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The Manuscripts of the New Testament

Before I start explaining what The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was about, why I wrote it, what motivated me, and what I wanted to accomplish I (quite obviously, you may be noticing) have to provide a lot of background information.  We’ve now moved on from talking about early Christian diversity (orthodoxy and heresy) and are now into discussing “textual criticism,” the academic discipline that tries to establish what an author actually wrote if you don’t have his original but only copies made from later times.

To set the stage for what I really want to talk about, first I have to summarize some of the most important information about the textual “witnesses” to the text of the New Testament.  I won’t be going into this information at any serious length.  We could have many, many, many posts on virtually every single detail that I mention.   But trust me, you don’t want that.

There are three kinds of witnesses to the text of the New Testament, that is to say, three kinds of documents that can help us establish what the authors actually wrote.

Comments

  1. Avatar
    godspell  July 16, 2015

    Bart, knowing full well that it’s incredibly unlikely any original copy of any part of the New Testament has survived, if one did somehow turn up–say it fell through a warp in the space-time continuum and landed on your desk–how would we know it was the original?

  2. Avatar
    Foxtank  July 16, 2015

    I was under the assumption that the language of Jesus and his Apostles was Aramaic. If the most ancient manuscripts are in Greek, why were they not in Aramaic?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 18, 2015

      Because the authors were not the earthly disciples of Jesus but later Christians living in Greek-speaking areas of the empire.

      • Avatar
        Nick  July 18, 2015

        Was Aramaic a “written” language? Do we have any significant writings originally written in Aramaic?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 19, 2015

          Yes, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Aramaic (also, parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra).

  3. Avatar
    shakespeare66  July 16, 2015

    I want a copy of the actual writing of the play Hamlet by Shakespeare. Which one of the New Testament manuscripts would you like to have in the original?

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 17, 2015

    I assume that this Kurt Aland is the same scholar who edits the Greek New Testament,

    • Bart
      Bart  July 18, 2015

      Yes, that’s the one. (Although he died over ten years ago now)

  5. Avatar
    Kabir  July 25, 2015

    Hello Bart,
    Is there any schorlarly reasons as to why writings written at the time of Jesus in Aramaic Language about him fails to appear? Was there any sanctions imposed by the Romans on that?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 25, 2015

      No, there were no sanctions. Most people couldn’t read, let alone compose a writing. My guess is that no one wrote anything about him for a couple of decades.

      • Avatar
        Jondee209  July 29, 2015

        Does Luke 4:17 prove that Jesus could read ?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 30, 2015

          No, I’m afraid not. They show that the author of Luke probably *thought* he was. Not the same thing!

  6. Avatar
    Theonedue  August 10, 2015

    Do you know what some of the theories regarding the empty tomb are according to critical scholars? Do most believe that the apostles stole the body, or that grave robbers stole it, or that it was moved to another tomb? Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 10, 2015

      Most scholars interested in this stuff are Christians, so they believe the tomb was empty because the resurrected Jesus left it. For my views, see my book How Jesus Became God.

  7. Avatar
    Theonedue  August 11, 2015

    Paul never mentions that Jewish skeptics checked them tomb. Neither does Luke in acts. If Craig is going to state that the Jews would have definitely checked the tomb to see if it was empty, he would have to explain why Peter during his sermon NEVER mention the empty tomb, nor the Pre-Markian narrative, nor the guard story, as evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Why didn’t the Jewish Sanhedrin, after hearing about the resurrection for the first time, simply ask Peter by who’s name do they do miracles, and not reply “Raised from the dead you say? Well lets all take a hike and check to see if the tomb is empty!” This never happens in acts at all, which just goes to show you that the Jew’s didn’t take the Christians seriously . And the fact that the guard story isn’t even used by Craig makes everything even more hilarious; that would have been an even better reason to check. Not one time in acts is it implied that any one checked them tomb, nor is there mention of a polemic. The tomb could have easily been full the whole time. Craig also admits to much when he says that the Jews bout into the Christians lies that there were guards and angels there. Why didn’t the Jews easily try to demolish that story!? They just accepted it by blind faith, just like they did with the empty tomb. Christians don’t realize the obvious sometimes.

