Many assume the Bible is the "inerrant Word of God" and "latch on" to their favorite Bible and - believing it is inerrant- will read no other version. But here's the problem: While the Word of God IS inerrant, Bibles are produced by man and those Bibles are not inerrant! I would posit that every Bible you pick up is erred! Every one of them!
How can I say that? Isn't it blasphemy to suggest something like that?
No, it's not blasphemy. We (all humans) don't have ANY of the original manuscripts of the Tanakh (the Old Testament) or the Brit Chadasha (the New Testament). Truly, we have no original manuscript! Without the originals, what we have are copies and copies of copies and translations of translations of copies. In ancient times, copies of Scripture were held to the highest standards, and were meticulously checked for any errors caused by the scribe who painstakingly copied scrolls, word-by-word. After all, the Word of God needed to be protected and retained without error!
Nevertheless, as the centuries passed, this dedication to detail was, sadly, not preserved. As the manuscripts we had aged, and/or were lost, the problem of duplicating the exact Word of God became harder and harder. To make matters worse, the oldest, later generation "originals" which remained available to translators, contained ancient Hebrew words, the meaning of which the translators had to "guess" before translating into the new language! Then, those translations were made into other languages! Thus, the meaning and context of much of the original manuscript became lost in the new language. Therefore the stage was set for "inerrancy" to be lost. And inerrancy, I am sorry to say, was, indeed, lost.
Fast forward to our era (any time since the printing press was invented.) With the printing press, mass production became possible. No longer was it necessary for a team of people to check and double-check the work of the scribe. With the printing press, a small group of people (even a single individual) could print a new Bible, and absolutely no one needed to validate the text! This means that the text could be altered to suit some purpose, faith, dogma, or theology of the author or authors alone, and there would be no "authorized review" to ensure the "Word of God" had not been changed! Worse, by copyright law, all you have to do is change the wording something like 20% and your "version" becomes unique and can be copyrighted as "new"....
Before I provide examples of what I am talking about, let me state upfront that I am not out to "shame" any particular Bible version, nor am I out to "identify" poor translations. As such, I will cite a few examples without identifying the translation. Further, I will use the word 'author' to refer to individual, group, publisher, team, or whoever edited or assembled the version. Not all Bibles are "authored" as not all Bibles are actual translations of another language. But for the lack of a better word, I decided I would simply use the term "author" to refer to whoever generated the version - be that an individual, group, or organization.
A few examples of text affecting the inerrancy of scripture
1. In this example I'm citing Matthew 1:25.
Here are three versions of the verse:
a: and knew her not till she had brought forth a son: and he called his name Jesus.
b: He did not have marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.
c: and did not know her until she bore her son, the Firstborn. And he called His name Yahshua.
Looking closely, you'll notice that only one version has the word "Firstborn" describing the son born to Mary. The word, "firstborn" is present in the verse, even in the Greek, yet many English translations omit it! In the oldest manuscript, in Aramaic, the word is "buch'ra", meaning "first-born", and when the word is omitted the meaning of the text of the verse is dramatically altered! Why? How is the meaning of the verse changed?
The meaning is changed because it is very important that the Messiah be the first-born son, and not just "a son"! The first-born son is set apart for YHWH to serve YHWH all his life (Exodus 13:2; 34:19), unless he is redeemed (Exodus 13:13; 34:20). This is true of any first-born son born of any of the 12 tribes. Later, YHWH permitted the all the sons born of the tribe of Levi, to be the redemption for any firstborn son of the other tribes (Numbers 3:12). But after that, the firstborn of any tribe (other than of the tribe of Levi), still had to be redeemed, or that firstborn son was destined to serve YHWH all his life.
This is very important for the Messiah! The Messiah being firstborn is very significant. The Messiah was not of the tribe of Levi, yet He has to serve YHWH! So the fact that the Messiah was firstborn and not redeemed is very significant. Firstborn and not redeemed means that the Messiah held the office of serving YHWH! It means He was set-apart! But taking that one word, firstborn, out of scripture relegated the Messiah to just "a son", any son, who would not have been "set apart" and this is clearly not who the Messiah was.
2. In this second example I'm citing Romans 1:29.
Here are three versions of the verse:
a: They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips, ...
b: having been filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, iniquity, covetousness, malice, being full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, evil habits, becoming whisperers, ...
c: They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, and viciousness. They are gossips, ...
Looking closely, you'll notice that only one version has the word "fornication" as one of the identified improper behaviors or desires listed. But, in many versions today you will not find "fornication" listed in the verse! Nevertheless, in the oldest manuscripts available, which are in Aramaic, the Aramaic word meaning "fornication, adultery, harlotry" is present! It seems that the idea of fornication or adultery as an "undesirable" trait was left out in some translations. One has to wonder why illicit sexual acts, clearly undesirable to YHWH, would be left out of modern translations?
3. The third example is drawn from the Tanakh (Old Testament). While Jewish scholars will argue that the Tanakh is inerrant, the fact is that the Tanakh is also the result of translation upon translation is because the original manuscripts are lost. Looking at Isaiah 7:14 from a particular author (organization) we find the verse reads:
"Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
But in a more recent translation of the same verse by the same author (organization) as the older version above it now reads:
"Assuredly, my Lord will give you a sign of His own accord! Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanuel."
