Text-criticism is a type of scholarship that most of us don’t think about. It’s where we get the footnotes in our bibles that say things like b Gk Vg: Heb in the plain or f Heb lacks on the bed. Scholars compare lots of manuscripts and, when there’s a discrepancy, they try to judge which reading is the right one. (Usually, they add the footnote to document what the alternative was.)
I ran across an article that has some interesting pictures of Bible manuscripts. It gives you a feel for how much science and/or detective work goes into those little notes.
The article is aimed at text critics, so the first couple of paragraphs are accessible, but after that it gets … uh, well, let me know if this means anything to you, because it’s Greek to me:
Although this MS follows the Byzantine text, it has a rare variant of the aorist subjunctive πιστευσητε (049 218 945 1751 2374) instead of the present subjunctive πιστευητε in v. 13. It also has what may be a unique variant in v. 15, ητοικαμεν instead of ητηκαμεν.
For most of the past 2,000 years, people were lucky to have access to any Bible at all. Today, anybody can have a Bible, and thanks to text critics, they’re the most accurate and trustworthy Bibles this side of heaven.