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Transmission of the Bible


Dr. Grant C. Richison




In order for succeeding generations to share in revelation, the scriptures had to be copied, translated, recopied and retranslated.

The scriptures have undergone 2,000+ years of transmission, therefore, is the 21st century English Bible an accurate reproduction of the first century Greek Bible or the Hebrew Old Testament?

Why God chose written languages.

God could have used:


visions and dreams

conscience, creation

audible voice

What God chose to use:

He chose to record His communication.

Recording is more precise.

Recording preserves better than memory.

What language God chose (Suited to the purpose of His revelation.)

Old Testament languages: Semitic family

East: Akkadian

Assyrian empire

Not used in Old Testament

South: Arabic, Ethiopic

Arabic is the most widely spoken Semitic language today.

North: Amorite, Aramaic

Amorite in Palestine 

Aramaic — language of the Syrians – used in all three sections of the Old Testament.

Northwest: Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite and Hebrew.

Ugaritic not used in Old Testament, but used for Old Testament study (Ras Shamra Tablets, 1929).

Phoenician not in Old Testament (introduced the alphabet to other languages)

Hebrew – most important language of Old Testament.

New Testament Language: Semitic and Indo-European


Greek translation of the Semitic idiom

Aramaic the spoken language of Palestine.

IndoEuropean: Latin and Greek

Latin used by Roman legions (loan words. in New Testament)


5 periods:



Koine (New Testament Greek)



New Testament Greek until 19th century considered a special “Holy Ghost” language.

Not identifiable with other four periods

Note identifiable with papyri, 19th century

Most widely known language throughout the world.

Why God chose these languages:

Aramaic — a clear spoken language.

Hebrew — pictorial, personal

Greek — logical, categorical technical precision universal= evangelism


Manuscript Transmission

(this section needs updating; disregard this section for now)

The overwhelming number of ancient documents establishes the integrity of the manuscripts.


Ancient versions

Citations of the fathers

Manuscript copies

Modern versions are based on the critical text.

New Testament manuscripts vs. classical writings of Greece and Rome.

Iliad of Homer= 643 manuscripts

The Peloponnesian War of Thucydides= 8 manuscripts

New Testament= almost 6,000 manuscripts

Old Testament Masoretic Text

Few Manuscripts

Very few variants

LXX supports Masoretic text

Dead Sea Scrolls support Masoretic

New Testament Manuscripts

Manuscripts on papyrus (2nd and 3rd centuries)

Uncial manuscripts on vellum and parchment (4th-9th centuries) Codex Vaticanus (B)

Codex Sinaiticus (א) C. 340

Codex Alexandrinus (A)

Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C)

Minuscule manuscripts (9th-15th centuries)

Papyri, 0straca, inscriptions, and lectionaries.