You are on page 1of 16

What is the Bible?

The Bible is a term etymologically derived from the Latin word, biblia, and from the Greek phrase, ta biblia to hagia, which is translated as, the holy books. In Latin, it is also referred to as, biblia sacra, which means, holy or sacred books. When the term Bible is used, it is usually collectively attributed to two collections of books, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Take note that this is the Christian definition. The Jewish title for their scripture is the Tanakh, which we in English usually refer to as the, Old Testament, otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible. Both by definition are Bibles because both are sacred books regarded as being scripture. From this, a more comprehensive definition for the word Bible can be, a collection of sacred books. To understand this concept, we must understand what books collectively constitute the Bible. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament) in itself, is a collection of books, they are: Torah Neviim Ketuvim

The Torah is also a sub-collection of books, these are known as the Five Books of Moses, there authorship is attributed to the Prophet Moses: Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy

Neviim is defined as a collection of the writings of the Jewish Prophets, whereas Ketuvim is a collection of writings. Given the information above, we can see that the Bible is a collection of a collection of a collection of books. However, this collection of sacred books differs in number. While one collection may have 73 books which constitute the Bible (as is the case with the Catholic Bible), another Bible may be constituted of 66 books (as is the case with the Protestant Bible). This leads us to our next topic, Canons and Codices, or understanding what these collections are.

Canons and Codices The canon of the Bible refers to the authorized list of books which constitute the Bible. The codex of the Bible, is the physical textual collection of the canonical or listed books. An example of this would be that Torahs canon is: Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy

This however, is just a list of the texts. When the writings are physically collected together, this is known as the codex of the Torah. Therefore, a codex is the physical collection whereas the canon is simply a list stating what the codex is comprised of. A codex is one collection, codices are many collections. The canon of the New Testament is the list of the 27 books which it is comprised of. A codex of the New Testament is a physical collection of these 27 books. The (Catholic and Protestant) canon of the New Testament is: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation

What then, is a canonical codex? Breaking down the terms helps us in answering this question. A canonical codex is a physical collection of the authorized list of books which constitute the Bible. This is why there are different codices (collections) of the Bible, because Churches differed as to what their canon should be. So when you open a Bible that has 73 books in it, as does the Catholic Bible and you then open a Protestant Bible and find 66 books, the reason these collections differ in the number of books is due to their canons being different. Where do the terms, apocrypha and deuterocanonical fit in amongst these definitions? Apocrypha generally means, hidden, not approved of, doubtful whereas deuterocanonical, means, second reading thus implying that the first reading is authorized and this is the other or second text which is not authorized1. The earliest canons that we currently know of are the canons of the second century2, these are: Marcions Canon The Muratorian Canon Tatians Diatesseron

The earliest codices that we currently know of are four in number, these are from the forth and fifth centuries: Codex Sinaiticus Codex Vaticanus Codex Alexandrinus Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus

The Jesus Oral Tradition Now that we understand what the Bible consists of, we now turn our attention to the sources of the New Testament. This writing will not feature information on the transmission of the Hebrew Bible as that is another significant undertaking in itself. For the time being, our focus is on the New Testament. The Jesus Oral Tradition is the early transmission of stories about Jesus the Christ in the years following his resurrection. Before the writing of the Gospels, in the second half of the first century, the primary means of transmitting information about Christ was through the oral tradition. We read from James Dunn the following3: Few if any today assume that the written sources take the reader back directly to the Jesus who worked and taught in Galilee three or more decades earlier. But equally, few if any doubt that behind the written sources there was earlier tradition. The question is whether this earlier tradition fully or only partially bridges the period between Jesus and our present sources. He goes on to state: In fact, however, there are a perspective on the Jesus tradition which has only recently been properly recognized, and a rich potential in a fresh understanding of the Jesus tradition as orally transmitted which has hardly begun to be fully tapped. The earliest known sources of Christian literature are the Pauline Epistles, in one such Epistle, we read of a potential reference to the Jesus tradition: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance. 4 In the Gospel of Luke, we read more about this tradition: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.5 The belief that the New Testament accurately represents the life teachings of Jesus the Christ, is rooted in the understanding that the New Testament is a textual bridge between the later generations of Christians and the eyewitnesses who first shared these stories about Christ through experiencing these events first hand. This can be demonstrated by Pauls testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:6 wherein he states: After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Prof. Richard Bauckham gives us a simple, yet detailed understanding of the Christian mindset on the oral tradition:

