The preservation of God’s Word through generations

Written by on 9 November 2023

The safeguarding of God’s Word has been a timeless subject of debate. In this article, we delve into how this has been accomplished. We look at historical texts, ancient testimonies and evidence that upholds the Bible’s precision and infallibility. This analysis examines key sources such as the Septuagint, the Masoretic text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Listen to the podcast: The Textual History of the Old Testament

The Septuagint

The Septuagint, a Greek rendition of the Old Testament originating in the 3rd century BC, offers insights into the early evolution of the Old Testament text. This monumental translation played a pivotal role in aiding Greek-speaking Jews in comprehending the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament, and its influence extended to the New Testament, where even Jesus himself made use of its teachings.

The Masoretic Text

The Masoretic text, meticulously assembled by dedicated Jewish scholars during the Middle Ages, stands as the definitive Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Renowned for its thoroughness and precision, it reigns as the preeminent and most comprehensive witness to the Old Testament scriptures, forming the bedrock upon which numerous contemporary translations rely.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s provided a remarkable window into the ancient origins of the Old Testament text, with roots stretching back to the 3rd century BC. These invaluable scrolls not only shed light on the text itself but also grant us a profound understanding of its interpretation by the Essenes, a community of great historical significance.

The Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch, crafted by the Samaritan community historically met with disdain, offers a distinctive perspective on the Old Testament text. Though not devoid of errors and variations, it nonetheless offers valuable glimpses into the intricate journey of the text’s transmission and evolution.

The Role of Textual Criticism

Textual criticism carries profound theological implications, particularly in exploring the Bible’s inerrancy. By meticulously scrutinizing various manuscripts, textual criticism provides invaluable insights into the Bible’s transmission across the ages. It enables us to uncover discrepancies while strengthening our trust in the divine nature of God’s word.

Textual critics employ a range of methodologies, such as internal evidence, external evidence, and consensus, to assess and compare manuscripts. However, they also grapple with unique challenges in this endeavour. These challenges include the scarcity of manuscripts, dating complexities, authentication hurdles, and the presence of internal alterations. Remarkably, despite these obstacles, the field of textual criticism boasts an impressive repository of manuscripts, possibly the largest of any religious tradition globally. Yet, their dispersion across various locations poses a logistical challenge to accessing them comprehensively.

Encouragingly, the ongoing digitisation process is progressively enhancing accessibility to this wealth of textual material.

In summary, the Bible is a divine revelation meticulously safeguarded throughout the ages. The practice of textual criticism is valuable, illuminating its historical journey and unwavering accuracy. God’s word, ever unblemished, continues to be a wellspring of inspiration, nurturing both faith and profound understanding.

For more Biblical teachings, listen to this podcast from the series “Let’s Talk” or read our daily devotional, The Word for Today.

The views expressed herein are those of the presenters and not Radio Pulpit.

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