Our local newspaper recently announced that they would no longer allow religious letters to the editor. The managing editor is a professing Christian who says that his faith is critical to his life. However, in explaining his decision, he made some statements that are troubling.
“… no one knows for certain what the Bible says or means… The Bible has been translated so many times from so many different languages that no one knows if the original messages are intact. Yes, I know the argument that God guided the hands of all of those poor monks who translated and penned the Bibles, but we don’t know that.” (Read more)
While you would expect this opinion from those outside of the faith in an attempt to discredit the Bible, it is surprising how often it comes up in conversations with other Christians. This modern spin on Christianity, sometimes labeled as “Progressive Christianity,” takes some of the teachings of Jesus, combines them with New Age relativism and produces a new kind of faith that rejects God’s righteousness, man’s need for redemption and a single path to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this, large sections of the Bible must be discarded, which is why the contention that the Bible is flawed and unreliable is the most common starting point. This perspective, however, lacks credibility when you examine the facts. Mr. Henson made two claims in his brief editorial and both are demonstrably false.
False Claim #1 – The Bible has been translated many times from many different languages.
The idea here is that the Bible was translated from one language to another until it eventually ended up in English and that, because it is so far removed from the original, we cannot trust it’s authenticity.
Truth – The truth is that the Bible has been translated into many different languages, but from only 3 original languages – Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Today, we have more than 5800 New Testament manuscripts that date as far back as 130 AD, which is within 50 years of the original writings. The Old Testament was validated by the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered from 1947 to 1956 and date back to 250 B.C. The Dead Sea scrolls verified the accuracy of the Masoretic text to within 1%. These manuscripts and scrolls are used in translating the Bible.
False Claim #2 – “No one knows for certain what the Bible really says or means.”
Truth – The number of manuscripts available to us implies just the opposite. We do know with extreme accuracy what the Bible really says and means. In addition to the 5800 manuscripts, we have more than 25,000 partial or complete early copies of the New Testament and over 36,000 quotations of New Testament writings from other works during the first few centuries of Christianity. Because of the number of manuscripts, there are, in fact, a large number of variants between them. Many use this as a criticism of the Bible in an attempt to prove that it is unreliable. However, only .5 – 1% of the variants are meaningful and none of these contradict essential doctrines of Christianity. (For some examples, read here and here.)
There is much more that could be and has been said on this subject but the fact remains that, when compared with other works of antiquity, the Bible is far and away the most reliable and documented ancient text in existence. Yet, it is the only work that is continuously attacked by critics who expect that most people will not look into the facts for themselves. Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Many lies about God and His Word are spread by media, universities and other means, but the truth is out there if you are willing to take the time to find it, and in so many ways, it is indeed truth that will set you free.Tags: apologetics, biblical manuscripts, reliability of the bible