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Don Stewart :: Don't the Missing Autographs Disprove Inerrancy?

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Don Stewart

Since the original, or the autograph, of each biblical book has been lost, it is wrong to argue for an inerrant original that no longer exists. How can the Christian church assert the Bible is inerrant if it does not have the original writings? How can a person claim inerrancy for a book that no longer exists? Isn't this an absurd and irrational position?

It Is Not An Irrational Belief

However the position of inerrancy, with respect to this question, is neither irrational nor absurd. The fact that there was an original of every book of the Bible goes without saying. The copies were made from something!

Only A Few Places Are Involved

We do not have to appeal to the lost original manuscripts in order to hold the doctrine of inerrancy. The number of places where there are scribal discrepancies in the text are few, and have plausible solutions. It is not the case that the Christian has to continually appeal to some "lost original" to solve the problems of an inerrant Scripture.

No One Has Ever Seen An Errant Original

While we have not seen inerrant originals we have not seen errant ones either. In addition, the church has never seen the risen Christ but still believes in Him. Simon Peter wrote of Jesus Christ.

Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see him, yet believing you rejoice (1 Peter 1:8).

We love Jesus and believe Him to be the Savior based upon the best evidence. The same holds true for an inerrant Bible. We base our belief not on blind faith but upon the weight of the evidence. The idea that we cannot see an inerrant autograph should not destroy our faith in one.

A Lesson From Jesus About The Old Testament

We learn a lesson from Jesus. While the originals of the Old Testament were, most likely, not around in His day, that did not stop Him from trusting its contents. Jesus believed and taught that our present Old Testament is the infallible, inerrant, Word of God. We should do likewise.

Jesus read from the Scripture in Nazareth

Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).

Paul read from the Scripture in Thessalonica.

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2).

Philip heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Scripture.

Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:32-33).

In each of these instances the Bible says they were reading portions of Scripture. However they were not reading the autographs - they were reading copies of copies of the original. These copies contained scribal errors. Yet copies of Scripture are divinely authoritative and considered it to be the Word of God.


As far as we know all the original writings of Scripture have long since vanished. Thus we are dependent upon copies to reconstruct the text. The fact that the originals do not exist is a popular argument used against inerrancy. How can there be an inerrant Bible without any originals? Particularly when there are scribal errors in the manuscripts that still exist.

This argument does not carry much weight. The fact that there were originals to each biblical book is beyond all doubt - the copies were made from something. In addition, the appeal is not made to some "lost" original to hold to the doctrine of inerrancy. The present copies give us sufficient reason to trust its contents.

We also learn a lesson from Jesus. He had the present Old Testament that we have - without the originals. Yet He trusted it completely and so should we.

The inerrancy of Scripture is not based upon any missing autograph - it is based upon what the Bible says about itself. It is God's Word and God does not make mistakes. Add to this the reliable way in which the Scriptures have been transmitted. There is no evidence that any part of Scripture has been changed or tampered with.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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