Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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9. Digging much deeper

I will warn you in advance. The discussion in this chapter may get a little complicated in places, but because textual criticism and questions about the manuscripts of the Greek Testament are the focus of much of the discussion today, especially from Bart Ehrman, many questions need to be answered. I encourage you to push through to the end. It’s worth the investment! We’ll first talk about variants and then manuscripts.

You can click here to download a PDF of the main papyri I discuss in this chapter.

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Discussion questions

  1. Have you ever heard of Prof. Ehrman? Have you been exposed to his teachings, especially in his book Misquoting Jesus?
  2. Why do variants in the New Testament give “us a more historically reliable basis on which to talk about the original text”?
  3. What is the difference between the number of variants and the number of words with variants? Is it accurate to say that we don’t know what any of the words of Scripture are?
  4. Why is having 400,000 variants not necessarily significant?
  5. How would you answer someone who says there were copies of copies of copies of the New Testament manuscripts, and therefore we cannot trust the manuscripts that we have?
  6. Do you think it is important to have the original words of Jesus in order to believe the Bible is reliable? Why or why not?
  7. What prior knowledge do you have of early manuscripts? Why are they important when discussing the reliability of the Bible?
  8. What is the relevance of determining whether an early manuscript was written with the documentary hand or the literary hand?
  9. Why can it be helpful to look at the early manuscripts in order to determine the accuracy of the scribes? What role would doing so play in the reliability of the Bible?
  10. What is the evidence that changes were made in the manuscripts before our earliest manuscripts?
  11. Of the variants discussed in this chapter, are there any that would make you question the basic message or truth of the passage?