Are Textual Variants 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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Why are there Variations in Different Translations of the New Testament?

Textual Variation, Matthew 3:16

Have you ever looked at the footnotes in a Bible and seen an alternate wording? Perhaps a note that starts with "some manuscripts add....", "Other ancient authorities add" or even "This clause not found in early mss"? For example, the last verse of the Lord's Prayer can be written several ways:

  • And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13 ESV)
  • And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil...

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How Long did the Autograph or Original New Testament Manuscripts Last?

My last article was What is the Difference Between an Autograph and an Original?. Now I want to research how long the autographs by the Apostles may have lasted. I own a few books which are nearly 100 years old (I collected The Hardy Boys series for many years, and have some of the originals printed in the 1920's), and some of the books are pretty good condition. If a few of my unimportant The Hardy Boys books have lasted nearly 100...

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Did Emperor Constantine Create the Canon?

A common claim from people who don't believe the Bible is the word of God is that the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (Constantine I) created the Bible. They'll probably acknowledge some version of the texts existed before Constantine legalized Christianity, but say Constantine dictated what books were to be in the Bible, the ones which fit his personal beliefs. The skeptic may claim the result of this fiddling created Christianity as we know it...

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Can New Books be Added to the New Testament Canon?

The practical answer to this question is easy: No, new books can't be added to the canon. The technical answer is a bit more involved. I wrote the article What are the Criteria for a Book to be Canonical? on how the church fathers recognized the books in the New Testament canon. It's possible a book "slipped through the cracks" when the church fathers were studying them, although it's not probable.

I'll limit this article to...

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What are the Earliest List of the New Testament Books?

In last week's article, I showed how the church father and historian Eusebius of Caesarea categorized the books which churches thought were part of the canon. This week I want to show what some other church fathers thought about the books under consideration. There were over 300 years between the resurrection of Jesus and the first list of books which exactly matches the Protestant New Testament. The books were in use in churches before then, but it took...

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How were the Canonical and Non-Canonical Books Categorized?

This article in my series about the Biblical Canon will be short, although the footnotes are extensive. In the first few hundred years after Jesus's resurrection, the church was trying to understand which books were in the canon. God made the canon, but it was still up to the church to recognize which books were appropriate for use.

Have you ever walked into a crowded room and seen some faces which are vaguely familiar, but you can't remember the...

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What are the Stages of Revelation of the Canon?

What do the words Scripture and Canon mean? In modern times, some people have defined the word Scripture to mean books inspired by God, while defining Canon as a list of scripture which can not change. With these definitions, the scriptures existed early in the church, but the canon took a long time to form. Did the early church have a canon? Was the canon formed in the fourth or fifth century, as some people claim? The Catholic Church...

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What are the Criteria for a Book to be Canonical?

In my first article on the Biblical Canon, What is the Biblical Canon?, I listed three criteria the early church used to recognize if a book should be considered part of the New Testament canon. The books had to be:

  • Authentic - Based on the experiences of those who knew Jesus
  • Authoritative - Accurately teaching God’s will
  • Inspired - Written by people with guidance of the Holy Sprit

Since then, I've...

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