Why Can We Rely on the Bible - Part III

**Since this lesson I have written a 30 page document on the Reliability of Scripture which I used to teach a Deeper Life class in my church - Click Here for Info


My aim here is to determine how the NT writers and Jesus treated the Scripture they had (the OT).
• In other words, how it informed their lives.
• Obviously, they believed it as Jesus Himself said – John 2:22.
• What I am getting at here is that when we understand the level of reverence and authority they accorded the Bible, we will understand the level of reverence and authority we should accord the Bible.

Some interesting observations before we begin:
• The only books of the NT without any direct quote or allusion to OT texts are Philemon and 2 & 3 John.
• The NT contains roughly 312 direct OT citations and thousands of OT allusions – Walter Kaiser.
• “The NT assumed that the OT WAS RELEVANT to first-century believers” – Walter Kaiser.
    o For example, the NT writers “preferred to use the present tense where the OT had used the past tense, and to use the second or first person plural pronouns you, us, or we, where a third person pronoun would have been found in the OT” – Walter Kaiser.

First – NT writers relationship with Scripture:
It informed their theology:
• Romans 9:9–10 (ESV) — 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.
• Romans 4:2–3 (ESV) — 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

It informed their painful circumstances:
• Romans 15:4 (ESV) — 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

It informed their cultural biases:
• Galatians 3:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

It informed their view of salvation:
• Romans 10:11–13 (ESV) — 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

It informed their view of the relationship between the OT and NT:
• Acts 24:14 (ESV) — 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,

It informed their evangelism:
• Romans 10:15 (ESV) — 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

It informed their view of worldly wisdom:
• 1 Corinthians 1:19 (ESV) — 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

It informed their view of economic issues:
• 1 Corinthians 9:8–10 (ESV) — 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

It informed their view of Jesus:
• Romans 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

It informed their apologetics:
• Acts 18:28 (ESV) — 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

It informed their view of mans’ condition before God:
• Romans 3:9–12 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

It informed their decisions (a detailed example):
• Acts 15:12–20 (ESV) — 12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 “ ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

• James, like most Jews at the time (Peter & Paul had a run in on this issue), was at a minimum uneasy with the degree of Gentile inclusion in the Messiah’s restoration of Israel.
• Yet notice he did not say, “I feel Gentiles are unclean and they oppressed us for years (Syrians, Babylonians, Romans), therefore my judgment is they are not worthy of inclusion.
• He put aside any bias and cultural baggage and submitted to the words of the Bible.
• He submitted to it by allowing it to authenticate the truth and not letting his emotional and cultural baggage lead him astray.

With just a handful of verses, we see only a few ways the NT writers let OT Scripture guide them into truth.
• It goes without saying that given the 300+ OT quotes and thousands of OT allusions found in the NT and handful could easily become hundreds.

But, we aren’t done yet.
• We need to look at Jesus relationship with Scripture.

Second – Jesus relationship with Scripture:

As Truth (He believed it):
• The Genesis account of creation (Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8);
• The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Matt. 8:4; Jn. 5:46; 7:19);
• The historicity of Abel (Matt. 23:35; Lk. 11:50-51);
• The historicity of Noah and the Noahic Flood (Matt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26-27);
• The historicity of Abraham (Jn. 8:56);
• The historicity of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15; 11:23-24; Lk. 10:12);
• The historicity of Lot and the account of his wife having been turned into a pillar of salt (Lk. 17:28-32);
• The historicity of the account in which Israel was given manna from heaven (Jn. 6:31,49,58);
• The Davidic authorship of some of the Psalms (Matt. 22:43; Mk. 12:36; Lk. 20:42);
• The historicity of the account of Jonah’s having been swallowed by a whale (Matt. 12:39-41; Lk. 11:29-32);
• The unity and single authorship of the book of Isaiah (Matt. 13:14-15; Mk. 7:6; Jn. 12:38-41);
• The Danielic authorship of the book of Daniel (Matt. 24:15);
• The canonicity of the entire Jewish Old Testament, which excluded the Apocrypha (Matt. 23:35; Lk. 11:50-51; 24:44);
• The verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture (Matt. 4:4; 5:17-18);
• The divine preservation of Scripture (Matt. 5:17-18; 24:35; Lk. 16:17; Jn. 10:35);
• The vital importance of studying and knowing Scripture (Jn. 5:39; Matt. 22:29);
• The judgment of all mankind by God’s Word (Jn. 12:47-48).

