Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sola Scriptura: The preservation of Scripture

In this installment, I would now like to go on to the topic of the preservation of Scripture.

In the section regarding my defence of Verbal Plenary Inspiration (VPI), a friend of mine, Vincent, has commented that the particular defence I have made does not establish that what we have now is the very Word of God, only that it is 99% of the Word of God. I agree with him. Although Verbal Plenary Inerrancy of the original autographs have been proved from the Scriptures, the existence of errors in the apographs, and the fact that the science of textual criticism will never by itself be able to confidently deliver a text which is 100% free from error, could erode our confidence in the Word of God. What use is an inerrant Bible if we do not have it with us? Or so the saying goes.

Before we go on further, it must be granted that the doctrine of VPI is useful in and of itself apart from any consideration of the preservation of Scripture. Although we do not have the autographs with us now, acknowledgement of the VPI of the autographs would give us the right to say that we have an objective absolute standard of truth. Conversely, if VPI is rejected, then what right does anyone have to say that this word or phrase or even concept is actually found or not found in the Scriptures? Also, consideration of Greek and Hebrew grammatical constructs would be of no use in the interpretation of Scripture, and thus alternative readings which contain serious errors in biblical exegesis could not be faulted. For example, if the Scriptures were not verbally inspired, why can't a person who read John 6:44-45 say that the act of coming to Christ determines who is being drawn to Christ, and not the biblical understanding that the drawing of the elect to Christ determines who will come to Christ? Therefore, although the doctrine of VPI does not by itself give us any confidence that we currently have the inerrant Word of God with us, it does have its practical benefits.

To have assurance that our current bibles are indeed the inerrant Word of God, the doctrine of preservation of Scripture is required. The doctrine of preservation of Scripture basically says that God has preserved His Word in all ages and at all times such that believers can be certain that what we have with us now is the authoritative Word of God which is theopneustos (God-breathed). Note that it does not say that any particular copy of any particular version of the Bible that we have is the Word of God, otherwise anybody with the blasphemous pervasion called The Message could say that he/she has the authoritative, inerrant Word of God with him/her when he/she in actual fact doesn't have it. It does, however, say that if we get a good Bible where the translators honor God's Word in its translation (word for word translation), we will have God's authoritative Word with and for us.

Now, there has been in some conservative/ fundamentalist circles a ontroversy regarding the preservation of the Bible. Some of them propose that the preservation of the Bible be extended to the apographs also. More specifically, they extend preservation to include either the KJV (Ruckmanite[1]), or to the TR (Textus Receptus) (which include people currently in the Bible-Presbyterian church like Dr. Jeffrey Khoo, academic dean of FEBC[2]). I am not going to enter this particular debate, except to note that the doctrine of preservation can and does exist independently of these two teachings.

The doctrine of preservation can be found in passages of the Bible like Ps. 119:89, 160 which state that God's Word is eternal. Similarly, Is. 40:8 in its context (Is. 40:6-8) states explicitly that though men die and their glory fades away, God's Word still remain. The doctrine of preservation is boosted with the verse Mt. 5:18 where Jesus, as the Son of God who never lies, proclaims that not even a dot or an iota would disappear from the Scriptures. Since such is the case, definitely in every age and time, the people of God will never fail to have the Word of God with them, and thus the doctrine of preservation is proved.

Another line of deductive argument can be made from the fact that Jesus has promised that his Church will always be present on this earth until he comes again, in Mt. 16: 18. Since the Church of God will always be preserved by God, and also since the people of God need the Word of God in order to grow (2 Tim. 3:15-16) and to multiply (Rom. 10:17), therefore in order for the Church to stand, her people must have the Word of God. Thus, the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is hereby proved.

But then, some may ask, how does this doctrine of preservation works out in the face of the facts of textual variants and copyist errors? As stated above, we start off with the facts of Scripture a priori (by faith), then we tackle the issues, not the other way round using textual criticism in an attempt to discover the inerrant Scriptures. Therefore, starting from the standpoint of a preserved, verbally plenary inspired Bible, we can see that the phenomena of textual variants and copyist errors do not pose a problem at all to the doctrine of preservation, as we shall see.

