My Muslim husband says:  Why do Jews & Christians not have Hebrew manuscripts from before the Exile or 600 BCE which could verify that the DSS & Septuagint are exact copies of the original text? Why don’t Christians have the original Aramaic Gospel from 30 CE?


Out of respect for the ancient text and manuscripts, the Jews had a law that old, worn-out scrolls were to be burned.  This is why we have relatively few truly ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament).  It was because of the very deep respect that the Jews had for the Scripture that we do not have such ancient copies.  The Jews were insanely careful about copying texts.  Dozens spent their entire life devoted to making nearly perfect copies of the Hebrew text, as can be seen if you look into the Qumran community.  However, the oldest texts we have are from around 200 BC.  We also have the Septuagint translation into Greek from about 200 BC.  (a side note: You ask about the possibility of an “exact copy of the original” with the Septuagint, which is not possible because the Septuagint is a translation) And we have the Samaritan Pentateuch from about 500 BC.  We have thousands of ancient Hebrew manuscripts, giving us a great volume of evidence to support the reliability of the Hebrew text, but we do not have texts from before about 250 BC.  However, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1948, and when texts from 200 BC were compared to the Masoretic texts from 900 AD there were very few changes, strongly supporting the conclusion that we have very accurate texts of the Hebrew Bible, although not absolutely perfect.
We also do not have perfect texts of the Qur’an or the New Testament.  There is plenty of evidence of relatively small changes in the texts of both the Qur’an and the New Testament because these were also copied.  Muslims try to claim that the current Qur’an is perfect, but the evidence proves that this is NOT the case (for example the Sana’a manuscript).  It is quite accurate, but not perfect, as is the case with the Greek New Testament.
The original gospels were written in Greek, not Aramaic for the simple reason that by the 50s and 60s AD the great majority of Christians spoke Greek, not Aramaic.  Luke’s first language was Greek, and Matthew, Mark and John were well acquainted with Greek, and, given that most Christians were Greek, it should surprise no one that the original gospels were written in Greek.  There is no solid evidence that there was an original Aramaic text of the New Testament.  We cannot have a copy of an Aramaic original simply because it never existed.
The reliability of the New Testament is roughly equivalent to the reliability of the Qur’an, both of which are really quite accurate.  The Hebrew text is slightly less accurate because of the long time between the original and the oldest manuscripts, but still, God did an excellent job of preserving the text.
John Oakes

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