  8. Avatar
    Theonedue  August 12, 2015

    By the way, would it be a good argument to say that the tomb was likely never checked because, upon hearing the preaching of Peter of the Resurrection for the first time in Acts, the Sanhedrin did not even bother to inquire Peter as to how he knew Jesus was raised from the dead, nor ordered an investigation of the tomb to see if it was empty right then and there (that would have been the best time to do it). Peter never mentions the markian narrative of the empty tomb (people checking it), nor does Paul in the creed. If the Sanhedrin never check after Peter’s sermon, it is unlikely that they ever checked, not to mention 37-100 days later you could not identify the corpse for another crucified victim who had been nailed or priced on the side? And taking the guard story out, this makes it all the worse. What do you think?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2015

      I imagine if members of the Sanhedrin had heard anyone claim that the body had been raised, and if they knew where it had been buried, they would have looked. But I don’t think they had heard this or that they knew this. I think it was not widely proclaimed until later.

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  August 13, 2015

        Why didn’t Luke mention that the Sanhedrin checked the tomb after Peters sermon? How many days after Jesus’s death do you think the preaching began? It is interesting because when Jews heard about the guards at the tomb, they never bothered to check with any one as to whether there were any stationed near Jesus’s tomb. Do you think that the polemic began after some Jews heard about the pre-markian narrative (they claimed the women found the tomb empty because the body was stolen)? If not, how do you think the Jewish polemic began?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 14, 2015

          I’d suggest you read my full discussion in How Jesus Became God.

  9. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 2, 2015

    Even if Jesus was left on a cross, wouldn’t he have to be buried before the Sabbath? Or would the fact that he is under Roman jurisdiction prevent that? Or would that even matter if he’s going to the ditch?

    Also, what do you think are the odds of Jesus being identified by the Sanhedrin 40 days after his death if he was buried in the criminals grave yard? Would the solider know exactly where he buried him 40 days earlier or no?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 2, 2015

      No, Romans did not observe the Sabbath, and they were the ones responsible for the body.

  10. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 3, 2015

    Hey Bart, when Jesus told a crowd in Jerusalem “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” was Jesus implying that the people mentioned who died in Tyre and Sidon would suffer less than they would in hell? Or was he implying that they could go to heaven (or Abraham’s bosom) if they made a good case for themselves at the day of judgment?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 4, 2015

      Jesus didn’t hold to modern views of heaven and hell. See my book Jesus Interrupted for details.

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  September 5, 2015

        Can you at least tell me what Jesus meant by a more tolerable judgment? Fire not as hot? Hell not forever?

  11. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 3, 2015

    Do you believe the angel who wrestled with Jacob who claimed to be God was God the Father or God the Son? What do most fundamentalists believe? There are a couple of times the ‘Angel of the Lord” appears to people in the Old Testament, both claiming to be God and accepting worship (something a mere angle would not do). What do you think the OT prophets thought of the ‘Angel of the Lord’? Did they think they were seeing God the Father, or perhaps an avatar of God?

    Christians seem to think every time God appeared to the prophets, it was always Jesus. I don’t think this is plausible. I believe they are trying to avoid contradicting that verse in the new testament that states no one has seen God the Father. I believe Moses actually thought that when he saw God on the mountain he was seeing God the Father? What are your thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 4, 2015

      Neither. See my book How Jesus Became God.

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  September 5, 2015

        Well, if Jacob thought the man he wrestled with was God, only God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are options. Can you just tell me who this angle of the lord who is thought to be God is without going into too much details?

        • Bart
          Bart  September 5, 2015

          He is the angel of the Lord, who is occasionally considered to be God. I talk about all this in my book How Jesus Became God.