The traditional paradigm is the one that was held in the Christian churches, mostly without question, down to the nineteenth century. It takes at face value the titles of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John regarding those persons, all identified either as apostles or as disciples of apostles, as the authors of the Gospels, which means that two of the Gospel writers were themselves eyewitnesses, while the other two had good access to eyewitness tradition.6 However, there is a problem as we read from Prof. Rudolf Bultmann: The Church drew no distinction between such utterances by Christian prophets and the sayings of Jesus in the tradition, for the reason that even dominical sayings in the tradition were not the pronouncements of a past authority, but sayings of the risen Lord, who is always a contemporary for the Church. 7 To quantify the magnitude of this early corruption of the oral tradition, we read from James Dunn: And Ksemann did not hesitate to speculate that 'countless "I" sayings of the Christ who revealed himself through the mouth of prophets gained entry into the Synoptic tradition as sayings of Jesus'. The most thorough study of the topic, by Eugene Boring, concludes that a substantial amount of the Jesus tradition has been influenced by prophetic usage or stems directly from prophetic utterances. For example, according to Boring, fifteen Q sayings probably originated as prophetic utterances; though in Mark at most eleven 'sayings-units' (excluding 13.5b-31, only five sayings units) are probably from Christian prophets.8 And: Given this background, one might well acknowledge the likelihood of prophetic utterances having been included within the Jesus tradition. The most obvious example would probably be Matt. 18.20; but other plausible examples could include Matt. 11.28-30 and Luke 11.49-51; 22.19b.9 James Dunn himself though, disagrees with the two preceding views, he says in the same chapter: In other words, what we today are confronted with in the Gospels is not the top layer (last edition) of a series of increasingly impenetrable layers, but the living tradition of Christian celebration which takes us with surprising immediacy to the heart of the first memories of Jesus.10 Contrary to James Dunns view, in addition to Kasemann and Bultmann, we read from Bauckhams work: E. P. Sanderss work is generally regarded as having shown that there are no laws of tradition operating consistently throughout the gospel traditions. From his study of the manuscript traditions and the apocryphal Gospels (i.e., in the postcanonical tradition, where there is relatively hard evidence) he concluded that On all counts the tradition developed in opposite directions, though in the case of some of the criteria that have been used to distinguish early and late there is a more or less pronounced tendency for the tradition to develop in one direction rather than the opposite.11 What we can conclude about the Jesus oral tradition is summed in the words of , he says:

In conclusion, the cumulative weight of evidence supports the existence of a tendency in the early church to preserve the Jesus tradition. The memory of Jesus was pertinent and important to the early church and they were equipped with means of conserving it accordingly. Even so, we have not arrived at a demonstrable blue print outlining exactly how the Jesus tradition originated and metamorphosed into the Gospels. Those in search of apologetic evidence that guarantees the integrity of the Jesus tradition in its pre-literary stages will be mostly disappointed. Furthermore, other problems lay on the horizon such as finding suitable models of oral transmission and the barrier of textuality in retrieving oral tradition. In view of that, I regard the evidence surveyed as constituting moderate grounds for identifying a conserving force in the transmission of the Jesus tradition, since the gaps in our knowledge are too vast to assert otherwise. At the end of the day most of what is said about the formation of the Jesus tradition is based on a priori assumptions, circumstantial evidence, inference, hypothesis, analogy, conjecture and sheer guess work. We will never arrive at a fool proof theory of the how the oral tradition was handled and developed into the canonical Gospels, but the exercise remains a necessary one as a prolegomena to historical Jesus research.11

