“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16)
The word “inspiration” literally means “God-breathed”. That term applies specifically and only to the original words that God “breathed out” through the mouths and hands of men. These original, written words were perfect. They were without error. They were written exactly as God intended them to be. And to believed at face value, in context.
Note that this means words were inspired, not the men. Men were “moved by the Spirit of God” to speak or to write. But men were not “inspired”. Men were not “breathed out” by God. This is a critical distinction. Because, all that we believe comes back to the written Word of God. To every, specific word. And to the specific promises that God gave us regarding His words.
Perfect in the Original
As Christians, we must accept that the Bible is the Word of God. That it is both verbal and plenary. Plenary means full, complete, entire and absolute. It also means that the original stone, papyrus, or other parchment materials were recorded “perfectly”. These originals are often referred to as the “autographs”. To the best of our knowledge, no autographs exist today.
And that is probably a good thing; since they would likely be worshiped and adored like the icons or relics in an Eastern Orthodox or Catholic church. They would become idols. They would become a curse rather than a blessing.
Fundamental churches have long taken the position that the originals were divinely inspired and were without error. It is common to find creeds in churches, schools and denominations that stand firm on the inerrancy and completeness of the first texts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. This is an absolutely essential, baseline doctrine. There is no fudging on this. No clever dancing around the issue.
Inspiration without Preservation is Meaningless
But inspiration is only half of the equation. The inspiration of the originals is meaningless unless we know that what we hold in our hands today is the perfect Word of God.
Either the translation you hold in your hands is based on a perfect text or it is not. If it is not, then the translation is worthless.
Let’s look at this again more carefully.
Did the originals survive? I don’t think so. No one really knows. If they miraculously exist today, we don’t know where they are.
So then, what value did the originals have if God did not preserve them? How do we know that we have the Word of God? Look at all the versions that are out there today. Are they all OK? How do we know? On what solid basis can we know?
This is a Doctrinal Issue
Now, there are many today that would like us to believe that this is a question best left to the “scholars” and “experts” in texts and translations. Most people fall for this argument.
But this is NOT a question that is to be left to a select group of people; regardless of their credentials. We are not people who need high priests or special scholars to dictate what is and what is not truth.
God has given each of us the ability and responsibility, as common Christians, to make a solid decision on this. A decision based on believing God about His promise to perfectly protect His Word forever. And this is a promise about every word. Not just some of the words. Not just a phrase here and there. Not just the “essence” or “idea” or “general truths” of scripture. Every single word.
God Promises to Flawlessly Preserve His Words
Consider the following verses that the Bible uses to describe the Lord’s fervent protection and promises concerning His Words.
(Psalm 12:6,7) “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. “
(Psalm 105:8) “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.”
(Psalm 138:2) “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”
(Matthew 4:4) “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
(Matthew 5:18) “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
(I Peter 1:23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
(! Peter 1:25) “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
(Revelation 22:18,19) “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. “
The best way to understand this is to see how the Old Testament was preserved.
God is More Accurate than the Best Xerox Machine
Do you remember when Jesus entered into the synagogue and took the scroll and read it aloud? He read from “the book of the prophet Esaias” (Isaiah). (Matthew 4:16-30). This is an amazing acknowledgment by the Lord Jesus Christ that He was holding a perfect copy of the written Word of God? The original Hebrew text had been preserved by God through His miraculous sovereignty. He had overseen the production and protection of faithful copies from the beginning of time.
Preservation has to do with COPIES preserved perfectly by God’s own hand. These perfect copies existed all over Israel in Jesus’s day. Passed down for thousands of years by people who had dedicated their lives to that very task. Taking the greatest pains and cares to be sure that every word, every “jot and tittle”, was copied without error. No word or character incorrect.
A “jot” is like an apostrophe or comma in the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” is a mark used to differentiate one letter from another. It could be compared to the horizontal slash in our English “t”. With an almost imperceptible variance in thickness, you have a different letter. So we see that God is focused on the preservation of the written letters. Not just some spoken ideas.
The Lord has given us a perfectly preserved text that we can trust. This is what He has preserved for us in the Masoretic Hebrew Text (Old Testament) and in the Textus Receptus Greek Text (New Testament).
God is in the copying business. He has done it perfectly from the beginning of the world. And He will continue it forever. This is what He promised. And this is what He has done . . . PERFECTLY.