2.1.10 But the "ancient copies" are exact copies of one-another, right?:
Well, where do all of these Bibles come from and why the difficulty in defining what is a truly "inspired" word of God? Well, as we have just seen, they come from the "ancient manuscripts" (also known as "MSS" or "authorities"). The Christian world today is claimed to possess anywhere up to 24,000 "ancient manuscripts" of the Bible with a very few of them dating all the way back to the fourth century after Christ (but not back to Christ or the apostles themselves). In other words, they have with them gospels and epistles which date back to the century when the Trinitarians took over the Christian Church. All manuscripts from before this period have strangely perished. All Bibles in existence today are compiled from these "ancient manuscripts." However, any reputable scholar of the Bible will tell us that no two ancient manuscripts are exactly identical.
"In any event, none of [the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible] now survive. What do survive are copies made over the course of centuries, or more accurately, copies of the copies of the copies, some 5,366 of them in the Greek language alone, that date from the second century down to the sixteenth. Strikingly, with the exception of the smallest fragments, no two of these copies are exactly alike in their particulars. No one knows how many differences, or variant readings, occur among the surviving witnesses, but they must number in the hundreds of thousands."
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart Ehrman, pp. 27
People today generally believe that there is only ONE Bible, and ONE version of any given verse of the Bible. As we have begun to see, this is far from true. All Bibles in our possession today (Such as the KJV, the NRSV, the NASV, NIV,...etc.) are the result of extensive cutting and pasting from these various manuscripts with no single one being the definitive reference. There are countless cases where a paragraph shows up in one "ancient manuscript" but is totally missing from many others. For instance, Mark 16:8-20 (twelve whole verses) is completely missing from the most ancient manuscripts available today but show up in more recent "ancient manuscripts." There are also many documented cases where even geographical locations are completely different from one ancient manuscript to the next. For instance, in the "Samaritan Pentateuch manuscript," Deuteronomy 27:4 speaks of "mount Gerizim," while in the "Hebrew manuscript" the exact same verse speaks of "mount Ebal." From Deuteronomy 27:12-13 we can see that these are two distinctly different locations. Similarly, Luke 4:44 in some "ancient manuscripts" mentions "Synagogues of Judea," others mention "Synagogues of Galilee." This is only a sampling, a comprehensive listing would require a book of its own.
There are countless examples in the Bible where verses of a questionable nature are included in the text without any disclaimer telling the reader that many scholars and translators have serious reservations as to their authenticity. The King James Version of the Bible (Also known as the "Authorized Version"), the one in the hands of the majority of Christendom today, is one of the most notorious in this regard. It gives the reader absolutely no clue as to the questionable nature of such verses. However, more recent translations of the Bible are now beginning to be a little more honest and forthcoming in this regard. For example, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, by Oxford Press, has adopted an extremely subtle system of bracketing the most glaring examples of such questionable verses with double square brackets ([[ ]]). It is highly unlikely that the casual reader will realize the true function these brackets serve. They are there to tell the informed reader that the enclosed verses are of a highly questionable nature. Examples of this are the story of the "woman taken in adultery" in John 7:53-8:11, as well as Mark 16:9-20 (Jesus' resurrection and return), and Luke 23:34 (which, interestingly enough, is there to confirm the prophesy of Isaiah 53:12).....and so forth.
For example, with regard to John 8:1-11, the commentators of this Bible say in very small print at the bottom of the page:
"The most ancient authorities lack 7.53-8.11; other authorities add the passage here or after 7.36 or after 21.25 or after Luke 21.38 with variations of text; some mark the text as doubtful."
With regard to Mark 16:9-20, we are, strangely enough, given a choice of how we would like the Gospel of Mark to end. The commentators of the NRSV by Oxford Press have supplied both a "short ending" and a "long ending." Thus, we are given a choice of what we would prefer to be the "inspired word of God". Once again, at the end of this Gospel in very small text, the commentators say:
"Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities, verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful."
Peake's Commentary on the Bible records;
"It is now generally agreed that 9-20 are not an original part of Mk. They are not found in the oldest MSS, and indeed were apparently not in the copies used by Mt. and Lk. A 10th-cent. Armenian MS ascribes the passage to Aristion, the presbyter mentioned by Papias (ap.Eus.HE III, xxxix, 15)."
"Indeed an Armenian translation of St. Mark has quite recently been discovered, in which the last twelve verses of St. Mark are ascribed to Ariston, who is otherwise known as one of the earliest of the Christian Fathers; and it is quite possible that this tradition is correct"
Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, F. Kenyon, Eyre and Spottiswoode, pp. 7-8
"Nonetheless, there are some kinds of textual changes for which it is difficult to account apart from the deliberate activity of a transcriber. When a scribe appended an additional twelve verses to the end of the Gospel of Mark, this can scarcely be attributed to mere oversight"
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart Ehrman, pp. 27-28
" The gospel of Mark ends abruptly, at 16.8, and early attempts to add an ending show that it was felt to be incomplete. It is possible that the book was never finished or that it was damaged at an early stage. Yet it may be our knowledge of the other Gospels that makes us expect this one to end with appearances of the risen Lord. Certainly, it ends in an appropriate way for Mark - with fear, human failure, and the call to discipleship "
The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, p. 496
Even at that, these verses are noted as having been narrated differently in different "authorities." For example, verse 14 is claimed by the commentators to have the following words added on to them in some "ancient authorities":
"and they excused themselves saying 'This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits. Therefore, reveal your righteousness now' - thus they spoke to Christ and Christ replied to them 'The term of years of Satan's power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, that they may inherit the spiritual and imperishable glory of the righteousness that is in heaven'.".
