The Rev. D.B. Knox: “The Authority of the Bible” (Part 1)
Turning now to our second question, what are the reasons for this belief through which we give the Bible this authority ? But first we must deal with an objection which is Frequently heard.
Objectors point out that 2000 years have passed since the Bible was written. For the greater part of this time printing was unknown; manuscript had to be copied from manuscript, and this gave opportunity for all sorts of errors and corrections to creep in. The test, they say. has been added to, changed and altered with the passage of time, and there is no guarantee that we have got the Bible as it was originally written.
This objection is easily disposed of. Our English Bible is translated from the Greek and Hebrew. Anyone who will be at the pains of learning there languages can verify the fact for himself that the translation is accurate. Most of us are willing to take this on trust.
But, it may be asked, can we know that the Greek text, for example, from which our New Testament has been translated, is the same Greek text which was written by the original authors? The answer, as the politicians say, is in the affirmative, and it is based on the science of textual criticism.
The textual critic of the Bible is in the fortunate position of possessing over 3000 manuscripts of the text. Some of these are very ancient. The famous Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum was copied round about the year 350. It contains all the New Testament and large sections of the Old. The Vatican manuscript at Rome is a little earlier. These two manuscripts are written on parchment but recent archaeological excavations in Egypt have brought to light papyri manuscripts of the New Testament (preserved from decay by the dry sands of the desert), which date back to the second century.
Thus, only a hundred years elapsed from the writings of the books till the time when the oldest copies which we now possess were made. This does not give much time for corruption, and even this short gap can he bridged with certainty with scientific methods of criticism.
The essay by Knox goes further to explain this, and is very much worth reading.