POI – Our orthodox view of the above verses is that Jesus is referring to actual historical events and persons and is thereby at once affirming the historicity and truth of the OT while at the same time providing NT insights, warnings or commentary in harmony with the OT.

However, not surprisingly, there is a different view that is growing in popularity in our post-modern world.
• The view is called The Accommodation Theory (attributed to J.S. Semler – 18th century).
• This view holds that the OT events and persons referenced by Jesus and his disciples were probably not historical but allegorical or parable.
• Therefore in using these OT stories, “our Lord and His Apostles accommodated themselves to the prejudices, the errors and the superstitions of their time” – Trinitarian Bible Society.
• The prejudices, errors and superstitions concerned “beliefs about authorship, inspiration, historical accuracy and the basic truthfulness of the Old Testament” – Josh McDowell.
• In other words, Jesus usage of OT references was not a truth or historicity endorsement, but merely a tactic He used to make His points.
• “For example, this theory holds that Jesus did not actually believe that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 11:23, 24), or that the people on the earth at the time of Noah perished in a great flood (Matthew 24:37-39), or that Jonah was really in the belly of the great fish (Matthew 12:39-41). It was not the purpose of Christ, they claim, to teach historical truth or to question it. His purpose was to teach spiritual truth. Therefore, any mention of historical personages or events does not mean that Jesus believed them to be true” – Josh McDowell.

Problems with the Accommodation Theory view:
• Not only did Jesus not accommodate, He in fact corrected wrong views of the OT.
    o “He undermined the incorrect views held by those who heard Him. This is obvious, for instance, in His Sermon on the Mount, where in Matthew 5:21-48 He repeatedly challenged the beliefs of His contemporaries and corrected their understanding of the Old Testament” – Gary Habermas.
    o This would be Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you” formula.
• Related to this was Jesus handling of false teachers.
    o Jesus labeled them hypocrites, snakes and children of Hell for their mishandling of Scripture.
• The theory “gives a very low view of Christ, Jesus said, “I am the truth" (John 14:6). [If] His life and ministry consisted of telling only half-truths [and] holding back that which He knew was incorrect. This would mean that Jesus allowed the end to justify the means, something that His life and ministry simply did not do. If Jesus did not tell the whole truth, He did not tell the truth at all” – Josh McDowell.

Therefore, given our rejection of the Accommodation Theory and our holding to the orthodox view, Jesus’ use of OT verses demonstrate a relationship between belief in Jesus and belief in the historicity of the OT.

As Authoritative (He obeyed it):
• Luke 4:3–13 (ESV) — 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ” 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

As Proclaiming His Coming (He was it):
• Luke 4:17–21 (ESV) — 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
• John 6:45 (ESV) — 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me
• Luke 22:37 (ESV) — 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”
• Luke 24:27 (ESV) — 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
• John 5:39–40 (ESV) — 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

So, what level of reverence and authority did they accord Scripture?

It informed their:
• Theology
• Suffering & Circumstances
• Cultural biases
• Economics
• Worldly wisdom
• Evangelism
• View of Salvation
• Relationship between OT & NT
• View of Jesus
• Apologetics
• Mans’ condition before God
• Decisions
• Jesus believed it
• Jesus obeyed it
• Jesus was its story

The OT…was the basis for expressing God’s direction and guidance for all of our living. That understanding was shared by the NT, Jesus and the apostles” – Walter Kaiser.

The point is that the New Testament writers were thoroughly conversant with the OT and felt that they were in direct continuity with it” – Walter Kaiser.

The point is clear by now: the interweaving of phrases and lines from the Old Testament by the New Testament writers with their own words and literary styles shows how the very fabric of their thought was immersed in the language and teaching of the earlier Testament” – Walter Kaiser.

Of course now our Scripture, given the 27 books of the NT, is even more thorough and relevant.
But we must ask ourselves, is the very fabric of our thoughts immersed in Scripture?
• This, as we have seen, is the example set for us by our Lord and the NT writers.
• We will deal more with our relationship to Scripture in point 5.

For now, however, we need to explore why we should believe Scripture.
• Clearly, as believers, we have the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit
But are there even more reasons to believe in the authority Scripture?

We will answer that question in Point IV.


