Re-written is one way to say it. But the word “re-written” tends to imply the Bible has been edited and re-interpreted multiple times over hundreds of years, resulting in an irretrievable loss of the original content. The implication of the word “re-written” is widespread error and intentional manipulation by the fallible humans who did the re-writing. The implication of error and manipulation is that in a cross-check, the manuscripts don’t match up.
After looking at the available facts instead of relying the assumptions, I believe a more accurate word is “copied.”
Hand copied isn’t the same as re-written.
What’s interesting to me about the assumption that hand copied scripture results in an untrustworthy source is that, in reality, the multitude of copies actually serves as proof for reliability of ancient manuscripts. And not just Biblical manuscripts. The “number of copies” criteria for reliability doesn’t originate with or even apply only to Christian writings.
It’s a history thing.
Historians who could give a flyin flip about proving or disproving Christianity believe that the number of copies and whether they cross check for accuracy in content is an important factor in determining whether ancient documents are reliable.
(To clarify. I’m not referring to the truth or meaning of the words in these manuscripts, just their historical authentication and accuracy.
Here’s some facts about the ancient documents we have:
There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.
From what I can find, after the New Testament, the highest number of copies of ancient writings is:
643 copies for Homer’s Iliad,
49 copies of Aristotle’s writings,
10 copies for Caesar and
7 for Plato.
Meanwhile, in addition to the 5,686 Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Add non-Biblical manuscripts and the supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”
Maybe I’m misinformed, but my understanding is that reliability of the writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer are not disputed.
In addition to the multitude of copies, another criteria historians look to in confirming the reliability of ancient manuscripts is the time between the original writing and the earliest copies known to be in existence. (Notice we don’t have originals of ANY of these documents.)
Sticking with the five examples given above, the approximate time between the original and the earliest copy we have is:
Plato’s writings – 1200 years (7 copies),
Caesar – 1000 years (10 copies),
Aristotle – 1400 years (49 copies) and
Homer – 500 years (643 copies).
New Testament – 70 years (5,686 copies in Greek alone)
So…just looking at the math.
If critics, doubters and naysayers of the reliability of Biblical manuscripts acknowledge the historicity and writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle and Homer, it seems logical that they should also acknowledge the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors.