretic Text" of 900 A.D., they

            confirm the careful copying of Jewish scribes for over 1000


      3. The Septuagint version of the OT (200 B.C.)

         a. A Greek translation of the OT, done in 200 B.C. by 70


         b. It also confirms the accuracy of the copyists who gave us

            the Massoretic Text

      -- In his book, Can I Trust My Bible, R. Laird Harris concluded,

         "We can now be sure that copyists worked with great care and

         accuracy on the Old Testament, even back to 225 B.C....Indeed,

         it would be rash skepticism that would now deny that we have

         our Old Testament in a form very close to that used by Ezra

         when he taught the word of the Lord to those who had returned

         from the Babylonian captivity."


      1. The number of the manuscripts

         a. Over 4,000 Greek manuscripts

         b. 13,000 copies of portions of the N.T. in Greek

      2. The location of the manuscripts

         a. Found in various places:   Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey,

            Greece, Italy

         b. Making collusion very difficult (not one church or religion

            contains them all)

      3. The date of the manuscripts

         a. Several papyri fragments have been dated to within 50-100

            years of the original

         b. We have several nearly complete N.T. Greek manuscripts

            within 300-400 years

            1) Codex Sinaiticus, found near Mt. Sinai

            2) Codex Alexandrinus, found near Alexandria in Egypt

            3) Codex Vaticanus, located at the Vatican in Rome

      4. The variations of the manuscripts

         a. The vast majority are very minor (spelling, differences in

            phraseology, etc.; modern translations often note the

            differences in footnotes)

         b. Only 1/2 of one percent is in question (compared to 5

            percent for the Iliad)

         c. Even then, it can be stated:  "No fundamental doctrine of

            the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading...It cannot

            be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the

            Bible is certain:  especially is this the case with the New

            Testament." - Sir Frederick Kenyon (authority in the field

            of New Testament textual criticism)

      5. Other translations of the manuscripts

         a. More than 1,000 copies and fragments in Syriac, Coptic,

            Armenian, Gothic, Ethiopic

         b. 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, some almost dating back

            to Jerome's original translation (ca. 400 A.D.)

      6. Writings of the early "church fathers" (100-400 A.D.)

         a. Early religious leaders who left 1000s of quotations of the

            NT in their writings

         b. Even if all the NT manuscripts and translations were to

            disappear overnight, it would be possible to reconstruct the

            NT from their quotations, with the exception of 15-20 verses

      -- The evidence is sufficient to show that the Greek text of the

         New Testament has been faithfully preserved, without the

         possibility of collusion or corruption by any one religious

         party or faction

[While the text of the Bible has been remarkably preserved in its

original languages, how can we be sure that the version we use is

faithful in its translation of the text?  Here are some...]



      1. Some translations are the work of one person; for example:

         a. The Living Bible, by Kenneth Taylor

         b. Which is not really a translation, but a paraphrase

      2. Though well intentioned, such translations often:

         a. Express the views of one person

         b. Convey the theological bias of that individual

      3. It is better to find translations produced by a committee of


         a. With often hundreds of experts in Hebrew and Greek

         b. Who examine and critique each other's work in the



      1. Some translations are the work of one religious group; for


         a. The New World Translation

         b. Produced by Jehovah's Witnesses

      2. Such translations are often slanted to prove doctrines

         favorable to the group

         a. E.g., the NWT translation of Jn 1:1-2 ("the Word was a god")

         b. E.g., the NWT translation of Co 1:16-17 (inserting "other"

            four times)

      3. It is better to find translations produced by representatives

         from different backgrounds

         a. Who are members of different religious organizations

         b. Who check each other's work to prevent theological bias


      1. King James Version (KJV)

         a. A classic, but somewhat archaic

         b. Many people have problems with or misunderstand the old


      2. New King James Version (NKJV)

         a. An updated KJV, desiring to preserve the beauty of the KJV

         b. My personal choice, very easy to read

      3. American Standard Version (ASV)

         a. Most literal to the Greek, but therefore harder to read

         b. Almost out of print

      4. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

         a. An update to the ASV

         b. My second choice, though often wordy

      5. Other translations useful as references:

         a. New International Version (NIV) - easy to read, but prone to

            theological bias

         b. New American Bible (NAB) - approved for Catholics, useful to

            show differences in doctrine are not due to translations


1. Can we trust the Bible?  Yes, because...

   a. The Hebrew and Greek manuscripts (though copies) have been

      providentially preserved

   b. Translations are available that are free from theological bias

2. Yes, it is possible to have confidence in the Bible, that it...

   a. Contains the Scriptures as they were originally written

   b. Can be read without fear that it has been tainted to support a

      particular church or doctrine

We can trust the Bible...do you? - cf. Ja 1:21-22