When you compare all the ancient copies of the Bible that have been found to date there are 150 000 mistakes! Surely that means no one can place their faith in a book that was written on 3 continents, over a period of 4 thousand years by 40 different authors. Look at some of the contributors: a shepherd, a self-confessed religious persecutor, a murderer who came back from exile, fishermen and a polygamist. Not a very promising bunch!
The central claim the Bible makes about itself is Divine Inspiration. How come then an original as precious as that, can have 150 000 copying errors down through 2 000 years of reproduction? That’s the staggering revelation: researching the documents shows that not a single teaching on any important subject is compromised by all those errors.
Why not? Well, first take away from the 150 000 all the spelling, tense and punctuation errors. Sometimes a letter was left off one of the words in one of the ancient copies. Sometimes words were written too close together. There are times when you compare a copy with 10 others that you find it left out a word in a sentence. Say ten of them said: “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole world” but one said “Jesus Christ - Savior of world.” That would certainly compromise the other 10, or would it?
Now subtract each time a place of a word has been exchanged. Ten copies say “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” but alarmingly, one says: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I’m not terribly troubled yet. We are not surprised that the 100 copies of the manuscripts referring to Sophocles differ. We don’t reject his existence based on copy errors so why raise an eye brow when the 24 000 complete and semi complete and fragments of ancient copies of the Bible differ in minor details.
So we are down to only 50 places where in all those copies we have substantial differences. The New International Version of the Bible is widely distributed. Get a copy and read those 50 in the foot notes. It goes from “The songs in the temple will turn to wailing” to “the temple singers will wail.” You have a verse 46 saying “Jesus’ mother and brothers stood outside wanting to speak to Him” and a verse 47 adding: “Someone told Him - your mother and brothers are outside wanting to speak to you.” Would you believe that some manuscripts omit verse 47? How can you trust a book where that happens!? I guess you can see why I’m not bothered yet.
Surely there must be something substantial? I’ll show you one: Jesus said forgive others so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins. Some manuscripts add: If you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins. What a devastating add in!
I’ll say it once more: the differences in 24 thousand copies are minor. So why is all this important? The Westminster Confession declares: "The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God and, by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them." Make that confession. Believe it.
No wonder evil forces staged a hundred years of attack on the Bible last century. If it’s compromised in essential teaching we have no compass and no court of appeal. Now that the onslaught of supposed “serious errors” has been repelled there is a second and far more sinister wave coming. Get ready to hear: “There are many forms of truth. The Bible may do it for you, but I’m free to believe the exact opposite because that constitutes MY truth.” These are the words of the soul that wishes to live under no moral authority except that which brings it peace and pleasure. If the Bible no longer constitutes the rule of faith and practice the only thing left is whatever you feel you can get away with without hurting your neighbor. It’s like speeding without a rudder in the hope of reaching heaven.
Andrew Paton of Clinton Church of the Nazarene, born in Africa, has pastored in Hunterdon County since 1997. Before that he ministered in Durban and Bedfordview, South Africa and prior to that was an officer in The Salvation Army. He has been in full time Christian leadership since 1975. He and his wife Carol have two married sons and five grandchildren.
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