Understanding The Bible
Part II - Introduction to MANUSCRIPTS and VERSIONS


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


    1. Meaning of terms
      1. A manuscript is some book or books of the Bible written in the language that the author originally used. Most of the OT is in Hebrew, a small part in Aramaic, while all the NT is in Greek. Thus, a manuscript of Genesis would be in Hebrew; of Matthew would be in Greek. Manuscript is abbreviated as MS (singular) and MSS (plural).
      2. A version is a translation of a manuscript (i.e., some book or books of the Bible in original language) into some other language. A Greek translation of Genesis would be a version; a Latin or English translation of Matthew would be a version. Version is abbreviated as VS (singular) and VSS (plural).
    2. We have no original or autograph manuscript of any book of the Bible The books the authors originally (first) wrote have been lost. Today only copies exist, and in some cases only copies written hundreds of years after the man of God first wrote the book. Nevertheless the presence of these copies proves conclusively that sometime, somewhere there were original MSS which were copied and so passed on to us. Archaeology keeps pressing back toward the actual originals, especially in the New Testament books, and more recently toward the OT autographs in the Dead Sea Scrolls find.
    3. Purpose of this, study To fill the gap between the original MSS and present-day English VSS.
    4. Two things assumed and not investigated The inspiration and genuineness of authorship of these books are assumed. These subjects belong to other courses. But even if these books were uninspired, the method of study to ascertain genuineness of the texts would be the same.
    5. Canon and MSS and VSS distinguished
      1. In the study of the canon, the student traces historically the question of which books the Jews and Church received as inspired; when they did; and which books they omitted and why.
      2. In the study of MSS and VSS, evidence is summoned to show that today the text of these received books is trustworthy, being in every vital particular the same as they were when first written by the author, as well as when they were received by the Jews or the Church. This study of the text is called Lower or Textual Criticism, as distinguished from Higher or Historical Criticism, which investigates the authorship and historical setting of a book. All the facts are on God's side, but the student must face them and know them. Nothing is to be gained by ignorance of how the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation, nor should detractors of the integrity of the Bible MSS be allowed to get away with groundless statements or snide innuendoes about the relative undependability of our MSS.


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