Is Our Bible Text Reliable?

by Abraham Smith

The Judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:9-11). We all ought to place the same value upon scriptures as did the Psalmist, for the Bible is the word of God our Creator. Thus the Savior said “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

But some may say, “How do we know that the Bible has not changed”? This is a relevant question. If men changed God’s Word, no longer would it be a message of God, but a message of man. But God assures us, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). In Isaiah 40:26 we read of “the strength of His power.” So God has the power to preserve His Word and guard it against corruption. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). If God who can not lie says a thing, shall He not do it?

There is so much evidence to show us that the Bible’s message has not changed. Textual Criticism is one way that we can be sure that the New Testament we read is the same one read in the first century. By it, we can know how much change has occurred and by it, one can establish the exact words that were used even if errors are made in some of the manuscripts. In fact, this can be done even if no single manuscript is perfectly accurate.

Let’s suppose that the correct spelling of a word is “Abraham”. Let’s say that there are hundreds of documents with this name on it but some of them are incorrectly spelled. Most give the correct spelling “Abraham”, but the following variants are found in some manuscripts: Arraham, Ebraham, Abcaham, Abratam, Abreham, and Abrahan. Not one of these latter 6 spellings is correct but any textual critic could determine that the original spelling was Abraham. All a textual critic needs are enough copies to compare.

There is no other document in existence that compares to the New Testament documents in the number of copies. There are in existence over 24,000 ancient copies of the N.T. documents in whole or in part. The earliest was written 25 years after its original writing. When so many manuscripts can be dated so close to the time when written, we should surely agree with the renown scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon who said, “No other ancient book has anything like such early and plentiful testimony to its text, and no unbiased scholar would deny that the text that has come down to us is substantially sound”.

When we take into consideration the value that copyist placed upon the Scriptures, it is easy to understand why there are no more errors. Their attitude was like the Psalmist who said, “I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (Psalms 119:127). The Word was precious to them, so they exercised extreme care in copying the scriptures.

So often we hear individuals say something like, “Good reasoning would tell you that after so many years and so many copies that there would be some changes and additions of the copyist own “opinion”. It is senseless to put aside evidence available to us that would tell us conclusively whether or how much change had occurred in the Bible in favor of our own reasoning void of evidence. Now we can see why the Bible says in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

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