How do we know the Bible hasn’t changed over time?

Part IV of Bites on the Bible with Darrell Bock.



What about the differences in the copies of the Bible?


Part IV of Bites on the Bible with Darrell Bock.

Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, explains how the Bible’s content hasn’t changed, even though the context we read it in has.


DARRELL BOCK: How do we know the Bible hasn’t changed over time? It’s actually one of the best attested ancient works that we have. We have mounds of manuscripts, mounds of copies, that show us how it’s been passed on from generation to generation. Those copies, for the most part, agree with one another, and the few places where they don’t agree, we know what the options are and in many cases, we actually know what the best option is. So, the text of what is the Bible has actually been pretty solid for a long time, in fact, in one case in the Old Testament, for a long time the oldest Old Testament manuscripts we had came from about 1000AD, and then they dug up some more manuscripts that were a thousand years earlier, compared them to one another, and they were almost exact. So somehow through the very careful copying tradition that existed among the Jewish people in particular and then in the church, there was the ability to pass on these copies and have them be relatively faithful in their content. So, we know that the content of the word of God has not changed, it has been solid over a long period of time.

Now we asked how has the Bible changed. In terms of its text, it’s solid. And in terms of its message, it’s consistent. But, times change – the Bible was written in ancient times, not modern times – and the situations the Bible addresses are varied, and so the applications of Scripture grow as these circumstances change, and in some cases the angle from which you’re looking at something has changed as a result of the modern world. For example, in the ancient world, the entire world was very religious, they believed in many gods, they even had 150 holidays in the first century where they worshipped the various gods – that was a given. But in our world today, a lot of people don’t believe in God at all. So how do you address and take the message of the Bible about God and have it speak to a people, many of whom don’t think about or believe in God at all? In that sense, thinking through how the Bible works has changed, even though its content has remained the same.