Someone just handed you a sheet of paper with 10 sentences on it. Here’s the first:
The flowers are red and blooming in my front lard.
Here’s the second:
The flowers are fed and blooming in my front yard.
And the third:
Rhe flowers are red and blooming in my front yard.
Do you think you could come up with the correct sentence even though every one of the 10 sentences was different? I'm think this is easy pie.
We rest our defense of God on his errant, inspired Word, so you should be aware of arguments that may be thrown in your face:
- We do not have any original texts of biblical writings.
- Many of the copies of the original texts have mistakes.
Both of those statements are true. However, we have roughly 5000 copies of the original texts. That’s bushel baskets more than any other historical writing. Scholars would love to have five copies of some of the ancient Greek poems.
Let’s go back to our example at the beginning. The mistakes in the biblical copies are those kinds of mistakes. The original texts were copied by scholars who used scrupulous methods. One technique had a teacher to read a text to 10 or 20 scribes. Their job was to write down exactly what he said. They provided a safeguard for his possible slip of tongue plus they could compare with each other.
They worked very hard to get every mark exactly right, but sometimes “typos” happened. A letter was forgotten or two words run together. Maybe a scribe did what we sometimes do. Ever quoted a Bible verse and added “The Lord Jesus Christ” when that particular verse said, “The Lord”? Those kinds of errors happened, too. A scribe may have added a phrase from common usage, even if it wasn’t in that particular verse. He may have forgotten a mark that changed a letter.
The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls underlined the overall accuracy of the copy system. Many very early copies were discovered. The closer the copy is to the original text, the more accurate it is assumed to be. So biblical scholars were anxious to compare more recent copies to the old copies discovered with the Dead Sea collection. What they discovered were that very few mistakes had been made.
The newer texts were extremely accurate, and many of the errors were of the sort we’ve discussed – easily recognized and understandable.
I’m discussing the area of textual criticism. (Don't think of criticism as disapproval but as serious examination of a subject.) There are many resources available but one I’d recommend is James White’s The King James Controversy. It has several excellent chapters that explain textual criticism in non-scholastic terms.
This is an important area for us as we dive in to the text, because many bash the Bible as error-filled. Although written texts can have errors, the ideas contained there are inerrant. Today, a typo in a Bible does not diminish its value as the inspired word of God and the same principle applies to the texts carried forward over the centuries.
God’s Word is not limited by ink and frail human hands, but has been protected from ancient times to today. We can trust His Word and can defend it against charges of error.
If you comment on today’s lesson on your blog, would you link to it below? We’d all enjoy gaining your insights and/or questions on the subject.