Over the years, challenges to biblical authority have taken a lot of different forms. People have offered historical challenges: Do we really know where these books come from? Are we sure about their date and authorship? Others have offered hermeneutical challenges: Can we really understand what the Bible says? What about all the different interpretations? And, most fundamentally, people have offered truth challenges: Is the Bible correct in what it teaches? Does it contradict itself? In recent years, however, a new sort of challenge has become more common (though it is not really new at all). It is not a challenge about the authorship of books, or the interpretation of them, or even about whether they contradict themselves. Instead, it is a challenge about whether we really have the words of Scripture in the first place. Given that the Scriptures have been passed down to us through the centuries in handwritten manuscripts, and we possess only copies of the original autographs (most likely copies of copies of copies), how can we be sure that this transmission process has been accurate? How can we be sure the words have not been changed, altered, or lost? This is the challenge of textual criticism. The challenge is not about how we know these words are right, but about how we know we have the right words.
Michael Kruger is associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida).
Issue: "Inspiration and Inerrancy" March/April 2010 Vol. 19 No. 2 Page number(s): 41-44
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