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  September 5, 2015

        Apologists state that after Jesus died, his family members would have wrapped him in linen and put some identifying mark on him so his corpse could be easily identified. Do you know if this was usually the case with Jews who were crucified? If the Romans had jurisdiction over Jesus would they have allowed him to be marked, or wrapped by the family?

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  September 5, 2015

        Nm. I read a synopsis of your book.

  12. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    If you were to assign a percentage to the similar verses in our version of Mark with the original manuscript of Mark written around 58-68 AD, what would it be (how much of the original is preserved and unaltered in ours)? Do you believe that the 4 gospels were written by eyewitnesses or by people who knew eyewitnesses?

    And on an unrelated note, what do you think of Richard Carrier?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 5, 2015

      We can’t assign percentages.

      He is intelligent and misguided, and really should be putting his energies into something significant.

  13. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    Did Paul get the ‘Pre-Pauline Creed’ from apostles or other Christians (via oral tradition/game of telephone)? If so, it would be likely that he would accept that Jesus was buried in the criminals graveyard by faith, right (I mean, he, as well as 11 others, have seen the risen Jesus)? He would know 4 years later finding the exact location of the tomb would be impossible (as well as body identification). If by buried, the apostles meant buried in a tomb, do you think they lied to him, or would that be considered legend? Do you think any one would try to check the facts 4 years later and find out if Jesus was buried in a ditch or in the criminals graveyard?

    Also, where as a historian do you draw the line between a legend and a lie? If the guard story was invented to verify that Jesus’s body was not stolen by the apostles (or moved), and Christians got into a polemic with the jewsover it, I think at that point we could call the guard story a lie. A lie is intentionally deceiving. When Josephus says in his war of the jews that the signs in the sky would be regarded as myth, unless eyewitnesses reported it, we have an example of an ancient biographer using a “kicker” implying that he is either telling the truth or is lying.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 5, 2015

      1. We don’t know; 2. A lie is an intentional falsehood. A legend is a non-historical tale.

      • Avatar
        Theonedue  September 6, 2015

        As a historian how do you determine whether another historian was using legend or lying? The Bible is classified as ancient history which is significantly different than a hagiography or myth. The ‘facts’ were expected to be told.

        Here is a scenario; the author of Matthew writes the legend of guards being placed at the tomb as a rebuttal to the Jews who claimed that the apostles of Jesus stole his body. He gives it to a Christian who he knows is going to cite that passage as evidence that the body could not have been stolen. In that situation I think Matthew was trying to intentionally deceive people so that they could believe that Jesus rose from the dead beyond any reasonable doubt.

        Here is a question I would like you to answer: If I were to ask Matthew whether the account of the guards was legend or an actual historical event, what do you think he would tell me?

        • Bart
          Bart  September 7, 2015

          My hunch (it’s only a hunch) is that Matthew thought it was an actual historical event.

  14. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    Lastly, say Jesus was buried in a criminals graveyard by a roman solider. If the apostles were to preach that Jesus had risen 40 days later, and members of the Sanhedrin wanted know where the body was, what would be the likely hood of finding the precise location of Jesus’s tomb? What odds would they have in finding the correct tomb? Would the roman solider be able to remember where he buried him, or would the fact of there being so many graves, and the fact that he could have buried 5-10 other dead Jews in other tombs, prevent him from finding the location of the tomb?

  15. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    What odds would you assign that grave robbers or necromancers stole the body?

  16. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    If Jesus was buried in a ditch 2-4 days later after his death, the only people who would know that would be the 3 or 4 roman soldiers sent to take the body down and throw it away (and Pilate) correct? They would have taken the body down after the Jews were done looking at him ? If Paul mentioned anything concerning the pre-Pauline creed in 37 AD, Jews would assume he was buried in the criminals graveyard and not bother to question Pilate concerning whether he was buried in a ditch or a tomb, correct?

  17. Avatar
    Theonedue  September 5, 2015

    Craig claims the empty tomb story is very early because of the language it uses, and that it is simple and not very embellished. Do you think by the language Mark uses it could be considered (potentially) old or is that irrelevant?

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