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Mobile Ed: NT281 How We Got the New Testament (4 hour course)

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In this course, Dr. Michael Heiser explains the story of how we got the New Testament—he guides you from the process of inspiration to the discovery and transmission of manuscripts. Dr. Heiser describes the role of scribes throughout time and discusses significant Greek New Testament manuscripts upon which modern translations are based. Because most students of the Bible read it in their own language, he also examines translation philosophies and controversies.


Grow your understanding in the New Testament. Earn a Mobile Ed Certificate of Completion when you invest in your education. Learn more about the New Testament Certificate Programs.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion you should be able to:

  • Identify basic facts about the scope and structure of the NT
  • Discuss the concepts of inspiration, inerrancy, and canon with respect to the NT
  • Explain the compositional process of the NT
  • Trace the transmission of the NT from its beginning to modern times
  • Identify the various textual witnesses to the NT
  • Describe the nature of textual variants and the process of textual criticism
  • Discuss how to evaluate English translations

Course Outline


  • Introducing the Speaker and the Course

Unit 1: Preliminary Issues

  • What Is the New Testament?
  • The Term “New Testament”
  • Exploring “Covenant” Using the Topic Guide
  • The Scope of the New Testament
  • Number of New Testament Books
  • Order and Structure of New Testament Books
  • Titles of New Testament Books
  • The Authority of the Testaments
  • Creating a Custom Guide to Study 2 Timothy 3:16
  • Road Map for this Course

Unit 2: Inspiration

  • Two Sides to Inspiration
  • Flawed Conception of Inspiration
  • Coherent Conception: Major Verses
  • Coherent Conception: Textual Phenomena

Unit 3: The Composition of the New Testament Books

  • Preview
  • Researching Important Dates with the Timeline Tool
  • The Language of the New Testament
  • Defining “Autograph”
  • Producing Documents in a Graeco-Roman World
  • Understanding Technical Terms
  • Amanuenses
  • Use of External Source Material
  • Exploring Ancient Texts Relevant to the Text of the New Testament
  • Literary Intent and Occasion

Unit 4: Canonical Recognition of the New Testament Books

  • Concept of Canon
  • Early Development
  • The Impact of Canon on Copying and Transmission

Unit 5: Manuscripts of the New Testament

  • The Copying Enterprise
  • The Innovation of the Codex
  • Manuscript Types and Discoveries
  • Papyri
  • Uncials and Sinaiticus
  • Using Textual Apparatuses in Logos
  • Uncials: Alexandrinus
  • Viewing Codex Sinaiticus in Logos
  • Uncials: Vaticanus
  • Uncials: Codex Bezae
  • Minuscules
  • Lectionaries
  • Quotations from the Fathers
  • Searching for New Testament Citations in the Early Church Fathers
  • Early Versions of the New Testament
  • Archaeological Factors in Dating Manuscripts
  • Dating and the Forms of Manuscripts
  • Dating and Paleography
  • Carbon-14 Dating
  • Manuscript Families
  • Alexandrian Family
  • Byzantine Family

Unit 6: The History of the Text’s Transmission

  • The Early Centuries (1st–4th)
  • The Byzantine Era (400–1516)
  • The “Received Text” (1516–1633)
  • Erasmus’ First Edition (1516)
  • Erasmus’ First and Third Editions
  • Later Editions of Erasmus’ Text
  • The Period of Critical Research (1633–1881)
  • Important Scholarly Work
  • Westcott and Hort
  • Positive Reaction to Westcott and Hort
  • Negative Reaction to Westcott and Hort
  • H. von Soden’s Text (1913)
  • Eberhard Nestle (1898–1963)
  • UBS First Edition
  • UBS Third Edition and Nestle-Aland Edition
  • Modern Majority Text Editions
  • SBL Greek New Testament
  • Comparing Major Editions of the Greek New Testament

Unit 7: The Impact of Textual History

  • Pre-20th Century
  • Evaluating Modern Translations
  • The American Standard Version
  • The Revised Standard Version
  • The New American Standard Bible
  • The New International Version
  • The New King James Version
  • The New Revised Standard Version
  • The New English Translation
  • The English Standard Version

Unit 8: Textual Criticism of the New Testament

  • Preview of the Process
  • Determining Variants
  • Gathering Evidence: The Specialist
  • Gathering Evidence: The Nonspecialist
  • Using Digital Tools for Conducting Text-Critical Research
  • Evaluating Evidence: Types of Variants
  • Unintentional Variants: Word Division
  • Unintentional Variants: Letter Confusion
  • Unintentional Variants: Eye Skipping
  • Unintentional Variants: Haplography
  • Unintentional Variants: Dittography
  • Unintentional Variants: Transposition
  • Unintentional Variants: Faulty Hearing
  • Intentional Variants: Clarifying the Text
  • Intentional Variants: Conflation
  • Intentional Variants: Harmonization and Smoothing
  • Evaluating Variants
  • Evaluating Variants: Internal Considerations
  • Evaluating Variants: External Considerations
  • Evaluating Variants: Logical Considerations
  • Investigating the “Johannine Comma” with Various Tools
  • Textual Criticism, Inspiration, and Inerrancy

Unit 9: The “King James Only” Controversy

  • Preview of the Issue
  • The Merit Argument
  • The Providence Argument
  • The Satanic Argument
  • The Heresy Argument
  • A Personal Note


  • Course Summary

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About Dr. Michael S. Heiser

Dr. Michael S. Heiser is a former Scholar-in-Residence for Faithlife Corporation, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Awakening School of Theology and Ministry at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. His varied academic background enables him to operate in the realm of critical scholarship and the wider Christian community. His experience in teaching at the undergraduate level and writing for the layperson have both directly contributed to Logos’ goal of adapting scholarly tools for nonspecialists.

Dr. Heiser earned his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages and holds and MA in ancient history and Hebrew studies. He is the coeditor of Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology and Semitic Inscriptions: Analyzed Texts and English Translations, and can do translation work in roughly a dozen ancient languages, including Biblical Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Ugaritic cuneiform. He also specializes in Israelite religion (especially Israel’s divine council), contextualizing biblical theology with Israelite and ancient Near Eastern religion, Jewish binitarianism, biblical languages, ancient Semitic languages, textual criticism, comparative philology, and Second Temple period Jewish literature. In addition, he was named the 2007 Pacific Northwest Regional Scholar by the Society of Biblical Literature.

Getting the most out of Mobile Ed

Logos Mobile Education is a highly effective cross-platform learning environment that integrates world class teaching with the powerful study tools and theological libraries available in Logos Bible Software. Every course provides links to additional resources and suggested readings that supplement the lecture material at the end of every transcript segment.

This course was produced with screencast videos. These videos provide tutorials showing you how to use Logos Bible Software in ways that are tied directly into the content of the course. We are now producing Activities resources as a replacement for screencast videos. We plan on updating this course to include this additional Activities resource in the future for no extra charge.


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