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Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament Print E-mail
Written by mquran.org   
Saturday, 18 November 2006

1. Introduction

How reliable or accurate is the New Testament text? If this question is posed to the Christian apologists or evangelists, the answer obtained varies depending upon who they quote and what they quote. But they all have a common line of argument; invariably they will all appeal to the numerical superiority of the manuscripts of the New Testament. They also point to the overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts over other books from the ancient world such as Homer's Iliad, Hindus' Mahabharata, Tacitus' Annals, Pliny's Natural History, etc.

The Christian apologists' second line of defence is abundance of Patristic citations and how these citations can supposedly completely reconstruct the New Testament without any recourse to the New Testament manuscript evidence.

In this paper, we will examine the claim, firstly, whether numerical supremacy directly translates into textual reliability; secondly, if Patristic citations can completely reconstruct the New Testament text; thirdly, the magnificent numbers for textual accuracy that are quoted are correct and fourthly, the claim of very early manuscript evidence for the New Testament text.

2. Evidence Or An Apology? Or Worse?

Perhaps it would be a better idea to see what kind of statements are made by the Christian apologists to support their point of view. This will enable us to gain a better insight into whether their claims rest on solid grounds or whether they are just offering an apology for their belief, or worse.

THE ABUNDANCE OF GREEK NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

The chief line of defence of the Christian apologists for the textual accuracy and reliability of the New Testament is their subscription to the abundance of Greek New Testament manuscripts and how they inspire confidence in the current New Testament text. The apologists point toward the textual abundance of the New Testament manuscripts (5400+) as opposed to, for example, ancient classics like Homer's Iliad (643 manuscripts). This view was first popularized, perhaps, by F. F. Bruce and later on it was propagated by others. Bruce says:

 

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which none dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians. Somehow or other, there are people who regard a 'sacred book' as ipso facto under suspicion, and demand much more corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for an ordinary secular or pagan writing. From the viewpoint of the historian, the same standards must be applied to both. But we do not quarrel with those who want more evidence for the New Testament than for other writings; firstly, because the universal claims which the New Testament makes upon mankind are so absolute, and the character and works of its chief Figure so unparalleled, that we want to be as sure of its truth as we possibly can; and secondly, because in point of fact there is much more evidence for the New Testament than for other ancient writings of comparable date.[1]

One of the most oft-quoted works is that of Norman Geisler. His argument regarding the textual reliability of the New Testament is based on the numerical strength of the New Testament manuscripts, something that is not available for many ancient classics. Almost all the Christian apologetical literature, especially on the internet, relies on his material.

Geisler and Abdul Saleeb have claimed that the well-known New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger in his book Chapters In The History Of New Testament Textual Criticism[2] estimated the textual accuracy of the New Testament to be 99.5%. They say:

By comparison with the New Testament, most other books from the ancient world are not nearly so well authenticated. The well-known New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90 percent accuracy and Homer's Iliad with about 95 percent. By comparison, he estimated the New Testament is about 99.5 percent accurate. So the New Testament text can be reconstructed with over 99 percent accuracy. And, what is more, 100 percent of the message of the New Testament has been preserved in its manuscripts![3]

Using the services of Metzger, a similar statement is repeated almost verbatim by Geisler in his Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics.

Most other ancient books are not nearly so well authenticated. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90 percent accuracy and Homer's Iliad with about 95 percent. By comparison, he estimated the New Testament is about 99.5 percent accurate.[4]

Using the abundance of New Testament manuscripts to prove their reliability is almost universal in the Christian apologetical literature.[5] As for the internet, there is no dearth of such claims. For example, it has been claimed by the Christian missionary Jochen Katz that:

And I believe that with the basis of many thousands of manuscripts for comparison we can be very confident that the text is today faithfully restored and the researchers in textual criticism assert that the actual literal text is restored to 99.8% leaving only a very few uncertainties.

Let us now examine the claims of these Christian apologists starting with the works of Geisler. Geisler has claimed that Metzger in his book Chapters In The History Of New Testament Textual Criticism estimated the New Testament to be 99.5% accurate as opposed to the 95% accuracy of Homer's Iliad and the 90% accuracy of the Mahabharata. The relevant article mentioned in this book is "Recent Trends In The Textual Criticism Of The Iliad And The Mahabharata".

Someone who is reasonably well-acquainted with the scholarship of Metzger would immediately like to check how he arrived at such a fantastic accuracy. Our suspicions were aroused when we noticed that Geisler quotes Metzger's book claiming that he estimated the New Testament text to be 99.5% accurate without mentioning any particular page numbers. What now becomes unbelievable is that nowhere in this article does Metzger estimate the New Testament accuracy to be 99.5%. As expected, there is no mention of the New Testament having 20,000 lines of which only 40 lines are in doubt. Therefore, it is purely an invention of Geisler which he put in the mouth of Metzger. Metzger's article - on the other hand - is about how the trends in the textual criticism from the Iliad and the Mahabharata would benefit the New Testament studies in evaluating the text-types. With Geisler's fraudulent claims now exposed, let us now move over to the issue of 'numerical supremacy' and how this allegedly authenticates the reliability of the New Testament.

Table I gives a listing of the New Testament manuscripts for various years.

Manuscript Type

Year

1962

1980

1989

2003

2005

Papyri

768696116118
Uncials 297274299310317
Minuscules26742795281228772877
Lectionaries19972209228124322433

Total

5044

5364

5488

5735

5745

Table I: Number of New Testament manuscripts as listed for various years.[6]

The Greek New Testaments used by the Christians are based on these "eclectic" editions which aim for the earliest attainable form of the Hebrew and Greek texts that can be discerned on the basis of the surviving manuscript evidence. Are these eclectic editions based on the numerical superiority of the manuscript evidence or are they based on the quality of available New Testament witnesses (utilising factors such as age, text-type, geographical distribution, etc.)?

The New Testament manuscripts are classified as Alexandrian ("Neutral" or "Egyptian"), Western, Caesarean and Byzantine ("Majority" or "Syrian") according to their text-form. With regard to the Greek New Testament manuscripts that are available, some 80% to 90% represent the Byzantine or the "Majority" text.[7] The Byzantine text-type, almost universally considered to be the worst text-type in relation to preserving the "earliest attainable text" of the New Testament, is characterised by smoothing, conflation, harmonisation and outright fabrication.[8] Therefore, using the numerical superiority of the New Testament manuscripts means acknowledging that a very large proportion of the witnesses are of the worst kind. No Christian apologist would dare to tread this line as it would destroy the very fundamental basis of his argument.

It is ironic that the advocates of the "Majority" text use its (numerically) superior number of manuscripts to defend the Byzantine text. It is not our wish to enter into this much-discredited line of anti-intellectual fundamentalism by the purveyors of the "Majority" text;[9] but it is worthwhile pointing out that the Christians offering an apology for textual accuracy and reliability of the New Testament and the defenders of the "Majority" text use numerical superiority as one of the fundamental principles to defend their points of view, albeit for different reasons.

Theoretically, in accordance with the genealogical principle, number means nothing. It is no wonder that Hort, and many textual critics since, have rejected this "Majority" or the Byzantine text in favour of the Alexandrian text type, even although the Byzantine text-type is 'numerically superior' representing between 80% to 90% of the available manuscripts. In fact, it is not surprising that Metzger mentions the importance of genealogical principle in his interview with Lee Strobel.[10] As Colwell observed:

Suppose that there are only ten copies of a document and that nine are all copied from one; then the majority can be safely rejected. Or suppose that the nine are copied from a lost manuscript and that this lost manuscript and the other one were both copied from the original; then the vote of the majority would not outweigh that of minority.... a majority of manuscripts is not necessarily to be preferred as correct.[11]

It was by means of this a priori possibility that Westcott and Hort rejected the argument based on the numerical superiority of the Byzantine text. An old maxim about textual criticism is that manuscripts are weighed not counted.[12] It means, as we have seen, that not every manuscript or version is of equal value and that ten copies of a bad manuscript do not make it original. Universal suffrage has no place in textual criticism. That the textual critics have chosen only a selected few manuscripts rather than appealing to numerical superiority for preparing the critical editions of the Greek New Testament is rather well known. Table II depicts the number of manuscripts used in the preparation of the eight critical editions of the Greek New Testament.

Manuscript Type

Editions Of The Greek New Testament

Nestle-Aland 26

Bover-O'Callaghan

UBS GNT-3

Metzger's

MerkVogelsBFBS-2Souter

Papyri

86735215143723
Uncials 2251221797104467876
Cursives-360525258385274238243
Minuscules206-------
Lectionaries529149-3---
Talismans-8------

Total

522

529

905

266

543324353342

Manuscripts Used (nearest %)

10%

10%

18%

5%

11%6%7%7%

Table II: Number of New Testament manuscripts used in the editions of the Greek New Testament. Nestle-Aland 26 = Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart, 1979); Bover-O'Callaghan = Nuevo Testamento Trilingüe (Madrid, 1977); UBS GNT-3 = The Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1975); Metzger's = A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971); Merk = Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine (Rome, 9th Edition, 1964); Vogels = Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine (Freiburg and Barcelona, 4th Edition, 1955); BFBS-2 = H KAINH DIAqHKH (British and Foreign Bible Society, 2nd Edition, 1958); Souter = Novum Testamentum Graece (Oxford, 2nd Edition, 1947). Number of manuscripts used to compute the percentage = 5000.[13]

The percentages were calculated by assuming 5000 New Testament manuscripts. What is seen is that the maximum number of manuscripts that were used were in the preparation of the UBS' Greek New Testament (3rd Edition), i.e., about 18%. The Nestle Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece (26th Edition) uses just about 10% of the available manuscripts. This is consistent with the fact that the superiority of the early text-type in the New Testament manuscripts outweighs the numerical superiority of manuscripts. Moreover, the percentage of manuscripts (between 10% and 18%) used in the preparation of modern critical texts of the New Testament closely tallies with the rejection of the "Majority" or the Byzantine text-type that constitutes between 80% to 90% of the available manuscripts. Furthermore, we should add that no matter how many manuscripts the evangelicals and the apologists claim to have for their scripture, it is of little or no use as long as the manuscript tradition of the New Testament is non-uniform down to a sentence. No two manuscripts of the New Testament anywhere in existence are alike.[14] Perhaps it is simplest to express the figure in comparative terms: there are more differences among the manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.[15]

Textual critics have cautioned against the wrong impression given by the numerical superiority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. For example, Metzger says:

Lest, however, the wrong impression be conveyed from the statistics given above regarding the total number of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, it should be pointed out that most of the papyri are relatively fragmentary and that only about fifty manuscripts (of which the Codex Sinaiticus is the only Uncial manuscript) contain the entire New Testament.[16]

Ehrman reminds the reader that the reasoning behind using the numerical superiority of the manuscripts is faulty. This is because the earliest manuscripts are not only fragmentary, but also because most are centuries removed from the originals; none of these manuscripts being error-free.

At one time or another, you may have heard someone claim that the New Testament can be trusted because it is the best attested book from the ancient world, that because there are more manuscripts of the New Testament than of any other book, we should have no doubt concerning the truth of its message. Given what we have seen..., it should be clear why this line of reasoning is faulty. It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes - altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament.