Why Can We Rely on the Bible - Part II

**Since this lesson I have written a 30 page document on the Reliability of Scripture which I used to teach a Deeper Life class in my church - Click Here for Info


So we have determined that the Bible we hold in our hands does contain the inerrant words the NT writers wrote.
• Where, then, do we get the idea that their words are really God’s words?

Theópneustos: remember this word because it is a remarkable claim.
• Many translations translate the word as “inspired by God”.
• However, many also translate it literally as “breathed out by God” which denotes more of a direct involvement as compared to just “inspiring” it.
• In other words, just as our life came out of dust via God’s breath, the wisdom, truth and authority of the NT writer’s words also found their origin and life in God’s breath – the Holy Spirit.
    o We will see, in fact, that the NT writers and Jesus Himself make clear the role of the “breath of God” (Holy Spirit) in producing Scripture.

So what did the NT writers say about the words they wrote?
• Often, the following verses are used to answer that question.
• 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God [theópneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
• 2 Peter 1:19–21 (ESV) — 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

These verses make clear that Scripture was seen as coming from God.
• However, to be fair, these texts speak of the Old Testament.
• What about the New Testament? Why is it in the same class as the Old Testament?

Peter and Jude have something to say about this question.
• 2 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) — 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
    o In other words, they twist Paul’s Scriptures just as they do the other Scriptures.
    o Peter comparatively declares, unequivocally, that Paul’s letters are Scripture!
• Jude 17 (NAS) — 17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    o “In the NT ‘to remember’ is not just a mental act. To remind others is to bear witness to the word of God; to remind oneself is to place oneself totally under this word” – TDNT.

And even more substantial are the words of Jesus Himself about this question.
• The following verses make clear that there was a “chain of custody” in the revelation of God’s word.
• As you will see, this chain of custody confirms that the NT writers spoke the Words of God!
• Just as crime scene evidence is tagged and bagged so that it is not contaminated.
• God provided a way to transmit His word through the NT writers so that it was not contaminated.

Chain of Custody of God’s Word:
• John 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
    o Jesus identifies that the authority of His words comes from the “Father who dwells in” Him.
• John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
    o Jesus reveals that the source of His words comes from the Father.
    o Jesus reveals that he gave the words he received to the disciples.
• Matthew 10:20 (ESV) — 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
    o Jesus tells the disciples that their very words come from the “Spirit of your Father” not themselves.
• 1 Corinthians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
    o Paul confirms his words were taught by the Spirit.
• Acts 6:10 (ESV) — 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
    o Luke also reveals that the words of the apostles were rooted in “the Spirit”.
• Matthew 10:27 (ESV) — 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
    o Jesus commands the disciples to proclaim the words he gave them.
    o Their obedience to this command is why we have their words.
So the “chain of custody” of God’s Word looks like this:
• Father – Source and Authority of His Word and gave it to Jesus
• Jesus – Given the Words and Authority by the Father and passed it on to NT writers
• Holy Spirit – Promised by Jesus and also gave words to the NT writers after Jesus left
• NT writers – Received both their words and authority by Jesus through the Holy Spirit

It is therefore clear that the words spoken (and written down) by the disciples had a divine chain of custody that began with the Father, flowed through the Son, and then later flowed through the Holy Spirit, and dwelled with them.

So, the answer to our question, “Are the words the NT writers wrote to be considered Scripture (God’s Word)?”
YES, they are God’s Words and are as much theópneustos (god breathed) as the OT.

So now that we can be assured that the Bible contains the inerrant words the original authors wrote and that those words are God’s words, we need to see what we are to do with it.

We will look to the the NT writers and Jesus for our cues in this regard.


Why Can We Rely on the Bible - Part I

**Since this lesson I have written a 30 page document on the Reliability of Scripture which I used to teach a Deeper Life class in my church - Click Here for Info.

A slight detour from our lesson in John, this lesson on the reliability of Scripture is precipitated by the oddest cast of characters – namely John’s Gospel, Bart Ehrman and Megan Fox.

In this lesson we will discuss the following questions:
• Does the NT contain the actual words written by its authors?
• Why are the words the NT writers wrote considered Scripture?
• What was the NT writers’ view of Scripture?
• What was Jesus’ view of Scripture?
• Why does Scripture warrant our belief?

A number of presuppositions:
• We accept and believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
• We accept that whatever we learn concerning the reliability of the New Testament will also hold true for the Old Testament.

