Christian Worldview and Apologetics: Can We Trust the Scriptures?
By Bryan Cribb
God said it. I believe it. That settles it.
This once popular bumper-sticker slogan sums up the argument many Christians muster when it comes to the reliability of Scripture: The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible says it is God’s Word. I don’t need another Word.
It is true, and important, to assert that the Bible itself holds to its own abiding reliability and authority, due to its divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). But we live in a world of skepticism, and even antagonism, toward the Scriptures. In this arena of ideas, Christians need to be able to articulate the reasons why, with good reason, we hold to Scripture’s reliability and accuracy.
The insufficiency of the arguments against reliability
A good conversation partner to illustrate the insufficiency of the arguments against reliability is Bart Ehrman, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, a bestselling author and a frequent presence on national television shows. A former evangelical, Ehrman has become the most well-known critic of the veracity of Scripture.
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His arguments include, among others, the number of textual errors and supposed contradictions in the New Testament, and the late dating of the New Testament. One will note, however, that many of Ehrman’s arguments, as well as those by other modern critics, are merely recycled from liberal academicians in ages past. And essentially all his arguments have been adequately countered by conservative scholars.
For many resources on the Scriptures and answers to Ehrman’s arguments, see the excellent website, www.ehrmanproject.org. But what can be said briefly on these arguments? Take one example: Ehrman claims that there are more textual variants (or differences) in the various manuscripts of the Greek New Testament than total words in the New Testament — some 400,000 variants, compared to 135,000 words. That’s almost three variants per word!
Yet, the majority of these variants among the (staggering) 5,500-plus available Greek manuscripts today are small and inconsequential — spelling errors or variations, nonsense readings, word-order differences, etc. Comparatively few change the meaning of the text, and none confuse any significant theological teaching. In fact, the agreement between the manuscripts is quite significant — perhaps as much as 95-99 percent…