“We currently know of 5,400 Greek copies … of the New Testament…”

September 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been reading.

Lost Christianities, by Bart D. Ehrman. The following extract shows, simply, that the New Testament, the book all Christians hold so dear, has been changed and altered at the whims of men. It is not devine in any way.

After the fourth or fifth century, copies of the New Testament became far more common. Indeed, if we count up all the New Testament manuscripts that have been discovered, it is an impressive number overall. We currently know of 5,400 Greek copies of all or part of the New Testament, ranging from tiny scraps of a verse or two that could sit in the pal of your hand to massive tomes containing all twenty-seven books bound together. These copies range in date from the second century down to, and beyond, the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. As a result, the New Testament is preserved in far more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity.

What is interesting for those who want to know what the original text said is not the number of New Testament manuscripts but the dates of these manuscripts and the differences among them.

I should emphasize that it is not simply a matter of scholarly speculation to say the words of the New Testament were changed in the process of copying. We know that they were changed, because we can compare these 5,400 copies to one another. What is striking is that when we do so, we find that no two copies (except the smallest fragments) agree in all their wording. There can only be one reason for this. The scribes who copied the texts changed them. Nobody knows for certain how often they changed them, because no one has been able yet to count all the differences among the manuscripts. Some estimates put the number at around 200,000, others at 300,000 or more. Perhaps it is simplest to express the figure in comparative terms: There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

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