The Table Briefing: Engaging Challenges To The Reliability Of The New Testament Text -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 175:697 (Jan 2018)
Article: The Table Briefing: Engaging Challenges To The Reliability Of The New Testament Text
Author: Darrell L. Bock

The Table Briefing: Engaging Challenges To The Reliability Of The New Testament Text

Darrell L. Bock


Mikel Del Rosario

Darrell L. Bock is Senior Research Professor in New Testament Studies and Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament Studies, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Adjunct Professor of Christian Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University, Rocklin, California.

Copyists make mistakes. How can you claim to know what the New Testament says when there are hundreds of thousands of textual variants?” Many skeptics bring up challenges like this to undercut the idea that most English translations of the Bible reflect what the biblical authors wrote. Have we lost the message of the New Testament?

We talked with textual critic Daniel Wallace in an episode of The Table about how to approach the issue of manuscript differences in the transmission of the Scriptures. Wallace is Senior Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

This discussion highlights answers to four key questions that can encourage believers as they engage in everyday conversations about the reliability of the text: Why do New Testament manuscripts contain so many differences? Do variants suggest completely different, competing theologies? What essential doctrines are at stake? How does textual criticism relate to the reliability of the New Testament?

Why Do The Manuscripts Contain So Many Differences?

Some skeptics say it is unlikely that English Bibles represent what the biblical authors wrote because existing manuscripts have many

differences between them.1 Textual critics, however, are involved in recognizing and recovering the original wording of the New Testament documents. Bock and Wallace discuss textual criticism:

Wallace: The word “criticism” simply means research, and “textual criticism” is the discipline that has as its primary goal to ascertain the wording of an original document that no longer exists or can no longer be found. We apply it to all ancient literature. We apply it to a lot of modern literature, including the Gettysburg Address. We have five copies in Lincoln’s handwriting, and they all have differences among them. With the New Testament, the origin...

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