Historical reliability of the Scriptures


My wife’s friend says that we have no original texts of the Bible. The oldest manuscripts were written hundreds of years after the last Apostle died. There are over 8000 of these manuscripts but–she says–no two are alike.

What is the truth about this? (I know that the Bible is the most historically reliable document of antiquity, but need more specifics).

Not that we endorse the King James Bible anyway, but she also says that the King James Bible was made based on current translations of the time rather than the oldest manuscripts. Is that true?




Just a quick note, the oldest manuscripts extant of the Sacred Scriptures are what is called the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in the first half of the last century and are dated from before the birth of Christ.


The oldest New Testament fragments we have date from the 2nd Century, shortly after the death of the last Apostle. There are minor differences among fragments but it is certainly not correct to say that no two are alike.


They are mistaken. There are thousands of manuscripts, fragments, and pieces. I agree there are few that are “identical”. One of the oldest Greek manuscripts is a fragment from the early 100s AD. It contains just a few verses from John 18. Other fragments contain other verses, or entire chapters. Think of it like this, if you take 5,000 copies of the US Constitution, and you blow up a large drum of paint high above them. Each would be covered, destroyed, but differently. One would have one section, another would have half of one section and part of another. That is what we have of manuscripts.

In about 90-95% of the text with the same section, they all (90%+) agree with each other (aside from spelling errors).

There are differences in the manuscripts, and they break down into a few different categories (families). If you compare two manuscripts from the same family, they are **VERY ** alike. One family is pretty small (~50 or so) but they are mostly older manuscripts. The other family is HUGE, with thousands of manuscripts, though they mostly much younger (comparatively). (There are 2 other main families, but most scholars tend to believe the old minority or the young majority, and more or less ignore the side texts.


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