Textual Criticism

EV - Ed Moreno.jpgBy Pastor Ed Moreno

Have you ever heard someone say: “How true to the original can the Bible we have today be?  I mean, it was translated from Greek to Latin, and then from Latin to German, and then from German to English, and so on.  By now our modern translations have surely been corrupted.  There’s got to be a lot of mistakes, alterations, and distortions.”

Is this objection correct?  No!  You see, our current Bible is not the end of some long chain of translations from one language to the next.  Rather, it is a direct translation from ancient manuscripts in the original language – Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament.

Now, as is the case with all ancient writings, the original handwritten documents themselves no longer exist because they were written on papyrus, and those have disintegrated.  This is true of the writings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and every other ancient work – including the original handwritten letters and books by the apostles.

But what we do have are very old reliable copies of these ancient writers.  And there is a science called, “Textual Criticism” that has methods and means for determining if the current text of an ancient work is pure or if it has been corrupted over time.   Please note that this science is applied in the assessing of all ancient writings.

One of the things Textual Critics do to determine the purity of an ancient work is to compare several of the oldest copies of that ancient work, if several copies are available.

If there is agreement, consistency and continuity between the oldest copies, then the original document is considered to have been kept in tact by the copyists who transmitted it and, thus, the current copy is considered to be pure and uncorrupted.

And the rule is that the more ancient copies the science of “Textual Criticism” has to work with, the greater the ability of Textual Critics to determine if the text we have today is true to the original or not.

Well, just for the New Testament alone, there are over 5000 more ancient copies than its closest competitor, which happens to be Homer’s Illiad with just 643 ancient copies for Textual Critics to examine.

So guess what the science of “Textual Criticism” has determined?  It has determined that the Bible is the most accurately transmitted ancient work of all time!   In other words, the Bible we have today is the same as the one early Christians used.  So you can trust it, folks.  It is trustworthy and reliable.  Read it.  Live by it.  You’ll be glad you did!