Why, one might ask, do we start with our first question?
• This is because when we speak of the inerrancy of Scripture we are saying two things.
• First, we are affirming only the inerrancy of the original manuscripts (autographs) not the copies; “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” – Wayne Grudem.
• Second, we are affirming that through the original words “the Bible always tells the truth, and it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about” – Wayne Grudem.

Therefore, we need to know if our Bibles contain the original words; the words of the autographs.


The Bible you read today comes from hand written documents (manuscripts) which are copies of the original writings (autographs).
• When it comes to manuscripts, both quantity and proximity in date to the originals are relevant in determining their accuracy and faithfulness to the autographs.
• You will see that The Bible is excels in both.

Greek Manuscripts (See NT Manuscript Comparison PDF):
• Currently, there are 5,700+ hand written manuscripts of the 27 NT books dating from the early 2nd century to the 1500’s.
• There are 10-15 Greek manuscripts (most are fragments) dated within 100 years of the last original NT document.
   o It is worth noting that there aren’t any other ancient documents with copies within decades of the original writings.
• Within 200 years there are about 48, and prior to 400 A.D. there are about 99.
• The oldest complete NT is the Codex Sinaiticus completed before 400 A.D.
• The NT has “well over 1000 times as many manuscripts as the works of the average classical author” – ESV.

Other Manuscripts:
• And taking in to account the Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic and Arabic language manuscripts the total number of Bible manuscripts increases to 20,000 – 25,000 copies.
• BTW – one of my favorite books, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes”, draws many of its insights from three Syriac versions of the Gospels – the Old Syriac, the Peshitta and the Harclean.

But, over and above manuscripts, we have additional sources – the Church Fathers.

Church or Apostolic Fathers:
Over 1 million quotations from the early church Fathers have been cataloged to date that attest to the accuracy of the manuscripts” – ESV Study Bible.
• The editors of the ESV Study Bible (Wayne Grudem) state that “the NT text could be reproduced almost in its entirety by quotations of it in sermons, tracts, and commentaries written by” the Church Fathers.
• One early source for this info is a book called, “The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers”, which was written in 1905.
• It is worth noting that the Church Fathers wrote mainly between 90 A.D. and 160 A.D, less than 140 years after Jesus death. (F.F. Bruce).

Some examples of the Church Fathers and what they quoted:
• Bishop Clement (96 A.D.) in a letter to the church at Corinth quoted from the Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews and 1 Peter (F.F. Bruce).
• Bishop Ignatius (115 A.D.) in letters he wrote on the way to martyrdom in Rome quoted from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (F.F. Bruce).
• Polycarp (Ignatius’ brother and student of John), in a letter to the Philippians, quoted from the Gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter and 1 John (F.F. Bruce).

Compared to other documents that inform our ancient history (not to mention documentaries on TLC and The History Channel), the Bible is in a league of its own.

Comparison Chart of Bible and Other Historical Documents (ESV Study Bible):
HistoriesOldest ManuscriptsNumber Surviving
Livy 59 b.c.–a.d. 174th century27
Tacitus a.d. 56–1209th century3
Suetonius a.d. 69–1409th century200+
Thucydides 460–400 b.c.1st century20
Herodotus 484–425 b.c.1st century75
New Testament100–150 A.D.c. 5,700 (plus more than 10,000 in Latin, more than a million quotations from the church fathers, etc.)

It is for the above reasons that F.F Bruce states, “if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt” – F.F. Bruce.

What about differences that exist between manuscripts?
• We need to be clear, differences do exist between manuscripts.
But are they significant? We will see that the answer is no.

The differences between manuscripts are called textual variants.
• Yet we will see 99% are completely innocuous; they do not affect doctrine at all and can be weeded out.
• And a huge majority of them are not even relevant to the meaning of the text in which they are found.
• As Wayne Grudem puts it when dealing with textual variants, “the correct decision is often quite clear, and there are really very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning” of the original text.

The 3 most common textual variants are:
Spelling and Nonsense Variants – 75%
• This is by far the largest kind of variants that exist and account for about 75%.
Example of a Nonsense Variant is in 1 Thessalonians 2:7
   o “we were gentle among you” vs. “we were infants among you” vs. “we were horses among you”.
   o In the above case, the word for infants (nepioi) or for gentle (epioi) is miscopied as horses (hippoi).
   o It is called a Nonsense Variant because “horses” makes no sense and is clearly a miscopy.
   o This variant is noted in the ESV Study Bible.
Example of a Spelling Variant would be in English using “a book” vs. “an book” or “abook” or “anbook”.

