Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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We Have the Word of God!

Some are willing to concede the inspiration of the original manuscripts of scripture. They will say, “I believe that God inspired the writing of Paul when he penned his letters, BUT we don’t have the original manuscripts! Therefore there is no way we could have the actual, original message in an unadulterated state!” Is this true? I believe it is not.

First, logic demands the intervening hand of God’s providence. It stands to reason that if God revealed Himself to man, He would have a hand in the preservation of that will. We have touched on this in past articles.

Second, Jesus and his disciples labored under the same type of circumstances as we do with regard to copies and translations of the scriptures. And yet on numerous occasions our Lord quoted Old Testament, Hebrew scripture from a Greek translation, the Septuagint. And did so authoritatively, thus affirming that these were the words of God. One example is found in Matthew 15:7-9, where Jesus said to the Pharisees and Scribes, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “

Finally, to say that because there are no known existing original letters there can be no surety of the inspired message is to ignore the abundance of copies of these manuscripts that exist. Any student of textual criticism knows that the Bible is the most well documented of all ancient books. There are literally thousands of copies, some complete, some partial, of scripture. There are quotations that can be gleaned from the “church fathers”. Some of these copies of the scripture are very ancient. And, any mistakes that might have been made by a particular copyist on any particular copy can be winnowed out with very little difficulty by the volume, as well as the quality, of the remainder of witnesses.

As new discoveries are made, they bear out the accuracy of the text we have received. One example of such a discovery I relay to you in a quote from Neil Lightfoot’s book, How We Got the Bible:

5. John Rylands Fragment (P52). This is only a fragment (3.5 X 2.5 inches) and would hardly deserve mention except for the fact that it is the oldest known manuscript of any part of the New Testament. Written on both sides, it contains a few verses of the Gospel of John (John 18:31-33, 37, 38). It was originally obtained in 1920 by the famous papyrologist Dr. B. P. Grenfell, but it was sometime later before Mr. C.H. Roberts made positive identification of it. Acquired for the John Rylands Library of Manchester, England, it remains there today. As to its date, it is confidently assigned to the first half of the second century. How it could be wished that we had more than a fragment; yet it gives undeniable evidence on the circulation of John’s Gospel in Egypt, where it was found, only a few years after it was written. It forevermore answers the view once held that John’s Gospel was not written until the middle of the second century. Also, it is important to note that although this papyrus piece contains only a few verses, these verses from the second century are precisely like our text 1800 years later.

This is just one small, but telling example of many that could be offered. It is not our intention in this short article to explain the intricacies of textual criticism. However, the three points made are sufficient to give us confidence in the Bible text as we have it today. What we have, in truth, is the Word of God!