It’s just so old, right? It’s something that was written for a culture that hasn’t been around for 2,000 years. It’s gone through so many translations, there’s no way the Bible we have today could be anywhere close to what the original was.
It’s trendy right now to hold that opinion of the Bible. But is it true? Jesus’ acts and his words, passed down through a long process of oral tradition can’t possibly be accurate, could they?
You know, most of what’s written by scholars concerning inaccuracy is really based on a premise. A premise that the gospels and other New Testament documents weren’t written while there were still eyewitnesses alive. The idea came from the followers of the Form-Criticism movement in the early 1900s. Their thinking back then was that the accuracy of the New Testament depended on a long process of oral tradition, oral tradition being defined as, “the transmission by word of mouth over a period longer than the contemporary generation.” But was that the case? (Bauckham, Vansina)
When you read Luke Chapter 1 you see that Luke wrote of the recorded events of Jesus’ life, that “…they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”
When you read 1 John Chapter 1 you see that John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
When you read 2 Peter 1:16-21 you see that Peter wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
And when you read 1 Corinthians 15:6-8 you see that Paul wrote, “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
What’s being said here?
What’s being said by these writers is, If you don’t believe me, go ask the witnesses–most of whom are still living–for yourself. Go find the eyewitnesses and verify for yourself if what I write is true. A British Bible scholar named Vincent Taylor once commented that, “if the Form-Critics are right, the disciples must have been translated to heaven immediately after the Resurrection.”
But of course that’s not what happened. What happened was, according to Taylor, “…for at least a generation they moved among the young Palestinian communities, and through preaching and fellowship their recollections were at the disposal of those who sought information.” (Bauckham)
A redditor who is a former atheist sent me a DM yesterday explaining that he came to believe the Bible when he learned how the original writers of the New Testament scriptures would send a letter or manuscript to a group of Christians, and then that letter or manuscript was copied and distributed to several other groups, and then those groups would make copies and send them to other groups, and so on. So over the years we wound up with 5,000 manuscripts or pieces of manuscripts. Enough to reconstruct the New Testament, some say several times over.
Princeton scholar Bruce Metzger was often characterized as a liberal. A conservative Christian once burned a translation of a Bible he helped produce–Metzger kept the ashes in an urn. (And some, at Princeton, said he was too conservative.) But according to Ravi Zacharias, even Metzger stated that it’s safe for any scholar to say the New Testament is 99.6% accurate.
Okay, you might say, so if the original texts are so accurate, then why are there so many different translations of the Bible today? That’s a good question. If you clicked on any of the four Bible reference links in this article, you might have already found an answer. If you clicked on any of the Bible reference links, you noticed it took you to a Bible Gateway page with five different versions of the Bible displayed side by side. I look at scripture like this all the time, almost every day. So I’ve done this at least 1,000 times–and I’ve never found any substantial difference in the message between any two versions. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Just go to Bible Gateway and keep clicking on the Add parallel button until you have as many versions as you like.
See whether or not the message stays consistent.
- For more on this topic you can refer to the references at the bottom of this post. I especially recommend Richard Bauckham’s book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. This article relies heavily on Bauckham’s work.
- I found the guy at 16:30 in the video displayed below to be fascinating.
Daniel B. Wallace, In Memoriam: Bruce M. Metzger, Bible.org
Jack Akin, Reliability of the New Testament
Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus–Two Visions, HarperSanFrancisco, 1998
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, U.K., 2006
[Image via Rushay (RUSH) Booysen – Creative Commons]