Faith & Doubt - The Reliability of the Bible
John D. Telgren

Is the Bible the word of God? Is it reliable and free of errors? These are questions that may enter the mind of Christians as they are challenged by skeptics with the credibility of the Bible.

Where does the burden of proof lie? Skeptics act as if the Bible is guilty until proven innocent. Claims made by skeptics are typically unwarranted, have little or no evidence, and are filled with presupposition despite claims of neutrality.

Skeptics often attack the accuracy of the Bible. They claim that the Bible is filled with thousands of errors due to centuries of hand copying. Therefore, the question of Biblical inspiration is moot because we can't even know what the original manuscripts of the Bible actually said (so they say).

While it is true that the Bible is an old, hand copied document, the claims of the skeptics are grossly exaggerated. Skeptics typically do not take into account that manuscripts are part of a "family tree." Several copies would be made from a manuscript, and years later, one of the copies may be used to make more, and so on. This forms a "family tree" of manuscripts. Scholars call these "text types." The following is a visual illustration of a manuscript family tree.

Claims of countless errors in the Bible do not take this into account. Take the following example: The book of Galatians is printed on a printing press. A spelling error is made. The first printing was in 1977. The error is discovered and corrected in the 2nd printing in 1984. Even if you didn't know which printing a book belonged to, you can trace which printing it came from by any errors it contains (if there are any) because they would be duplicated in that printing.

Now, lets say you printed 15,000 copies of Galatians, and spelled it "Galotians." Would it be fair to say that you have ONE error, or 15,000 errors? There is only one error, but it is duplicated 15,000 times in that "generation" of the family tree. So there are actually fewer errors that what skeptics claim.

While there are various types of errors, the nature of the errors do not obscure the meaning. What if a sentence said, "Jesus Christ is the Sun of God." Even though there is an error in this sentence, it does not obscure the meaning of the text. You can compare it to manuscripts further up the family tree, or from another branch in the family tree and clearly see that it should say "Son."

Furthermore, we know what and were the errors are. We are not in total darkness. There are over 15,000 manuscripts in existence of all or portions of the Bible. With such a huge number of manuscripts to compare, the Bible is by far the most accurate ancient document in existence.