Transcriptual evidence that the Gospels have not changed over time

Actually this really isnt evidence. It Is PROOF. This is not my work. It was taken from another website. It shows a powerful truth and a reason to not worry if we have an accurate portrayal of Jesus or not. I have maintained in other threads that there is no evidence whatever that the Bible that we have has been changed over the years. Here are some examples of surviving manuscripts which have been found over the years that virtually exactly mirror the Bible that we have today, included is their date of origin. Not included here are even older works that have been found but that we only have fragments of, but these fragments of these even OLDER copies that we have are still the same as what we find in the Bible today.

Codex Vaticanus (AD 325-350) – this is preserved in the Vatican library and contains almost the entire Bible
Codex Sinaiticus (AD 350) – This contains all of the New Testament and half of the Old Testament and is safely kept in the British Museum
Codes Alexandrinus (AD 400) – Also kept in the British Museum and contains the while Bible
Codes Ephraemi (400s AD) – kept in the National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale) in Paris. It contains all of the New Testament except 2nd Thessalonians and 2nd John.
Codes Bezae (AD 450) – This is kept in the Cambridge University Library and it preserves the gospels in both Greek and Latin

There are also been some findings that are even older and written at the time of Jesus’s death. The most important discovery of New Testament manuscripts is called:
The Bodmer Papyrus 11 – dated to be between 150-200 AD and contains all of the New Testament books
The Chester Beatty Papyri (200 AD) – Kept in Dublin University but owned in part by Michigan University, these manuscripts contain large portions of the New Testament

These has also been findings of the New Testament that is not written in Greek. They are commonly written in either Syriac or Latin and these translations have been made roughly around 150 AD. There were also other manuscripts and translations written around the world by various monks, bishops and apostles in various other languages.
The Codex Corbiensis (400-500 AD) – contains all the four gospels still intact word for word
The Coptic and Egyptian scripts – these are believed to have been translation around 200 AD and contains the New Testament
The Palestinian Syriac – dated to be around 350 AD, it is recorded by a disciple of the Apostle John into Syriac for Phioloxenas the bishop of Mabug

Actually…your list there illustrates that there has indeed been numerous changes in the manuscripts along the way.

The earliest manuscripts-- Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, for example–don’t include that pivotal, plot-changing ending of Mark 16: 9-20 that begins when Jesus appears to Mary after dying…
…and the famous “Pericope Adulterae” scene–the adulterous woman in John 7:53-8:11-- does not appear in any of the gospel manuscripts until the last one on your list, the Codex Bezae.

Those are just two of many, many other additions, omissions, and changes between all the copies you have listed here.
If you check various encyclopedia or biblical text/history books for the details, it should list them all.

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My opinion is that making faith contingent on the transcription abilities of man would be detrimental.

At some point, you’ll find changes (as pointed out above) or as scholarship improves or discoveries are made, we’ll find changes in the future.

While the extant of different ancient copies alone do not necessarily prove the veracity of the bible , the distinction among different copies dont necessarily deny the veracity of the Gospels either. Different copy versions could simply reveal copy errors or missing text. For example , you cite the Longer Ending missing from the Codex Vaticanus. We know that Early Church Fathers quoted from the Longer Version of Mark. Does this necessarily mean Codex Vaticanus is in error? No because of the Early Church Fathers citations, many scholars believe the Codex Vaticanus copy is not necessarily wrong or that other copies “added” the Longer Ending, but rather Codex Vaticanus simply has missing text.

As for the Longer Version of Mark leading to a plot change, I can hardly agree if you compare it to the other Gospels. If there was only Mark, perhaps, but not in the context of the Matthew, and Luke particularly.

When you consider Church Tradition including Early Church Fathers, you can then more fully understand the truth.

Not certain what it all “means”…but just letting the OP know that the texts she did list do indeed differ from each other in many ways–a very different situation than what she was trying to show.
He took his info off a website so I’m guessing she didn’t have a chance to study the manuscripts in more detail anywhere else…
Since these are the oldest copies we have, they are what we have to go on.
It’s difficult–probably impossible–for us to know for sure why they are different.
It’s possible in the cases of the two examples that I mentioned that those passages were added in a century later by creative scribes who thought they were good stories with good messages, but they didn’t happen.
It’s possible that they did happen but were not included for some reason at first.
It’s possible other early copies have them and they don’t exist any more.
It’s possible scribes made mistakes.
There are a lot of possibilities and, unfortunately, we can’t know for sure.

It does surprise me, though, that for a book considered so vitally important to the religion…someone did not take more care to insure the very first copies stayed intact and safe somewhere.
But again…perhaps they tried.
Perhaps we will dig up a jar full of the originals in years to come…that would be very helpful!