Moreover even if scholars have by and large succeeded in reconstructing the New Testament, this, in itself, has no bearing on the truthfulness of the message. It simply means that we can be reasonably certain of what the New Testament authors actually said, just as we can be reasonably certain what Plato and Euripides and Josephus and Suetonius all said. Whether or not any of these ancient authors said anything that was true is another question, one we cannot answer simply by appealing to the number of surviving manuscripts that preserve their writings.[17]

As for the abundance of New Testament manuscripts as opposed to the works of Homer, Euripides and Tacitus, this is something that is to be expected when Christianity grew and occupied the greater part of Europe, parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Obviously its religious needs also grew which resulted in the production of more manuscripts than the works of Homer, Euripides and Tacitus. Ehrman again points out:

... the New Testament is preserved in far more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity. There are for example, fewer than 700 copies of Homer's Iliad, fewer than 350 copies of the plays of Euripides, and only one copy of the first six books of the Annals of Tacitus... Of course, we would expect the New Testament to be copied in the Middle Ages more frequently than Homer or Euripides or Tacitus; the trained copyists throughout the Western world at the time were Christian scribes, frequently monks, who for the most part were preparing copies of texts for religious purposes. Still, the fact that we have thousands of New Testament manuscripts that were made during the Middle Ages, many of them nearly a thousand years after Paul and his companions had passed off the face of the earth, does not mean that we can rest assured that we know what the original text said. For if we have very few early copies, in fact, scarcely any, how can we know that the text was not changed significantly before it began to be reproduced in such large quantities?[18]

Perhaps a brash dictum from G. A. Wells in this regard makes sense of the whole situation. He says:

I have noted elsewhere that, if there had been a Tacitus club in every European town for 1,000 or more years with as much influence as the local Christian clergy, sections of the Annals would not have been lost. And if, instead of copying orthodox literature repeatedly, Christian scribes had copied works regarded as heretical or even downright hostile to Christianity, we should have a much clearer picture of what underlay the church's struggle against opposing forces.[19]

We can conclude this section by saying that it is not the numerical superiority of the manuscripts that matters for numbers mean nothing. What matters is the quality of the manuscripts, their age, text-type, etc. Most contemporary New Testament textual scholars contend that a minority of manuscripts - primarily the earliest ones - preserve the earliest, most authentic wording of the text.[20] This is also reflected in the number of manuscripts used in the modern day critical editions. If numerical superiority was indeed what matters most for authenticity then the advocates of the "Majority" text would have won their case hands down.

PATRISTIC CITATIONS CAN RECONSTRUCT THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT

The claims that the numerical strength of the New Testament manuscripts give it textual reliability and that the Patristic citations can reconstruct the New Testament makes good sound-bites for Christian apologists. As for the latter claim, this is something that is oversold by Christian apologists. It is true that New Testament scholars and apologists have made this claim but a few of them have added caveat about the problems concerning constructing the text of Patristic citations. For example, Metzger says about the Patristic citations:

Indeed so extensive are these citations that if all the sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.[21]

If this is indeed true then what is stopping the textual critics to go ahead and reconstruct the text of the New Testament on the basis of Patristic citations? This brings us to the caveat where Metzger and others have cautioned against over-enthusiasm. The caveat comes in the form of three problems one encounters when dealing with the Patristic citations.

The first problem in dealing with the Patristic citations is the order of the quotation of scriptures. The Fathers do not quote the New Testament chapter by chapter and verse by verse except in a few commentaries. They quote passages as they are useful in whatever argument they are making. So, the first step is to sort out their citations into an orderly fashion. This requires the production of critical texts of the citations which are now slowly in the process of getting published.[22]

The second problem is regarding the accuracy of the citation. Most fathers did not refer to manuscripts when they quoted scripture. They just used the wording they remembered. It goes without saying that reminiscences and allusions are of less value to the textual critic than specific citations of the very words of the scriptural passage.[23]

The third and the last problem is that of transmission. Just like we do not have the original autographs of the New Testaments, we no more have the original manuscript of Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian or Jerome. Ehrman says:

The other set of problems unique to Patristic sources concerns the history of their own transmission. The MS traditions of virtually all the church fathers show that later copyists tend to "correct" quotations of the Bible to the form of text prevalent in their own day... Biblical citations in such sources do not necessarily represent the text of the Father, but often only known to his later copyists.[24]

Similarly, the Alands observe that:

It is as true of the New Testament quotations in the Church Fathers as it is of the versions that they are often misjudged and consequently misused. The route from a modern edition of a Church Father's works back to the text which he read in his New Testament may be long and tortuous... But even when a modern critical edition is available there is no certainty that it preserves the New Testament quotations of a work as they occurred in its original form.[25]

Since these writings have their own history, before we can treat these citations as reliable and trustworthy, they must be subjected to textual criticism. As R. M. Grant a few decades ago said, "patristic citations are not citations unless they have been adequately analyzed."[26] Such an analysis should attempt at least two things; firstly, to gather all the data from the literary remains of each Father and, as much as possible, reconstruct his biblical text and secondly to evaluate the Father's citing habits in various kinds of works for accuracy of quotation. And this should be done before the evidence of the Father is brought to court.[27]

Given these problems, the Patristic citations are nevertheless quite useful, unlike manuscripts, in determining both where and when a particular author wrote. Many of the Fathers are early. Their texts predate many of the early manuscript witnesses. Thus their testimony can enable us to localize particular readings and text-types.

As one can now judge, the popular statement that the New Testament can be reconstructed solely from the citations of the early Church Fathers is rather far-fetched. Given these problems, what role do the Church Fathers' citations actually play in modern critical editions of the New Testament? They play no more than a 'supplementary and corroborative function' according to the Alands and others. The Alands say:

5. The primary authority for a critical textual decision lies with the Greek manuscript tradition, with the versions and Fathers serving no more than a supplementary and corroborative function, particularly in passages where their underlying Greek text cannot be reconstructed with absolute certainty.[28]

In other words, the Patristic citations can't overrule the readings present in the manuscripts except where there is an uncertainty. Readings with exclusively Patristic support struggle to make it into the critical apparatus of a critical edition of the Greek New Testament, let alone ever being considered as an actual verse of the New Testament! So, the claim that the Patristic citations can completely reconstruct the New Testament, without reference or recall to any other form of evidence, is overstated and far-fetched and constitutes more wishful thinking on the part of those and apologists.

For instance, let us examine the selection procedure behind the recently released Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior (1997 – initial volume), a critical edition of the New Testament under the supervision of the Barbara Aland at the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung at Münster, Germany. What makes this critical edition of the New Testament particularly distinctive are the comparatively vast number of witnesses cited. With regard to the Patristic quotations, Barbara Aland states:

In addition to these primary witnesses, the edition includes all the Greek patristic quotations to the time of John of Damascus (7th/8th century) plus some important later authors. The difficult task of distinguishing between quotations and allusions is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the edition contains all the textual variants found in the manuscript tradition of the first millennium. The text of the Letter of James preserved in the writings of the Fathers corresponds in most instances to variants known in the manuscript tradition; in other New Testament writings the situation may differ. Readings with exclusively patristic support are cited only rarely, and usually then only if they are attributed to manuscripts which no longer survive. (Allusions have been considered only if they clearly reflect a known reading).

Attempts have been made in the past to reconstruct parts of New Testament text using the Patristic citations. For example, D. Mollat used the views and the resultant reconstruction of the Gospel of John by of M. -E. Boismard for his translation in the Jerusalem Bible. Boismard's views lead to the acceptance of the shorter version of the text of John in almost every case, even when the Patristic sources stand alone in the attestation of this text. Subsequently, articles by Fee and Metzger have been directed against Mollat's overly zealous appropriation of the Patristic evidence for his translation.[29]

We conclude with Ehrman's terse statement that elegantly sums up both the strengths and weaknesses of patristic evidence.

Patristic sources provide primary evidence for the history of the text but only secondary evidence for the original text itself.[30]

AH! THOSE FANTASTIC PERCENTAGES

One of the hallmarks of Christian apologetical literature is an assignment of accuracy to the New Testament in the form of percentages. These percentages are almost always guesses and quoted from scholarship that is more than a century old. Geisler quotes Schaff, Warfield, Westcott and Hort and Robertson to "show" that the thousands of textual variants do not really matter.[31] According to Philip Schaff (in 1883):

Only about 400 of the 100,000 or 150,000 variations materially affect the sense. Of these, again, not more than about fifty are really important for some reason or other; and even of these fifty not one affects an article of faith...[32]

Westcott and Hort (in 1885), on the other hand, guess that:

If comparative trivialities, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.[33]

Rev. Benjamin Warfield (in 1886), mentioning the Unitarian Ezra Abbot, says concerning the variant readings:

Dr. Ezra Abbot was accustomed to say that about nineteen-twentieths of them have so little support that, although they are various readings, no one would think of them as rival readings; and nineteen-twentieths of the remainder are of so little importance that their adoption or rejection would cause no appreciable difference in the sense of the passages where they occur.[34]

Archibald Robertson (in 1929) estimated that:

The real conflict in the textual criticism of the New Testament is concerning this "thousandth part of the entire text."[35]

Westcott and Hort's services once again come to the fore as the apologist Doug Smith seeks to put a precise figure on the number of errors in the entire New Testament, even down to the specific number of errors in the Gospel(s). We are told:

Westcott and Hort showed in 1881 that most of the "errors" in the Gospel were nothing more than misspellings or variants; only 60 legitimate, and of those 60, only 7 were found to be "primitive errors." This means that the Gospels would be 98.33 percent pure.[36]

We are informed that most of the "errors" in the Gospel are nothing more than misspellings and variants; only sixty are "legitimate" and of those, "only seven" are found to be "primitive errors". Examining the references used to provide the numbers quoted by the apologist, leads back to William Campbell and his book The Qur'an And The Bible In The Light Of History & Science; immediately we can observe that Campbell seeks to add legitimacy to his exposition by appealing to Metzger, stating that he,

... has written the textbook called The Text of the New Testament, from which much of this chapter is adapted,...

If this is indeed the case then it is prudent to ask did Metzger say anywhere in his book The Text Of The New Testament that there are only "60 legitimate" errors in the Gospel(s). No. Did Metzger say anywhere only "7 were found to be "primitive errors"?" No. So we can understand that this part of Doug Smith's analysis has certainly not been adapted from Metzger's The Text Of The New Testament. A quick comparison of the apologist's quote and the statements of Campbell, shows the apologist was unable to even quote Campbell properly. Campbell says (quoting Metzger, who, in turn, is discussing specific methodological considerations of Westcott and Hort),

about sixty passages (only seven of which are from the four Gospels) which they (or one of them) suspected involved a 'primitive error'.

It is clear that the apologist Doug Smith is mistaken when he states that "and of those 60, only 7 were found to be "primitive errors"". All 60 passages were found to be primitive errors, not "only 7". Now that we have established the incorrect figures contained in the apologist's quote, and Campbell, in this particular instance, not adapting his conclusions from what Metzger himself said in The Text Of The New Testament, let us examine what is meant by a 'primitive error' according to Westcott and Hort in their Introduction To The New Testament In The Original Greek, and, whether the subsequent analysis by the apologist in which he states, "This means that the Gospels would be 98.33 percent pure" is correct, either on methodological or mathematical grounds. Turning to Section VI. Criticism As Dealing With Errors Antecedent To Existing Texts, in the very first paragraph relating to primitive errors, Westcott and Hort say,

The preceding pages have dealt exclusively with the task of discriminating between existing various readings, one variant in each case being adopted and the rest discarded. The utmost result that can be obtained under this condition is the discovery of what is relatively original: whether the readings thus relatively original were also the readings of the autograph is another question, which can never be answered in the affirmative with absolute decision except where the autograph itself is extant, but which admits of approximative answers varying enormously in certainty according to the nature of the documentary evidence for the text generally...[37]

Primitive errors are thus a specific category of error according to Westcott and Hort's reconstructive methodology - as the section title indicates "... errors antecedent to existing texts". What Metzger does do in The Text Of The New Testament is to list the sixty-three passages suspected by Westcott and Hort to contain primitive errors,[38] of which seven relate to the Gospels, and discuss how this relates to the use of conjectural emendation which Metzger describes as,

If the only reading, or each of several variant readings, which the documents of a text supply is impossible or incomprehensible, the editor's only remaining resource is to conjecture what the original reading must have been.[39]

What we can understand from this is that Westcott and Hort's categorisation of primitive errors relates to their practice of conjectural emendation and has absolutely nothing at all to do with the total number of errors in the Gospels, or anywhere else. Thus, nowhere do Westcott and Hort say there are only 60 "legitimate errors" in the Gospel(s) or that, "and of those 60, only 7 were found to be "primitive errors"". The apologist Doug Smith, misquoting another missionary William Campbell, has inserted his own words into the mouths of Westcott and Hort's in order to make his argument sound more credible. Quite how one is able to conclude, "This means that the Gospels would be 98.33 percent pure" when the basic analysis is not even correct is one thing; how, mathematically, this figure was arrived at is quite another.

