In my time studying the Bible some of the things I have learned is the Bible has been “transferred” and copied from its originals documents thousands of years ago. I have sometimes heard people make the following statements about the Bible:
The Bible is nothing but fiction!
The Bible is full of errors!
There’s no way that what we have in the Bible matches the original.
In my studies over the last couple of years I have been grateful to read and learn more about the field of study called, “textual criticism.”
Textual Criticism is a discipline that focuses on discovering what the original writings said. When describing New Testament textual criticism Daniel Wallace writes, “textual criticism is the study of the copies of any written document whose autograph (the original) is unknown or nonexistent, for the primary purpose of determining the exact wording of the original” (Interpreting the New Testament Text, edited by Darrell Bock and Buist Fanning, p. 33).
With this statement and definition of textual criticism it is important to note that there are different manuscripts of the Bible that contain different readings. Meaning, there are different wordings, different arrangements, and differences among the different biblical manuscripts that have survived over the years. However, among these differences very very few are significant differences. For example, most differences in the New Testament are different spellings of words (for example, John can be spelled Ιωαννης or Ιωανης), contractions and abbreviations, the and word order changing (Greek does not depend on the word order in sentences like English does). For some commentary on Old Testament textual criticism go here.
As an example of just one of the differences of the supposed “changes” in the New Testament is in Ephesians 2:8. Below I will examine the different pieces of evidence to determine which reading is authentic and what the significance might be for each.
Ephesians 2:8 Textual Criticism Problem
δια πισεως (text) vs. δια της πισεως (variant)
I. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE