Hi everyone. How do we know that the Bible we have today is accurate and close to the original manuscripts? :shrug: I could really some information such as this to help in my debate with skeptics of the Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are proof that scripture has been accurately copied to about a 99.5% degree. The scrolls contain fragments of nearly every book in the Old Testament.
The few errors are mostly spelling and minor errors that have no bearing on teachings.
I’m sure someone else will come along with more of the specifics for you, but the Bible is comfortably the most accurate document from antiquity that we possess. There are more copies of Scripture closer to the date of composition than any other ancient document by a landslide. It’s not even close.
Lee Strobel (a Protestant) wrote a great book The Case for Christ which addresses the reliability of Scripture in one of its’ chapters. I’m sure there’s some Catholic apologetics website that has basically the same info, but I can’t seem to locate it at the moment.
I guess we don’t, and never will know with absolute certainty, because we no longer have the originals. All we can do is make the best use of what remains of the ancient (but not original) manuscripts. For that we have to rely on the professional judgement of competent scholars and the Faith of the Church.
The Council of Trent, without saying anything about the Greek or Hebrew, did unequivocally state that the Latin Vulgate was free from moral or doctrinal error. To some that means that it, and it alone, is absolutely correct and free of any error whatsoever. But these probably forget that the Council also ordered a revision of the then current Vulgate, to remove any errors that had crept in over the ages. So in the absence of St. Jerome’s original version, the scholars of the day did the best they could with whatever editions they had available to them, as well as, of course, the writings of the Fathers and other important “witnesses”. The resulting text we know as the Clementine Vulgate.
Since that time, however, older manuscripts have come to light that help to build a better picture of what the originals said or might have said, even though we still cannot say with absolute certainty that we have succeeded in reconstructing the original text. Also, some other – non biblical – texts have since given us a better knowledge of the original languages, which helps us to better interpret the often obscure “original” texts. None of this would have been possible at the time of Trent.
But what is meant by “accurate” ?
If your standard is the Vulgate, then the Jerusalem and New American bibles are not accurate. But if your standard is the Greek or Hebrew – by the collection of manuscripts we have – then they probably are, even if they are not absolutely literal. The Clementine Vulgate is not accurate when measured against the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts we now have, but it is still free from moral or doctrinal error, as the Council of Trent so confidently stated. Today’s bibles are too, which is why we have the imprimatur – human error notwithstanding, of course.
But bibles can be so literally accurate that we can’t make any sense of it. Taking the old Vulgate again: at times it makes no sense whatsoever, probably because St. Jerome couldn’t make any sense of it either. In that sense it is probably inaccurate, but these creative misreadings have led to some wonderful and very true mystical interpretations by the Fathers and medieval writers.
As Catholics we do not rely on one or two verses in isolation, we look at them in their context, in relation to other parts of the bible, and most importantly the Faith of the Church. We do not rely solely on our own interpretations, but on those of our ancestors in the two thousand year history of the Church, and the long history of the Jewish people before that. And in our never-ending quest for a better understanding of the scriptures, we have also been helped by our separated brethren in the churches that came out of the Reformation.
In your previous thread you mention a muslim friend. As you know, Muhammad (pbuh) frequently mentions the Taurat (Torah) and Injeel (Gospels). You might reassure him with the knowledge that our scholars also make use of Arabic translations to help in understanding the scriptures. As a muslim he also has the prophet Isa (Jesus, our Lord), son of Maryam (Mary). We both worship the one and only God, even if neither of us can honestly say we understand the mystery of the Trinity. And at this time of the year we can perhaps share the joy of the Nativity, which also occurs in a different version in a at least one surat of the Qur’an – and why not share a box of dates at the same time.
It is a sign of Divine Providence that despite the misreadings, copying errors, typographical errors, and so on, our Bible has remained free from doctrinal or moral error. And even if an error does occasionally happen, it is immediately corrected in a dozen other places.
But what about the New Testament? :shrug:
Ok, but how do we know that those individual ancient manuscripts are actually close to the originals? :shrug:
\Ok, but how do we know that those individual ancient manuscripts are actually close to the originals?\
**What reason do you have to believe they are NOT actualy close?
Holly, if you’re as close to losing your faith, as you frequently claim you are, there are some technical subjects you should not be concerned with.
This is one of them.
Suffice it to say, something that ALL denominations of Christianity (from Bulgarian Orthodox to Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Double Predestinatarian Seventh-Day Baptists) agree upon: the 27 books of the New Testament in the form we have them today.
Doesn’t this tell you something?**
These are good questions to ask, as we would never want to base our Faith as Catholics on false or ‘corrupted’ information. Unfortunately, it is those who make these false claims that have the false & corrupted information.
**Scholars all over the world accept writings like Homer’s Illiad, written in 800BC with the oldest existing manuscripts dating from 200 AD, a gap of over 1000 years. There are only 65 manuscripts, yet no scholar ever questions the authenticity of the Illiad.
The New Testament was written from 50 to 110AD, with existing manuscripts or partial manuscripts dating from before 400 AD (scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/manuscripts.html), no where near 1000 year gap of the Illiad. There are over 5700 documented NT manuscripts or partial manuscripts existing today, which have been scrutinized by Clerics & academic scholars for nearly 2000 years, yet the manuscripts match 99.5%. **
As mentioned in the other thread, the Dead Sea Scrolls, a recent discover also match over 99%.
While translations can vary in their accuracy compared to the original languages, the teachings of the Catholic Church on matters of Faith & Morals have never changed. That is why Jesus left Peter & his successors to guide the Church!
