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Minor Scribal Errors…

A hornet’s nest?

I believe that the Word of God is truly written by the Holy Spirit, and is without error.  I think that anybody who is going to live and perhaps someday die for Jesus must believe this.  Otherwise, why would you bother?

As Bible students, it will be good for you to have an answer for those who will question you about the validity of the Bible.  To be honest with you, the bottom line will always be John 3:19-21, in that those who want the truth will receive it from God, and those that don’t will find a reason not to.  Endless debate about Bible inerrancy is one of those topics that will allow insincere people to rationalize their behaviors.

For us – we read our Bible every day, from cover to cover, and let Jesus transform us.  We fall on our face before King Jesus.  We can’t stop others from refusing to do that.  But Jesus died so that those who want the truth can have it – and He is raising you up as vessels through which He will flow to give a good answer to all that want to hear.

1 Peter 3:15  “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”

Healthy Questions…

It was in a sense good that the apostle Thomas doubted, and asked for more proof that Jesus had resurrected.  Only after seeing Jesus for himself was he able to proclaim: “…My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)  Tradition says that Thomas was eventually martyred in India – there’s no way he would have let things get to that point if he didn’t fully believe in the risen Christ.  He would have run long before the situation reached the point that it did.

Matthew 7:7-8 says that all those who seek God will find Him.  I think believers just have to rest in that.  We can’t force others to receive.  We can only present the Bible as it is written.  God will work on people’s hearts.

Bible Versions…

I wish that every ancient Bible fragment that we have today had been available back in 1600.  Then, the decisions made by the King James translators would have been based on every existing document, and that would have perhaps made our lives a little easier.  However, Jesus has preserved His Word, and I believe that just like a good Dad, He repeats His truths over and over again throughout the entire Scripture.  I can believe John 3:16 and 14:6 literally because the message does not just hinge on one Verse from one Bible translation; but is repeated continuously throughout the entire Bible in all of the good translations.  Effective Bible teachers will soon learn that the important, major truths are repeated over and over again in the Bible.  Then, it doesn’t matter that there are various (good) translations being used by some of your congregation.  If the wording is a little different in a given Verse, the major truth is still going to be found throughout the entirety of Scripture.  As an imperfect dad, I was at least smart enough to emphasize the most important things over and over again to my children.  How much more will God, the Perfect Dad, do likewise?

An Interesting Thing…

Start comparing the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament with the actual Old Testament passages themselves.  You will find that there are minor differences.  Why?  Because during the time of the New Testament, there were two major Bible manuscripts used – the Hebrew, and the Greek (Septuagint).  The Septuagint was often used by the New Testament writers.  Thus, when you compare a given New Testament quote with the actual Old Testament (Hebrew) passage, you will see minor differences.  Now here’s the interesting thing – how many times did Jesus mention the two Old Testament versions?  (Answer: zero.)  How many times did Peter, Paul, James, Luke, Matthew, etc. mention it?  (Answer: zero.)

So, I’d say, instead of playing Bible version games, let’s get into the Bible and believe it and let God’s Word transform us.  Otherwise, WE will be the loser.

Before the Printing Press

Before the printing press, scribes copied the entire Bible by hand.  Part of the problem with that is that little errors could creep in, because the scribes were human, and there were a lot of words to copy.  Plus because of persecution and travel difficulties, a scribal error in Egypt wouldn’t be caught by a scribe in Europe or Africa.  And so, over time, minor variations crept into the various regions.  The printing press eventually eliminated these regional errors.  With the standardization that it brought, if an error was found, it could be fixed permanently.  The King James Version that we have, which is excellent, was actually ‘corrected’ many times.  It’s not because the Bible is errant, but because humans are.  The Holy Spirit preserved His Word for us because it is vital; the minor human failures of well-meaning men have not changed this.

Versions that are created with the intent to change doctrine are a whole different story.  The Jehovah’s Witness ‘Bible’ and the Mormon ‘Bible’ are two such books.  But there are translations without that intent.  Besides the Old and New King James, some of other good translations are:  the New International Version; the New American Standard; the New Living Translation.  As Christians, we need discernment from the Holy Spirit sometimes to wade through these issues.  But because of Matthew 7:7-8 stated previously, those who sincerely want to know the true God will find Him if they seek Him.

My List of Scribal Errors…

Here are some passages that I have found with scribal errors in the New King James Bible.  There is no ‘doctrine’ involved – it’s basically miswritten numbers, differently spelled names, minor details…

2 Samuel 21:8, 6:23; 1 Samuel 18:19    [Michal or Merab?]
2 Samuel 24:9; 1 Chronicles 21:5-6       [Number of troops]
2 Kings 24:8; 2 Chronicles 36:9            [18 or 8 years old?]
1 Kings 7:26; 2 Chronicles 4:5              [2,000 or 3,000 ‘baths’?]
1 Kings 15:1-2; 2 Chronicles 11:20                [Abishalom or Absalom?]
2 Kings 18:2, 2 Chronicles 29:1            [Abijah or Abi?]
2 Samuel 15:7; 2 Samuel 5:4               [Absalom – probably not 40 years]
2 Samuel 24:13; 1 Chronicles 21:12      [7 years or 3 years?]
2 Kings 9:23; 2 Kings 9:24                   [Joram / Jehoram]
2 Samuel 10:18; 1 Chronicles 19:18      [700 or 7000; horsemen or foot soldiers; Shobach or Shophach?]
2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chronicles 22:2            [22 or 42 years old?]
Jeremiah 27:1-3                                 [Jehoiakim / Zedekiah]
2 Kings 8:25; 2 Kings 9:29                           [12th or 11th year?]
1 Kings 7:15; 2 Chronicles 3:15            [18 or 35 cubits?]

In conclusion…

I’m sure that this is just a partial list; especially with names.  But I think the point is clear – you can find some minor scribal errors in the Bible.  Because of the history of the Bible being copied over and over again by hand over many centuries, I’d really be amazed if every number and name was recorded correctly.  But, the bigger issue I think is that we can believe the Bible literally, because God’s major truths are repeated over and over throughout it.

A good father makes sure that the important truths essential for successful and productive living are repeated over and over to his children.  And God is a very good Father.

If someone wants to disbelieve the Bible because they’re not sure whether 7,000 horsemen or 7,000 foot soldiers were killed in a battle, it is just a symptom of a bigger heart issue.  It always gets back to sin, and our humility towards God.  Sin is what makes the Word of God so offensive to many.  If sin wasn’t the issue, then everybody would be a ‘believer’, because there would be no real cost.

May we fall on our faces before God in humility.  He didn’t go to the cross so we could argue about horsemen or foot soldiers.  He went to the cross so we could know the Truth.  May He equip us to share it correctly, so that many may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Here’s a quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled ‘Christ and His Co-Workers…

A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul told Timothy to “Preach the Word!”  And Jesus told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”  (John 15:14)  May we all be about our Father’s business.


Pastor Mark Siena


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Calvary Chapel Niagara Frontier