I have some general questions concerning Christianity. How can the Bible be considered inerrant if there are instances of copyist errors such as tht which occurs in 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18.  The second passage mentions 700 and the first mentionsr 7000 slain charioteers? I realize that most of these copyist errors happen when the Bible deals with numbers.   Another example is in 2 Samuel 8:3-4 and 1 Chronicles 18:3-4 when there is mention of 700 or 7000 horsemen.   How then can the Bible be inerrant if there are copyist errors? Lastly, isn’t it easier to accept the concept that life ends permanently at death rather than believing in an afterlife that consists of being in the realm of God? I have a difficult time accepting an afterlife when it seems more obvious and easier to accept that life is irreversibly removed at death.


These are both good questions.  First of all, Christians believe that the original writings of both the Old and the New Testaments are inspired and without theological or doctrinal error.  No one that I know of claims that those who copied the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible or of the New Testament were inspired.  Neither do we believe that those who translate the Bible from the original languages to other languages are inspired.  For this reason, only the originals are perfect.

I suppose that God could have inspired all those who made copies of the Bible make perfect copies, but this really would not make sense.  God allowed imperfect people to copy the scriptures over time.  Therefore, there are errors of copying, even in the most reliable Old Testament manuscripts.  2 Samuel 10:18 vs. 1 Chronicles 19:18 is one of a number of examples which could be used.  The fact is that the copying of numbers is less reliable than the copying of letters because the Jews used a letter-based number system, similar to Roman numerals and because it is harder to detect copying errors with numbers.  For example, if I were copying a word in English and wrote helpo instead of hello you would catch it immediately, but if I wrote  570 instead of 580, such a copying error is not easily detected.

This is true, but the fact is that theologically, a mistake in a number does not change the meaning of a passage significantly.  Does the difference between 700 and 700 casualties in a war that happened four thousand years ago affect my understanding of God or how I live my life?  I have looked into this question in great detail.   My conclusion from looking at many examples of copying errors is that there is almost certainly no significant doctrinal or theological error introduced into the Old or the New Testament from the minor copying errors that have occurred over the centuries that the scriptures were copied.  Evidence for this is found in the New Testament because we have copies as early as the second century that can be compared to later, more complete manuscripts from the fifth century.  The changes are all truly minor.  Similarly, when we compare the Old Testament Hebrew manuscripts from the Masoretic Text of the tenth century AD to the finds in the Dead Sea Scrolls from the second century BC, the amount of change due to copying error is truly minor–mostly spelling changes and switching of word order.

In conclusion, I believe, by faith, that the autographs (originals) of both the New and the Old Testaments are inspired and without doctrinal or theological error.  I agree with you that there have been copying errors, but conclude that these errors are not significant to any area of the Christian faith.

On your second question, yes I agree 100% that it easier to believe, based on human reasoning and on science, that human life ends with the death of our bodies.  I do not dispute at all that it requires faith to believe in the afterlife.  Yet, I know from a vast array of evidence that the Bible is inspired by God.  The evidence causes me to believe that the things in the Bible I cannot prove are also true.  Besides, Jesus worked amazing miracles.  He walked on water, he healed the blind, the deaf and the disabled.  He raised people from the dead, and he, himself, was raised from the dead. Jesus told us that there will be an afterlife.  In John 14:2-3 he tells us that “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.  If it were not so, I would not have told you.  I go there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I wil come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  The greatest man who ever lived–the one who worked mind-boggling miracles and who fulfilled all the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament–the man who was raised from the dead, who lived a sinless life and who claimed to be God tells me that there is an afterlife.  I believe him.  Is this hard to believe?  Based on mere human experience, yes it is.  But based on the life of Jesus and the evidence for the inspiration of the Bible, I believe that it is true that we will live, even when our physical bodies die.

John Oakes

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