Today's topic is the Bible's confirmation by historical texts. This means that we can trust our present-day manuscripts of Scripture as being the same as the original text, or very nearly so.
Bibliographical test: number and time-spacing of manuscripts (MSS)
- Over 5300 Greek MSS, more than 10,000 Vulgate (Latin) MSS, over 9300 others = 24,600+ total copies of all or part(s) of the New Testament.
- Contrast the Iliad (coming second in the list of decreasing MSS support): 643 MSS, 1st copy in 1200s A.D. NT gap: 250-300 years, essentially nothing in MS-dating terms. NT has 0.5% doubtful text vs. 5% for the Iliad.
- Kenyon: no doctrine has alternate readings.
- Versions: Syraic, Latin, Greek; lectionaries.
- J. Greenlee: Church fathers quoted almost the entire NT.
- Talmudists (A.D. 100-500): at least 17 extremely precise regulations for copying MSS.
- Masoretes (A.D. 500-900): obsessed with counting (line numbers, middle letters of books, etc.); added vowel marks for correct pronunciation.
- Hebrew text: Cairo Codex (A.D. 895), Prophets of Leningrad (A.D. 916), Codex Babylonicus Petropalitanus (A.D. 1008), Aleppo Codex (A.D. 900+), etc.
- Dead Sea Scrolls (125 B.C.): exact Isaiah scroll, etc. >95% accrate. 5% = spelling errors.
- Septuagint (285-246 B.C., in Greek): very close to Masoretic text.
- Samaritan Text (5th c. B.C.): Pentateuch.
- Targums (A.D. 500): paraphrases.
- Mishnah (A.D. 200): exposition and quotations.
- Gemaras: commentaries.
- Midrash (100 B.C. - A.D. 300): quotes.
- Hexapla ("sixfold): very like Masoretic text.
Internal test: three points to remember (whether a MS agrees with itself)
(1) Benefit of the doubt should be on the text, not on the critic. Problems aren't necessarily mistakes in the text.
(2) Primary source value: the authors wrote as eyewitnesses (e.g. John 19:35).
(3) Competent primary sources - because they date between A.D. 50-75.
External evidence text: whether outside sources (below) agree with the MSS
- Eusebius - Mark faithfully wrote down Peter's words.
- Papias - Matthew wrote accurately.
- Irenaeus - Gospel writers indeed wrote them.
- Clement of Rome - uses Bible as authentic.
- Ignatius - knew Apostles personally.
- Polycarp - martyred for trusting in Scripture.
- Flavius Josephus - confirms accuracy of Gospel accounts.
- Tatian - arranged Diatessaron (first harmony of the Gospels).
Tomorrow: Part 2 (Confirmation by Archeology).