No, comparing ancient manuscripts shows that the Bible hasn’t changed much over the centuries, even though it’s been copied over and over again on materials that wear out.
Does this mean that nobody ever made a mistake when they copied?
There are thousands of old Bibles that have been found. Some of these are different, which shows that mistakes were made when they were copied. Most of these changes are small and don’t change what the text means. But a few big differences have been found, and some of them seem to be attempts from a long time ago to change what the Bible says. Think about two examples:
- In some older versions of the Bible, 1 John 5:7 says, “In heaven, there is the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one.” But copies of the original text show that these words were not there. They were put in afterward. So, trustworthy modern Bible translations have left them out.
- In ancient Bible manuscripts, God’s name is written thousands of times. Still, many Bible translations have changed it to “Lord” or “God” instead.
How can we be sure there aren’t a lot more mistakes to find?
Because so many manuscripts have been found, it is now easier than ever to find mistakes. What does comparing these two documents tell us about how accurate the Bible is today?
Scholar William H. Green said this about the Hebrew Scriptures (also called the “Old Testament”): “It is safe to say that no other ancient work has been so accurately passed down.”
F. F. Bruce, a Bible scholar, said this about the Christian Greek Scriptures, also called the “New Testament”: “The evidence for our New Testament writings is so much stronger than the evidence for many writings by classical authors, whose authenticity no one would dare to question.”
Sir Frederic Kenyon, a well-known expert on Bible manuscripts, said, “You can hold the whole Bible in your hands and say without fear or doubt that you are holding the true Word of God, which has been passed down from generation to generation without losing its meaning.”
What other reasons are there to believe that the Bible has been accurately passed down?
- Both Jewish and Christian copyists kept records that show how badly God’s people made mistakes. (Numbers 20:12; 2 Samuel 11:2-4; Galatians 2:11-14) In the same way, they kept passages that condemn the disobedience of the Jewish people and show how man-made doctrines are wrong. (Hosea 4:2, Malachi 2:8–9, Matthew 23:8–9, and 1 John 5:21) By writing down these stories accurately, the copyists showed that they could be trusted and that they had a lot of respect for God’s holy Word.
- Is it not logical that God, who gave the Bible its ideas in the first place, would also keep it true? (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24, 25) After all, he meant for it to help not only people from long ago, but also people like us now. (Colossians 10:11) In fact, “all the things that were written before were written to teach us, so that we might have hope through our patience and the comfort we find in the Bible.” —Romans 15:4.
- Jesus and his followers quoted from copies of the Hebrew Scriptures without questioning whether or not they were true. —Luke 4:16–21; Acts 17:1–3.