In my previous post I began a discussion of why textual variants (that is, different wordings of the verses of the NT) found in the manuscripts might matter to someone other than a specialist who spends his or her life studying such things.  Most of the hundreds of thousands of variations are of very little importance for anything, as most people – even specialists – would admit.   Only a minority really matter.  And none of these seriously threatens any significant, traditional, Christian doctrine.   But I’ve argued that this should not be the criterion used to establish their importance.  Lots of things in life are important that have nothing to do with traditional Christian doctrines!

I would say that the variations in the manuscripts of the New Testament should seem important to three groups of people.  If you’re not in one of these groups, then they probably are not all that important to you!

(1)  Fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christians who believe that the Bible is an inerrant or infallible revelation from God, with no mistakes in what it says;

(2) Scholars, students, and general readers who are interested in knowing what the various authors of the New Testament wrote and thought and proclaimed; and

(3) Scholars, students, and general readers who are interested in the historical, cultural, and social history of Christianity through the ages who would like to see how various social or theological forces affected the anonymous scribes who were committed to making copies of the New Testament.

I will take each of these groups in turn, devoting a separate post to each one.

Unlock 4,000+ Articles Like This!

Get access to Dr. Ehrman's library of 4,000+ articles plus five new articles per week about the New Testament and early Christianity. It costs as little as $2.99/mth and every cent goes to charity!

Learn More!