A Comprehensive History of the Biblical Text This list has been adapted from Prof. Bart Ehrmans,Misquoting Jesus and from The Text of the New Testament, by Kurt and Barbara Aland. 47 65 CE, Pauls Epistles. 65 99 CE, the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are written Marcions Canon 2nd Century CE. Contains 10 of the then known 13 Pauline Epistles, Abridged version of the Gospel of Luke. The Muratorian Canon 2nd Century CE. Tatians Diatesseron 2nd Century CE. Portions of this text still exist to this day and can be read. It is a harmonization of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Shepherd of Hermas 2nd Century CE. Written during the 2nd to 4th centuries, included in the canon of Codex Sinaiticus. Origen says: The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others they either neglect to check over wh at they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please. - Misquoting Jesus, page 59 Quote from 2nd 3rd Century CE. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE. Christian scribes emerge as a professional class within the Church in the 4th and 5th centuries. Misquoting Jesus, page 55. The Bile began to be copied in scriptoria, singular scriptorium, a place where professional copying of manuscripts occur. Emperor Constantine requests the Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius to produce 50 Bibles in 331 CE. Pope Damasus orders Jerome to produce a proper Latin translation of the Bible near the end of the 4th Century CE in 382 CE. The majority of Christendom spoke Latin. This work became known as the Latin Vulgate. The 2nd Council of Carthage accepts the current 77 book Bible as the official canon of the Church in 393 CE. The 3rd Council of Carthage repeats the pronouncement of the 2nd Council of Carthage, in 397 CE. Byzantine monks working in monasteries from the 5th to the 15th Centuries CE take the responsibility of reproducing the Bible, due to them, we have the most amount of manuscripts from this period. These are known as the Byzantine Manuscripts. Johann Gutenbergs press produces the first printed Bible, the Latin Vulgate in 1456 CE. Humanist Desiderius Erasmus publishes his Greek New Testament in 1515 CE. This is the collection that the KJV was based on, in 1611 and is known as Textus Receptus since Elzevir characterized it as such in 1633.

The first Greek New Testament is produced by a Spanish Cardinal named as Ximenes des Cisneros and is finished by 1517 CE along with other languages though the Greek NT was started and finished by 1514 CE, the entire work was then published in 1522 CE. It is known as the Complutensian Polyglot. (Robert Estienne) Stephanus Greek New Testament, produced in 1550 and 1551 CE respectively. John Fells Greek New Testament, produced in 1675 CE. John Mills Greek New Testament, produced in 1707 CE. Edward Wells and Daniel Maces Greek New Testaments in 1709 1719 CE and 1729 CE respectively. Johann Albrecht Bengels Greek New Testament, produced in 1734 CE. Johann Jakob Wettsteins Greek New Testament, produced in 1751 1752 CE. Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testaments, produced in 1775 1777 CE and 1796 1806 CE. Tischendorfs Editions of the New Testament culminates in the Editio Octava Critica Maior of 1869 1872 CE. Reprinted in 1965. Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Horts, The New Testament in the Original Greek, published in 1881 CE. Eberhard Nestles, Novum Testamentum Graece, published in 1898 signaled the end of the reign for Textus Receptus. 13th Edition of the Nestle Greek New Testament is produced by Eberhards son, Erwin Nestle in 1927. Kurt Aland begins working with Erwin Nestle in 1950, listed as an associate in the 21st edition of 1952 and by the 22nd edition, his name appeared on the title page. United Bible Societies 3rd Edition of the Greek New Testament, based on Kurt Alands work, published in 1975. Nestle-Aland 26th Edition of the Greek New Testament published in 1979. Nestle-Aland 27th Edition of the Greek New Testament published in 1993. Nestle-Aland 27th Edition of the Greek New Testament published in 2012

