The Transmission Accuracy of the Bible

The Transmission Accuracy of the Bible<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Frank Harber
Because the Bible is an ancient book, some wonder if they are reading the original message of the Bible. The Bible is the most trustworthy document from all of antiquity. In standards of reliability, the Bible stands without any single peer.
The original autographs of the Old Testament were written on papyrus. Papyrus deteriorates at a very rapid rate. Because of this, scribes were employed to copy the books of the Old Testament. These scribes believed the Scriptures to be the Word of God and went to great lengths to eliminate error. They followed strict Jewish traditions which even dictated how many columns and lines could be on a page, counting every line, word, and letter to find any mistakes. Any copy with even one mistake was destroyed. Because of this, the Old Testament has been preserved in its original form. Prior to 1947 the oldest existing Old Testament copy was the Massoretic Text which is dated about A.D. 900. In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Qumran. Many of the scrolls dated back to around 150 B.C. making them almost 1,000 years older than the Massoretic Text. The Dead Sea Scrolls read identical to the Massoretic Text, both of which are identical to the Hebrew translations in our own Bibles. Only a small percent of variation can be found, all of which can be attributed to variations in spelling.
The reliability of the New Testament is also beyond reproach. More than 24,000 partial and complete copies of the New Testament are available today. No other document of antiquity can even come close to such large numbers. Homer's Iliad is second with a mere 643 existing manuscripts. So sparse are copies of ancient classical works that 20 copies would be a lofty number of manuscripts. In addition to the New Testament manuscripts, there are over 86,000 quotations of the New Testament from the Early Church fathers. So thorough are these quotations that all but 11 verses of the New Testament can be reconstructed from this material, which dates less than 200 years after the coming of Jesus.
Not only are the New Testament documents superior because of their great numbers, but also because of the time span existing between the original autographs and their copies. Unlike Buddha, whose sayings were not recorded until 500 years after his death, all the books of the New Testament were probably written within 30 years of the death of Jesus. The earliest copies of our existing New Testament begin at A.D. 125. In comparison, Homer's Iliad has a time span exceeding over 500 years between the time of writing and the oldest manuscript. No book in antiquity can compare with the New Testament in the number of manuscripts or in the interval of time between the originals and the copies. Compare the New Testament with the top works of antiquity in the chart on the following page.
The New Testament in comparison to other ancient manuscripts is virtually free from any corruption. Textual critics have found only one-half of one percent differs. Thus, 99 1/2 percent of the New Testament has no variation. These variations for the most part deal with matters of spelling or word order. Not one single variant has any bearing on a doctrine of faith. In any case, the Church has in its possession 100 percent of the New Testament. Such confidence cannot be attributed to any other piece of classical literature. The accuracy of transmission in the manuscripts of the Bible testifies to their truthfulness.

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