Can the Bible Be Trusted?
Most everyone has heard of the telephone game in which a person whispers a message to another, which is passed along a line of people until the last person announces the message to the group. The curious and often funny part of the game is that when the last person announces the message out loud, everyone discovers that it has dramatically changed from what they had received and passed to their neighbor.
This game is often used to demonstrate why we shouldn’t gossip about people, however, there are many people who point to the game as an example to illustrate why they believe the Bible has changed over time. The notion is that over a period of more than two thousand years, errors and changes have crept into the Bible as it was copied and recopied from person to person. Over the period of two thousand years, these errors and changes have supposedly accumulated to a point where the stories in the Bible are no longer the same or even similar to the original events.
Fortunately, however, none of that is true. A $5 paperback Bible you buy in a book store today says the same thing as the 1,600 year old Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest Bible in the world. Furthermore, the Old Testament book of Isaiah, today, says the same thing as the 2,150 year old Dead Sea Scrolls. As a matter of fact, there are over 5,500 manuscripts from various times throughout antiquity which, remarkably, all say the same thing as today’s modern Bible.
There are several reasons why the Bible hasn’t changed over time, the greatest of which is the power of God. The Bible is the Word of God and as such, He has made sure that it has remained unaltered throughout the ages and has also remained the #1 best selling book, every year for all time.
One thing to consider when skeptics use the telephone game to express doubts about the Bible is that the telephone game itself is not an equal comparison. The game relies on a message being passed orally (usually among children), while the Bible has always been written. If the telephone game were performed using a written note, and the participants were passionately devoted to re-copying the note accurately, it would easily reach the end without error.
Another point to consider is that modern editions of the Bible were not copied from their most recent predecessor. Instead, modern editions of the Bible were copied and translated from the original manuscripts mentioned above, many of which are hundreds and even thousands of years in age. Pick up any New International Version Bible and read the Preface. It starts out, “The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.”
So when you read a modern Bible, such as the NIV, you are not reading a Bible that was copied and recopied over thousands of years; rather, you’re reading a Bible that was written once and then copied once.
And what does the Bible, itself, say about the Bible?
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Hebrews 4:12-14)
Dead Sea Scroll — the World’s Oldest Secrets by Ken and Nyetta