Firstly, the idea of plenary preservation of Scriptures has no conflict whatsoever with the facts of the known errors and variants, judging by the nature and type of errors and variants. This is the most important aspect, since it is the content of the Scripture that is most important for us Christians. Secondly, although there are textual variants and minor errors, it could still be the case that we have the very words of Scripture in the autograph found among the many different manuscripts that are available to us. Since such is the case, all these facts do not pose a problem for the doctrine of preservation, and thus we can be certain of our bibles being the very Word of God itself. But then what about the saints in ancient times who do not have so many manuscripts to look at? Well, if we believe that God is faithful to His people, then of course we can believe that what they had is sufficient for them, just as what we have is sufficient for us.

Ultimately, the whole issue boils down to a matter of faith; faith in the Word of God and in the Sovereignty of God to do what he says he would do regardless of human intentions or free will. If we believe in a God who is absolutely sovereign, and He has decided to reveal Himself in His Word, then He will never fail to preserve His Word even though Man may try to distort and corrupt it, or lost or destroy the various Bible manuscripts, or just let it disintegrate over time.

With this, let us continue on with the section on the perspicuity of Scripture.


[1] Read James. R. White's correspondence with Peter S. Ruckman at

[2] The view called VPP (Verbal Plenary Preservation) can be seen promoted in the Bible-Presbyterian Bible College (Far East Bible College or FEBC for short) at


vincit omnia veritas said...

Your reasoning on the whole is, well, ahem ... reasonable. Actually, the WCF statement on providential preservation is a good start. And I do concur with your observations.

I am confident that with your faith in God's Word, you will definitely do well in future research into this topic of textual criticism.

Sola Scriptura

Evangelical books said...
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Daniel C said...

Eh Jensen,

I thought I mentioned in this post that we start from the viewpoint of an inspired, infallible and inerrant Bible, meaning that we assume all of these doctrines a priori, by faith, before we approach the topic of preservation.

You are correct to say that I have not dealt in depth with the doctrine of preservation, but that was not my objective. I was trying to built a case for preservation apart from consideration of the physical manuscripts, and then interpreting the existence of physical texts and the related difficulties according to the lens of the doctrine of preservation. If that seems to be putting the cart before the horse, then so be it. This is the best defence I can think of which honors God's Word above the secular literary sciences, without going into extreme dogmatism such as Ruckmanism or VPP.


Daniel C said...

Oh yes,

just FYI, I think the Puritans intially rejected the KJV in favor of the Geneva Bible, and this went on for quite some time. So I think that the idea of the KJV being the English bible of the Reformation is a myth.

Evangelical books said...
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Daniel C said...

Huh? Eh Jensen, care to tell us what is this about?

Evangelical books said...
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Daniel C said...

Eh... ya, I do know that. :)

Daniel C said...

Oh, regarding the series, it is not finished yet (that's for Jenson). At least two more posts. Btw, does anyone have a good enough grasp of Chinese to check my ad hoc translation of the two theological words? Thanks in advance.

MC said...

Ironic that you mention the word context in your attempt to use the isolated verses from Psalms, Isaish and Matthew out of context to support your point.

Plus you still have not dealt with the vincent's point regarding inerrancy.

Evangelical books said...
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Daniel C said...

Eh... Munchy, perhaps you can specify where and how. Generalisations are just plain ... useless. I do believe that I have cited them in context, and Jenson has concurred.

Anyway, what is YOUR stand on this particular topic? Do you hold to the total inerrancy of Scripture and why?

MC said...

No the verses are out of context because they are and were never meant to support the doctrine of preservation of scripture as argued.

In Matthew, Jesus was refering to the relevance of OT Law, and not that future translations would be unchanged.

Daniel C said...

Eh... Let's see.

