Modern Denial of Preservation
The doctrine of preservation is a foundational teaching of
To better see the distinction between historic Christianity and postmodern Christianity we will look at two confessions that deal with the preservation of Scripture – The Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 1, section 8) says this:
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the language of every people unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
We can see that the accepted doctrine of the
Now let’s see what a modern confession has to say about the purity and preservation of Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (article X) says this:
We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
This clearly shows us that modern Christian teaching promulgates the idea that we can have Scripture with “great accuracy,” but not pure. How great is the accuracy? I’ve heard scholars suggest numbers from 98% to over 99% (Bruce Metzger et al), but never 100%. The statement of faith also shows that they look on the apographs as being the Word of God only to the extent that they represent the original. This is an interesting statement, as the originals do not exist. Logically speaking, since we do not have the originals this statement of faith confirms a belief that they do not know to what extent the Scriptures that we have are the Word of God since it is impossible for them to see how closely they represent the original.
There is another interesting statement in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy that seems to contradict modern textual criticism. Article XIV says:
We affirm the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
We deny that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved violate the truth claims of the Bible.
While they say that they believe in the internal consistency of Scripture, let’s see what their modern textual criticism teaches us…
The basic criteria for internally assessing variant readings is as follows 2:
The modern textual critic believes that the reading in dissidence with other readings is better! That’s hardly a case for internal consistency.
We also see the doctrine of preservation vanishing among Bible translators and Greek Text editors. I will look at two popular conservative translations as well as the critical Greek Text put out by the United Bible Society.
2 Chr 31:16 (NASB)
without regard to their genealogical enrollment, to the males from thirty years old and upward--everyone who entered the house of the LORD for his daily obligations--for their work in their duties according to their divisions;
All ancient manuscripts contain "3 years old" and not the 30 that we see in the NASB. This shows that the translators feel a need to correct the Scriptures. This need to correct clearly goes against any honest teaching on preservation.
1 Sam 13:1 (ESV)
Saul was... years old when he began to reign, and he reigned... and two years over
Here the ESV translators show that there is missing text in the Scriptures. Clearly you cannot show that there is missing text and still believe the text has been preserved. Remember that the definition of pure includes completeness. Besides, this would sound very strange if read in public.
The editors of the UBS critical Greek text also have a different idea of preservation. The UBS critical Greek text at Acts 16:12 uses "prwthS" - which is found in no manuscript. The reading should be "prwth" without the "S." The "S" makes the noun genitive, which changes the meaning. Instead of reading that Philippi is a foremost city of
I strongly urge Christians to consider where a denial of the
preservation of Scripture will lead the Church. Without preservation there is
no purity. Without purity the text can be questioned. When the text can be
questioned we have no final authority. The early
 – “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language”, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
 – Bruce M. Metzger, “The Text of the New Testament – It’s Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration”, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1992, p 209.