SpiritAndTruth.org

Q160 : Oldest Known Bible?

Home  •  Questions  •  Subscribe  •  Previous  •  Next

Q160 : Oldest Known Bible?

It's been a while since I've written in, but I saw this report on the CNN website about the Oldest Known Biblea that exists which is to soon be published online.

My Questions are:

  1. What do you think about these additional books that the scholars are saying were left out of the Bibles we read today?
  2. What about the texts that they are claiming have been changed and modified (particularly in regards to Jesus's resurrection)?
  3. Do you still recommend the NKJV as one of the more reliable versions to study from in light of this information?
  4. What do you personally think about this story?
  5. Do you know if there is a concordance made specifically for the NKJV which includes (1) Strong's Numbers; (2) a Hebrew dictionary; (3) a Greek dictionary?
Thanks ahead of time for you candid answers to these questions.


A160 : by Tony Garland

The article appears to be characterized by the same sort of sensationalism which today’s media is especially prone to: overstating the facts. The article would have us believe that this ancient Bible is somewhat of a novelty and essentially undercuts the reliability of the accepted canon. For example:

The world's oldest known Christian Bible goes online Monday — but the 1,600-year-old text doesn't match the one you'll find in churches today.

And some familiar — very important — passages are missing, including verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus, they said.

Yawn. . .

The mysterious new Bible in question is based on a manuscript known as Codex Sinaiticus discovered in 1859 and one of several early Bible manuscripts which have been well known and available for an extended period.1

The best and most important [Greek manuscripts] of these go back to somewhere about A.D. 350, the two most important being the Codex Vaticanus, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome, and the well-known Codex Sinaiticus, which the British Government purchased from the Soviet Government for £100,000 on Christmas Day, 1933, and which is now the chief treasure of the British Museum. Two other important early MSS in this country are the Codex Alexandrinus, also in the British Museum, written in the fifth century, and the Codex Bezae, in Cambridge University Library, written in the fifth or sixth century, and containing the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin.2

These ancient manuscripts have been known and utilized by translation committees when producing the various modern Bible translations, including the NKJV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, NET Bible, and many others. They form an important witness to the reliability of the New Testament which we have today — a reliability which is unparalleled in its attestation when measured against any other ancient document. In spite of this, predictably, the article would have us believe this “new ancient bible” even casts doubt on the Biblical teaching of the resurrection of Jesus!

Anyone who goes to the trouble of obtaining and examining a text-critical (meaning “comparative”) copy of the Greek text of the New Testament3 will find an exhaustive comparison of various manuscripts which contribute to our understanding of the original text of the Bible. These Greek New Testaments have long included the witness of Codex Sinaiticus as one among many manuscripts in the variant readings available at the bottom of each page. Nothing particularly newsworthy here.

The article also states, “The Codex also includes much of the Old Testament that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians.” To which the reader might respond, “Have we been missing an important Old Testament witness until now?” No, the “Old Testament that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians” is none-other than a variation of the well-known Septuagint (often abbreviated LXX). Yawn. . .

As to the missing passages, these omissions are contested by other manuscript evidence. One benefit of the massive manuscript evidence underlying our modern New Testament, is the profusion of copies which allow experts who study the various manuscripts to weigh each manuscript within the larger corpus of manuscripts to provide that which may read slightly differently or have been omitted by any one manuscript. In the case of this particular manuscript, a large part of the Old Testament as well as several New Testament passages are lacking, “Codex Sinaiticus contains over half of the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament except for large passages such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, along with several other verses”4.

To respond to your specific questions:

  1. What do you think about these additional books that the scholars are saying were left out of the Bibles we read today?
    The books referred to are not some new discovery. They are books, related to the Old Testament and New Testament periods, that have been known for hundreds of years and considered uninspired by Protestants. This is yet another piece of none-news. Yawn.
  2. What about the texts that they are claiming have been changed and modified (particularly in regards to Jesus's resurrection)?
    If one examines a modern translation which gives preference to the witness of Codex Sinaiticus (e.g., NASB), you'll see the two passages mentioned above (Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11) appear within square brackets along with a footnote indicating that the passages are not present in some manuscripts (e.g., Codex Sinaiticus). While it is not my purpose here to delve into the textual witness of various manuscripts to the authenticity of these passages (see resources mentioned below), the Biblical teaching of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus does not by any means depend upon these passages. Even the Codex Sinaiticus, since it contains the rest of the New Testament, remains chock full of passages upholding the resurrection. Here we see once again the same biased, tiresome, sensationalizing by the media. Yawn.
  3. Do you still recommend the NKJV as one of the more reliable versions to study from in light of this information?
    Yes. I personally find the assumed priority of the oldest extant manuscripts (including Codex Sinaiticus) as necessarily being the best manuscripts doubtful and prefer the NKJV translation because it gives preference to the more widespread Byzantine family of Greek texts. However, I also make good use of other word-for-word translations such as the NASB and ESV which favor the earlier individual manuscripts such as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus. I don’t think you can go too far wrong with any of these translations since, doctrinally, they uphold the same truth: Christian beliefs will not differ due to variations between any of these translations.
  4. What do you personally think about this story?
    I think it is yet another example of something we see all the time in the secular press (and academia): a regurgitation of old news as if it were something new coupled with an attempt to use it to cast doubt on the Word of God, “Has God indeed said . . .?” (Gen. 3:1). This occurs frequently in relation to the supposed unreliability of the Bible and supposed evidence for human ascent from the apes. After a while you can spot it pretty easily. If anything, the article serves as a useful illustration to new Christians about what to watch for and expect out of the secular media which is bent on discrediting the Christian faith.
  5. Do you know if there is a concordance made specifically for the NKJV which includes (1) Strong's Numbers; (2) a Hebrew dictionary; (3) a Greek dictionary?
    Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any. For some reason, Thomas Nelson — which owns the copyright for the NKJV translation — has not been forthcoming in producing study aids which allow easy access to the words of the original languages behind their English translation. This would seemingly have been relatively easy given the ancestry of the NKJV from the KJV which has had similar resources for many years. In the meantime, one has to generally make do through the use of equivalent study aids available for the KJV. If you utilize the NASB along with the NKJV, then you'll find such a concordancea is readily available.
The following resources may prove helpful in delving into this topic in greater detail:


Endnotes:

1.Ref-0060, 191
2.Ref-0239, 10-11
3.Ref-0810
4.Ref-0086, 36


Sources:

Ref-0060Rene Pache, The Inspiration And Authority Of Scripture (Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1969).
Ref-0086Thomas Holland, Crowned With Glory (New York: Writers Club Press, 2000).
Ref-0239F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981, c1943).
Ref-0810Eberhard Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece 27 (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979). ISBN:3438051001j.


Search Website
Related Topics


Home  •  Questions  •  Subscribe  •  Previous  •  Next


Copyright © 2015 by www.SpiritAndTruth.org
(Content generated on Sun Mar 1 17:19:52 2015)
contact@SpiritAndTruth.org