In another category are speculative estimates from the modern day missionaries that seem to emanate from their own creative imagination which cannot be traced to any reliable biblical scholarship. On occasion, these claims also have the attribute of contradicting elementary school mathematics. On Friday 8th May, 1998 at Leicester University, United Kingdom, in his debate with Shabbir Ally, the Christian missionary Joseph Smith said [his statement is at time slice 1:54:14-1:54:32]:

There are really only 40 verses that are in doubt in the New Testament, it only comes up to around 40 verses; that means that 99.9% of the New Testament is been verified, has been clarified, using manuscript evidence.

First of all, at the most basic level, those own mathematics do not add up. There are 7,947 verses in the New Testament (Table III). If 40 verses are in doubt then the percentage of the New Testament that is "verified" comes to: [100-40/7947*100] = 99.5%. In fact for the missionary's mathematics to be correct, we would have to inflate the number of verses of the New Testament from 7,947 to nearly 40,000. Moreover, the inaccuracy of the missionary's claim can be fully understood when we realise that the missionary has underestimated the number doubtful verses in his version of the Bible by more than 3000%. Taking the Greek text that is used to construct the NIV version of the Bible (UBS GNT-3corr) as a baseline, the number of doubtful verses according to the biblical textual critics are 1,318.

The reader can see that the percentage of accuracy can fall anywhere between 95% and 99.9% depending upon who is quoted and/or the ability (or lack thereof) to compute simple mathematical calculations. As for Geisler's use of Bruce Metzger, we have already seen that Metzger never estimated in the quoted reference that the New Testament is 99.5% accurate. Geisler put his own words into the mouth of Metzger to make the whole argument look more credible. What is most surprising is that apologists like Geisler, in almost all cases, use scholarship that is more than 100 years old to get amazing percentages of accuracies. It appears that for these apologists, textual criticism had stopped after Westcott and Hort. When Westcott and Hort developed their theory of textual criticism, only one papyrus manuscript was known to them. Since that time more than 100 papyri have been discovered. More than fifty of these came from before the middle of the fourth century.[40] Westcott and Hort, on the other hand, relied quite heavily on Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (both from 4th century) and used them as their text base. The discovery of such early papyri, albeit that all of them are quite fragmented, has moved the textual criticism of the New Testament. That the "Word of God" in the form of Nestle-Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece is running in its 27th edition is an ample evidence of how far the science of textual criticism has moved since the times of Westcott and Hort (and others!). We will look at Nestle-Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece in a moment but first let us see what some of the modern authors are saying about the accuracy of the New Testament.

We have Moir (in 1995) who gives an estimate of the accuracy of the New Testament. He says:

Most modern textual critics can agree on the bulk of the text of (some 95 per cent of it, perhaps). It is the remaining 5 per cent or so where disputes occur and differing conclusions may be found.[41]

Ralph Earle (in 1991) writing in "The Rational For An Eclectic New Testament Text" in The NIV: The Making Of A Contemporary Translation says:

... with thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament at our disposal, we can reach a higher degree of certainty with regard to the probability of the best text. It should be added that comparative statistical studies indicate that all Greek manuscripts are in essential agreement on at least 95 percent of the New Testament text. Significant differences exist, then, in less than 5 percent of the total text. And it must be said emphatically that none of these variant readings pose any problem as to basic doctrines of the Bible. They are intact! We should like to add that all the members of the Committee on the Bible translation are devout Evangelicals, believing in the infallibility of the Bible as God's Word. We have all sought earnestly to represent as accurately as possible what seems to be, as nearly as we can determine, the original text of the New Testament.[42]

Apart from a leap in the logic of almost equating the "best" text with the elusive and non-existent "original" text, Earle claims that all Greek manuscripts are in essential agreement on at least 95% of the New Testament text. It does not take a seasoned papyrologist to figure out that only a few Greek manuscripts contain the entire New Testament text! Only about 8% of the manuscripts cover most of the New Testament.[43] The vast majority of the manuscripts contain only a portion of the New Testament text or exist in fragmentary form.

The common thread which binds the older and the modern scholars is their use of guesstimate. Everyone has a fraction or a percentage to quote but none of them have ever done a proper calculation. The modern day textual critics, on the other hand, give a completely different picture of the accuracy of the New Testament. Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland in their book The Text Of The New Testament present a table which compares the total number of variant free verses in Nestle-Aland edition with the other critical editions such as that of Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, and Bover. This comparison does not take into account the orthographical differences in the variant free verses. The table below:

...gives the count of the verses in which there is complete agreement among the six editions of Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, and Bover with the text of Nestle-Aland (apart from orthographical differences).[44]

Book

Total Number Of Verses

Variant Free Verses-Total

Percentage

Matthew

1071

642

59.9 %

Mark

678

306

45.1 %

Luke

1151

658

57.2 %

John

869

450

51.8 %

Acts

1006

677

67.3 %

Romans

433

327

75.5 %

1 Corinthians

437

331

75.7 %

2 Corinthians

256

200

78.1 %

Galatians

149

114

76.5 %

Ephesians

155

118

76.1 %

Philippians

104

73

70.2 %

Colossians

95

69

72.6 %

1 Thessalonians

89

61

68.5 %

2 Thessalonians

47

34

72.3 %

1 Timothy

113

92

81.4 %

2 Timothy

83

66

79.5 %

Titus

46

33

71.7 %

Philemon

25

19

76.0 %

Hebrews

303

234

77.2 %

James

108

66

61.1 %

1 Peter

105

70

66.6 %

2 Peter

61

32

52.5 %

1 John

105

76

72.4 %

2 John

13

8

61.5 %

3 John

15

11

73.3 %

Jude

25

18

72.0 %

Revelation

405

214

52.8 %

Total

7947

4999

62.9 %

Table III: Table showing the total number of variant free verses in the books of the New Testament when Nestle-Aland edition is compared with the other critical editions such as that of Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, and Bover.

It is seen that nearly two-thirds of New Testament text in the seven editions of the Greek New Testament reviewed by Aland and Aland is in agreement with no differences other than in orthographic details. Further, verses in which any one of the seven editions differs by a single word are not counted.[45]

Comparing the above-named seven major critical editions, from Tischendorf to Nestle-Aland26, we can observe an agreement in wording of only 62.9% of the verses of the New Testament. The proportion ranges from 45.1% in Mark to 81.4% in 2 Timothy. Let us take a statistical examination of the four Gospels. The table below gives the agreement of the verses in the four Gospels taken from the above.

Book

Total Number Of Verses

Variant Free Verses-Total

Percentage

Matthew

1071

642

59.9 %

Mark

678

306

45.1 %

Luke

1151

658

57.2 %

John

869

450

51.8 %

Total

3769

2056

54.5 %

Table IV: Table showing the total number of variant free verses in the four Gospels when Nestle-Aland edition is compared with the other critical editions such as that of Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, and Bover.

The percentage agreement of the verses when all the four Gospels are considered is 54.5%. This is very close to the probability that a tail (or head) appears when a coin is tossed once (i.e., the probability that a tail or head appears when a coin is tossed is 50%!). It is still a mystery to us from where exactly the evangelicals pick-up such fantastic "agreements" between the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

If we look at the textual "certainty" of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament, the results are not too encouraging either. This edition is used in the translations and is similar to the Nestle-Aland's critical edition except that it has more details on the textual variants and their relative degree of certainty.[46] The committee of textual critics has sought to indicate the relative degree of certainty by means of the letters A, B, C, and D, enclosed within "braces" { } at the beginning of each set of textual variants. Their decisions were arrived at the basis of internal considerations as well as of external evidence. "{A}" signifies that the text is virtually certain, while "{B}" indicates that there is some degree of doubt. The letter "{C}" means that there is a considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading, while "{D}" shows that there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading. These ratings are tabulated below for each editions of The Greek New Testament.[47]

Ratings / Editions

UBS GNT-1

UBS GNT-2

UBS GNT-3

UBS GNT-3corr

{A} Ratings

136

9.4 %

130

8.9 %

126

8.7 %

126

8.7 %

{B} Ratings

486

33.6 %

490

33.8 %

475

32.8 %

475

32.9 %

{C} Ratings

702

48.5 %

701

48.4 %

700

48.4 %

699

48.4 %

{D} Ratings

122

8.4 %

125

8.6 %

144

9.9 %

144

9.9 %

Total (Verses)

1446

1446

1445

1444

Table V: Table showing the distribution of ratings of verses by editions of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament. The UBS GNT-1 represents the 1st edition of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament. On the other hand, the UBS GNT-3corr represents the corrected 3rd edition of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament.

If we remove the text that is virtually certain, rated as {A}, and take the percentage of the New Testament text (total verses = 7947) that is in doubt, we see that the doubtful text is close to 16.5% in all the three editions of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament. That brings textual "certainty" to about 83.5% as suggested by the efforts of the committee of textual critics. Again, this is way off from "at least 95%" agreement between the New Testament text in the manuscripts.

Regarding the textual certainty of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, the apologist Robert Turkel comments:

... they are only able to punch that 95% down to a mere (!) 83.5%, with still no effort to show that any of the remaining 16.5% relates to anything we ought to care about. In other words, even of their "16.5%" is right, it doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference if that 16.5% is filled with things like, did Paul say "I wish you well in the future" versus "I hope you had a good time at summer camp." Or, if it means stuff like the comma of 1 John, which we don't need because the doctrine it (supposedly) espouses is verified by a non-disputed text.

 

Also known as J. P. Holding, Turkel doubts that this "... 16.5% relates to anything we ought to care about." If this is indeed the case then we would expect to see the same sentiment shared by the editors of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, who are the very same people who assign the 'A', 'B', 'C', and 'D' grades and calculate their respective numerical totals as reported above. Discussing the history of various editions of the Greek New Testament in the modern critical period, Metzger and Ehrman state:

In 1966, after a decade of work by an international committee, five bible societies published an edition of the Greek New Testament designed for the use of Bible translators and students. The textual apparatus, which provided a relatively full citation of manuscript evidence, included about 1,440 sets of variant readings, chosen especially for their exegetical significance... Meanwhile, plans had already been made for the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. In 1981, at a meeting of the five members of the editorial committee (the places left vacant by the retirement of Matthew Black and Allen Wikgren were filled by Barbara Aland and John Karavidopoulos of Salonica), decisions were made to introduce into the apparatus 284 additional sets of variant readings for passages of exegetical importance. Furthermore, though no change was voted to alter the wording of the scriptural text, it was agreed that in some cases a modification needed to be made in the assignment of the categories of A, B, C and D relating to the certainty of readings adopted in the text...[48]

 

Put simply, do Bruce Metzger, Kurt Aland, Allen Wikgren, Matthew Black, Arthur Vööbus, Carlo Maria Martini, Barbara Aland and John Karavidopoulos, all on the international editorial committee as official editors on successive editions of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, think that this "... 16.5% relates to anything we ought to care about"? Examining the principles laid out by the above textual critics, contrary to the proclamation of the apologist, the answer is evidently yes.

BUT THE GREEK MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ARE VERY OLD!

