Let me explain why Latter-day Saints consider the question of Biblical inerrancy as a hot topic. It is crucial to determine whether the versions of the Holy Bible still in existence are free from error, or whether they are not. The crucial question is not whether they were perfect when they were first written by the holy men that God inspired to write them, but whether during the millennia of transmission from one form into another, the original texts have been miraculously preserved so that what God caused to be written in every age has remained perfectly free from error or corruption of any kind, or whether errors and corruptions have become part of the texts now extant. Isn't it simply fair to want proper answers to these questions rather than be forced by dogmatists to take on trust what someone who does not know the answers himself tells us about inerrancy and infallibility in the Holy Bible?
It is not a question of degree, because if one single phrase or word is found to be incorrect for any reason, then the claim of biblical inerrancy fails. Inerrantists insiste there is not the smallest deviation, and when indisputable deviations are demonstrated they become inventive in proferring explanations that defy sound sense in order to maintain that an error or a corruption is nothing more than an optical illusion.
Biblical inerrancy, then, is a doctrinal position that the Bible is totally accurate and totally free of error, and that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Of course the difficulty is that no one has an original biblical manuscript. The 'Originals' no longer exist!
Some Christians equate inerrancy with infallibility and others do not. The Christian world is sharply divided between inerrantists and those that trust not only the evidence of their eyes but also up-to-date scholarship. In Judaism there had never been a belief in the literal word of the Hebrew Bible, hence the co-existence of the Oral Torah.
Within Christianity, some mainstream Evangelical and Protestant groups adhere to the current inerrancy of Scripture as it reads today. However, some note that "Evangelical scholars ... doubt that accepting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is the best way to assert their belief in biblical authority.
The term "inerrant" is often used by 'conservative' theologians in some religions despitr cogenmt evidence against their positions. For example, in Christianity to refer to the Old and New Testaments, in Islam to refer to the Qur'an, and in other religions to refer to their own holy books.
It should be noted that the belief that the Holy Bible is inerrant is extra-biblical, and does not occur anywhere in the Bible monographs, although some that do not understand what is written will claim otherwise on grounds so slim they are invisible, even to the practiced eye of faith.
There are over 5,600 Greek manuscripts containing all or part of the New Testament, as well as over 10,000 Latin manuscripts, and perhaps 500 other manuscripts of various other languages. Additionally, there are the Patristic writings which contain copious quotes, across the early centuries, of the scriptures.
Most of these manuscripts date to the Middle Ages. The oldest complete copy of the New Testament, the Codex Sinaiticus, which includes two other books not now included in the accepted NT canon, dates to the 4th century. The earliest fragment of a New Testament book is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52 which dates to the mid 2nd century and is the size of a business card. Very early manuscripts are extremely rare and never amout to anything more than fragments.
The average NT manuscript is about 200 pages, and in all, we have about 1.3 million pages of text. No two manuscripts are identical, except in the smallest fragments, and the many manuscripts which preserve New Testament texts differ among themselves in many respects, with some estimates of 200,000 to 300,000 differences among the various manuscripts.
Most changes are careless errors that are easily recognized and corrected. Biblical scribes often made mistakes because they were tired or inattentive or sometimes inept. Indeed, the single most common mistake in our manuscripts involves "orthography" [spelling], significant for little more than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most of us can today. In addition, we have numerous manuscripts in which scribes have left out entire words, verses, or even pages of a book, presumably by accident. Sometimes scribes rearranged the words on the page, for example, by leaving out a word and then reinserting it later in the sentence.
In the 2008 Greer-Heard debate series, noted New Testament scholars Bart Ehrman and Daniel B. Wallace discussed these variances in detail. Wallace mentioned that understanding the meaning of the number of variances is not as simple as looking at the number of variances, but one must consider also the number of manuscripts, the types of errors, and among the more serious discrepancies, what impact they do or do not have.
For hundreds of years, biblical and textual scholars have examined the manuscripts extensively. Since the eighteenth century, they have employed the techniques of textual criticism to reconstruct how the extant manuscripts of the New Testament texts might have descended, and to recover earlier recensions of the texts. However, King James Version (AV) - only inerrantists often prefer the traditional texts (i.e., Textus Receptus which is the basis of AV) used in their churches to modern attempts of reconstruction (i.e., Nestle-Aland Greek Text which is the basis of Modern Translations), arguing that the Holy Spirit is just as active in the preservation of the scriptures as in their creation. These inerrantists are found particularly in non-Protestant churches, but also a few Protestant groups hold such views.
AV-only inerrantist Jack Moorman says that at least 356 doctrinal passages are affected by the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle-Aland Greek Text.
Some familiar examples of Gospel passages in the Textus Receptus thought to have been added by later interpolaters and omitted in the Nestle Aland Greek Text include the Pericope Adulteræ, [John 7:53-8:11] the Comma Johanneum, [1 John 5:7–8] and the longer ending in Mark 16. [Mk 16:9-20]
Many modern Bibles have footnotes [Critical Apparatus] to indicate areas where there is disagreement between source documents. Bible commentaries offer discussions of these.
Evangelical Christians generally accept the findings of textual criticism, and nearly all modern translations, including the popular New International Version, work from a Greek New Testament based on modern textual criticism.
Since this means that the manuscript copies are not perfect, inerrancy is only applied to the original autographs (the manuscripts written by the original authors) rather than the copies. For instance, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy says, "We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture."
A faction of those in the "The King-James-Only Movement" rejects the whole discipline of textual criticism and holds that the translators of the King James Version English Bible were guided by God, and that the KJV thus is to be taken as the authoritative English Bible. However, those who hold this opinion do not extend it to the KJV translation into English of the Apocryphal books, which were produced along with the rest of the Authorized Version. Modern translations differ from the KJV on numerous points, sometimes resulting from access to different early texts, largely as a result of work in the field of Textual Criticism. Upholders of the KJV-only position nevertheless hold that the Protestant canon of KJV is itself an inspired text and therefore remains authoritative. The King-James-Only Movement asserts that the KJV is the sole English translation free from error.
That this is not so has been clearly and unequivocally refuted by Hebrew scholar Professor Jacob Weingreen, former Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and former Professor of Hebrew, Unversity of Dublin, Ireland, in his "Introduction to the Criticism of the Hebrew Scriptures." Some examples of Weingreen's findings follow.
" ... an important feature will be the phenomenon of human fallibility which manifested iyself in the professional copying of ancient manuscaripts. Scattered throughhout the writings of the Hebrew Bible are instances of miscopying due to a variety of reasons, but ultimately to be attributed to human fallibility or misunderstanding." [Introduction]
"It might sound rather trite to observe that even professionally experienced people are prone to fallibility in their specialized work, in spite of the scrupulous care taken by them in the execution of their tasks." [Introduction]
Rabbinic Antecedents of Textual Criticism
To be continued ........................