Rebuttal to Johnny Bravo's Article

"Christian Scholars refuting the status of the NT as an inspired scripture"

by Dave Walston

The following is a rebuttal to the claims set forth by "Johnny Bravo" against the reliability and authenticity of the NT documents. Bravo's article can be found at various places (e.g. [1], [2], [3]). Another series of rebuttals to Johnny Bravo's article was written by Sam Shamoun.

To "johnny"

We seem at odds on at least two major issues, and it is these that I would like to address before trying to deal with the others. The major theme of your arguments has centered around the unreliability of the NT document that we have now. You seem to have several problems with the NT: most importantly, how much deviation there is in the current text from the original MSS, and secondarily; issues such as the lack of an official canon, and the fact that the NT documents were not originally conceived as "scripture".

I will also show the scriptural evidence for the concept of the trinity and how it is not a doctrine formulated by the church, but the articulation of an incredibly complex body of data and concepts into a rule of faith. More on that later, but for now the NT documents.

To be fair, considering the nature of the NT documents, whether they were originally conceived by the authors as scripture is irrelevant to the point. The church recognized the truth contained in them, and at a later date the documents were compounded into a canon. But the much more significant charge of manuscript corruption to the degree that the original message cannot be reconstructed has to be dealt with.

Without a set scripture, you will simply change the NT to read whatever suits the muslim understanding, using the quran to determine; what is right or wrong, what is true and what is not, what is the invention of the church and what is the true doctrine of Jesus. This, in and of itself, is a logical fallacy:

If you say that there is truth and falsehood in the Bible. And one of the purposes of the Qur'an is to indicate what is the truth and what is the falsehood. If one is out to prove that something (the Bible) is wrong, then of course one uses the material available to do so. If one is to prove that something is correct, then you would use the other material available. Since the Bible contains both truth and falsehood, one can do both.

But how do you decide which is the truth and the falsehood in the first place?

Now, maybe you have not understood how flawed this approach is. You are employing circular reasoning. You want to show the truth of Islam / the Qur'an. But since the truth of Islam is the goal of your reasoning you cannot use it in the process or for the foundation of your argument as well.

But in your stated approach:

> > We use the Quran as the Muhaymin over the previous scriptures, that
> > which agrees with the Quran is the truth revealved by God still intact
> > in your scriptures and that which disagrees with the Quran is the
> > falsehood created by men at a latter time and inserted in your
> > scriptures. (read 5:48)

you do exactly that, because you use the Qur'an to decide which part of the Bible is right and which is wrong. That makes your argument circular and therefore a logical fallacy.

This is from San Jose State’s Critical Thinking homepage;

"What's the difference between a valid deductive argument and a fallacy? In the case of the fallacy of circular reasoning, the difference is not be as obvious as you might expect. In the fallacy of circular reasoning, which is often called begging the question, you assume to be true what you are supposed to be proving. But that's also true for all valid deductions, where the conclusion (what you are trying to prove) is derived from the premises or assumptions. This difference is that, in circular reasoning, the conclusion is contained in a single premise or assumption, while in a deductive argument the conclusion is derived from both premises."

If you have already declared that the Bible is corrupted and contains falsehood then EITHER you base your arguments on something (the Qur’an}that might not be true, and your argument itself is therefore invalid, because it is reasoning from unverified and possibly false premises. OR you try to separate the true from the false [according to Islam] in order to get "pure" premises, but then you use the Qur'an to do so and make your argument circular which invalidates it too.

I agree that it is valid to use the Bible for the attempt to prove Christianity wrong. But if you want to postulate any corruption in the Bible [as most Muslims do], then the Bible cannot be used anymore for a validation of the Qur'an without committing one of the above logical fallacies.

You will have to come up with an independent validation of the Qur'an FIRST. THEN you can use the Qur'an to separate the true from the false in the Bible. BUT this independent validation of the Qur'an hasn't made its introduction to me yet. THAT is what you have to show me first.

But on the other hand, if you discard the Bible, then you are pulling the rug under the Qur'an since the harmony with the earlier revelations is one of the biggest reasons the Qur'an brings for its own validity. And you just discarded it!

This objection is met with:

Wrong again. The Qur'an makes clear that the peoples who had received revelation before have distorted those books, that is one of the reasons for the sending of the Qur'an, to guard what was sent to be able to tell what is right and wrong in what is claimed to be the previous revelation. If the claimed previous revelation is not in accord with the Qur'an, then that part which is not in accord is wrong. The part which is in accord with the Qur'an is ok.

This is valid ONLY if you have ALREADY shown the Qur'an to be right. WHERE have you or anybody done so?

There must also be some independent, scholarly way of verifying exactly what of the NT scriptures is corrupted and how it got that way (not simple speculation but detailed tracing of where the corruption came in) and what of the NT documents is truth. Witness this exchange:

>The only way to reconcile the statement "jesus is a
> prophet of islam", is to pick and choose what scriptures you want to
> believe. But there must be some valid reason for deciding WHY one
> passage will stand and others won't.

I think you better let your scholars worry about that. It was not the
Muslims who claimed that 1 John 5:7 was a fabrication, your own
scholars said it. And ever if we were to accept your Gospels as God's
inerrant words, even then a more stonger argument can be raised in
support of Jesus being NO GOD compared to him being god.

Notice I state that, especially with the charge of massive corruption in the NT text, there must be some valid reason for deciding WHY one passage will stand and others won't. Instead of answering how you can distinguish the difference, you shifted the burden to christian scholars. You completely ignored the question and switched the conversation to the charge of corruption again. Then, you added that you can still prove that Christ was not divine. I should like to know how You would be able to determine what of the NT is still correct, after you have alleged so much corruption?

The answer, of course, is to view everything through the lense of Islam, because you have NO proof of what is corrupt and what is not. You cannot show me how to arrive at your conclusions other than using the Qur’an to prove itself. Please stop making these unsubstantiated claims.

And I have to reiterate my argument from above: It is the as yet unvalidated Qur'an which claims to be in accord with the earlier scriptures. If this claim of harmony turns out to be false, then it is the problem of the Qur'an and not the problem of the Bible. It is the Qur'an which claims harmony and it isn't there, so the Qur'an claims something that is wrong. I cannot understand that it is so hard to comprehend that if the Qur'an makes false claims that this is a problem for the Qur'an and NOT for the Bible.

On to the rest of the issues.

To answer the charges of textual corruption, I will have to take several paths: first, I would like to discuss the issue of the texts and quote some of the same sources.

Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament (from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyc. of the Bible)

No other body of literature has been preserved in quantity even comparable to the number of extant manuscripts (MSS) of the NT. The writings of some ancient authors are represented by only one MS from ancient times. A few have survived in a few dozen works, and a very few, number in the hundreds. With over 5,000 Greek MSS, and more than 10,000 translations, no body of work comes close to the NT.

The MS tradition of the NT is distinctly superior to that of other ancient lit. contrasted with other ancient lit, where the oldest MSS are dated a thousand years after the author, the NT has 2 of it’s most important MSS written within 300 yrs, and fragments that were written within 1-2 centuries after the biblical authors wrote.

Since classical scholars assume the general reliability of these secular works even where the time interval is great and the MSS few, it is clear that we can assume with far greater assurance that the presently available NT text reliably represents what the authors originally wrote.

With the vast amount of had copies that were made during the early centuries thousands of textual variants were introduced into the various MSS. Technically speaking, it is impossible to determine the exact original wording from any given MS. Rather, a comparison of MSS must be made and principles established for determining as nearly as possible the exact form of the original text.

Textual criticism is a basic discipline, but a prerequisite to all further NT studies, since the determination of the text to be used must precede the interpretation of the text.

In making a copy of a book by hand, any scribe, ancient or modern, would certainly introduce errors, either accidentally or intentionally. When his MS is copied the errors are passed along. In general, the more copies between 2 versions, the more likely to have errors. But it is conceivable that an 11th century MS could have been a direct copy of a 4th cent. copy, which itself was directly copied from an original, while an 8th century copy of a 7th century MS could be 20 copies removed from the original. Even with the large number of extant MSS available, we have no way of telling if any are the direct ancestors of the original.

It must not be supposed, however, that the text of the NT rests upon precarious grounds because of the multitude of copies, or because of the great number of variants found in the MSS. There is, in fact, virtually no question concerning by far the greater part of the words of the NT. Virtually all MSS of any given part of the NT say essentially the same thing. Only about one word in a thousand involves a substantial question of meaning or serious doubt of the correct text. No Christian doctrine rests upon insecure textual evidence.

Witnesses to the text are known from 3 basic sources: Greek MSS, ancient translations (VSS) and quotations from ancient writers.

Most of the works of the church fathers are in Gk. and Latin. Their quotations are so extensive that the NT could be virtually reconstructed from these sources alone. As with the VSS, the goal for patristic quotation is the information it gives concerning the NT text. To the extent to which the NT text that a church father used can be determined, that particular form of the text can be assumed to have been known and used at the time and in the general location in which that church father lived.

The transmission of the text brought variations in the copies. This was especially true of most of the NT epistles, which were simply correspondence between groups and individuals. Since the message of the book or letter was the important thing, a person making a copy might not necessarily feel obligated to strictly duplicate the word order or details that did not affect the sense. At the same time, the significance of this divergence between MSS must not be exaggerated.

The differences between the MSS that arose by repeated copying led to the development of families of MSS. It was evidently not long before comparison was being made between MSS and it was being discovered that there were many differences, especially between MSS of different localities. During the next centuries there occurred a period of convergence of MSS. Although copying of MSS by hand continued to mean that virtually no two MSS were completely identical, nevertheless from the 8th century on, almost all MSS represented the standardized form of the text.

The variations that creep in to the MSS can be classified as unintentional or, much less frequent, intentional. Unintentional variations include errors of seeing writing and of judgment. Intentional errors are the results of scribes’ attempts to correct what they thought were errors, to make a text less ambiguous, or to strengthen the theology. There is virtually no evidence of a scribes intentionally weakening the theology or purposely introducing heresy into his MS. Although all sorts of variants may be found in the extant MSS, these represent minutiae in the total text of the MSS. The scribes generally copied the text with great care, even when the text may not have seemed to make sense.

The principles of textual criticism regarding internal evidence are 1) the reading that at first seems more difficult in the context is more likely to be original. An ancient scribe, faced with 2 or more readings would likely choose the easier one to understand. Thus, in John 1:18, "the only God…" is preferred over "the only son…." 2) the shorter reading is more likely to be original than a longer reading. 3) the reading that the other reading could have developed from is likely to be the original. For example: in mark 9:49 the original text is doubtless the rather enigmatic, "for everyone shall be salted with fire" which a prosaic scribe altered to the innocuous "for every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (newer trans. will use the older version) by the same token, a reading that has a definitely heightened theological or devotional emphasis is likely to be a scribal alteration rather than the original. 1 Cor. 6:20, "so glorify God in your body" led some scribe to make a pious addition, "and in your spirit, which is God’s"

An important application of the above principles relates to parallel passages. Since a scribe would be tempted to harmonize parallels, a reading that is not thus harmonized is generally preferred.

The application of the above principles of internal evidence to a large number of variants will make it possible to evaluate the degree of reliability of individual witnesses and, more importantly, of groups of witnesses or text types.

In conclusion, while the precise original wording of the NT cannot be determined with finality in every instance, the best form of the text that can be reached will be, from a technical point of view only an approximation of the original. From a practical pint of view, however, the difference involved in most variants is so slight that little or no difference of meaning is involved. One may safely conclude, then, that when sound principles of textual criticism are judiciously followed, a NT text may be constructed of which it may be said, in the words of Sir Frederic Kenyon, that "we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable word of God"

(Edited from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Text and manuscripts of the New Testament.

Bibliography: B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, The New Testament in the original Greek. C.R. Gregory, Die griechscheischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, H.G.G. Herklots, How Our Bible Came To Us, B.M.Metzger, Annotated Bibliography of the ‘Textual Criticism of the New Testament, L.D.Twiley, The Origin and Transmission of the New Testament, F.G. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, F.F.Bruce, The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? J.H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, B.M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament; It’s Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.)

I would like to look at several areas:


1. Pertaining to the the sources used; at least one, those quotes of Bruce M. Metzger, were not indicative of the quoted authors true position. and while the quotes were used to produce a conclusion that the NT we have today cannot be trusted to accurately report what the eyewitnesses saw, the authors actual opinions vary greatly from the misleading conclusions drawn.

You have cited Bruce M. Metzger, a world renowned authority on the manuscripts and transmission of the Greek New Testament (NT) text, to support the argument that the NT text has been corrupted. The impression given is that Metzger seemingly believes that the variants within the ancient manuscripts of the NT prove that scribes corrupted the text. Hence, we get the impression that Metzger feels that Christians cannot confidently assert that today's NT is a faithful replica of the original autographs.

Metzger's book is aimed at providing the methodology employed by textual critics in identifying variant readings and the possible reasons why these variant readings arose. Metzger's book also provides the textual method used to assess which variant reading actually preserves the original reading of the text.

Let me quote Metzger's views on the variant readings of the NT text and how this effects its preservation. The following quotations are taken from Lee Strobel's book The Case For Christ. In chapter two of his book, Strobel personally interviewed Metzger on the reliability and preservation of the NT text. Strobel opens up the interview with Metzger on the issue of alleged "errors" of the NT text:


"With the similarities in the way Greek letters are written and with the primitive conditions under which the scribes worked, it would seem inevitable that copying errors would creep into the text,' I said. "Quite so," Metzger conceded.

"And in fact, aren't there literally tens of thousands of variations among the ancient manuscripts that we have?" "Quite so."

"Doesn't that therefore mean we can't trust them?" I asked, sounding more accusatory than inquisitive. "No sir, it does not," Metzger replied firmly. "First let me say this: Eyeglasses weren't invented until 1373 in Venice, and I'm sure that astigmatism existed among the ancient scribes. That was compounded by the fact that it was difficult under any circumstances to read faded manuscripts on which some of the ink had flaked away. And there were other hazards - inattentiveness on the part of scribes, for example. So yes, although for the most part scribes were scrupulously careful, errors did creep in.

"But," he was quick to add, "there are factors counteracting that. For example, sometimes the scribe's memory would play tricks on him. Between the time it took for him to look at the text and then to write down the words, the order of words might get shifted. He may write down the right words but in the wrong sequence. This is nothing to be alarmed at, because Greek, unlike English, is an inflected language." "Meaning...," I prompted him.

"Meaning it makes a whale of a difference in English if you say, 'Dog bites man' or 'Man bites dog' - sequence matters in English. But in Greek it doesn't. One word functions as the subject of the sentence regardless of where it stands in the sequence; consequently, the meaning of the sentence isn't distorted if the words are out of what we consider to be the right order. So yes, some variations among manuscripts exist, but generally they're inconsequential variations like that. Differences in spelling would be another example."

Still, the high number of "variants," or differences among manuscripts, was troubling. I had seen estimates as high as two hundred thousand of them. However, Metzger downplayed the significance of that figure.

"The number sounds big, but it's a bit misleading because of the way variants are counted," he said. He explained that if a single word is misspelled in two thousand manuscripts, that's counted as two thousand variants.

I keyed in on the most important issue. "How many doctrines of the church are in jeopardy because of variants?" "I don't know of any doctrine that is in jeopardy," he responded confidently.

"None?" "None," he repeated. "Now, the Jehovah's Witnesses come to our door and say, 'Your Bible is wrong in the King James Version of 1 John 5:7-8, where it talks about "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." They'll say, 'That's not in the earliest manuscripts.'

"And that's true enough. I think that these words are found in only about seven or eight copies, all from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. I acknowledge that is not part of what the author of 1 John was inspired to write.

"But that does not dislodge the firmly witnessed testimony of the Bible to the doctrine of the Trinity. At the baptism of Jesus, the Father speaks, his beloved Son is baptized, and the Holy Spirit descends on him. At the ending of 2 Corinthians Paul says, 'May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.' There are many places where the Trinity is represented."

"So the variations, when they occur, tend to be minor rather than substantive?"

"Yes, yes, that's correct, and scholars work very carefully to try to resolve them by getting back to the original meaning. The more significant variations do not overthrow any doctrine of the church. Any good Bible will have notes that will alert the reader to variant readings of any consequence. But, again, these are rare." (Strobel, pp. 82-85)

Strobel continues:


Metzger had been persuasive. No serious doubts lingered concerning whether the New Testament's text had been reliably preserved for us through the centuries. One of Metzger's distinguished predecessors at Princeton Theological Seminary, Benjamin Warfield, who held four doctorates and taught systematic theology, until his death in 1921, put it this way:

If we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must... declare it to be marvelously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied- a care which has doubtless grown out of true reverence for its holy words... The New Testament [is] unrivaled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use. (Strobel, p. 91)

Strobel concludes:

As we stood, I thanked Dr. Metzger for his time and expertise. He smiled warmly and offered to walk me downstairs. I didn't want to consume any more of his Saturday afternoon, but my curiosity wouldn't let me leave Princeton without satisfying myself about one remaining issue.

