Most doctrinal statements which speak of inspiration usually mention at the end of their statement that their belief extends to the original manuscripts. This is true, yet there has always been a gap in thinking to me in these statements. If God inspired the Scriptures in the original manuscripts, but did nothing else, how can we know that what we have today is valid, authoritative, or useful? I was always desirous of more than the statement "in the original manuscripts."
It is this addition that I would like to address in this section. Preservation is often assumed, yet seldom mentioned or examined. Hopefully this section will address this gap in the normal inspiration study.
1. In jam it means to keep the fruit unspoiled, and so it is in the Scriptures. God preserved the Bible in it's transmission to our time.
The Word was verbally inspired by God through human authors. That inspired Word was in the transmission of the original manuscripts. Preservation would teach that God preserved the transmission of that information to our time in a most useable and correct work.
2. Pardington, in speaking of all that God has created quotes Strong (Both were speaking of the universe.), "Preservation may be defined as "That continuous agency of God by which He maintains in existence the things He has created together with the properties and powers with which He has endowed them". (Pardington, Rev. George P. Ph.D.; "OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 101)
This is one area of preservation, however we do not wish to speak of this type at this time. There is also the preservation of the soul, all things, and physical body.
Unger mentions the preservation that we are interested in under the topic of inspiration. "The Holy Spirit, it is reasonable to conclude, also had a definite ministry in preserving the inspired Scriptures through millennia of transmission." (Taken from: "UNGER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY"; Unger, Merrill F.; Copyright 1957, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 528)
There are three sections to the preservation of the Scripture.
First, that the books of the canon were preserved throughout the time before they were viewed, or held as canonical.
Secondly, that since the books were set down by their authors the books have been preserved not only until the canon was set but even until our day.
Thirdly, I believe we can be assured that the Lord will also preserve His word until eternity future.
ARGUMENTS FOR PRESERVATION FROM SCRIPTURE:
1. The Word is declared to be eternal: To be eternal the Word would need to be kept intact from Its inception throughout all time and into eternity. (Ps. 119:152; Matt. 24:35; I Pet 1:23b; Ps. 12:6-7; Ps. 119:89)
2. Christ is the Word and Christ is eternal, so how can The Word change, even if there were no doctrine of preservation? The lack of preservation is a foolish thing to contemplate. (Jo. 1:1)
3. The book of Revelation contains a warning to those that would tamper with it's contents. By application, at the very least, we may say that God is in the business of watching over His Word and how it is transmitted! (Rev. 22:18,19) In a similar vein the book of Deuteronomy contains a warning to the Israelites as well. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish anything from it," (Deut 4:2)
4. One other item that clinches this doctrine of preservation is that Christ and the apostles, when quoting the Old Testament texts were using copies of copies, not the originals. This would show that Christ and the apostles held the copies to be of the same quality and authority as the originals.
5. Matt 5:18 mentions, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." This promise DEMANDS PRESERVATION!
The Westminster confession indicates that preservation has been believed even though few have written on the topic. Speaking of the Scriptures, "...being immediately inspired by God and by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages...." (Pache, Rene, "THE INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE"; p 186)
ARGUMENTS FOR PRESERVATION FROM LOGIC:
1. If God went to the trouble to communicate the Word, His revelation of Himself, to man so that man might know Him, it would be sheer foolishness to allow it to become corrupt along the way through the years, so that at some point in history it was not a true view of Him.
2. If God preserves as worthless a lot as man and beasts, I am sure that He would preserve the Word, which is His revelation to His creation. (Ps 36:6; Ps. 145:20 mentions that he preserves those that love Him)
3. Consider a few texts. Col. 1:16 mentions, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones,or dominions, or principalities, or powers - all things were created by him, and for him; And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."
Heb. 1:3, "Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,"
Neh 9:6 mentions the preservation of the creation.
It only follows that if He protects all things as the above verses tell us - then He must preserve the Word for He preserves all things!
4. There have been those that have tried to destroy and eliminate the Bible, but we can see how much effect they have had. The Bible still is in existence.
"No other book has ever been the object of such antagonism as has the Bible. In both ancient and modern times, kings and priests have tried desperately to destroy it and unbelieving intellectuals to ridicule and refute it. Untold numbers of copies have been burned and mutilated and hosts of its advocates persecuted and killed. But it has only multiplied the more, and today is read and believed by more people in more nations and languages than ever before, continually remaining for centuries the world's best seller." (Many Infallible Proofs by Henry M. Morris; p 15.)
In the conclusion of one of their chapters Geisler and Nix have a few comments that relate to the topic at hand.
"The history of the New Testament text may be divided into several basic periods: (1) the period of reduplication (to c. 325), (2) the period of standardization of the text (c. 325-c. 1500), (3) the period of crystallization (c.1500. 1648), and (4) the period of criticism and revision (c. 1648-present). During the period of criticism and revision, the struggle between proponents of the "Received Text" and the "Critical Text" has been waged. In the final analysis, there is no substantial difference between their texts. Their differences are mainly technical and methodological, not doctrinal, for the textual variants are doctrinally inconsequential." "Thus, for all practical purposes, both texts convey the content of the autographs, even though they are separately garnished with their own minor scribal and technical differences." (Taken from: "A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE"; Geisler, Norman L/Nix, William E; Copyright 1968, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission.; p 464)
APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE:
1. If the Bible was inspired, if it is authoritative, if it is the Word of God, and if He has preserved it, then we may put our entire trust and faith into the Word.
2. When someone becomes worried as to the differences between the texts we can assure them that THE BIBLE THAT WE HAVE IS THE BIBLE THAT GOD WANTED US TO HAVE! HE HAS PRESERVED IT UNTO OUR TIME, IN THE FORM OF MANY MANUSCRIPTS, AND AMONG THESE MANUSCRIPTS THERE ARE NO DIFFERENCES THAT CHANGE ANY DOCTRINE.
3. The preservation of the Scripture might also be of encouragement to
one that is having difficulty believing the preservation of the saint in