If God's Word is eternal (Ps. 119:89, 160), then thus this not mean that God's Word must be preserved, otherwise how can it be said to be eternal? Similarly, if God's Word is not preserved, how can Is. 40:6-8 be correct? God's Word would not have stood forever. Care to tell me how a denial of the doctrine of preservation DOES NOT make the statements found in Ps. 119:89,160 and Is. 40:6-8 absolute falsehoods?

As for the Matthew passage, the context shows that Jesus was talking about the Law as in the Torah, and also the Prophets and the Writings; ion other words the OT scriptures. If you would read my first post on the extent of inspiration of Scripture, I showed that the Law and the Prophets and the Writings (called the Psalms in the NT due to its prominence) make up the OT canon. In Jewish circles, they are called the Tanakh. Therefore, this passage is talking about the OT Scriptures, not just the OT laws.

Affy said...

Hello munchy,

If what you say is true, you would have to throw away your bible.

Jesus meant clearly what he said: to the effect that God will preserve His Word.

Logically, why would God tell us something so that it can be changed later? God does not do things in futility. Who can thwart the works of God?

This is not a plain old text or history lesson. This concerns the Word of Life, upon which life is built upon and onto which life leans on.

If the Word changes by one phrase or any sort to distort the original meaning, then we can just stop the reading of the Bible altogether. If one change is allowed, then what stopping the next one? and the next? and the next? There is no limit nor end.

So either the Scripture is totally preserved (thus a miracle in itself too that God is perfectly capable of preserving something forever) or it is totally UNpreserved.

I hope you understand the implications of the things you say.

If what you mean is true, then one day, any man can just walk in and say "I am the Christ" and no one can rebut him - for that man would then say that his words totally replace scripture because they are (by you) not to be preserved.

No, rather the Scriptures act as the eternal unchanging standard bearer in which we base judgement upon too.

MC said...

Hmm.. perhaps you are not familiar with the concept of studying the bible in context? Matthew was written for a Jewish audience to show that Jesus was the messiah. So this particular teaching was to help Jews dispel whatever notion they had that Jesus was here to render OT Scriptures irrelevant.. So yeah Jesus was affirming that OT Scriptures were not to be abolished but affirmed. So the original intention of this was never to show how our NIV/KJV/ESV/etc that we have today are inerrant compared to the original manuscripts.. Same goes for the Isiah and Psalms verses mah, they were written to affirm that God's Word is of eternal value and worth and relevance...

But then again I am probably regarding inerrancy in a different sense than you. To me, original scriptures are inerrant, but there is no guarantee that our current english translations are flawless even though im sure God has guided the process of tanslating them.

Why? when doing IBS with different translations, it is quite obvious that some meaning is changed or even lost in different translations. I do not attribute it to a fault of the translators but rather to the method of translations, be it word-for-word or functional equivalence. And yes meaning can even be lost in a word-for-word translation cuz we do not understand and know all aspects of Hebrew and Greek language and culture, plus our English language is a limited one.

And no wenxian i do not throw my bible away even though I know my english langauge version is not perfect. For one it costs money. hahahaa... and yah it also happens to be the living (!) word of God. :P

MC said...

anyway have you heard of IBS? inductive bible study. It is a method that i discovered in vcf and i really like it. Instead of using verses and passages to support a topic or line of reasoning, IBS means that we read and study bible passages and let the passage speak to us without us bringing to the study our preconceived notions of what the passage means. It really is enlightening and I have often been surprised at discovering what the actual meaning of a passage is as compared to what I formerly thought it meant :)

Its can be really slow but very rewarding, and minimally, it involves reading the passages before and after the passage in question. It also involes at least reading up some background knowledge into the background and historical and cultural context of the passage. Preferbly, different translations are used to then we can compare the phrasings in verses esp when they are not all that clear.

Even The Message can be use in normal bible study actually. But not as a primary text, it can only be used as a secondary text because its really like a commentary. Its like after discussing a passage using traditional translations we can look at The Message to see what Eugene Peterson thinks.. see if we agree or disagree with him. Sometimes I find he is even able to expound in detail on some fundamental truths. I do not regard The Message as blasphemous. I think it has its use though obviously traditional more direct translations are much much more important and useful. And I would strongly recommend against anyone ONLY having The Message translation in his bookshelf

MC said...