"All these decades of scholarship, of study, of writing textbooks, of delving into the minutiae of the New Testament text - what has all this done to your personal faith?" I asked.

"Oh," he said, sounding happy to discuss the topic, 'it has increased the basis of my personal faith to see the firmness with which these materials have come down to us, with a multiplicity of copies, some of which are very, very ancient."

"So," I started to say, "scholarship has not diluted your faith-"

He jumped in before I could finish my sentence. "On the contrary," he stressed, "it has built it. I've asked questions all my life, I've dug into text, I've studied this thoroughly, and today I know with confidence that my trust in Jesus has been well placed."

He paused while his eyes surveyed my face. Then he added, for emphasis, "Very well placed." (Strobel, p. 93)

Hence, the last thing on Metzger's mind is to give the impression that the NT text is corrupt.

Here is how Metzger concluded one particular section in his book The New Testament; It’s transmission, corruption, and restoration:

"Lest the foregoing examples of alterations should give the impression that scribes were altogether wilful and capricious in transmitting ancient copies of the New Testament, it ought to be noted that other evidence points to the careful and painstaking work on the part of many faithful copyists. There are, for example, instances of difficult readings which have been transmitted with scrupulous fidelity. Thus elthen at Gal. ii. 12 yields no good sense and can scarcely be the form intended by the author. Nevertheless, the scribes of the earliest manuscripts... refrained from correcting it to elthon. Another instance of a manifestly erroneous reading is ei tis splagchna kai oiktirmoi at Phil. ii. 1, which could have arisen when the original amanuensis misunderstood Paul's pronunciation of ei ti splagchna... However the solecism may have originated, the significant point is that all uncials and most minuscules have transmitted it with conscientious exactness.

"Even in incidental details one observes the faithfulness of scribes. For example, the scribe of codex Vaticanus copied quite mechanically the section numbers which run in one series throughout the corpus of the Pauline Epistles, even though this series had been drawn up when the Epistle to the Hebrews stood between Galatians and Ephesians and is therefore not suitable for the present sequence of the Epistles in Vaticanus. These examples of dogged fidelity on the part of the scribes could be multiplied, and serve to counterbalance, to some extent, the impression which this chapter may otherwise make upon the beginner in New Testament textual criticism." (Metzger, p. 206)

The fact is, the early Church Fathers tried their best to preserve the original readings, and spoke contrary to those who uncritically accepted any reading that could not be attested by the NT manuscripts:

"This number [666] is found in all THE MOST APPROVED AND ANCIENT COPIES [of Revelation]. Furthermore, those men who saw John face to face bear their testimony... I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech and have corrupted the middle number in the name... Afterwards, others received this reading WITHOUT EXAMINATION." Irenaeus, 180 A.D. (David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs

The second century Church Father Irenaeus is both aware of the most reliable and ancient copies from the ones that are unreliable. Furthermore, he also criticizes individuals for not critically examining manuscripts for authenticity. Since they both had the testimony of John's companions and accurate, ancient copies, they were able to know what the originals said.

"It is incredible to every man of sense that we [i.e., orthodox Christians] would have introduced any corrupt text into the scriptures. FOR WE HAVE EXISTED FROM THE VERY FIRST." Tertullian, 197 A.D. (Ibid)

"Now what is there in our Scriptures that is contrary to us? WHAT OF OUR OWN HAVE WE INTRODUCED? Is there anything that we need to take away again, or else add to it, or alter it - in order to restore to its natural soundness anything that is contrary to it and contained in the Scriptures? What we are ourselves, that also is what the Scriptures are, and have been from the beginning." Tertullian, 197 A.D. (Ibid, p. 600)

The majority of the time it was the heretics, not believers, who were trying to correct the MSS. Yet, they failed to do so since the believers had copies transcribed from the originals and knew what the ancient readings were:

"For this reason, the heretics have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them... And many such copies can be obtained, for their disciples were very zealous in inserting these 'corrections,' AS THEY CALL THEM... Nor can they deny that the crime is theirs, when the copies have been written with their own hands. Nor did they receive such copies of the scriptures from those by whom they were first instructed in the faith. For they cannot produce the originals from which they were transcribed." Eusebius citing Caius, 215 A.D. (Ibid, 641)

In fact, believers warned of adding or taking away from the Word:

"If it is nowhere written, then let him fear the woe that comes on all who add to or take away anything [from the written Word]." Tertullian, 210 A.D. (Ibid, p. 600)

Hence, the early Church Fathers bear out the testimony given by Metzger on the reliability and accurate transmission of the NT text.

In conclusion, Dr. Metzger’s testimony has been used to give a false impression that the NT scriptures are not reliable. Dr. Metzger quite obviously does not believe this.

I have not been able to read for myself any of the book you have quoted for Dr. Ehrman. I know he is a highly regarded textual critic. I would like to repeat what I saw on the amazon website. You seem, originally, to have mistakenly attributed these quotes to me. I did not write these originally, they were posted by another who wrote the review. One who is presumably not christian. Let me repost HIS thoughts on the book.

1. This book is about one group of Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries who, writing before the canon had been set, fought heatedly against sects of Christians it considered heretical. This group - the 'proto-orthodox' - modified its scriptures to avoid alternative interpretations of Jesus, and in so doing, ironically corrupted its own sacred texts.

2. Most of the corruptions are surprisingly subtle and minor in appearance - most of them are a change in one or two words in a single passage. For example, changing a reference from reading 'Jesus' to 'Jesus Christ' was born in a manger affirms that Jesus was divine from BIRTH, that he was UNIFIED in his being as well. This one corruption could be used by orthodoxy to maintain an interpretation that resists adoptionist or separationist attack.

3. He presents an argument for each corruption, some of them truly fascinating, though. Many of them are speculative in nature, and he acknowledges that.

4. The vast majority, however, of the corruptions he lists have NOT made their way into the modern bible, at least not the NSRV Oxford bible that I own. He gives his reasons for each of these in full.

5. Importantly, none of the corruptions themselves were carried out in a systematic way - the orthodox church never seemed to have a policy of corruption. Ehrman is careful not to attribute any malicious intention to the orthodox scribes, as well.

So we have a work that is speculative in nature, is about minor changes to passages concerning Jesus, many of which have not made their way into modern translations, nor were they carried out in any systematic way.

Please notice I am quoting from the review because I have not had the opportunity to read the book for myself. My guess is that you have neither read the book or know anything about the author or his theology, you simply pulled the quotes from a mulsim website that is partial to your views.

But I can see from a non-christian source, that the book is a mans speculation on how textual variations would have come about. You cannot draw the conclusion that "what we have here is a big mess is it not?" No, it is not.

I have not been able to yet check on the sources for George Arthur Buttrick. All the local libraries are closed for the New Years holiday.



2. muslim sources have traditionally understood that the text was not corrupted, but mistranslated/misunderstood.

The Qur'an teaches that Islam is the continued faithful religion in the same line as the Prophets who were before Muhammad: The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah ... and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (42:13 AYA). The result of this view is that the Scriptures given by these Prophets are considered to be genuine Scriptures from God: But say, "We (Muslims) believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you (Jews & Christians); our Allah and your Allah is One" (29:46 AYA).

Confirming the Scripture

In the Qur'an there are many references to the Jewish and Christian Holy Books. In fact the Qur'an addresses Christians and Jews in terms of the Book: O People of the Book! (5:68 AYA). The Qur'an claims that it confirms the teaching of these former Books: O ye People of the Book! Believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you (4:47 AYA).

God's Mission For The People of the Book

Christians and Jews are mentioned in the Qur'an as the custodians of Scripture: For to them was entrusted the protection of Allah's Book (5:44 AYA). God gave the Scripture to the Christians and Jews so that they could make known to the whole world and every nation the true knowledge of God: And remember Allah took a Covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it (3:187 AYA). Some of the Jews and Christians fulfilled this mission, others did not. Just as there are faithful and unfaithful Muslims so too the Qur'an distinguishes between the faithful and the unfaithful Christians and Jews.

The Unfaithful The Qur'an describes the behaviour of unfaithful Christians and Jews as:

1/ Concealing the truth of the Scripture: Who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah?' (2:140 AYA).

2/ Teaching falsely and forgetting what they had heard from their Scripture:

There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from Allah," but it is not from Allah (3:78 AYA).

They change words from their context and forget a part of that whereof they were admonished (5:13 MP).

3/ Wanting profit from the Scriptures:

And remember Allah took a Covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made! (3:187 AYA)

4/ Some of the Jews who were transgressors and did not know the Book wrote false Scripture:

But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them (2:59 AYA).

Among them are unlettered folk who know the Scripture not except from hearsay. They but guess. Therefore woe be unto them who write the Scripture with their hands and then say, "This is from Allah," that they may purchase a small gain therewith (2:78-79 MP).

The Faithful The Qur'an teaches that there are faithful Christians and Jews:

Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knoweth well those that do right (3:113-115 AYA).

Nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": Because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant (5:85 AYA/82 MP).

According to the Qur'an, the faithful Christians and Jews did not do what the unfaithful did; they obeyed their Scriptures and worshipped God. But what about the their Scriptures? Does the Qur'an consider the Scripture of the Jews and Christians to have been corrupted by the actions of the Unfaithful? Or has it been preserved by the Faithful? Does the Qur'an consider that only part of their Scripture now contains truth? To answer these questions we need to consider what the Qur'an says of the Jewish and Christian Scripture.

The Qur'anic View of the Jewish and Christian Scripture

1/ The Qur'an teaches that all Scripture should be respected in the same way:

O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His Apostle, and the scripture which He hath sent to His Apostle and the scripture which He sent to those before (him). Any who denieth Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Apostles, and the Day of Judgement, hath gone far, far astray (4:136 AYA).

We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them (3:84 AYA).

2/ The Torah that was given to Moses, and the Gospel that was given to Jesus, are the Scriptures that the Jews and Christians possess:

Those who follow the Messenger (Mohammed), the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them (7:157 MP).

And when there cometh unto them (Jews) a Scripture (the Qur'an) from Allah, confirming that in their possession (2:89 MP).

Thus, the Qur'an is not referring to Scripture that Jews and Christians used to possess in the past, but now are lost. Rather, the Torah given to Moses, and the Gospel given to Jesus, is the Scripture that is with them (the Christians and Jews) and in their possession at the time of Muhammad.

3/ The Qur'an teaches that it confirms and explains more fully the previous Scripture:

This Koran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book (10:37 AYA).

Thus, the Qur'an sees itself as the guardian of the message of all Scripture: To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety (5:48 AYA).

4/ A Muslim is instructed, when arguing with a Jew about clean/halal food, to ask the Jew to bring his proof from the Law of Moses. Say: "Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth" (3:93 AYA). How can he bring the Law and study it to determine the truth if it has been corrupted or abrogated? The Scripture must be reliable to make such a command. The same assumption is also seen in the following verse: And they say: "None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian." Those are their (vain) desires. Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful" (2:111 AYA).

5/ Does the Qur'an teach that it abrogates the Jewish and Christian Scripture? Some may point to 2:106 to say it does. However, if there is abrogation it clearly has its limits, for just five verses after 2:106 the Qur'an asks Christians and Jews to bring your proof (2:111) from their Scriptures. This would be an irrelevant and contradictory command if it had just taught that their Scripture was abrogated. In fact, just thirty verses after 2:106 the Qur'an says that it makes no distinction between (2:136) itself and any of the former Scripture. Al-Bukhari says that 2:106 refers to abrogation within the Qur'an itself:

Volume 6, Book 61, Number 527:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: 'Umar said, Ubai was the best of us in the recitation (of the Qur'an) yet we leave some of what he recites.' Ubai says, 'PI have taken it from the mouth of Allah's Apostle and will not leave for anything whatever." But Allah said

But Allah said: "None of our revelations do we abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar" (Qur'an 2:106).

6/ In the following verse the Books of Moses are referred to as being a reliable source of God's warning: Nay, is he not acquainted with what is in the books of Moses (53:36 AYA). Thus, there is no excuse for the one who ignores it.

7/ Say: "O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord" (5:68 AYA). How can the Jew or Christian, stand fast by the Law and the Gospel, if the Law and the Gospel have been corrupted or abrogated? Again, the assumption of the Qur'an is that these Scriptures are the reliable word of God.

8/ As Muhammad grew in power he was often called upon to act as judge and settle disputes. However, when Jews and Christians came to him he had to point them to their own Scriptures to find the judgement of God:

But why do they (Jews) come to thee (Mohammed) for decision, when they have (their own) law before them? ... We bestowed on him (Jesus) the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah- a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil). Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein (5:43-48 AYA).

Again, the Qur'an refers to these Scriptures as God's reliable word to which the Jews and Christians should turn when desiring to know God's will. These Scriptures must be considered faithful if the Qur'an instructs Jews and Christians to submit to them.

9/ In the following verses we see Jews and Christians are urged to teach the truth of their Scriptures and to obey them: Say: "O People of the Scripture! Stress not in your religion other than the truth" (5:77 MP). Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (to practice it) yourselves, and yet ye study the Scripture? (2:44 AYA). Christians and Jews could not teach and obey their Scriptures if their Scriptures were corrupted.

10/ The Scripture that existed before the Qur'an was to be consulted by the Arabs if they were in doubt about the message that had been given to Muhammad: If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee (10:94 AYA). Thus this earlier Scripture must be reliable to make such a request.

11/ Here the former Scriptures of the Jews and Christians are appealed to to prove the genuineness of Muhammad's mission.

Those who follow the Messenger (Mohammed), the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them (7:157 MP).

They say: "If only he would bring us a miracle from his Lord!" Hath there not come unto them the proof of what is in the former scriptures? (20:133 MP).

And lo, it is in the scriptures from the men of old. Is it not a token for them that the (religious) doctors of the Children of Israel know it? (26:196-197 MP).

How can these Scriptures be appealed to, to prove Muhammad is genuine, if they have been corrupted? The Qur'an must view these Scriptures as reliable to make such a request.

What are the Jewish and Christian Scriptures?

The Jews and Christians have always shared the same book. The Qur'an also observes this: The Jews say: "The Christians have naught (to stand) upon"; and the Christians say: "The Jews have naught (to stand) upon." Yet they (profess to) study the (same) Book (2:113 AYA). In Judaism it is called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, and in Christianity, the Old Testament. In this book are the Torah ( Law of Moses), the Prophets, and the Psalms (writings). These are the Scriptures of the Jewish Prophets before Jesus. Jesus said of this Scripture, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:44 RSV). Because Jesus said this Christians have always honoured this Scripture. This Scripture is the first section of the Christian Bible.

There is a book about which many Jews and Christians do not agree: the Gospel. Christians accept the Gospel as Scripture. Many ancient copies of this book from the time of Muhammad, and before, still exist today. The Book of the Gospel is called the New Testament by Christians; this is the second section of the Bible.

Thus all the Scripture of the Jews and Christians is found in the Bible. There are in existence today ancient Scriptures from the time of Muhammad and hundreds of years before his time. Scholars use these ancient Scriptures to show that modern Bibles are genuine.


The Qur'an maintains that the Scripture of the Jews and Christians is the word of God and no distinction is to be made between any of the holy books. Therefore if you are a Muslim you should not attack the Bible - the Qur'an upholds it! The Bible is taught to be a source of guidance for Jews and Christians who wish to know the will of God, and so the Qur'an encourages Jews and Christians to obey their Scripture and never asks them to deny it. The Qur'an says the Jewish and Christian Scripture foretells the coming of Muhammad and it never says that faithful Jews or Christians have corrupted their Scripture.

These muslims scholars testify to the nature of the "corruption":

Muhammad 'Abduh (Egypt) -

... makes no sense at all. It would not have been possible for Jews and Christians everywhere to agree on changing the text. Even if those in Arabia had done it, the difference between their book and those of their brothers, let us say in Syria or Europe, would have been obvious.

Mawlawi Muhammad Sa'id (Pakistan) -

Some Muslims imagine that the Injil is corrupted. But... not even one among all the verses of the Qur'an mentions that the Injil or Tawrat is corrupted... it is written that the Jews -... not the Christians... alter the meaning of the passages from the Tawrat while they are explaining them. At least the Christians are completely exonerated from this charge. Hence the Injil is not corrupted and the Tawrat is not corrupted...

Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi -

The ordinary Muslim people...believe through hearsay...that the Injil is corrupted, even though they cannot indicate what passage was corrupted, when it was corrupted, and who corrupted it. Is there any religious community...whose lot is so miserable that they would shred their heavenly Book with their own hands...? To say that God has taken the Injil and the Tawrat into heaven and has abrogated them is to defame and slander God...

