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The Text of the New Testament

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Lesson

Are the copies of the Greek New Testament accurate? Are the variations among the manuscripts so significant that we can no longer trust them? What about the two paragraphs that some Bibles say are not authentic? This discussion is called “Textual Criticism.”

Outline

I. PROBLEM AS STATED BY PROF. BART EHRMAN

A. We have more errors (“variants”) than words

B. Questions we should ask of these “400,000” differences

1. Are the numbers reliable?

2. How many manuscripts?

3. What kinds and significance of variants

II. MANUSCRIPTS

A. Sources

1. Greek manuscripts

2. Other languages

3. Lectionaries

4. Church Fathers

B. 20,000 texts, 8–16 variants per manuscript

III. TEXTUAL VARIANTS

A. Most common variation is spelling of one word that has no affect on meaning

B. Every manuscript from the second and early third centuries are carefully written — no evidence to the contrary

C. No evidence there was significantly higher percentage of variations before the fourth century

D. Modern texts

1. Nestle-Aland Greek text records only 10,000 variations that have any impact on meaning, and most have no impact.

2. United Bible Societies Greek text shows just over 1,400 variations

3. Most modern English Bibles note about 300–400 variations, and only two dozen affect a verse or more

E. Two larger passages

1. Longer ending of Mark (16:9–20)

2. Woman caught in adultery (John 7:53–8:11)

IV. WHAT IS AT STAKE?

A. 99% confident

B. No Christian doctrine depends on any disputed text