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Q: I know that you believe that the original words of the Bible are inspired. But where’s God’s Word today?
There are no originals—only copies of copies of copies. Where do I, as an English-language-only person, go to read the original words?
Asked by: Tim
A: Well, Tim, I want to thank you for your email because obviously you’re doing some thinking. Yes, there are no original copies, but yes, the Bible indeed is inspired in the original copies.
So the question is, how do we know that we have an inspired text? Well, you’re right in saying that we have copies of copies. But these copies are reliable. Those who copied the Scriptures did so with great care, often letter by letter, word by word and line by line. Furthermore, there are different copies of copies that scholars can compare to make sure we are as close to the originals as possible. They compare all of them and in doing this, they can tell what was the content of the original text. Yes, of course there are many variations in the manuscripts and all of these are duly noted, even though they do not affect issues of doctrine.
Most scholars say that they can get to 99.5% or maybe even 99.9% accuracy. And you know that little percentage that they perhaps don’t get right? As I’ve already mentioned, those things really don’t affect any articles of doctrine. If I could give a longer answer, I could give you some examples of that.
So your last question is: where do I, as an English reader, go? You buy a good Bible and you read it. For example, in my preaching, I use the ESV. That’s the English Standard Version. It’s more of a literal translation, more direct. And of course there’s the NIV, which is a very popular Bible that speaks in much more contemporary language, though perhaps not as literal. But at any rate, get a couple of good translations of the Bible. Read them and you can say with confidence that you are reading the word of God.
- There are no Scripture references.