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Sure yes, but the real point is that who Jesus claimed to be and was is not changed in the slightest. Which is a common charge. And we have VERY early letters of Paul which significantly predate the earliest copies of the Gospels that we have which re-affirm the deity of Jesus and that He died for our sins and was resurrected. But I do appreciate what you posted. I read a book once called “Who Changed The Bible and Why.” I don’t remember who wrote it, or even many specifics but I did remember walking away from it without my Faith touched in the slightest. Actually it re-affirmed it. If those are the differences in question, then I rest very easy in my faith. And it is striking that they are virtually the same Gospels as we have now given the method that they used to transcribe them.

Thanks Robert. Those are good points.

That would indeed be helpful :slight_smile:

As to the first point, nobody really understood the value of these documents. At least not in the way that we do today. People did not know that these particular stories were someday going to be combined into a text which we now call the Bible. Some Churches had some copies and, likely, some Churches had none. And there were apocryphal Gospels floating around, which further complicated matters. And I doubt they had the sense to really fully understand how much the original copies would have mattered to us today. From their vantage point the Church was growing rapidly and, quite honestly, this was happening with and without the Gospels. But the Church was growing and people were making copies after copies. So long as this was happening, they probably wouldn’t have been overly concerned with the exact originals.

But look, the important thing here is that we know that the early Christians did not believe that Jesus was anything other than divine and that only later Christians believed this because the Gospels were changed to paint a different picture of Jesus. Theres simply no reason (objectively) to believe that this happened.

Oh…I don’t think that is correct, actually.
The Ebonites, for example, is one early major Christian group that did not believe Jesus to be divine. They claimed to have based their views on the beliefs and words of original disciples, specifically Peter and James.

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If you like, I have quoted an Extract on the Historical Accuracy of the Gospels from the book “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. (It may seem like alot to read, but you can’t fit much in a post, so it really isn’t much reading, it’s only 3 pages in the book :)).

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Also I really liked this article on CAF if your interest ‘The Evidence is on Our Side’ and ‘Are the Gospels Myth?’

Another thing I believe is significant to consider, we are currently in the year 2014 A.D. … Anno Domini, After the Incarnation, After the birth of Jesus Christ.

Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon him, A.D. (Anno Domini, After the Incarnation/birth of Christ) or B.C. (Before Christ).

Can faithless, rebellious, atheistic, unbelieving men and women possibly say that Jesus Sacrifice at the hands of His executioners was not true, so that they could unleash their rage against Him? No one can possibly deny it and prove their denial. And why do you believe He did so? No one dies for anyone who is not intensely loved.

God Bless.

Thank you for reading
Josh

I believe the truly important question to ask here, is, do you really mean ‘unfortunately’ or deep down ‘fortunately’?

I believe vision never comes to those who deep down don’t really wish to see (Metaphorically speaking :)).

Thank you for reading
Josh

Anybody can claim such a thing. Of course all sorts of people will claim all sorts of things. All we can do is look at the evidence.

Did the Ebonites allow themselves to willingly be martyred to death for their beliefs of which they were witnesses to? We have four sources in the Gospels written by people who either knew Jesus or had a close relationship with those who knew Jesus. What sort of documentary evidence do we have in favor of the Ebonite view?

Oh, no…I mean unfortunately. It would be so good to know these facts for sure so that we can all be clearer on all and not keep wondering, debating, arguing…
Don’t you think?

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I do think most people believe the cruxifiction really happened, and that includes many Atheists. I think most agree he existed, he was arrested, and he was crucified along with the others convicted that day and sentenced to the same fate.
It’s just those details in-between the basics that are murky and unknowable!
But I do think many say the above three events most likely happened.

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Very challenging considering the circumstances of first century Christianity but does show IMO the relative importance God placed on the living Church who preached the Gospel before a single NT writing ever existed. The testimony of the Scriptures and canon themselves testify to this truth. A discovery similar to the dead sea scrolls involving the NT writings would doubtless not change anything theologically but would be interesting for sure.
Texts were circulated more among widespread congregations vs. individuals in which the texts were used not for intellectual ends but as practical instruments of a variety of religious purposes within a complicated situation of Christian groups that spoke both Greek and latin as well as Syrian and Coptic. There is no justification for an a priori discrimination between scriptural and non scriptural texts since a) the scriptural canon had not yet been determined and b) because the methods of producing and circulating texts were the same for all texts. Paul’s envisioned the circulation of some of his letters e.g. Galatians is addressed “to the churches of Galatia” including several communities in a particular region. Possible means could have included a) having the letter carrier proceed from one congregation to the next reading the letter or having it read to each, b) Paul might of had enough copies made for one to be carried to each of the communities he had in view and left there or possibly c) Paul may have wanted the carrier to take the letter to several Galatian communities and have each of them make and retain a copy. Obviously we don’t know what exact method was used but one of the had to have been used. Similarly Romans addressed to “all God’s beloved in Rome” (1:7) was directed to different house churches in the city. It is likely copies were made. By the end of the first century Christian churches had been established across Greece, Italy, Jerusalem, Asia Minor, Syria, Alexandria, Ephesus, Antioch, Philippi, Corinth and soon after in Egypt, North Africa and Gaul. They all possessed an awareness of their collective identity as the ecclesia katholike and frequently communicated which provided an ideal environment to disseminate texts. All of this led to the gradual accumulation of Christian literature in certain centers and the birth of Christian libraries.