Perhaps the most quoted material in this regard by Christian apologists is that of Sir Frederic Kenyon. The following quote from his book is used to show that the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament are indeed very close to the time when they written. According to Kenyon:

The interval between the dates of the original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.[49]

In other words, what Kenyon is claiming is that the dates of the "original" composition and the earliest extant evidence is very small; so small that it is negligible. This, in turn, establishes the authenticity and general integrity of the New Testament. This hypothesis can be tested by simply going through the book by Kurt and Barbara Aland which lists all kinds of available manuscript evidence for various books of the New Testament.[50] We have tabulated the earliest available manuscript for the books of the New Testament in the Table VI below.

Book

Earliest Manuscript

Date (CE)

Condition

Matthew

P64, P67, P104

c. 200

Fragments

Mark

P45

3rd century

Large Fragments

Luke

P4

c. 200

Fragment

John

P52

c. 125-150

Fragment

Acts

P38

3rd century

Fragment

Romans

P46

c. 200

Fragments

1 Corinthians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

2 Corinthians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

Galatians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

Ephesians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

Philippians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

Colossians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

1 Thessalonians

P46

c. 200

Fragments

2 Thessalonians

P92

3rd / 4th century

Fragment

1 Timothy

4th century

Complete

2 Timothy

4th century

Complete

Titus

P32

c. 200

Fragment

Philemon

P87

3rd century

Fragment

Hebrews

P46

c. 200

Fragments

James

P23, P20

3rd century

Fragment

1 Peter

P72

3rd / 4th century

Fragments

2 Peter

P72

3rd / 4th century

Fragments

1 John

P9

3rd century

Fragment

2 John

0232

3rd / 4th century

Fragment

3 John

4th century

Complete

Jude

P72

3rd / 4th century

Fragments

Revelation

P98

2nd century

Fragment

Table VI: A complete listing of the first appearance of New Testament books in manuscripts, along with their condition and dates.

A quick glance at the data shows that the Gospel of John has the earliest manuscript evidence (P52, c. 125-150 CE) whereas the books 1,2 Timothy and 3 John have very late manuscript witnesses (, 4th century CE). Most of the earliest manuscript witnesses of the books of the New Testament are quite fragmentary, at times containing no more than a couple of verses or even less. The majority of the manuscripts date between 200-300 CE. Given the data, it is hard to imagine how the dates of the "original" composition and the earliest extant evidence are so small as to be negligible.

Now let us turn our attention to the entire lot of Greek New Testament manuscripts and see how ancient these manuscripts really are, and contrast these findings to the fantastic claims made by those and apologists about their "ancientness". By collating the number of New Testament text manuscripts and New Testament lectionaries by century, we can observe the abundance of Greek New Testament manuscripts increasing with time. Table VII gives the distribution of Greek New Testament manuscripts by century (as of May 1988).[51]

CenturyNew Testament ManuscriptsLectionariesCumulative TotalCumulative Percent
PapyriUncialsMinusculesUncialsMinuscules
2nd2----20.03 %
c. 2004----60.11 %
2nd / 3rd11---80.15 %
3rd282---380.73 %
3rd / 4th82---480.92 %
4th1414-1-771.48 %
4th / 5th88---931.78 %
5th236-1-1322.5 %
5th / 6th410---1462.8 %
6th751-3-2073.98 %
6th / 7th55-1-2184.19 %
7th828-4-2584.96 %
7th / 8th34---2655.09 %
8th229-22-3186.11 %
8th / 9th-4-5-3276.29 %
9th-531311355119.83 %
9th / 10th-14-15179.94 %
10th-171241083880415.47 %
10th / 11th-383482215.81 %
11th-142915227149428.74 %
11th / 12th--33-13154029.63 %
12th--5556486258749.77 %
12th / 13th--26-17263050.60 %
13th--5474394357568.78 %
13th / 14th--28-17362069.65 %
14th--511-308443985.41 %
14th / 15th--8-2444985.60 %
15th--241-171486193.53 %
15th / 16th--4-2486793.65 %
16th--136-1945197100 %
Total96269266728618795197 

Table VII: Distribution of Greek New Testament manuscripts by century (as of May 1988). The Alands give a slightly different number of manuscripts when compared with those of Metzger. The difference could be due to the total number of catalogued manuscripts and the actual number of surviving manuscripts; the latter is usually somewhat less. The total number of manuscripts as of 2005 are 5745, however, many of the newer additions are again very late. The change to the cumulative percentage for the manuscripts would be less than half a percent in certain cases.

We find the total number of Greek manuscripts from before the 9th century to be 327. Some may question why it is that the 9th century has been used as a marker to delineate the turning point (numerically) for the Greek New Testament manuscripts. This can be explained by focussing on the method of writing the Greek New Testament text. Commonly termed as minuscule, this method of writing started to take a grip in the 9th century and became widespread by the 11th century, in contrast to the previous style of writing, termed majuscule, where all the Greek letters were written as capitals. Consequently, all of the New Testament minuscule manuscripts and the vast majority of lectionaries, both of which represent the overwhelming bulk of all Greek New Testament manuscripts, utilise this method of handwriting. Another important turning point for the manuscripts is the use of paper; about 1,300 Greek New Testament manuscripts are written on paper, which, started to replace vellum beginning around the 13th century.[52]

Figure 2: A summary of the significant palaeographical features of the Greek New Testament manuscripts from the first century down to the age of printing.[53]

Therefore, the fantastic claims found in the missionary and apologetical literature are dealt a heavy blow when we understand that slightly over 6% of the more than 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts hail from before the 9th century! With no shortage of claims ascribing 'ancientness' to the manuscripts, given that around 94% of the Greek manuscripts (Greek being the "original" language of the New Testament) can be dated in excess of 800 years or so after the birth of Jesus, shows the sheer desperation of those. It is well known amongst the textual critics that the great majority of the primary witnesses to the text of the New Testament, (i.e., Greek manuscripts) are overwhelmingly from the medieval and late medieval periods. Dr. Klaus Junack, a researcher at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung, Universität Münster, Germany, considered one of the leading experts connected with the UBS Greek New Testament project, stated:

Today more than 5,000 manuscripts are known: the overwhelming majority of these are from the medieval and late medieval periods, but on occasion they also preserve readings from the early period.[54]

Let us now examine some 'ancient' figures which are conspicuous in their absence from the mass of missionary and apologetical literature. Concentrating on the search for an "Athanasian Codex" (i.e., a Greek New Testament adhering to the specifications of Athanasius) we have to wait until 1116 CE (over a millennia after the birth of Jesus) before a complete, non-composite Greek New Testament with an Athanasian arrangement appears. Indeed, based on surviving manuscript evidence, Athanasius's list (as a 'table of contents') never became widespread until the 13th century, and even then, the Christians had not fixed the Athanasian sequence. In fact, the twenty-seven books that became the "canonical" and thus the "complete" Greek New Testament did not even exist in codex format until c. 800 – c. 900 CE![55] To this very day there are only around fifty complete Greek codices of the New Testament in existence; this leads Metzger to conclude that, "... it suddenly becomes clear that only a very small proportion of Christians could have owned, or even seen, a copy of the complete canon of the New Testament before the invention of printing."[56] A bad situation gets worse when we realise that of these fifty or so codices of the New Testament, almost half are categorised by the textual critics as being of the inferior, secondary Byzantine text-type – the poorest text-type in relation to preserving the "earliest attainable text" of the New Testament.[57]

With the sobering reality revealed behind the 'ancientness' of the Greek New Testament manuscripts as opposed to the claims made by those and apologists, and, the number of actual complete, non-composite Greek New Testaments in existence before the advent of the printing press, let us now turn our attention to the issues surrounding the early socio-historic context in which the scribes of the New Testament penned their texts.

As for the issue of the early manuscripts establishing the "authenticity" and "general integrity" of the New Testament, one has to look at the controversies that engulfed early Christianity and how that was reflected in the early manuscripts of the New Testament. In the earliest Christian periods, the professed followers of Jesus were engaged in intense polemics against each other. In this highly charged atmosphere, accusations of moral, ethical and theological corruption rifled back and forth, with various parties accusing the other of corrupting and fabricating 'scripture'. The secular polemist Celsus (lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, 161–180 CE) accuses the early Christians of changing their scriptures simply to improve their arguments against their opponents, "Some of the believers ... have changed the original text of the Gospels three or four times or even more, with the intention of thus being able to destroy the arguments of their critics."[58] Origen (c. 185 – c. 254 CE) does not dispute the existence of such changes, but counters Celsus argument seeking to soothe the importance of these changes by stating that such changes to the text were initiated by 'heretics' such as Marcion, Valentinus and Lucanus. Without any recourse to the original autographs, Origen aptly observes, "It is an obvious fact today that there is much diversity among the manuscripts, due either to the carelessness of the scribes, or to the perverse audacity of some people in correcting the text, or again to the fact that there are those who add or delete as they please, setting themselves up as correctors."[59] Origen is known to have sought out information regarding the variant readings in the Greek New Testament. In fact, in some passages that presented specific exegetical problems, Origen suggested that perhaps all of the manuscripts that were available may have been corrupted! Certainly not the first to display puzzlement over the text of the New Testament, Origen is followed by a host of other prominent Church fathers who grappled with the differences in the biblical text. For example, Jerome (c. 347–420 CE) and Augustine (354–430 CE) were known to have practiced textual criticism due to the fluidity of the biblical text.[60]

But were the accusations of corrupting and fabricating 'scripture' limited to pagan philosophers such as Celsus? Although widely and strongly condemned, forgery was also a frequent occurrence in early Christendom; notably, the practice of forgery was not limited to the "heretics". For example, an "orthodox" presbyter of Asia Minor owned up to forging the Apostolic Constitutions and III Corinthians. In his defence the deposed presbyter claimed that he did it "out of love for Paul."[61] In fact, the textual history of the first three hundred years of the New Testament is described by the textual critics as "the period of relative freedom" or "the period of relative creativity." During this period the majority of changes to the text of the New Testament, both accidental and intentional, originated:

The majority of textual variants that are preserved in the surviving documents, even the documents produced in a later age, originated during the first three Christian centuries.

This conviction is not based on idle speculation. In contrast to the relative stability of the New Testament text in later times, our oldest witnesses display a remarkable degree of variation. The evidence suggests that during the earliest period of its transmission the New Testament text was in a state of flux, that it became standardized in some regions by the fourth century, and subject to fairly rigid control (by comparison) only in the Byzantine period.[62]

Both "orthodox" and "heterodox" scribes, who were intent on stamping their mark on the biblical text to bolster their arguments pertaining to the theological position they advocated, used their skills. The texts were not inviolable and hence subjected to changes.

While these christological issues were under debate, before any one group had established itself as dominant and before the proto-orthodox party had refined its christological views with the nuance that would obtain in the fourth century, the books of the emerging Christian Scriptures were circulating in manuscript form. The texts of these books were by no means inviolable; to the contrary, they were altered with relative ease and alarming frequency. Most of the changes were accidental, the result of scribal ineptitude, carelessness, or fatigue. Others were intentional, and reflect the controversial milieux within which they were produced.[63]

Similar observations are made by Harry Gamble. He says:

Complaints about the adulteration of texts are fairly frequent in early Christian literature. Christian texts, scriptural and nonscriptural, were no more immune than others from vicissitudes of unregulated transmission in handwritten copies. In some respects they were more vulnerable than ordinary texts, and not merely because Christian communities could not always command the most competent scribes. Although Christian writings generally aimed to express not individual viewpoints but the shared convictions and values of a group, members of the group who acted as editors and copyists must often have revised texts in accordance with their own perceptions. This temptation was stronger in connection with religious or philosophical texts than with others simply because more was at stake. A great deal of early Christian literature was composed for the purpose of advancing a particular viewpoint amid the conflicts of ideas and practices that repeatedly arose within and between Christian communities, and even documents that were not polemically conceived might nevertheless be polemically used. Any text was liable to emendation in the interest of making it more pointedly serviceable in a situation of theological controversy.[64]

Consequently, it is not surprising that the studies on New Testament papyri indicate that the text was much more fluid during the first two hundred years of transmission than originally thought.[65] A wide range of textual critics affirm the fluidity of the New Testament text in the first two hundred years. This has been confirmed by research, which has demonstrated that both "orthodox" and "heretical" scribes were indulging in deliberate theological changes to their biblical text.[66]

Contrary to the confident claims of Christian apologists, the early manuscript witnesses do not establish the "authenticity" and "general integrity" of the New Testament. Rather they show the fluidity and deliberate changes in the early New Testament text.