Synonym and Word Order Variants – 24%
• These variants account for about 24%.
Example of Word Order Variant would be the Greek version of “Jesus loves John”.
   o In Greek, this can be written 16 different ways without changing the meaning (ESV Study Bible).
   o Thus in differing manuscripts you see a variety of different wordings, but the same meaning.
Example of Synonym Variant is in John 4:1, “The Lord” as in ASV vs. “Jesus” in ESV.
o Synonym variants, as exampled above, do not change the meaning.

"Meaningful and Not Viable" and "Meaningful and Viable Variants" – 1%
• These variants are the least common and account for about only 1%.
Example of Meaningful and Not Viable Variant is John 7:53-8:11 which is the account of the women caught in adultery.
   o The earliest manuscripts don’t have it so modern Bibles either notate that or exclude it all together.
   o Though it contains meaning, because it is not in early manuscripts it is not viable.
   o And leaving it out does not affect the meaning of John’s Gospel whatsoever.
   o This variant is noted in the ESV Study Bible.
Example of Meaningful and Viable Variant is Romans 5:1, “we have peace” vs. “let us have peace”.
   o The difference in the Greek is just one letter.
   o This variant is noted in the ESV Study Bible.
   o The meaning changes but not significantly and does not affect any doctrine.

POI – A comparison between different versions or a good study Bible will note many of these variants for you.
• NT critics insinuate that variants are “not shared because many pastors who learned this material in seminary have, for a variety of reasons, not shared it with their parishioners” – Bart Ehrman.
• In fact, the critics write books sensationalizing textual variants as if they are revealing something never before known.
• However, the idea that variants are “not shared” or known is simply not true.
   o As stated, any decent Study Bible will note variants (usually with the phrase “some manuscripts say”).
   o Any attempt to harmonize Scripture (such as the Gospels) will expose variants.
   o Any comparison of differing Bible translations will expose variants.
   o And it is worth noting that as far back as the 4th century Augustine addressed the issue of differences between manuscripts as did John Calvin in the 1500’s.
• The real problem is that, and this is one thing liberal Bart Ehrman is correct on, “…most Americans are increasingly ignorant of the contents of the Bible”.

Conclusions based on manuscript evidence:
We readily admit the following:
• “It is easily proved by experiment that it is difficult to copy out a passage of any considerable length without making one or two slips at least. When we have documents like our New Testament writings copied and recopied thousands of times, the scope of the copyists’ errors is so enormously increased that it is surprising that there are no more than there actually are” – F.F. Bruce.
• “But the original manuscripts [autographs] are those to which the claims to be God’s very words apply. Thus, if we have mistakes [textual variants] in the copies as we do, then these are only the mistakes of men. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts, then we are forced to say not only that men made mistakes, but that God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely. This we cannot do” – Wayne Grudem.
• And referring to the way in which the early Christians made copies of NT manuscripts D.A. Carson says, “the private copy made by an eager and well-meaning layperson was likely to include more transcriptional errors than copies made and checked in a scriptorium.

However, given the sheer quantity of Manuscripts (See Textual Variant PDF):
• “It increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as it might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small. The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” – F.F. Bruce.
   o In other words, the more copies there are, the more comparisons can be made among them, and the more variants can be reconciled.
• And, “the wealth and range of material supporting the Greek New Testament is staggering” – D.A. Carson.

So, the answer to our question, “Does the NT contain the words the NT writers actually wrote?”
• “As [the late] Bruce Metzger [the well-respected but not conservative professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary] once said--- we know what about 92% of the NT said in its original manuscripts with a rather high degree of certainty. As for the other 8%, very little of theological or ethical consequence is at stake.” – Ben Witherington.
• “In the final analysis, no cardinal doctrine, no essential truth, is affected by any viable variant in the surviving NT manuscripts…although scholars may not be certain of the NT wording in a number of verses, for the vast majority of the words in the NT, the modern English translations accurately represent what the original authors wrote, and therefore these translations can be trusted as reproducing the very words of God” – ESV Study Bible.
• “The overwhelming majority of the text of the Greek NT is firmly established. Where uncertainties remain, it is important to recognize that in no case is any doctrinal matter at issue” – D.A. Carson
• Or as Wayne Grudem puts it, “for over 99% of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said”.