Question: "Is the doctrine of preservation biblical?"
Answer: The doctrine of preservation in regard to Scripture means that the Lord has kept His Word intact as to its original meaning. Preservation simply means that we can trust the Scriptures because God has sovereignly overseen the process of transmission over the centuries.
At the same time, we must also be aware that we do not possess the original writings/autographs. What we do have are thousands of manuscripts from which the original writings can be ascertained. By thorough examination and comparison of those manuscripts, it is determined what the original writings stated. This does not mean that there are absolutely no differences between the manuscripts. But the differences are extremely small and insignificant and do not in any way affect the basic teachings or meaning of God’s Word. The differences are things like minor spelling variations. We should keep in mind that this would not and does not affect the accuracy of Scripture, nor does it mean that God has not preserved His Word. God has supernaturally kept or preserved His Word.
The early scribes, whose jobs were to make exact copies of Scripture, were very meticulous. One example of their scrupulous precision is the practice of counting all the letters in a given book and noting the middle letter of the book. They would then do the same for the copy to make sure it matched. They employed such time-consuming and painstaking methods to ensure accuracy.
Further, we can take note of the following verses that demonstrate God’s plan to preserve His Word. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” In this verse Jesus declared that not even the smallest stroke of a letter in the Hebrew alphabet would pass away until all is accomplished. He couldn’t make that promise unless He was sure that God would preserve His Word. Jesus also said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). Jesus again affirms that God’s Word will not pass away. God’s Word will remain and accomplish that which God has planned.
The prophet Isaiah, through the power of the Holy Spirit, stated that God’s Word would remain forever. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). This was reaffirmed in the New Testament when Peter quoted the same passage and referred to it as “the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25). Neither Isaiah nor Peter could make such statements without the understanding of God’s preservation of Scripture.
We should keep in mind that when the Bible speaks of God’s Word remaining forever, it cannot be referring to it being kept hidden away in some vault in heaven. God’s Word was given specifically for mankind, and it would not be fulfilling its purpose if it were not available to us. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Also note that a person cannot be saved apart from the gospel message, which is recorded in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Therefore, in order for the gospel message to be proclaimed “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47), the doctrines and truths of the Word must be protected. If Scripture were not supernaturally preserved, there would be no way to ensure the consistency of the message it contains.