The Qur'an never asks a Christian or Jew to accept it because their own Scripture has become corrupt, rather they are asked to accept the Qur'an because the Qur'an claims, 1/ to confirm the teaching of the Jewish and Christian Scripture, 2/ that Muhammad is foretold in the Torah and Gospel, 3/ the Qur'anic teaching makes clear what the Jews and Christians could not understand properly from their own Scriptures. If the Qur'an is to be taken seriously then the claims that it makes must be tested. If its claims are seen to be true then that is good evidence for accepting it as the Word of God. If its claims are seen to be false then it fails its own test and should be rejected.

3. the qur’an itself, would have to be considered unreliable using the same criterion that has been applied to the NT.

Muhammad Hamidullah has quite a detailed discussion of qur’anic variations in the preface to his French translation of the Qur'an. He divides them into four classes.

1. Variations caused by a scribe who makes an error while copying. Naturally these are easy to find by comparing with other copies.

2. Variations caused by someone writing notes of explanation in the margin. Hamidullah writes:

"The style of the Qur'an was such that sometimes even the companions of the Prophet had to ask him for explanations. Sometimes they noted these explanations in the margin of their personal copies in order to not forget them. It is completely understandable that sometimes the scribe mixed the text and the commentary while trying to faithfully make a new copy from an old one. We know of the famous order of Omar, who formally forbid the adding of commentary to copies of the Qur'an.

"There are hundreds of variant readings of this type. But the fact that `the Qur'an of such and such a teacher' has a certain addition which the others don't have, leaves no doubt as to the origin of that addition. Also the information concerning this type of variant given by the classical authors is sometimes contradictory---some saying that the Qur'an of so and so had a certain addition---others denying it."

3. Variations caused by the permission originally given by Muhammad to recite the Qur'an in other dialects than that used by the people of Mecca.

"Muhammad tried to make religion easy for even the most humble. Therefore, he tolerated some dialectical variations even for the text of the Qur'an because the essential thing was not the word but the sense; not the recitation, but the application and the assimilation. He said willingly, `Gabriel permitted me to have up to seven different readings.' While guarding for himself and his fellow citizens a certain reading, he permitted the members of different tribes to replace certain words by their equivalents---better known in their tribe. (Later Othman stopped this also.) But from copies made in outer areas and kept by their descendants, the teachers from previous centuries were able to gather a certain number of such words, which are exact equivalents of those used in the official version."

4. Variations coming from the fact that for the first 150 to 200 years after the Hejira, the hand written copies of the Qur'an were written without vowel marks, and without dots to distinguish between different letters written in the same way.

Hamidullah discusses this lack of vowels and dots in another passage from the same page. He writes,

"Finally, a (last) source of variants comes from the Arab writing of the earliest times, before the use of diacritical marks. It is sometimes possible to read a word as an active verb or passive, as masculine or feminine, and the context sometimes admits several possibilities."

An example of this type of variant is found in the above photograph. Starting toward the end of line three and continuing to the end of line seven the text reads,

"God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed olive tree, neither of the east or of the west..."

In the Arabic texts used for their English and French translations Yusuf Ali and Hamidullah both have [arabic letter] (yuqadu) for the passive verb "lit". This masculine form would usually refer to the preceding masculine noun "star" (kaukab). But in line six of the photograph we find one letter which has been singled out and written with vowel points. It is [arabic word]. These two points above the letter change it to the feminine passive (tuqadu) which then refers back to the feminine noun "glass" (zujaja ) as the subject.

This Qur'an was copied when it was still possible for a scholar to say, "I prefer the reading of so and so", and the man who ordered the copy, or made it, believed that the feminine passive form was correct.

Since a translator like Yusuf Ali might mention only two or three variants in his whole translation, the impression is given that there are very few. Hamidullah is one of the few Muslim authors who has been willing to admit, as we saw above, that "there are hundreds of variant readings". In fact there are thousands. In Arthur Jeffery's work where he has listed all the variants which he has found reported in any document, there are more than 1700 attributed to Ibn Mas`ud alone.

Most of them, 99.9%, are like the above example and have very little importance, but a few represent real problems such as the following example from the Sura of the Table (Al-Ma'ida) 5:63 from 10 AH. The verse reads,

"Shall I tell you of an evil worse than that, for retribution with God? He who God cursed him, and was angry with him, and made some of them into monkeys and pigs, and worshiped (the idol) al-taghut."

The translation is mine(another author who did this translation), and it represents what the Arabic says, because according to the vowel marks "God" is the subject of the verb "worshiped"! But it is impossible to have a sentence in the Qur'an which says that God worshiped (the idol) al-taghut"! No translator has translated it this way, and I, myself, know this is impossible, so something has to be wrong.

It could be my faulty knowledge of Arabic, and that would be the first thing to suspect if I were the only one with a problem. However, when we look at Arthur Jeffery's Materials For the History of the Text of the Qur'an we find that this is not the case. Jeffery has found record of 19 alternate readings; seven attributed to Ibn Mas`ud, four to Ubai b. Ka`b, six to Ibn Abbas, and one each to `Ubaid b. `Umair and Anas b. Malik. Obviously each man could have had only one alternate reading. But the multiplication of possibilities shows that the scholars recognized the problem.

Here are the readings attributed to Ibn Mas`ud.

** wa man `abadu al-taghuta

wa `abadata al-taghuti

wa `ubada al-taghutu

wa `abuda al-taghutu

wa `ubuda al-taghuti

wa `ubidati al-taghutu

`ubbada al-taghuta

For those who don't know Arabic, these alternate readings can be divided into three classes: the verb is made plural so that the monkeys and swine are "those who worship (the idol) al-taghut", or the verb is put in the passive tense so that "al-ght is worshiped" by the monkeys and swine, or the word `abada is changed to a noun form making the monkeys and swine "slaves" or "worshipers of al-taghut".

Moreover, in 14 out of the 19 changes all that was done was to change the vowel combinations. In the other 5 cases one or two consonants were also added.

I have chosen to reproduce the readings attributed to Ibn Mas`ud because his first reading above (marked **) is the one which has been chosen by all the translators. The verse then reads,

"...(God) made some of them into monkeys and pigs, and who served (the idol) al-taghut..."

The fact that this difficult reading has been maintained in spite of the ease with which it could have been eliminated by altering two or three vowel marks, certainly proves the care with which copies were made after the vowels were added.

This website; shows a fragment of the oldest extant copy of the quran. It is dated to the late 8th century. This is fully 150 years after muhammed died. One of the charges that you have made is that "Do you have any originals? No, of course not, what you have are copies of the copies of the copies of the copies of the originals!"

Now, let me ask you; do you have any of the original copies of the qur’an? All you have are "copies of the copies of the copies of the copies of the originals!"

My point in all this about the qur’an is not that muslim scholars don’t have the actual reading of the true qur’an, but that these sorts of variations are endemic to working with ancient manuscripts. In truth it doesn’t matter to me if you have the original or not, because I don’t believe even the original is inspired. But the reality is, if you have more manuscripts, then you have a better chance of reconstructing what was said.

4. what exactly is meant by corruption.

I would like to discuss the idea of the corruption that occurs. There are nearly 25,000 whole or fragmentary copies of the individual books of the Bible in our possession today, with some dating back four, six, and even eight centuries before the compilation of the Quran. Due to the fact that everything was hand-copied, thousands of variants arose. Yet, textual critics who are not necessarily Christians, have carefully examined these variants and have concluded that we have 98.33% of the original reading, with the 1.77% still remaining intact within the variants. Hence, we have virtually 100% of the original reading faithfully preserved via the manuscript copies. Further, the critics have also established the fact that none of these variants affect any major doctrine, since most of them are nothing more than misspellings, numerical discrepancies, and scribal notes which were assumed to be part of the text by later scribes. An example of a variant is given here for further clarification:

Y*u hav on a illion llars
Yo ave w*n mill dollars
You have won a * dollars
You * million ars

A careful examination of these variants would lead us to the conclusion that the original document read, "You have won a million dollars." This exemplifies the majority of the variants found in the Bible, and clearly demonstrates that these in no way affect any tenet of faith whatsoever.

One further note to make is a comparison of our understandings of the "word of God":

Jesus walked on the earth, performed miracles publicly and was, at least according to orthodox Christian Theology, "the Word that became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14) The public was his eyewitness and many wrote about him. Though he handed down no sacred writings personally, his life was the gospel. The Apostles were eyewitnesses to his works and privy to his teachings like no others, and several of those apostles either wrote directly or dictated messages about him. These writings, about Jesus and about the Christian faith, became the NT.

Muhammed received his visions (the word of God) and told others what he had heard. He was not attended by miracles and claimed none other than the Qur’an itself. He told others his visions and after he died they began to collect what he told them into a written form.

In Christianity, multitudes saw "the word of God who was made flesh and who made his dwelling among men". If the apostles had begun to invent myth about Jesus, many eyewitnesses would have been able to refute them.


In Islam, no one saw or heard the word of God with the exception of Muhammed. He told everyone else what he had allegedly heard himself.

An analogous situation in Christianity would be if Peter alone knew of Jesus, and told all the other apostles what he said. The others would have no way to verify if Jesus even existed or what exactly, if anything, he said. Assuming that they believe Peters testimony, then the others write down what Peter said that Jesus said.

In Christianity, the "word" (Jesus) was out in the open for all to see.

In Islam, the "word" (the Qur’an) was hidden, never heard by any others personally.

Even if we could be absolutely sure that the text of the qur’an is the same as what muhammed gave, there was NEVER any eyewitness(earwitness to it) verification is therefore impossible. That is a dubious history.

I would also like to note your admission that "It is true that not one of these variant readings affects the substance of Christian dogma". For someone who has been trying to prove that 1) our scriptures are a "big mess", and that 2) even conservative christian scholars admit that we cannot trust our scriptures in an attempt to discern correct doctrine, this is truly amazing.

Hello Dr. Saifullah

I have been involved in discussing this issue with "johnny", and had not even noticed that you responded to one of my posts until now. I would like to carry on the discussion, though, but will have to do this "underground" since the moderators will not allow this on the NG.

First off, I would like to say that I have visited your website before and must give you credit. It seems like a thorough discussion of many different aspects of Islam, as well as the polemics that run between Islam and Christianity. I have frequently relied on your site to try and gain the proper view point of Islam. It seems that very often, in Muslim_Christian dialogue, there is a noticeable amount of basic misunderstanding of our respective positions. As such, we end up debating straw man issues. Hopefully I can avoid that, but I welcome your corrections, if I have misrepresented the Islamic position.

> > You are also correct in saying that they (the various churchs) do not

> > have a single canon. But all the canons, with the exception of the

> > syriac churchs, contain at least the same 27 new testament books. The

> > syriac, does not recognize 2 Peter, 2-3 John and Jude or the

> > Revelation. The Ethiopic Church has all 27 plus 12 more discussing

> > church order. The Coptic church uses 2 epistles of Clement plus the

> > 27. the Greek, Roman, and Protestant church all recognize the 27 New

> > Testament works, but vary somewhat on the Old Testament lit.


> That is not suppose to prove the "inspiration" of Christian scripture. It

> simply proves that there is no way to show which scriptures are from God

> and which are not. Further, it must be emphasized that the modern day New

> Testament is based on a scholarly consensus rather than being a "Word of

> God" or "Inspired by God". The links below would provide you with ample

> picture of what we are talking about concerning the modern day New

> Testament.





Some thoughts on "The Word of God"

I think it would be of value to clarify that both you and I have differing ideas as to how we view the "word of God".

Jesus walked on the earth, performed miracles publicly and was, at least according to orthodox Christian Theology, "the Word that became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:12) The public was his eyewitness and many wrote about him. Though he handed down no sacred writings personally, his life was the gospel. The Apostles were eyewitnesses to his works and privy to his teachings like no others, and several of those apostles either wrote directly or dictated messages about him. These writings, about Jesus and about the Christian faith, became the NT.

Muhammed received his visions (the word of God) and told others what he had heard. He was not attended by miracles and claimed none other than the Qur’an itself. He told others his visions and after he died they began to collect what he told them into a written form.

In Christianity, multitudes saw "the word of God who was made flesh and who made his dwelling among men". If the apostles had begun to invent myth about Jesus, many eyewitnesses would have been able to refute them.

In Islam, no one saw or heard the word of God with the exception of Muhammed. He told everyone else what he had allegedly heard himself.

An analogous situation in Christianity would be if Peter alone knew of Jesus, and told all the other apostles what he said. The others would have no way to verify if Jesus even existed or what exactly, if anything, he said. Assuming that they believe Peters testimony, then the others write down what Peter said that Jesus said.

In Christianity, the "word" (Jesus) was out in the open for all to see.

In Islam, the "word" (the Qur’an) was hidden, never heard by any others personally.

Even if we could be absolutely sure that the text of the Qur’an is the same as what Muhammed gave, there was NEVER any eyewitness(earwitness to it) verification is therefore impossible. That is a dubious history.

Thoughts on the importance of the transmission of the Word of God

1) The Qur’an is supposed to be literally dictated word for word, from a template in heaven that has always existed. (I understand that not all Muslims hold the position that it has always existed) Any words added or subtracted would be a human corruption of what God himself said.

2) The Bible, according to Christianity, was inspired by God, but written by men.

In Christianity, the message is the gospel- which Jesus lived and spoke.

Consider this; He spoke in Aramaic, but the Bible was written in Greek. So we can see that from the beginning, it is of relative unimportance what the exact words are. It was never a criterion of spreading the message that Jesus’ words be only understood in his mother tongue of Aramaic. Matthew 28:19 says "therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.."

The exact words are not the message, the Gospel can be told in all different languages, it can be told by different authors, it can be reworded in different translations. It is not bound to an original language. If it were, then it would be important for Jesus words to have been recorded in the original.


Fortunately, His message is not restrained to exact words, but ideas and concepts that can be retold. The power of the Gospel is not in it’s eloquence, but in it’s ability to change men’s lives. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power."

However, the message handed down in the Qur’an, when we contrast with the Gospel, is a message that must be exactly reproduced. This is why it must be learned in the Arabic. Because it loses it’s power in the translation. The Qur’an’s only miracle is it’s supposed eloquence and the power of it’s words. Yet, it does not translate well, losing it’s force when expressed in English. This is why muslims insist that it must be learned in Arabic and memorized in Arabic. My copy of the Qur’an is not really a Qur’an, but only "the meaning of the Qur’an."

The bulk of your web links listed above, speak to 3 different areas: we don’t have the original copies, there are variations, and the art of textual criticism is a human endeavor.

No Original Copies.

This website; This website; shows a fragment of the oldest extant copy of the quran. It is dated to the late 8th century. This is fully 150 years after Muhammed died.

I can’t imagine that you would be saying that we need to have the originals in place for the message to be valid, because you would invalidate your own scriptures in so doing.

I imagine then, that the real issue is that there are variations, and with the textual criticism itself.

I will speak to the variations in a further section. As you have posted a few examples on your website, it believe that the conclusions drawn can be refuted by simply looking at the textual variations themselves.

Textual Criticism

As I am sure you are aware of, the transmission of the NT writings by hand is bound to introduce an amount of errors, just in the sheer magnitude of copying all of it. So that there are variations, of this kind is not really surprising. Where I am so often confused by the Muslim position, is how they can see the variety of manuscripts as a detriment to the process. The more witnesses that you have to an event, the more likely to accurately reconstruct the event. If we had only one copy of the NT, it would certainly make for a more monolithic statement of faith, but would, of course, completely lack in corroboration.

Given that we don’t have one copy and only one copy, let’s say there were 2. Whatever variations there are would have to be given equal weight. But more copies means more material to weigh. I suppose that for the most part, I believe you to be right; textual criticism is a human endeavor. The textual critics job is not to be a theologian (well, actually theology would enter into it, but you wouldn’t want anyone’s personal philosophy on God to override the obvious readings of the scripture) , his job is to reconstruct the original as closely as possible, no matter what the text may be.

Maybe, rather than looking at the NT as "the word of God", which, of course, carries a lot of emotion with it, we can look at the NT writings as historical documents.

As historical documents, the NT writings do not support the Islamic understanding of Jesus, (which was what my original post was in regards to; i.e. who is a true follower of Jesus? Searching out the true teachings of Jesus)

TC and the Qur'an: ( )

"Textual criticism is not a new invention. And paleography is not a new science. So it would seem to be a fairly simple thing to get together a team of experts, board the transportation device of choice, and examine the oldest manuscripts of the Qur'an which Muslims can produce. "Strangely enough," Ahmad Von Denffer tells us,

although during the past two centuries of more intense orientalist study of Islam perhaps tens of thousands of books on Islam have been written and published by the orientalists, the original studies on the Qur'an, which are the sole basis of all research on Islam, number not more than half a dozen or so. . . - apart from translations - published during the present century.

