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FOUNDATIONS  OF  THE   BIBLE

INTRODUCTION

Original Manuscripts - Written by the Holy Spirit, using men of God (2 Peter 1:21). None of these manuscripts are in known existence.
What we do have, are many ancient Manuscript Copies,
The Greek Texts.
The Modern Translations.

Many times in reading commentaries of the Scriptures we run into the following words: ‘These verses are not found in some of the manuscripts’.  What does that mean?

We must remember that when we speak of the Manuscripts, we are talking about hand copied documents. Copied by men with primitive writing utensils and quite often in poor light. The most common purpose was to create copies to share with other believers.  If a certain scripture passage was only in 1,500 copies and not in 4, then you could say that it was not in some of the manuscripts. 

It is only by the miracles intervention and will of God that His word was carried through the centuries by the frailty of man (and in spite of the onslaughts of Satan to destroy it),  yet retained it's purity.

The following information is taken from ‘The Ancestry of Our English Bible by Price, Publisher Harper & Row’

The books of the New Testament come down to us in Greek, most of them written in the first century. Most of the epistles of Paul, the earliest of the books, were written as letters to the churches which he had founded and fostered, and not one of them was intended by him to be preserved as a permanent part of a collection of sacred books. Indeed, Paul does not seem to have given any directions regarding his letters, except that occasionally he requested that they should be read before a church or interchanged with a letter sent to some other church (See Col. 4:16).

After the books of the New Testament were written they were carried all over the Roman Empire. The Christians everywhere took care of them, and copied and multiplied them in the century immediately following their production. Marcion, who was a devout teacher during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161), makes appeal to a rule of faith which consisted of "the Gospel" and "the Apostolicon." This latter is known to have contained ten epistles of Paul, which were recognized by Marcion as authoritative. Soon after this date other writers, especially of the church fathers, quote and refer to various books of the New Testament as if they constituted an authoritative collection of sacred documents.

But we do not possess one of the original manuscripts either of Paul’s letters or of any other of the books of the New Testament. Scholars such as Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome greatly stimulated Biblical learning, and caused the multiplication and preservation of its sacred documents. That sacred calling was later confined almost exclusively to monasteries, of which there were hundreds in the Orient.

In the period of the ninth to the fifteenth century cursive manuscripts were produced in great numbers in these monasteries, each of which had its scribe or scribes, whose chief business was the copying of the sacred Scriptures. The profession of scribe was so revered that a writer of the sacred books was exempted from working in the gardens of a monastery, lest the skill of his pen be marred by injury to his hands.

We must examine the earliest extant manuscripts of the Greek, the versions which were translated directly from the Greek, and the quotations in the writings of the church fathers and others. The earliest extant Greek manuscript dates from the second century (not more than a hundred years after the writing of the New Testament books) and copies become increasingly frequent down to the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. The use of the New Testament made by the church fathers in quoting either from the original Greek or from one of the versions is valuable evidence for the reading of that text at the given date, and at a given place.

Manuscripts as a rule were written with no space between the words or sentences and, in the oldest uncials, with few pausal marks and no accentuation of words. Certain words, the so-called nomina sacra, were usually abbreviated and marked by a superlinear stroke. The actual appearance of such manuscripts may be seen in the Plates. In English letters an early uncial would thus look somewhat like the following passage (John 1:1-4):

    INTHEBEGINNINGWASTHEWORDANDTHEWORDWASWITHGODANDTHEWORDGODTHE
    SAMEWASINTHEBEGINNINGWITHGODALLTHINGSWEREMADETHROUGHHIMANDWITH
    OUTHIMWASNOTANYTHINGMADETHATHATHBEENMADEINHIMWASLIFEANDTHELIFE
    WASTHELIGHTOFMEN

There are nearly 4,500 known Greek manuscripts of the New testament.

These include over 200 uncial documents, counting all fragments, which range in date from the second to the ninth century, about 100 papyri and ostraca, mainly uncials, approximately 2,500 cursive documents dating from the ninth to the fifteenth century, and nearly 1,700 lectionaries, some of which were written in uncials as late as the twelfth century.

