Does modern Christian teaching truly reflect what the Bible said? Is it possible that some of Christianity’s most central claims—like the belief that Jesus is God—were not present in the original Bible manuscripts, but rather were added after-the-fact by the Christian church? It’s an idea that’s been raised many times over the years in books and film.
Below, Lee Strobel answers a question with serious implications for the integrity of Christianity.
Did the Original Bible Manuscripts Claim Jesus Was God?
See Titus 2:11–14.
In the bestseller Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the authors claim that in A.D. 303 Emperor Diocletian destroyed all Christian writings that could be found. That’s why, they assert, there are no New Testament manuscripts prior to the fourth century. Later, Emperor Constantine commissioned new versions of these documents, which allowed the “custodians of orthodoxy to revise, edit, and rewrite their material as they saw fit.” It was at this point that “most of the crucial alterations in the New Testament were probably made and Jesus assumed the unique status he has enjoyed ever since.”
In response to this book, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, a New Testament Greek scholar, says, “Do these authors know anything about history at all? Diocletian did not destroy all the Christian manuscripts. He did destroy several, but mostly in the East and South. As far as having no manuscripts prior to the fourth century— well, we have more than four dozen in Greek alone that are prior to the fourth century. And these manuscripts have numerous passages—John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1—that affirm the deity of Jesus. So it’s nonsense to say Jesus’ deity wasn’t invented until the fourth century when you’ve already got the evidence in earlier manuscripts.
“Besides, we still have lots and lots of quotations by church fathers prior to the fourth century. Ignatius, in about A.D. 110, calls Jesus ‘our God’ and then says, ‘the blood of God,’ referring to Jesus. Where does he get this idea if it wasn’t invented for more than two hundred years? And you have a steady march from Ignatius right through the rest of the patristic writers— I mean, you can’t make that kind of a claim and be any kind of a responsible historian.”
Because Scriptures that affirm the deity of Christ are so numerous and central to the New Testament, an incredible feat of editing would have been required to add them. Accepting the claims of Jesus’ deity as part of the original manuscripts is much more natural and believable.
This essay is taken from Lee Strobel’s Investigating Faith newsletter and is adapted from an interview with Dr. Daniel B. Wallace. You can sign up to receive the newsletter for free at our Newsletters page.