For the past few weeks we have been examining an article posted early in December embodying an Islamic attack upon the Christian Scriptures (and, by so doing, a defense of the Qur’an), co-authored by Saifullah & Azmy. One of the reasons I took up the challenge of the article was that the article includes twenty-two pages of a book on the subject of Codex Sinaiticus (a). The obvious intent of the authors is to present this information as an objection against the transmission of the biblical text over time. As we have noted, the means of transmission of the text of the Bible reflects a completely different methodology than that centralized, and in fact, militaristic origins of the Qur’an. Rather than a single, powerful organization overseeing the text (and hence becoming the ultimate authority in transmission: the text can carry only that amount of certainty as one gives to that controlling organization), the text of the Bible, and most especially, the New Testament, was promulgated far and wide due to the fact that the Christian faith spread through the preaching of its message, not through the power of army and sword.
Less than halfway through the article a discussion of the content of Codex Sinaiticus, the greatest of the ancient codices, probably written around the time of the Council of Nicea, AD 325, enters the picture. It does so by noting the words of William Campbell:
In 1983 while passing through London, I went to the British Museum to see the Codex Siniaticus, one of the oldest complete copies of the New Testament dating from about 350 AD. I wanted to take the picture which can be seen on page 155. After asking the guard for directions, I went over to the glass covered case which he indicated, thinking only about how to take a picture through glass without getting a reflection.
I took one look at that Bible and it was as though all the hundreds of times I had heard “YOU CHANGED YOUR BIBLE” went through my head in one instant. I burst into tears. Even now as I write these words tears come to my eyes. I wanted to touch it. It would be like touching my brothers who wrote it 1600 years ago. We would be one together even though they had died long ago. It was tangible, touchable proof that the Gospel is as it always has been.
I have yet to see Sinaiticus (more often simply denoted by textual critics with the Hebrew letter a), but I am very much hoping to do so in a matter of weeks when I visit London. I did, however have the very brief opportunity of looking over a leaf from P72 during the papal visit to Denver in 1993. I almost got myself in trouble with the security folks because I spent so much time drooling over the display, translating the text, noting the nomina sacra, etc. And I fully understand what Campbell meant: I felt the exact same way. Here I could see the writing of a fellow believer who simply wanted to have the Scriptures in his own tongue. The handwriting was not exemplary. He was probably just a businessman; he surely was not a professional scribe. He probably encountered the writings of Peter and Jude while traveling and fellowshipping with a small group of believers in a church somewhere in the Roman Empire and asked permission to copy it to take it back to his home church. And in God’s providence we still have his work today. It was thrilling to see it and ponder God’s care of the Scriptures.
But, of course, our Muslim apologists have a “surprise” for William Campbell in the form of twenty two pages of citation regarding a. For the person familiar with the field of textual criticism, there is very, very little of note here. Obviously, the information is being presented for “shock value” more than anything else, for they conclude their massive citation by saying,
William Campbell burst into tears when he saw a displayed folio of Codex Sinaiticus at the British Museum, London, presumably because his belief that the Bible was not changed got strengthened. Now that we know that the contents of Codex Sinaiticus are different from modern day Protestant Bibles, we have provided Campbell with good reasons to cry.
I personally find this kind of rhetoric gratuitous and unworthy of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously. But leaving that to the side, is there anything in the massive citation that is worthy of response? Most assuredly, and to that we now turn. [continued]