No discussion about the early dating of the New Testament manuscripts is complete without mentioning the works of José O'Callaghan and Carsten Thiede; for these two scholars are mentioned with great reverence in Christian apologetic literature.

José O'Callaghan's work was related to identification of very small fragments found in Cave VII in Qumran. These fragments were published by Baillet, Milik and de Vaux. Since they were unsure, they classified them as "Biblical Texts?".[67]

Figure 1: Fragments of the papyri found in Cave VII in Qumran. The sizes of 7Q6,1, 7Q6,2, 7Q9, 7Q10 and 7Q15 are even smaller than that of 7Q8 as shown above.

O'Callaghan identified them as having being written around 50 CE and containing a portion of Mark 6:52-53 (MSS. 7Q5), Mark 4:28 (MSS. 7Q6,1), I Timothy 3:16, 4:1-3 (MSS. 7Q4), James 1:23, 24 (MSS. 7Q8), Acts 27:38 (MSS. 7Q6,2), Romans 5:11-12 (MSS. 7Q9), II Peter 1:15 (MSS. 7Q10), Mark 12:17 (MSS. 7Q7) and Mark 6:48 (MSS. 7Q15).[68] This identification was given popularity in the news media for the consumption of general public. However, the scholarly community rejected the identification. A series of critiques by M. Baillet,[69] P. Benoit,[70] Gordon Fee,[71] Colin Hemer,[72] Colin Roberts[73] and Kurt Aland[74] appeared in journals. As Metzger puts it:

Most of the popular articles accepted O'Callaghan's opinion; almost all the scholarly articles rejected it.[75]

In 1988, G. -Wilhelm Nebe proposed that fragment 7Q4,1 was part of I Enoch 103:3-4, while 7Q4,2 was part of I Enoch 98:11.[76] He also suggested that 7Q8 was part of I Enoch 103:7-8; but with much reservation, since this fragment could easily be identified with several Old Testament passages.[77] Nebe identification of 7Q4,1-2 was challenged by Thiede who supported O'Callaghan's identification. In 1996 Puech defended Nebe's identification of fragment 7Q4,1 as being part of I Enoch 103:3-4; while suggesting that 7Q4,2 is part of I Enoch 105:1.[78] Recent textual reconstruction by Muro[79] and Puech[80] has convincingly shown that 7Q4,1 (= I Enoch 103:3-4), 7Q8 (= I Enoch 103:7-8) and 7Q12 (= I Enoch 103:4) are part of the same ensemble. This definitely excludes the identification of them as a part of the epistles of the New Testament, I Timothy 3:16, 4:1-3 and James 1:23-24.

It is not surprising that the Christian missionary and apologetical literature, that thrives on cashing in on human gullibility, still clings to the identification of O'Callaghan that has been rejected in scholarly circles.[81] This is also true for Carsten Thiede's work.[82]

O'Callaghan's discredited identification of the Qumran fragments was given a new lease of life by Carsten Thiede in his book The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? The Qumran Papyrus 7Q5 And Its Significance For New Testament Studies (1992, Paternoster: Exeter). In this book Thiede tried to argue for the existence of a Christian text in Qumran on the basis of an unlikely identification of the papyrus fragment 7Q5 as part of Mark's Gospel. But it is his later work co-authored with Matthew d'Ancona The Jesus Papyrus that attracted the biggest attention which we will now turn to.

Matthew d'Ancona, a reporter with The Times on the 24th December 1994, just a day before Christmas, reported a claim that certain fragments of Matthew are even older than P52, attributing its dating to Thiede:

A papyrus believed to the oldest extant fragment of the New Testament has been found in an Oxford library. It provides the first material evidence that the Gospel according to St. Matthew is an eyewitness account written by contemporaries of Christ.

In a paper to be published next month, Carsten Thiede, a German papyrologist, will claim that three scraps of Matthew belonging to Magdalen College date from the mid-first century A.D. The fragments, which have been kept at the college since 1901, were thought originally to have been written in the late second century.

This refers to three fragments of Matthew of the Magdalen papyrus P64. In 1953, the papyrologist Colin Roberts found that the hand used on them closely paralleled the fragments of the Oxyrhynchus papyri from Egypt which had been dated around 200 CE.[83] Roberts showed the photograph of this manuscript to three of his fellow papyrologists Bell, Skeat and Turner, who "independently without hesitation pronounced in favor of a date in the later second century." He then concludes that "their verdict can be accepted with confidence."[84]

Thiede's paper disputing and overturning the findings of Roberts was published in 1995 in Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik.[85] A slightly revised version appeared in Tyndale Bulletin later that year.[86] The paper, contrary to the extravagant claims made in The Times, sounds more cautious:

... with all due caution, the possibility of redating the fragments from Oxford and Barcelona - which are, after all, definitely Matthean - to a period somewhat earlier than the second century previously assigned to them. Certainty will remain elusive, of course.[87]

This "somewhat earlier" date is specified as a date in the "late first century sometime after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem."[88] Unlike the newspaper article, there is no suggestion that Matthew is an eyewitness report. Since the academic journals are carefully refereed by peers, the authors do not find it easy to use these journals for their extravagant claims. However, when it comes to statements made in media what matters are the sound-bites and newsworthiness. Caution is dumped.

Since there is a consensus among the scholars that the "author" of the Gospel according to Matthew wrote it in the late first century,[89] a late first century dating would not cause much of an alarm. But The Times reported a mid-first century date that contradicts Thiede's own assessment of a late first century dating of the Matthean fragments at Oxford as mentioned in the journal. In his book The Jesus Papyrus co-authored with the journalist Matthew d'Ancona, Thiede has completely abandoned the caution he had expressed in Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik. What one reads in the book is that the Magdalen papyri:

... were of astonishingly early origin, dating from the mid-first century AD. He was shortly to publish his claims in the specialist journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie.[90]

As we have seen earlier, Thiede never made any such claim in the specialist journal. The issue does not stop at discrepancies in assigning a date to the Magdalen fragments. The authors describe P64 as a manuscript on paper! A cursive manuscript is called a "minuscle".[91] In fact, there are many such howlers to discredit the authors' competence in the field of palaeography. Such carelessness is surely unwarranted in a book that aims to impress the readers with Thiede's "dispassionate rigour". Not surprisingly the carelessness is also reflected in the dating and analysis of P64 and the Qumran manuscript 7Q5. Thiede's material has been handed a devastating refutation by Klaus Wachtel,[92] Peter Head,[93] David Parker,[94] Keith Elliott,[95] Philip Comfort,[96] Graham Stanton[97] among others. As for the identification of the fragment 7Q5 as verses from the Gospel of Mark, Daniel B. Wallace wrote a critique of both O'Callaghan and Thiede. The popular Christian magazine Christianity Today also critiqued the work of Thiede in the article Indiana Jones and the Gospel Parchments.

Thiede attributes the widespread rejection of his proposals to the bias of academic scholars afraid of losing their chances of moving up the academic ladder, should they endorse conservative views. "There are", he declares, "virtually no limits to the scholarly acrobatics which some academics will perform to dismiss a thesis that does not fit their intellectual paradigm."[98] It is strange that a man who has constructed such a large glasshouse of his own should throw a stone of this size.[99]

Thiede claims to have answered all those who are critical of his dating of P64 and the Qumran manuscript 7Q5. Yet his "answers" can't persuade the scholars to accept his criticism. It is not surprising to see that the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, Germany has not been spared, no doubt, due to its implacable resistance to register 7Q5 in its list of officially recognized New Testament manuscripts. Klaus Wachtel from this institute in Münster, who demolished Thiede's claims, is depicted in derogatory terms. Thiede's feelings are obvious when he addresses the critical text of the Greek New Testament (one of the products of the Münster institute) as "the so-called 'Nestle-Aland' Novum Testamentum Graece".[100] Shall we say sour grapes? As to how sour the grapes have become, it can be discerned in a recent article by the well-known palaeographer T. C. Skeat on the papyrus P64 who does not even mention the redating by Thiede! He dates it firmly to c. 200 CE.[101]

Finally we should also mention the redating of papyrus fragment P46 by Young Kyu Kim. He suggested that P46 should be dated to the first century.[102] Although his article provoked a widespread interest, it has failed to receive any sustained attention in the literature except for an endorsement by O'Callaghan[103] and a cautious review by Daniel Wallace.[104] The lack of sustained attention is quite likely due to the fact that Kim's viewpoint is far from compelling as well as the fact that his evidence is quite disorganized. Recently Pickering produced a detailed refutation of Kim's dating and he dates P46 back to c. 200 CE.[105] Other palaeographers do not seem to be persuaded by Kim's methodology of an early dating of P46 either.[106]

Let us now summarize the discussion on the early dating of fragments with a quote by Holmes:

Claims that portions of Mark have been identified among the manuscript fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran are quite unconvincing (see Graham Stanton, Gospel Truth? New Light on Jesus and the Gospels [Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1995], 20-32; Metzger, Text, 264-65). The proposal by Y. K. Kim ... that P46 (widely dated to ca. 200) should be dated prior to the end of the first century has not proven to be persuasive (see Metzger, Text, 265-66). The claim by C. P. Thiede that fragments of Matthew should be dated to "c. A.D. 66" is based on a rat's nest of fanciful hypotheses and unsubstantiated assertions (for a brief overview and response, see Stanton, Gospel Truth? 11-19).[107]

Similarly, Burton Mack says:

Thiede's Dead Sea Scrolls scenario is preposterous; his theory about the Markan fragment among the Dead Sea Scrolls has been discredited; and the mass of detailed scholarship on the origins and history of early Christian movements and their writings has simply been swept aside in the eager pursuit of a chimera. From a critical scholar's point of view, Thiede's proposal is an example of just how desperate the Christian imagination can become in the quest to argue for the literal facticity of the Christian gospels.[108]

3. Conclusions

When discussing the numerical superiority and ancientness of the New Testament manuscripts, those' blunders become apparent when their conclusions are evaluated by examining the various methodologies for reconstructing the Greek New Testament and how these competing methodologies understand and use external (i.e., manuscript) evidence. Contrary to missionary and apologetical claims, nowhere in these reconstructive methodologies can we observe an axiomatic principle whereby the numerical amount of Greek manuscripts function in a manner that automatically allows us to have a greater degree of confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of the resultant New Testament text. In fact, the claims made by those show similarity with the reconstructive methodology with a preference for the Byzantine text-form. These advocates of the "Majority" text appeal to the numerical superiority of the Byzantine text-form among the Greek manuscripts whilst simultaneously claiming this text-type represents more closely the "original" text. Unfortunately for those and apologists, this form of scholarship has been rejected by the vast majority of textual critics who as early as the 1880's in the form of the two Cambridge scholars Westcott and Hort, recognised the corrupt, secondary nature of these texts.[109]

 

We have seen misquoted claims, misrepresented claims, incorrect claims, fraudulent claims and even claims that are mathematically impossible. None of these fantastic claims (normally in the form of percentages) show the procedure utilised to arrive at such magnificent figures. We can see that the modern day textual critics portray a very different set of statistics quite contrary to the over-hyped claims of those and apologists. The Alands, discussing the differences between seven popular critical editions of the New Testament, excluding orthographic differences and differences of only one word, calculate that 62.9% of the verses of the entire New Testament are in agreement with each other. Similarly, if we look at the statistics for the gospels, we find that there is a 54.5% agreement. If we look at the textual "certainty" of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament, a text which is based on the decisions of a committee, the result is close to 83.5%. There is no mention of 99.5%, 99.8% or 99.9% agreement here. In a twist of irony further compounding the foolishness of those' and apologists' position, the Bibles they use (normally the NIV version) are based on the very same critical editions of the New Testament by the very same people who have calculated the above percentages!

