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Book of MormonIf you have had Mormon elders knock on your door recently, you may have found that one of their plugs for the Book of Mormon is to say that there are 200,000 mistakes in the translation of the New Testament and none in the Book of Mormon. We will not go into the errors in the Book of Mormon, although there is much material available on that subject, but we would like to respond to the 200,000 errors they mention. That figure has come from several prominent theologians who are biblical minimalists. It is also being quoted by atheists in their attempts to discredit Christianity.

BibleWe recently attended a conference on this subject at Ohio Valley University in West Virginia. The conference speaker was Dr. Michael Moss, an expert on this subject. Here are some interesting facts about the ancient Bible manuscripts.

1. Of the 200,000 most of the “errors” are variants. If the translator said Christ Jesus instead of Jesus Christ, this is counted as an error. If the choice of several versions of a word was inaccurate it is counted as an error — to, two, and too would be an example in our language. If a letter was left out or there was a spelling error it is counted as a content error. There are only about 400 “errors” that are outside of these variants.

2. Of these 400 “errors” only 50 would make a difference in the message of the passage, and none of these would have a doctrinal significance.

3. The Bible is 99.5% textually accurate. The Iliad by Homer, which was reconstructed from various manuscripts in the same way as the Bible, is 95% accurate.

Scribe4. There are more copies of New Testament documents than all other classical works combined — over 5,700 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts from A.D. 100 to 150. Second to that are copies of Homer's Iliad which number 643. After that we have Demosthenes with 170, 20 for Tacitus, 10 for Caesar's Gallic Wars, 8 for Thucydides, 8 for Herodotus, and 7 for Plato.

5. There are 24,000 partial and complete ancient copies of the New Testament in various language translations. In addition there are 86,000 quotes of the New Testament by early Church fathers — enough to reconstruct all but eleven verses of the New Testament.

Attempts to denigrate the Bible on the basis of translation problems or lack of manuscripts are misguided and inaccurate. The problems that do exist are minimal and they are easily answered by reasonable study.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© Sheri Armstrong. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© koshka102. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Illustration: Art Explosion by Nova Development Corporation, © 1997– 2001.