Manuscript Evidence for the Reliability of the New Testament
When we say that the Bible has over 25,000 early manuscripts that prove its reliability, we are talking about mainly documents from the fifth century onward. These are “early” compared to the documents supporting most other ancient works. Yet there are about one hundred early manuscripts from the second to the fourth century that were not known to us until the late 1800s and the most significant of these have been rediscovered in the last 60 years.
To understand why so many of the early manuscript copies have been lost, we need to first look at two mediums for writing that were used in ancient times, papyrus and vellum.
Papyrus is similar to modern day paper – it was durable and inexpensive – yet most papyrus could not last more than a few hundred years without crumbling into dust. Therefore, most of the papyrus manuscripts from more than 1500 years ago are fragments, decaying pages or at best books with significant parts missing.
Vellum is made from animal skins processed into parchments used for writing. The oldest scrolls and books from ancient times are parchments of the highest quality. The problem with vellum is that even though it was available during the time of the first writing of the New Testament, it was expensive and only became a common medium for the New Testament when the church became state-sponsored at the time of the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D.
In fact, Constantine commissioned Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea to produce 50 copies of the complete Bible on vellum in 332 A.D. The two oldest nearly complete biblical manuscripts we have from ancient times, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus were probably copied sometime between 325 to 350 A.D. Many think that these are copies from one of Eusebius’ manuscripts and perhaps two of the original 50 manuscripts, although some think Vaticanus may be a few years older than Eusebius’ copies.
Codex Vaticanus contains nearly the entire Bible except for Genesis 1:1–46:2 and ends abruptly at Hebrews 9:14 lacking also 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Revelation. Thus the beginning and end of the manuscript were lost. Yet despite its great importance, Vaticanus was almost unknown prior to the 1800s. It had been in the possession of the Vatican library since at least the 1300s, hence the name, but no one knew exactly how old it actually was and was inaccessible to scholars until the end of the 1800s.
Likewise, Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in 1859 by Constantin Tischendorf in a convent at the foot of Mount Sinai. Tischendorf wrote that the codex was actually in a pile of parchments waiting to be burned as trash when he rescued it! Sinaiticus contains the entire Greek Bible, plus the Epistle of Barnabas and most of the Shepherd of Hermas (early Christian writings which were widely used in teaching). It is believed to be from the fourth century, but later than Vaticanus. The two great codices are in general agreement and both attest to the general reliability of the received text. In fact, Codex Vaticanus was later used by Hort and Westcott in their edition, The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881).
For those wanting to research for themselves the textual reliability of the New Testament over two millennia, I suggest purchasing an interlinear Greek New Testament that has a literal word for word rendering in English above each Greek word in the text and usually a modern English translation of the scriptures in the side column. The simple conclusion any honest inquirer will draw is that the New Testament scriptures have come down to us in virtually unaltered form.
Your comments are welcome!
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
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Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion
This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.
Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.
“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan
Running time: 85 minutes
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