Inerrancy, like inspiration, applies to the original manuscripts. Has God preserved His Word? YES! But not in one translation. God has preserved His Word in the totality of all the manuscripts and there are over 5000 existing manuscripts in part or in whole. No two manuscripts are exactly the same. God has not preserved His Word in one manuscript or translation. But He has preserved His Word in the totality of all the manuscripts and translations, where ever those translations faithfully reflect the original text.
Inerrancy does not apply to any one translation today. Some who believe the KJV is the only translation, as does Peter Ruckman, imply that the KJV translators were inspired and could make no mistakes.
Here is one of Ruckman’s arguments from his book Why I Believe The King James Bible: “Read 1st John 2:23, ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.’ Notice that half the verse is in italics. When the King James translators came to that verse, they couldn’t find half the verse in the Greek manuscripts, but they said, ‘It seems like it belongs there,’ so they wrote it in italics. Do you know what happened two hundred years afterwards: Greek manuscripts were found that had the half of the verse that was put italics. You had better watch that Book (KJV)! That Book (KJV) speaks about talking in an “unknown” tongue (1st Cor. 14:2), and somebody says, “The word ‘unknown’ isn’t in the original.” You mean you haven’t found a copy that’s got it yet? You had better watch that Book (KJV)” (p.11).
In other words, Ruckman is implying that the KJV translators could make no mistakes, putting them on the same level as the authors of Scripture. 2nd Tim. 3:16 says that “all Scripture is inspired by God” not translations. 2nd Pet. 1:21 says “holy men of God spoke as they moved by the Holy Spirit” not translators. I preach and teach out of the KJV but it is not the only translation God is using because God has not preserved His Word in one manuscript or translation but God has preserved His Word in the totality of all the manuscripts and translations that faithfully reflect the original text.
A book, I would recommend on this subject is A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. There is also a revised and expanded edition out now. The edited edition is called From God to Us by the same authors. Chapter eight is entitled Restoration of the Bible Text. In this chapter these two theologians who believe in inerrancy of the original Scriptures, like Ryrie, deal with variant readings in the manuscripts.
Geisler and Nix discuss unintentional and intentional scribal errors.
Unintentional scribal errors come from errors of the eye, transposition or the reversal of the position of two letters, errors of the ear, errors of judgment, and errors of writing. They give examples for all of these kinds of scribal errors. This is a must read if any student of God’s Word would desires to seriously deal with this issue.
They write about scribal errors in regard to numbers in translations. Remember, there were no errors with numbers in the original writings nor errors of any kind. “Transposition is the reversal of position of two letters or words, technically known as metathesis….This is especially true of Hebrew letters which were used as numerals too. The confusion of such numbers in the Old Testament may be seen in the conflicts of parallel passages. See, for example, 40,000 in 1 Kings 4:26 as opposed to 4,000 in 2 Chronicles 9:25; the 42 years in 2 Chronicles 22:2 in contrast to the correct reading of 22 years in 2 Kings 8:26 also fits into this category” (From God to Us, page 178).
1 Kings 4:26 says, “And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.” The exact parallel account in 2 Chronicles 9:25 reads, “And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.”
2 Chronicles 22:2 says, “Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.” The exact parallel account in 2 Kings 8:26 reads, “Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.
Another example of scribal errors with numbers is in 2 Sam. 24:13 which reads, “So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? Or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? Or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? Now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.”
The exact parallel passage must be consulted to determine if there is a scribal error. The exact parallel passage is 1 Chronicles 21:11-12: “So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee either three years’ famine or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself.”
These scribal errors with numbers must be admitted and not seen as a threat to the inerrancy of the original documents which had either “seven” or “three.” To go to other contexts and pull out numbers that are not related to this story in 2 Sam. 24 and 1 Chr. 21 does more harm than good in answering this issue. The three year famine from 2 Sam 21:1 is not related to the famine mentioned in 2 Sam 24. In 2 Sam 21:1 David enquired what was the reason for this particular three year famine and the Lord answered, “It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” The issue in 2 Sam 24 is not Saul’s sin it is David’s sin. These are two separate stories. The three year famine from 2 Sam 21, therefore cannot be pulled out of context to solve the variant in 2 Sam. 24. God has preserved His Word, but not in one translation. Inerrancy applies only to the originals.
In Part 2, we will discuss the importance of textual critics to determine what was written in the inspired and inerrant original writings.