Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 10, 1952
NUMBER 48, PAGE 6-15b

"The Truth About The Bible"

Howard Wilson, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Because of an article which appeared in the February 26, 1952, issue of Look Magazine under the above title, we think it proper to make some reply to the false and exaggerated claims set forth. There may be some, who have not obeyed the Lord, who will use this article as an excuse for continued refusal to obey Christ. The person who may do this needs to know the information we will here supply.

Here is a quotation from the article:

"A study of the New Testament now in progress indicates that much of it — including portions we think of as the very heart of the Bible — was inserted or changed over the centuries, either deliberately or by mistake. Evidence has been turned up that questions some of the most-quoted statements and happenings in the scriptures. Not even the Lord's Prayer has been spared."

Such a quotation as this gives the impression that the Bible is "shot full" of errors. But the truth is: "much of it" was NOT inserted or changed over the centuries. The statement, "Not even the Lord's Prayer has been spared," gives an emphasis to a possible error which is unwarranted. The Bible does not call that prayer "The Lord's Prayer." If it were not for the denominations' emphasizing this prayer above and beyond what it deserves, there would not be so much feeling involved here. I am not supporting the doubt; but to show the lack of need for worry here, let me point out that the entire prayer could be false and the Christian would lose nothing as to how he is to pray today! The prayer says, "thy kingdom come" when the kingdom has already come, and Christians are in it. (Col. 1:13) The prayer is not through Jesus, but no prayer today to God is acceptable unless it comes through Jesus! "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full." (John 16:28-24) For this reason the so-called "Lord's Prayer" has no part in the fulness of joy which comes now that we are to pray through Christ.

50,000 Errors?

"Students have questioned the accuracy of many Biblical passages for centuries. As early as 1720, an English authority estimated that there were at least 20,000 errors in the two editions of the New Testament commonly read by Protestants and Catholics. Modern students say there are probably 50,000 errors." (Look Magazine)

Such a statement as this without explanation as to what kind of errors, or how they are counted, will scare the timid away from an honest study of the Bible. If the author of the article were trying to show how really faulty he thinks the Bible is, he could have just as easily have quoted an estimate that there are from 150,000 to 200,000 errors!!

But let us point out the truth. What is an "error"? And how are these "errors" counted? Study closely the following quotation:

"By 200,000 variant readings it is not meant that there are 200,000 places where variations occur, but that here are so many variant readings in all. In some cases the manuscripts so differ among themselves that several variations are counted on a single word. Each manuscript is compared with one standard and with each other, and the number of variations are found; then these sums are added together, and the result is given as the number of variant readings. Each place where variations occur is counted as many times as there are distinct variations in it, and also as many times as the same variation occurs in different manuscripts. This sum also includes all variations of all kinds from all sources, even... those which are of such minor importance as the spelling of a word." (General Biblical Introduction — H. S. Miller, pp. 279-280)

It would be quite easy to find thousands of differences just from different spellings of the same word among the 24,000 manuscripts mentioned in the Look article. Thus, if 10,000 of those manuscripts happened to have the same word misspelled, Look would charge that up as 10,000 errors in the Bible!!

Importance Of The Variations

"Dr. Ezra Abbot, the foremost textual scholar in America, and a member of the revision committee, said that nineteen-twentieths of the various readings have so little weight that, although they are various readings, no one would think of them as rival readings; and nineteen-twentieths of the remainder are of so little importance that their adoption or rejection would make no appreciable difference in the sense of a passage where they occur." (Textual Criticism of the New Testament — Warfield, pp. 13, 14)

Schaff says that of the 150,000 variations only about 400 affect the sense; and of these 400, only about 50 are of real significance for one reason or another; and again, not one of these 50 affect an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of scripture teaching. (Companion of the Greek Testament and English Version, P. 177)

The late Dr. A. T. Robertson adds his comment that,

"The real conflict in the textual criticism of the New Testament is concerning this 'thousandth part of the entire text... Many of these variations are of no more importance than the failure to dot an "i" or to cross a "t" would be in English, yet so vitally precious is every word of the Bible that the textual critic leaves no stone unturned, and omits no variation, however infinitesimal it may be, in his effort to reproduce the original text." (General Biblical Introduction — pp. 280-281)

The scholarly Westcott and Hort have this to say about the text of the New Testament:

"This brief account of the text of the New Testament would be incomplete without a word of caution against a natural misunderstanding... In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance... If comparative trivialities, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament." (The New Testament In the Original Greek — Westcott and Hort, pp. 564-565)

Perhaps there has arisen no greater scholar on the American continent in this field than the late J. W. McGarvey. Here is his comment and illustration on the subject:

"The case is like that of a certain will. A gentleman left a large estate entailed to his descendants of the third generation, and it was not to be divided until a majority of them should be of age. During the interval many copies of the will were circulated among parties interested, many of these being copies of copies. In the meantime the office of record in which the original was filed was burned with all its contents. When the time for division drew near, a prying attorney gave out among the heirs the report that no two copies of the will were alike. This alarmed them all and set them busily at work to ascertain the truth of the report. On comparing copy with copy they found the report true; but on close inspection it was discovered that the differences consisted in errors of spelling or grammatical construction; some mistakes in figures corrected by the written numbers; and some other differences not easily accounted for; but that in none of the copies did these mistakes affect the rights of the heirs. In the essential matters for which the will was written the representations of all the copies were precisely the same.

"The result was that they divided the estate with perfect satisfaction to all, and that they were more certain that they had executed the will of their grandfather than if the original copy had been alone preserved; for it might have been tampered with in the interest of a single heir, but the copies, defective though they were, could not have been. So with the New Testament. The discovery of errors in the copies excited alarm leading to inquiry, which developed the fact that he who has the most imperfect copy has in it all that the original contained of doctrine, duty, and privilege." (Evidences of Christianity, Part I, pp. 17, 18, by J. W. McGarvey).