Not regarding preservation. But C.S. Lewis does have some interesting things to say

Daniel C said...


I assure you we DO know how to study the Bible in context. I would still maintain, however, that the citation of Mt. 5:18 is totally valid. I agree with your reading of the context, but to jump from the idea that 'Jesus was affirming that OT Scriptures were not to be abolished but affirmed' to 'So the original intention of this was never to show how our NIV/KJV/ESV/etc that we have today are inerrant compared to the original manuscripts' is one big logical fallacy.

First off, your latter statement is a misrepresentation of my position. I never said that the Bible versions we have now are inerrant compared to the origianl manuscripts. I said that for all purposes, the doctrine of preservation ensures us that we have the Word of God with us today; God's Word is preserved so that we can know what God says in His Word, and not play the secular higher critic who proclaims that we can never know what God says for sure in His Word, due to the number of variants we see (which is actually in content very little).

The only way that I can see how you can deny my application of Mt. 5:18 is that you must assume a type of Dispensationalist hermenuetics with regards to Scripture; that is to say, since the verse is talking about the Jewish Scriptures, it cannot be talking about the entirety of Scripture. Note that in Jesus' time, these were the only Scriptures in existent, thus Jesus by this is talking about the Scripture of His day, and His statement says that the Scripture that exists at His day are preserved. The verses in Isaiah and Psalms are a different category in the sense that they did not identify what is Scripture and what is not Scripture. When they proclaim God's Word as eternal, they are saying that [anything which is considered God's Word] is eternal. Or to put is another way, the class or group called Scripture is eternal. Nothing is said about the contents of the Scriptures in these verses. Thus, the only possible reason why you wouldn't allow the verses to apply to Scripture as a whole is only if you do apply Dispensational heremeneutics.

Daniel C said...


About IBS, it may be a good, biblical method. From the first part of the description,it sounds good. However, the second part about looking at different translations are used does not sound that good.

What I do is expository Bible study. Expository Bible study looks at a passage of Scripture, looks at the immediate and larger context, then it looks at the verses in the passage. Verse by verse, the meaning of the passage is painstakingly constructed. We strive to discover the one true meaning of the verses in the passage of Scripture, by letting the Holy Spirit teach us through meditation and study of the words in the text of Scripture in their context. If in doubt, the original languages are looked at, using tools like Interlinear Bibles, Concordances, and Lexicons to aid us, especially needed for those of us who do not know the original languages. After establishing the true meaning of the text, we then search whether there are any things we can learn and apply from this passage to our lives, which we thus do so.

With regards to the Message, I have nothing much to say to you at the moment, except that it is very telling that you do not detect the utter irreverence The Message has for our Holy God, Yahweh. Perhaps I will cover this in another post. As an aside, one of my 'hobbies' a few years ago when I first came to know about The Message was to turn to a particular passage in The Message and mock its ridiculous sounding passages. [Oh, one of the 'verses' in the Minor Prophets section got a real countdown section as well ... 7, 6, 5, ... Makes me want to puke!]

One last thing, The Message is NOT a translation, it is a officially called a paraphrase. The only ignoramuse I know so far who called it a translation is Rick Warren.

Daniel C said...

Munchy said:
'Note [sic] regarding preservation. But C.S. Lewis does have some interesting things to say '

Well, I have recently started to have doubts regarding C.S. Lewis. This article of yours just makes the situation much worse. C.S. Lewis is talking nonsense here. Perhaps you miss it, but do you really want to trust a person who says that what transpires in the book of Esther, the book of Jonah, and the Creation account of Gen. 1-11 (not stated in your link) is a myth?

The more I read about C. S. Lewis, the more I start to doubt whether he is in actuality saved or not. Such heretical teachings. Oh well, that's for another day.

vincit omnia veritas said...


It is good to see brothers in Christ wrestling with what the Scripture says.

