Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#12)

We continue with out response to Saifullah and Azmy on the subject of the transmission of the New Testament. It has been a while (15 days to be exact, my apologies) since our last installment. In case you have forgotten where we were, here is the last portion. Our Islamic authors are providing a massive string of quotations from James Bentley’s 1986 work, Secrets of Mount Sinai: The Story of Finding the World’s Oldest Bible–Codex Sinaiticus (Doubleday). Their purpose, as we noted, is to note the existence of textual variation in hand-written documents, and thereby prove the Bible has been corrupted in its transmission (in contrast with the Qur’an). The next section they cite from Bentley is in reference to John 21:25, which Tischendorf felt had been added by a later hand in Codex Sinaiticus (a). Bentley wrote:

At the time most scholars disagreed with his judgment about this verse. But long after his death, twentieth- century science proved Tischendorf to have been absolutely right. When the Codex Sinaiticus was examined under ultra-violet light, it was discovered that the Gospel of John did in fact originally end at chapter 21, verse 24. After this verse, the scribe added a small tail-piece, and the words, ‘The Gospel according to John’. Later on, another scribe erased the tail-piece and these words, writing over them our present verse 25. (p. 122)

Now, does this mean there is question concerning the text of John 21:25? No, there is not, for a simple reason: a stands alone in not containing the verse. A single manuscript, no matter how ancient, lacking the last verse of a book (remember the ancient context of manuscripts: losing the last portion of a manuscript was a very common occurence), is not sufficient grounds for making any kind of argument against the authenticity of the verse. So why note this? Only to sow doubt in the minds of those ignorant of the principles of textual criticism, the ancient world, ancient manuscripts, and the transmission of texts over time.