Challenge Response: We Don’t Have Those Original "Inerrant" Manuscripts

Here's my response to this week's challenge:


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This week's challenge is from an article titled “Six Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying.” Steve McSwain says, “Christians must stop saying the Bible is the inerrant infallible Word of God.” He goes on to say, “It isn’t inerrant and not likely even in the original manuscripts, but then I cannot say that without absolute certainty any more than anyone else can either. Why? Because no such original manuscripts even exist. That's like saying we believe there are aliens on other planets.”

With regards to this particular challenge, I have a couple thoughts on this. Saying the original manuscripts don't exist doesn't make them stop existing. This is simply an assertion; it's not an argument. You can’t just simply say it and it therefore becomes true. Granted, we haven't found the original manuscripts, but just because we haven’t found them doesn't mean they don't exist. It’s possible that they do, but like I said, we just haven't found them. 

Second of all, it doesn't matter that we don't have the original manuscripts because even though we don't have them, it doesn't mean that we don't know what the original text is. Why? Because we have thousands and thousands of manuscripts – copies of the Bible – that allow us to faithfully reconstruct the original text. So, when we say the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the reason why we're allowed to say that is because any accurate representation of the original manuscripts – of the original text – has the same characteristics and qualities of the autograph. If we can say that the Bible is inerrant in its original autographs – in its original manuscripts – then of course, any accurate presentation of that text would also have the same qualities.

For example, the U.S. Constitution, which I’ve gone to see in Washington, D.C., is slowly fading. Eventually over time, it will probably fade to the point where you can’t read the text on the autograph. We’ll eventually lose the autograph of the Constitution. Does that mean that we've lost the Constitution? No. We still have the original text. How? Because people have taken pictures of it, some people have memorized it, and some people have written it down. Even though we might eventually lose the autograph, we still have the original text. 

Moreover, even when we lose the autograph, we’ll still have the Constitution, and it will still be binding on the people of our country. Why? Because the autograph is not the same as the original text. You can lose the autograph but still retain the original text, and that's the case for the Bible. Even though we may have lost the autographs, we still have the original text. That's what we're talking about when we refer to the Bible being inerrant and the infallible Word of God because to the degree to which it is a faithful representation of the autographs, then that's the degree to which we can have confidence in what we say about that.

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Alan Shlemon