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Christianity Has The Text Of The Bible Changed Over Centuries?


May 6, 2011
Croydon, London, England
Hey eveyone has a sikh i have respect for many religion and one of them is christianity. i would like to know has the bible been tampered with over the years?


BlazinSikh ji

I have deleted much of your opening statement because it opens the door to abuses of all kinds. We don't want to open the thread with the idea that the Bible is fake in any way. I know you did not mean that. Your basic question about "tampering" needs to be looked at a different way. It is better to ask, Have the texts of the Bible been altered over centuries? What are the reasons if that has in fact happened. Put this way you have a question that is open to research and responsible debate. So I hope you do not mind. I will post another article on this subject to give the discussion a more constructive start. Thank you, spnadmin.
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Quick Summary: A Moment of Truth

• Contrary to popular notions, even after 2000 years of recopying and translating, there is no evidence the New Testament has been altered.

• We have literally tens of thousands of pages of ancient New Testament copies. We have thousands of N.T. quotations in the writings of the early church Fathers. We have thousands of pages of ancient translations.

• Comparing all these documents side-by-side shows a nearly 100% agreement.

• No significant facts of history or theological doctrines have been corrupted over time.

• For all intents and purposes, we have the original New Testament.



Has the Bible Been Changed?

By Gregory Koukl

"The Bible has been changed and translated so many times over the last 2000 years, it's impossible to have any confidence in its accuracy. Everyone knows that."

This challenge has stopped countless Christians in their tracks. But it's remarkably easy to answer if you know a few simple details.

The complaint is understandable. Whisper a message from person to person, then compare the message's final form with the original. The radical transformation in so short a period of time is enough to convince the casual skeptic that the New Testament documents are equally unreliable.

How can we know the documents we have in our possession correctly reflect originals destroyed two millennia ago? Communication is never perfect. People make mistakes. Errors are compounded with each generation. After 2000 years, it's anyone's guess what the original said.

In cases like this, though, an appeal to common knowledge is usually an appeal to common ignorance; the people don't have reliable information. To prove this, always ask, "Have you studied how the ancient documents were handed down?" Be prepared for a blank stare. They haven't.

The question of authenticity can be answered by a simple appeal to facts.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

It's hard to imagine how one can reconstruct an original after 2000 years of copying, recopying, and translating. The skepticism, though, is based on two misconceptions about the textual history of ancient documents like the New Testament.

The first assumption is that the transmission is more or less linear-one person telling a second who talks with a third, etc., leaving a single message many generations removed from the original. Second, the objection assumes oral transmission which is more easily distorted and misconstrued than something written.

Neither assumption applies to the text of the New Testament. First, the transmission was not linear, but geometric-e.g., one letter birthed 50 copies which generated 500 and so on. Secondly, the transmission was done in writing, and written manuscripts can be tested in a way oral communications cannot.

Reconstructing Aunt Sally's Letter

Let me illustrate how such a test can be made. It will help you to see how scholars confidently reconstruct an original from existing manuscript copies even though the copies have differences and are much younger than the autograph.

Pretend your Aunt Sally learns in a dream the recipe for an elixir that preserves her youth. When she wakes up, she scribbles the directions on a scrap of paper, then runs to the kitchen to make up her first glass. In a few days Aunt Sally is transformed into a picture of radiant youth because of her daily dose of "Sally's Secret Sauce."

Aunt Sally is so excited she sends detailed, hand-written instructions on how to make the sauce to her three bridge partners (Aunt Sally is still in the technological dark ages-no photocopier or email). They, in turn, make copies for ten of their own friends.

All goes well until one day Aunt Sally's pet schnauzer eats the original copy of the recipe. In a panic she contacts her three friends who have mysteriously suffered similar mishaps, so the alarm goes out to the others in attempt to recover the original wording.

Sally rounds up all the surviving hand-written copies, twenty-six in all. When she spreads them out on the kitchen table, she immediately notices some differences. Twenty-three of the copies are exactly the same. Of the remaining three, however, one has misspelled words, another has two phrases inverted ("mix then chop" instead of "chop then mix") and one includes an ingredient none of the others has on its list.

Do you think Aunt Sally can accurately reconstruct her original recipe from this evidence? Of course she can. The misspellings are obvious errors. The single inverted phrase stands out and can easily be repaired. Sally would then strike the extra ingredient reasoning it's more plausible one person would add an item in error than 25 people would accidentally omit it.

Even if the variations were more numerous or more diverse, the original could still be reconstructed with a high level of confidence if Sally had enough copies.

