New Testament: Transmission Of Text.

There was actually a long dark tunnel period between the writings of the NT (New Testament) writings and them being treated as Holy Writ.

The first earliest papyri is Rylands P52 dated ca. l40 AD but this only has just 6 verses of John. In fact the first complete MSS of the NT are 4th century (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). All NT writings were apparently written in Greek - not the language that Palestinian Jews would have used. There was clearly tampering with the text in this tunnel period - The 4th cent. Church historian Eusebius admits this was so - H.E. 29.6-7. The differences between the Byzantine, Alexandrian and Caesarean texts show copyists changed the text (eg. Acts 2:l7 in the Western text).

The 3rd cent Christian writer Origen condemned those Christians for "their depraved audacity" in changing the text and Jerome told Pope Damascus of the "numerous errors" that had arisen in the texts through attempted harmonising.

In 1707 John Mill of Oxford listed 30,000 variants in the different N.T texts and at the beginning of this century with further discoveries of manuscripts, the scholar Hermann von Soden listed some 45,000 variants in the N.T texts illustating how they were altered. Even in the one 4th cent Codex Sinaiticus containing all the N.T, Professor Tishendorf the discoverer, noted that it had been altered by at least three different scribes.

Therefore this shows the present-day Bible is not a "inerrant copy" of the original writings, and secondly cannot be "God's inspired word" as presumably if this were so, he would have ensured such alterations could not have been made. Christians try and escape from this by saying the variants are of no importance; however, this is simply not so, eg. the variants at Matt 24:36, John 1:18, Heb 1:8.

THE GOSPELS. Christians have failed to show any proof that the Gospels were in existence before 125 AD. This is strange if they are so important, and even more strange if they were written by eyewitnesses. This is demonstrated if one looks at the second century Christian writings:

The author of 1 Clement, an anonymous letter, usually dated as ca. 96 AD, and attributed to Clement writing from Rome to the church at Corinth, does not appear to be aware of any written Gospels. On two occasions he refers to what Jesus had said; in chap. l3, he repeats the words of Jesus, very similiar to those in the Gospels, although they are not quotations. In chap 46 he brings together two unconnected Markan statements (9:21 and l4:21) and he appears to be quoting loose sayings which were circulating, but in not in a fixed form; this view is strengthened by the fact that he never refers to Gospel stories, or sayings, when it would be very appropriate, applicable and would support the argument he is making; instead he quotes or refers to the O.T.

Ignatius, ca. ll0 AD, mentions the Gospel although it again appears he is referring to the Gospel message, rather than written documents. He gives much more information about Jesus' life, but as he refers to things not found in any of the four canonical Gospels, eg. the story of Jesus speaking after the resurrection, (Smyrn. 3) which is apparently from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and not from the canonical Gospels, and he describes the Bethlehem star in a way that is not found in Matthew (the only canonical Gospel to mention this), it is not altogether clear what written Gospel was available to him (if any). He does refer to other N.T. writings (eg. l Cor, Gal, Eph), but there is no firm indication he knew of any written Gospels.

In his letter to the Philippians he uses terms found in Matt and Luke although it is noteworthy that the author of l John, facing the same Docetic problem as Ignatius, but at an earlier time, clearly did not have the biographical information about Jesus, which was available to Ignatius.

The Epistle of Barnabas ca. l30 AD, uses OT references to support its contents when NT ones would have been far more appropriate. He refers to a passage in Matt 20:l6b and 22:l4 and surprisingly for this early date calls it 'Scripture'; this is quite unique. However, 20:l6b appears to have been an interpolation and if it was a loose saying, it is more likely the author is using Matthew's source, rather than Matthew itself. The author chose to use the apocryphal Enoch when writing about the end (instead of Mark l3), and in referring to the crucifixion he refers to the Psalms, not the Gospels. The Epistle (chap. 7) has a saying attributed to Jesus not found in the Gospels.

Polycarp, ca. l30, apparently knew Matt and/or Luke and improves upon Clement's "quotations", but apparently didn't know of John's Gospel. Papias, ca. l40 AD, mentions Matthew and Mark in written form, but not Luke or John and he also made use of non-canonical apocryphal literature indicating that Matt and Mark were not seen a sole source of the gospel message.

Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, refers to written Gospels which were deemed as authoritative as the O.T, but he does not name them, nor state their number so it is not known what he was referring to. He too, used non-canonical material.

It was only by ca. l70 AD that Tatian was using all four canonical Gospels for his Diatessaron harmony (Where all four gospels were edited (Which in itself by the fcat they could be edited, shows how they were viewed) to provide just one writing with all four gospels brought together).

It was ca. 180, when Irenaeus was arguing for acceptance of the four canonical Gospels, and only those; he based his argument there should only be four on the fact that cherubim only had 4 faces (Yep ! And he was being serious!).



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