Integrity of Scriptures

By John Cortright

The Scriptures did not come by human will. Men moved by the holy spirit spoke for God. These original authorized writings, written in Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT), have been transmitted and translated to us with great fidelity. We can have confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures.

2 Peter 1:20-21
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The Scriptures did not come by the act of human will.  Men moved by the holy spirit spoke from God.  At times, these men wrote down the words.  In other instances, they would dictate, and a scribe would write down
the words.

Paul was moved by the holy spirit and spoke forth the words that are recorded in the book of Romans.  Tertius is the scribe who wrote down the words that Paul dictated.

Romans 16:22
I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.

However, it seems that Paul, himself, wrote the book of Galatians.

Galatians 6:11
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Jeremiah was the prophet who spoke by the holy spirit.  Baruch was the scribe who wrote down the words that Jeremiah dictated.

Jeremiah 36:4
Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD which He had spoken to him.

Jeremiah 36:17-18
And they asked Baruch, saying, "Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?" Then Baruch said to them, "He dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink on
the book."

This is how we received the Bible.  That original Scripture written down by the prophet or by a scribe at the dictation of the prophet is known as the “autograph” copy, or the original Scripture.  The Bible was not originally written in English.  The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language.  A small percentage was written in Aramaic.  The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language.

There are no autograph copies in existence today.  What we have are copies of that original that have been transmitted by scribes over centuries.

The term “transmission” describes the ancient process of copying Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to preserve them for future generations and to distribute them for greater use.  Since there were no copy machines, the texts had to be copied by hand.  In this way they were “transmitted.” (Definition from

The term “translation” is the process of “translating” words or text from one language into another.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
The oldest copies of the Bible are Hebrew.  These are Old Testament manuscripts that were discovered near the Dead Sea in caves outside of an archeological site known as Qumran.  These were not discovered until 1948 and not fully available to the general public until the 1990’s!
There are more than 230 “biblical texts” dating from the 3rd century BC to 70 AD.  Most of the texts are Hebrew.  Some Aramaic and Greek manuscripts were found as well.

The Masoretic Text
Masoretes were schools of scribes and Torah Scholars working between the 7th and 11th centuries copying the Hebrew text.  These Torah scholars were meticulous in their copying techniques, following close error-control techniques to insure the accuracy of the text.  Some of the famous Masoretic texts are the Aleppo Codex dating from the 10th century and the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008 AD.


  • Papyri = Early New Testament manuscripts from the 2nd to 7th centuries
  • Uncials = Greek manuscripts in all capital letters from the 4th to 9th centuries
  • Minuscules = Greek manuscripts in cursive letters from the 9th to the 15th centuries

The Greek Papyri
The oldest Greek New Testament manuscripts are known as Papyri.  The oldest Greek New Testament manuscript is P52 – a small section of the Gospel of John dating to around 125A.

The Uncials
Two famous uncial codices are the Codex Siniaticus and the Codex Vaticanus both dating from the 4th century.


  • MS = manuscript
  • MSS = manuscripts
  • DSS = Dead Sea Scrolls
  • LXX = The Greek Septuagint or Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament
  • MT = The Masoretic Text


  • Extant Manuscripts = Copies that exist today
  • Codex = A manuscript in book form – pages bound together rather than a scroll
  • Early Translations = Early versions translated from the Greek, including Latin, Syriac, Coptic, etc.
  • Variant = When words or phrases differ between manuscripts
  • Textual Critics – Hebrew or Greek scholars who study the ancient texts to determine which rendering is
    most accurate
  • Critical Text – A rendering of the Greek or Hebrew text based on the scholarly study of the manuscripts by textual critics
Critical Greek Text Approximate Year Notes
Erasmus 1516
Stephanus 1550 KJV English translation completed in 1611
Elzesvier 1624
Greisbach 1805
Lachmann 1842-1850
Tischendorf 1865-1872 Discovered Codex Sinaiticus in 1859
Tregelles 1857-1872
Alford 1868-1870
Wordsworth 1870


Modern Critical Greek Texts:

  • Nestle Aland
  • Tyndale House
  • United Bible Society

The number of manuscripts available to us today is quite impressive.  In the last 150 years, the archeological discoveries have been remarkable.  We are closer today to the original text then we were in in 500 AD.  And with digital technology and access to the internet, there is more access to these ancient texts than ever before.

Yet, is mankind any closer to having faith in God or to understanding the Bible?

The main reason people don’t know the Bible or don’t understand the Bible is simply because they have not read the Bible.  And when they do read it, they don’t read what is written, but rather read into the text.

Isaiah 34:16a
Seek from the book of the LORD, and read:

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