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What is the difference?

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ, 2nd Corinthians 2:17.


Jesus Christ had an earthly ministry that lasted approximately three and one half years. In that time he preached to thousands of people, held private talks with his disciples and prayed aloud to his Father. Four different gospels record many of those words. Jesus Christ himself made provision for that record. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, John 14:26.

There are two trains of thought about the men who wrote the gospels. One train of thought is that every single thing that those men wrote is perfect. A person holding this view would expect that if they were to have picked up the completed manuscript of any particular gospel or epistle as soon as the author finished writing it, they would have an exactly perfect record of every single word that Jesus spoke. There would be no mistakes. Additionally, they would expect to find perfect and exact doctrine concerning those words.

The other train of thought has a lesser understanding of inspiration. They see the original authors as operating under inspiration in the sense that they perfectly remembered every word spoken by Jesus Christ and they had perfect understanding as to his doctrine, but by no means could we expect mortal men to be perfect in writing it all down. This train of thought would expect that if they were to talk to the authors of the gospels and epistles, those men would have a perfect recollection of everything that Jesus said.

What such men would not expect is that upon picking up the freshly written first copy of any epistle or gospel, is that that writing would be perfect. In other words, they disagree with the oft repeated assertion by most fundamentalists when they state "We believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the bible in the original autographs".

So, one group believes that there has never been a time in which a perfect copy of the words or doctrine of Jesus Christ could be found. The other group believes that there was a flickering period of time (perhaps 5 to 100 years) when individual perfect writings could be found of the words and doctrine of Jesus Christ. Neither group believes that any of the original autographs were ever compiled into one binder.

In essence, both believe in the miracle of Jesus Christ's teachings. Both groups believe that Jesus Christ promised his disciples that they would remember and understand what he said. One group believes that there was never a time in which a person could have ever held a perfect transmission of those words and doctrine even if they looked over the shoulder of the authors as they wrote. The other group believes that if they had looked over the shoulders of the original authors while they were writing, they would have seen the exact perfect words of God.

This second group therefore believes that if a person had been fortunate enough in the first century to have been in Corinth when either of Paul's epistles had arrived, they could have seen a perfect document. But, if a person in Thessalonica was to be given a copy of that letter, he had no expectation of it being perfect. What really separates the two groups in their expectation of finding a perfect copy of the words and doctrine of Jesus Christ is a period of about 24 hours as the letter was copied, or to have been in one of about 10 or 12 geographical locations on earth for a brief period of time.

If we were to consider the status of a student sitting in a "fundamental" bible college in 2022, what real difference does either theory make? Can he trust the bible in front of him? If he believes that for that flickering moment in time when a church held onto a perfect letter or gospel that document was perfect, will it give him greater clarity as to what he can and can't trust in the bible he currently holds in his hands? What about his counterpart in a "liberal" seminary who believes that the errors may have crept in 24 hours earlier than the student in the "fundamental" seminary believes happened?

In reality, the "liberal" preacher who believes that there were probably errors in the very transmission of the words of Jesus Christ, and the "fundamental" preacher who believes that there were no errors in that transmission but that every and all copies of those same documents probably contain errors can have zero confidence in any given word of their bibles. In reality, it is not the precepts of the bible that make them either "liberal" or "fundamental". It is their personal choices of tradition that distinguish them.

The "liberal" concept of scripture in which the individual author may have erred, and the "fundamental" view in which the individual author was incapable of error are only separated by a few hours in time and a few geographical miles. It's all poppycock to me. I have a King James Bible that is the perfect word of God in the English Language. These other two views are just a bunch of medieval clerics arguing over how many angels can sit on the point of a pin.

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