Generally speaking copies of copies of copies tend to get worse as they go along. So, for example, if I take this fancy line art of ironically a copyist in his least sexy copying hat and I put it in here, and I copy it once It’s gonna be pretty good. But if I take that copy and copy it and so on and so forth it’s gonna get worse in a hurry Look how much worse it’s already getting That’s what the original looks like…this is what it looks like after 30-some generations of copies. But none of you were surprised because you know the copies of copies of copies are terrible you understand the principle But when it comes to the Bible, we’ve got a problem We don’t have this anymore so how do we know that the Bible which holds itself out to be a ridiculously important book is anything more than a deteriorated version of the original. Is it possible for us to feel confidence that what we have in front of us is an accurate reflection of what was written down in the first place? In this video I want to try to tackle that question Big obvious question number one How come we don’t have any original copies of the Bible right? It was obviously super important to the people back then they thought of it as Scripture Why wouldn’t they have the foresight to laminate a copy? Or put something in a safe so people later on could see it. It seems like a valid question But I also think there’s a valid answer. Hey first of all this stuff was written on papyrus It’s not quite paper But it’s also not the most durable thing in the world so that means that given time unless it’s in the perfect Environmental conditions, it’s gonna deteriorate a whole bunch, and it’s just not gonna last for 2,000 years. Secondly the original copies of the Bible must have been absolutely treasured by early Christians, passed around to other churches. Everybody would have been handling them and getting their grubby little oily mitts all over it surely that would have accelerated the rate of deterioration of those original copies. Third 2,000 years is just a long stinking time for fires and floods and earthquakes and Vikings and who knows what else to come along and wreak things that would be super interesting to still have in our hands today. That raises the second great big giant question, if we don’t have the originals of the Bible what do we have? The answer is manuscripts Handwritten copies of the New Testament. We know about other ancient writings for manuscripts as well: Julius Caesar we’ve got about ten manuscripts on, Aristotle roughly 50, Sophocles pushing 200, and Homer is the best attested at well north of 600. But the New Testament is in a completely different league. We’re talking about 5,000 Early fragments or complete copies of the New Testament in Greek, that’s the language It was written in, and further these 5,000 They’re not a thousand years after the fact, these 5000 manuscripts, the earliest one dates to within 30 years of the life of the disciple John and Interestingly the the fragment that dates so close was written by John We’ve got more fragments or complete copies And we do have any other ancient literature by a landslide and we’re far closer chronologically to the originals than any other ancient literature By a landslide, but that’s not all. In addition to those 5,000 Greek manuscripts. We’ve got like another 20,000 manuscripts going all the way up to the advent of the printing press, which leads us to a third great big giant question If we have 25 plus thousand copies I mean that’s great that’s great But that’s a lot of people and humans make mistakes Surely there are discrepancies well, and yeah there are discrepancies Well, then how do we know which ones are real and which ones we ought to ignore? Isn’t it just a crapshoot at that point to try to figure out what the actual Bible is and that right there is one of the questions I hear the most in pushing back on the reliability of the Bible. But, I thought up a really fun little exercise for us to work on together that I think will illustrate an answer to that question. I made 50 copies of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” It’s a poem by Robert Frost, and I gave it to 50 students here at church and I just asked them to copy it as best as they could. These kids range from like age 5 all the way through high school when it was all said and done I collected 43 useable manuscripts of the poem. I came back to my desk, I broke it down and what I found was there was a small minority of these that were complete and accurate, and then there were a few more that were complete, but had errors, then the vast majority were fragments from one part of the poem or another, some of which were accurate, most of which had a collection of errors but there’s more to this. I handed off all of these manuscripts to a doctor friend of mine here in town and asked her to go through them and use whatever reasoning skills she wanted to, to try to reconstruct, just from the manuscripts, What the original poem must have been. How sure are you that you were able to reestablish the actual poem? I’m pretty sure. You think you got it right? I think I got at least 98%. OK, Why are you so sure? cause they all, cause I had a lot of things to work with. I think it was pretty easy to find the mistakes. So here’s the verdict: Dr Fallon’s version is a perfect match with the version I gave the students. 100% How did she do it? Well, you’ve already thought of how you would do it if you were in that spot because you’re smart I think you just take it and you go with the majority on every single one It’s not even just that you have to go with the majority. I mean some of these errors are Obvious type, and it’s easy with the basic understanding of English to know what went wrong I mean, there’s one of these where the student copies it as being… here it is. “He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow” here they spelled it “h e a r”. Well if you know English You know it sounds right they just got their “hears” confused, and they made a simple mistake then when you go and Confirm it by comparing with all the others you can just write that one off as an obvious goof up But even so it doesn’t really change the meaning because the context defines the meaning. Common sense and a couple of hours is all it took to take kids writings and come up with an accurate reflection of the original. Let’s go back and think about the Bible again. We’re talking about 25,000 plus manuscripts and even if we write off all of the later manuscripts that were done in different languages you know Latin whatever and just talk about the Greek manuscripts. You’re still talking about five thousand . 43 versus 5,000. Kids doing this for fun who aren’t really invested and only sort of care versus scribes for whom This is the most important thing in all of their existence and their reason for living. How much more so can we be even more certain that when we compare all of these Biblical manuscripts we can come away with an accurate reflection of what the original must have been. Did you feel like this was pretty much common sense? Yes I think it was pretty common sense. And the product of that common sense is this document right here. This is the Greek New Testament, and it’s a Majority Manuscript. This is not copied from some long lost secret original that we found in a secret tomb hidden somewhere that only I could know about and now, I’m gonna tell you in a super-awesome study. No. This is the product of thousands of people’s work over a couple of thousand years on thousands of pages studied by thousands of scholars to come to a place where we could add it all up and say that right there that’s the New Testament in Greek and Well we can be relatively certain that that’s an accurate reflection of what was written down in the first place. This is science. This is evidence-based, and I know some of you were just doing a horrifying spit-take And you’re already on your way to the comments section, but hear me out here We have a large enough sample size of data to be able to go through it and say with certainty this is what the data points to. You don’t have to believe it. You don’t to think anything that’s in here. You don’t think there’s a God or that you need to believe in Jesus, its a separate conversation. And we can agree to disagree on whatever conclusions you might come to, but this is a reliable expression of what was written down in the first place. All right It’s plenty for now. I’m Matt, its The Ten Minute Bible Hour. We’ll see you soon.