Has the Bible been corrupted, changed, or tampered with?
How do we know the books of the Bible have not been corrupted? The books of the Old Testament were written from approximately 1400 to 400 B.C. The books of the New Testament were written from approximately A.D. 40 to 96. Over 1,900 years have passed since the completion of the Bible's final book. No known original manuscripts remain. Instead, we have copies of copies of copies. Can we still trust the Bible?
The Bible says that, when God originally inspired the biblical writers, its words were God-breathed and inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 17:17). The Bible does not make this same claim regarding copies of the original manuscripts. Even with the best efforts of Jewish scribes and Christian writers, occasional differences would make their way into a copy, spreading from a single copy to other, future copies. This was the pattern until the widespread use of the printing press in the 1500s.
Yet the Bible has maintained an excellent degree of preservation over the centuries. Entire copies of the New Testament are still in existence from the fourth century (two important ones include Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus). Their contents help us to confirm the earliest wordings in nearly every instance. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the twentieth century provided copies of almost every book of the Old Testament from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. Despite minor differences, the Old Testament text has remained amazingly intact.
Further, the abundance of biblical manuscripts allows us to decipher which reading among the various differences is the correct one in virtually every instance. For example, over 5,800 copies of Greek New Testament manuscripts exist today. These manuscripts can be evaluated by date, quality, and other factors to determine which readings are most likely. In over 99 percent of the cases, textual scholars are in strong agreement.
Suggestions that the Bible has been revised, edited, or tampered with are not based on the historical facts. The sheer volume of biblical manuscripts makes it possible to recognize any attempts to distort its words. There are no essential doctrines of the Bible that are in doubt as a result of the minor differences that exist between manuscripts.
Can we trust the Bible? Absolutely! God has preserved His Word with astounding accuracy. We can have utmost confidence that the Bible we have today is the same Bible God originally intended. The Bible is accurate, and we can trust it for our lives today (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 5:18).
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