This, in simplified form, is how scholars do "textual criticism," an academic method used to test all documents of antiquity, not just religious texts. It's not a haphazard effort based on hopes and guesses; it's a careful linguistic process allowing an alert critic to determine the extent of possible corruption of any work.

How Many and How Old?

Success depends on two factors. First, how many copies exist? Second, how old are the manuscripts?

If the numbers are few and the time gap wide between the original and the oldest copy, the autograph is harder to reconstruct. However, if there are many copies and the oldest are reasonably close in time to the original, the scholar can be more confident she's pinpointed the exact wording of the initial manuscript.

To get an idea of the significance of the New Testament manuscript evidence, note for a moment the record for non-biblical texts. These are secular texts from antiquity that have been reconstructed with a high degree of certainty based on available textual evidence.

Josephus' First Century document The Jewish War survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th Century-four centuries after they were written. Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome is one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages.[ii] Thucydides' History survives in eight copies. There are 10 copies of Caesar's Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus' History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original. Homer's Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.[iii]

Note that for most documents of antiquity only a handful of manuscripts exist, some facing a time gap of 800-2000 years or more. Yet scholars are confident they have reconstructed the originals with a high degree of accuracy. In fact, virtually all of our knowledge of ancient history depends on documents like these.

The Biblical Manuscript Evidence

The manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning by comparison. The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts. These are represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style).[iv]

Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries.[v]

Uncial manuscripts providing virtually complete New Testaments date back to the 4th Century and earlier. Codex Sinaiticus is dated c. 340.[vi] The nearly complete Codex Vaticanus is the oldest, dated c. 325-350.[vii] Codex Alexandrinus contains the whole Old Testament and a nearly complete New Testament and dates from the late 4th Century to the early 5th Century.

The most fascinating evidence comes from the fragments. The Chester Beatty Papyri contains most of the New Testament and is dated mid-3rd Century.[viii] The Bodmer Papyri II collection, whose discovery was announced in 1956, includes the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John and much of the last seven chapters. It dates from A.D. 200 or earlier.[ix]

The most amazing find of all, however, is a small portion of John 18:31-33, discovered in Egypt. Known as the John Rylands Papyri and barely three inches square, it represents the earliest known copy of any part of the New Testament. The papyri is dated on paleographical grounds at A.D. 117-138 (though it may even be earlier),[x] showing that the Gospel of John was circulated as far away as Egypt within 40 years of its composition.

Keep in mind that most papyri are fragmentary. Only about 50 manuscripts contain the entire New Testament. Even so, the manuscript textual evidence is exceedingly rich, especially when compared to other works of antiquity.

Ancient Versions and Patristic Quotations

Two other cross-checks on the accuracy of the manuscripts remain: ancient versions and citations by early church Fathers known as patristic quotations.

Early in the history of the Church, the Scriptures were translated into Latin. By the 3rd and 4th Centuries the New Testament had been translated into Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian, among others. These texts helped missionaries reach new cultures in their own language as the Gospel spread and the Church grew.[xi] Translations of the Greek manuscripts (called "versions") help modern-day scholars answer questions about the underlying Greek manuscripts.

In addition, there are ancient extra-biblical sources-catechisms, lectionaries, and quotes from the church fathers-that cite Scripture at great length. Bruce Metzger notes, amazingly, that "if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, [the patristic quotations] would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament."[xii]

The Verdict

What can we conclude from this evidence? Professor Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential-spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side-by-side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.[xiii]

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.[xiv]

Scholar D.A. Carson sums it up this way: "The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants."[xv]

This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason: If we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds, we'd have to reject every work of antiquity and declare null every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium, A.D.

Has the New Testament been changed? Critical, academic analysis says it has not.


Barnett, Paul, Is the New Testament History? (Ann Arbor: Vine Books, 1986), 45.

[ii]Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 405.

[iii]Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 34.

[iv]Geisler and Nix, 402.


[vi]Geisler and Nix, 392.

[vii]Ibid., 391.

[viii]Ibid., 389-390.

[ix]Metzger, 39-40.

[x]Geisler and Nix, 388.

[xi]Barnett, 44.

[xii]Metzger, 86.

[xiii]Wallace, Daniel, "The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?," Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June, 1991, 157-8.

[xiv]Geisler and Nix, 475.

[xv]Carson, D.A., The King James Version Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 56.

Distributed by www.worldviewweekend.com


Bahadar S

Nov 15, 2009
United States
We need to understand the fact that Hazrat Isa (Jesus Christ) did not write a single word of the Bible instead it was assembled by early Christian Clergy. Even afterwards they picked and chose what they wanted. I even read an article that said early chrisitans believed in reincarnation but was eventually taken out from the Bible! Their is also strong evidence that Jesus himself was a vegetarian, but is widely neglected by Christians deeming it false while they're still are a few Catholic priests that preach of following the path of vegetarianism.


