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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How is certified the authenticity of the New Testament, since the originals have been lost?

Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos

Many skeptics or critics of authenticity of the New Testament and by extension of Christianity, in order to challenge his credibility, using the following two arguments:
1. None of the original / autographed books of the New Testament has not survived.
2. None copy that exists is not absolutely same as some other although both mentioned to the same text...
But autographs / original works of Christianity or not, there are in the world only after the 12th century AD All other texts of ancient literature are preserved only in copies.  Note that, as closely we have much more copies of a work, indeed from different backgrounds and the more at time, when these copies are near to the time of writing of the original, so much more we are assured for the fidelity of the text, which it has reached in our hands today.
The Bible by itself possess 12% of the ancient manuscripts that were found, while the rest of these manuscripts share 2.100 authors, 600 pagans and 1.500 Christians.  From the 60.000 existing Greek manuscripts, the 7300 are of the Bible, the 5.644 concern the New Testament and the 2.000 the Old Testament. All these are not found in one place but are dispersed in over 380 libraries around the world (the main ones are in the Mount Athos in the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula, in Paris, Athens, London, Vatican), and of course is impossible to investigate someone all this with autopsy.
The manuscripts of the Bible are the oldest of all. The Bible has about 300 manuscripts before 9th century AD, i.e. during the period in which appearing complete manuscripts of ancient Greek and Latin authors. Let us give an example of a non-Scriptural text to compare and to become more comprehensible. From 2nd and 3rd century AD are saved only fragments (pieces) of Homer's works and complete manuscripts only from the 9th century AD, i.e. 1800 years after its writing.
In the table below we publish becomes obvious and can clearly be seen by itself, the time distance that separates the most important classical works from the first complete manuscript of these:




Oldest Integrated
(in years)
Iliad and Odyssey
8th century B.C.
9th century A.C.
Dramas/ Tragedies
5th century B.C.
10th century A.C.
4th century B.C.
9/10th century A.C.
1st century B.C.
5th century A.C.
1st century A.C.
15th century A.C.
Various authors
New Testament
1st century A.C.
350 A.C.

