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How True Is the Bible?
by Daryl E. Witmer
The Bible is entirely true.
But wasn’t the Bible written by men? So – inasmuch as no man is perfect, how can the Bible be perfect?
The men who wrote the Bible were inspired and uniquely guided by the Holy Spirit of God in all of the details of their writing.
But what about the many variations in Bible manuscripts? How can two variant manuscripts both be true?
What the original writers put on paper was entirely free of error. Those who copied what the original writers put on paper occasionally made mistakes. Hand copying manuscripts was laboriously detailed work. At times the scribes who did the copying worked long hours by flickering candlelight. From time to time they may have missed a character, added a word, or changed a phrase. So no one claims that all of the copies are inerrant. But none of these textual variants affect any essential doctrine.
Well, if no original manuscripts are known to exist today, how can anyone be certain about what they said? What point is there in claiming that the Bible is inerrant in the originals if there are no originals?
A sufficiently vast number of manuscript copies exist (vast by all standards of ancient literature) with a sufficiently brief time interval between the writing of the originals and the writing of the copies (brief by all standards of ancient literature) to be quite certain about just what the original manuscripts themselves said.
Why is it that some scholars and religious authorities express serious doubt regarding the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible?
Not all scholars and religious authorities hold to a high view of Scripture. In more recent times there are those who have rejected the traditional view that all of the words in the 66 Books of the Bible are God’s words. This had been the position of Christendom from the time of the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Yet still, in spite of all derogation, the canon stands. As Dr. Henry Halley once said, “It is not easy to wreck a train long after it has gone by.”
What’s wrong with believing that the Bible is basically true but not always 100% true?
If the Bible is not 100% true and reliable, then it necessarily becomes 100% suspect and uncertain. Who will draw the line between what is and what is not true? The choice becomes individual and almost entirely subjective. Which is why many years ago Dr. Francis Schaeffer referred to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, and obedience to an inerrant Scripture, as watershed issues.
How can anyone know if a church or religious leader does or does not hold to a strong view of the Bible?
There are often subtle differences in the way in which references are made to the Bible. Here’s a sampling of some of the telltale phrases of compromise, followed by our italicized comments:
The Bible contains the Word of God.
The Bible is a record of God’s revelation.
It’s the meaning behind the Bible stories that matters – not whether the stories themselves are literally true.
Scripture is true in general, if not in the particulars.
God speaks through the words of the Bible.
The Bible addresses matters of faith; it is not a science or history book.
The Bible is wonderfully true in its intent and purpose.
The Bible provides a general guide for human morality, but it is not a technical manual for conduct.
The Bible is infallible and offers much valuable spiritual comfort.
The Bible was meant to encourage people spiritually, not to inform them scientifically.
The Bible was written by good men, but only by men.
The Bible often speaks symbolically and mysteriously.
SOURCES & RESOURCES When Skeptics Ask, Geisler & Brooks, ©1990 Victor Books