God’s Very Words
“So here’s the situation: no autographs (original manuscripts) exist and the manuscripts that do exist show many differences. What do conservatives hold to be inspired? Conservatives hold the autographs to be inerrant and infallible. How can conservatives claim to have God’s very words?”
Every single Christian has heard this question. In fact, every single Christian (if they are being honest), has asked this question. How can we know that what we are holding is literally the Word of God delivered to man? How close is it to the original text? These pivotal questions can be answered several ways:
- Through Internal Evidence (the Bible, Itself).
- Through External Evidence (historical documents outside of the source material).
- Through Faith.
Let’s just go ahead and skip the last one right off the bat, because any skeptic asking the initial question is not interested in “Faith” as an acceptable answer. We’ll also need to skip “External Evidence” seeing as it falls well outside the scope of this blog post. So, that leaves us with the Bible.
There is profound truth in the classic children’s song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” 1 Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (NASB)” If you believe that what the Bible says is true, then there you have it. The Holy Spirit moved humans to record words spoke directly from God. This scripture also points to the fact that prophecy cannot come from man, but from God. There are over 300 (fulfilled) prophecies about Jesus alone. This could not be accomplished by man’s intellect, but only by men inspired by God. Continuing on in 1 Peter 1 to verse 25, we read “but the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the Word which was preached to you (NASB).” The pure fact of the Bible’s longevity and staying power also clearly points to its supernatural source.
Just how close is the Bible we hold today to those elusive original autographs? Well, of the over 10,000 (!)* OT manuscripts we have, Fields reports the reliability of the Old Testament text as being 90% accurate. 90%! And addressing the discrepancies, Fields writes, “Of that 10%, the vast majority of variations are matters such as spelling that have no significant affect on the meaning of the text.” Come on, man. 90% is pretty close considering the Bible’s 38 different authors writing over a span of almost two millennia!
* Consider this: There are over 5,700 NT manuscripts with less than .5% variance, and the earliest dates to within 60 years of the original writing. Compare that to Homer’s The Iliad, which only has 640 manuscripts available, none of which date to within 300 years of the original writing. However, no historian is questioning the legitimacy of The Iliad, are they?
The real question is why are we holding the Bible to such insanely high standards? Are people scrutinizing other old manuscripts with the same diligence and skepticism? Or would 90% accurate be indisputable evidence?
 Lee M. Fields, Hebrew for the Rest of Us: Using Hebrew Tools Without Mastering Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 43-44.
 Ibid., 44.
Fields, Lee M. Hebrew for the Rest of Us: Using Hebrew Tools Without Mastering Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course OTCL 505: Hebrew Language Tools.