Only four German orientalists (Noldeke, Schwally, Bergstraesser and Pretzel), we are told, and two English scholars (Arthur Jeffery and John Burton) deal with the history of the text of the Qur'an. Von Denffer views this absence of study on the Quranic text as "strange" - Arthur Jeffery does not. His colleague, Professor Bergstraesser, while studying the text of the Qur'an, discoloured one of twenty alleged originals of Uthman with his own blood. Jeffery himself is barred from examining at least one manuscript which he maintains is of great importance. The examination of the Quranic text has neither been an easy, nor a safe one for non-Muslims - neither have Muslims ever endeavoured to formulate a critical text themselves.

In spite of this discouraging news, and in spite of the fact that the Archives in Munich have been destroyed by bombs and fire (so the whole process has to be begun again), I do have access to both of the English works on the text of the Qur'an - hence, this paper. And though it is obvious that a paper of this scope cannot hope to deal exhaustively with the works of Jeffery and Burton - I can still summarize their conclusions.

Jeffery's work is basically a catalogue of textual variations (comparing today's text with the oldest sources) from 15 primary codices, 13 secondary codices and some unnamed codices. He sees this as the first step towards a critical text of the Qur'an (similar to the critical texts of the Bible). His work has not made Muslim apologist particularly happy, though Von Denffer acknowleges the usefulness for his work."

From this website:

A discussion of the discovery of early fragments of the Qur’an found in Yemen.

"The impact of the Yemeni manuscripts is still to be felt," says Andrew Rippin, a professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary, who is at the forefront of Koranic studies today. "Their variant readings and verse orders are all very significant. Everybody agrees on that. These manuscripts say that the early history of the Koranic text is much more of an open question than many have suspected: the text was less stable, and therefore had less authority, than has always been claimed."

That Muslims have never "endeavored to formulate a critical text", means that we have a presentation of the Qur’an as monolithic. It is presented as without variation, and transmitted as such throughout the 1400 yrs. Yet that it is not really true. There are variations. In light of the variations we do know about, would you say that you can still see the original message? What if it is discovered that there are a lot more variations than are being admitted right now? Will you throw the message of Islam out altogether?


> > Just for reference, which church Father did not accept the New

> > Testament writings as scriptural?


> It is well-known that the early Church Fathers did not see as New

> Testament being an "inspired" scripture. In fact, it is well-known

> among those who have studied the early Church Fathers and their beliefs.

> More info at:


You have cited Bruce Manning Metzger, some of whose works I have read, and George Arthur Buttrick.


The church fathers you mention are Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, The Didache, Papias of Hierapolis, Barnabus, Polycarp, and Hermas of Rome. We’ll take them one at a time, and rather than quote what a scholar says about what they believe, I will simply let you read their words. (from F.F. Bruce, the Canon of Scripture, and research done from the internet)

Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthian church (c ad 96), quotes the words of Jesus as being at least on a level of authority with those of the prophets. ‘The Holy Spirit says’, he states, introducing a conflated quotation from Jeremiah 9:23f. and 1 Samuel 2:10 (‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in the Lord, to seek him out and to practise judgment and righteousness’), and then he goes on:

"being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spoke, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: "Be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as you do, so shall it be done to you; as you judge, so shall you be judged; as you are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure you measure, with the same it shall be measured to you." By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words". (1 Clem. 13)

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (c 110), refers to some people who refuse to believe anything that is not recorded ‘in the archives’ (or ‘in the charters’, meaning presumably the Old Testament scriptures), even if it is affirmed ‘in the gospel’. When Ignatius replies ‘It is written’ or ‘scripture says’ (presumably meaning a gospel writing), they retort, ‘That is the question’ — in other words, ‘Is the gospel scripture?’ Ignatius responds:

"But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity"

"I therefore exhort you that ye do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. For I have heard some saying, If I do not find the Gospel in the archives, I will not believe it. To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified. He who disbelieves the Gospel disbelieves everything along with it. For the archives ought not to be preferred to the Spirit." It is hard to kick against the pricks; " it is hard to disbelieve Christ; it is hard to reject the preaching of the apostles." ( To the Philadelphians 8.2)

The Didache: Roughly contemporary with Ignatius’s letters (or perhaps a decade or so earlier) is the manual of church order called the Didache (superscribed ‘The Lord’s teaching to the Gentiles through the twelve apostles’), proceeding possibly from the neighbourhood of Antioch, where ‘the gospel’ is clearly the gospel of Matthew (the form of the Lord’s Prayer found in Mt. 6:9—13 is prescribed for regular use ‘as the Lord commanded in his gospel’).

"Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever.." (Didache 8.2)

Papias. How many gospel writings Papias knew is uncertain: Eusebius preserves comments which he made on two, thinking that they contained information that was worth quoting. One of the comments Papias claims to have derived from someone whom he calls ‘the elder’: it relates to Mark’s record:

"And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements." (Fragments of Papias, 6)

from the Epistle of Barnabus;

"And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when ye reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, writing to the church of Philippi between ad 110 and 120, reminds his readers, who (perhaps by their own testimony) were ‘well versed in the sacred letters’, that

It is declared then in these Scriptures, "Be ye angry, and sin not," and, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (To the Philippians 12:1)

The former injunction comes from Psalm 4:4, but it is quoted in Ephesians 4:26, where it is followed by the second injunction.

"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" Ephesians 4:26

some other fathers that were not mentioned:

the Palestinian Christian Hegesippus could report after his journeys among the Mediterranean churches that

"But in the case of every succession, and in every city, the state of affairs is in accordance with the teaching of the Law and of the Prophets and of the Lord..." (Fragments from His Five Books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church)

These quotations do not amount to evidence for a New Testament canon; they do show that the authority of the Lord and his apostles was reckoned to be not inferior to that of the law and the prophets. Authority precedes canonicity; had the words of the Lord and his apostles not been accorded supreme authority, the written record of their words would never have been canonized.

Justin Martyr

"For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them" and " and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read" (F irst Apology, 66.3; 67.3)

Dionysius, bishop of Corinth about 170, complains that letters he has written have been falsified by omissions and interpolations; of those responsible for this misdemeanor he says,

And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others, for whom a woe is in store. It is not wonderful, then, if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord's writings, when they have formed designs against those which are not such. (Fragments from a Letter to the Roman Church,4)


"But since this man [Marcion] is the only one who has dared openly to mutilate the Scriptures, and unblushingly above all others to inveigh against God," Against Heresies, Book 1 27:4

Marcion was a gnostic heretic who thought the OT was no longer valid. He only accepted certain words of Jesus and modified or cut out the NT writings that he had no use for.

"addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that "they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."" Against Heresies, Book 1 6:3(quoting Galatians 5:21" I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.")

Theophilus of Antioch

"Moreover, concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels, because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God." To Autolycus, Book 3 12:1

Clement of Alexandria

"Is it not written respecting such: "Whosoever shall speak an idle word, shall give an account to the Lord in the day of judgment? " And again, "By thy speech thou shalt be justified," He says, "and by thy speech thou shalt be condemned." from The Instructor, Book 2, 6 (quoting Matthew 5:22 and 36, and Matthew 12:37)

An elementary reading of these early church fathers will clearly show a reliance on what primarily, Jesus taught and secondarily, what the Apostles taught. Most of the writings themselves are defenses against some heresy or encouragements to other believers. To claim that they themselves never thought of Jesus as anything more than just another prophet completely misses the bulk of the testimony.

> > There are approxiamtely 5,686 greek manuscripts, 19,000 in other

> > languages, and the 32,000 quotations from the 2nd-3rd century church

> > fathers. To assume corruption of all manuscripts and all of the

> > corruptions being of the exact same nature, would be such a massive

> > conspiracy as to be unthinkable. In fact, I have seen the same kind of

> > text charges leveled at the qur'an and seen the same very reasonable

> > defense used by muslims. If we were to have THAT kind of systematic

> > corruption, then we would not see the variations that exist now in the

> > text.

> > Conclusion, the theory just is not tenable.


> It is a good idea to boast about how many Mss you have; the fact being:


> "It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the

> MS tradition is wholly uniform."


> George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible,

> Volume 4, 1962 (1996 Print), Abingdon Press, Nashville, pp. 594-595 (Under

> "Text, NT").


> So, the more Mss you have the acute the problem of New Testament's

> reliability becomes. If there is not a single sentence in the New

> Testament Mss that is uniform how are we going to believe what is from God

> and what is not? It is not the conspiracy that we had created. It is more

> likely the the various Churches were involved in moving the words here and

> there for the sake of "improving" the New Testament to suit their

> understand of scriptures.

I believe the best defense of the NT is not to take this kind of statement at face value, but to investigate the area of textual criticism. This will be big, so forgive me for this but I believe that when you see real life examples of what the "corruption" is, it will appear much more mundane than the conjecture of our imagination.

NT Manuscripts: Chart of Variations (from NT Manuscripts)
For the NT, just how many manuscripts exist today? Here are the counts from various scholars of just the Greek manuscripts (complete manuscripts, small fragments, and everything in between).

Ralphe Earle had counted no papyrii, 270 Uncials, and 2,400 miniscules. Total 2,760

Aland et al, The Greek New Testament 3rd Edition (from 1975) counted 76+ papyrii, 250+ uncials, 2768+ miniscules, and 1,761 lectionaries. Total 4,855+

Bruce Metzger in 1976 counted 88 papyrii(p1-p88), 274 uncials, 2,795 miniscules, 2,209 lectionaries and 20 ostraca. Total 5,386

Aland et al. in The Greek New Testament 4th edition (1998), counted 95 papyrii, 286 uncials, 2,818 miniscules, and 1,977 lectionaries. Total 5,176

One reason the counts differ is that a number of new manuscripts have been discovered since 1975. Also some people call multiple manuscripts what others call one manuscript with multiple pieces.

The manuscripts in other languages, including 89+ Italic (Old Latin), four Vulgate families, 8 Syriac families, 8 Coptic families, Aramaic, Armenian, 2 families of Georgian, 3 families of Ethiopic, Slavonic, 5 Gothic manuscripts, Arabic, and Persian bring the total up to over 11,000 manuscripts.
The oldest preserved bilingual manuscript is Bezae Cantabrigiensis. Here is a list of bilingual manuscripts.
Greek and Latin (20 manuscripts)
Greek and Arabic (16 manuscripts)
Greek and Armenian (1 manuscript)
Greek and Coptic (52 manuscripts)
Greek and Slavonic (3 manuscripts)
Greek and Turkish (1 manuscript)
There are three known trilingual manuscripts:
Greek and Coptic and Arabic (2 manuscripts)
Greek, Latin, and Arabic
See Greek Manuscripts of the Bible p.56 for more info.

The number of manuscript variations for the NT versus other ancient works
Here are Bruce Metzger's estimates compared with other religious literature. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Metzger estimates the New Testament has 20,000 lines, an accuracy of 99.5% with only 40 lines (about 400 words) in question. (This is probably on a letter by letter basis.) Homer's Illiad is the next most reliably preserved document. It has 643-650 manuscripts, and is 95% accurate. It has 15,600 lines, with about 764 lines in doubt. The Hindu Mahabharata has 250,000 lines and is 90% accurate according to Bruce Metzger. (See the Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics p.532-533.) Over 26,000 lines have textual corruption. (See A General Introduction to the Bible - Revised and Expanded p.474-475 for more info.)

The dates of other early documents and the number of copies compared to the NT
Here are some other ancient works.

Aristotle wrote 364-322 B.C. There are only 5 copies, the earliest being 1100 A.D.

Caesar 100-44 B.C. 900 A.D. 10 copies

Demosthenes 4th century B.C. 200 copies

Euripides’ Tragedies 330 copies (The Origin of the Bible p.182)

Herodotus 480-425 B.C. 900 A.D. 8 copies

Homer wrote The Iliad 643-650 copies, more than any others. 5% of the words are in question

Jubliees (A Jewish apocryphal book) 14 copies among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Mahabharata (a Hindu scripture) 10% in question

Old Testament Manuscripts 235 scrolls and fragments the Dead Sea Scrolls alone. From the Great Isaiah scroll, about 5% of the words are different vs. the Massoretic text. However, most of these are archaic vs. later words and grammar with the same meaning.

Pliny the Younger 1st century A.D. 7 copies

Suetonius wrote The Twelve Caesars 70-140 A.D. The earliest copy is 950 A.D.

Tacitus 100 A.D. 1100 A.D. 20 copies

Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War 460-400 B.C. 900 A.D. 8 copies

The NT, a summary of the manuscript variations
There is about 97.3% certain of each New Testament word. (Other people might have slightly different numbers if they exclude some variations as certainly incorrect.) Here is a book-by-book summary.

Matthew; there are 18,111 words with 510 in question. 97.2% accuracy.

Mark, (except 16:9-20) 11.051 words with 392 in question. 96.5% accuracy.

Mark 16:9-20, 166 words in question. –1.5% (added to mark)

Luke, 19,581 words with 532 in question. 97.3% accuracy.

John, (except 7:53-8:11) 15,436 words with 322 in question. 97.9% accuracy

John 7:53-8:11, 168 words in question. –1.1% accuracy

Acts, 18,460 words with 478 in question. 97.4% accuracy

Romans, 7,030 words with 198 in question. 97.2% accuracy

Romans, (order 16:25-27) 53 words in question. -.8% accuracy

1 Corinthians, 6,799 words with 99 in question. 98.5% accuracy

2 Corinthians, 1,495 words with 50 in question. 96.9% accuracy

Galations, 2,233 words with 35 in question. 98.4% accuracy

Ephesians, 2,385 words with 43 in question. 98.2%

Phillippians, 1,621 words with 34 in question. 97.9%

Colossians, 1,570 words with 33 in question. 97.9%

1 Thessalonians, 1,477 words with 26 in question. 98.2%

2 Thessalonians, 826 words with 12 in question. 98.5%

1 Timothy, 1,592 words with 26 in question. 98.6%

2 Timothy, 1,336 words with 13 in question. 99%

Titus, 657 words with 5 in question. 99.2%

Philemon, 329 words with 6 in question. 98.2%

Hebrews, 4,888 words with 82 in question. 98.3%

James, 1,735 words with 27 in question. 98.4%

1 Peter, 1,648 words with 46 in question. 97.2%

2 Peter, 937 words with 35 in question. 96.3%

1 John (excluding 5:7-8) 2,103 words with 24 in question. 98.9%

2 John, 245 words with 7 in question. 97.1%

3 John, 219 words with 3 in question. 98.6%

Jude, 459 words with 7 in question. 98.5%

Revelation, 9,667 words with 127 in question. 98.7%


There are a total of 133,892 words with 3,561 words in question, for a 97.3% accuracy


The characteristics of the typographical errors in the New Testament

The following table was calculated from the manuscript variations listed at the end of each book.
The following table shows differences primarily due to typos, spelling, grammar, and word changes. Note the relatively high number of single word changes.


Section of the New Testament

Total words in Greek

Total words in question

Percent accuracy

Places with the number of words in question














97.2 %




























97.3 %




























97.4 %











Paul’s writings



98.0 %











Other NT



98.2 %














98.4 %














97.3 %











Conclusion: Over half of the variations are places with only one to three word variations.
It is interesting that the percentage of words subject to typographical errors is very similar in the 1, 2, and 3 word variations. Mark, has slightly more typographical errors, which would tend to confirm the generally held view that Mark was the earliest Gospel written.
As for the other errors, 9.3% of the total New Testament variations (334 words) are just in two passages: Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11. An additional 1.5% are due to the placement of Romans 16:25-27.

How the number of 97.3% for manuscript uncertainties was determined
The total number of Greek words in the New Testament to be 133,892 (from Aland et al. 3rd ed). (Aland et al. 3rd edition and 4th edition have identical words in the main text.)
The total number of manuscript variations I have seen are 3,655 words in 1,674 places. These were determined by looking through Aland et al. 3rd edition, Aland et al. 4th edition, Barry, and footnotes from the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV.
I excluded 389 words in 76 places, because most of the following criteria were met:
1. There was no disagreement between the Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscript families,
2. The earliest manuscripts were unanimous
3. Aland et al. in 3rd or 4th edition called it "A – virtually certain"
4. The variant was only in one manuscript or else only in some late manuscripts.
I had the following assumptions.
1. I generally paid more attention to early manuscripts,
2. Paid less attention to church writings for one and two word differences, because they could have paraphrased,
3. Did not discount either the Alexandrian or the Byzantine manuscript families.

This left 3,566 uncertain words in 1,647 places. Out of 133,892 total words, 3,566 / 133,892 = 2.66%

Besides my 97.3%, the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics says that Westcott and Hort’s figures would make 98.33%, and Bruce Metzger estimated 99.5%. Keith Elliot and Ian Moir in Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament p.8 says "Most modern textual critics can agree on the bulk of the text (some 95 per cent of it, perhaps). It is the remaining 5 per cent or so where disputes occur and differing conclusions may be found."

