I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. -- 2 Timothy 4:1-4
Are the Scriptures that we read today the same as the ones originally written long ago? Has the Bible been changed, or does it constitute the same inspired words written by the prophets and the apostles?
The Bible wasn't translated into English until the 14th century. But did it change over the many centuries until then?
These are important questions because if it can be shown that the Bible we have today is different from the one God originally inspired, why should we pay attention to it? If we can't trust that it has been accurately translated and preserved, there is little reason to trust that it is indeed God's Word. So it's very important that we see what the historical record shows. How can we know?
The Old Testament, is far older than the New Testament—having been written between approximately 1446 and 400 B.C., some 25 to 35 centuries ago. Is the version we have today a faithful and accurate rendition of the original?
Now how it was preserved?
The manuscripts of the Bible that we have today were written by hand long ago, well before the invention of the printing press. The Jewish scribes who made the copies of the Old Testament Scriptures from generation to generation were scrupulously cautious about their copying procedures.
This meticulous care was perpetuated by the Masoretes, a special group of Jewish scribes who were entrusted with making copies of the Hebrew Bible. Their version of the Old Testament, widely considered the most authoritative, came to be known as the Masoretic Text.
Before and during this time, trained copyists followed various meticulous and stringent requirements for making scrolls of their holy books. The Masoretes required that all manuscripts have various word numbering systems. As an example of one test they used, when a new copy was made, they counted the number of words in it. If the copy didn't have the proper count, the manuscript was unusable and buried.
Such steps ensured that not a single word could be added to or left out of the Holy Scriptures. Through such steps the scrolls that formed the Hebrew Bible were copied meticulously, carefully and accurately, century after century.
What about the New Testament? At last count, there are nearly 5,700 hand-written Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. In addition, there are more than 9,000 manuscripts in other languages (e.g., Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Arabic). Some of these nearly 15,000 manuscripts are complete Bibles, others are books or pages, and a few are just fragments ...Not only does the New Testament enjoy abundant manuscript support, but it also has manuscripts that were written soon after the originals ... The time gap between the original and the first surviving copy is still vastly shorter than anything else from the ancient world.
"... The early church fathers—men of the second and third centuries such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and others—quoted the New Testament so much (36,289 times, to be exact) that all but eleven verses of the New Testament can be reconstructed just from their quotations ... So we not only have thousands of manuscripts but thousands of quotations from those manuscripts" (Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 2004, pp. 225-228).
However, God did choose to record and preserve His Word in the Hebrew and Greek languages. When the Hebrew and Greek are translated into English, no one English translation preserves the complete essence of God's inspired thoughts. Regrettably, in moving from any language to another, something is always lost because not all words and concepts translate precisely.
Most people have found that they benefit from using several translations rather than relying on only one. And God has seen to it that we have several excellent English translations with which to obtain understanding, each with their own different strengths.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. -- John 16:13
We can be sure that the Word of God has been preserved accurately for us today. We must make sure to read it, study it, treasure it and put it into practice in our lives.