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Evidences Class. It’s All Greek to Me.

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Evidences Class

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Evidences Class

It’s All Greek to Me

Although some early Greek city states had democracies, a powerful monarchy gained dominance in the 4th century B.C. Under their greatest king Alexander III, the Greeks conquered most of the Middle East. Greek influence and the Greek language spread with it.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great died mysteriously at the age of 32, but his conquests changed the culture and language of the Mediterranean region. This Greek influence is called Hellenism. You can see the Hellenist influence today as far away as Jerash in modern day Jordan.


The Parthenon

Just Consider

When a city is conquered by an invading nation, in time that city will begin to take on the culture and language of the invader. In this way, Greek became the principal language of commerce, government, and education. Many Jews became Hellenized and lost their knowledge of Hebrew.

What does Septuagint Mean?

Even before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, there were examples of the Hebrew Bible in Greek. Beginning in 300 B.C., Hellenized Jews began translating the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. This earliest Greek version of Hebrew scripture is called the Septuagint (LXX).

Legend of a Name

The name derives from a legend that 72 (70?) scholars from all 12 tribes of Israel translated the first 5 books (The Pentateuch) in 72 days. However, the northern tribes were dispersed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and only three tribes were likely present and accounted for in the 3rd Century. Most scholars believe Greek speaking Jews in Alexandria, Egypt performed this translation between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C.

According to the Legend

Aristeas claims that the Septuagint was completed on the island of Pharos under the shadow of the lighthouse.

Is it a good translation?

  • The Pentateuch is excellent

  • Septuagint appears to be the correct reading rather than the oldest Hebrew manuscripts in a few cases

  • Substantial variations in Joshua, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, Proverbs, Esther, and Jeremiah

  • Which Septuagint?

  • The translation that the Gospel writers and Paul quoted from

Replica of a Synagogue in Nazareth

Which OT Source did Jesus Quote?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

(Luke 4:16-20 ESV)

Over time the Old Testament writings (Hebrew scriptures and the Septuagint) became collectively known as the Old Covenant, and the 1st Century writings were called the New Covenant. The Latin word Testamentum meaning “covenant” came to be used in the West.

New Testament Writings

Polycarp (69-155 AD) included direct and indirect quotations from 19 of 27 New Testament books in a single letter.

Ignatius (35-107 AD) cited both the Gospel of John and the writings of Paul.


With constant use a papyrus manuscript might last only 10 years

Christians and Their Writings Suffer

Emperor Diocletian (245-305 AD) ordered Christians to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Christian documents throughout the empire were confiscated and/or burned. Those who refused to comply were executed.


  • In general, anything written by hand

  • Documents written in the original tongue

  • NT manuscript is any Greek NT manuscript

Almost all surviving early writings are from Egypt

Diocletian’s Success

Only a few fragments of NT scripture exist from before the 4th Century and all known fragments are Egyptian in Origin.

But Even So …

Church Father Quotations …

The quotations are so extensive that the New Testament could be virtually reconstructed from them without the New Testament Manuscripts.

Oldest New Testament Fragment

John Rylands Papyrus

1st half of the 2nd century

Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

(John 18:31-33 ESV)

Bodmer Papyrus (3rd Century)

Contains parts of the Gospel of John

Similar to our oldest two Bibles the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus


Codex Vaticanus

Uncial Romans 1



Our Oldest Bibles (AD 300-450)

Codex Vaticanus

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Vaticanus

  • Located in the Vatican Library

  • Resided there since at least 1481

  • The spoils of war for Napolean

  • Tischendorf published a 1st edition in 1867

Typical Small Differences

John 3:13 (ESV)No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man (who is in heaven).

John 8:57 (ESV)So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (has Abraham seen you)

John 9:35 (ESV)Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (Son of God)

Mark 16:9-20



  • Most early Uncials include

  • Latin Vulgate

  • Irenaeus mentions in the 2nd Century

  • Curious space in the Codex Vaticanus

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Constantin Tischendorf

Of all Tischendorf’s accomplishments, the best known is his discovery of Codex Sinaiticus at St. Catherine’s Monastery (located near Mount Sinai). The manuscript, dated around AD 360 to 375, is one of the two oldest vellum (treated animal hide) manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. The first time Tischendorf visited the monastery (1844), he retrieved several leaves of an ancient Septuagint from a wastebasket. Many other leaves, he was told, had already been used to stoke fires!

Constantin Tischendorf

On another visit (1859) he was shown a copy of the Greek Scriptures (containing books of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament) by the steward of the monastery. Recognizing it as the oldest extant copy of the Greek Scriptures, Tischendorf attempted to purchase the manuscript but was refused.

Constantin Tischendorf

After making a transcription of the text, Tischendorf did some political maneuvering wherein the czar of Russia was given the manuscript in exchange for favors conferred upon the authorities of the monastery. Tischendorf greatly used the textual evidence of Codex Sinaiticus in preparing his critical editions of the Greek New Testament.

The Gospel of Judas???

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