Manuscript Copies

Monday, February 20, 2012

“The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13 KJV).

A widespread theological position is, “God’s inspired Word is only found in the autographs/original manuscripts.” But, this is silly because the autographs do not exist anymore. The Bible itself declares that manuscript copies (apographs) are equal to the original manuscripts.

Our Apostle Paul, imprisoned in Rome and living out his final days, urges Timothy to visit him soon. In today’s Scripture, Paul tells Timothy, “Bring the books, but especially the parchments.” What were these “parchments?” We believe them to be copies of Bible manuscripts!

God preserves His words through a multiplicity of manuscript copies, not in the original manuscripts alone (which no longer exist). Note:

  • Paul desired the Thessalonians to read that epistle to all the holy brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
  • James 1:1 says it is written to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad,” implying a large audience occupying foreign lands (dispersed Jews).
  • The Apostle Peter wrote to Jews scattered in present-day Turkey, another vast geographical area (1 Peter 1:1).
  • Revelation 1:11 says that seven churches are to receive “a book” of letters from the Apostle John.
  • Galatians was a circular letter, to many “churches,” for Galatia was a region, not a city (1:2).
  • Colossians 4:16 says Laodicea was to read Paul’s epistle to Colosse.

Surely, it would be foolish to circulate the one original manuscript of each of the above Bible books (if so, the original would have disintegrated through continued usage, and God’s Word would have been lost!). Did God expect all these individuals living in various areas to share one Bible (book) containing the original manuscripts? Of course not. They shared manuscript copies, copies of the originals.

There were (and are) reliable manuscript copies. Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch did not share the same Isaiah scroll—these too were copies (Luke 4:16-21 cf. Acts 8:28-33). Israel’s king was to study manuscript copies, not the original Bible manuscripts (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

According to God’s Word, a manuscript copy of an original Bible manuscript shares its authority.