Are Textual Variances Motivated By Theology?

While most textual variants in the New Testament were unintentional, some changes were intentional. In many cases, the intentional changes were made to clean up grammar and spelling errors, but in some cases the changes were made to emphasize theological points when a passage was ambiguous.

By about A.D. 400, the New Testament manuscripts had stabilized. Manuscript evidence after this time show that the scribes didn't make many new meaningful and...

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Were the Church Fathers Aware of Variations in the New Testament Manuscripts?

Awareness of textual variants in literature goes back at least a few hundred years before Jesus was born, and scholars have constantly been trying to find the original readings. In the series I've been writing, I've been focused on textual variants in the New Testament, but they also exist in the Old Testament and in secular literature.

Secular Literature

The city of Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., and...

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What is a Singular Reading?

There are over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts, but only about 1% of those manuscripts contain the entire New Testament. There are so many manuscripts, however, that almost every passage in the New Testament is represented in hundreds of Greek New Testament manuscripts, and there is a high percentage of agreement among the manuscripts for any given passage.

Handwriting any lengthy document is prone to errors, so it's not surprising New...

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Is a Textual Variant Both Meaningful and Viable?

I've stated repeatedly in previous articles that most textual variants are simple mistakes made by scribes when copying the New Testament, but some changes are intentional. When trying to decide if a variant could be original, textual scholars start by asking two questions:

Is the Variant Meaningful?

Often, mistakes do not create a meaningful text. Spelling errors may produce a series of letters that aren't really a word. Jesus instructed...

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What are Intentional Textual Variants?

Last week I wrote about What are Unintentional Textual Variants?, and this week I want to focus on intentional changes scribes made to the New Testament text.

Intentional changes are often harder to detect than unintentional changes. A spelling mistake should be easy to detect, unless the new word it produces is a legitimate word, and one that make sense in context. The author of an intentional change will try to make the change fit into...

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What are Unintentional Textual Variants?

Textual Criticism studies the differences found in manuscripts, called textual variants, of which there are two types: unintentional changes and intentional changes. This article focuses on the unintentional types of textual variants; a later article will be about intentional textual variants.

In an ideal situation, a professional scribe will have a pristine copy of a book, and smooth blank sheets of parchment...

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How Careful were Scribes when Copying the Bible?

Some people claim the early Christians believed they were copying letters, history, biographies, and apocalypses, not scripture, so they may not have been as careful while the copying the New Testament as the Jews had been when copying their Bible, and introduced errors into the New Testament. The belief that the Bible has been corrupted over the past 2,000 years contradicts what is actually known about the early church.

The city of Alexandria,...

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Do Textual Variants Show Christianity is False?

Some people are extremely critical of textual variants in New Testament manuscripts, claiming God would have prevented variants from occurring in the manuscripts (if He could have), so the existence of variants prove God doesn't exist and the Bible isn't true. My article Why did God Allow Variants in the New Testament Manuscripts? argues God was not only justified in allowing variants in the manuscripts (not that any of God's actions need a...

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Why did God Allow Variants in the New Testament Manuscripts?

Atheist Arguments

Some atheists argue the New Testament can't be trusted because it's been changed and corrupted over the past two thousand years. (Parts of the Old Testament are about 3,500 years old. Imagine the alleged changes over that amount of time!) The argument then goes on to state that if God really did inspire the Bible, He would have prevented any changes from occurring in the text. Since New Testament manuscripts clearly show...

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How Are Textual Variants and Variation Units Related?

Textual variants are words or phrases in a manuscript that are different from the standard text. There may be several textual variants for a verse in the Bible, such as the last verse of the Lord's Prayer. Variation units are places in the standard text where the original wording is uncertain, and scholars try to determine which textual variant most likely reflects the original wording.

Textual Variants in Colossians 2:2

A single...

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