Degrees of uncertainty in the readings
Aland et al (3rd edition), Aland et al (4th edition), and Green have different opinions on some words. Aland et al (3rd edition) shows manuscript variations in 1,333 places, puts the variations in 4 categories. "A" means "virtually certain", "B" means "some degree of doubt", "C" means "considerable degree of doubt", and "D" means a "very high degree of doubt". "The apparently large number of C decisions is due to the circumstances that many readings in the A and B classes have had no variants included in the apparatus, because they were not important for the purposes of this edition. By far the greatest proportion of the text represents what may be called an A degree of certainty." (p.xiii) Assuming I counted correctly, in the third edition there are 121 (9%) A, 468 (35%) B, 603 (45%) C, and 141 (11%) D in the entire New Testament. The probability of a variation being a particular letter seems fairly uniform among the books, except that Revelation has 71 of the 92 listed variations as C.

All of the manuscripts have basically the same words, with a difference of only 2.7% (about 3,566 words). However, some Christian scholars energetically debate the differences in this 2.7%, with primarily three different views.
The Alexandrian manuscripts are the earliest and some think the most reliable (except for John 6:53-8:11). Aland et al. the NIV translators, and a majority of scholars today hold to this view. A church father named Origen extensively studied many Bible texts we do not have available today, and his work undoubtedly influenced the Alexandrian manuscript family. Besides many later manuscripts written on common papyrii, two early manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, were written on expensive vellum (deer hide). These were apparently "official copies", Constantine ordered to be written just after Christianity was legalized. These go back to about 325-350 A.D.
The Byzantine manuscripts some think are most reliable. In the east, manuscripts being written gradually "standardized", and there are 1,100 manuscripts of the Byzantine Lectionary. This viewpoint is growing among scholars, as the manuscripts typically agree with quotes from John Chrysostom, which takes this tradition back to 407 A.D.. For large changes there are least 54 word modifications between the Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscript families and 577 words absent in the Alexandrian and present in the Byzantine. This about 0.5% (631 words). In other words, 20% of all text variations are due to Alexandrian vs. Byzantine issues.
The Textus Receptus (TR), also called the Received Text, some think is the most reliable. In the West, manuscripts being written became more and more standardized. This Latin standard is called "the textus receptus". The King James Version follows the Textus Receptus, except that it adds 1 John 5:7-8.

One can find merit for each of the three views on different passages. It would be nice to find "the one family" that has all the correct readings, but perhaps the truth is that all families have a few incorrect readings.
Why are there these differences? A key reason is that the Greek copyists probably believed that precisely copying each word was not their primary intent. Their main intent was to communicate God's meaning as accurately and precisely as possible. Some did that by having a literal copy, others by correcting spelling, grammar, improving the phrasing, and making the meaning more precise, and some by paraphrasing.

The Alexandrian manuscript family
The oldest Alexandrian manuscripts are Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.), Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.), p20 (3rd century), p23 Urbana (3rd century), p45 + p46 (= Chester Beatty), p47, p50, p52, p66 (150-200 A.D.) (= Bodmer II), Ephraemi Rescriptus (400-500 A.D.). It is debatable whether p4, p8, and p13 are a part of this family. P75 (early 3rd century is called proto-Alexandrian). There also are a number of Coptic and Ethiopian manuscripts translated from Alexandrian manuscripts. The Coptic manuscripts themselves are subdivided into Bohairic, Sahidic, Fayyumic, Middle Egyptian, and others. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the New Testament p.15 says that Sahidic Coptic is only Alexandrian text in part. The Origin of the Bible p.302 says that Sahidic was probably first written about 200 A.D. Note that the manuscript Alexandrinus, which sounds like it should be Alexandrian, is actually considered a Byzantine text.
Among the church fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen (in part) quote from Alexandrian texts.

The major Byzantine texts
These are Alexandrinus, the Freer Gospels (Matthew and Luke 8:13-24:53) and the Byzantine Lectionary. The Gothic translation is Byzantine. The primary earliest source of Byzantine text is the sermons of John Chrysostom (407 A.D.), who extensively quoted scripture.

The differences between the Alexandrian manuscript family versus the Byzantine
The Alexandrian manuscripts have at least 33 verses less than the Byzantine family, which works out to 577 words less. There also are at least 54 word modifications. If someone felt certain the earliest Alexandrian manuscripts were totally correct, then the following verses would not be in the Bible: Mt 12:47; 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mk 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; 16:9-20; Lk 23:24; Jn 5:4; John 7:53-8:11. The manuscripts Bodmer 14, 15, Sinaiticus do not have Lk 23:17 while Vaticanus has it.
Modern times did not produce the first people to study Bible manuscript variations. An unusual Christian from Alexandria named Origen apparently was the first to very systematically look at various manuscripts and decide which most likely was the original reading. Origen had a large number of manuscripts available to him that are lost to us today, and Alexandrian manuscripts are all assumed to be influence by his work. (Christians today debate over whether his influence is a good or bad thing.) Here is a small sampling of manuscript variations where the Alexandrian manuscripts generally say the same thing and Byzantine manuscripts say something different.
Mt 18:11 ("For the son of Man is come to save that which has been lost.") is absent in Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic Coptic, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome. These 9 words are included in the Byzantine Lectionary, Syriac, Armenian, Diatessaron (c.170 A.D.), and Chrysostom (400 A.D).
Mk 10:34 has "after three days" in Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic Coptic. It says "On the third day" in Alexandrinus, Byzantine Lectionary, Gothic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian, Origen.
Mk 11:26 "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins/transgressions." is missing in Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Bohairic Coptic, and Sahidic Coptic. (17 words)
Mk 16:9-20 The following sources do not have the longer ending.
c.360 A.D. Eusebius Questions to Marianus I
193-217/220 A.D. Clement of Alexandria
225-254 A.D. Origen
407 A.D. Jerome, Epistle 120
At least 6 other ancient manuscripts
900-1000 A.D. Armenian manuscript has it, but says it was added by Aristion, whom Papias mentions
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not have it, but they have a blank space for it.
The following manuscripts do have the longer ending
170-202 A.D. Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:11
110-155 A.D. (disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John)
c.170 A.D. Tatian's Diatessaron
200 A.D. Tertullian Treatise on the Soul
At least 38 ancient Bible texts
120-150 A.D. Didache
~700 A.D. on Byzantine text family
5th century Freer Gospels
400-600 A.D. Codex Bezae manuscript
The later Alexandrian manuscripts have it also.
c.450 A.D. Alexandrinus
400-500 A.D. Ephraemi Rescriptus Manuscript
3rd-4th century Bohairic Coptic
3rd-4th century Sahidic Coptic
Jn 5:4 ("for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.") absent in p66 (150-200 A.D.), p75, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic Coptic, and the original copies of Ephraemi Rescriptus, Alexandrinus, and the Diatessaron. The church writer Nonnus (431 A.D.) does not have this. The earliest copies with these 29 words are the Armenian and Georgian versions (both 5th century), and later corrections to Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, and the Freer Gospels. However, the church fathers Tertullian (200-240 A.D.), Ambrose, Didymus, Chrysostom, and Cyril refer to this in their paraphrased renderings.
Jn 7:53-8:11 is called "the pericope of the adulteress" Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, p56, p75, the Sahidic Coptic, and the Gothic do not have it. The Diatessaron, Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Origen, and Chrysostom also do not have it. The rest of the major manuscripts have it. Aland et al. says "Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Rescriptus apparently had it, though their state of preservation makes this not certain. This passage is interesting in that Aland et al. says this is "virtually certain" it was in the original manuscript, yet the Alexandrian family, with the exception of Bohairic Coptic, do not have it. Thus, if one relies on the Alexandrian family of manuscripts, one has to do so recognizing that this family left out this entire passage. Of course while the Byzantine family has this passage, John Chrysostom does not. (The pericope of the adulteress and the ending of Mark are the two largest non-trivial manuscript variations in the New Testament.)
Jn 10:34 "the law" is in Bodmer II 200 A.D. Bodmer 14,15 early 3rd century, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Byzantine Lectionary, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Athanasius. It says "the law of you" in Chester Beatty Papyrii 200 A.D., Sinaiticus (corrected), Cantabrigiensis, Tertullian, Hilary.
Eph 1:1 The words "in Ephesus" are absent from Chester Beatty II (200 A.D.), original Vaticanus, original Sinaiticus, and the early Christian writers Tertullian (200-240 A.D.) and Origen (225-254 A.D.). A corrector later added the words to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Alexandrinus also has these words, as do the Byzantine Lectionary and John Chrysostom (c.397 A.D.)
1 Cor 11:24 "broken for you", "broken" is absent in Chester Beatty II (200 A.D.), Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Ephraemi Rescriptus (original), Alexandrinus, Athanasius (326-373 A.D.). "Broken" is present as a later correction in Sinaiticus, Ephraemi Rescriptus (3rd corrector), the Gothic, Byzantine Lectionary, and John Chrysostom (c.397 A.D.)
A split decision is Mk 1:2, where the Byzantine Lectionary and the Armenian says In the prophets, along with Alexandrinus, Syriac, Bohairic Coptic, Ethiopic, Irenaeus, and other manuscripts. Isaiah is mentioned in most other manuscripts including Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Sahidic Coptic, Gothic, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, etc..
Regardless, the Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscript families all do not have 1 Jn 5:7-8. The first preserved Greek manuscript that has this was not written until the 10th century, though the heretic Priscillian (380 A.D.) had heard of this.

The Vaticanus manuscript
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) is the oldest existing member of the Alexandrian manuscript family. It often is abbreviated as "B" or is called uncial 03.
What has been preserved: Vaticanus has preserved only verses 46:29-50:26 in Genesis, and the rest of the Old Testament except for 2 Kings 2:5-7 and 1-13, and Psalm 105:27-137:6. The missing section in Psalms was added in the 15th century. As in Vaticanus, Hebrews follows 2 Thessalonians.
The New Testament is all preserved up until Hebrews 9:15. After that some leaves were lost. Missing are 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. Aland references Vaticanus in the book of James, and the New International Greek Testament Commentary on James p.60 says Vaticanus contains the complete book of James.
Physical Appearance: It was written with brown ink on expensive vellum, with each leaf being 27-28 centimeters square. There were three columns per page and 40-44 lines per column. Today it is in Vatican City in the middle of Rome
Scribes and Correctors: One scribe wrote the Old Testament, and another wrote the New Testament. There were two correctors. One corrected the manuscript about 350 A.D. soon after it was written. The other corrector lived in the tenth or eleventh century. A humorous note is that one corrector made a change in Hebrews 1:3. A later corrector changed it back, and wrote in the margin "Fool and knave, can't you leave the old reading alone, and not alter it!" It turns out the original was not correct.
Distinctives of Vaticanus: It generally follows the other manuscripts in the Alexandrian family. It does not have John 7:53-8:11, Luke 22:43-44, and Luke 23:34. Like Sinaiticus, it has a blank space for the longer ending of Mark. Vaticanus contains all of Romans (minus 16:24) in the same order as Bibles today.
Jn 16:28 "from/by the Father" is in Vaticanus. Many other manuscripts have "came forth from the Father", including p5 (200-250 A.D.), p22, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Byzantine Lectionary, Diatessaron (c.170 A.D).
See The Origin of the Bible p.181, A General Introduction to the Bible p.391-392, and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.74-75 for more info.

The Sinaiticus manuscript
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) is the second oldest existing member of the Alexandrian family of manuscripts. It often is abbreviated as "Aleph" or is called uncial 01.
What has been preserved: It has preserved half of the Septuagint Old Testament. Specifically, it has Genesis 23:19-24:46 (with gaps); Numbers 5:26-7:20 (with gaps), 1 Chronicles 9:27-19:17, Ezra-Nehemiah as one book from Ezra 9:6 on, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentation to 2:22, Joel through Malachi, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job.
The Apocrypha is in Sinaiticus: specifically Tobit, Judith, 1 and 4 Maccabees, Wisdom, and Sirach.
The New Testament is all preserved, except the scribes did not include John 7:53-8:11, and a blank space reserved for Mark 16:9-20. Sinaiticus contains all of Romans (minus 16:24) in the same order as Bibles today. The order of New Testament books is the Four Gospels, Paul's Letters, Hebrews, Acts, the Catholic Letters, Revelation, the Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, according to Metzger's Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.76.
Two other books are in Sinaiticus: the Letter/Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Shepherd of Hermas.
Physical Appearance: It originally had at least 730 leaves. Today we have 390 leaves plus fragments of 3 more leaves. (a leaf is two pages.) There are four columns per page and 48 lines per column. It is written on expensive vellum. There were no spaces between words and almost no punctuation. Old Testament quotes are shown as quotes. Today it is in London, UK. For more info and a photograph, see Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, p.76-79.
Scribes and correctors: Three scribes copied Siniaticus. Scribe A, who copied most of the historical and poetic books of the Old Testament, almost all the New Testament, and the Epistle of Barnabas, was a better speller than B, but not nearly as good as D. B copied the prophets and the Shepherd of Hermas, and was a bad speller. D had nearly perfect spelling. He copied Tobit and Judith, the first half of 4 Maccabees, and the first 2/3 of Psalms. He apparently copied 6 pages of the New Testament.
Distinctives of Sinaiticus: According to Herman Hoskier, there are the following number of places with differences between Sinaiticus and the textus receptus in the gospels: Matthew 656+, Mark 567+, Luke 791+, John 1022+, for a total of 3036+ places of differences in the gospels. Like Vaticanus is has a blank space for the longer ending of Mark's gospel. Thus they were aware of a longer ending, but chose not to copy it.
According to D.A. Waite, 8972 words were affected in the Gospel versus the Textus Receptus. 3,455 words were omitted, 839 were added, 1114 were substituted, 2299 were transposed, and 1265 were modified. It has more changes than Vaticanus. Of course, Waite cannot prove any words were added or omitted, only that they were included or absent.
Lk 11:23 "scatters me" is in the original Sinaiticus Bohairic Coptic, and Ephraemi Rescriptus. All the other major manuscripts have "scatters"
Jn 1:34 The "chosen" is in p5 (200-240 A.D.), original Sinaiticus, Sahidic Coptic and few other manuscripts. The "son" is in corrected Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Cantabrigiensis, the Byzantine Lectionary, Bohairic Coptic, Armenian, Origen, Chrysostom.
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.392-394 for more info.

The Ephraemi Rescriptus manuscript
Ephraemi Rescriptus (400-500 A.D. or c.345 A.D.) is considered neither an early nor a late manuscript. It often is abbreviated as "C" or else is called uncial 04.
What is preserved: It has preserved James 1:1-4:2 and the Gospels, Acts, the letters and Revelation. Ephraemi Rescriptus contains all of Romans (minus 16:24) in the same order as Bibles today.

The three Coptic families of translations of the New Testament
The three Coptic families are Sahidic, Bohairic, and Fayumic, and they were almost certainly translated from manuscripts in the Alexandrian family. There are no peculiar renderings listed in Aland. The different Coptic families do not always agree among themselves. For example,
Mt 12:47 Include verse 47 "Then said one to him, Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you."
(Sinaiticus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Bohairic Coptic) vs. verse 47 is absent (corrected Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Sahidic Coptic) (17 words)

The Alexandrinus manuscript
Alexandrinus was copied c.450 A.D.. It often is abbreviated as "A" or called uncial 02.
What has been preserved: It has preserved all of Genesis except for Genesis 14:14-17; 15:1-5, 16-19; 16:6-9, which are mutilated. The Twelve Minor Prophets are directly before Isaiah. It contains the rest of the Old Testament except for 1 Samuel 12:17-14:9 and Psalms 49:20-79:11.
The Apocryphal books in Alexandrinus are 3 and 4 Maccabees.
In the New Testament, Alexandrinus contains Matthew 25:7 to the end, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Paul's letters. John 6:50-8:52 and 2 Corinthians 4:13-12:6 are missing though. Alexandrinus contains all of Romans (minus 16:24) in the order of 1:1-14:23; 16:25-27; 15:1-16:23; 16:25-27 (The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary : Romans 1-8 p.6) It contains 16:25-27 twice. It contains all of James.
Other books at the end of the manuscript were written the Psalms of Solomon, and 1 and 2 Clement, with some parts missing.
Physical appearance: The leaves measure 32.1 cm by 26.4 cm. It was written on expensive vellum with brown ink. There are two columns per page, and 46-52 lines per column. There are no spaces between the words, and Old Testament quotes are indicated. It currently is in London, UK.
Scribes and correctors: Two to five scribes wrote this manuscript, and there were numerous corrections, by both the scribe who originally wrote the words and others hands. The corrected version is very similar to the Textus Receptus.
Distinctives of Alexandrinus: Some would say it appears as an Alexandrian Manuscript with Byzantine influence. Others would say it represents an alleged third family, the Western family, which is a combination of the Alexandrian and Byzantine texts. It does not have Luke 22:43f, and is missing John 7:53-8:11.
2 Tim 2:22 Alexandrinus has "loving" while other manuscripts have "calling"
Phm 12, Alexandrinus and corrected Sinaiticus almost stand alone in saying "whom I sent back yours" vs. other manuscripts who say "whom I sent back to you" or similar.
Phm 25 Alexandrinus does not have "amen" at the end. Sinaiticus, the Byzantine Lectionary, and p87 c.125 A.D. have "amen" at the end.
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.394-395 and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.86 (photograph p.87) for more info.

The Papyrii manuscripts
There are 88 of them, labeled as p1 to p88.
p20 + p27 (3rd century) p20 has James 2:19-3:2; 3:4-9 and other books. The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.96 has a picture of this manuscript, and it says the handwriting is very similar with p27, which might mean the same scribe wrote both.
p23 Urbana (3rd century) James 1:10-12, 15-18 and other non-Pauline letters
p45 + p46 + p47 likely are by the same scribe. Together they are called the Chester Beatty papyrus. See the following question for more on this papyrus.
p54 (5th-6th century) James 2:16-18, 21-26; 3:2-4 and other books
p57 is the oldest manuscript, called the John Rylands Papyrus (p52), and is dated 117-138 A.D. It was found in Egypt. This shows that the Gospel of John was not only written by then, but distributed to Egypt by then. It has writing on both sides, and contains John 18:31-33, and 37-38. You can see a photograph of the John Rylands papyrus in the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.937, the New International Dictionary of the Bible p.534, Greek Manuscripts of the Bible p.62-63, and A General Introduction to the Bible p.388.
p66 probably was written about 150-200 A.D. It is called the Bodmer II papyrii. See the question on p66 for more info.
See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.248-257 and A General Introduction to the Bible p.387-391 for more discussion on the earliest Old Testament and New Testament manuscripts.

The Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2 (p1)
This manuscript is dated from the middle of the third century, from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. It contains Matthew 1:1-9, 12, 14-20; and possibly 2:14. It is very fragmentary as the photograph shows in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.28. It has page numbers using Greek letters. There are many similarities between it and p69, as well as Vaticanus.

The Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 657 + PSI 1292 (p13)
This manuscript is dated from 225-250 A.D., from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. It contains Hebrews 2:14-5:5; 10:8-22; 10:29-11:13; 11:28-12:17. It has page numbers using Greek letters. It was found with a second century manuscript Papyri Oxyrhynchus 656, a copy of Genesis. P13 has page numbers, which show there were prior pages, probably containing earlier parts of the New Testament. There are many similarities between p13 and p.46. A picture of Hebrews 12:1-17 is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.74.

The Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1229 (p23)
This manuscript is dated approximately 200 A.D, from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. It contains James 1:10-12, 15-18. It has page numbers using Greek letters. The scribe apparently preferred to copy exactly (including grammatical errors), rather than correct the grammatical errors. A photograph of James 1:15-18 is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.102.

The Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1598 (p30)
It is dated from the early third century. Only three pages are preserved, or 1 Thessalonians 4:12-13, 16-17; 5:3, 8-10, 12-18, 25-28; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2; 2:1, 9-11. Two of the pages have page numbers using Greek letters. Since the page numbers are 207 and 208, it apparently contained much more originally.

The Papyrus Michigan Inventory 1571 (p38)
It is dated from the late second or early third century, and only one page is preserved, containing Acts 18:27-19:6, 12-16. It has a page number (59) using Greek letters ("nu" "theta") Thus Philip Comfort concludes it originally contained only the book of Acts. A picture of p38 is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.134.

The Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1780 (p39)
This fragmentary manuscript contains John 8:14-22, written in the first half of the third century. It has page numbers on the even numbered page (74), which Philip Comfort says indicates it originally only contained the Gospel of John. It was discovered in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt and agrees 100% with Vaticanus.

The Chester Beatty Papyrii (p45 + p46 + p47)
There are actually three Chester Beatty manuscripts: p45 containing the Gospels and Acts (third century), p46 containing Paul’s letters (about 200 A.D.), and p47 containing Revelation (late third century). They might all be the same date. At least p45 and p46 have page numbers using Greek letters.
What has been preserved: In the surviving pages we have most of Paul’s letters (but not 1, 2 Timothy or Titus), and other New Testament books. The first seven pages are lost, and the first surviving page starts with Romans 5:17. After that, the order of books is Hebrews, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians.
Physical appearance: Apparently the books were ordered by length. P46 originally had 104 leaves, of which 56 survive today in a museum near Dublin, Ireland, and 30 pages are in Ann Arbor. We know about the missing pages, because the pages had page numbers. You can see a photograph of one leaf, Romans 16:23-Hebrews 1:1-7 in Greek Manuscripts of the Bible p.64-65. A General Introduction to the Bible p.388-389 has a photograph of the first page of Ephesians and a page of Romans.
Scribes: There was only one scribe and no correctors.
Distinctives of the Chester Beatty papyrii: One of the peculiarities of the p46 is that Romans 16:5-27 is placed at the end of chapter 15.
For Revelation, p47 contains numerical values following a few of the words in Revelation (Theomatics II p.27-28.)
Bruce Metzger says on P47, "In general the text of P-47 agrees more often with that of codex Sinaiticus than with any other, though it often shows a remarkable independence." Del Washburn in Theomatics II p.632 says this shows p47 is very erroneous.
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.389-390 and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.64 (photograph p.65) for more info.

The Bodmer II papyrii (p66)
This is the third oldest set of preserved papyri. Martin originally dated in 200 A.D., Hunger said 100-150 A.D., The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.366 says mid 2nd century, and Aland et al.’s The Greek New Testament 4th revised edition says "about 200". Turner dated this 200-250 A.D., in part because of the wide delta’s. However, wide delta’s have since been found in 2nd century manuscripts too. P66 was found in Egypt between Thebes and Panopolis close to Nag Hammadi. It is said to be either an Alexandrian manuscript, or else a mixture of a Alexandrian and Western types. However, it has some 20 differences from readings that are in all western types.
What is preserved: p66 contains John 1:1-6:11; 6:35b-14:26, 29-30; 15:2-26; 16:2-4, 6-7; 16:10-20:20, 22-23; 20:25-21:9, 12, 17. The Archaeology of the New Testament p.381 shows the page 137 is very fragmentary and contains part of John 19:16.
Physical appearance: p66 has 78 leaves, 14.2 centimeters by 16.2 centimeters. It has 15-25 lines per page, and it has page numbers using Greek letters. Typically where the words "cross" and "crucify" appear, the scribe abbreviated it by making a chi letter and a rho letter on top of each other. Today p66 is in Cologny-Geneva Switzerland. A photograph of the first page is in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.368.
Distinctives of the Bodmer II papyrii: Some see a Docetic bias in p66.
Jn 1:18 says "only begotten God" not "only begotten son"
Jn 3:13 has absent "The son of man who is in heaven"
Jn 7:53-8:11, this is the oldest existing manuscript where the story of the adulteress is absent.
Jn 9:35 says "son of God" instead of "son of man"
Jn 19:5 has absent "And he said to them, 'Behold the man'"
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.390-391 and Greek Manuscripts of the Bible p.66 (photograph p.67) for more info.

The Bodmer Papyrii p72
p72 was written around 200 A.D. It was apparently a private copy somebody commissioned four scribes to write. It is similar to the Sahidic Alexandrian type and has page numbers using Greek letters.
What is preserved: The books in order are: Nativity of Mary, apocryphal Correspondence of Paul to the Corinthians, the Eleventh Ode of Solomon, Jude, Melito’s Homily on the Passover, a Fragment of a Hymn, the Apology of Phileas, Psalm 33, Psalm 34, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter.
Physical appearance: It is 6 by 5 ¾ inches (15 ¼ by 14.5 cm)
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.390-391 for more info.

The Bodmer Papyrii 14/15 p75
P75 was written between 175-225 A.D.
What is contains: p75 contains most of Luke and John. Specifically, it contains Luke 3:18-22; 3:33-4:2; 4:34-5:10; 5:37-6:4; 6:10-7:32; 7:35-39,41-43; 7:46-9:2; 9:4-17:15; 17:19-18:18; 22:4-24:53. It also has John 1:1-11:45,28-57; 12:3-13:1; 13:8-9; 14:8-29; 15:7-8. (Luke 1:1-317 is missing because because of the loss of eight leaves.
Physical appearance: p75 has 102 leaves preserved (out of an original 144) that are 10 ¼ by 5 1/3 inches (26 by 13.5 cm). In many, but not all, of the places cross and crucify were abbreviated with the letters chi and rho written over each other, according to The Archaeology of the New Testament p.382,383..
Distinctives of Bodmer Papyrii 14/15: According to The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.494-496, the scribe had a tendency to drop pronouns. It Greek you can still tell the subject by the verb endings. Other than that, the professional Christian scribe appeared to copy things fairly closely. He apparently used Acts 12:20 to make a change in Luke 14:32, as well as as few other harmonizations.
Statistics of the Bodmer 14/15 papyrii: According to The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.496, it is 87% identical to Vaticanus (92% the same in John). Vaticanus and Bodmer papyrii 14/15 has 35 significant readings common only to these two manuscripts, including, as well as common misspellings.
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.390-391 and Greek Manuscripts of the Bible p.68 (photograph p.69) for more info.

The Uncial 0189
This is the oldest surviving parchment manuscript of the New Testament, dated to the late second or early third century. It is one fragmentary page, containing Acts 5:3-21. It has a page number using Greek letters.

The Papyrus Antinoopolis 12 (Uncial 0232)
is dated ca. 300 A.D. and contains 2 John 1-9. It was found in Antinoopolis, Egypt, and has page numbers (164 and 165) using Greek letters.

The Bezae Cantabrigiensis (also called Codex Bezae)
This is the oldest known bilingual manuscript, with Greek on the left page, and Latin on the right. Bezae Cantabrigiensis was a western text copied c.450-550 A.D.. It often is abbreviated as "D" or called uncial 05.
What has been preserved: It has preserved most of the four Gospels, parts of Acts. 3 John 11-15 is preserved in Latin only. In Greek, it has lost Matthew 1:1-20; 6:20-9:2; 27:2-12; John 1:16-3:26; Acts 8:29-10:14; 21:2-10; 15-18; 22:10-20; 22:29-28:31. In Latin it has lost Matthew 1:1-11; 6:8-8:27; 26:65-27:1; 1John 1:1-3:16; Acts 8:20-10:4; 20:31-21:2; 21:7-10; 22:2-10; 22:20-28:31
Physical appearance: There are 510 leaves, which measure 25.8 to 26.7 cm by 17 to 22.9 cm. (Most other major manuscripts are more uniform in dimensions.) It was written on expensive vellum with brown ink. There is one column per page, and 33 lines per column. There are no spaces between the words, and Old Testament quotes are not indicated. It currently is in London, UK.
Scribes and correctors: There are nine correctors, who lived from the sixth to twelfth centuries.
Distinctives of Bezae Cantabrigiensis: It has the longer ending of Mark. Metzger says, "Textually, no known New Testament manuscript contains so many distinctive readings, chiefly the free addition (and occasional omission) of words, sentences, and even incidents." in Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.89. Bruze Metzger in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 2nd ed. (1971) p.356 says that Bezae Cantabrigiensis was very fond of the Greek word tote.
Omissions: 86 words shown below are absent primarily just in Bezae Cantabrigiensis.
Mt 5:32 "and whoever is divorced/put away shall marry commits adultery" is absent in it and many Italic manuscripts as well as Augustine. (6 words)
Mt 9:34 is absent in Bezae Cantabrigiensis and the Diatessaron (12 words)
Mk 3:18 "Lebbaeus" vs. "Thaddaeus" in most other manuscripts
Lk 12:21 absent it "this is he who treasures up for himself, is not rich toward God" (9 words)
Lk 22:17-20 lack parts of 19b-20 (approximately 38 words)
Lk 24:12 is absent. (21 words)
Acts 1:26 Instead of "twelve apostles" it and Eusebius have "eleven apostles" vs. "twelve apostles"
Acts 19:9 has "Tyrannus from 11:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon" instead of "Tyrannus" vs. "a certain Tyrannus" (6 words more)
Acts 12:27 "becoming eaten by worms" vs. an addition only in the Syriac vs. an addition only in Bezae Cantabrigiensis and Italic
Acts 13:43 Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Italic, and some Syriac add 11 words after "God". (Middle Egyptian Coptic adds 8 words after God.)
Acts 15:2 "they appeared to go up Paul and Barnabas and certain others from amongst them" vs. replaceing a 10-word phrase with a 24-word phrase (6 words in common) (Also Italic, some Syriac, Middle Egyptian Coptic) (not counted in the totals)
Acts 15:12 Replaced a 10-word phrase with a 25-word phrase (2 words in common) (Only in Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Italic, some Syriac, Middle Egyptian Coptic)
Acts 15:41 added 5 words
Acts 16:39 replaced a 10-word phrase with a 36-word phrase (3 words in common)
Acts 16:35 (replaced a 3- word phrase with an 18-word phrase (2 words in common)
Acts 16:35 added 3 words.
Acts 19:1 substituted a 27 word phrase for a 17 word phrase. This is also in p38 (about 300 A.D.) as well as some Syriac.
Besides Bezae Cantabrigiensis, these are in some Syriac (5th century).
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.395-396 and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.88-89 (photographs p.90-91) for more info.

The Codex Claromontanus
This manuscript was written in the sixth century and is the complement of Bezae Cantabrigiensis.
What has been preserved: It contains much of what is missing in Bezae Cantabrigiensis. It contains all of Paul’s letters and Hebrews, except for the following. Romans 1:1-7, 27-30 and 1 Corinthians 14:13-22 are lost in Greek, and 1 Corinthians 14:8-18 and Hebrews 13:21-23 are missing in Latin. The Greek is well-done, but the Latin translation is not very good.
Physical appearance: There are 533 pages, which measure 7 by 9 inches (18 by 23 cm). It is written single column on vellum.
See A General Introduction to the Bible p.396 for more info.

The Byzantine Lectionary
The Byzantine Lectionary is about 1,761 to 2,209 Greek manuscripts that generally agree with each other. Lectionaries were collections of readings from the Gospels and Acts. The Byzantine Lectionary is not always uniform. In Jn 8:4 for example, some versions have "said to Him" and others have "said to tempt Him".
The first preserved Byzantine Lectionary was written prior to 400 A.D. There was a second prior to 500 A.D., with 3 more prior to 600 A.D., 5 more prior to 700 A.D., 22 prior to 800 A.D., and 123 prior to 900 A.D., and 147 prior to 1000 A.D. The others range up to 1800 A.D., with the bulk of them, about 1,496, being written between the 1000 A.D. and 1400 A.D. See The Text of the New Testament : An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism by Aland and Aland, p.82 for a chart of the Lectionaries written by century.

The Armenian translation of the New Testament
The first Armenian translation was made in the fifth century A.D. by either Mesrob/Mesrop (died 439 A.D.) or else Sahak/Sahok the Great (390-439 A.D.) Some think it was translated from the Greek, but the nephew and disciple of Mesrob says that Sahak translated it from the Syriac. A General Introduction to the Bible p.519-520 points out that Armenian manuscripts were revised prior to the 8th century by Greek manuscripts brought from Constantinople after the Council of Ephesus. Today we only have the revised versions, and the oldest manuscripts are from the ninth century. There are about 100 Armenian manuscripts according to A Textual Commentary on the New Testament Second edition p.102.
The Armenian contains every book of the New Testament, and it follows both the Byzantine and Caesarean families of manuscripts. Here are some of the distinctive readings in the Armenian.
Jn 7:53-8:11 According to The Greek New Testament 4rd edition p.347, some early Armenian manuscripts have John 7:53-8:11 and other early ones do not. The standard Armenian has John 7:53-8:11 after John 21:25.
Jn 8:8 "wrote on the ground" (most other manuscripts) vs. "wrote on the ground the sins of each of them" (5 words) The manuscripts with the second reading are the Armenian and much later manuscripts, starting in the 9th century.
Jn 21:25 The Armenian translation (5th century) and the "f1" manuscript family add 7:53 to 8:11 here instead of after John 7:52. However, Aland says this is not Arm, but Armmss, meaning that it was an ancient version or church father that differed from the edited Armenian text.
Rom 8:1 end with "Jesus" vs. "Jesus, who walk not after the flesh" vs. "Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit"
Most manuscripts just have Jesus. 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.18 says there is no dispute on this among textual critics, it should just be Jesus.
The second variation is in the Armenian, Gothic 493-555 A.D., and Alexandrinus c.450 A.D.
The third variation is in the Byzantine Lectionary,
Sinaiticus (corrected) after 340 A.D., and Claromontanus (corrected) 6th century
Usefulness: The Armenian translation supports the reliability of the Bible from about the fifth century on. However, the late date limits its usefulness to find the precise original Greek.

