Scripture Sleuth, ULM professor studies ancient manuscripts

Scripture Sleuth (Courtesy: KNOE)
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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - It's arguably the most influential book ever written. The Bible is a collection of historical texts and for Christians the written word of God. So where did it come from and how has it survived the test of time?

Both questions for biblical scholars like Dr. Brice Jones at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). He's garnered national attention for his research having been interviewed by the New York Times and the Telegraph.

Today the Bible is available with just the touch of a finger and in hundreds of translations.

"When people pick up the Bible, they don't realize that the text they're reading is preserved in ancient manuscripts," Jones said.

Dr. Brice Jones studies these ancient manuscripts. Think "Indiana Jones." Only, this isn't the movies; it's the real thing.

"So it's not just the King James Version or New Revised Standard Version. The early Christians had no concept of this kind of Bible," Jones said.

Jones travels the world looking for writings that have yet to be translated.
In his new book "New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity" he analyzes 24 manuscripts from ancient Egypt. He discovered them in an the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus, all from the new testament and written in Greek.

"These are the fingerprints of ancient people who took the Bible very seriously. They used them, they read them and lived them out," Jones said.

Only copies of the original manuscripts are available at the ULM library, but Jones says there's nothing better than touching the actual papyrus and seeing the ink up close.

The Biedenharn's Bible Museum is also home to dozens of rare bibles, some that date back hundreds of years. Museum Director Ralph Calhoun said they have a very wide assortment.

"We have Bibles that people aren't going to see without going to a large town and really maybe even some large cities. You aren't going to find a collection as good as ours," Calhoun said.

About 30-thousand people pass through the doors of the Biedenharn's doors every year, and they come from all over.

Jones has traveled the world for his studies. He says the translation of the Bible has come a long way in 2000 years.

"The King James Version as great of a translation as it was in the 17th century, it was not a very good translation and we know that today because we've discovered thousands more Greek new testament scripts," Jones said.

Thanks to scholars like Jones who do this kind of work, there are only more translations to come.

"Situating the Bible in its historical context has always been fascinating to me and it's a story that needs to be told and we don't hear it enough," Jones said.