English Bible Translations Part 02 - Preservation of the Bible

Part 2 - The Preservation of the Bible

The original "autographs"—the actual original documents—no longer exist for any book of the Bible. God, however, has preserved His Word in currently existing original-language manuscripts. The Greek New Testament is attested by 5,300 Greek manuscripts, the oldest dating within 25 years of the death of the apostle John (John Rylands Manuscript, A.D. 125, at the University of Manchester). In addition, there are over 19,000 early manuscript versions in translation, such as the Latin Vulgate, making the New Testament by far the most copied and circulated book of antiquity. In contrast, Homer’s Iliad, holding second place in the number of surviving manuscripts, only has 643. The works of the Greek historian Thucydides (ca. 460-400 B.C.) survive in only eight manuscripts, the oldest dating to about 900 A.D.—over 1300 years after they were written!

There are minor differences between the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts that survive. The correct text of the Bible in these original languages, however, has been verified by textual criticism. Please note that textual criticism is not "critical" of the text in a pejorative sense, but rather—true to the meaning of Greek krites, a discerner, judge, or arbiter—textual criticism judges between the different options after analyzing all of the available grammatical and historical evidence as rigorously as possible.

By God’s providence, only minor differences exist between the original-language manuscripts. In fact, after removing easily-solved variants, we can affirm 99.9% of the words of the Bible without question. Further, no Bible doctrine depends on the solution to any one variant, and the gospel truths remain as clear as crystal.

Most conservative scholars, including the well-known brethren John Darby, Thomas Newberry, and Samuel Tregelles have taken a "balanced eclectic" approach to textual criticism. It is balanced because it weighs both internal evidence (clues in the linguistic features of the document itself) and external evidence (historical data about the manuscript, such as who wrote it or promoted it). The approach is eclectic because it uses the best evidence to select the proper reading, and holds no premeditated bias toward or against any particular text type. Each textual variant is investigated thoroughly and considered on its own merits.