The books of the Old Testament were written from approximately 1400 BC to 400 BC. The books of the New Testament were written from approximately AD 40 to AD 90. So, anywhere between 3,400 and 1,900 years have passed since a book of the Bible was written. In this time, the original manuscripts have been lost. They very likely no longer exist. Since the time the books of the Bible were originally written, they have been copied again and again by scribes. Copies of copies of copies have been made. In view of this, can we still trust the Bible?
The Holy Scriptures are God-breathed and therefore inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16–17; John 17:17). Of course, inerrancy can only be applied to the original manuscripts, not to the copies of the manuscripts. As meticulous as the scribes were with the replication of the Scriptures, no one is perfect. Through the centuries, minor differences arose in the various copies of the Scriptures. The vast majority of these differences are simple spelling variants (akin to American neighbor versus British neighbour), inverted words (one manuscript says “Christ Jesus” while another says “Jesus Christ”), or an easily identified missing word. In short, over 99 percent of the biblical text is not questioned. Of the less than 1 percent of the text that is in question, no doctrinal teaching or command is jeopardized. In other words, the copies of the Bible we have today are pure. The Bible has not been corrupted, altered, edited, revised, or tampered with.
Any unbiased document scholar will agree that the Bible has been remarkably well-preserved over the centuries. Copies of the Bible dating to the 14th century AD are nearly identical in content to copies from the 3rd century AD. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, scholars were shocked to see how similar they were to other ancient copies of the Old Testament, even though the Dead Sea Scrolls were hundreds of years older than anything previously discovered. Even many hardened skeptics and critics of the Bible admit that the Bible has been transmitted over the centuries far more accurately than any other ancient document.
There is absolutely no evidence that the Bible has been revised, edited, or tampered with in any systematic manner. The sheer volume of biblical manuscripts makes it simple to recognize any attempt to distort God’s Word. There is no major doctrine of the Bible that is put in doubt as a result of the inconsequential differences among the manuscripts.
Again, the question, can we trust the Bible? Absolutely! God has preserved His Word despite the unintentional failings and intentional attacks of human beings. We can have utmost confidence that the Bible we have today is the same Bible that was originally written. The Bible is God’s Word, and we can trust it (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 5:18).