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Scholars Chase Bible’s Changes, One Verse at a Time

By: for Religion News Service on May 13, 2011
World News
Photo Credits: schoyencollection.com
Old Bible manuscript
NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Working in a cluster of offices above a LifeWay Christian Bookstore, Bible scholars are buried in a 20-year project to codify the thousands of changes, verse by verse, word by word — even letter by letter — that crept into the early New Testament during 
hundreds of years of laborious hand-copying.

Their goal: to log them into the world’s first searchable online database for serious Bible students and professional scholars who want to see how the document changed over time.

Their research is of particular interest to evangelical Christians who, because they regard the Bible as the sole authority on matters of faith, want to distinguish the earliest possible texts and carefully evaluate subsequent changes.

The first phase of the researchers’ work is done. They have documented thousands of creeping changes, down to an extraneous Greek letter, across hundreds of early manuscripts from the second through 15th centuries, said Bill Warren, the New Testament scholar who leads the project at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

After 10 years of work and the interruption of Hurricane Katrina, the seminary’s Center for New Testament Textual Studies has logged those changes, amounting to 17,000 pages of highly technical notes, all in Greek, into a searchable database.

Many of the early changes are well known, and have been for hundreds of years. Study Bibles mark scores of changes in italicized footnotes at the bottom of what often seems like every page.

But nowhere have so many changes been collated in a single place and made searchable for scholars and serious students, Warren said.

Nor is there an Internet tool like the one being constructed now in the second phase of the project: the history of substantive textual changes.

This fall, the New Testament center will publish an online catalogue of substantive textual changes in Philippians and 1 Peter. Warren estimates there’s 10 more years of work to do on the rest of the New Testament.

Those with more than a passing familiarity with the New Testament know its 27 books and letters, or epistles, were not first published exactly as they appear today.

The earliest works date to about the middle of the first century. They were written by hand, and successors were copied by hand. Mistakes occasionally crept in.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/05/scholars-chase-bibles-changes-one-verse-at-a-time.php#ixzz1MBl0QrzH
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