Notice the important difference in the context of the two translations from the same organization! In the first instance, the verse is a future prophecy, while in the second, more recent translation, the verse is no longer a "future" event!
By citing this verse I am not even touching on the "maiden vs 'young woman' vs virgin" controversy, rather, I am pointing out that the SAME VERSE is interpreted differently between the two versions for no other reason than to defend the position of the author(s)! Clearly, in the newer version of the SAME VERSE, the authors desired the verse not to refer to a future prophecy! (I wonder why?...)
4. In this fourth example, take a look at Acts 12:4:
"And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."
The setting in Acts is recounting the events which led to the crucifixion of the Messiah. But Acts was written in about 60 CE, while the term "Easter" was not solidified until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. But there is no way for the original book of Acts to have used the word "Easter"! Indeed, in the oldest manuscript of Acts, in Aramaic, the word used was "Paskha", or "Passover" in English. The author of the version cited, clearly wanted to insert "Easter" to support his/their own agenda! (Even if the Catholic Church began using the term "Easter" as early as 200 years before the Council of Nicaea, that's still more than 60 years after the Book of Acts was written. What we see here in this version of Acts is the clear intent to subvert the Jewish "Passover" in favor of the Christian "Easter". This subversion was, no doubt, intentional.
5. In this fifth example, I will cite Mark 14:22 which in one version reads:
"While they were eating, Yeshua took a piece of matzah, made the b'rakhah, broke it, gave it to them and said, "Take it! This is my body."
Now the problem with this verse may not be immediately apparent to you, so let's look at another version:
"And as they were eating, Yahshua took bread, and blessed it and broke and gave to them. And He said, Take, eat, this is My body."
Ignoring the phonetic spelling of the Messiah's name, ("Yeshua" vs "Yahshua", which is not the problem), focus on the fact that one version says "bread" while the other says "matzah". It may not be immediately clear, but there is a BIG difference between matzah and bread in this verse!
Here's the problem: In the oldest manuscript of Mark available, the word used was "bread"; but in the first version presented above, the author clearly wanted the bread to be "matzah" because the author clearly wanted the last meal of the Messiah to be the Passover meal, because at the Passover meal they would have had matzah and not bread! But the issue is that scripture does not require that the Messiah's last meal be the Passover meal; rather, the scripture supports that Messiah's last meal was the evening before the Passover meal, where regular bread would have been permitted and consumed. The author in the formerly cited verse simply changed scripture to meet his idea that the Messiah's last meal must have been the Passover seder meal. This is "scripture twisting" to support one's own agenda!
6. In this final example, we find another case of "scripture twisting" to meet the author's needs. Look at this verse from Luke 23, verse 54:
"And the day was ending and the (Annual) Shabbat was closing."
Here again, the problem is not readily apparent, so look at the same verse from another version:
"And the day was setting and the Sabbath was approaching."
This verse has to do with the time of day when the Messiah's body was brought down from the stake, so do you see the problem? In the former, it reads the "Shabbat is closing", while in the latter (and in all other versions of the same verse) it reads the "Shabbat was approaching". This is a HUGE difference! HUGE!
It turns out that in the former version, the author had changed ALL the scriptures in the Gospels regarding the timeline of the Messiah's crucifixion simply to support his idea that the Messiah was crucified on the 15th of Nisan, before sunset, rather than on the 14th (Passover) before sunset, the afternoon in Judaism when the Passover Lamb is slain. But a careful study of the oldest manuscripts, in Aramaic, provides no justification or substantiation of this change of the scriptures to change the day of the crucifixion from the 14th to the 15th. The author had changed scripture to make it "fit" his desired timeline of the crucifixion!
At the outset of this article, I commented that some people believe their Bible to be "inerrant" and provided a few examples (out of many hundreds of possible examples) to illustrate that the idea of the “inerrancy of Bibles” can no longer be true due to the passing of time and influence of individuals or groups. I've identified that while the original Word of God can be assumed inerrant, the progress of time has demonstrated that the printed "Word of God" can be and is influenced by man! Sadly, man has his own message to promote, and most versions of the Bible today are influenced by that self-serving message! While this is very sad, it is not earth-shattering.
So what can we do about it?
We must familiarize ourselves with God and His Word to the point where we can immediately recognize a poor or erred translation! This does not mean that we should "abandon" our favorite Bible version. Instead, we must develop a "hey, wait a minute" muscle that causes the hair on our neck to stand up whenever we read a verse that does not "pass the test." At that point, we would simply turn to other versions to see if the concern can be resolved.
Some reading this may be grimacing and thinking "What?! I need to read other versions of the Bible and decide which version is correct?" The answer is yes! This issue can't be sugar-coated. You must be pro-active, take the proverbial “bull by the horns” and LEARN!
Matthew 7:13-14 says "Go in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are the ones entering in through it. For narrow is the gate, and constricted is the way that leads away into life, and few are the ones finding it."
Finding that “narrow gate” and entering “the way that leads into life” isn’t hard for those who are willing to put the effort into constantly learning and studying and growing. It is strictly up to us!