The Holy Spirit in Islam and Christianity

Can Biblical Manuscripts Stand Historical Methodologies for Text-Criticism?

For longو Christians have been proud of their Bible in terms of source and credibility. However, this claim does not stand in front of the historical scientific criticism of manuscripts.

A Brief History of the Bible Manuscripts and Their Dates

The nature of the research here calls us to embark on a historical overview of some of the Biblical manuscripts and their dates. Here are some of them:

– Vatican Manuscript (03) B-Codex Vaticanus:

It is preserved in the Vatican. It was written in Greek by the command of King Constantine in 328 AD, and then transferred to the Vatican; it is considered by the introduction of the Jesuit monastic as the best of Greek manuscripts. It was found in 1481 AD, and dates back to the fourth century AD.

The manuscript of Alexandria (02) A- Codex Alexandrinus:

This copy has been preserved in the British Museum in London, and dates back to the fourth century AD, as some claim. It contained 820 pages, of which 773 pages remain.

The Codex Sinaiticus Codex: (01) A-Codex Sinaiticus:

It was discovered by Constantine Chanderov (born January 1815) in 1859 AD. It dates back to the fourth or fifth century AD. Written by a bishop of Caesarea in 231 AD. It contains the New Testament except (Mark 16: 9-2, John 7: 53, 8: 11). It is is now preserved in the British Museum in London, under No. 43725.

Prophet Moses lived in the fifteenth century B.C, and between him and the manuscripts, except for the Qumran manuscript, nearly sixteen centuries!

Codex Ephraemi: (04)

It includes the whole New Testament except for the Second Epistle of Thessalonica and John II, as well as more than half of the Old Testament. It dates back to about 450 AD.

There are many other manuscripts, among which are the following:

Qumran Manuscripts:

Newly discovered and dates back to the first and second centuries BC. These manuscripts were discovered in 1947 by a shepherd in Wadi Qumaran, Palestine, and then transferred to Dr. John Trever at the American University of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He made an extraordinary effort to photograph a manuscript of Isaiah’s chapter of 24 feet long and 10 inches wide, then sent the pictures to Dr. Albright, Johns-Hopkins University, America, who was considered the dean of clerical excavations.

The chapters of the Old Testament included a complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah dating back to the year 125 BC, and another an incomplete manuscript for a Chapter of Isaiah as well, and a third manuscript of the book of Ezekiel.

Nash Manuscript:

It was written in the second century AD, and it contains only the Ten Commandments.

John Rylinds Papyrus Manuscript:

It contains parts of the Old Testament, and dates back to the second century AD.

There are about 5300 manuscripts of the New Testament in the Greek language, in addition to 24,000 manuscripts of parts of the New Testament.

Reasons for the Corruption of the Bible Manuscripts

Despite the large number of these manuscripts, the difference between them is so great that there is no coincidence for one  manuscript and another. This is testified to by the difference between Christian themselves, Catholics and Protestants, on some of the chapters in terms of rejection and consideration for them as Apocrypha, and the difference over the number of chapters.

Likewise, the human hands interfered intentionally, and unintentionally- sometimes- with transcription errors in them. It was also spoiled by the factors of nature as to obliteration which forced editors to make substitution, and guesswork of some of the biblical texts.

In addition, according to the agreement of many Christian theorists, many of the manuscripts are not written by the hands of their authors, but they are attributed to them as they are. They are, moreover, not the original manuscript of the scriptures descended to prophets from the heavens. Could translations replace the original text ?! A translation,according to linguists, cannot be the original in no way, no matter how accurate it was.

What prompts us to say that the Bible was distorted those heretic doctrines inserted into the word of God as to the ascription of a son to God and the claim of trinity referring to three gods in one!.

Human interference in the Bible is so clear. The Jews deleted all that condemn them– as to the killing of Isaiah and many of the prophets!

That is why we find the Eastern Church has fallen into a trouble when it saw a text transmitted to Western translations, conveying the doctrine of trinity with the loss of the same text in the original manuscripts of the Bible! :

“…,and these three are one and those who bear witness are three on earth, the Spirit, Water, and Blood”.

According to the Catholic version of the Bible This text was not mentioned in the manuscripts before the fifteenth century, nor in the old translations, nor in the best origins of the Latin translation, and it is more likely that it is only a comment written in the margin and then inserted into the text while it was being transmitted to the West.

In History of the Bible S. Miller and R. Huber say:

“As to the oldest books that have reached us: No one knows when the books of the Old and New Testaments were combined in one volume in one volume, but the oldest two copies of the Bible arrived us (almost complete) dating back to the middle of the fourth century. They are today known as the Vatican manuscript and the Sinai manuscript, and they contain most of the Septuagint version (a translation of the Hebrew text of the Bible, which became an accredited translation for the Church of the Old Testament. It was translated in stages between the third century to the first century BC). They contain the chapters that were deleted by the Jews, and the Protestants considered them to be apocalyptic. The Vatican version lacks the chapter of the Maccabees, and both manuscripts contain all the chapters of the New Testament (27 books). The Sinai manuscript also contains the letter of Barnabas and the shepherd of Hermas. As for the Sinaitic version, it has a more interesting history. It was written in Egypt in the late 4th century and preserved in the Monastery of Saint Catherine”.

Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, lived in the fifteenth century B.C, and between him and the manuscripts, except for the Qumran manuscript, nearly sixteen centuries.

As for the rest of the manuscripts, the closest manuscript to Jesus dates back to nearly one century after his death. Furthermore, Manuscripts do not agree in many of their texts.

In his book, An Introduction to Biblical Criticism, R. Y. Dawoud says:

 “We do not possess the original texts of the Gospels, because these texts were inscribed and errors were made in them during the inscribing-process. We often have multiple readings of one verse through the various manuscripts that have reached us, so what reading should we consider? Therefore we must rely on the science of text-criticism to various manuscripts to reach the original texts. The science of text-criticism aims to reach the original text as close as possible. The first work is to collect all documents of the New Testament and arrange them. The review of manuscripts should not be restricted to the Greek manuscripts. Rather, it should include all manuscripts that contain a translation of the New Testament Which is used by Christians in the early centuries (Latin-Syriac, or Coptic)”.

S. Miller and R. Huber say: “Doubt also touched upon the sources of the books of the New Testament and those who wrote them in the early years of biblical criticism. Initially scholars began to believe that not all of the letters attributed to Paul had been written by him, so perhaps some of them were written by his disciples who borrowed his name to give greater importance to their writings. Soon, many inquires emerged about who really wrote the epistles of Paul? Scientists also began wondering about who wrote the Gospels and when, saying that the names of the preachers or evangelists: Matthew, Luke, and John were applied only in the 2nd  century, and they may not be accurate. Accordingly they examined the Gospels and their sources to reach their real authors!”.

There is a difference between maintaining the original text and translation to it only, as the case with the Gospels who lose their original text.”

One looking into the Gospels today, can see the defect that afflicted them in terms of contradicting narratives and their narrators. In his book An Introduction to the New Testament, F. Aziz says, “Who has written the Gospel of John? This question is difficult to answer, and the answer to it requires extensive study which will often end with the phrase: Only God knows who wrote this gospel.”


-The Catholic version of the Bible, 3rd ed, Beirut, Dar Al-Mashriq.

-Miller, R. Huber, In the History of the Bible.

-Dawoud. Introduction to Biblical-Criticism, Beirut, Dar Al-Mashriq.


-Wikipedia encyclopedia

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