The Bible Has Errors

Ever been confronted with the question: “How can you believe the Bible when it has so many errors?”

In a post by Jonathan Dodson, What to say when someone says the Bible has errors?, he addresses the perception of the Bible being littered with errors. So what do you say when someone claims that the Bible is full of errors? Here follows a summary of the blog post:

Don’t avoid the topic, talk about the errors, there are four types of errors in the Bible:

  1. Spelling & Nonsense Errors: This is when a word does not make sense in the context, the example given is one that occurred in a late Greek manuscript: replacing “ēpioi” with “hippoi” thus making 1 Thess 2:7 read “..we were horses among you..”. These are obvious errors and easily corrected.
  2. Minor Changes: When word order changes or a word is omitted. This does not make a difference seeing that Greek grammar allows the same sentence to be written something like 18 times without changing the meaning.
  3. Meaningful But Not Plausible: An example of this is when the “..the gospel of God” – as appearing in nearly all the manuscripts is found to be “..the gospel of Christ.” in a late medieval manuscript. It does indeed imply a difference in meaning but the overall evidence is irrefutably pointing towards the first mentioned.
  4. Meaningful and Plausible: Errors that may influence the actual meaning. These account for less that 1% of the variants and mostly involves a word or phrase. At the end of Mark’s gospel appears the biggest questionable errors. Note that we are not being “misled” as our Bibles even footnote this!

So is the Bible reliable?

As the accuracy is dependant on the manuscripts that our Bibles are translated from, consider this:

  • We have 43% of the New Testament that was translated before 200AD.  Very fresh copies indeed!
  • 99 manuscripts that date before 400AD means that the gap between the original inerrant manuscripts and these are pretty slim. (see comparison of the number of NT manuscripts with other notable historical documents here)
  • In all that means we shoul be hugely (thousand+ times) more sceptical about accounts of the Greco-Roman history than the NT.

So what should you say to the Bible having errors?

Yes, our Bible translations do have errors—let me tell you about them. But as you can see, less than 1% of them are meaningful and those errors don’t affect the major teachings of the Christian faith. In fact, there are a thousand times more manuscripts of the Bible than the most documented Greco-Roman historian by Suetonius. So, if we’re going to be skeptical about ancient books, we should be a thousand times more skeptical of the Greco-Roman histories. The Bible is, in fact, incredibly reliable.
The common perception that as time passes we loose accuracy of the Bible is, in fact, incorrect. The truth is that as time passes the accuracy of the Bible is increasing and we can already be confident that the translations available to us are already 99% true to the original manuscripts.