1. We have no original copies of the New Testament letters and gospels. The original books written by Paul, the gospel writers and other authors have not been found. But we also don't have the originals of any other ancient work from that period.
2. The gospels and letters of the New Testament were written by different people in different places and different times.
3. The stories of Jesus captured in the gospels were first passed down orally prior to being written down. But it's important to know that in the ancient world, this was how all stories were carefully preserved.
4. People made mistakes when copying the Bible. Almost no scholars would argue that scribes did not make some "variances" when they copied the New Testament. The question is: How important where they?
We then took a look at and excerpt of one of the oldest papryi in existence, that contains almost the entire gospel of John. It is dated near 200 A.D. When we look at this document we realize there is no punctuation, it's in Greek, there are no chapter titles, verses, or explanatory footnotes and it was hand written. With that in mind we asked the question: How would you guess something like this papyrus written 1,800 years ago became the Bible you have in your hands today?
Take a look at our Prezi for more information and questions regarding this: Can I Ask That? Session 1
We finished with the following points:
1. Why does this matter? The Bible contains the history of God and God's people over time, including the account of God actually coming to earth as a person: Jesus Christ. If the Bible has been significantly changed, it might be difficult to have confidence in the main messages of scripture about who God is and who we are. We talked about having a faith and trust in the Bible and how this is important.
2. What kind of changes did scribes make? Most of the changes were "copy errors" which do not significantly change the meaning of those texts. However, some changes do affect how we read the Bible, like changes in the ways passages might be interpreted by shifting a word or two. College students will likely be exposed to arguments like this so it is helpful to familiarize them to this argument.
3. Over time the church came to agreement about which books were part of the authoritative Bible and which were not considered part of scripture. The Bible we have today is a product of those individuals, councils, Bible translators and scholars through the years.
Finally a summary from our book:
"Most Christian traditions believe the Bible is God's inspired word to humanity. The Holy Spirit inspired human authors to capture God's Word and communicate it to God's people in specific places and times, as well as over time to us. Because we believe it's God's word, scripture has "authority" in our lives. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to shape us into people who live in relationship with--and try to live like-- Jesus Christ."
2 Timothy 3:15-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Ask your youth their opinion on this topic (at least for now)...
Next week we tackle the question "Does the Bible contradict itself?"