Some academics are claiming that there are 400,000 textual differences in early copies of the gospels, thereby throwing doubt on the authenticity of the Bible. So are there 400,000 mistakes in the four gospels? Can we trust our Bible? Yes, my friend, 400,000 times yes – we can totally trust in the Word of God! I was so glad to hear two New Testament professors from Dallas absolutely wipe this smirch from the covers of our Bibles by explaining the truth of this matter.
The two good academics are Dr Daniel B Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Dr Darrell Bock, Professor of New Testament Research, also at Dallas T.S. They were guests on the John Ankerberg cable TV program and they thoroughly debunked the latest smear on the Bible.
Dr Wallace answered: ‘Critics are right that there are about 400,000 textual differences, but these are for the most part absolutely irrelevant. Some 75% of them are spelling differences or nonsense errors.’
This would be like me writing something like: ‘My favourite fruit is the appl.’ You would know immediately that I meant to write ‘apple’, but forgot the final ‘e’. If you were in America, you would find a second mistake – the ‘u’ in the word ‘favourite’. But in Britain they spell it with a ‘u’. It doesn’t really make any difference at all to the sense. Those are the sort of ‘textual differences’ that make up 75 per cent of the disputed gospel copies.
But why is there such a large number of these differences? Because when the gospels were written and sent out, many people were hand copying them to pass on to more people – so many that we have today between 20,000 and 30,000 manuscripts in Greek and various other languages, along with over a million quotations from the church fathers! To have such a wealth of manuscript material is unique in ancient literature.
Also, remember, these were ordinary human beings doing the copying. Some were more on the ball than others. Not being much on the ball myself today, I have had to go back in this article and correct about five typing errors already! If I was hand writing this in ink on papyrus, I would not be able to change them and the textual critics would sneer.
But of the 400,000 differences in the gospels, what about the other 25%? Dr Bock said these have to do with transpositions of words or use of synonyms. For example in the gospel of John Chapter 4 v 1 some early copies say ‘the Lord’ and some say ‘Jesus’. It makes no difference at all to the meaning.
Dr Bock concluded: ‘No central doctrine of the faith is touched by this pool of variants.’
Well, hallelujah! Once again the foundation of our faith is subjected to a mighty barrage, and once again, when the smoke clears, the Bible stands true and firm, the inerrant Word of God, the one bastion of truth in a fallen, sick world.
Conclusion: the 400,000 differences actually attest to the truth of the gospels, rather than the other way round!
The critics have shot themselves in both feet! What does the Lord Jesus Himself say? 'Thy word is truth.' John 17:17 The Bible is God's revelation to mankind, and it is absolutely true.
As the writer of the book of Hebrews says: 'For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Heb 4:12
You can go to John Ankerberg’s website to buy the programs mentioned above.
*This article was first posted on March 1, 2009 and we bring it again to your notice as the Bible always has its critics. I would hate to be in their shoes when they stand before Jesus.