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Thanks for this translation class.

Regarding verbal, plenary inspiration in general, doesn't believing that God inspired each and every word in the scriptures also require that one believe that God did not preserve each and every one of those words? We have a huge number of manuscripts containing a huge number of variations. None of those variations are really important as far as changing the meaning of any major doctrines, but the words themselves are indeed different.

Should we believe 1) that God inspired but did not preserve his word, 2) that God inspired the meaning and left the authors to choose the words and to use their own literary style, or 3) that one of the many variations present in the many manuscripts available to us is THE one, true, verbal, plenary, inspired word and we just need to determine which it really is? Or something else entirely?

I think I would lean towards the second option even though some would claim that I would be taking a low view of scripture by doing so. It seems to me that option 1 would be taking a low view of God and that option 3 is somewhat wacky. But I could just be missing something. I apologize if this is off topic, but you've mentioned verbal, plenary inspiration a number of times in these last two posts.

Bill,

This was a very nicely presented article. Though understanding and agreeing with everything you've said, I'll offer a couple of practical points:

First, in teaching adult, college, and high school courses in English, history and government for many years it is very obvious to me that most people do not know how to read well. Therefore, expecting the average English reader of any age to understand an English text - Bible or otherwise - on the basis of how English is supposed to be properly understood - that is, on the basis of context, punctuation, etc. - may very well be to mislead ourselves. Instead, if we want them to understand an English text they need all the help they can get.

Second, in leading Bible studies over the last 35 years I've seen just how much the connectives such as "for", "because", "therefore" help the average Bible reader to understand the train of thought of a given Biblical section. Over the years the NIV was normally the main version used in the Bible studies I've lead. Often when other versions such as the RSV, ESV, NLT, etc. were used for comparative purposes the connectives that they contain have made clear the train of thought that was not immediately clear from the NIV/TNIV.

Although normal English as reflected in the NIV/TNIV often communicates by other means including context, punctuation, etc., in my experience the average reader of the Bible today does not read well (effectively) - either the Bible or in general - and thus does not understand well from the context, punctuation, etc. On the other hand, connectives are in fact effective for the average person in making the connections inherent in the Biblical text as marked by "gar", etc. So I would hope that the NIV 2011 would add more of these in key places as, for example, in Rom. 1:16 and Romans 8:18, etc.

Brad, 3 is the traditional view of evangelicals since the dawn of modern textual criticism, whether you consider it wacky or not. It does seem to be required once you put together Jesus' concern for every iota of God's word being preserved, God's ability to preserve it, and the facts about the manuscript tradition. No other conclusion but 3 seems to fit the conjunction of those three things.

I'm not sure why you consider it wacky, anyway. It's 1 and 2 that seem wacky to me. I agree with you that it would be strange if God didn't allow his word to be preserved, but you think it's also strange if God allows alterations to be preserved. The assumption seems to be that God should have inspired to copyists as well as the human authors of scripture. I think you could easily extend that to think God should have inspired all teachers of the Bile and commentators, since they can also misrepresent God's word.

I have heard one argument in favor of why God might actually prefer 3 to a situation where copyists never get it wrong. Those on the more liberal end of this kind of question like to accuse evangelicals of bibliolatry for thinking too highly of scripture (and I think they prefer something like your 2 when they say this). But it seems like the temptation to deify the book itself would be even stronger if our Bibles were even closer to the original manuscripts. Even if we read Greek and Hebrew, we have texts that are constructed by the best arguments we can muster for what seems to be the original text. So no one can claim to have something that is absolutely certain to be in every detail what Isaiah or Paul wrote. Given the likeliness of certain readings and the reappearance of the most important teachings in multiple places, we can have reasonable enough certainty of what the Bible teachings in detail, but it's distant enough from the text to maintain some distance between the physical object in front of me that I call my Bible and the very word of God, such that I won't be as tempted to see that physical object as a god. I won't say that I think God did have this motivation when allowing things to go as they did, but it does seem to me to be a plausible explanation for allowing a messier textual tradition than we might have liked.

Jeremy,

"Wacky" was probably a poor choice of words. Problematic might have been a better description. I guess what I'm saying is that if God inspired each and every word, it would be problematic for Him not to have preserved each and every word. Assuming that among the many variations in the manuscripts available to us today is THE one, true, original text (even if we can't determine exactly what it is) that has each and every one of the words originally inspired by God seems also to be problematic to me.

For example, whenever we discover a new manuscript that has a variation for a word in the text for which we have no previous variation, we would then have to assume that a) either that variation is NOT original or b) that God had not preserved that particular original word as that variation had never been available before the new manuscript was discovered. Right? Likewise at any point in the history of textual criticism, we could make that same argument. For example, until the discovery of the DSS the oldest copy of Isaiah available to us was (I think) from around the 10th century or so. If we were to assume at that point in time that one of the textual variants available at that time were THE one, true, verbal, plenary, inspired word, wouldn't we have to assume that the DSS variant was not the originally inspired version? Or else that God had simply not preserved the original? And if He inspired every single word of the original, including grammar, spelling, style, etc. wouldn't it be reasonable to assume He would preserve such? Otherwise, what would be the point of inspiring each and every word?

Fwiw, I agree with your take on the variations and copyists' mistakes and a "messy" textual tradition possibly being a check on "bibliolatry. But it would seem to me that that argument would tend to support the view that God inspired the meaning and the message rather than each and every individual word of the text. It just seems to me that verbal, plenary inspiration must imply verbal, plenary preservation.

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