Responding to a Skeptic

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Recently, a skeptic posted the following comment, in italics, on the ABR website about Gordon Franz's article, Bloodline.  Scott Lanser responds. 

"but rather, believe the truth of the Word of God, the Bible"

You must be joking! The BIBLE ?

A book that has been rewritten and changed a thousand times throughout the centurys
[sic] by various people including the church is more credible than this movie. I don't think so. I'm not trying to say the movie is telling the truth and even the producers of this movie say that they don't have absolute proof for anything. It's a movie and I think we will all find out if the whole thing is a hoax or not, when the tomb will be excavated.

Dear Sir,

In responding to your comment I must confess some incredulity in believing that your rather curt remarks reflect a serious attempt to understand or interact with a discussion on the transmission of the Bible (and specifically, the issue of whether or not the Bible was “changed” over the course of its transmission.)  You approach the subject with such sheer dogmatism and self-assurance that it’s as if anybody with a brain would agree with your assertion.  The fact is that the historical and textual evidence does not support your assertion. 

Now, it is quite another matter altogether for one to believe that the Bible is the word of God (or not).  You may have valid doubts and sincerely believe the Bible is not trustworthy.  To conclude, however, that the Bible is nothing more than a document that has been continuously and arbitrarily changed or continuously and intentionally changed cannot be seriously supported. 

If we consider the Old Testament, we discover that the Hebrew scribes copying the text took extraordinary steps to copy the text letter by letter and word for word. Keep in mind that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and its copyists believed they were copying the very word of God.  They went to extraordinary lengths to produce a copy that was without error. Now, this does not mean that errors in copying did not occur, but it does mean that we should expect the copies, when compared over the centuries, to be almost exact.  Indeed this is what the historical and textual record bears out.  The Masoretic text of the Old Testament (written around 1,000 A.D.) would become the standard Hebrew text for another millennia (indeed, down to our current day.).  This Hebrew text was based on earlier Hebrew texts, but up until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, scholars were limited in comparisons with other more ancient Hebrew texts.  With the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls that predate the Masoretic text by 1,000 years (they were compiled around the time of Christ) the whole story changed dramatically.  With their discovery, scholars could confirm their staggering uniformity with the Masoretic text.  A thousand years had passed without any significant change of the text. 

When we consider the New Testament, we have approximately 6,000 early manuscripts that are over 99.5% textually pure.  (There are many more manuscripts than this, but 6,000 that were actually composed close to the date of the writings of the autographs, the originals).  In saying that the texts are over 99.5% pure, I am asserting that there was only one-half of one percent where discrepancies were encountered.  Most of these discrepancies are made up of simple deletions of words, or misspellings, not whole-sale textual changes. 

Lastly, keep in mind that when you suggest that changes have been made, it suggests a fairly common misconception that the Bible has been copied over thousands of years from one language, to another, to another…and so on.  This is false.  When a particular translation is prepared (at least in the case of an English translation), it is being translated from the parent languages that the Bible was written in.  That is, from the original Hebrew in the case of the Old Testament, and from the original Greek in the case of the New Testament.  It is simply untrue that the Bible has been rewritten and changed over the course of its history.  In saying this, I am not asserting that there has never been any translation work that fell short of accuracy, or that the text of the Bible has always, in every case, been transmitted faithfully.   Indeed, because we have such an amazing textual record, we can identify those manuscripts, or manuscript families that veered off the path of accuracy.  

To conclude then, the task of textual study is enormous, and tracing out the process of copying and translation is extraordinary; however, when we look at both the broad lines of the subject, and at the specific processes involved, we can and should have confidence that we have an accurate translation of the Bible.  Of equal importance, and of eternal consequence is whether or not you believe the Bible is the very word of God.  We at ABR stand on the belief that God has spoken and has put His word in writing.  Reading the Bible as a divine communication is life-transforming; alternatively, reading the Bible as a book full of errors, and a product of unaided, uninspired men, leaves a person empty and without hope.  May God open our minds so that we will receive the Bible as His love-letter to us all. 

Recommended Resources for Further Study

Why Trust the Bible?
50 Proofs for the Bible
Old Testament
Searching for the
Original Bible


100 Reasons to
Trust OT History

How We Got the Bible
Comments Comment RSS

7/24/2008 11:21 AM #

  Absolutely perfect response to the skeptic.  I have encountered this same argument for a long time.  Your answer was tghe best I've seen.  I printed a copy of it for my own records and use in the future.  I was especially impressed with your support of the Masoretic texts, which, if I remember correctly, was the basis for the King James Bible translation.  I have been looking for something historical and factual to rebut the arguments for the Septuagint translations  and you gave me what I needed.  Unfortunately, too many people follow the concepts of "Skeptic".  I think this is the direct result of having people in the pulpits of too many churches who lack proper training and education, and therefore ccan not pass on the truth.

henry baxter - 7/24/2008 11:21:17 AM

7/24/2008 12:18 PM #

Gentlemen:  I appreciate Scott Lanser's defense here, as I am blessed by the work of ABR.  Sometimes I like to add the fact that the Hebrew scribes in particular composed marginal notes on any misspellings, etc., in the text, rather than venture into the text itself to make "changes."  In keeping things simple for the uninitiated, I find that the marginal masora is another way of saying that we have a detailed, specific textual history, relative to the text of the OT in a day when concordances, per se, were not yet in existence.

James R. Battenfield - 7/24/2008 12:18:38 PM

7/25/2008 1:57 PM #

Hello I noticed in one of those comments that he said the KJV was translated from the Masoretic text, I was always under the impression it was translated from the Septuagint, please let me know if I am wrong.

Also I thought the response to the sceptic was a marvellous work and I also have printed out a copy  for my files.
Thank you so much

veronica jones - 7/25/2008 1:57:02 PM

10/7/2008 4:42 PM #

Amazing response.  As a result of an encounter with an atheist that has been challenging Christians to give him "evidence for God," I have begun to take seriously the study of apologetics and this is going in my file.  There are so many things to consider.  Thank you so much!

Jena - 10/7/2008 4:42:13 PM

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