May 22, 2011
The teachings of jesus chirst differ widely from the judaic/meditarrenean cultural and religious paradigm of the time. Jesus was talking about love, forgiveness and sharing when the torah(old testament) was talking about "an eye for an eye" and "the wrath and destruction of the lord". The teachings of jesus carry a HEAVY eastern/buddhist/hindu/tantric undertone which was very foregin in the meditarrenean culture of the time. It is true that jesus did not write anything, this again is a very eastern aproach and what is even more true is that jesus never had any intent to organize any religion or to start one. From my understanding rome and much of europe had many difirent shamanistic/mother goddes/earth based cults. Couple hundred years after the death of jesus the roman politicians/priesthood "compiled" a text and "organized" a religion with "jesus" being its founder/leader/prophet. It was after emperor constantines "conversion" to christianity that christianity became romes official religion which then went on to become the foundation for the christian roman empire/papacy(catholocisim)which goes down in history as the most violent and intolarent religion/empire. The "christian roman empire" eventually took over most of europe, destroyed the druidic/shamanistic/mother goddes cults and hunted down thousands of witches(a wise women,keepers of the ancient mysteries and secrets). After the conquering of europe and the "conversion" of the "pagans/heathens" to the teachings of christ, all of europe was plunged into a bloody dark age which lated a 1,000 years, in which half the population died (or some horrid amount like this). The once wise a knowledgable european peoples were turned into a fearfull and meek "christians".

Since jesus never uttered the word "christianity" or wrote anything(let alone a book), it begs the question as to WHO, WHY and HOW did the "new testament" become the world best selling book(100 million sold a week?) and how did "christianity" become the world largest religion(2 billion devotees).


Cleverness is not wisdom
May 2, 2010
A few very quick observations of the top of my head in no order as I should be studying!

1) What about the "Lost in Translation" scenario...it was originally in Greek and then translated into other languages? Just look at the different interpretations that are possible when translating individual lines from a Shabad....

2) I suspect our learned Professor is a devout Christian and has cast a favourable eye over the analysis that acknoweldges 300 000 variations yet all are somehow still 98%+ pure to the original Greek texts

3) This is a discussion about the "offical" NT and there is no mention of the fact that over the years, other Gospels were deliberately removed only to be rediscovered millennia later

4) There is no mention of the political and deliberate manipulation of the Scriptures. E.g the 2 Nicene Councils. It was the first council that sought to establish the divinity of Jesus and the Holy trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost

5) There is no mention of NT events by well know Greek historians of that time

6) Regardless of the authenticity of these Scriptures, there are that many denominations that contradict each other and view their individual interpretations as the proper ones with so much conflict and strife over these differences that really, I find the main premise of the article fairly irrelevant


Jul 12, 2011
Dear Admin:
I do not understand why my post was deleted? I was not proselytizing for any religion; simply trying to answer the question of the original poster, which I had previously found on the website I mentioned. How is that proselytizing? And why are other posters allowed to list websites, such as in post #2?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Ok I understand that now you have epxlained. Please do take my advice and search for specific articles, post them and include the url. I will remove the reprimand. Post number 2 lists web sites that are the source for the articles he posted. That is a good model for what to do. Thanks.

Looks as if the reprimand did not post or was removed.


May 10, 2010
Ancient Greece
If we talk in layman terms, Yes, the Bible is not the same it used to be centuries ago. It was refined and organised into the present day form. The Christian scholars met over and over again to exclude the disputed texts or the 'Apocrypha' before the Biblical cannon was declared 'closed' and this closed all doors for further rectification or tempering. Though history suggests that, much later in time, Reformists like Martin Luther tried to exclude the books of 'John I and II', 'Revelation' etc. from the present day Bible but ware unsuccessful.
Today, most of the churches accept more or less the same draft of the Bible with minor differences between them. This is a brilliant example of Christian brotherhood, that there aren't any major differences among the church with respect to the draft of the Bible up to the present times. I wonder if the Sikh Panth could do the same in the case of the Dasam Granth and other disputes. Let's see!


Jul 12, 2011
Here is just one article that writes about the reliability of the Bible:

Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?
by Rich Deem

Many skeptics believe that the Bible has been drastically changed over the centuries. In reality, the Bible has been translated into a number of different languages (first Latin, then English and other languages, see History of the Bible). However, the ancient manuscripts (written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) have been reliably copied over the centuries - with very few alterations.

