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Biblical Manuscripts

QUESTION: Are the biblical manuscripts we have today reliable?


Are the biblical manuscripts we have reliable today? Reliability of manuscripts is crucial to the veracity of what is contained in them. The earliest piece of manuscript dates close to the end of the First Century for the New Testament, and for the Old Testament, around 125 B.C.1

To help us decide if the biblical manuscripts we have today are reliable, we must address the problem of determining as nearly as possible the exact form of the original writings. "Centuries of copying and sometimes even editing have allowed changes in vocabulary and phrasing and possibly, on occasion, in the order of verses or sections. The scribes hardly played fast and loose with the text, but as human beings they were bound to commit errors despite their concern and care."2

Biblical Manuscripts - Revelation, Inspiration, and Illumination - Even though human beings are fallible, revelation, inspiration, and illumination were integral to the writing of the biblical manuscripts. To clarify this further, it is very important to understand what revelation, inspiration, and illumination mean.
  • Revelation means to unveil what is hidden. God has revealed His character and purpose in history through His works, His words (Scripture) and ultimately and personally through Jesus Christ.

  • Inspiration is a process God used to communicate through the written Word.

  • "Illumination is the experience in which spiritual discernment is provided by the Holy Spirit."3

There are several views of how revelation, inspiration, and illumination work together to affirm the reliability of biblical manuscripts that we have today. The view that a person takes of how they work together needs to affirm a high view of biblical authority.

Biblical Manuscripts - Reliability expressed by God Himself - The Bible attests to its own authority as delegated by God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Jesus recognized Old Testament writings as authoritative (Matthew 5:17; John 10:35). "The unity of the Bible requires that all Scripture speak with divine authority."4

2 Timothy 3:16 in the New Testament states that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. "The Bible infallibly and faithfully assures the truth of all that it affirms. When properly interpreted, Scripture never leads into error, but is wholly trustworthy in all matters."5

Learn More about the Origin of the Bible!

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