The final call of those and apologists, when their attempts to over-hype the Greek manuscripts bear no fruit, is to appeal to the fact that the entire Greek New Testament can be reconstructed using only the Patristic quotations, without recourse to any other additional manuscript evidence. While it is certainly true that some modern day textual critics, including Metzger mention that such a circumstance is theoretically possible, we rarely find those and apologists discussing the numerous problems associated with this statement.[110] In any case, what role do the Patristic citations play in today's critical editions of the New Testament? They play no more than a 'supplementary and corroborative' role, particularly in passages where the primary evidence (i.e., Greek manuscripts) is insufficient to reconstruct the text with absolute certainty. Indeed, if we examine the evidential selection principles behind the recently released Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior, it becomes apparent that readings with exclusively Patristic support struggle to make it into the critical apparatus, let alone ever being considered as an actual verse of the Greek New Testament.

 

Going hand in hand with the claims of numerical superiority are those claims of 'ancientness'. The manuscripts are "very old" we are told. Those and apologists point towards numerous 1st century Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts for several books of the New Testament including Mark, I Timothy, James, Acts, Romans and II Peter. Also, fragments according to the Gospel of Matthew can be redated to "c. A.D. 66". Certainly one could arrive at these conclusions if the relevant newspaper articles and soundbites are collated. However, one can arrive at quite different conclusions if the opinions of New Testament textual scholars, including Baillet, Benoit, Fee, Hemer, Roberts, Aland and others are taken into consideration, as they conclusively refute these grossly inaccurate and yet popular claims. Indeed, when we compare the earliest known manuscript evidence for the twenty-seven books of the New Testament to their respective estimated dates of composition, we do not find the difference so small as to be "negligible". In fact, we can observe that several books of the New Testament find no manuscript support until the 4th century CE! Also, when we examine the palaeographic features of the entire spectrum of Greek New Testament manuscripts, the overwhelming majority utilise a form of handwriting termed minuscule. This form of handwriting started to be used in the 9th century and became widespread by the 11th century. How one can make claims of 'ancientness' when only 6% of the more than 5,000 or so Greek New Testament manuscripts date from before the 9th century, some 800 years after the birth of Jesus, points towards a desperate state of affairs.

Amphoux and Vaganay, referring to the "eternal, inerrant, infallible, unchangeable word of God" as represented by the 26th edition of Nestle-Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece, aptly summarise the textual evidence:

The concern not to trouble simple minds with an uncertain or reworked text is no doubt a laudable one, but is it right to alter history? For what is implied to be the original text is in fact probably a text established in Egypt around the year AD 200, doubtless with some earlier readings but also some innovations,...[111]

And Allah knows best!


References & Notes

[1] F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, 1984, Fifth Revised Edition, Inter-Varsity Press (Leicester, England) and William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan), p. 15.

[2] B. M. Metzger, "Recent Trends In The Textual Criticism Of The Iliad And The Mahabharata", Chapters In The History Of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1963, E. J. Brill: Leiden, pp. 142-154.

[3] N. L. Geisler & A. Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent In The Light Of The Cross, 1993, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 234-235.

[4] "New Testament Manuscripts", in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 532-533; N. L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 2002 (15th Printing), Baker Book House: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 308; N. L. Geisler & R. M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 2001, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 160; Also see N. L. Geisler & W. E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, 1986, Revised and Expanded, Moody Press: Chicago, p. 408 and pp. 474-475. The statement of 99.5% accuracy of the New Testament by Geisler and Nix is repeated by Lee Strobel in his book The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation Of The Evidence Of Jesus, 1998, Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 65; C. L. Blomberg, "The Historical Reliability Of The New Testament" in W. L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth And Apologetics, 1994 (Rev.), Crossway Books: Wheaton (IL), p. 194 and note 3 on p. 333. Quoting Geisler and Nix, Blomberg says that 97-99% of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt; Also see J. Ankerberg & J. Weldon, Knowing The Truth About The Reliability Of The Bible, 1997, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 15; Similar repetition also by F. S. Coplestone (Updated & Expanded by J. C. Trehern), Jesus Christ Or Mohammed? A Guide To Islam And Christianity That Helps Explain The Differences, 2001, Christian Focus Publications: Ross-shire (Scotland), p. 58; E. F. Caner & E. M. Caner, More Than A Prophet: An Insider's Response To Muslim Beliefs About Jesus & Christianity, 2003, Kregal Publications: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 78. The Caner brothers simply repeat Geisler's claim of 99.5% of the New Testament being certain.

[5] See for example, J. McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, 1979, Here's Life Publishers, Inc.: San Bernardino, p. 43; The claim is also repeated in Josh McDowell's latest book. See J. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated In One Volume To Answer Questions Challenging Christians In The 21st Century, 1999, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, pp. 34-38; Also see B. Wilson (Compiler), The Best Of Josh McDowell: A Ready Defense, 1990, Here's Life Publishers, Inc.: San Bernardino, pp. 43-45; A. A. Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith With A Muslim, 1980, Bethany House Publications: Minneapolis, p. 54; J. P. Moreland, Scaling The Secular City: A Defense Of Christianity, 1988 (2nd Printing), Baker Book House: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 134-136; J. Ankerberg & J. Weldon, Knowing The Truth About The Reliability Of The Bible, 1997, op. cit., pp. 13-15; C. Moucarry, The Prophet & The Messiah: An Arab Christian's Perspective On Islam & Christianity, 2001, InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove (IL), pp. 73-74; J. Ankerberg & J. Weldon, Fast Facts On Islam, 2001, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), pp. 45-46; F. S. Coplestone (Updated & Expanded by J. C. Trehern), Jesus Christ Or Mohammed? A Guide To Islam And Christianity That Helps Explain The Differences, 2001, op. cit., p. 55; S. Masood, The Bible And The Qur'an: A Question Of Integrity, 2001, OM Publication: Carlisle, UK, pp. 48-49; N. L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 2002 (15th Printing), op. cit., pp. 307-308; R. Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With Muslims, 2002, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 203; S. Tanagho, Glad News! God Loves You My Muslim Friend, 2003, Authentic Media: Waynesboro (GA), p. 33; C. L. Blomberg, Making Sense Of The New Testament: Three Crucial Questions, 2004, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 22.

[6] For the count of New Testament manuscripts in 1962, see B. M. Metzger, "Recent Trends In The Textual Criticism Of The Iliad And The Mahabharata", Chapters In The History Of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1963, op. cit., p. 145; for the count in 1980, see B. M. Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, And Content, 1990, 2nd Edition (Enlarged), Abingdon Press: Nashville, p. 283; for the year 1989 see B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, Oxford University Press: Oxford (UK), p. 262; For the latest edition see B. M. Metzger & B. D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration, 2005, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 50; The information on the number of manuscripts in the year 2005 is taken from here.

An important point to remember about all of these quoted figures is that they represent the catalogued number of manuscripts. The actual surviving number of manuscripts is somewhat less. For an explanation of this see B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., pp. 262-263; Also see K. Aland & B. Aland (Trans. E. F. Rhodes), The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions And To The Theory And Practice Of Modern Textual Criticism, 1995 (2nd Revised Edition), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (Michigan), pp. 74-75.

[7] M. W. Holmes, "The 'Majority Text Debate': New Form Of An Old Issue", Themelios, 1983, Volume 8, No. 2, p. 15.

[8] The best word to describe the Byzantine text-type is "corrupt". See B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary On The New Testament: A Companion Volume To The United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, 1971, United Bible Societies, London & New York, pp. xvii-xxi; B. F. Westcott & F. J. A. Hort, Introduction To The New Testament In The Original Greek, 1882 (1988 reprint), Hendrickson Publishers Inc., pp. 115-119.

[9] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., pp. 283-284 and pp. 290-293; L. Vaganay and Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction To The New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), p. 152; A good critique of "Majority" text theory was made by D. B. Wallace, "The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, And Critique", in B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes, The Text Of The New Testament In Contemporary Research: Essays On The Status Quaestionis (A Volume In The Honor Of Bruce M. Metzger), 1995, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 297-320; Also see D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea For Realism, 1979, Baker Academic.

[10] L. Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation Of The Evidence Of Jesus, 1998, op. cit., p. 59. Metzger says:

The only way they'd agree [i.e., the manuscripts] would be where they went back genealogically in a family tree that represents the descent of the manuscripts.

[11] E. C. Colwell, "Geneological Method: Its Achievements And Its Limitations", Studies In Methodology In Textual Criticism Of The New Testament, 1969, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 65.

[12] This is a rather well-known statement in textual criticism of the Bible. See R. W. Klein, Textual Criticism Of The Old Testament: The Septuagint After Qumran, 1974, Fortress Press: Philadelphia, p. 74; G. D. Fee, "The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament" in R. K. Harrison, B. K. Waltke, D. Guthrie and G. D. Fee (Eds.), Biblical Criticism: Historical, Literary And Textual, 1978, Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 148-149; L. Vaganay and Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction To The New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, op. cit., pp. 62-63; B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 209.

[13] J. K. Elliott, A Survey Of The Manuscripts Used In Editions Of The Greek New Testament, 1987, Supplements To Novum Testamentum: Volume LVII, E. J. Brill: Leiden, pp. xvi-xxxi. This work is based on the author's earlier works; See J. K. Elliott, "The Citation Of Manuscripts In Recent Printed Editions Of The Greek New Testament", Novum Testamentum, 1983, Volume XXV, pp. 97-132; J. K. Elliott, "The Citation Of Greek Manuscripts In Six Printed Editions Of The New Testament", Revue Biblique, 1985, Volume 92, pp. 539-556.

[14] "Text, NT", G. A. Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, 1962 (1996 Print), Volume 4, Abingdon Press: Nashville, pp. 594-595; G. D. Fee, "The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament" in R. K. Harrison, B. K. Waltke, D. Guthrie and G. D. Fee (Eds.), Biblical Criticism: Historical, Literary And Textual, 1978, op. cit., p. 128.

[15] B. D. Ehrman, The New Testament: An Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings, 2000, Second Edition, Oxford University Press: Oxford and New York, p. 443.

[16] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 34, note 3; A similar statement can be found in D. Stone, Teach Yourself Books: The New Testament, 1996, Hodder Headline Plc: London (UK), p. 96; As for the division of manuscripts in terms of dating and content, see M. W. Holmes, "Textual Criticism", in D. A. Black & D. S. Dockery (Eds.), Interpreting The New Testament: Essays On Methods and Issues, 2001, Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville, p. 49. He says:

In all, something over five thousand witnesses to the Greek New Testament are extant today. Many (if not most) of these, it should be noted, are fragmentary or incomplete. Only 3 majuscules (א/01, A/02 and C/04) and fifty-six minuscules contain the entire New Testament; another 2 majuscules and 147 minuscules lack only Revelation. As for content, the Gospels are found in just over 2,300 MSS, the Acts and Catholic letters in about 655, and the Pauline letters in about 780, and Revelation in about 290. With regard to date, over 65 percent are from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries, while less than 2.5 percent are from the first five centuries.

[17] B. D. Ehrman, The New Testament: An Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings, 2000, op. cit., p. 449.