Unfortunately, comparatively few of these witnesses contain the complete New Testament, and many are very fragmentary, especially those among the early uncials and papyri. Nevertheless, so far as the quality and quantity of the evidence go, the New Testament may be said to be by far the best-preserved ancient document in the world.

The entire New Testament is substantially contained in only two uncials (Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, most of Matthew being missing in the latter) and in about 50 cursives. Approximately 120 other manuscripts contain all but the Apocalypse (Revelation), and about 50 all but the Gospels. Let’s see the breakdown:

The Gospels Found in 1,500 documents.
The Acts and Catholic (General) Epistles and Revelation. Found in 250 documents.
The remainder constitutes material too fragmentary to classify.
For more information on this subject see ‘The Ancestry of Our English Bible by Price’

From this point on you get into Modern English Translations like Wycliffe-1380 AD, Tyndale-1525 AD, Coverdale-1535 AD, Matthews-1537 AD, Great-1539 AD, Geneva-1560AD, Bishops-1568, Douay-1610.

A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

It has always clearly been God's plan to communicate with man. 
First, in his daily walks with Adam in the garden
Then in the Hebrew language to communicate with the people he chose through which to bring salvation to the world.
Next, by primarily speaking to the Palestinian people in their common tongue of Aramaic during his 3 1/2 year earthly ministry..
Finally by using the then universal language of Greek in the writing of the much of the New Testament.

The use of Greek was quite as necessary to reach the Jews themselves both in the land and among the dispersion, as well as the outreach to the Gentile masses.   When he told the disciples to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel", He provided them with all the necessary tools, including His Word in a language all could understand.  It is no different today. It is God's will that ALL should hear and understand His eternal Word.

The Greek found in the scriptures is that in common use in the first century. Many papyrus manuscripts have been discovered which show that it was the language of the common people. It is the language of the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures.

THE THREE WITNESSES

Our Lord laid down the law that the words of two or three witnesses are sufficient evidence to decide any matter. It surely is not a mere chance that, in the providence of God there are two great witnesses to the text of Holy Scriptures and a third to call upon when these do not agree. The three most ancient and valuable manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures are the Codex Sinaiticus, now in London, the Alexandrinus in the British Museum, and the Codex Vaticanus in Rome.

THE  MASORETIC  TEXT  -  THE MASORAH

Masorah
"Masorah" is the technical term given to a grammatico-critical commentary on the Old Testament, the design of which is to indicate the correct reading of the text with respect to words, vowels, accents, etc., so as to preserve it from all corruption, putting an end to the exercise of unbounded individual fancy.

According to Jewish tradition. the work began with Moses; from him it was committed to the wise men till Ezra and the great Synagogue, and was then transferred to the learned men at Tiberias, by whom it was transmitted to writing and called the Masorah.

Masoretes
The Masorah is the work of certain Jewish critics, who from their work have received the title of  (Baali Hammasoreth),  masters of the Masorah, or, as they are generally designated, Masoretes.

The Language
The language of the Masorah is Chaldee; and, besides the difficulty of this idiom, the obscure abbreviations, contractions, symbolical signs, etc., with which the work abounds, render its study exceedingly difficult. In all probability it was composed out of notes that had been made from time to time on separate leaves, or in books, as occasion demanded. Afterwards they were appended as marginal notes to the text, sometimes on the upper and lower margin, sometimes in a more brief form on the space between the text and the Chaldee version, where, from scarcity of room, many abbreviations and symbols were resorted to, and considerable omissions were made.

The Value
There can be no doubt that it preserves to us much valuable traditional information concerning the constitution and the meaning of the sacred text. It is the source whence materials for a critical revision of the O.-Test. text can now alone be derived. It is a pity that it is now impossible to discriminate the older from the more recent of its contents. We would earnestly reiterate the wish of Eichhorn, that some one would undertake the "bitter task" of making complete critical excerpts from the Masorah.
(the information on the Masoretic Text is from McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)
 

Bibliography

 


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