When I am speaking with Muslims or Mormons, we often come to a point in the discussion where it is clear the Bible contradicts their position. It is then they claim, as many skeptics, do that the Bible has not been accurately transmitted and has been corrupted by the church. In regards to the Gospels, do we have an accurate copy of the original texts or have they been corrupted? Previously, we showed that the Gospels were written in the first century, within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. These eyewitnesses, both friendly and hostile, scrutinized the accounts for accuracy.
So the original writings were accurate. However, we do not have the original manuscripts.
In this Book
What we have are copies of copies of copies. Are these accurate, or have they been tampered with? As shown earlier, we have Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. When you include the quotes from the church fathers, manuscripts from other early translations like the Latin Vulgate, the Ethiopic text, and others, the total comes out to over 24, ancient texts. With so many ancient texts, significant alterations should be easy to spot. However, those who accuse the New Testament of being corrupted have not produced such evidence.
This is significant because it should be easy to do with so many manuscripts available. The truth is, the large number of manuscripts confirm the accurate preservation and transmission of the New Testament writings. Although we can be confident in an accurate copy, we do have textual discrepancies. There are some passages with variant readings that we are not sure of. However, the differences are minor and do not affect any major theological doctrine.
- Mormon Battalion.
- Matthew reveals Jesus as Israel's promised Messiah.
- Intermediate Hindi: Madhyamik Hindi.
- Examining the Four Gospels : Christian Courier.
- Grounding Cognition : The Role of Perception and Action in Memory, Language, and Thinking.
Most have to do with sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. These in no way affect any major doctrine. Here is one example. In our Bibles, Mark is debated as to whether it was part of the original writings. Although I personally do not believe this passage was part of the original text, its inclusion does not affect any major teaching of Christianity.
It states that Christ was resurrected, appeared to the disciples, and commissioned them to preach the gospel.
- Educational Media and Technology Yearbook: Volume 30 2005 (Educational Media & Technology Yearbook);
- Stealing Buddhas Dinner: A Memoir.
- Bible Basics.
- What Are the Gospels? - Bible Gateway Blog.
- by D. R. & Dungan, D. L. Cartlidge.
- The Historical Reliability of the Gospels;
This is taught elsewhere. The other discrepancies are similar in nature.
Documents for the Study of the Gospels
Greek scholars agree we have a copy very accurate to the original. Westcott and Hort state that we have a copy Both the authenticity and general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established. Skeptics question the accuracy of the Gospels because of the miracles. However, this is an issue of worldviews. Those who hold to a naturalistic worldview do not believe an omnipotent creator exists.
Documents for the Study of the Gospels
All that exists is energy and matter. Therefore, miracles are impossible. Their conclusion, then, is that the miracle accounts in the Gospels are exaggerations or myths. Those who hold to a theistic worldview can accept miracles in light of our understanding of God and Christ. God can intervene in time and space and alter the natural regularities of nature much like finite humans can in smaller limited ways. But worldviews are not where this ends. We also need to take a good look at the historical facts. As shown previously, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the events of the life of Christ.
Early dating shows eyewitnesses were alive when Gospels were circulating and could attest to their accuracy. Apostles often appeal to the witness of the hostile crowd, pointing out their knowledge of the facts as well Acts , Acts Therefore, if there were any exaggerations or stories being told about Christ that were not true, the eyewitnesses could have easily discredited the apostles accounts. Remember, they began preaching in Israel in the very cities and during the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses.
The Jews were careful to record accurate historical accounts. Many enemies of the early church were looking for ways to discredit the apostles' teaching. If what the apostles were saying was not true, the enemies would have cried foul, and the Gospels would not have earned much credibility.
The genre of the gospels
There are also non-Christian sources that attest to the miracles of Christ. Josephus writes, "Now there was about that time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew to him both many of the Jews and many of the gentiles. Opponents of the Gospels do not deny He did miracles, they just present alternative explanations for them.
Finally, Christ's power over creation is supremely revealed in the resurrection. The resurrection is one of the best attested to events in history. For a full treatment, look up the article Resurrection: Fact or Fiction at Probe.
Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, , Michael Wilkins and J. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Geisler, The original version of this article is found at www. Source Criticism. The discipline of source criticism attempts to move behind the New Testament texts to suggest hypotheses regarding materials that the biblical authors might have used in composing their documents for example, Paul quotes from an early Christian liturgy in 1Cor , and Luke indicates he has drawn from some other materials about Jesus in composing his Gospel in Luke Source critics try to identify these materials, and sometimes they even attempt to reconstruct them.
Form Criticism. Form critics classify different materials found in the New Testament according to literary genre or type for example, parables, miracle stories, hymns, proverbs. Redaction Criticism. Used mainly in Gospel studies, redaction criticism tries to determine the particular intentions of New Testament authors by analyzing how they organized and edited their source materials.
Scholars look at how various textual units are arranged within a particular book, and they look at alterations that each author is believed to have made in his source material. Narrative Criticism. Also used primarily with the Gospels and the book of Acts , narrative criticism draws upon the insights of modern literary analysis to determine the particular effects that the biblical stories were expected to have on their readers. Rhetorical Criticism.
HISTORICAL TRUTH OF THE GOSPELS
The focus of rhetorical criticism is one of the strategies employed by biblical authors to achieve particular purposes. Rhetorical critics are interested not only in the point that a writing wishes to make but also in the basis on which that point is established the types of arguments or proofs that are used.
Reader-Response Criticism. The approach to New Testament texts known as reader-response criticism focuses on how texts have been understood or might be understood by readers who engage them in different ways and in various contexts. For example, they analyze how factors of social location age, gender, nationality, economic status, and so on inevitably affect the ways that readers engage texts and help to determine what they think those texts mean. Ideological Criticisms.