Re: Sunday Dispatch
Has the biblical text been corrupted over the centuries?
Jonathan Morrow: One of the most common objections today is that the Bible has been changed and corrupted over the centuries. Often the “Telephone game” played in elementary schools is used as an illustration of how the copies of copies of copies of copies (you get the idea) have been changed and the message garbled over the years. This is not a good illustration because that is not how the biblical text has come down to us.
To see why, let’s briefly look at the New Testament.
There was an intentional process of transmission in place and people cared about getting these texts right because eternal matters were literally at stake. When it comes to recovering the text of the New Testament, we need to ask the right questions:
- How many manuscripts do we have to work with?
- How early are the manuscripts we have to work with?
- How important are the textual variants between these manuscripts?
When we examine these questions, the New Testament is by far the best-attested work of Greek or Latin literature in the ancient world—it’s not even close! I go into much more detail in my chapter in Questioning the Bible, but the bottom line is that we have a lot of manuscripts to work with; we have early manuscripts to work with, and none of the differences between the existing manuscripts affect any central teaching or practice in the Christian faith. You can trust that what was written in the first century is essentially what we have today.
~ Selected from Bible Gateway interview of Jonathan Morrow about his book, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority