Blue Flower

Manuscript Support for the Bible's Reliability by Ron Rhodes


Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament

There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament.

These manuscript copies are very ancient and they are available for inspection now.

There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity).

Bottom line: the New Testament has an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting its reliability.


The Variants in the New Testament Manuscripts Are Minimal

In the many thousands of manuscript copies we possess of the New Testament, scholars have discovered that there are some 150,000 "variants."

This may seem like a staggering figure to the uninformed mind.

But to those who study the issue, the numbers are not so damning as it may initially appear.

Indeed, a look at the hard evidence shows that the New Testament manuscripts are amazingly accurate and trustworthy.


To begin, we must emphasize that out of these 150,000 variants, 99 percent hold virtually no significance whatsoever.

Many of these variants simply involve a missing letter in a word; some involve reversing the order of two words (such as "Christ Jesus" instead of "Jesus Christ"); some may involve the absence of one or more insignificant words.

Really, when all the facts are put on the table, only about 50 of the variants have any real significance - and even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is effected by them.

For more than ninety-nine percent of the cases the original text can be reconstructed to a practical certainty.

Even in the few cases where some perplexity remains, this does not impinge on the meaning of Scripture to the point of clouding a tenet of the faith or a mandate of life.


Thus, in the Bible as we have it (and as it is conveyed to us through faithful translations) we do have for practical purposes the very Word of God, inasmuch as the manuscripts do convey to us the complete vital truth of the originals.


By practicing the science of textual criticism - comparing all the available manuscripts with each other - we can come to an assurance regarding what the original document must have said.

Let us suppose we have five manuscript copies of an original document that no longer exists. Each of the manuscript copies are different. Our goal is to compare the manuscript copies and ascertain what the original must have said. Here are the five copies:

Manuscript #1: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.

Manuscript #2: Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #3: Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #4: Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world.

Manuscript #5: Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.

Could you, by comparing the manuscript copies, ascertain what the original document said with a high degree of certainty that you are correct? Of course you could.

This illustration may be extremely simplistic, but a great majority of the 150,000 variants are solved by the above methodology.

By comparing the various manuscripts, all of which contain very minor differences like the above, it becomes fairly clear what the original must have said.

Most of the manuscript variations concern matters of spelling, word order, tenses, and the like; no single doctrine is affected by them in any way.

We must also emphasize that the sheer volume of manuscripts we possess greatly narrows the margin of doubt regarding what the original biblical document said.

If the number of [manuscripts] increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small.


The New Testament Versus Other Ancient Books

By comparing the manuscript support for the Bible with manuscript support for other ancient documents and books, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that no other ancient piece of literature can stand up to the Bible. Manuscript support for the Bible is unparalleled!

There are more [New Testament] manuscripts copied with greater accuracy and earlier dating than for any secular classic from antiquity.

Rene Pache adds, "The historical books of antiquity have a documentation infinitely less solid."

Dr. Benjamin Warfield concludes, "If we compare the present state of the text of the New Testament with that of no matter what other ancient work, we must...declare it marvelously exact."


Norman Geisler makes several key observations for our consideration:

No other book is even a close second to the Bible on either the number or early dating of the copies. The average secular work from antiquity survives on only a handful of manuscripts; the New Testament boasts thousands.

The average gap between the original composition and the earliest copy is over 1,000 years for other books.

The New Testament, however, has a fragment within one generation from its original composition, whole books within about 100 years from the time of the autograph [original manuscript], most of the New Testament in less than 200 years, and the entire New Testament within 250 years from the date of its completion.

The degree of accuracy of the copies is greater for the New Testament than for other books that can be compared. Most books do not survive with enough manuscripts that make comparison possible.

From this documentary evidence, then, it is clear that the New Testament writings are superior to comparable ancient writings. "The records for the New Testament are vastly more abundant, clearly more ancient, and considerably more accurate in their text."


Support for the New Testament from the Church Fathers

As noted at the beginning of this chapter, in addition to the many thousands of New Testament manuscripts, there are over 86,000 quotations of the New Testament in the early church fathers. There are also New Testament quotations in thousands of early church Lectionaries (worship books).

There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 to 200 years from the time of Christ.


Manuscript Evidence for the Old Testament

The Dead Sea Scrolls prove the accuracy of the transmission of the Bible.

In fact, in these scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947, we have Old Testament manuscripts that date about a thousand years earlier (150 B.C.) than the other Old Testament manuscripts then in our possession (which dated to A.D. 900).

The significant thing is that when one compares the two sets of manuscripts, it is clear that they are essentially the same, with very few changes.

The fact that manuscripts separated by a thousand years are essentially the same indicates the incredible accuracy of the Old Testament's manuscript transmission.


A full copy of the Book of Isaiah was discovered at Qumran.

Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.

The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling."


From manuscript discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christians have undeniable evidence that today's Old Testament Scripture, for all practical purposes, is exactly the same as it was when originally inspired by God and recorded in the Bible.

Combine this with the massive amount of manuscript evidence we have for the New Testament, and it is clear that the Christian Bible is a trustworthy and reliable book.


The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that the copyists of biblical manuscripts took great care in going about their work.

