The starting point:
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth
say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let
him take the water of life freely.
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy
of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add
unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this
prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and
out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this
20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver
tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou
shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve
them from this generation for ever. (Psalm 12:6-7)
You must decide whether or not you believe God has kept this promise.
Did He preserve His Word throughout the generations? Or did He not?
That decision will lead you to one of two Bible texts.
You believe God preserved His Word
If God kept His promise, then what we need to do is simple. Have
archaeologists find all the copies and pieces of copies they can find
that have survived from ancient times. If God kept his promise,
copying errors will not have polluted the text. Instead, when we
compare the copies from churches all over the ancient world, we will
find that they agree, that they all had basically the same text. If we
occasionally find a copy that does not match the others, we will throw
it out, knowing that it was made by a sloppy copyist.
This has, in fact been done. The Old Testament Hebrew text was
preserved by the Levites. The apostles quoted it, and we can trust it.
For the New Testament, of all the copies in existence today, 95% agree
[majority texts] in an incredible way. God did keep His promise! Only
5%, a tiny minority, are "messed up.[critical texts]" All we have to
do is put together a Hebrew and Greek text made up from our
overwhelming majority of ancient texts, and we will have a text that
we can be confident is exactly the same as the one held by the early
church. Today, this text is called by several names, the most common
being the "Received Text" or "Textus Receptus."
This was the text used by devout translators like William Tyndale,
Martin Luther, John Calvin and others, some of whom died to preserve
the Scriptures. If they were going to have to die for it, they were
determined to die for the right text! This is also the text used to
make the most famous and durable of all English Bibles, the King James
Bible [also LITV, ESV, ASV, MKJV, NKJV etc.] .
You do not believe God preserved His Word
If you believe that God did not keep His promise, then you have to
expect that as people copied the Scriptures, mistakes constantly crept
in. The next copyist would copy those mistakes, and add some of his
own. As time went on, the Scriptures held by the church would
deteriorate, becoming worse and worse, until nobody would really know
what the originals said.
If you believed that, you would want archaeologists to search for the
oldest copies of the Scriptures they could find. The idea is that the
older it is, the closer it is to the original. You could never be sure
you had an accurate copy, but the oldest manuscript would give you the
best possible copy, with whatever errors it may contain. This is the
method being used by all modern Bible translators today.
They have had archaeologists search the world over, and have found two
very ancient copies. One was in the library at the Vatican. It's
logical to call this one the "Vaticanus." The other one was deposited
in a waste basket at Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai
Peninsula, and is thus called the "Sinaiticus." These two copies of
the Scriptures, given to us by the Roman Catholic Church, originally
came from Alexandria, Egypt, the fountainhead of great heresies of the
early church. These two manuscripts disagree with 95% of the broad
historical evidence, and they also disagree with each other.
But if they disagree, how do you base a Bible on them? That's
simple... find a scholar you consider an expert. Whenever these two
copies disagree, have your expert pick the one he likes. We will
consider that to be the correct version of that particular verse.
Thus, in reality, you are placing your faith in the opinions of this
great scholar, instead of the broad evidence of history, left for us
by the God of history.
It's kind of hard to have faith in a Bible made from that, isn't it?
But if you don't believe God kept His promise, that's the best you can
do. This is, in fact, the view held by the majority of Bible
translators today. Since they don't believe they can possibly have a
reliable, accurate copy anyway, they feel great liberty to add their
own private ideas, or interpretation, to the Scriptures. Thus, we get
a multitude of Bibles, that very clearly do not say the same thing!
What's a person to do?
Well, you could try believing that
GOD KEPT HIS