The Gothic translation of the New Testament
The Gothic Bible was translated by Ufilas (or else someone working with him) around 350 A.D.. The Goths were a powerful, warlike people. These particular Goths, called Moeso-Goths, had settled in Moesia since 250 A.D., and under their leader Fritigern defeated the Roman Emperor Valens near Adrianople in 378 A.D. A copy of the Gothic Bible is in Upsala, Sweden today, and more than half of the gospel have been preserved. Ufilas, a Greek-speaking Goth, was the second bishop of the Goths and an Arian. Despite that, it was well-done. Here is about the only peculiarity I have found is in Romans 8:1, where it is the same as the Armenian and Alexandrinus.
It is important to recognize that Ufilas was an Arian heretic. Here is someone whose theology was condemned at the Council of Nicea, and had no reason to elevate Christ or follow the Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, since it was Gothic, Greek and Latin-speaking Christians would not be copying it or revising it, as they did not know Gothic. Yet, his Gothic translation was so objective, it is impossible to tell from the translation that it was not made by an Orthodox Christian. As to those who would say the Bible was tampered with by Christians who had a theological axe to grind, this is answered with Ufilas and the objectivity of the Gothic translation.
Precision: For textual variants, the Gothic has very few. A General Introduction to the Bible p.518-519 says, "The translation adheres closely, almost literally, to the Greek text of the Byzantine type, and tells little to the textual critic." Today we have five fragmentary copies of the Gothic translation, 493-555 A.D., including one Gothic-Latin version.
The Text of the Old Testament (by Ernst Wurthweir) p.206 says, "As a rule it [the Gothic version] is cited only casually, because the general character of its textual base is rather precisely known; for his translation Wulfilas [Ufilas] made use of a manuscript of the late Byzantine text differing little from what we find in the Greek manuscript."

The Diatessaron
The Diatessaron (c.170 A.D.) is a harmony of the gospels that Tatian wrote in either Syriac or Greek. Tatian lived from 110-172 A.D. He was an Assyrian Christian who studied under Justin Martyr (died 165 A.D.). Unfortunately Tatian later became a heretic, joining the Encratites.
The Encratites (meaning "masters of themselves") were an ascetic (and vegetarian) Gnostic cult that started about 166 A.D.. In his Diatessaron, Tatian did not include the verses showing that Jesus was a man. Thus, he left out the genealogies, and other verses. The Diatessaron quotes about 4/5 of the four gospels.
The earliest surviving fragment of the Diatessaron is the only surviving one in Greek. It was used in the city of Dura Europa on the Euphrates before the Persians destroyed the town in 256 A.D. We a Syriac copy, and three Arabic copies, the earliest from the 6th century. In 1957 archaeologists discovered a commentary on the Diatessaron written by Ephraem Syrus (375 A.D.). Besides the Gnostics, only some in the Syrian church liked the Diatessaron. A Syrian bishop ordered hundreds of copies destroyed, and that is why only a few are preserved today.
Caution in referencing the Diatessaron: Because of the late date of the few preserved copies, the Diatessaron is not a very useful source for determining precise wording of the Gospels. Also, most of the text survives in Arabic, and Arabic tenses are less precise than Greek.
The great value of this heretical witness: However, even the Diatessaron is a very useful witness in another regard. On one hand, you have a Gnostic heretic who has no qualms about leaving out of his harmony entire passages that do not suit him, namely the passages that emphasize the humanity of Jesus. Perhaps this was thought more acceptable because he was not just copying one gospel, but making a harmony of all of them, and he did not add any material. On the other hand, the 73% of the gospels Tatian did quote have been preserved as an independent work. When we look at this work, we see a very close match to the Greek scriptures preserved today.
If there were wildly varying accounts of Jesus, other gospels considered as scripture, or huge differences in copies of the gospels, Tatian would have been in a far better position to know about them than the liberal scholars today who make up these theories. Tatian, the heretic who did not mind leaving out entire passages, had the motive to include any wide differences that allegedly existed in the stories of Jesus. Yet, what is written in the Diatessaron is simply the quotes from the four gospels, minus the 25% that emphasized Jesus’ humanity.

Textual Variations: Real Life Examples

From Robert Waltz’ site: An Introduction to NT Textual Criticism.

Chances are that you've played the game "Telephone" some time in your life. "Telephone" is the game in which a group of people gather around in a circle. One person thinks up a message, and whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, and so on around the circle, until you reach the end and the final person repeats the message aloud. The first person then states the original message.

The two sentences often cannot be recognized as related.

Even if you haven't played "Telephone," you must have read a book or a magazine which was filled with typographical errors. And that's in a case where the typesetter has the author's original manuscript before him, and professional proofreaders were engaged to correct errors.

Now imagine what happens when a document is copied, by hand, tens of thousands of times, long after the original manuscript has been destroyed. Imagine it being copied by barely literate scribes standing (not sitting, standing) at cold desks in bad light for hours on end, trying to read some other scribe's barely legible handwriting.

Imagine trying to do that when the words are written in all upper-case letters, with no spaces between words, on poor-quality paper with a scratchy reed pen using ink you made yourself.

Because that's what happened with all ancient books, and with the New Testament in particular.

After a few centuries of that, it's easy to imagine that the text of the New Testament would no longer bear any relationship to the original. Human beings just aren't equipped to be exact copyists. And the more human beings involved in the process, the worse the situation becomes.

Fortunately, the situation is not as grim as the above picture would suggest. Despite all those incompetent scribes making all those incompetent copies, the text of the New Testament is in relatively good shape. The fact that copies were being made constantly, by intent scribes under the supervision of careful proofreaders, meant that the text stayed fairly fixed. It is estimated that seven-eighths of the New Testament text is certain -- all the major manuscripts agree, and scholars are satisfied that their agreement is correct. Most of the rest is tolerably certain -- we probably know the original reading, and even if we aren't sure, the variation does not significantly affect the sense of the passage. For a work so old, and existing in so many copies, this fact is at once amazing and comforting.

Still, there are variations in the manuscripts of the New Testament, and some of them are important. It is rare for such variants to affect a fundamental Christian doctrine, but they certainly can affect the course of our theological arguments. And in any case, we would like the most accurate text of the New Testament possible.

That is the purpose of textual criticism: Working with the materials available, to reconstruct the original text of an ancient document with as much accuracy as possible. It's not always an easy job, and scholars do sometimes disagree. But we will try to outline some of the methods of New Testament textual criticism in this article, so that you too can understand the differences between Bibles, and all those odd little footnotes that read something like "Other ancient authorities read...."

Maybe the best way to deal with the charges of corruption is to actually view the variants themselves. In this way we can see if the conclusion; "what we have is a big mess", is a valid conclusion.

There are variants in the NT manuscripts. At times scribes changed the reading for various reasons. But as we can see, drawing the conclusion that the NT is unreliable is false

These are taken randomly from a section of a website: A Student's Guide to New Testament Textual Variants

I have taken some samples from a page on the Gospel of John. You can check these out and many others from the entire bible.

John 8:59:

TEXT: "and went out of the temple."
EVIDENCE: p66 p75 S* B D W Theta* most lat vg syr(s) some cop(north) cop(south)

NOTES: "and went out of the temple, and passing through their midst he started going [on his way] and so was passing by."
EVIDENCE: Sa C L X Psi 0124 33 892 1010 1241 syr(p,h+,pal) most cop(north)

OTHER: "and went out of the temple, passing through their midst, and so was passing by."
EVIDENCE: A K Delta Thetac Pi f1 f13 28 565 700 Byz Lect two lat syr(h)

COMMENTS: The additional material occurs in two more forms besides the two listed above. Although it is possible that the form in the notes might have been omitted through a mistake of the eye, when copyists' eyes jumped from "and" to "And," this would not account for the other three variations. It seems more likely that the additional material was added from Luke 4:30 combined with the first part of John 9:1. It is missing from early manuscripts of several types of ancient text.

John 9:4:

TEXT: "We have to work the works of the One who sent me"
EVIDENCE: {p66 p75 S*} B D (both Greek and Latin) {L W} 0124 syr(pal) {some cop(north)} cop(south)

NOTES: "I have to work the works of the One who sent me"
EVIDENCE: Sa A C K X Delta Theta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(s,p,h) some cop(north)

COMMENTS: Because of the "me" in the last of the phrase and the fact that "I" is found twice in the next verse, it is more likely that copyists would have changed "we" to "I" than visa versa, although the reading with "we" is found with two different word orders. The evidence listed in braces reads "sent us."

John 9:35:

TEXT: "Do you believe in the Son of man?"
EVIDENCE: p66 p75 S B D (both Greek and Latin) W syr(s) one cop(north) cop(south)

NOTES: "Do you believe in the Son of God?"
EVIDENCE: A K L X Delta Theta Psi 0124 f1 f13 28 33 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(p,h,pal) most cop(north)

COMMENTS: It does not seem likely that copyists would change "Son of God" to "Son of man." The reading "Son of man" is found in early manuscripts of both the Alexandrian and Western types of ancient text.

John 10:8:

TEXT: "All who came before me are thieves and bandits"
EVIDENCE: p66 Sc A B D (both Greek and Latin omit "All") K L W X {Theta} Pi Psi {f1} f13 33 {565} 700 1241 some Byz syr(h+) most cop(north)

NOTES: "All who came are thieves and bandits"
EVIDENCE: p45vid p75 S* E F G M U Gamma Delta 028 28 892 1010 some Byz Lect most lat vg syr(s,p,h,pal) one cop(north) cop(south)

COMMENTS: The words "before me" are in brackets in the UBS text. The manuscripts listed in braces have the words before "came." On the one hand, it is possible that they were originally absent and added by copyists to make better sense. On the other hand, it is possible that they were deleted so that they statement of Jesus would not seem to apply to the Old Testament saints. Almost certainly the deletion of "all" by manuscript D was for this reason.

John 10:18:

TEXT: "No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down"
EVIDENCE: p66 Sc A D K L W X Delta Theta Pi Psi f1 f13 28 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect lat vg syr(s,h,pal) cop

NOTES: "No one took it away from me, but I lay it down"
EVIDENCE: p45 S* B syr(p)

COMMENTS: Although the aorist tense "took" (or, "has taken") is the more difficult reading (which is usually to be preferred), the fact that it is found in only the Alexandrian type of ancient text led the UBS Textual Committee to prefer the present tense with the majority of the evidence.

John 10:22:

TEXT: "It was then [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: p66c p75 B L W Psi 33 some cop(north) most cop(south)

NOTES: "Now it was [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: p66* S A D K X Delta Theta Pi f13 28 700 892 1241 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(p,h,pal) one cop(north)

NOTES: "It was [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: f1 565 1010 two lat syr(s)

OTHER: "Now it was then [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: most cop(north) some cop(south)

COMMENTS: The Greek word translated "Now" or "And" is spelled "DE"; the Greek word translated "Then" or "At that time" is spelled "TOTE." The word that precedes the word in question is spelled "EGENETO." Now scribes sometimes confused "t" and "d." Since the first Greek manuscripts were written without spaces between words, it is possible that a copyist saw the "TO" twice in "EGENETODE" and wrote "EGENETOTOTE." On the other hand, it is also possible that a copyist's eye jumped over the second "TO" in "EGENETOTOTE" and he wrote "EGENETODE." The UBS Textual Committee inclined to the second view.

Want to see what it looks like in the greek?

You can go to this site to check out the entire NT:


Apparatus: Variant readings are given in the text in this presentation: | Westcott-Hort text | NA-26 text |
< > indicates a word where NA26 encloses only a part of the word in square brackets. Since this would affect the search tools, we use these brackets. The reader should consult the printed NA26 edition for the details.
[ ] indicates doubtful text.
RED: Text in red indicates readings, where the UBS editorial committee had great difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text. Please refer to "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament" by Bruce M. Metzger, 2nd ed.,1994, for the details. The difficult readings are indicated by the letters C and D. To find these positions easy, they are labeled with an asterisk, *.

1:18 qeon oudeis ewraken pwpote monogenhs qeos o wn eis ton kolpon tou patros ekeinos exhghsato

1:19 kai auth estin h marturia tou iwannou ote apesteilan | pros auton | [pros auton*] | oi ioudaioi ex ierosolumwn iereis kai leuitas ina erwthswsin auton su tis ei

1:20 kai wmologhsen kai ouk hrnhsato kai wmologhsen oti egw ouk eimi o cristos

1:21 kai hrwthsan auton ti oun | [su] | su | hlias* ei kai legei ouk eimi o profhths ei su kai apekriqh ou

1:22 eipan oun autw tis ei ina apokrisin dwmen tois pemyasin hmas ti legeis peri seautou

1:23 efh egw fwnh bowntos en th erhmw euqunate thn odon kuriou kaqws eipen hsaias o profhths

1:24 kai apestalmenoi hsan ek twn farisaiwn

1:25 kai hrwthsan auton kai eipan autw ti oun baptizeis ei su ouk ei o cristos oude hlias oude o profhths

1:26 apekriqh autois o iwannhs legwn egw baptizw en udati mesos umwn | sthkei | esthken | on umeis ouk oidate

1:27 | | o | opisw mou ercomenos ou ouk eimi [egw] axios ina lusw autou ton imanta tou upodhmatos

Here is a list of the MSS and info about each one.


Here is a page listing some of the variant readings and how the textual critic resolves them:

some samples;

Mark 1:2

1. EN TW HSAIA TW PROFHTH -- "in Isaiah the prophet" -- B (D Q f1 700 1071 1243 pc 253 844 2211 Epiphanius omit EN) L D 33 565 892 1241 2427 al a aur b c d f ff2 l q am ful pesh harkmarg sa bo arm geo Irenaeus Origen [UBS WH Tischendorf Soden Merk Bover Vogels NEB Souter Greeven]

2. EN TOIS PROFHTAIS -- "in the prophets" -- A E F H P W G S f13 28 579 1006 1010 1342 1424 1505 1506 1546 Byz (r1-vid "in Isaiah and in the prophets"!) harktext boms-marg eth slav [Hodges-Farstad TR]

Preferred reading: #1

This reading (except for the question of including or excluding EN, which is relatively trivial) can be resolved based on either internal or external evidence. The external evidence overwhelmingly favours the reading "Isaiah the Prophet;" it is supported by the Alexandrian ( B L D 33 892 1241 2427 sa bo), "Western" (D it vg), and "Cęsarean" (Q f1 565 700 arm geo) texts. In favour of "in the prophets" we have only the Byzantine text.

Internal evidence is equally decisive -- because the quotation is not from Isaiah alone, but from Malachi and Isaiah. The attribution to Isaiah is an error, and scribes would obviously have been tempted to correct it. (Neither of the parallels mentions Isaiah.) Thus it becomes certain that the original reading was "In Isaiah the prophet."

James 2:20

1. H PISTIS CWRIS ERGWN ARGH ESTIN -- "faith without works is unproductive" -- B C* 322 323 945 1175 1243 1739 am** cav colb dem div dubl ful harl hub sang tol val sa arm [UBS WH Tischendorf Soden Merk Bover Vogels NEB Souter]

2. H PISTIS CWRIS ERGWN NEKRA ESTIN -- "faith without works is dead" -- A C** K L P Y 049 056 0142 33 81 88 104 436 614 629 630 1067 1241 1505 1611 1735 1852 2138 2298 2344 2412 2464 2492 2495 Byz p t am* pesh hark bo eth slav [Hodges-Farstad TR]

3. H PISTIS CWRIS ERGWN KENH ESTIN -- "faith without works is empty" -- P74 ff?

Preferred reading: #1

The external evidence here is rather split; a large part of the Alexandrian text, including A 33 81 436 bo, read "dead"; they are supported by the entirety of Family 2138. "Unproductive," however, also has good Alexandrian support (B 1175 sa), as well as many of the better Family 1739 manuscripts (322 323 945 1739). (The reading "empty" of P74 may have been suggested by KENE in the preceding clause.)

If the external evidence is divided, the internal evidence is clear. In verses 17 and 26, we read that faith without works is dead. And there is no variation in either of those verses. Since assimilation to local parallels is an extremely common sort of corruption, we may feel confident that the reading "dead" is a corruption, and "unproductive" original.

