Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Autographa

Q. What does “autograph” or “autographa” mean, in reference to the Bible?
A. Autograph, original autographs, autographa, etc. are terms used to refer to Scripture – particularly, in reference to the Bible, the first manuscript penned (or dictated) by the author.[i] Biblical discussions often reference one of more of these terms to distinguish types of Scripture – the original or first writing (autographa), copies of the original writing (apographa), and translations of the original writing (more specifically, translations of copies of the original writing; allographa).
The majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists affirm that the Bible is without error in the original writings (autographa). Most liberals deny that the Bible is without error, even in the original writings. A minority of evangelicals and fundamentalists affirm that the Bible has been preserved in some fashion without error even in copies and translations.
Three things worthy of note:
  • None of the original writings (autographa) of any book of the Bible are extant.
  • The autographs are the original or first writing, but God’s word exists prior to and apart from the original writing. “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89
  • The above explanation reckons how scholars presently speak of the originals or autographs, but not necessarily how Christians have always spoken. “By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, p. 106)

[i] For example, says “something written in a person’s own hand, as a manuscript or letter,” or “a manuscript in an author’s own handwriting.”

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