Q. I think I understand the basis for the validity of the Bible, and why arguments against it don’t hold up. However, I did have an issue that I don’t feel comfortable answering yet.
How would you answer a person who asked why God wouldn’t also “inspire” the copyists of the original manuscripts since God is omniscient and therefore knew that these were the (very important) copies which would be referenced for billions of people in the future? We take it by faith that the original manuscripts are absolutely perfect and without error because we don’t have the originals with us now, because we believe God is able to inspire his writers (from OT to NT times.)
A. Those who promote the inerrancy of Scripture as it’s officially defined boxed themselves in when they found inconsistencies from manuscript to manuscript that they couldn’t explain. They responded by saying that only the originals were free from error, and of course those manuscripts are missing so there’s no way to dispute the claim. While the statement is true, it sounds like a cop-out and hasn’t cooled the debate. (My own opinion is that those who dispute the inerrancy claim are just looking for an excuse not to obey what the Bible says.)
While it’s clear that the Old Testament has survived pretty much intact because of the Jews’ obsession with accuracy, it’s also clear that the New Testament has been under attack right from the beginning to a point where today we have versions that seem to make no attempt at accuracy, but rather exist to promote the theological views of their authors. This is a fulfillment of prophecy, by the way. Paul warned Timothy that it would happen (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
But the New Testament is still the most thoroughly validated of all ancient writings with over 5000 partial or complete manuscripts to back up its authenticity and accuracy, far more than any other book in existence.
I view inerrancy as a principle rather than a law in the sense that the few differences that can’t be reconciled aren’t worth arguing about. No legitimate translation differs from any other on the essentials of our faith. But all translations are contaminated by the opinions of their translators, especially in areas where the source manuscripts are not as clear as we’d like them to be, or where words don’t move easily from language to language. I have yet to find a single one that is sufficient unto itself for the serious scholar.
All that said, I would answer your question this way. All legitimate translations of the New Testament will leave anyone who undertakes a reasonable amount of study with a crystal clear view of who God is, what’s He’s done for us, and what He expects in return. And since that’s really all that God requires of us, that’s the part He’s protected. I’m willing to leave the rest of it for theologians to debate among themselves.