[18] ibid., p. 443.

[19] G. A. Wells, The Jesus Myth, 1998, Open Court Publishing Company, p. 3.

[20] P. W. Comfort, Essential Guide To Bible Versions, 2000, Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Wheaton (Illinois), p. 153.

[21] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 86; Also see J. Harold Greenlee, An Introduction To New Testament Textual Criticism, 1964, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 54; C. Leach, Our Bible: How We Got It, 1897, Moody Press: Chicago, pp. 35-36; J. P. Moreland, Scaling The Secular City: A Defense Of Christianity, 1988, op. cit., p. 136; B. Wilson (Compiler), The Best Of Josh McDowell: A Ready Defense, 1990, op. cit., pp. 47-48; N. L. Geisler & W. E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, 1986, Revised and Expanded, op. cit., p. 430; L. Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation Of The Evidence Of Jesus, 1998, op. cit., p. 59; J. Ankerberg & J. Weldon, Knowing The Truth About The Reliability Of The Bible, 1997, op. cit., p. 14; J. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated In One Volume To Answer Questions Challenging Christians In The 21st Century, 1999, op. cit., pp. 42-45; R. Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With Muslims, 2002, op. cit., pp. 205-206; E. F. Caner & E. M. Caner, More Than A Prophet: An Insider's Response To Muslim Beliefs About Jesus & Christianity, 2003, op. cit., p. 78.

[22] See for example, B. D. Ehrman's, Didymus The Blind And The Text Of The Gospels, 1986, Scholars Press: Atlanta (Georgia). Ehrman's book has an excellent introduction to the topic of Patristic citations and how they should be analysed. For a recent survey on the critical texts of citations of the Church Fathers see B. D. Ehrman, "The Use And Significance Of Patristic Evidence For NT Textual Criticism", in B. Aland & J. Delobel (eds.), New Testament Textual Criticism, Exegesis, And Early Church History: A Discussion Of Methods, 1994, Kok Pharos Publishing House: Kampen (The Netherlands), pp. 118-135.

[23] B. M. Metzger, "Patristic Evidence And The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament", New Testament Studies, 1972, Volume 18, p. 379. This same paper was republished in B. M. Metzger, New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, And Patristic, 1980, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 167; D. C. Parker, The Living Text Of The Gospels, 1997, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), pp. 16-17.

[24] B. D. Ehrman, Didymus The Blind And The Text Of The Gospels, 1986, op. cit., p. 6.

[25] K. Aland & B. Aland (Trans. E. F. Rhodes), The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions And To The Theory And Practice Of Modern Textual Criticism, 1995 (2nd Revised Edition), op. cit., p. 171.

[26] R. M. Grant, "The Citation Of Patristic Evidence In An Apparatus Criticus", in M. R. Parvis & A. P. Wikgren (eds.), New Testament Manuscript Studies: The Material And The Making Of A Critical Apparatus, 1950, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, p. 124.

[27] G. D. Fee, "The Text Of John In The Jerusalem Bible: A Critique Of The Use Of Patristic Citations In New Testament Textual Criticism", Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1971, Volume 90, p. 169.

[28] K. Aland & B. Aland (Trans. E. F. Rhodes), The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions And To The Theory And Practice Of Modern Textual Criticism, 1995, op. cit., p. 280, see the 5th of the 12 basic rules of textual criticism; Also see L. Vaganay and Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction To The New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, op. cit., p. 46; D. C. Parker, The Living Text Of The Gospels, 1997, op. cit., p. 15; B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 86.

[29] G. D. Fee, "The Text Of John In The Jerusalem Bible: A Critique Of The Use Of Patristic Citations In New Testament Textual Criticism", Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1971, op. cit., pp. 163-173; B. M. Metzger, "Patristic Evidence And The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament", New Testament Studies, 1972, op. cit., pp. 379-400.

[30] B. D. Ehrman, Didymus The Blind And The Text Of The Gospels, 1986, op. cit., p. 5. See the footnote 2.

[31] N. L. Geisler & W. E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, 1986, Revised & Expanded, op. cit., p. 474; "New Testament Manuscripts", in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, op. cit., pp. 532-533; N. L. Geisler & A. Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent In The Light Of The Cross, 1993, op. cit., pp. 232-233.

[32] P. Schaff, A Companion To The Greek Testament And The English Version, 1883, Macmillan and Co.: London, p. 12; Also quoted by Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, 1979, op. cit., p. 44.

[33] B. F. Westcott & F. J. Hort, The New Testament In Original Greek, 1885, Macmillan and Co.: Cambridge & London, p. 565; See also J. McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, 1979, op. cit., p. 44.

[34] Rev. B. B. Warfield, An Introduction To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament, 1886, Hodder and Stoughton: London, p. 14; See also J. McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, 1979, op. cit., p. 44.

[35] A. T. Robertson, An Introduction To The Text Criticism Of The New Testament, 1925, Hodder and Stoughton: London, p. 22; Also mentioned by D. Smith, "Dispelling Muslim Myths About The Gospel", Christian Apologetics Journal, 2004, Volume III, Issue I, p. 28. See online edition.

[36] D. Smith, "Dispelling Muslim Myths About The Gospel", Christian Apologetics Journal, 2004, op. cit., p. 28.

[37] B. F. Westcott & F. J. A. Hort, Introduction To The New Testament In The Original Greek, 1882 (1988 reprint), Hendrickson Publishers Inc., p. 66.

[38] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 184.

[39] ibid., 182.

[40] D. B. Wallace, "The Majority Text And The Original Text: Are They Identical?", Bibliotheca Sacra, 1991 (April-June), p. 159.

[41] K. Elliott & I. Moir, Manuscripts And The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The English Readers, 1995, T & T Clark, Edinburgh (Scotland), p. 8. This book was originally written by Ian Moir but he died before it could get published. Keith Elliott saw through its publication.

[42] K. L. Barker (ed.), The NIV: The Making Of A Contemporary Translation, 1991, International Bible Society: Colorado Springs, pp. 58-59 (Download).

[43] L. M. McDonald and S. E. Porter, Early Christianity And Its Sacred Literature, 2000, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.: Peabody (MA), p. 27.

[44] K. Aland and B. Aland, The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions & To The Theory & Practice Of Modern Text Criticism, 1995, op. cit., p. 29.

[45] ibid.

[46] K. Aland, M. Black, C. M. Martini, B. M. Metzger and A. Wikgren (Eds.), The Greek New Testament, 1968 (Second Edition), United Bible Societies, pp. x-xi. This edition is similar to the Nestle-Aland's critical edition except that it has more details on the textual variants and their relative degree of certainty.

By means of the letters A, B, C, and D, enclosed within "braces" { } at the beginning of each set of textual variants the Committee has sought to indicate the relative degree of certainty, arrived at the basis of internal considerations as well as of external evidence, for the reading adopted as the text. The letter A signifies that the text is virtually certain, while B indicates that there is some degree of doubt. The letter C means that there is a considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading, while D shows that there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text.

[47] The table is taken from K. D. Clarke's "Textual Certainty In The United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament", Novum Testamentum, 2002, Volume XLIV (No. 2), p. 116. We have slightly modified it for our argument. The 4th edition of The Greek New Testament is not included here because of its unfounded letter rating and has received scathing criticism from fellow textual critics. See Clarke's article and also L. M. McDonald and S. E. Porter's Early Christianity And Its Sacred Literature, 2000, op. cit., p. 581. McDonald and Porter say that the

... first to third (corrected) editions of the UBS text were fairly consistent in their rating criteria and their distributions of ratings, but UBS-4 has experienced severe "grade inflation," with a disproportionately high number of elevated ratings. For this reason, many scholars appear to be continuing use of the third (corrected) edition , since the text is the same, and to be consulting the fourth edition for the updating of the witnesses to various readings, although these are minimal.

[48] B. M. Metzger & B. D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration, 2005, Fourth Edition, op. cit., pp. 192-194.

[49] F. Kenyon, The Bible And Archaeology, 1940, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd.: London, pp. 288-289; Also cited by F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, 1984, op. cit., p. 15; It is also cited by L. Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation Of The Evidence Of Jesus, 1998, op. cit., p. 63; Not surprisingly, it also appears in Geisler's book. See N. L. Geisler & W. E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, 1986, Revised & Expanded, op. cit., p. 405.

[50] K. Aland and B. Aland, The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions & To The Theory & Practice Of Modern Text Criticism, 1995, op. cit., p. 29. A descriptive list of the papyri is in pp. 96-102 and a detailed textual content of the papyri are tabulated in Chart 5 (A-C). A descriptive list of the uncials is in pp. 107-128 and a detailed textual content of the uncials are tabulated in Chart 6 (D-K). These are very useful for a quickly checking out any claims in the Christian apologetical literature.

[51] ibid., p. 81. We have slightly modified it to add the cumulative percentage for analysis.

[52] ibid., p. 77.

[53] J. H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, 1995, Revised Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 23.

[54] K. Junack, "The Reliability Of The New Testament Text From The Perspective Of Textual Criticism", The Bible Translator, 1978, Volume XXIX, Issue I, p. 131.

[55] D. D. Schmidt, "The Greek New Testament As A Codex", in L. M. McDonald and J. A. Sanders (eds.), The Canon Debate, 2002, Hendrickson Publishers, pp. 477-479.

[56] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 263. Metzger mentions that fifty-eight minuscule Greek New Testament manuscripts contain the entire new testament as well as one uncial manuscript, Codex Sinaiticus. However, a recent study (2002) by Daryl D. Schmidt provides additional clarification,

The number of Greek "manuscripts that contain the entire New Testament canon" has recently been set at sixty-one (including one duplicate). This is one more than previously calculated. In The Text of the New Testament the Alands claimed that only three uncials and fifty-six minuscules (excluding the duplicate one) "contain the whole of the New Testament." In the new edition of his Text of the New Testament, Bruce Metzger claims fifty-eight complete copies but provides no documentation. The fluctuation in count indicates the uncertainty over the actual contents of many of the minuscules. Even the three great uncials on the list require a disclaimer, because their contents are not limited to "the whole New Testament." Codex Sinaiticus (א, 01) also includes Barnabas and Hermas, while Codex Alexandrinus (A, 02) adds 1-2 Clement. Codex Ephraemi (C, 04) has many lacunae, including all of 2 Thessalonians, 2 John, and the ending, so it could have contained other writings as well. Codex Vaticanus (B, 03) has to be excluded because it ends at Heb 9:13 with the rest of Hebrews and Revelation supplied by a miniscule manuscript from the fifteenth century. As a result, the portion originally located between Hebrews and Revelation in the sequence of many earlier manuscripts, the Pastoral Letters and Philemon, is lacking entirely in the present combination of the two manuscripts. With such variations in mind, these "complete New Testament Manuscripts" are the ones assumed to have been "originally complete" or "written as complete New Testaments," so far as can be determined.

See D. D. Schmidt, "The Greek New Testament As A Codex", in L. M. McDonald and J. A. Sanders (eds.), The Canon Debate, 2002, op. cit., p. 469.

[57] ibid., p. 471.

[58] L. Vaganay & C-B Amphoux (Trans. J. Heimerdinger), An Introduction To New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, op. cit., p. 96.

[59] ibid.

[60] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 151-154; Also see B. M. Metzger, "The Practice Of Textual Criticism Among The Church Fathers", New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, And Patristic, 1980, op. cit., pp. 189-198.

[61] B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption Of Scripture: The Effect Of Early Christological Controversies On The Text Of The New Testament, 1993, Oxford University Press: London & New York, p. 23.

[62] ibid., p. 28; Also see L. Vaganay & C-B Amphoux (Trans. J. Heimerdinger), An Introduction To New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, op. cit., pp. 89-111.

[63] B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption Of Scripture: The Effect Of Early Christological Controversies On The Text Of The New Testament, 1993, op. cit., p. 275.