Luke 11:33

1. OUDEIS LUCNON AYAS EIS KRUPTHN TIQHSIN OUDE UPO TON MODION -- "No one, having lighted a lamp, puts it in a cellar, nor under the basket" -- A B C D E G H K W X ??????? 13 28 33 157 346 543 (565 1365 1424 pc ? for ????) 579 700** 892 983 1010 1071 1079 1342 1505 1546 Byz lat (cur) (pesh) hark pal (bo) eth slav [(UBS in [ ]) WH Tischendorf Soden Merk Bover Vogels Souter Hodges-Farstad TR]

2. OUDEIS LUCNON AYAS EIS KRUPTHN TIQHSIN -- "No one, having lighted a lamp, puts it in a cellar" -- P45 P75 L ? 0124=070 f1 69 700* 788 1241 2542 pc sin sa arm geo [NEB Greeven]

Preferred reading: #2

This complex reading requires careful analysis. In looking at text-types, it is clear that the "Western" text included the longer reading. The "Caesarean" text is divided, but even so, it is clear that it omits (since the reading is missing from family 1, family 13 (part) 700* arm geo). The evidence of P45 for a reading such as this is little help; this is just the sort of phrase it likes to omit. This leaves the Alexandrian text. Which is distinctly divided; B C 33 579 892 bo include the reading while p75 L 070 1241 sa omit. If we consider the "phases" of the Alexandrian text, however, we find that the earlier (P75 sa, though not B) and the latest (L 070 1241) omit; only the middle phase ( C 33 579 892 bo) includes the words. Thus the evidence of text-types stands slightly against the reading.

The internal evidence is also slightly mixed, since this passage has no exact parallels. However, the partial parallels in Matt. 5:15 and Mark 4:21 are probably enough to account for the addition here. It is hard to see how the phrase could have been lost; perhaps it was haplography, or the loss of a line from a manuscript with about sixteen letters per line, but both explanations are far-fetched. Thus both the evidence of text-types and internal evidence are against the reading; it is better to omit the phrase.


Another site lists the variations found. Here are some samples from the section on Matthew 16-28

Mat 16:1. Omit "The" before "Pharisees". WHm

Mat 16:2. Omit "When it is evening, ye say, [It will be] fair weather; for the sky is red" at end of verse. Tm Am WHmm Nm NAm

Mat 16:3. Omit "And in the morning, [It will be] foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. [O ye] hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not [discern] the signs of the times?" (the entire verse). Tm Am WHmm Nm NAm

Mat 16:3. Omit "O [ye] hypocrites". L T Tr A WH N NA

Mat 16:4. Omit "the prophet" before "Jonas". L T Tr A WH N NA

Mat 16:5. Omit "his" and render 'the disciples'. L T Tr A WH N NA

Mat 16:8. Omit "unto them" after "said". G L T Tr A WH N NA

Mat 16:8. Read "have" instead of "have brought". L WH N NA

Mat 16:11. Read "loaves" instead of "bread". L T Tr A W WH N NA

Mat 16:11. Read "loaves? But beware of the leaven" instead of "bread, that ye should beware of the leaven". L T Tr A WH N NA

Here is an example of textual criticism in action. We will look at John 1:3 all of these can be viewed in the original on the website:


The Alexandrian Text Types:

Alexandrian text type papyrus 66; (Papyrus Bodmer II (p66) 200 C.E.)

First of all, P66 contains the word ouden where other manuscripts will read oude en. The question will be which reading is more likely to have been the original and gave rise to the other reading through scribal error?

Secondly, the question arose whether the phrase should be punctuated after ouden/oude en or after o gegonen. P66 is listed in the critical apparatus as not containing any punctuation. There does seem, however, to be an inordinate amount of space following the N. There is also a small point between the E and the N. One wonders what significance that may have?

Alexandrian text type papyrus 75; (Papyrus Bodmer XV (p75)175-225 C.E.)

In the first line of the image, notice the high point just after the letter nu (N) and before the omicron (O). When compared to another high point in line 9 which has plenty of space around it, one can conclude that the point was not originally written but was inserted by a corrector. The text then must be considered as two witnesses.

Notice also that instead of the letters "OUDEN," this manuscript has the two words "OUDE EN." Either one of the epsilons has been dropped (if P75 is the original reading) or it has been reduplicated (if P66 represents the original reading). The meaning is actually altered little, only making the expression more emphatic.

Codex Vaticanus (B or 03) mid fourth (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Vat. gr. 1209)

We find in this codex the same reading as in P75 (before the punctuation was added). However, we still can not be sure where a break in the sentence would fall and, consequently, how to punctuate the passage.

The Western Text Types:

Codex Sinaiticus (01) Mid-Fourth Cent

In line nine of column one, notice that a letter epsilon (e) has been placed between the delta (D) and epsilon (E). Note arrow 1 to see the precise position. At the end of the line, one can see a faint high point that probably was also inserted later (arrow 2). Certainly the mid point in the next line (line 2 below) was squeezed in by the later corrector (arrow 3).

What we can conclude is that originally the text had the same reading as Papyrus 66. The corrector, however, has adapted the text resulting in the same reading as the corrected text of Papyrus 75 and the text of Codex Vaticanus.

Codex Bezae or Cantabrigiensis (D, 05) Sixth Century

In line three a corrector has written an unnecessary alpha (A) (arrow 1) in order to complete a preposition whose final alpha is normally elided when it precedes a word beginning with a vowel. He does not do this in subsequent lines.

The scribe has transposed the letters of "egeneto" to form "enegeto." No corrector seems to have noticed.

The phrase under scrutiny in this example is punctuated with a mid point (arrow 2). In wording, Codex Bezae agrees with Papyrus 66 and Codex Sinaiticus. In punctuation, it conforms to the corrector of Papyrus 75 and the corrector of Codex Sinaiticus.

Codex Washingtonensis (W, 032) 5th/7th Cent.

There is a clear punctuation mark with additional space on either side separating the two phrases as in the corrector of Papyrus 75 and the corrector of Codex Sinaiticus.

In the first scanned image of this page, you can see the ruled lines horizontally and vertically. The scribe makes every attempt to stop at the right margin even if it breaks a word. Notice also how the letter Upsilon (looks like a Y) descends to the line below.

Byzantine Text Type

Codex Alexandrinus (A, 02) Fifth Century

You may notice that there is a spelling variation in this passage ("choreis" instead of "choris"). There are no punctuation marks signifying a break in the phrases. On the basis of this text alone, we are unable to decide how the phrases break. Yet, by comparing this text to Codex 666 (Byzantine text), which has almost exactly the same line breaks and is punctuated, we can determine that a break probably should be placed where it is in the English translation below. Codex Alexandrinus supports the reading of Papyrus 75 and Codex Vaticanus.

Codex 666 (Ms. Gr. 1) 12th or 13th Cent.

At the end of the Line 5 (arrow 1) there is a low point. But the next line has a mid point after only two words (arrow 2). The latter punctuation has blank space before and after it. Both are not grammatically possible. The prior punctuation appears at the end of the line and is more likely to have been added by a corrector. He did not bother to change the existing punctuation.

Notice that again we have the two words "oude en." The original text supports the reading of some of the other manuscripts regarding the wording, but is unique in its punctuation and wording. The corrected text is in agreement with the corrector of Papyrus 75, the corrector of Sinaiticus, and Codex Washingtonensis.

In conclusion I would like to quote from Robert Waltz’ site: An Introduction to NT Textual Criticism.

Iit should be stressed that textual criticism, unlike any other Biblical discipline, should not be faith-based. The goal must always be the highest possible degree of scientific objectivity. This is simply a logical necessity. The Bible is one of the basic pillars of Christian theology (most Protestant sects would say the basic pillar). Therefore it follows that we want to reconstruct it as accurately as possible. But as soon as one allows personal preference (whether it be called that or "the voice of the Holy Spirit" or the like) to determine the text, where does one stop? I personally find the doctrine of predestination to be simply abhorrent. If I were to allow my own opinions (which feel just as much like the voice of the Holy Spirit as the next person's opinion) to control me, I would always be tempted to delete or soften pro-predestination references. We will all have such prejudices. The only possible solution is to follow objective rules. Your rules may differ from mine, and so may produce different results -- but at least the result will not suffer from theological bias. Treat textual criticism as a science (using logic in the application of internal evidence and text-types and mathematical data in the evaluation of the external), and you should do well.

I've had people come to me saying, in effect, "Help! This textual criticism stuff is undermining my faith." I would stress that this is no concern of the textual critic, who has a job to perform. (Yet another advantage of textual critics with no religious axe to grind.) But I suppose we should speak to this point.

First, it should be noted that every ancient writing extant in multiple copies shows variations -- often much more significant variations than we find in the New Testament text. If 6,000 New Testament manuscripts showed no variation at all, it would be clear and direct evidence of supernatural influence (note that such influence need not have been God's; it could theoretically be the work of a being opposed to God. But God presents no other such explicit evidence; why offer it only in a strange and obscure form that no one could appreciate until recently when we have at last been able to study enough manuscripts to prove the point? Even if you have some sort of inerrantist belief, it makes no sense.

As to how the textual critic can answer the doubts of laypeople confronted with the alleged issue of textual criticism, I would suggest simply having the doubter consult one of the modern English translations. The New Revised Standard Version, for instance, records textual variations with the words "other ancient authorities read...." Have the person read some of these footnotes. Do any of them really affect the person's beliefs? Does it really matter if the Greek transliteration of the name of the Hebrew King Amon was "Amon" or "Amos"? Does it matter if people in Alexandria spelled their verbs in a way modern writers consider uncouth? Variation in the text is real and is widespread. Few if any scholars believe that we have recovered the original text with absolute certainty -- but I know of none who regard the difference as so substantial as to be actually capable of producing heresy. Scholars such as Burgon and Pickering have been intemperate (and, in the latter case at least, demonstrably inaccurate) in their attacks on scholars' methods. But even they have not shown any instance of modern (as opposed to ancient) editors producing any readings which affect Christian doctrine; doctrine is a unity and does not rest on a particular passage.

I have seen the same sort of admissions on Muslim websites, that even with the alledged massive corruption of the NT writings, no fundamental doctrine is changed. That in itself is a boggling admission that needs to be looked at. Your first premise is that we can’t recover what was said by Jesus because of all the tampering with the NT, and yet; "none" of the fundamental doctrines have been changed?


It is possibly the use of quotes out of context, or more likely, just ignorance as to the nature of the variations themselves that produces these conclusions. As I research the variations, the vast majority are very minor. The 63 % acuracy quoted on your site, has to do with "variant free" verses. But even with the 27 % that remains, the bulk of the variations are minor. And certainly not producing doctrinal dispute. As the info above shows, 10% of the variations are contained in 2 passages.

> > At-tabaris commentary says, "And when there came to them (the Jews), a

> > Book (this Qur'ān) from Allāh confirming what is with them [the Taurāt

> > (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] taken from

> >

> > IF it's not the bible, I wonder what other "book" it might be? For

> > right now I will carry on with the more probable anwer that the "book"

> > was indeed the bible.


> The Qur'an says Torah and Injeel in the above verse, it does not say

> Bible? Shall we ask you which Bible or books of Bible as you have already

> admitted that different Churches follow different set of scriptures.

The Torah and the Injil, not the Bible

Very well, it does not say "Bible". The Torah and Injil are contained within the Bible, but you can limit it down to those 9 books if you would like. So, where do we find confirmation of Muhammed in those 9 books then?

Different Churches follow different set of scriptures.

Now this is an example of the kind of distortion I see all too often. Again, I don’t know if it is malicious or not, so I will assume not. You said "you have already admitted that different Churches follow different set of scriptures", presumably then, even "I" admit that there is no uniformity in our scriptures. This is what you attempt to lead to, but this is not what I believe. Looking at your website, shows that all the churches use the same 27 books except for the Syriac, which uses 5 less. That is still a great amount of uniformity. Like the Anglicans, who will use certain books for edification but not for formation of doctrine, the Ethiopic church has a broader canon, but the same 27 books are used for the formation of doctrine. The others are for church order.

The Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican all use the same 27. the Coptic, same books plus the 2 of Clement. The claim that "we all follow different scriptures" is extremely misleading. That there is not absolute uniformity, is stretched to mean no uniformity. That is false. If the NT claimed to be the "dictated word of God", then this would be a serious charge indeed.

> Further, your claim that the Jews and Christians were following different

> scriptures in hijaz only aggravates the problems. How do you know for sure

> that your Bible is "inspired" and not the ones that were there in Hijaz?

> We know for sure that the modern day Bible is a "committee text"; i.e., a

> committee comprising of Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, Allen

> Paul Wikgren and Carlo Maria Martini sorted out modern day New Testament.


> "A "committee text" of this kind is occasionally regarded as

> problematical, and at times it may be so. In a number of instances it

> represents a compromise, for none of the editors can claim a perfect

> acceptance record of all recommendations offered."


My claim that the "Jews and Christians were following different scriptures in hijaz"

I must clarify that this particular scenario was insisted on by the previous poster, "johnny"; (my words in green and "johnnys" in violet) My own view would be that these christians had the same books (to a great degree) that we do.

> > verifying that which they have" (2.89) and "And when there came to them an

> > Apostle from Allah verifying that which they have" (2.101)


> The verses are talking about the scripture in the hand of the people

> of the Book at the time of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in which they found

> the clear prophecy of the coming of Muhammed (PBUH). There are

> Hadeeths (and I don't have them with me now) which state that the Jews

> and Christians moved into that region (Hijaz - Medina) because they

> read in their scriptures that a Prophet of Allah would be coming

> there. So in other words, had the Jews and Christians really followed

> their scriptures it would have mean't them becoming Muslims and

> accepting the Quran as the word of Allah. The verses in question have

> nothing to do with any "Bible" and do not say that each and every itsy

> bitsy bit and dot in their scripture was 100% accurate. The Quran was

> confirming the truth in their scripture:


and I should think that the burden of proof, in light of this defense, would rest on you to show that these Jews and Christians indeed had a different scripture. Since the canon was in great part settled by the 6th century, it would seem reasonable to assume that they had the same basic canon as we have now.

My guess as to why it is insisted that they had different scriptures is because we do not find ANY reference to Muhammed in the Gospels that we now have (or any of the variant versions of MSS, for that matter). Therefore it became necessary to say that the Christians in this particular region had other scriptures. There is, of course, no evidence of such a thing (other than purported hadith), but it works well in the face of the embarassing lack of any confirmation that we were supposed to find in "the book".

How do you know for sure that your Bible is "inspired" and not the ones that were there in Hijaz?

Well, as it has been pointed out to me, the Quran, and the hadith seem to say that the scriptures these christians had were corrupted. Assuming that these scriptures were different, wouldn’t that tell you that the particular scriptures that the christians in the Hajiz had were not the inspired versions?

I don’t put too much stock in this explanation, however. Without some sort of proof that the christians had different scriptures, we can’t really just assume that they were. The more likely explanation is that Muhammed made the claim believing it to be true, and once it was discovered that it wasn’t true, it became necessary to invent a story about different scriptures to cover their tracks.


A "committee text"


John 10:22:

TEXT: "It was then [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: p66c p75 B L W Psi 33 some cop(north) most cop(south)

NOTES: "Now it was [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: p66* S A D K X Delta Theta Pi f13 28 700 892 1241 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(p,h,pal) one cop(north)

NOTES: "It was [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: f1 565 1010 two lat syr(s)

OTHER: "Now it was then [the feast of] Dedication"
EVIDENCE: most cop(north) some cop(south)

COMMENTS: The Greek word translated "Now" or "And" is spelled "DE"; the Greek word translated "Then" or "At that time" is spelled "TOTE." The word that precedes the word in question is spelled "EGENETO." Now scribes sometimes confused "t" and "d." Since the first Greek manuscripts were written without spaces between words, it is possible that a copyist saw the "TO" twice in "EGENETODE" and wrote "EGENETOTOTE." On the other hand, it is also possible that a copyist's eye jumped over the second "TO" in "EGENETOTOTE" and he wrote "EGENETODE." The UBS Textual Committee inclined to the second view.

Now granted maybe we can’t be "sure" of what was really said here, so a "committee" has to "vote" on what "God’s word" was. Let’s face it we just don’t "know" for sure which of these it was.

Our choices:

It was then [the feast of] Dedication

Now it was [the feast of] Dedication

It was [the feast of] Dedication

Now it was then [the feast of] Dedication

I think we can safely conclude that "it was" the feast of dedication, but to be sure- we don’t "know" the exact words.

So the conclusion after looking at these passages, is to denigrate the entire message of the NT? This is a real life example of the dreaded textual variations. Over half are not even this bad, yet you have taken quotes like "not even one sentence is uniform" and magnified it into something that it is not.

The conclusion of the argument is a masterful piece of deception.

> Kurt Aland & Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction

> To The Critical Editions & To The Theory & Practice Of Modern Text

> Criticism, 1995, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids,

> Michigan, p. 34.


> Nota Bene: It has nothing to do with the individual members of the

> committee being inspired by God or their text is inspired by God, leave

> alone they restoring the original text! So, you definitely can't claim

> your New Testament or Bible may be inspired either. So, you are back to

> the same problem.

As mentioned before, most Muslims will try to force the Quranic "dictation" method of revelation on to the Bible and find it lacking. The New Testament never claimed to be a word for word revelation. As historical documents, they are more reliable than anything that we have from the ancient world, and even with the multitude of variations, there is very little that is in doubt. And even then, what is not sure, does not affect the basic doctrine.

So then, where do we find confirmation of Muhammed?


Thank you for hearing this long winded reply,



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