The Bible is – as has been said – composed of some sixty-six separate books, every one of them having trickled down through time into this one great volume. Each of these individual works is thus known to us through a series of autographs, manuscripts, and translations dating far back to antiquity. It is from those ancient texts that our modern Bibles originate.
- Autographs – Works written – or dictated to a scribe – by the author
- Manuscripts – Hand-copied reproductions of original Scripture
- Translations – Reproductions of historic Scripture in different languages, such as Greek and Latin
Before going on, I want to address a few issues concerning the integrity of the Bible. Is one to trust that every single word of the Scriptures are true, perfect as they originated from the mind of God, or alternatively, is it possible that errors have occurred over the years as the original texts were copied, re-copied, edited, and so forth? It’s a debate that has led to much infighting, and likely no small number of tentative believers have abandoned their faith over such concerns, or otherwise the skeptic’s infectious method of framing the question in such a way as to preclude a reasonable answer.
What is the truth of the matter?
While masses over the years have held our Bibles as utterly inerrant, free from all inaccuracies and mistakes, I would submit to you that only the original autographs themselves are utterly free of error. All subsequent transcriptions and translations of those original inspired texts are thus capable of being corrupted, accidentally or otherwise. Such errors have spawned many conflicts between believers and nonbelievers alike, yet ultimately, there is an undeniable truth that transcends even the mistakes upon which doctrinal disputes are built and new – and sometimes faulty – translations are composed.
Furthermore, time and again we see that just the way one reads the Bible – how it is interpreted either literally, figuratively, or some combination thereof – can impart a certain perspective on what we each take away from that reading. This too no doubt has impacted the various renderings of the Scriptures over the millennia, each scribe and scholar perhaps flavoring the text a given way based on how they viewed its message.
The fact that this is possible shouldn’t surprise anyone who is aware of the fact that the Bible features over two-hundred different rhetorical devices! ¹ Just to name a few, we find within the Word everything from acrostics and types, to allegories, puns, metaphors, hyperbole, synecdoches, and dozens of others. One cannot, for instance, read the whole Bible with a completely allegorical interpretation of the material and hope to fully and properly grasp what is being conveyed. Just the same, a strict literalist cannot recognize the stunning depth of symbolism on display across the Bible’s pages. We all must appreciate that there is often far more going on than what a casual reading may reveal.
It’s thus easy to see how problems can arise even from the outset if we fall prey to misunderstandings about the nature of Biblical inerrancy and our own interpretive missteps related to our inability to accurately perceive changes in rhetorical devices. Even so, in spite of these things and others, I am confident that the truth of the Scriptures shines through, for it is stronger than the reality of any linguistic shortcomings.
- Missler, Chuck, “Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages From the Edge of Eternity,” Koinonia House, 1999, revised 2004
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