An Introduction to Textual Criticism This portion has been adapted from Leon Vaganays, An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, pages 50 -88. There are 3 main areas of study in textual criticism: 1. Verbal Criticism examining the sources of corruption in a manuscript. 2. External Criticism examining the value of the text (whether they be manuscripts, versions, quotations) where the variants are found according to its authority. 3. Internal Criticism examining the value of the text according to its intrinsic value by its text and context. Verbal Criticism: Additions through the most common error of dittography; that is the repetition by mistake of a letter, syllable, a word, a group of words or even part of a sentence. Its an error of the eye. Omissions through haplography that is writing letters, syllables or words once which should have been repeated, as well as homoeoteleuton, this is the confusing of words, lines or sentences which have the same ending. Confusion of letters, common in the Greek Manuscripts due to the confusion of letters because they either have a similar sound or shape. For sounds, this is referred to as itacism. Confusion of words due to abbreviations or poor writing. Lapsus Calami are what the above consist of, they are unintentional variants, due to a slip of the pen or the scribes hand. Intentional Variants: o Corrections of spelling, grammar and style. o Corrections for the sake of harmony or conformity. o Agreement between parallel passages of the New Testament. This is the filling out of separate Gospel accounts with details from parallel passages. o Agreement between Biblical Quotations in the New Testament and the text of the Old Testament, see the correction of Mark 1:2, to read as it is written in the Prophets instead of, as it is written in Isaiah. o Agreement between New Testament texts and Liturgical texts, see Manuscripts E.07, G.011 adding to the end of Matthew 6:13, For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen. Public prayers usually ended with such a doxology. o Exegetical corrections. o Interpolations, changes to make the text easier to understand or a copyist adding marginal notes into the text because he is reluctant to leave it out. o Deletions, used to remove some historical difficulty, see Matthew 23:35 where in S.01, where Zecharias is mentioned, the detail, son of Barachias is omitted. o Tendentious Alterations, changes to one word which are due to a theological tendency. o Doctrinal Corrections, see Mark 13:32 where some manuscripts left our nor the Son.

External Criticism The classification of texts into Alexandrian, Byzantine and Western by J.J. Griesbach. The System of Common Faults, where it is said the copies which contain the same faults in the same places were copied from each other or are all copies of one manuscript containing those faults. Multiple Readings it assumes as its starting point a certain classification of the most wellknown manuscripts, especially the uncials, and then goes on to ask the following question: given the classification, how is each new manuscript to be placed in one of these basic groups? The answer comprises three stages: the number of agreements between the new manuscript and each of the others for specific variation units which produce a clear demarcation between the groups of the first classification; the number of agreements between the new manuscript and the group closest to it, based this time on an examination of only the singular readings of the group; still within the group, a comparison of the text of the various manuscripts for the other variation units. The Direct Tradition, this is meant, for the New Testament, the Greek manuscripts as a whole: papyri, uncials, minuscule and lectionaries. The Papyri, used within the first three centuries until the seventh century. The Indirect Tradition (the versions and the quotations). o The Versions: How is the authentic text of a version to be identified? How to find the text underlying a version? How to determine the relationship between this problematic text and the original? o The Quotations by the Church Fathers.

Internal Criticism Set out in parallel columns all the variants which he has classified, so as to be able to evaluate them and thus make a final choice. The shorter reading is preferable than the longer one, the usual tendency of scribes, especially when they are looking for a chance to make some kind of revision is to expand the text. The more difficult reading is to be preferred to the simpler one. Determining the source variant, as the critic examines the text, he is to choose the variant which best explains the existence of all the other variants, but which cannot be explained by the others. The use of literary criticism, the critic must select the variant which best fits with the general tendencies of the author. Conjectural Emendation, this refers to those variants which are not attested by any of the documents but which are put forward by the critics in certain difficult passages.

Conclusion: The Eclectic Method Eclecticism implies no watertight division between the various disciplines: verbal criticism, external criticism, and internal criticism, all have their role to play and they complement each other. Understood in this way, the eclectic method seeks to follow a middle path between the main systems which continue to hold sway in the editing of classical and medieval texts. Essentially, the method to be followed in New Testament textual criticism depends on the history of the variants. In every case, the critic attempts to get beyond the less pure forms to the form which is closest to the original. In the process, as actual examples are worked through, a general idea is acquired of the value of the different types of text and, simultaneously, of the history of the text. It is this history which helps the exegete at each stage of his investigations. This governs the whole of textual criticism.

Responding to Missionary Apologetics and Polemics

References: [1] An Introduction to the Bible, Clyde E. Fant, page 48. [2] The Text of the New Testament, Kurt and Barbara Aland, page 79. [3] Jesus Remembered, James Dunn , page 173 . [4] 1 Corinthians 15:3. [5] Luke 1:1-2. [6] http://richardbauckham.co.uk/uploads/Accessible/Denver.pdf page 2, Prof. Richard Bauckham, page 4. [7] Jesus Remembered, James Dunn, page 186. [8] Ibid, page 187. [9] Ibid, page 187. [10] Ibid, page 254. [11] Jesus and the Eyewitness Testimony", Richard Bauckham, page 115. [12] The Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Oral Tradition, Michael F. Bird, page 34-35.