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One of the two greatest objections that Muslims have to the Gospel is that the Bible has been corrupted. They claim the Jews corrupted the Old Testament and the Christians corrupted the New Testament. Although they make this claim, they offer no proof.
When I ask them for proof they say that it is because it has a different message than the Qur’an. Since the Qur’an was given after the Bible it abrogates, or abolishes, anything that came before it. This doctrine of abrogation even applies to the Qur’an. In one place the Qur’an says one thing and in another it says the opposite. When this happens the newer passage supersedes the older passage.
For example early in his life Muhammad taught that Allah had told him there is no compulsion in religion. In other words, no one is compelled to believe one way or another. In the last chapter of the Qur’an Allah tells Muslims they are to kill anyone who doesn’t believe like them.
When challenged with this contradiction Muslims respond that the earlier passages have been abrogated by the later passages. In other words, Allah changed his mind.
The argument when contradictions are found in the Qur’an is that Allah changed his mind, but when contradictions between the Bible and the Qur’an are found they accuse Christians of corrupting the New Testament and Jews of corrupting the Old Testament.
There are errors that have crept into some of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and I have explained how they crept in. We saw that the manuscripts can be classified into families according to the types of errors found in them.
We saw that the early “church fathers” wrote out their sermons and quoted passages from the Bible. We also saw that there are manuscripts of early translations into other languages. All of these have been compared to determine the true Greek text. Even though there is some variation between all of the different manuscripts we found that 95% of the evidence agrees with the Textus Receptus Greek text.
I want to look at how our English translation came into being. There are some who believe that God has worked a second act of inspiration in preserving His Words in the English language. This, of course, has no scriptural support. There is nothing magical about the English language.
I believe that all people of any language group have the right to have the Scriptures in their own language. Who are we, as English speaking people, to say that our translation is better than the French? Can we say that God loves the English speaking people more than the French? Of course not.
Some might argue that English is the international language of our day. What if there is another thousand years before the Lord’s return. I do believe in the soon return of Christ, but so did Paul. I don’t want to get into that for today. I just want to remind that no one knows the day nor the hour of His return and it is possible that another language could arise and become the dominant language for another time.
We do, however, see the preserving hand of God in the translation of the English Bible. Lets take a closer look at this.
There are two different families of Greek texts that our English Bibles are coming from. One translation is translated from what is called the Majority Text, and the others are translated from what is called the Minority Text. (Although the New King James Bible is translated from the Majority Text, it follows the Minority text in its wording and in its marginal notes.)
The Majority Text is called by this name because the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts, quotes, and ancient translations fall into this family. The Minority Text family is based upon a minority of the manuscripts, quotes, and translations.
Some of the manuscripts which make up the Majority Text are just fragments with a few verses, some contain parts of the Gospels, some parts of the epistles, etc. The Minority text is based primarily upon two manuscripts that were discovered (rediscovered) in the late 1800’s.
There is a difference between a manuscript and a text. A text is something that is printed from a printing press. A manuscript is something that is written out by hand. Our world changed in the 1400’s with the invention of the printing press. Before that time everything was hand written and called a manuscript.
The Majority Text is commonly called the Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It is called this because it has been the commonly received text used by Bible-believing Christians through the centuries. This is the text from which the King James Version was translated. The work started in 1604 and finished in 1611. There have been five major “revisions,” the last being in 1769. This is the Bible we commonly use today.
I need to insert a word about these revisions. They were not changes in the 1611 text, they were corrections of printing errors and standardization of spelling. One of the revisions was a change of the script that was used, or as we would say today, the font. You can still see the old script on some old buildings and monuments. For example many say “In God we trvst” instead of “In God we trust.” In both cases the words “trvst” and “trust” are spelled the same, but in the first the “u” looks like the “v” in the second script.
The Apocrypha, some questionable books and some inter-testament books, which were never canonized, were included in the early printings of the King James Bible. They were removed in the 1769 printing, but they were never accepted as Scripture. I have some preacher friends who say, “Bless God, I preach out of the King James 1611 Bible.” In fact the Bible that they are preaching from is the 1769.
Now lets take a look at the Minority Text. The Minority Text was compiled in the late 1800’s. There were two manuscripts that were found and thought to date to the fourth century. These two manuscripts contained all of the New Testament from the Gospels to the book of Revelation. In addition to their age, they were in great condition.
As a result of these finds, two men from Cambridge, Westcott and Hort, set about to print a new Bible based upon these two manuscripts. It was completed in 1881 and I have a first edition of this translation. I don’t have a first edition of the 1611, but I do have a 1633 printing. This is a subject that has been a passion for me and I have done a lot of study in this area.
This created a great scandal as a number of verses were missing in this new Bible. They were missing because the two manuscripts did not contain the verses. It was argued that these two manuscripts which we will call the Minority Text were better than the other manuscripts (the Majority Text) because they were:
- Written earlier in date
- Complete Bibles
- In great condition.
These Minority manuscripts had two major faults though. Under the microscope, textual critics found that just in the Gospels alone there were about 5,000 variants. They also were missing major verses that all the Majority Text contained.
Secondly, the Minority Text was in such great condition which suggests that they were probably rejected by the early Saints, no doubt for their many errors. If they were of value to the churches, they would have been used and worn. Let’s face it, what books in your home are in the best condition. The ones you don’t read are low in value to you as they are not important.
In spite of these faults, the popularity of the Minority Text grew as they had one thing that the Majority Text did not have in the 1800’s. What they had over the Majority Text is about 200 to 500 years.
Since the 1800’s many more manuscripts have been discovered, some dating to the first and second centuries. These new discoveries support the Majority Text, not the Minority Text.
All of the modern translations except the New King James, are translated from the Minority Text and as I said earlier, the NKJV has its own problems. The most important is that it follows the Minority Text in its marginal notes.
I use the KJV because it is translated from the Majority Text and does not use the marginal notes to explain away the text from which it is translated as does the NKJV. There is too much evidence supporting the Majority Text for me to use a Bible that follows the Minority Text.
Does the conflict over the different translations weaken our argument to Muslims? No it does not. It actually strengthens it because we have the evidence to prove that the Bible has not changed in 2,000 years. Remember, 95% of the manuscripts are in the Majority Text family.
Tomorrow we will look at the Qur’an in the same way we have looked at the Bible. We will see if it has the same kind of evidence to support it.
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