Some godly friends believe that to have an inerrant Bible, we need more than perfect original manuscripts. They insist that divine preservation must extend to every word of our Bibles. They say that if we allow for any error of transmission or translation, the Scriptures cease to be trustworthy.
Their logic suggests that if we allow for any uncertainty, all certainty is lost. A flawed text produces a flawed authority; a flawed authority produces a flawed faith; a flawed faith produces a flawed salvation; a flawed salvation gives false hope; and false hope is no hope at all.
This kind of thinking sounds compelling. But it is misleading. The one-version-only argument is offset by the principle of inspired repetition. By repetition, the Author of the Bible has protected us from the dangers of a miscopied text or an inadequate translation.
The 66 books of the Bible reflect a wonderfully orchestrated symphony of testimony. As the Bible itself says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Even at the moment of most holy revelation, God committed the words and actions of His Son to multiple pens. He did not give us Matthew only. We might wish He had. Matthew only would have been simpler. Matthew only would have eliminated difficult problems of historical correlation. But Matthew only was not God’s plan.
Instead, He also entrusted the record of His Son to the inerrant writings of Mark, Luke, and John. Then He entrusted His inspired story to the letters of Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and John- not always to provide new information, but to provide a wonderful, jewel-like, multi-faceted revelation of inspired Scripture.
God’s Word is wonderful in repetition. It is rich in perspectives. It is deep in complementing parallels which combine their voices to give us the whole counsel of God. It is because of rather than in spite of multiple prophets, multiple apostles, multiple translations, and multiple interpreters that we can say with great confidence that we have in our hands the absolutely reliable Word of God. It is because the Bible was spread throughout the world in many thousands of copies that scholars can assure us that only a small percentage (i.e. 3 percent) of the original autographs is in question (none of which jeopardize a major doctrine) But what about congregational reading? The existence of many reading? The existence of many versions and paraphrases has created problems for public reading. A church must choose one version to read. In addition, copyrighted versions raise questions about profit motives in a lucrative Bible publishing industry. We need to keep that in mind while also remembering that if the translation is reliable the “workman is worthy of his wages.” I’m convinced that our biggest problem today is not new translations, or people making a profit off our purchase of the old ones. Our biggest problem is that too many of us are not reading, meditating, memorizing, studying, underlining, believing, trusting, loving, obeying, quoting, sharing, or honoring the Word of God in any translation.
Father, please give us wisdom to honor Your Word, Renew in us the spirit of Psalm 119. Teach us to love You and one another through Your Word more than we ever have before.
1996 RBC Ministries-Grand Rapids, MI 49555