Roger Bolton writes on the BBC web site:-
What is probably the oldest known Bible is being digitised, reuniting its scattered parts for the first time since its discovery 160 years ago. It is markedly different from its modern equivalent. What’s left out?
Mk Bolton goes on to tell us which bits of our modern versions of the Bible are missed out of this early manuscript.
The Codex – and other early manuscripts – do not mention the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and omit key references to the Resurrection, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has said is essential for Christian belief.
Reply: The disputed text regarding Christ’s ascension are the words in Luke 24:51: ‘and he was carried up into heaven.’ Even if these words are not authentic, the fuller account given in Luke’s second volume is clear and unambiguous. Acts 1:9-11 states, ‘…he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight…’. Many other passages in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 1:22; John 3:13; 6:62; 20:17; Ephesians 4:10; Colossians 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:14; 1 Peter 3:22) teach it explicitly, and it is everywhere assumed.
As to the Codex Sinaiticus omitting ‘key references to the Resurrection’, it is common knowledge that this manuscript, along with a number of others, omits the ‘longer ending’ of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:9-20). Most modern translations of the Bible will have a footnote pointing this out. But the BBC article is misleading in implying that this puts a significant dent in the New Testament witness to the resurrection. To look no further than Mark’s Gospel, 8:31; 9:31 and 10:33 all refer to it in advance, and Mark 16:6 has the clear message, “He has risen!”.
Other differences concern how Jesus behaved. In one passage of the Codex, Jesus is said to be “angry” as he healed a leper, whereas the modern text records him as healing with “compassion”.
Reply: Most scholars recognise that the original reading of Mark 1:41 was probably ‘moved with indignation’ [or ‘anger’], rather than ‘moved with compassion. For example, Lane comments: ‘The anger can be understood as an expression of righteous indignation at the ravages of sin, disease and death which take their toll even upon the living.’ Cranfield takes a similar view.
Also missing is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned – until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone.
Reply: Again, there is nothing new here. Scholars generally recognise that this story (John 7:53-8:11) was not an original part of the Fourth Gospel. J.C. Ryle, writing in 1869, very tentatively supports the genuineness of the passage, but cites many previous scholars who doubted its authenticity. Kruse, a modern commentator, writes: ‘It is not found in the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts. Nevertheless, it has what Professor Metzger describes as “all the earmarks of historical veracity”.’
Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
Reply: It is true that the earliest manuscripts (including the Codex Sinaiticus) do not contain the first part of Luke 23:34. Nevetheless, some noted New Testament scholars (Ellis, Marshall, Scheizer, and J.T. Sanders) regard it as original. But even if it is not, no central tenet of the Christian faith is affected.
Contrary to what Mk Bolton seem to think, those of us who hold to a high view of the Bible’s reliability and authority are not about to have our faith shaken by the digitisation of a manuscript that has been known and studied for the past century and a half.