The Preservation Of The New Testament Text: A Common Sense Approach -- By: James A. Borland

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 10:1 (Spring 1999)
Article: The Preservation Of The New Testament Text: A Common Sense Approach
Author: James A. Borland


The Preservation Of The New Testament Text:
A Common Sense Approach

James A. Borland, Th.D.

Professor of Bible and Theology
Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia

Opinions vary as to how God might have preserved the text of the New Testament. No originals remain, only copies, and these have many variations. Yet, it can be said that the New Testament text is substantially pure as demonstrated in the existing manuscripts. The minor differences that exist between manuscripts should be examined carefully, however, keeping in mind that the Scriptures came to man in an inerrant fashion. The original location of the autographs can provide a key to understanding their transmissional history. Manuscript choices are crucial and can help or hinder doctrinal understanding.

* * * * *

“My Words Will By No Means Pass Away”1

Jesus, as recorded in his Olivet Discourse, used a strong type of Greek double negative when he proclaimed “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” The word order in each of the synoptics is identical, though Mark and Luke use the future indicative, while Matthew expresses the thought with an aorist subjunctive (Matt 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The concept is that God’s words, and hence His promises, will never fail to be performed.

The same thought is more fully expressed in Matthew 5:18. There Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” The emphasis is not that a jot or tittle would never be overlooked when copying a biblical manuscript, but rather that not even the least aspect of God’s promises would ever fail to be fulfilled by the Almighty God who created and now sustains this magnificent

universe. In fact, not only jots and tittles, but also entire words and even larger chunks of material have accidentally been omitted during the copying of individual manuscripts. The preservation of the New Testament text is not to be founded upon a glib quotation of these or other such verses.2

No Originals, Only Copies

Why Textual Criticism Is Needed

There is no doubt that God in His providence could have preserved the original New Testament writings if He had so chosen. Obviously, that was not His plan. Frederic...

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