A Former Mormon’s View of the Bible

By: Darrell Boan; ©2008
When I started questioning the truthfulness of the LDS church, I began to research the history of the Bible, how we got it and how it has been transmitted to us throughout history. I wanted to find out for myself whether or not the Mormon claim that the Bible is “mistranslated” is true. What I found out amazed me.

The 8th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints states “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God”.  Notice the caveat for the Bible of “so far as it is translated correctly”.  I remember many times as a Mormon I would tell people about this article of faith and explain to them how many “plain and precious truths” have been removed from the Bible… how the Bible has been mistranslated throughout history, does not contain the fullness of the Gospel, and cannot be trusted.  I would tell them how we need The Book Of Mormon and modern day prophecy to clear up the confusion caused by the mistranslations in the Bible.  However, when I started questioning the truthfulness of the LDS church, I began to research the history of the Bible, how we got it and how it has been transmitted to us throughout history.  I wanted to find out for myself whether or not the Mormon claim that the Bible is “mistranslated” is true. What I found out amazed me.

Historiography is the the study of ancient documents.  It is used to determine the authenticity and validity of documents of antiquity.  One of the tests used in Historiography is called the Bibliographical test.  One principle of the Bibliographical test is to look at the number of surviving manuscripts of any document of antiquity.  Obviously, the more copies we have the easier it is to determine errors in copying and determine what the original text said.  So, the question is, how many copies do we have of the New Testament?

For the New Testament alone we currently have 24,970 surviving manuscripts!  This makes The New Testament the #1 document in all of antiquity in manuscript authority!  Despite being Number 1 in manuscript authority it’s accuracy is questioned more than any other document of antiquity.  You don’t hear many college professors questioning the reliability of Caesar’s Gallic Wars… yet we only have 10 surviving manuscripts for it!!

What is really amazing is the gap between The New Testament and the #2 document in manuscript authority, Homer’s Iliad.  There are only 643 surviving manuscripts for it!!.  The New Testament has 24,970 and # 2 HAS ONLY 643. What a gap!!  God is good!!

Next I will discuss the 2nd principle used in the Bibliographical Test and how these principles lead one to a reasoned conclusion that the New Testament we hold in our hands today is an accurate transmission of what was originally written down. I would like to discuss another principle that is used in the Bibliographical Test.  This principle involves looking at the time span between the original manuscript in question and the oldest surviving copy.  The principle behind this is, obviously, the shorter the time span, the more reliable the copy is deemed to be.  How does The New Testament compare to other literature of antiquity?  Let’s look at a few notable works…

  1. Caesar – Gallic Wars – 1000 year gap
  2. Pliny Secundas – Natural History – 750 year gap
  3. Tacitus – Annals – 1000 year gap
  4. Plato – 1300 year gap
  5. Herodotus – History – 1350 year gap

Notice how LONG the time frame is!!  But wait… let’s look at one more.  Historians and scholars consider Thucydides to be one of the most accurate historians of antiquity.  How many copies do we have of his works and what is the time span?  We only have 8 surviving manuscripts and a 1300 year gap!!!  Yet, despite this he is considered by many to be THE MOST ACCURATE IN ALL OF ANTIQUITY!!  WOW!!

How does this compare to The New Testament?  Remember from my previous post that we have 24,970 surviving manuscripts… compared to only 8 for the most accurate historian from all of antiquity.  Here is where it gets even more amazing.  We have portions of books of The New Testament that go back to within 100 YEARS of the original!!!  This is compared to a 1300 YEAR GAP for the most accurate historian of all of antiquity!!  Not only this… we have an entire copy of The New Testament that goes back to within only 225 YEARS… again, compared to 1300 years for one scholars and historians consider to be one of the most accurate in all of antiquity!!  Wow!!  God is good.

What all this adds up to is this… we can hold The New Testament in our hands and have an intelligent faith in it because we have the evidence!!  We can rest assured based on evidence that what it says is what was originally written down.    As scholars  Norman Geisler, William Nix and Bruce Metzger have concluded, we have a text that evidence shows is 99.5% pure!

For the Mormons who are reading this, how does this compare to The Book Of Mormon?  Your church teaches you that it is the most correct book on the face of the earth and that The Bible is filled with errors.    Yet, how many changes has your church made to The Book Of Mormon since it was first published?  What proof do we have of it’s historicity?  I will deal with these issues in future posts.  In the meantime, I would encourage you to research this to find out for yourself if The Book of Mormon is really what your church claims it to be.

Darrell

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