Would you help me? I see many answering the questions: Is the Bible true? Is the Bible inspired? Is the Bible the Word of God? I have a different question that I do not find answered anywhere — at least, not answered in so many words. Those other questions start with the Word of God and defend it. Given a text, what I am looking for is criteria to judge if that text is "the Word of God"? Do you see the difference? What are the best criteria for determining if some particular text is the Word of God? For example, someone says: Consider the Alexandrian Manuscript (Codex A) or the Vatican Manuscript (Codex B) or even the New American Standard Bible. By what criteria shall we judge if they are, or any text is, the Word of God?
Yes, I definitely understand your question. Unfortunately you ask a question which is impossible to answer. I can show through an almost unlimited amount of evidence that the Bible, in general, is inspired by God, but I cannot prove that every single word, separate from all the others, is inspired by God. Let me explain my self. By way of illustration, let me say that I want to believe what you say, but unless you can prove, absolutely, beyond a doubt that everything you have ever said is true, I will not believe a word you say. Now, it is obviously impossible for you to prove everything you ever said is true. How could you prove everything you have ever said? Some things cannot be checked. Some things are not even a matter of evidence, anyway. When you said that you liked such and such movie, how can I prove that true? You ask the impossible.
I cannot prove that Esther 1:16 is inspired by God. I cannot prove that David said such and such on such and such occasion.
It is a matter of evidence and it is a matter of faith. Both are required in order to believe the Bible is from God. Let me provide another illustration. When you drive to work, how do you know the driver going the other way will stop at a red light when it is green for you? You cannot "prove" that the other driver will stop. You cannot prove that he or she is not actually out to kill you, for that matter. If you did not have "faith," but faith based on experience, you could not venture out to drive at all.
This is a crude example, but perhaps it can help. I cannot prove that the fifteenth proverb in chapter 14 is inspired, but I can prove that the Scripture, as a whole, is inspired. What is this evidence? Well, for that, I would refer you to start reading articles at the web site. Maybe a better start would be my book "Reasons for Belief," (www.ipibooks.com
) which is written for this very reason. Evidence which has absolutely convinced me, beyond a doubt, that the Bible is inspired includes fulfilled historical prophecy (my book "Daniel, Prophet to the Nations"), types, prefigures and foreshadows (my book "From Shadow to Reality"), amazing historical accuracy of the Bible, scientific accuracy of the Bible, the efficacy of the message, the life and miracles of Jesus who gave evidence that the Bible is God’s Word, the miraculous consistence of message, despite the dozens of authors of the Bible, and so forth…. Virtually every question I have seen posed with respect to whether the Bible, in its original language, is inspired has turned out to the advantage of the Bible.
Some books of the Bible have more internal evidence for inspiration. I would list Genesis, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Isaiah, Daniel, Luke, Acts, Hebrews and Zechariah among them. Others have less of the kind of information which can allow us to make specific tests of their inspiration. I would list Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Esther, James and Obadiah among them.
So, there are no criteria to judge if a single verse in the Bible is inspired. I suppose that we could propose criteria that a particular passage is NOT inspired. That would be if it gave out historical information which was false or if it made statements which are unquestionable in conflict with others.
In the end, despite a vast array of evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence on the Scripture, faith will always be required. To believe in Jesus is based on amazing evidence, including his miracles, his life, and his resurrection, but in the end, we believe he is God in the flesh by faith. Like the Hebrew writer said, "Faith is belief in things unseen." If we could see all, there would be no need of or room for faith.
What you need to do, in my opinion, is ask yourself what evidence is sufficient for you to believe that Jesus was who he said he was? What evidence will be sufficient for you to be able to accept the thesis that God is powerful enough and concerned enough to see to it that the Bible is inspired–that "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training inrighteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)–that "you received the word…. as it actually is, the word of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13)? Are you willing to accept this on faith based on sufficient evidence, or do you require a kind of evidence which is, by definition, impossible to give?
Your question raises another issue. This is not the question of the inspiration of the original text, but the quality of copies/manuscripts. Let us assume for the sake of argument that you have sufficient evidence to accept the thesis that God, through the Holy Spirit, created an original inspired text. How, then, can we know that the current Hebrew and Greek text we have is sufficiently close to the original to be accepted as fully inspired? Of course, one could posit that, logically, the same God who inspired the original would have sufficient interest in maintaining its ingegrity to see to the faithful transmission of the scripture in its original language. Nevertheless, we can ask how do we know we have an accurate Greek or Hebrew mansucript? This is a big topic, and one I address in the book "Reasons for Belief." Let me give you the ridiculously short version. From the more than ten thousand Greek manuscripts we have, including ones as old as fifty years after the original (Rylands Papyrus), we can be confident that we have virtually the original autograph manuscripts. It just so happens that two of those you mention, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus are among the most reliable we have. There are very minor differences between even these most reliable of manuscripts, but if one investigates these "discrepencies" one will find that no important doctrine of the New Testament is at stake. Our confidence in the perfect transmission of the Hebrew Old Testament is somewhat less overwhelming, but with the Septuagint Greek translation, the Dead Sea Scrolls, other Hebrew mansucripts and translations into Aramaic, Syriac and other languages, we can have great conficence in the Hebrew Bible as well.
Remember that, in the end, faith IS required. Faith and evidence work together. At some point, the Bible has amassed sufficient evidence that it will take more faith to reject its inspiration than to accept it. I reached that point a long time ago, yet the evidence of inspiration continues to pile up for me. You must decide for yourself when this point has been reached, but do not make the illogical and perhaps even irrational mistake of requiring a kind of proof which is, by definition, impossible to produce.
By the way, you raised a third question, which is that of quality of translation. I certainly cannot guarantee that any one translation is insipired. In fact, I believe that NO translation is inspired. I will assume that you are not a profound expert in either Greek or Hebrew and that you, like me, are somewhat tied to an English language translation. If so, then I submit that you will be wise to use a number of translations, commentaries, a Greek or Hebrew dictionary so that you can get as good a sense of the original as you can. This is a never-ending adventure, but it is well worth the trouble. Do not fully trust any translation. Some are better than others, but there are a great number of really excellent translations, each of which has its strengths and its weaknesses.
I hope this is a reasonable answer to your question.