It is not uncommon to hear critics of the Bible speak of its “contradictions” and “inaccuracies.” Yet if one studies the history of ancient writings, it is obvious that no book in history has been so carefully preserved over the centuries.
Bernard Ramm, in Protestant Christian Evidences, speaks of the accuracy of the biblical manuscripts: “Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity. Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero of Seneca?
“In regard to the New Testament there are about thirteen thousand manuscripts, complete and incomplete, in Greek and other languages, that have survived from antiquity. No other work from classical antiquity has such attestation.”
Author John Lea makes an observation about the Bible and Shakespeare: “In an article in North American Review, a writer made some interesting comparisons between the writings of Shakespeare and the scriptures, which show that much greater care must have been bestowed upon the biblical manuscripts than upon other writings, even when there was so much more opportunity of preserving the correct text by means of printed copies than when all the copies had to be made by hand.
“It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and eight years, should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript. With perhaps a dozen or twenty exceptions, the text of every verse in the New Testament may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any dispute as to its readings much relate rather to the interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves.
“But in every one of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays, there are probably a hundred readings still in dispute, a large portion of which materially affects the meaning of the passages in which they occur.”