Of all the manuscripts of the Bible that were found, oldest of all is the papyrus with the symbol  P52, which contains excerpts from the Gospel of John  18:31 – 33 & 37 «In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me», is located and is kept in the library of Rylands, at the Manchester Museum, in England. Was acquired in Egypt in 1920, and was discovered by C. H. Roberts just in 1934, when classifying the papyri of Rylands Library. Because of the way of writing, his writing is placed chronologically - from the scientific community - between 98 and 117 AD.
This discovery contributed to a big reversal, which was prevailing until then. Until this point, the "liberals" theologians (Protestant theologians of the 18th and 19th century, who introduced the demystification of Christianity), were underestimating the credibility of the Gospel of John by claiming that the most theological this "poetic" text, where is attested the divinity of the Word (Christ), cannot have been written before 160 AD.
But once, when it was discovered manuscript of John, dating back to 120 AD on the shores of the Nile River, so distant from the likely place of provenance (in Ephesus of the Asia Minor. or Syria), the writing of the Gospel ought to be placed certainly before the end of the 1st century AD. Thus, with the discovery of this papyrus, six tons of scientific papers concerning John were led the "dustbin". It is worth to note moreover that the oldest whole manuscript refers again the John Gospel and it is R66, which dates back to the 200 AD.
The effort  for search  ancient papyri intensified in the 20th century, when in early, the F. Kenyon, critic texts of the British Museum, happened to discover an Egyptian scroll (handwritten elongated strip wrapped around a wood), with a project of Aristotle. The eyes of researchers turned suddenly - with bulimia - in the graves and the places of rubbish in Egypt. The Egyptians had a custom, beside the dead, to put valuable items for him, since they believed that would use them in the afterlife. In places of rubbish in Egypt, who were in the desert, because there were rammed deep in dry sand, were preserved in good condition due to lack of moisture and were protected against the hot sun. In 1897, Grenfall and Hunt, two young men, dug in Oxyrhynchus (today Bahnasa) in the Libyan desert, 15 km in the west of the Nile River. There, and in the northern region of Fayoum, they discovered 20.000 Papyruses, some of whom were of the New Testament, that were coming from the 3rd century AD.
The great discovery of Fayum, was the one that dismissed the prevailing opinion that the text of the New Testament was falsified when Christianity prevailed and were enacted / were demarcated the doctrines from the Ecumenical Councils, because the text of the papyri that were found, was the same as that of large codes (i.e. books) of the 4th century AD.  It was also demonstrated that the language of the New Testament, is not a divine language, but the common "demotic" language of Epoch.
The most important codes, which contain the entire text of the New Testament probably are coming from Egypt and are the following:
1. Sinaiticus (א ή S). Derived from 340 AD and was discovered by an adventurous way by German Tischendorf in 1844. Furthermore it includes the letter Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, not included in the Canon of the New Testament.
2. Vatican (B) from the 5th century AD, which is bookbinded in five volumes and is located in Vatican library. It is perhaps the oldest book in the world, i.e. a volume with its current meaning. Has gone missing the volume with : Hebrews 9:14 y, Shepherd of Hermas, Apocalypse.
3. Codex Alexandrinus (A), from the 5th century AD, which additionally comprises both letters of Clement. Have been lost the cutbacks Matthew 1 - 24 John 7-8 and 2 Corinthians 4-12.
4. Efraimitikos (C) from the 5th century AD and was discovered by Tischendorf. It is palimpsests, i.e. has "been scratched" the old text and has been written on it another new. In this code was written in the 12th century AD the Greek translation of 38 treatises of Ephrem the Syrian.
5. Code Veza (D) of the 5th century AD, which contains many peculiar writings of the so-called "western" tradition of the text.
Despite the multitude of manuscripts, the accidental or deliberate errors made in copying the texts, only 1% of the New Testament text presents derogations. When copying was not difficult to make inadvertent errors, because then the writing was with big letters and continuous. So was becoming confusion among words which were equivocal and very similar. For example, ΑΓΑΠΑΙΣ / ΑΠΑΤΑΙΣ. Or when there was no correct separation e.g. ΟΙΔΑΜΕΝ, a word that can be read and as ΟΙΔΑ ΜΕΝ (2 words). The most common error was the so-called "omoioteleftito", i.e. when two consecutive lines were finishing with the same word. Often, the eye of the copyist "was jumping" in the second word, thereby creating a gap in the sense of the text.
However, these derogations voluntarily or involuntary, easily are detected by researchers because by the 200,000 variants, 95% is indicated by an insignificant number of manuscripts. From 10,000 variants, 95% is concerning not the importance of the text, but the hyphenating, the grammar or the incorrect word order. If a word in 1,000 manuscripts is read (syllabification) incorrectly, then it is estimated that there are 1,000 variations. Since 5% of these, namely 500 variants, only 50 have a specific gravity.
But that which really impresses is the fact that none basic Christian teaching is not based on an incorrect reading and none revision of a word did not result in correction of his teaching. Only one phrase of the New Testament is not found in the Greek manuscripts. It is the verse from the first universal letter of John 5: 7, also known as “Party of John”: "that these are that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one".
Even if the Bible itself was lost, we could regroup the text from the first translations in 18 languages.  From the Greek prototype - directly - in Latin (Vetus Latina, Itala-Vulgata Hieronymus = the widespread in people text), in Syriac (Vetus Sira / Gospel of separate - Pessito) and in Coptic (sachidiki, vocharaiki, fagioumiki, memfitiki) and indirectly in Armenian (queen of translations), Gothic (from Ulfilas, the apostle of the Goths), Georgian, Ethiopic, Iberian i.e. Georgian and not Spanish, Arabic, Persian and Slavonic. In 5.700 Greek manuscripts, if be added the 8.000-10.000 manuscripts of the New Testament in Latin translation and other 8.000 in Ethiopian, Slavic, and Armenian, then we have a total of 24.000 manuscripts, which deliver us the text of the Bible with a deviation of only 0,5 - 1%.
Even if the translations were lost, we could recompose the books of the Bible from the citations of Church Fathers, something that indeed has happened with the lost works of Christians or not writers. For example, the "True Word", written in 178 AD from the eclectic philosopher of late antiquity Kelso, although it was lost, is preserved almost unchanged, thanks to Christian catechist Origen, who - in order to refute it - the cited by inside his apologetic work "Against Celsus”, just as it was, paragraph by paragraph, sentence to sentence.
So we delivered 205.000 citations of Scripture only to Greek-speaking Christian writers, 85.000 of the Old Testament and 120.000 of the New Testament. In ecclesiastical writers of the first century AD, are testified 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. In the Apostolic Fathers - until 150 AD - already we find citations from 24 books. The ecclesiastical writers of the first centuries record almost all the verses of the New Testament. Only in Irenaeus, Ioustinos, Klimis of Alexandria, Cyprianos, Origen, Hippolytus, Tertullian, we find 30.000 until 400.000 citations from the New Testament.
Beware though! The patristic quote of a passage did not also mean recognition of this book as a normal. Origen cites six times passages from the second universal letter of Peter and yet he has doubt about her regularity: "But Peter, in whom over is built the Church of Christ, for which will not prevail the gates of Hell, he let one letter unquestionable, and perhaps even a second, which however is disputed".  Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25.8. But also the absence of a book from a Father does not mean challenging of his regularity. In Fathers are saved and the so-called "unwritten words" of Jesus, words namely those are not listed in the New Testament.


1. Sotirios S. Despotis: The code of the Gospels, Editions Athos, 2007
2. Celsus: "True Word", Editions Thyrathen Selection, 1996
3. Eusebius:
Ecclesiastic History, Publications Gregory Palamas, 1978
Magazine "Science and Faith", Volume II, Number 6, December 1985

Writer Christos Pal

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