To declare that the Bible has been “altered” over the centuries could mean a number of different things.
For instance, you could talk about how later scribes added punctuation markings, lower-case lettering, etc., as their Greek language evolved over time. But that is of little concern. When most people say that the Bible has been altered, they mean that the original written text has changed in content over many years, is now corrupted, and the original meaning lost.
It is very common these days to hear someone say that the Bible has been altered. This might come from a skeptic, but it also might come from followers of other religions that have spun off the Christian tradition such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam. In asserting that the biblical text became corrupted, they add that their religion’s holy writings have corrected the problem. And they use their holy writings to provide new spiritual insights that support their religious view.
Understanding the term “altered”
Despite certain anti-Christian motivations to challenge the Bible, we don’t have compelling reasons to believe that the modern Bible is wildly different from what was originally written. Even though we don’t have the original writings, we have many copies of these original writings which scholars call manuscripts.
These manuscripts have some differences, and this is to be expected because of human error. But there are enough existing manuscripts that we can compare and cross-check them to reconstruct what the originals would have said. With proper technique, we can do this with a very high degree of accuracy. We can see what was altered.
But what if the original text was changed before a bunch of copies were made? If this happened, then all of our copies would have come from a bad text, and we would never be able to know what was originally written!
Some believe that the text of the Bible was intentionally changed during its early development, perhaps motivated by political or theological reasons. At best, this is a borderline conspiracy story. One of the main problems with this argument is this: people wouldn’t have known which writings really counted as Scripture until after they became widespread across many churches. Indeed, the fact that the writings multiplied so quickly across churches helped believers to realize that the Holy Spirit was on those texts. By then, because the writings had already spread across the early church, it would have been too late for anyone to maliciously change them!
- For more on the origin of the Bible, check out God Breathed by Josh McDowell.
- Download this PDF by Josh titled “The Bibliographical Test.”
- To further grow your knowledge of the Bible, we can suggest 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell.
- To really dive into Josh’s decades of research, read Josh and Sean’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.