In this lesson we study the New Testament – how and why it came into existence and how it has come to us today, in the twenty-first century, unaltered in the last two thousand years.Preview This Lesson
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The Accuracy (Inerrancy) of the New Testament Text
Let's begin with a little story to illustrate how a test works for textual integrity:
Pretend your Aunt Sally learns in a dream the recipe for an elixir that preserves youth. When she wakes up, she scribbles the directions on a scrap of paper, then runs to the kitchen to make her first glass of the potion. In a few days, Aunt Sally is transformed into a picture of radiant youth because of her daily dose of "Sally's Secret Sauce."
Aunt Sally is so excited that she sends detailed, handwritten instructions on how to make the sauce to her three bridge partners. They, in turn, make copies for 10 of their own friends. All goes well until Aunt Sally's dog eats the scrap of paper on which she first wrote the recipe. In a panic, she contacts her three friends who have suffered similar mishaps, so the alarm goes out to the others in an attempt to recover the original wording.
Sally rounds up all the surviving handwritten copies, twenty-six in all. When she spreads them out on the kitchen table, she immediately notices some differences. Twenty-three of the copies are exactly the same. Of the remaining three, however, one has misspelled words, another has an inverted phrase ("mix then chop" instead of "chop then mix"), and one includes an ingredient that is not listed on any of the others.
Do you think Aunt Sally can accurately reconstruct her original recipe from this evidence? Of course, she can. The misspellings are obvious errors and are easily corrected. The single inverted phrase stands out and can easily be repaired. Sally would then strike the extra ingredient, reasoning that it is more plausible that one person would accidentally add an item than that twenty-five people would accidentally omit the same one. Even if the variations were more numerous or more diverse, the original could still be reconstructed with a high level of confidence if Sally had enough copies. This, in simplified form, is how scholars do "textual criticism," an academic method used to test all documents of antiquity, not just religious texts. It's not a haphazard effort based on hopes and guesses; it's a careful process allowing an alert critic to identify and correct the possible corruption of any work.
Today, there are over six thousand early manuscript copies or portions of the Greek New Testament which have survived for two millennia. When we include the Latin Vulgate and other early versions, we have over twenty-four thousand early copies or portions of the New Testament (twice that when including q... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
Apologetics #6: The Christian Holy Books – Part 2 The New Testament is part of the following course(s):