The Certainty of the Bible as the Word of God
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
Have you ever heard one or more of the following expressions? “I am 100% certain that the Bible is the Word of God“, “The Bible is definitely the Words of our Lord Christ“, “We must obey the Word of the Lord“, if so, then you’ve been a victim of misinformation. Whether this is due to a form of close mindedness or simply ignorance, this is not the case and I’ll try to direct my explanation to both Christians and Muslims for the sake of understanding.
To the Christian:
Every time you’ve opened a Bible, you’ve conceded that you wholeheartedly are uncertain of the accuracy and reliability of the words contained within.
This is because the New Testament, as of the time of John Mill’s Novum Testamentum Græcum (Cf. 17th century Greek NT Codex) or if you prefer, from the time of Desiderius Erasmus we have the Novum Instrumentum Omne and the Complutensian Polyglot which all rely on the science of textual criticism. This is important because the science of textual criticism (in the Christian tradition) implicitly functions on the principle that the current Bible is not accurately representative of God’s inspired revelation. This is best summed by Bart Ehrman in the following words (if not him, any textual critic really):
There was an obvious problem, however, with the claim that the Bible was verbally inspired—down to its very words. As we learned at Moody in one of the first courses in the curriculum, we don’t actually have the original writings of the New Testament. What we have are copies of these writings, made years later—in most cases, many years later. Moreover, none of these copies is completely accurate, since the scribes who produced them inadvertently and/or intentionally changed them in places. All scribes did this. So rather than actually having the inspired words of the autographs (i.e., the originals) of the Bible, what we have are the error ridden copies of the autographs. One of the most pressing of all tasks, therefore, was to ascertain what the originals of the Bible said, given the circumstances that (1) they were inspired and (2) we don’t have them.
At Moody, I learned the basics of the field known as textual criticism—a technical term for the science of restoring the “original” words of a text from manuscripts that have altered them.
– Bart Ehrman, ‘Misquoting Jesus’, Page 5.
There are several problems here. How can you restore something, if you imply that what you currently have is absolute and certain to be the word of God? Thus the conclusion has to be that what you currently posses is not the word of God, and its status is neither absolute nor certain. To the contrary, I find it to be quite deceptive that some portions of the Christian intellectual community continue to repeat the mantra that the current New Testament is 99.99% accurate. This is an erratic and unfounded statement:
- How can you judge something as being accurate, if you don’t have a 100% accurate document to compare it to?
- Thus any figure of accuracy is therefore arbitrary and baseless.
- How can it be 99.99% accurate, when every few years the Nestle-Aland GNT continues to replace passages and words with those from different manuscripts?
- Following from the previous point, how can something be 99.99% accurate, if it changes every few years? This means that it was either less accurate before and it is now more accurate, otherwise the change would not have had to been made.
From this, we can now understand that any Christian who owns a Bible in his modern lifetime, accepts that the book he entrusts his faith to, solely exists on the reasoning that it is currently inaccurate and will be corrected in a newer edition sooner rather than later. If we are to be honest, then we must concede that the current Bible is inaccurate, uncertain, and not absolute. If not, then the Christian will have to present a case where the current edition of his text is not based on the comparison of a collection of autographs (original manuscripts). It is important to remember that not a single Bible is based wholly on one codex (collection) but on a collection of a vast array of Syriac, Latin, Coptic and Ethiopian manuscripts, each belonging to their own individual and distinctive codex. In conclusion, owning a Bible today demonstrates that Christians clearly do not believe for themselves that the Bible is absolutely certain to be the word of God.
wa Allaahu ‘Alam.