Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bible – Has it Changed Over Time?

Happy Fishing Opener to everyone in Minnesota. The fish must be biting, but who cares when you have the beautiful weather that we have this weekend.

Let me discuss in a little bit more detail what I posted as a comment to my most recent post. A common charge against the faith of Christians is that the Bible is untrustworthy. I'll call this "the Evolution argument", and by this I mean that because everything changes over time, then the Bible must likewise also be unreliable because it was written so long ago. It must have changed a lot since it was originally written, right? These people who attack the faith suggest that later Christians must have changed the Bible to add things about Jesus that couldn't be true, like His Divinity. And so, this is an important topic. If the Bile is unreliable, why should anyone trust what is said about Jesus?


  1. The Example of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest untouched copies of the OT books.


Here's my technical artistic depiction of the difference between the DSS and the Masoretic text <grin>:

Dead Sea Scrolls roughly 100 AD -------------------------------------à 1950 AD discovered

(The Dead Sea Scrolls not touched or copied for 1,850 years)


Masoretic Text of the OT copied again and again for over 2,000 years:

        llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllà copied many times over 2,000 years. And it still is 95% the same as what is contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls. And no significant doctrine is effected by any of the copyists differences. Instead, most of the differences are minor, mostly consisting of spelling variations.


The Masoretic Text is the same as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Example of Isaiah 53. DSS and the Masoretic text are 95% identical. If any OT text was going to be changed by Christian copyists it would be the prophecy about the Messiah contained in Isaiah 53. But instead there are only 17 differences between the DSS and the Masoretic text.

  1. 10 of the 17 differences is alternate spellings (similar to in America 'Judgment' is spelled without the 'e', while in Great Britain it is spelled 'judgement' with the 'e' in the middle.) These differences have no effect on any meaning,
  2. 4 of the 17 differences are the addition of a conjunction. Again, no change in the meaning.
  3. 3 of the 17 changes are contain in Isaiah 53:11, where it says 'They shall see", and the DSS add "light" which is not contained in the Masoretic text. Again no change in the meaning.


And that's all of the changes between the Dead Sea Scrolls that are pure, uncopied, untouched for 1,850 years and the Masoretic text of the OT which was repeatedly copied for over 2,000 years. They are identical in meaning, with only a very few, minor changes, with most of these differences being spelling changes. And it is the same with the other portions of the OT as well. The text contained in the DSS is the same as the Masoretic text, again with only a few, immaterial differences between the two manuscripts. This is the best example showing that copyists of the Bible took their job seriously, and that we are able to trust that the Bible we now have in our hands today is a near-perfect copy of what the original author wrote.


  1. Early Papyrus from Gospel of Matthew.

Here is another reason to trust in the Bible's authenticity of being what the original author's actually wrote:

Papyrus Discovery
In 1994, a segment of the Greek text of Matthew's Gospel appears to now have been dated before AD 66. This Papyrus, P64, contains segments of Matthew 26:23, 31 on both sides of three fragments. 

Carsten Peter Thiede, then  Director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, did the research on this Papyrus. According to The Times of London, December 24 1994, he determined, "that the Gospel according to Matthew is an eyewitness account written by contemporaries of Christ."

It appears that within five years after the death and resurrection of Christ, most of His words and deeds had been committed to a simple written (Tom's note, perhaps a common verbal group of stories) Hebrew form and Matthew is, of course, assumed to be part of this compilation. Within a decade, this corpus would have been translated into a Greek version for church requirements. This body of information is often called the "Q-document" (for German, quelle, source). Around the year AD 50 the original material was developed into written Greek form and the "synoptic" Gospels were composed, probably since the persecutions were imminent. The key point is that eyewitnesses were still around to verify the details.

While some argue that Matthew, as an eye-witness, would not have depended on other sources for his Gospel, it can also be argued that he didn't need to reinvent the wheel regarding the narrative of Jesus' life. It had been sufficiently written down, and Matthew verified it by accepting much of it. Rather, the information unique to Matthew's Gospel demonstrates that Matthew was indeed with Jesus – and with his pen in hand. (from Koininia House E-News, May 4, 2010).

Conclusion. Be careful to note what I am not saying. I am not saying that because we have confidence that we have something very close to the original transcripts of the Biblical writings, that this proves that the Bible is Divinely created. No, instead, my post today is instead my attempt to show that the Biblical Books were not corrupted through the years of copying. We can have assurance that the Bible we read today is something very close to what the original authors wrote. God bless you, and your walk with the Creator, through Jesus the Messiah our Lord. /s/Tom

1 comment:

Edward Oleander said...

Then why is there more than one version of the Bible?

Touting the literal transcription of ancient texts boots us nothing when the interpretations of those texts into English (and I assume others as well) keep changing.

As an recent example, I point to Leviticus 18:22 (? - from memory), which many denominations use to justify discrimination against, and condemnation of, homosexuals. A YouTube video from the Cathedral of Hope Church (a gay-friendly Christian church) shows that the text doesn't actually condemn gays (or gay sex), merely reminding gay lovers not to do it on a woman's bed, because THEN it would be ritually unclean.

And what of the verse (help me here) that says "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Which, in pre-King James times read, "a poisoner", not "a witch"... I have heard it postulated several times that thew reference was never meant to be literal, but in both times was a contextual/colloquial reference that was supposed to refer to the most hated members of society - assassins (poisoners) in the older days, and Pagans (witches) in the centuries of the inquisition.

I suspect that if the original writers were to hear their words re-translated back into ancient Greek and Hebrew, they would fall into collective apoplexy...

The pastor in the YouTube video also stated that claims that the Bible was the perfect literal word of God didn't really come about until the mid-19th century... About the same time that the idea of papal infalitibiliy came about.