Dr. Lobegott Friedrich Konstantin Von Tischendorf was one of the most eminent conservative biblical scholars of the nineteenth century. One of his greatest lifelong achievements was the discovery of the oldest known Biblical manuscript know to mankind, the "Codex Sinaiticus," from Saint Catherine's Monastery in Mount Sinai. This was one of the manuscripts which influenced the Christian recognition of the need to produce the RSV Bible. One of the most devastating discoveries made from the study of this fourth century manuscript was that the gospel of Mark originally ended at verses 16:8 and not at verse 16:20 as it does today. In other words, the last 12 verses (Mark 16:9 through Mark 16:20) were "injected" by the Church into the Bible sometime after the 4th century. This conclusion was supported by the fact that the early Church fathers of the second century C.E. such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen never quoted these verses. Later on, it was also discovered that the said 12 verses, wherein lies the account of "the resurrection of Jesus," do not appear in codices Syriacus, Vaticanus and Bobiensis. Originally, the "Gospel of Mark" contained no mention of the "resurrection of Jesus" (Mark 16:9-20). At least four hundred years (if not more) after the departure of Jesus, the Church, by way of father Ariston, received divine "inspiration" to add the story of the resurrection to the end of this Gospel and then allow Christianity to attribute these inserted verses to "Mark."
The author of "Codex Sinaiticus" had no doubt that the Gospel of Mark came to an end at Mark 16:8, to emphasize this point we find that immediately following this verse he brings the text to a close with a fine artistic squiggle and the words "The Gospel according to Mark." Tischendorf was a staunch conservative Christian and as such he managed to casually brush this discrepancy aside since in his estimation the fact that Mark was not an apostle nor an eye witness to the ministry of Jesus made his account secondary to those of the apostles such as Matthew and John. However, as seen elsewhere in this book, the majority of Christian scholars today recognize the writings of Paul to be the oldest of the writings of the Bible. These are closely followed by the "Gospel of Mark" and the "Gospels of Matthew and Luke" are almost universally recognized to have been based upon the "Gospel of Mark." This discovery was the result of centuries of detailed and painstaking studies by these Christian scholars and the details can not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that most reputable Christian scholars today recognize this as a basic indisputable fact.
Today, the translators and publishers of our modern Bibles are beginning to be a little more forthright and honest with their readers. As we have just seen, although they may not simply openly admit that these twelve verses were forgeries of the Church and not the word of God, still, at least they are beginning to draw the reader's attention to the fact that there are two "versions" of the "Gospel of Mark" and then leave the reader to decide what to make of these two "versions."
Now the question becomes "if the Church has tampered with the Gospel of Mark, then did they stop there or is there more to this story?. As it happens, Tischendorf also discovered that the "Gospel of John" has been heavily reworked by the Church over the ages. For example,
1.It was found that the verses starting from John 7:53 to 8:11 (the story of the woman taken in adultery) are not to be found in the most ancient copies of the Bible available to Christianity today, specifically, codices Sinaiticus or Vaticanus.
2.It was also found that John 21:25 was a later insertion, and that a verse from the gospel of Luke (24:12) that speaks of Peter discovering an empty tomb of Jesus is not to be found in the ancient manuscripts.
(For more on this topic please read 'Secrets of Mount Sinai' by James Bentley, Doubleday, NY, 1985).
Much of the discoveries of Dr. Tischendorf regarding the continuous and unrelenting tampering with the text of the Bible over the ages has been verified by twentieth century science. For example, a study of the Codex Sinaiticus under ultraviolet light has revealed that the "Gospel of John" originally ended at verse 21:24 and was followed by a small tail piece and then the words "The Gospel according to John." However, some time later, a completely different "inspired" individual took pen in hand, erased the text following verse 24, and then added in the "inspired" text of John 21:25 which we find in our Bibles today.
The evidence of tampering goes on and on. For example, in the Codex Sinaiticus the "lord's prayer" of Luke 11:2-4 differs substantially from the version which has reached us through the agency of centuries of "inspired" correction. Luke 11:2-4 in this most ancient of all Christian manuscripts reads:
"Father, Hallowed by thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we ourselves also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation."
Further, the "Codex Vaticanus," is another ancient manuscript held by the scholars of Christianity in the same reverent standing as the Codex Sinaiticus. These two fourth century codices are together considered the most ancient copies of the Bible available today. In the codex Vaticanus we can find a version of Luke 11:2-4 even shorter than that of Codex Sinaiticus. In this version even the words "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth." are not to be found.