Yes, anybody can claim anything, that’s for sure…but the same can be said and would be true for the claims of the other early Christian groups at the time, too–including the one whose books ended up being the ones included in the canon.

I don’t know if there were Ebonite-Christian martyrs…there may have been many, but we will never know about them because from what I’ve read, most of their books were banned and destroyed and their deeds snuffed out. I imagine once their sect of Christianity was pushed aside–and this is after a few centuries of people following it, as I understand it–there were many who tried to secretly stay with their beliefs and hide their sacred scriptures…and were killed for it.
The people who hid their banned scriptures in clay pots and buried them for us to dig up and find nearly 2000 years later…I admire how they were trying to speak to the future, to tell us something, to show us who they were and what they believed…how they attempted to keep their voices and hearts from being completely destroyed.
Like that monk who was buried with those early gospels that were not included in the canon.

But…re the martyr question enough evidence to show a person’s belief is “true”. After all, we do have people dying for their belief of wacky cult leaders…terrorists dying for their belief that they are doing God’s work by murdering…people going on hunger strikes and starving themselves for their beliefs…and yet, it doesn’t actually mean the person’s belief or cause is true and good.

All we can really say is that it means the person believes them to be true.

A person’s belief can be very strong, for several reasons.The brain and mind can convince itself of anything if it needs or wants to…and those feelings can be strong enough to die for–even if the belief is not a true one.

There exists martyrs for many religions, including christianity, judaism, hinduism, sikhism, etc.
If having martyrs means the belief is the true and correct one, then the four religions above, among others, are all the true and correct one.

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I’ve never taken the martydom argument to be evidence that a religion was true. Rather, it is evidence that the religion was not dishonestly fabricated by its founders or disciples. They truly believe it. The apostles of Jesus have been accused of “making it up.” The fact they were willing to die suggests they may not have made it up on their own, but had accepted their teachings as true.

The question that does rise in my mind, and it is similar to what you have said, is that there are individuals who wind up seemingly dying for their religion who may not have really believed in it, or who did fabricate it. We might cite Rev. Jim Jones without much danger of contradiction. But what he died for was not as a martyr to his faith, but as an escape from persecution or prosecution. Also, he had some mental and psychopharmical problems, from what I have read.

Another alleged martyr who may not have been a martyr for his fabricated faith, died as the result of putting himself in harm’s way after being pressured to do so by his brother and supporters. They said it would be better all the way around for everyone, and he would come to no harm. Apparently, he believed them. He died (unwillingly) as a result.

Reading from Wiki

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebionites

“Since historical records by the Ebionites are scarce, fragmentary and disputed, much of what is known or conjectured about the Ebionites derives from the Church Fathers, who wrote polemics against the Ebionites, whom they deemed heretical Judaizers. Consequently, very little about the Ebionite sect or sects is known with certainty, and most, if not all, statements about them are conjectural.”

and

“Some scholars argue that they contributed to the development of the Islamic view of Jesus due to exchanges of Ebionite remnants with the first Muslims.”

From what I have read so far, there does not seem to be a claim of connection with any of the original apostles although they were reported to revere James the Just.

Can I ask in your imagination Daddygirl, who is it that killed them?

I’ve imagined myself in an environment where my religious faith was under attack, I was about to be discovered and taken to the gallows. I hold in my hands my special scripture. I hide it. Why do I hide it? In hopes of getting to it later, and out of respect for its sacredness, so it will not be destroyed by evil people. But I would not hide it for future generations. I might hide it for my children. Whatever the material was, excepting a hard metal, I would not expect it to last very long, not centuries let alone millennia.

But were there Christians of any stripe 2000 years ago who actually were that far-seeing, who actually expected the world to last another 2000 years, who determined that no matter what happened to them or their nations they were going to put a copy of their scriptures in a meridian of time time-capsule for us to find 2000 years later - just in case no other copies survived? How likely is that? Is something like that on record as having happened? I would hope so, but my hope diminishes year by year.

I have often wished we would find some unknown writing, by an apostle or by Jesus himself, telling us more about the life of Jesus. That would sure be a help for people alive today. Although we’ll know as much as we desire to learn, shortly, as we go to that same place where he is now.

:slight_smile:

Yup, but may I ask, what do you believe would be convincing enough evidence?

:thumbsup:

May I ask what the in-between bits are that are murky and unknowable?

I have run into a few that doubt even that and others who outright reject it. Who go so far to say that ‘Jesus’ never existed nor many of the others mentioned in the Gospels.

May I ask, if you were living in around 33 A.D. around the death of Christ, say you were one of Christ’s disciples, what would you do to give as much evidence to future generations as you could that these things did actually happen and that Jesus was who he said he was?

God Bless

Thank you for reading
Josh

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