[64] H. Y. Gamble, Books And Readers In The Early Church: A History Of Early Christian Texts, 1995, Yale University Press: New Haven & London, pp. 123-124.

[65] E. J. Epp, "The Significance Of The Papyri For Determining The Nature Of The New Testament Text In The Second Century: A Dynamic View Of Textual Transmission" in W. L. Peterson, Gospel Traditions In The Second Century: Origins, Recensions, Text, And Transmission (Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, Volume 3), 1990, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame (IN), pp. 1-32; D. C. Parker, The Living Text Of The Gospels, 1997, op. cit., p. 70 and p. 200.

[66] B. M. Metzger, "Explicit References In The Works Of Origen To Variant Readings In New Testament Manuscripts", in J. N. Birdsall and R. W. Thomson (ed.), Biblical And Patristic Studies In Memory Of Robert Pierce Casey, 1963, Herder: Frieburg, pp. 78-95; Also see B. D. Ehrman, "The Text As Window: New Testament Manuscripts And The Social History Of Early Christianity", in B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes (ed.), The Text Of The New Testament In Contemporary Research: Essays On The Status Quaestionis (A Volume In The Honor Of Bruce M. Metzger), 1995, op. cit., pp. 361-379; P. M. Head, "Christology And Textual Transmission: Reverential Alterations In The Synoptic Gospels", Novum Testamentum, 1993, Volume XXXV (No. 2), pp. 105-129.

[67] M. Baillet, J. T. Milik and R. de Vaux (With Contribution From H. W. Baker), Discoveries In The Judaean Desert Of Jordan III: Les 'Petites Grottes' De Qumran (Textes), 1962, Oxford At The Clarendon Press, pp. 142-146. As for the plates of these manuscripts see M. Baillet, J. T. Milik and R. de Vaux (With Contribution From H. W. Baker), Discoveries In The Judaean Desert Of Jordan III: Les 'Petites Grottes' De Qumran (Planches), 1962, Oxford At The Clarendon Press, Plate XXX.

[68] J. O'Callaghan, "¿Papiros Neotestamentarios en la Cueva 7 de Qumran?", Biblica, 1972, Volume 53, pp. 91-100. This article created so much sensation that it was translated in English by W. L. Holladay. See J. O'Callaghan, "New Testament Papyri In Qumran Cave 7?", Supplement To The Journal of Biblical Literature, 1972, Volume 91, No. 2, pp. 1-14; J. O'Callaghan, "1 Tim 3,16; 4,1.3 en 7Q4?", Biblica, 1972, Volume 53, pp. 362-367; J. O'Callaghan, "Notas Sobre 7Q tomadas en el «Rockfeller Museum» de Jerusalén", Biblica, 1972, Volume 53, pp. 517-533.

[69] M. Baillet, "Les Manuscrits de la Grotte 7 de Qumrân et le Nouveau Testament", Biblica, 1972, Volume 53, pp. 508-516.

[70] P. Benoit, "Note sur les Fragments Grecs de la Grotte 7 de Qumran", Revue Biblique, 1972, pp. 321-324.

[71] G. D. Fee, "Some Dissenting Notes On 7Q5 = Mark 6:52-53", Journal of Biblical Literature, 1972, Volume 92, No. 1, pp. 109-112.

[72] C. J. Hemer, "New Testament Fragments At Qumran?", Tyndale Bulletin, 1972, Volume 23, pp. 125-128; C. J. Hemer, "A Note On 7Q5", Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1974, Volume 65, pp. 155-157.

[73] C. H. Roberts, "On Some Presumed Papyrus Fragments Of The New Testament From Qumran", Journal Of Theological Studies (New Series), 1972, Volume 23, pp. 446-447.

[74] K. Aland, "Neue Neutestamentliche Papyri III", New Testament Studies, 1973-74, Volume 20, pp. 357-381.

[75] B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 264, footnote 5.

[76] G. -Wilhelm Nebe, "7Q4 - Möglichkeit Und Grenze Einer Identifikation", Revue De Qumran, 1988, Volume 13, pp. 313-323. For 7Q4,1 see pp. 630-632; for 7Q4,2 see p. 630 note 12.

[77] ibid., pp. 632-633 note 26.

[78] É. Puech, "Notes Sur Les Fragments Grecs Du Manuscript 7Q4 = 1 Hénoch 103 Et 105", Revue Biblique, 1996, Volume 103, pp. 592-600; also see É. Puech, "Des Fragments Grecs De La Grotte 7 Et Le Nouveau Testament? 7Q4 Et 7Q5, Et Le Papyrus Magdalen Grec 17 = P64", Revue Biblique, 1995, Volume 102, pp. 570-584.

[79] E. A. Muro Jr., "The Greek Fragments Of Enoch From Qumran Cave 7", Revue De Qumran, 1997, Volume 70, pp. 307-312.

[80] É. Puech, "Sept Fragments de la Lettre d'Hénoch (1 Hén 100, 103 et 105) Dans La Grotte 7 de Qumrân", Revue De Qumran, 1997, Volume 70, pp. 313-323.

[81] See for example, "New Testament Manuscripts", in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, op. cit., p. 533; Also repeated at "New Testament, Dating Of", in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, op. cit., p. 530; R. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World's Fastest Growing Religion, 1992, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 136. Robert Morey claims that the Christians have "portions of the New Testament from the first century...".

One of the exceptions to the endorsement of Carsten Thiede's work is Craig Blomberg. He acknowledges the virtual rejection of Thiede's claim in the scholarly community even though the latter is an evangelical scholar. See C. L. Blomberg, Making Sense Of The New Testament: Three Crucial Questions, 2004, op. cit., p. 18.

[82] ibid.

[83] C. Roberts, "An Early Papyrus Of The First Gospel", Harvard Theological Review, 1953, Volume 46, pp. 233-237.

[84] ibid., p. 237.

[85] C. P. Thiede, "Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64): A Reappraisal", Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 1995, Volume 105, pp. 13-20.

[86] C. P. Thiede, "Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64): A Reappraisal", Tyndale Bulletin, 1995, Volume 46, pp. 29-42.

[87] C. P. Thiede, "Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64): A Reappraisal", Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 1995, op. cit., p. 17.

[88] ibid., p. 19.

[89] B. D. Ehrman, The New Testament: An Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings, 2000, op. cit., p. 43. Ehrman says:

... most historians think that Mark was the first of our Gospels to be written, sometime between the mid 60s to early 70s. Matthew and Luke were probably produced some ten or fifteen years later, perhaps around 80 or 85. John was written perhaps ten years after that, in 90 or 95. These are necessarily rough estimates, but almost all scholars agree within a few years.

[90] C. P. Thiede & M. d'Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus, 1996, Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, p. 1.

[91] ibid., see p. 4, 7 ("old paper") and p. 152. For "minuscle" see p. 105.

[92] K. Wachtel, "P64/P67: Fragmente des Matthäusevangeliums aus dem 1. Jahrhundert?", Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 1995, Volume 107, pp. 73-80.

[93] P. M. Head, "The Date Of The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew (P. Magd. Gr. 17 = P64): A Response To C. P. Thiede", Tyndale Bulletin, 1995, Volume 46, pp. 251-285 (Reprinted here with minor alterations).

[94] D. C. Parker, "Was Matthew Written Before 50 CE? The Magdalen Papyrus Of Matthew", Expository Times, 1996, Volume 107, pp. 40-43.

[95] J. K. Elliott, "Review Of The Jesus Papyrus & Eyewitness To Jesus", Novum Testamentum, 1996, Volume 38, pp. 393-399.

[96] P. W. Comfort, "Exploring The Common Identification Of Three New Testament Manuscripts: P4, P64 and P67", Tyndale Bulletin, 1995, Volume 46, pp. 43-54.

[97] G. Stanton, Gospel Truth?: New Light on Jesus and the Gospels, 1995, Trinity Press International: Valley Forge (PA).

[98] C. P. Thiede & M. d'Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus, 1996, op. cit., p. 65, also see p. 135 and p. 143.

[99] A very good observation by G. A. Wells in his The Jesus Myth, 1998, op. cit., p. 10.

[100] C. P. Thiede & M. d'Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus, 1996, op. cit., p. 82 and p. 84.

[101] T. C. Skeat, "The Oldest Manuscript Of The Four Gospels", New Testament Studies, 1997, Volume 43, pp. 1-34.

[102] Y. K. Kim, "Palaeographic Dating Of P46 To The Later First Century", Biblica, 1988, Volume 69, pp. 248-257.

[103] J. O'Callaghan, "Verso Le Origini Del Nuovo Testamento", La Civiltà Cattolica, 1988, Volume 139, No. 4, pp. 269-272.

[104] D. B. Wallace, "Review: Palaeographic Dating Of P46 To The Later First Century", Bibliotheca Sacra, 1989, pp. 451-452. Wallace cautiously observes towards the end:

Such an early date would substantially confirm the reliability of the Alexandrian text-type as a decent witness to the original. Nevertheless evangelical students should be cautioned from uncritically embracing Kim's thesis just because it comports with their theology. A "wait and see" position should be adopted until the verdict of other palaeographers is reached.

[105] S. R. Pickering, "The Dating Of The Chester Beatty-Michigan Codex Of The Pauline Epistles (P46)" in T. W. Hillard, R. A. Kearsley, C. E. V. Nixon and A. M. Nobbs (eds.), Ancient History In A Modern University: Volume II (Early Christianity, Late Antiquity And Beyond), 1998, Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, NSW Australia and William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (Michigan)/Cambridge (UK), pp. 216-227.

[106] See for example, B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., pp. 265-266.

[107] M. W. Holmes, "Textual Criticism", in D. A. Black & D. S. Dockery (Eds.), Interpreting The New Testament: Essays On Methods and Issues, 2001, op. cit., p. 66, footnote 11.

[108] B. L. Mack, Who Wrote The New Testament? The Making Of The Christian Myth, 1996, HarperSanFrancisco Publishers, pp. 9-10.

[109] It is not being suggested that Westcott and Hort were the first to recognise the difficulties and/or faults with the Textus Receptus. Bishop Brian Walton (1600 – 1661 CE) was the first person to systematically record variant readings in his edition of the Bible published at London (1655 – 1657 CE). Dr. Edward Wells (1667 – 1727 CE) was the first person to edit a complete New Testament which abandoned the Textus Receptus in favour of readings from more ancient authorities. Professor Karl Lachmann (1793 – 1851 CE) was the first recognised scholar to totally break away from the Textus Receptus. His edition of the Greek New Testament is based solely on the application of (scientific) textual criticism. Scholars generally agree, however, that one of the major achievements of Westcott and Hort was their clear demonstration that the Byzantine text-type is later than the other New Testament text-types. For more information see B. M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration, 1992, Third Enlarged Edition, op. cit., p. 95-146.

[110] Metzger elucidates the following methodological principle:

In choosing among variant readings of any given passage of the New Testament, most scholars have followed the traditional and time-honored procedure of beginning with the Greek manuscripts themselves, and then supplementing their testimony by consulting the early versions and the patristic quotations... a majority of modern textual scholars consider patristic evidence, so long as it stands alone, to count for almost nothing in ascertaining the original text... Accordingly, it is only when patristic evidence coincides with evidence of the Greek manuscripts, or with some unmistakable indication in the early versions, that any stress can be laid upon it. But whenever this is the case, it rises at once into great importance.

B. M. Metzger, "Patristic Evidence And The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament", New Testament Studies, 1972, op. cit., pp. 385-386. Also in B. M. Metzger, New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, And Patristic, 1980, op. cit., pp. 173-174.

[111] L. Vaganay and Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction To The New Testament Textual Criticism, 1986, op. cit., p. 167.

M S M Saifullah, Usman Sheikh, ‘Abdullah David & ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires

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