The 8th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints states “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God”. Notice the caveat for the Bible of “so far as it is translated correctly”. I remember many times as a Mormon I would tell people about this article of faith and explain to them how many “plain and precious truths” have been removed from the Bible… how the Bible has been mistranslated throughout history, does not contain the fullness of the Gospel, and cannot be trusted. I would tell them how we need The Book Of Mormon and modern day prophecy to clear up the confusion caused by the mistranslations in the Bible. However, when I started questioning the truthfulness of the LDS church, I began to research the history of the Bible, how we got it and how it has been transmitted to us throughout history. I wanted to find out for myself whether or not the Mormon claim that the Bible is “mistranslated” is true. What I found out amazed me.
Historiography is the the study of ancient documents. It is used to determine the authenticity and validity of documents of antiquity. One of the tests used in Historiography is called the Bibliographical test. One principle of the Bibliographical test is to look at the number of surviving manuscripts of any document of antiquity. Obviously, the more copies we have the easier it is to determine errors in copying and determine what the original text said. So, the question is, how many copies do we have of the New Testament?
For the New Testament alone we currently have 24,970 surviving manuscripts! This makes The New Testament the #1 document in all of antiquity in manuscript authority! Despite being Number 1 in manuscript authority it’s accuracy is questioned more than any other document of antiquity. You don’t hear many college professors questioning the reliability of Caesar’s Gallic Wars… yet we only have 10 surviving manuscripts for it!!
What is really amazing is the gap between The New Testament and the #2 document in manuscript authority, Homer’s Iliad. There are only 643 surviving manuscripts for it!!. The New Testament has 24,970 and # 2 HAS ONLY 643. What a gap!! God is good!!
In part 2 I will discuss the 2nd principle used in the Bibliographical Test and how these principles lead one to a reasoned conclusion that the New Testament we hold in our hands today is an accurate transmission of what was originally written down.