These copyists knew they were duplicating God's Word, so they went to incredible lengths to prevent error from creeping into their work.

The scribes carefully counted every line, word, syllable, and letter to ensure accuracy.


God's Preservation of the Bible

The Westminster Confession declares: "The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God and, by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them."

The Westminster Confession makes a very important point here.

The fact is, the God who had the power and sovereign control to inspire the Scriptures in the first place is surely going to continue to exercise His power and sovereign control in the preservation of Scripture.


Actually, God's preservational work is illustrated in the text of the Bible.

By examining how Christ viewed the Old Testament, we see that He had full confidence that the Scriptures He used had been faithfully preserved through the centuries.

Because Christ raised no doubts about the adequacy of the Scripture as His contemporaries knew them, we can safely assume that the first-century text of the Old Testament was a wholly adequate representation of the divine word originally given.

Jesus regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the originals in their message that He appealed to those copies as authoritative.

The respect that Jesus and His apostles held for the extant Old Testament text is, at base, an expression of the confidence in God's providential preservation of the copies and translations as substantially identical with the inspired originals.

Hence, the Bible itself indicates that copies can faithfully reflect the original text and therefore function authoritatively.



A brief exposition to encourage Evangelical believers towards signs and wonders


Darryl Stewart - 1989 and 1998



From the days of John the Baptist

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing,  and forceful men lay hold of it" Matthew 11:12

“The law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing his way into it” Luke16:16

John the Baptist ushered a new era into the world. He was a pivot point in history declaring that very soon something incredible was about to happen. He proclaimed that a heavenly, divine kingdom was about to invade earth. He knew that what was about to happen was supremely important. The people must be prepared. His message was:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!" Matthew 3:2

To those who came to hear him but did not prepare their hearts for the coming invasion of the divine, he rebuked them with “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"

John's message was urgent and powerful. His sense of mission was driving him to prepare a people for a new coming kingdom. The only adequate response to John's preaching was to repent and to be ready for a confrontation with a holy power. He understood that another was to come along shortly "more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire"

In due course Jesus walked into John's life to be baptised by him. John knew then that this man was the one. The ministry was handed over. Jesus now began his ministry, repeating John's exhortation:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!" Matthew 4:17

John's little band of prepared people turned their attention to Jesus. They watched to see how this Jesus would fulfil John's prophecy. Where was the kingdom that they had repented in the face of?

They did not have to wait long.

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” Matthew 4:23

Later, from prison, John was to enquire if this ministry of Jesus really was what he had prepared people for. There had been no cataclysmic judgement on mankind, no fire from heaven. Where was the kingdom? But Jesus truly was preaching the kingdom, bringing heaven and heaven's ways to men.

Jesus sent back to John,

"Report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor"

Jesus was assuring the baptiser that the kingdom that John had proclaimed was the one that he had announced, that all was going to plan. The kingdom was washing sin and disease from among the people, it was permeating Palestine, forcing light and healing into a world oppressed by Satan and his demons.

Repentance was now able to deny Satan's right to a person. The presence of this new kingdom brought a whole new world to people's lives. Healing, deliverance and freedom flowed as Satan's kingdom was wrestled from him. John need not fear. The kingdom of heaven indeed was at hand, forcefully advancing.                                                      



The Gospel of Jesus

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria and people brought  to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering  severe pain, the demon possessed, the epileptics and the paralytics, and he healed them". Matthew 4:23-25

"The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" 1 John 3:8

The actions of Jesus were the evidence and outworking of the kingdom of God come among men. The demonstrations of the miraculous victories over the devil pointed to who Jesus was. Jesus encouraged his disciples to believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

The incumbent spiritual directors were under siege. “What are we accomplishing?" they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him" John 11:47

In the early days of Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees, there was a debate over his ministry of deliverance. The establishment accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus replied,

If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” Matthew 12: 27, 28

The miracles of healing and deliverance were the outworking of the invasion of the kingdom of God among men. Jesus did not have to go into a detailed exposition of what was happening, it was obvious and self-explanatory. As Paul put it: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power" 1 Corinthians 4:20.

The coming kingdom had values, a culture which Jesus demonstrated personally and through his teaching. He taught in parables which formed a sort of spiritual grid. The ones spiritually tuning into things of the kingdom understood, the ones whose hearts were hard and unbelieving couldn't catch on.

"The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance”

Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in parables" Matthew 13:11-13

The kingdom was for those with ears to hear.


The Gospel of the Disciples

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’”. Matthew 9.35-38.

To do what?

To continue and multiply the things Jesus was doing.

Matthew continues:

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to cure every kind of disease and sickness” “.... as you go, preach this message, 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" Matthew

Jesus gave his disciples a one line sermon with dynamite illustrations, power demonstrating truth. Their gospel message could not yet contain any reference to Calvary or Pentecost as these events had not yet happened. All they did was to do the things that Jesus did, and explain it simply as “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Has come close to you)

"So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere" Luke 9: 6.

The message was the explanation of the ministry. The kingdom of heaven was wonderfully at hand.

