The trustworthiness of the Bible is under constant attack from its critics. Christians like myself believe the Bible to be a reliable guide for what we believe and how we should live, but those who hate our faith viciously malign it.
A criticism commonly levied against the Bible is, after several millennia of transcription and translation how do we know the Scriptures are accurately preserved? How do we know what God said then is what we read now? Among Bible scholars this is known as the issue of textual corruption over the long period of transmission.
At the outset, I want to make what I believe is a salient point. It is only natural to assume that any writing if copied repeatedly for 3500 years, the first 3000 by hand, and translated from one language to another should contain a multitude of mistakes. If, on the other hand, that same writing can be shown to be remarkably free of error and transcribed with uncommon exactitude, then one must consider God not only inspired such a work, but also played an active role in preserving it.
In the twenty-second chapter of Matthew beginning in verse twenty-three, the Sadducees confront Jesus. They do not believe in the resurrection and relate a story they think disproves it. Jesus explains their argument is not valid and then in verse thirty-two gives a simple argument for the afterlife.
Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6 where God speaks to Moses and declares, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” and offers the following interpretation, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Jesus’ point is this, when God spoke to Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for over 400 years. Yet, God referred to them in the present tense, “I am.” If God is referring to them in the present tense, even if their bodies are dead, their spirits are alive in some real sense and in His care. This silenced the Sadducees.
Follow me carefully. Moses wrote Exodus and the rest of the Pentateuch 1500 years before Christ in Hebrew. The rest of the Old Testament canon followed and was translated into Greek about 200 B.C. and became known as the Septuagint. Jesus’ life and ministry are recorded in the Gospels and are joined by the rest of New Testament during the first century A.D., which is also written in Greek.
In the fourth century Jerome translates the Bible into Latin. Many of the early English translations can find their origins in the Latin Vulgate. Since the first English Bible was printed, the English language has undergone at least five revisions.
Here is my point. After 3500 years of transcription and translation the tense of a verb has not changed. If it had Jesus’s reasoning regarding the resurrection would have been inscrutable.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever,” Isaiah 40:8.