I think preservation of Scripture is an inevitable doctrine, one which evangelicals cannot do without. And from what I have read so far, Daniel has done us a favor by bringing this doctrine to the forefront, and discussing it in regards verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy.

None of us believe that ANY version is inerrant or perfect. That is ridiculous, to say the least.

What we do affirm is that God has, in the midst of the multitude of extant manuscripts, preserved His Word for the Church. And this He has done, for we do not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceeds out of God’s mouth. We need each and every Word of God in our spiritual lives. And all these words are indeed inerrant, infallible and inspired.

God bless

Affy said...

Hello brother munchy,

I know the bible costs money, but i hope that you understand the importance of God's committance to preserving His word; that any changes would be disaterous.

I call you brother because i see your fervor for the LORD, but i tell you the truth that vincent, jenson and daniel are trustworthy servants of the LORD. I do not call a person 'brother' easily.

Dearest brothers Vincent and Daniel,

I agree with you guys. May your eyes and ears be blessed to discern the Word, and your hearts courageous to stand firm in opposition (i do not mean munchy).

God Bless,

MC said...

yeah i did mention regarding inerrancy in a different sense.

your description of ebs sounds like ibs.. its the same thing

hmmm... in the link i posted.. he doesnt call it a myth what.. and he's not talking nonsense.. nowhere in this link does C.S. Lewis imply that they are merely myths. Neither does he claim to know everything, nor should anyone think that true christians are only capable of ALWAYS writing theologically sound stuff that pleases EVERYBODY. Anyway more imptly, I am quite certain he is saved.

Daniel C said...

No, EBS is not the same as IBS. I know that since I have been taught to do IBS for like since ages ago. IBS concentrates more on the application part and occasionally pay lip service to the actual context of the verse. Whereas EBS by virtue of its name (actually it can be called expository bible study or exegetical bible study) concentrates more on what the author actually means; it seeks to find out the ONE and only ONE truth that the verse in the passage conveys, then we apply any lessons that we can. The emphasis in both these methods are totally different. IBS concentrates on the application whereas EBS on the exact meaning. Your usage of multiple translations including the blasphemous Message corruption shows that IBS is not concerned at all about the true meaning of the text but pay lip service to the O (Observation) and I (Interpretation) part of the process when it suits them to do so. Tell me, how many times have you heard Jn. 3:16 twisted and distorted to say that Christ died for the world? Or 1 Tim. 2:4 to say that God desires every single person in the world to be saved? Or how about 1 Tim. 2:6 to say that Christ paid the ransom for the sins of everybody in the world?

MC said...

depends on who is doing IBS. i was taught it before in church but i didnt like that method. The IBS done in vcf is very different from the IBS i was taught - even though the original concept is the same

I would say this IBS (the one i like), easily spends more than half the time on O before even moving on to I, in the end there is usually hardly any time left even for A (which can be a bit of a waste).

My reference to The Message was in reference to other more regular types of bible studies if u read my previous post properly.

But anyway someone once brought a Message version to the vcf ibs session, it was used for laughs mostly cuz it was totally unusable for in depth study, but of course all the people present there already knew that. Typically versions that different pple bring and hence refer to in such sessions consist of thing s like NIV, NKJV, ESV, NASB.

I found this last comment of yours rather uncharitable

MC said...

P.S. pple use different translations for different reasons.

some might use different versions to suit their own agenda and package what they say "scripturally".

whereas others might use different versions in order to better discern the orginal meaning due to the inadequacies of the english language and gaps of knowledge in social/cultural context.

Daniel C said...

'depends on who is doing IBS. i was taught it before in church but i didnt like that method. The IBS done in vcf is very different from the IBS i was taught - even though the original concept is the same'

Hmmm.... perhaps. Anyway, I was not taught IBS the way you describe here.

'My reference to The Message was in reference to other more regular types of bible studies if u read my previous post properly.'

Well, I would deny The Message to be used in ANY type of Bible study at all, except as an object in a Bible study on 'How not to attempt to treat God's Word'