"… in the early years, as we compared each document in our collection, we came to realize that it is only the oldest records that can be trusted. You see, the newer the transcription, the more likely there are to be mistakes and alterations. Indeed, with each reproduction the differences in the manuscripts grow, through negligence by some and audacity by others. They either err in transcription or, in the process, make additions or deletions as they please. Whole passages are lost and new ones created. - Origen of Alexandria, p.42
Origen (185-254 CE) was the greatest Christian scholar of his age. He fled from his native Alexandria to the safety of Palestine and founded a Christian school in Caesarea where he lived as an ascetic writing theological treatises, teaching the catechism, and searching for the oldest accounts of Jesus he could find.
This excerpt from He Can See Heaven (in Origen's original words) reveals his passion for preserving an accurate Christian record and his concern that the record was being degraded by sloppy scribes and mischievous clergy. He recognized that the act of reproduction often altered the original manuscript and potentially the Christian message, and that the scribes' masters deleted from, added to, and changed holy scripture to suit their needs. Origen therefore sought older documents like the Logia of Papias, eyewitness accounts of Jesus from John the Apostle and others recorded around the year 100.
Did you know that scriptures changed as they were copied, sometimes a lot, and that even the first Christian scholars considered older manuscripts more reliable?