Do we have any of the original Biblical writings?

Most of the books of the Bible were written on parchments (processed animal skins). These parchments were rolled into cylinders for storage and transports. The apostles and prophets wrote on these scrolls and distributed the scroll to the intended readers. The human authors of the Bible knew they were writing the Word of God and most of those who received the writings knew they were Scriptures. As a result, the original writings were carefully copied, spread to others and some of the copies carefully preserved. The youngest book of the Bible is over 1,900 years old. Through the passage of time, the original writings have been lost to use, wear and in some cases intentional destruction. We have none of the parchments written by the hands of any of the apostles and prophets.

The absence of the originals should not cause any concern for Christians. The absence of the originals provides no grounds to question the authenticity of the Bible. The fact is, at least in the New Testament, most churches never handled the original. For example, the letters written by Paul would be carried by a special messenger to a specific church. The letter would be read to the entire church. Sometimes a copy would be made and kept in the receiving church. The original would then be sent on to another church. Sometimes the original would be kept in one church and copies made to be sent off to other churches in the region. As time passed the originals were lost or simply fell apart from time and use. The originals and first copies were carefully copied, passed on to still more churches and handed down from one generation to the next. The absence of originals is no problem for the church because of the existence of thousands of carefully made copies.

We have great confidence that the copies available to us today are accurate reflections of the originals. The men who copied the books of the Bible were not careless. The majority of the copyists believed the Bible to be God’s Word and were diligent to accurately copy the words of God. One of the greatest evidences of the care and accuracy of the copyists was found with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered the oldest known copies of the Old Testament were dated at around 1,000 years after Christ. The Dead Sea Scrolls are from the century before Jesus. Over 1,000 years of copying separate the two groups, yet the copies were 95% identical (which in a book of well over half a million words is astounding). The vast majority of the 5% differences were obvious spelling errors and similar readily apparent scribal mistakes. Though we have none of the originals, we have incredibly accurate copies of the Bible carefully passed down to us from previous generations of believers.