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Mt 16:18)
So Holly, don’t be discouraged by those who cast doubt on the Truth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ as witnessed in Sacred Scripture, the Teaching of the Church & Sacred Tradition.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Mt 7:15). Even the great Saints had doubts at times, but they trusted in the Mercy of the Lord!
Continue to ask questions & seek out the Truth! Take your doubts to prayer & be patient, do not act hastily but allow time to learn the Truth!
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!
We believe it is accurate because the Church validates it. The Church, not the Bible, is the authority.
18* And I tell you, you are Peter, * and on this rock * I will build my church, and the powers of death * shall not prevail against it. 19* I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:18 The Commission is to go and teach, not to write a book, and promised to be with them to keep their teaching true.
18* And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19* Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20* teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
This was answered in your previous thread here:
Actually, You can check it against the Codex Vaticanus, one of the oldest and most respected extant manuscripts of the Greek Bible (Old and New Testament) so you can check them word for word if you like. It has been made available on-line here: orthodoxwiki.org/Codex_Vaticanus. Also there are the 1st century manuscripts found in the Dead Sea scrolls. They are fragile and so are only available to legitimate scholars with the proper training for handling such irreplaceable relics.
I’d just like to correct a false impression I may have given:
*]There is no evidence that the bible has ever been deliberately corrupted, and certainly not on a grand scale. The suggestion that it has been is not based on evidence (the Qur’an is not evidence, just as the bible isn’t evidence to non-Christians). If Christians of all people had corrupted their own scriptures, Christianity would have died out a long time ago.
*]There is nothing to suggest that the bible we have is not accurate. If anything, it is probably as accurate as it ever has been. The suggestion that any version of the scriptures could have validated Islamic interpretations of the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity is itself wildly inaccurate.
We all need to talk to each other, and understand each other’s beliefs and traditions, but don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries: you don’t have to let everything you hold dear be attacked and demolished before your eyes, because that doesn’t show mutual respect.
Taking another slant.
How do we know the originals (which we don’t have) were the ONLY inspired text? Perhaps the Spirit continued to work through those who copied the scripture and the version that was available at the time when the canon was determined or at the time of the council of trent was the Inspired Scripture that God wanted placed before his people.
It is the Church that is protected from Error, not the Scripture. The Church stands behind the scripture and that is why we accept it, not because the scripture defines the Church.
If more apostolic writings were found today, they would have no standing if the Church did not declare them inspired.
You know, I never really thought of that. I suppose it’s possible that copies of the originals were inspired as well. Or maybe the apostles made copies of their originals?
The Apostles probably didn’t write or copy anything at all - with the exception of St. Matthew and St. Paul the first-generation Apostles were laborers, not scholars. In that era writing was a specialized skill and everyone (rabbis, government officials, etc) used scribes to transcribe their spoken words.
Interestingly to your point, however, is that the story of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus and the Apostles knew and quoted) involved an inspired/protected translation. (70 - or 72 - men working individually coming up with identical translations-the term “70” giving the name to the translation.) So the idea of an “inspired translation” is not unique to Christianity. Of course many Protestants believe that the KJV translators were protected/inspired, and some Cathlolics regard Jerome’s Vulgate as inspired as well (although the fact that the Church has repeatedly revised that translation speaks to the fact that the Church is NOT obsessed with the literal-word-by-word-inerrancy issue).
The preservation of the integrity of the text is hugely important to the scribes who copy Torah scrolls, which are hand-written to this day. It’s a fascinating topic to read about if you’re interested.
Agnostic Conversation with the Boss:
I was insulted, invalidated, corrected for my naiveite, regarding the belief in the validity and authenticity of the Bible. ‘It was man, not God, who wrote the Bible’, he said. In response, I wrote a two page rebuttal giving scripture, personal testimony, court case scripts, and more, to give credence to my case. I was very disturbed that someone would actually have the ordasity to step forward to push their agnostic cynicism upon me expecting that my faith would be so weak as to comply.
Just as I waited for the right time to give it to him a smile came over my face when Gods Words came over me, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;” 1 Corinthins 1:27. So let them believe that the ordinary man hap-hazzardly put this book together.
‘Using the foolish to confound the wise’, yes, let the common man create the masterpiece. How wonderful and blessed the result is, however. For thousands of years many have realized the perfect harmony between the Old & New Testaments, the fulfilled prophecies, the incredible parables given by our Lord answering, not only the immediate questions, but your future questions as well, Isaiah 53, End Times Prophecy currently evident.
Who or what group of people could come up with stories of such epoch proportion, its absolutely fantastic? 6 Days creating all existence, creating 1 Day of Rest that we, who were made in His likeness, could bond with Him, 10 unbelievable plagues directed only to an Egyptian population and its leader for the sole purpose of releasing an enslaved Hebrew people for to worship their Maker. A virgin giving birth to the Son of God determined to replace animal sacrifices with His own bloodshed providing eternal salvation for His Human Creation.
‘Using the foolish to confound the wise’, yes. Look at Moshe (Moses)! A man not considered wise who studdered, a man with no social graces, a man likened to a fool. A fool who confounded the so-called wise, the Pharaoh, in those days considered god on earth.
Yes, let it be said that the insignificant man wrote the book that hold’s the #1 position in the top 10 book charts for the past 2000 years. You who scoff, enjoy your laughter at the Believers expense even while Messiahs return is evident and soon, making intercessory prayer for you, most likely, your only hope. However, our hope is on its way.
Because Jerome spend many years studing the old Jewish texts and comparing with what was available in his day.