Does the Bible Contain Error?

On the 15th of June 2018, I was given the opportunity to speak at a workshop, within a conference, on the question of whether the Bible contains error. [1] Instead of taking the usual harmonization approach, that is to look at apparent contradictions and resolve them, I decided to tackle the question from a textual criticism angle. There are plenty of books and websites dedicated to the former [2] whereas knowledge of the latter seems to be lacking amongst lay Christians.

Furthermore, I had previously presented on textual criticism [3] and found it to be able to adequately address the sub-questions provided by the organisers (i.e. why there are discrepancies in the Bible if it is the Word of God and how we can reconcile those discrepancies).

This time round, my presentation included the following additional content:

i) “Recent” developments re manuscripts [4], including the Mark fragment published in  Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume LXXXIII

ii) An overview of the types of scribal errors, both intentional and unintentional ones

iii) A non-exhaustive list of institutions devoted to the field of textual criticism

iv) A non-exhaustive list of critical editions of the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT)

v) A brief look at some OT and NT passages quoted in 1 Clement


[1]  “Workshop Overview.” Accessed June 6, 2018.

[2] see page 4 of the slides in the attachment below

[3] Joshua Wu, “Manuscript Errors in the Bible?” Accessed June 11, 2018.

[4] I put recent in inverted commas because according to the Egypt Exploration Society, the Mark fragment was “excavated … probably in 1903 …” [“P.Oxy LXXXIII 5345.” Accessed June 11, 2018.]. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the other example cited, were also discovered in the 20th century [see “Discovery and Publication.” Accessed June 11, 2018.].



Does the Bible Contain Error? (Slides)

Does the Bible Contain Error? (Participants Notes)


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.


Manuscript Errors in the Bible?

On the 17th of October 2017, I had the privilege of speaking at one of the sessions in a series on the Doctrine of Scripture, organised by my local church. Below is an outline of my approach to the question, “Manuscript Errors in the Bible?” (Session 2). Attached are the PowerPoint slides & participants’ notes, from the session.

[Please note that this is only meant to be a brief overview of the highly technical field of Textual Criticism. In the limited time I had, to present, I could not cover additional matters (e.g. manuscript text types) which I would have loved to. However, if you do find the resources below useful for your personal edification and/or for the edification of your ministry/local church, please use them without hesitation. God bless!]


1) Introduction

  • Self
  •  Scholars referred to

2) Definitions

3) Manuscripts of NT vs Classical Texts

  • Comparison
  • Words in NT vs Variants in NT manuscripts

4) Scribal Work (Exercise)

  • Each person copies down as I dictate 7 verses [taken from Amos 2:9-16; see attachment titled Scribal Work (Exercise)]
  • Each “manuscript” will then be passed to person on the left/right and participants will take turns to read out each verse
  • Variants will then be identified and corrected

5) