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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Footprints of a Traveler

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Footprints of a Traveler


The Bible has played and important part in my journey of faith, however, I don’t see it or use it in the way that many of my Christian friends do. In my next few posts I want to explore my perspective on Scripture.


To paraphrase late author, Eugene Peterson, As we travel through life, we either leave monuments or footprints. A monument says, “This is where I stand.” A footprint says, “This is where I was before I moved on.”


Scripture says that God is unsearchable and beyond tracing out. Final conclusions are not the domain of the human mind. And so, I offer what C.S. Lewis would call my “tentative thoughts.”

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The Christian Bible—A collection of history, biographies, letters, poems, songs, stories, prophecies, and eye witness accounts written by 35 or so different writers over a period of about 15 centuries.


No book in history has aroused more emotion, controversy, or debate. It has been dissected, studied, taught, written about, and argued about.


By some, it is seen as merely a collection of folk tales. Others say that it is divinely inspired. It is completely ignored by some, and seriously studied by others. Some see it as too complicated, and have given up on it altogether, while others think that they pretty much have the Bible, and God, all figured out.


The Bible has been banned and burned by some governments, and elevated to an object of worship by some churches.


In the United States there are over 100 English translations of the Bible. There are 200 protestant seminaries and almost as many Catholic ones. There are hundreds of denominations with various offshoots and splits, and thousands of independent churches.


All of them use the Bible in some way, and most would say that the Bible is true. Obviously, however, they don’t agree on what that truth is.

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Have the ancient documents of the Bible been edited?


There are scholars who question the accuracy of the documents we have, claiming that the Bible has been heavily edited in the copying of it throughout history. They also claim that somehow, their expertise can determine what has been altered, and that they are capable and authorized to make the necessary changes, as well as “update” the Bible to modern American culture, language, and norms.


Has it been edited and changed over history? Or is the Bible we have today faithful to the original texts? Let’s do a comparison.


Caesar’s Gallic Wars was written in 100 B.C. We have about 250 copied manuscripts, but the ones we have that are closest to the original were copied 800 years later.


Livy’s History of Rome, was written shortly after this. We have about 100 manuscripts. The earliest ones we have were copied over 500 years after the original.

The Annals of Tacitus was written about the same time as the Bible’s book of Mark. It has been said that, “…It has shaped our understanding of the Roman Empire during the 1st century A.D.” We have 33 manuscripts. The earliest copy is 782 years removed from the original.


For the New Testament, we have more than 5000 manuscripts Some are copies written within only 50 years of the original.


So, if we are going to use the passage of time and the practice of copying manuscripts as the measuring stick of accuracy, the Bible is by far the most reliable of any ancient writing known….But there is more.


When copying the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) scribes were required to follow this procedure:


—Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.

—The ink had to be black, and of a special recipe.


—They had to verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.

—They were required to wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word "Jehovah,"

—There had to be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be re-written.

—The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. Not only each word, but each letter had to correspond to the original.

—We have over 5000 manuscripts because no document containing Scripture could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah, a Hebrew term meaning "hiding place." Usually this was in a synagogue, a cave, or a Jewish cemetery.


—In later centuries, It has even been said that if a monk was in the process of copying the New Testament, he was not required to stand or bow if royalty entered the room.


This tells me that those who copied the manuscripts of the Bible believed that they were engaged in a divine work. I think It is extremely unlikely that they would omit, add, embellish, delete, or edit what they considered to be sacred text.


Some may not agree with what the Bible says. They may not believe the miracles, they may not like the pronouns it uses, they may not think that it is inspired, or even that it is true. That is their choice.


However, to say that it has been greatly edited or changed while being copied, is not really a reasonable assumption at all. Based on the evidence, It makes much more sense that the Bible we have today is basically the same as it was for those who read it centuries ago.


If we don’t accept this, logic would demand that every other piece of ancient writing must be dismissed as even less accurate or reliable than the Bible.

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When considering the Eternal, we enter the mystery and paradox of searching out the unsearchable. We should proceed with great humility. Faith is not so much about what I think, it is about who I am. Maybe the real issue is not so much about how I interpret the Bible, but how it interprets me.










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