In this final post of the series, we are addressing the second issue related to the reliability of the Bible. The first was translation; the second is transmission. This is an historical question, and it goes like this: were the original writings of the Old and New Testaments transmitted through copies that are faithful and accurate?
If I could go back in time, I would take a document scanner. We live in an era where we can make exact copies of documents, millions of copies. The ancients had no such luxury. If they wanted a copy of a book, they had to get it copied by hand. Some people, called scribes or copyists, would do this as a profession, and you could pay them.
While some professional copying of the biblical manuscripts probably happened, if you looked at most of the manuscripts, it would be clear to you that not all of the copyists were pros. They made mistakes. And when you consider how many hand-copied manuscripts still exist today and how many variations they have from one another, you might be overwhelmed.
Yet, the huge majority of these “errors of transmission” are spelling errors, words out of place, skipped words or phrases, and the like. Only a few of the variants have any real significance. Because of the overwhelming agreement, we can confidently say that our existing manuscripts, while not the original writings, are still faithful representatives of the originals.
We evangelicals maintain that the originals were God-breathed, inspired, and inerrant and that it is a worthy enterprise to compare the copies we do have to reconstruct, as best we can, the original wording of the Scriptures. Can we get there? We have sufficient reason to believe that not only we can but that we have.
So, in conclusion, let’s summarize the five parts of this blog series. The Creator God chose to reveal himself to humanity, which he loves and seeks as his own. He got humanity’s attention by two major events, the Exodus and the Resurrection. And through those events he initiated communications that spell out who he is and what he expects. The eyewitnesses faithfully shared their experience, and faithful copyists proliferated their testimony. Scholars today continue the arduous yet rewarding task of making the Scriptures accessible in living languages around the world. We do well when we know what the Creator has communicated and take it to heart.