A little later Jesus sent out seventy two of them to do exactly the same thing.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you’” “....The seventy two returned with joy, and said ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name'. He replied, 'I saw (I was seeing, i.e. while you were ministering the gospel) Satan fall like lightening from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and  to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you". Luke 10: 8, 9. 17-19 (section in brackets, mine).

Jesus had multiplied his ministry by twelve and then by seventy two. The gospel was accelerating in making inroads into Satan's territory. Jesus was watching his disciples win a war in the heavenly realms as they proclaimed their simple message with signs following. Heaven was invading earth.


Jesus had earlier taught his disciples to pray that this would happen just as it was now happening with the words, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". They were living the answer to that prayer. Heaven was being poured out on earth and they were in the thick of it. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell, a former haberdasher from Philadelphia, in early 1872.  He was baptized a Congregationalist, and was raised in a strict Protestant family. His later study of the Bible led him to deny the existence of hell and the doctrine of the Trinity, and to express Arian views concerning the nature of Jesus Christ, denying His divinity

They offer a cunning mixture of Scripture verses and "almost" Christian doctrines. Their approach, like that of the Mormons, is to stress elements of their doctrine which avoid controversy.  But they are an "organization" of slaves, working desperately to "earn" eternal life. They seek salvation, not by grace, but by becoming "Kingdom Publishers."  They don't have a personal relationship with Christ (who they say is not God), but rather they observe a system of law and works.

They believe:

  • Jehovah God existed from the beginning. His first creations were two angels, Michael (who later becomes Jesus) and Lucifer.
  • Jehovah appointed Lucifer to watch over earth, but the angel became jealous of Jehovah. He seduced Adam and Eve, and became Satan. He challenged Jehovah's right to rule! Jehovah gave Satan 6,000 years to try to win over all humanity. When he fails, Jehovah God will re-establish his kingdom and destroy Satan and all his rebellious followers.
  • After thousands of years of this struggle, Jehovah God arranged for Michael to cease to exist and be recreated as Jesus, a human. He was killed as a ransom on a torture stake (not a cross) for all mankind. This released men from Adam's sinful legacy, and gave them a chance to be worthy of eternal life, if they were faithful Witnesses.
  • When the human Jesus died, he stayed dead. He was recreated as a spirit (no bodily resurrection) and lives in heaven.
  • Jesus Christ (now Michael) returned to earth invisibly in 1914 (the date has been changed repeatedly) and is working through his "Organization" to re-establish Jehovah's kingdom over the earth.
  • The final battle between Jehovah and Satan, the Battle of Armageddon, is to start shortly, settling the question, "Who will rule earth?" A very special 144,000 Witnesses, the only ones considered "born again," will rule with Jesus in heaven at the end of this battle. All other Witnesses (numbering millions) will survive Armageddon, and live forever on earth, in the kingdom of the "New World."
  • After 1,000 years of this utopian Kingdom comes the final test. Satan will deceive many. He and those who rebel with him will be destroyed by fire from heaven (no eternal hell, just quick annihilation). 

Jehovah's Witnesses deny most of the basic doctrines of Christianity. Former Witnesses point out several basic denials.  They claim:

  1. Jesus Christ is not God. Rather, he is Michael the archangel.
  2. The Holy Spirit is not a person, but an "active force." J.W.'s deny the Trinity.
  3. When you're dead, you're dead. Man has no eternal soul, any more than animals.
  4. Jesus Christ was not raised bodily from the grave, but was recreated as a new "spirit body."
  5. Jesus returned invisibly in 1914. There is no "visible coming" planned in the future.
  6. There is no hell. Just like animals, when we die, it is over.
  7. Only 144,000 people achieve heaven. The rest of the faithful Witnesses who have died will be recreated on earth during the kingdom of the "New World", while the wicked will undergo complete destruction.
  8. Witnesses are deeply convinced that the end of the world will come within a very few years.
  9. Each Witness is considered an ordained minister to give witness to Jehovah by announcing His approaching Kingdom. He may do this by door-to-door evangelization, by meeting with others for home Bible studies, or by standing at street corners to display Watch Tower literature. Preaching the good news is the only means of salvation. Ordinarily, the entry level Jehovah's Witness is called a "servant". A "publisher," attends five hourly meetings a week and is to devote 10 hours a month witnessing. A "pioneer" gives 100 hours a month to the society.

Focusing on the Old Testament, the JW system is a legalistic one. They forbid blood transfusions (they say that is eating blood). They also consider any salute to a flag as worship of that flag, and is therefore prohibited. They don't vote, hold public office or serve in the military. However, when they baptize, they use the formula, "...In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

They are only allowed to use their own translation of the Bible and other official publications. Unfortunately, many purposeful mistranslations exist in their version to support their tenets.

The Jehovah's Witnesses deny the immortality of the soul, the existence of hell, and the seven sacraments. Although they have ritual of baptism, they regard it as merely the exterior symbol of their dedication to the service of Jehovah. They observe no feast—including Christmas—except the Memorial of the Last Supper, which they hold once a year after sundown on the 14th day of Nisan (a former method of computing the date of Easter and Passover) and during which only those who consider themselves as being among the celestial 144,000 may partake of the bread and wine.