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Tuesday
Feb162010

Theological Term of the Week

manuscripts
Handwritten copies of portions of the text of the Bible; ancient copies of Bible passages in the original languages.

  • From scripture:

    And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

    18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

    19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-20 ESV)
  • From The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Exposition: Transmission and Translation:

    Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.

  • From The Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts, ESV Study Bible: 

    Today, any group of Christians gathered together can all read exactly the same words in their Bibles, that luxury is made possible by the invention of the movable-type printing press over five centuries ago. But such a luxury can also breed a false sense of confidence that the precise original wording of the Bible can be known. When it comes to the NT, the original 27 books disappeared long ago, probably within decades of their composition. Handwritten copies, or manuscripts, must be relied on to determine the wording of the original text. Yet no two manuscripts are exactly alike, and even the closest two early manuscripts have at least half a dozen differences per chapter (most of them inconsequent variations…). The discipline known as NT textual criticism is thus needed because of these two facts: disappearance of the originals and disagreements among the manuscripts.

  • The Transmission of Scriptures by John H. Skilton:
    That God has preserved the Scriptures in such a condition of essential purity as we would expect is manifestly the case. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament has survived the millenniums in a substantially and remarkably pure form. Among the extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the Christian era there is an extraordinary agreement. …
    The text of the New Testament has also been preserved in a reliable form. There are vastly more manuscripts of the Greek New Testament than there are of the Hebrew Old Testament or of any other ancient work, and some of them were written not a great while after the time of the originals. We have about 5,000 manuscripts containing portions or the whole of the New Testament in Greek, whether of the continuous text or of selections for reading in church. …
    The New Testament is preeminent among ancient transmitted works in the number and variety of the witnesses to its text and in the proximity in date of the earliest extant manuscripts to the time when its books were written. … Surely if scholars justly feel that they have essentially the original text of classical works, which have comparatively few manuscript witnesses, may we not feel certain that in the vast and varied company of extant witnesses to the New Testament text (among which different early textual traditions are represented), the original text in practically every detail has been transmitted to us? 

Learn more:

  1. Don Stewart: Aren’t There Mistakes in the Various Copies of the Bible?
  2. John Stevenson: Has the Bible Been Changed?
  3. John Stevenson: In Search of Ancient Manuscripts
  4. Frederic G. Kenyon: The Story of the Bible, From Manuscript to Print
  5. Michael Patton: Transmission of Scripture (mp3)

Related terms:

Filed under Scripture

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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