Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why Didn't God Preserve the Original Writings of the Men Who Penned the Bible?

There are thousands of partial and complete handwritten manuscript copies of the Old and New Testament. These manuscripts are on display today in places like the Smithsonian Institute, the Cambridge University Library, the British Library, etc. These manuscripts have allowed scholars to verify that the Bible we have today is the same Bible the early church possessed 2,000 years ago.

To our knowledge though, none of the autographs (the originals) of any of the sixty six books of the Bible actually survive. Someone asked me a while back, "Why didn't God preserve the originals? If we had the originals, then we could know for certain that the Bible hasn't undergone corruption!" Could we know for certain? I don't believe we could. I believe that God has purposely allowed the originals to disappear so that we could actually be more certain that we have a trustworthy copy of the Bible. What are you saying Charlie? Hear me out on this.

Let's imagine the originals were allowed to survive. Let's imagine that they were in someone's possession back in the second century or third century. We'll call him Joe the Scribe. Joe could have changed them! And who would know? Perhaps nobody. But if the original is quickly copied numerous times and these copies are then spread all over the ancient world, and then the original is lost or destroyed, there's no way that Joe could alter the Word of God. Someone might try to sneak an error into a manuscript copy, but the thousands of other copies in circulation would quickly allow the church to cross-check and compare them with one another. The result of the cross-checking? The variants (small slips of the pen, grammatical errors) that anybody tried had tried to sneak into their manuscript would be spotted and the church could come away with great confidence that they have a highly accurate copy of the original.

I believe that God, in His perfect wisdom and foresight, knew the danger of leaving the originals intact and in the possession of any one person or group. Ironically, by allowing the originals to disappear, His Word has actually probably been better preserved.