When we observe this fact we begin to see why it is that even in our modern Bibles "The Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6:9-13 is not exactly the same as the version presented in Luke 11:2-4.
With regard to the verse of Luke 24:51 which contains Luke's alleged account of the final parting of Jesus (pbuh) and how he was "raised up into heaven." However, as seen in previous pages, in the Codex Sinaiticus and other ancient manuscripts the words "and was carried up into heaven" are completely missing. The verse only says:
"And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them."
C.S.C. Williams observed, if this omission were correct, "there is no reference at all to the Ascension in the original text of the Gospel."
Some other discrepancies between the Codex Sinaiticus and our modern Bibles are:
Matthew 17:21 is missing in Codex Sinaiticus.
In our modern Bibles, Mark 1:1 reads "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;" however, in this most ancient of all Christian manuscripts, this verse only reads "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ" Strangely, the very words which are most grating to the Muslim's Qur'an, "the Son of God," are completely missing. Isn't that interesting?
The words of Jesus in Luke 9:55-56 are missing.
The original text of Matthew 8:2 as found in Codex Sinaiticus tells us that a leper asked Jesus to heal him and Jesus "angrily put forth [his] hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean." In our modern Bibles, the word "angrily" is strangely absent.
Luke 22:44 in Codex Sinaiticus and our modern Bibles claim that an angel appeared before Jesus, strengthening him. In Codex Vaticanus, this angel is strangely absent. If Jesus was the "Son of God" then obviously it would be highly inappropriate for him to need an angel to strengthen him. This verse, then, must have been a scribal mistake. Right?
The alleged words of Jesus on the cross "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34) were originally present in the Codex Sinaiticus but was later erased from the text by another editor. Bearing in mind how the Church regarded and treated the Jews in the middle ages, can we think of any reason why this verse might have stood in the way of official Church policy and their "inquisitions"?
John 5:4 is missing from Codex Sinaiticus.
In Mark chapter 9, the words "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." are again missing.
In Matt. 5:22, the words "without cause" are missing in both the codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
Matt. 21:7 in our modern Bibles reads "And [the disciples] brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set [Jesus] thereon." In the original manuscripts, this verse read "and they set [Jesus] upon them," However, the picture of Jesus being placed upon two animals at the same time and being asked to ride them at once was objectionable to some, so this verse was changed to "and they set [Jesus] upon him" (which "him"?). Soon after, the English translation completely avoided this problem by translating it as "thereon."
In Mark 6:11, our modern Bibles contain the words "Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." However, these words are not to be found in either of these two most ancient of Christian Biblical manuscripts, having been introduced into the text centuries later.
The words of Matthew 6:13 "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever." Are not to be found in these two most ancient manuscripts as well as many others. The parallel passages in Luke are also defective.
Matthew 27:35 in our modern Bibles contains the words "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." This passage, once again, is not found according to Rev. Merrill in any Biblical uncial manuscript dating before the ninth century.
1 Timothy 3:16 originally read "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: which was manifest in the flesh.." This was then later (as seen previously), ever so subtly changed to "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh ." Thus, the doctrine of the "incarnation" was born.
In all, Tischendorf uncovered over 14,800 "corrections" to the manuscript by nine (some say ten) separate "correctors," which had been applied to this one manuscript over a period from 400AD to about 1200AD (see Fig. 1). Tischendorf strove in his dealings with his holy texts themselves to be as honest and sincere as humanly possible. For this reason he could not understand how the scribes could have so continuously and so callously
"allow themselves to bring in here and there changes, which were not simple verbal ones, but materially affected the meaning" or why they "did not shrink from cutting out a passage or inserting one."
Fig. 1 14,800 "corrections" to only one Biblical manuscript
Irrespective of all of this continuous and unrelenting tampering, due to it's antiquity and completeness the Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most revered and highly respected copies of the Bible available today. However, in spite of this, we find that such ancient manuscripts of the Bible as this do not only differ with the text of our modern Bibles in many hundreds and thousands of words, phrases and even whole paragraphs, rather they even contain in them whole Gospels which were in the first four centuries considered authentic and "inspired" such as the "Letter of Barnabas" and the "Shepherd of Hermas" which are both found in the Codex Sinaiticus. When our modern editors set about their task of harmonizing the text of our modern Bibles with the continually expanding list of more and more ancient manuscripts of the Bible, they do so with the fundamental goal of doing whatever it takes to stay as close to the text of our modern Bibles as humanly possible so as not to fall pray to the ill will of the orthodox who have grown accustomed to the modern "orthodox" reading which it has taken them centuries to achieve. This means that these editors will even go so far as to include in the text of our modern Bibles verses which can not be found in the most ancient manuscripts simply by obtaining the missing text from the most ancient manuscript which does contain it. The other "extra" Gospels are also conveniently discarded since they are obviously "not canonical" and not accepted by the orthodox Church in modern times nor their recent predecessors.
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