Old Testament
How do we know the Bible has been kept in tact for over 2,000 years of copying? Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament was the Masoretic text, dating around 800 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date to the time of Jesus and were copied by the Qumran community, a Jewish sect living around the Dead Sea. We also have the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating in the second century B.C. When we compare these texts which have an 800-1000 years gap between them we are amazed that 95% of the texts are identical with only minor variations and a few discrepancies.

New Testament
There are tens of thousands of manuscripts from the New Testament, in part or in whole, dating from the second century A.D. to the late fifteenth century, when the printing press was invented. These manuscripts have been found in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, making collusion unlikely. The oldest manuscript, the John Rylands manuscript, has been dated to 125 A.D. and was found in Egypt, some distance from where the New Testament was originally composed in Asia Minor. Many early Christian papyri, discovered in 1935, have been dated to 150 A.D., and include the four gospels. The Papyrus Bodmer II, discovered in 1956, has been dated to 200 A.D., and contains 14 chapters and portions of the last seven chapters of the gospel of John. The Chester Beatty biblical papyri, discovered in 1931, has been dated to 200-250 A.D. and contains the Gospels, Acts, Paul's Epistles, and Revelation. The number of manuscripts is extensive compared to other ancient historical writings, such as Caesar's "Gallic Wars" (10 Greek manuscripts, the earliest 950 years after the original), the "Annals" of Tacitus (2 manuscripts, the earliest 950 years after the original), Livy (20 manuscripts, the earliest 350 years after the original), and Plato (7 manuscripts).

Manuscript Evidence for Ancient Writings
<table> <thead><tr><th>Author</th><th>Written</th><th>Earliest Copy</th><th>Time Span</th><th># Mss.</th></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td>Caesar</td><td>100-44 B.C.</td><td>900 A.D.</td><td>1,000 yrs</td><td>10</td></tr><tr><td>Plato</td><td>427-347 B.C.</td><td>900 A.D.</td><td>1,200 yrs</td><td>7</td></tr><tr><td>Thucydides</td><td>460-400 B.C.</td><td>900 A.D.</td><td>1,300 yrs</td><td>8</td></tr><tr><td>Tacitus</td><td>100 A.D.</td><td>1100 A.D.</td><td>1,000 yrs</td><td>20</td></tr><tr><td>Suetonius</td><td>75-160 A.D.</td><td>950 A.D.</td><td>800 yrs</td><td>8</td></tr><tr><td>Homer (Iliad)</td><td>900 B.C.</td><td>400 B.C.</td><td>500 yrs</td><td>643</td></tr><tr><td>New Testament</td><td>40-100 A.D.</td><td>125 A.D.</td><td>25-50 yrs</td><td>24,000</td></tr></tbody></table>

Thousands of early Christian writings and lexionaries (first and second century) cite verses from the New Testament. In fact, it is nearly possible to put together the entire New Testament just from early Christian writings. For example, the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (dated 95 A.D.) cites verses from the Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. The letters of Ignatius (dated 115 A.D.) were written to several churches in Asia Minor and cites verses from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. These letters indicate that the entire New Testament was written in the first century A.D. In addition, there is internal evidence for a first century date for the writing of the New Testament. The book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul in prison, awaiting trial (Acts 28:30-31(1)). It is likely that Luke wrote Acts during this time, before Paul finally appeared before Nero. This would be about 62-63 A.D., meaning that Acts and Luke were written within thirty years of ministry and death of Jesus. Another internal evidence is that there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Although Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus' prophecy that the temple and city would be destroyed within that generation (Matthew 24:1-2(2),Mark 13:1-2(3), Luke 21:5-9,20-24,32(4)), no New Testament book refers to this event as having happened. If they had been written after 70 A.D., it is likely that letters written after 70 A.D. would have mentioned the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy. As stated by Nelson Glueck, former president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and renowned Jewish archaeologist, "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D."

With all of the massive manuscript evidence you would think there would be massive discrepancies - just the opposite is true. New Testament manuscripts agree in 99.5% (5) of the text (compared to only 95% for the Iliad). Most of the discrepancies are in spelling and word order. A few words have been changed or added. There are two passages that are disputed but no discrepancy is of any doctrinal significance (i.e., none would alter basic Christian doctrine). Most Bibles include the options as footnotes when there are discrepancies. How could there be such accuracy over a period of 1,400 years of copying? Two reasons: The scribes that did the copying had meticulous methods for checking their copies for errors. 2) The Holy Spirit made sure we would have an accurate copy of God's word so we would not be deceived. The Mormons, theological liberals as well as other cults and false religions such as Islam that claim the Bible has been tampered with are completely proven false by the extensive, historical manuscript evidence.

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