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Don Stewart :: Aren't There Mistakes in the Various Copies of the Bible?

Don Stewart

The mistakes in the different copies of the biblical manuscripts have also been used as an argument against inerrancy. Since there are mistakes in the copies it is wrong to assert inerrancy. How can one claim an inerrant original if all the copies have errors?

Mistakes Were Made In Copying

To begin with, we do admit that mistakes were made in copying. For example, we find a discrepancy when we compare what the Bible says about the age of Ahaziah when he became king.

Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel (2 Kings 8:26).

Ahaziah was twenty-two when he became king. However his age is given at forty-two in Chronicles.

Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri.(2 Chronicles 22:2).

It should be noted that the Septuagint, Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, as well as certain Syriac manuscripts, read twenty-two here in Chronicles while the Hebrew text says forty-two.

How Many Stalls For The Horses?

First Kings says Solomon had forty thousand stalls for his horses.

Solomon also had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.(1 Kings 4:26).

In Chronicles it reads four thousand stalls.

Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horses, which he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 9:25).

What do we make of these problems?

Copies Are Not The Same As Original

The solution to this question is simple. Copies of the various portions of Scripture are not the same as the original. A mistake in a copy is not the same as a mistake in the original. A mistake in a copy is a human mistake. If there was a mistake in the original then it would have been God making that mistake. But God does not make mistakes. Therefore any copy of Scripture is only authoritative to the extent that it accurately reproduces the original.

The Errors Decrease The Further We Go Back

Furthermore, as we get closer in time to the originals, the number of copyists' errors in the manuscripts decreases. They become fewer and fewer.

The Text Is In Great Shape

The New Testament is also in great textual shape. The continuing work of New Testament textual criticism refines the present text. For all intents and purposes, the text of both testaments fairly represents the inerrant original (the subject of the reliability of the text of Scripture is dealt with in The Bible, Course 2).

We Know Where The Textual Problems Are Furthermore we are aware where these variants reading are. In modern translations there are marginal notes that lets the reader become aware of the various possible readings. In the margins there will be statements such as. "Some ancient authorities read," "other ancient manuscripts add" or "the oldest manuscripts read." Consequently the original is not lost. There Is No Doctrine Or Command Threatened

It must be stressed that no doctrine of Scripture, nor any command to believers, is threatened by a variant reading. The manuscript variations do not materially affect the meaning of the text. Inerrancy is not affected by errors in copies written from the original. This is not an issue.

The General Sense Of Any Passage Of Scripture Is Clear

In addition, the general sense of a passage is clear from the context. The variant readings do not really affect the overall context or the basic sense of the passage.

Should No Mistakes Be Expected?

It is argued, if God really wanted an inerrant Bible, then there would not have been any mistakes in the copies. The fact that the copies have demonstrable mistakes shows that an inerrant Bible was not something necessary in the plan of God.

This Objection Has No Merit

This objection has no basis in fact. First, it is not rational to think that God would supernaturally protect every scribe from error each and every time the text of Scripture was copied. The New Testament alone has been copied hundreds of thousands of times. To assume that God would protect each scribe, every time they copied the text of Scripture, does not make sense.

We Should Not Speculate About What God Should Have Done

In addition, we should be careful to speculate on what we think God should have done or might have done. No human being is in a position to do this. A person could also say that if God really cared about His Word, the He would not have allowed any false teachings to be brought into the church. Yet He allowed false teaching to arise and warned believers about them. We simply do not know enough to say what God should have done. We are not God. The Lord Himself has warned humanity.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8,9).


The various manuscript copies have errors in them. This has caused some to deny the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. Yet no one claims that each manuscript was copied without errors being made. The only error-free documents were the originals. No one has ever denied that mistakes can be found into the various copies that have been made. This fact has nothing to do with the original.

The closer we get to the original wording of the text, we find that the errors become less and less.

In addition, the variant readings that do exist do not threaten any doctrine of Scripture or any command that God gives to believers. Moreover the sense of any passage can be gathered from the immediate context - the variants in the manuscripts do not affect the overall context.

Consequently there is every good reason to believe that the originals were error free.


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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