As I stressed in my most recent post, the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of differences among out surviving manuscripts (and versions, and patristic citations) are of very little or no importance in trying to establish what the authors of the NT originally wrote. There are others that matter, and matter a lot. Those tend to be the ones that are the most interesting. But there are many, many more differences that are easy to detect and of no real significance.
Most of these differences appear simply to be accidental mistakes. We can never be absolutely certain, of course, if a change was made by accident or not. But in a huge majority of cases, there seems to be little reason to doubt it.
The *reasons* mistakes were made are not hard to detect, but are nonetheless hugely interesting for a reason I will explain in my next post. The reality is that scribes were human beings and they made mistakes. Of course, in theory, they didn’t *have* to make mistakes. Throughout the middle ages, Jewish scribes of the Torah and Muslim scribes of the Qur’an were *unbelievably* careful not to make mistakes. But not the Christian scribes. Their human faults are all too easy to see on the page of virtually any manuscript. The reasons they made their mistakes: some scribes were not very competent; some were not highly educated; some were not careful; some were not attentive; some were tired and worn out; some had other things on their minds; and on and on and on.
As a result, there are lots of mistakes in our surviving manuscripts. Here is a point very much worth making: the earliest copies we have are….
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