How Our Bible Came to Us: Its Texts and Versions

By H. G. G. Herklots | Go to book overview

Chapter Eleven
USING WHAT HAS BEEN FOUND

WHEN THE Caliph Othmann fixed a text of the Koran and destroyed all the old copies which differed from his standard, he provided for the uniformity of subsequent manuscripts at the cost of their historical foundation.'1 If our study has taught us anything it is that nothing like this has happened with the New Testament. There is no standard text. There are multitudes of manuscripts in a surprising number of languages, differing in detail sentence by sentence. Yet if the detailed differences are many the substantial agreement is overwhelming. 'It_ cannot be repeated too often', wrote Westcott in explaining the changes brought about by the Revised Version, 'that the text of the New Testament surpasses all other Greek texts in the antiquity, variety and fulness of the evidence by which it is attested. About seven-eighths of the words are raised above all doubt by a unique combination of authorities; and of the questions which affect the remaining one- eighth a great part are simply questions of order and form, and such that serious doubt does not appear to touch more than one-sixtieth part of the whole text.'2

This judgment has not been disturbed by discoveries made since Westcott's time. In an Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament, issued in the U.S.A. in 1946, Professor F. C. Grant wrote: 'It will be obvious to the careful reader that still in 1946, as in 1881 and 1901,3 no doctrine of the Christian faith has been affected by the revision, for the simple reason that, out of

____________________
1
B. F. Westcott, Some Lessons of the Revised Version of the New Testament ( 4th edition, London, 1903), p. 8.
2
Ibid., p. 209.
3
1881 is the date of the Revised Version, 1901 that of the first American Standard Version derived from it.

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