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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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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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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What are Variant Units?

In my article two weeks ago, I wrote there are an estimated 200,000-500,000 textual variants in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. Last week I showed spelling errors are counted, but most aren't significant.

Variant Types

The types of textual variants that exist in New Testament manuscripts are split into two  broad categories:

  • Insignificant Variants are errors that are usually found in only a few manuscripts and that can...

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What are Nomina Sacra?

Nomina Sacra, Matthew 1:1, Papyrus 1 (A.D. 200-299)

Nomina Sacra is a method early scribes used to contract Sacred Names when copying the New Testament. Although the term nomina sacra (plural; singular: nomen sacrum) is Latin, it has a modern origin in Ludwig Traube's 1907 book Nomina sacra: Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen Kürzung (Essay on the history of Christian abbreviations). In my last article, What is Scriptio Continua?, I indicated...

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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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What’s the Difference Between an Autograph and an Original?

Thomas Kinkade, Walk of Faith

In the world of ancient manuscripts, the words autograph and original are used in slightly different ways than we typically use them in modern times. I was (and still am) a fan of the series Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Years ago, I went to a seminar where Tim LaHaye was one of the featured speakers, and I had him autograph copies of the first three books. When new books in the series came out, I ordered autographed...

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How Many New Testament Manuscripts Exist?

I've been wanting to write about the number of New Testament Manuscripts for a while, but I haven't been able to find the types of resource I thought would be available. In my article What is the Gregory-Aland Numbering System?, I showed the most common system scholars use to track Greek New Testament manuscripts and fragments, but there are probably many fragments which haven't been submitted to the...

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