The Text of the Bible
We’re into a fairly fascinating section of my Biblical Interpretation class. Essentially, we’re looking at how we got the Greek text of the Bible we have today. Some interesting pieces from class:
- Codex Sinaiticus: The full story is recorded in the reprinting of the book (page 1, page 2) that was done after it was retrieved. The short version of the story is that Tischendorf was looking for manuscripts containing the original Greek text. After finding scraps in a basket waiting to be burned at the monastery, he began asking for more “scraps” to dig through. Later, he returned and by chance happened across a monk who invited him to tea. While talking about how Tischendorf had read the Old Testament from a Septuagint, the monk responded that he had as well. He pulled out Codex Sinaiticus, dating back to the 4th century. It contained the entire NT and most of the OT in Greek. It continues to be a primary source for our Greek text, but is not the oldest manuscript we have by far.
- Some Papyri manuscripts date back as far as A.D. 200. We have only scraps in most cases, but some have substantial portions of the Bible on them.
- Papyrus 64, originally thought to be from c. 200, could be as old as A.D. 79. According to Carsten Thiede, a noted scholar in this field, the handwriting matches styles found in Qumran and Pompeii. He details the whole thing in The Jesus Papyrus. While the dating could be as late as 125-150, it’s possible that we have a manuscript written within 50 years of the death of Christ. There’s a good chance some of the Apostles were still alive while this was written.
The more we get into this, the more impressed I am that the text has been so faithfully delivered through the years. After ~2,000 years, we still have a very precise copy of the original texts. While we can never be certain we have the exact original text, we continue to get closer and closer. God certainly has been working to keep His Word alive among us today!