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The Value of the Bible Documents

April 13, 2018


Let's look at the documents which lie behind the Bibles that we hold in our hands. We all know our Bible are copies of translations made from the original texts. Well let’s examine the textual history for a moment.  The two texts in the photographs are two uncial codexes from antiquity. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus are placed beside one another in the British Library in London. 

                                                                      Codex Sinaiticus 


                                                                  Codex Alexandrinus


Codex Sinaiticus represents the oldest conplete copy of the Bible. There are other manuscripts that are earlier containing portions of the text of the New Testament, but this codex is the earliest example we have of the full text of the Bible dating from 350 AD. So Codex Sinaiticus is the first complete Bible that we have available. Its pages are gradually being photographed and digitalized so all can have access to the contents. All who can read Koine Greek that is.


The same is true of Codex Alexandrinus. This too is an uncial Greek text dated around  400 AD consisting of the complete text of the Bible. The text of these two codexes are written in Greek capital letters and those letters are not separated by word breaks. They consist of a continuous line of letters line by line.  These two codexes and documents like them are invaluable. They enable the textual experts to piece together the text of the Bibnle line upon line.  There is no book existent in the world that has more physical proof of the veracity of its text than the Bible. In my God’s Awesome Book seminar between 2000 and 2010 I used to tell audiences that there were 13.000+ documents which backed up the readings of the Bible. That is no longer true. Daniel Wallace who heads up The Center for The Study of the NT Manuscripts and his team have found up to 30,000 manuscripts of the New Testament text. They are working toward having all of the manuscripts digitalized. 


A conservative estimate suggests the Bible had been collated between 55 dan 95 AD. Many textual authorities belief the Bible was compiled as early as 75 AD. However we will stick to the conservative estimate. The earliest copies Christendom holds date from 130 AD for one complete book and from 350 AD for the entire Bible. That gives a relatively short time span between the autograph (the original) and the copies and furthermore we have close to 30,000 copies.



Let’s compare those facts with the details in the picture above.


There are 10 copies of Julius Caesar’s writings dated to 1000 years after Caesar wrote.  Can we be certain that we have the text of the writings Julius Caesar?

What about the writings of Plato, Pliny, Suetonius, Thucydides and Aristoteles. No one doubts that we have their writings! But we have only eight copies at best or just five copies in the case of Aristotle. This is amazing. Take note of the intervening years between when the writer wrote his work and the earliest copies available. Then compare that with the facts surrounding the support for the Bible. Seventy five years for a book and 230 years for the whole.  Whereas for other famous writers from antiquity there are 1,000 intervening years in the case of  Caesar, and between 750 and 1,400 years in the case of the other notable writers. And critics says we can’t trust the Bible. Well if we can’t trust the text of the Bible, we should throw out the works of the above notables as not worth the parchment they are written on.


Look at the example of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher. 1400 years between when he wrote and the time we hold the most ancient copy of his work and there are only 5 copies of his work in existence. Does anyone doubt that we have the writings of Aristoteles? No, of course not. Does anyone doubt we have the words of Plato, Caesar, Homer – the Illyad and the Odessey? No! Then why do they question the veracity of the text of the Bible? There is no other work on the face of the earth that is as well attested to than the Bible. We really do hold the proof of the text of the Bible and what’s more, the documents supporting the Bible have all been kept and preserved unlike some religious works I could mention.



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