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What is the Bible? The Preservation of Scripture



The desire for things to survive is common in every culture but is rarely seen. Every inventor wants their invention to last forever. Every person who buys a product wants it to last a lifetime. Yet, nothing is ever preserved forever. The computer I’m writing this article on was once brand new and extremely fast. Now, it’s sluggish. Nothing lasts forever. Except one thing. As we complete our series on “What is the Bible?” we’ll look at one final characteristic of how the Bible is different and that is that it is preserved. The Bible that was inspired by the original authors has been preserved until today.

 

Defining Preservation

The doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is likely the easiest to define, and because of that, this article will be more streamlined. Scripture being preserved simply means that the Bible we read today is the Bible that was originally inspired. That preservation has not been by luck or by the hand of man but by the hand of God. There is not a single verse that God inspired that we do not have today. Psalm 119:89 reminds us of this, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is fixed in heaven.” There is a Bible in heaven, and it is exactly what God inspired, and it is exactly what we have today. You don’t have to go search caves for the missing words of God. While everything since the first century has faded, the Word of God has remained. God has kept or preserved the Bible.

 

What About the Missing Books?

When speaking of the preservation of Scripture, some will ask, “What about the lost books that Scripture mentions?” This is a good question and one that can be easily refuted. Joshua mentions the “book of Jasher” that we’ve never seen before. 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles also reference books that were lost sometime in the past. 2 Corinthians tells us about two letters that Paul wrote that are lost. Although that’s a lot of books that Scripture mentions that are lost, does that mean God’s word hasn’t been preserved? No, because those books weren’t inspired. The preservation of Scripture is not something that man has done in cooperation with God but has been solely a work of God. What that means, then, is that if something has been lost, God did not desire for it to be preserved and, therefore, was not inspired. The doctrine of preservation is a starting point, not a conclusion. We believe that God will keep that which he inspired. There are no lost inspired books because inspiration means it will be preserved.

 

Translations

Another common question when it comes to the preservation of Scripture is, “What translation did God preserve Scripture in?” The answer to that, to some degree, is all of them. Every major Bible translation communicates the Word of God, some just do it better than others. The translations that are formal equivalency or word-for-word translations are typically going to be more accurate than those that are dynamic equivalency or thought-for-thought translations, but all of them, as long as they do not purposefully hinder the meaning of a word or phrase, and as long as they essentially communicate that which is in the manuscripts, is the preserved Word of God. This means that while there are better translations, the best translation is the one you actually read. God has been faithful in giving numerous translations, and a translation does not need to be absolutely perfect for it to be the preserved Word of God. Language scholars can always find minor issues in every translation, but that doesn’t mean God’s Word hasn’t been preserved. The doctrine of preservation isn’t about the work of humans, but rather that God will not allow His Word to be corrupted. So, while translating is difficult, we can be sure that God will guard His Word.

 

Application

The concept of the preservation of Scripture is a simpler concept, that is also comforting. Archeologists keep finding more and more manuscripts of Scripture, and each time, it proves more and more that God has preserved His Word. When you sit down for your daily Bible reading time, you don’t have to think that anything is left out. You don’t have to worry that we have to wait for archeologists to find more manuscripts. You can be certain, right now, that what God inspired is in your hands. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).




Article written by Klayton Carson


The "What is the Bible" series is also on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at www.textdriven.org/podcasts.



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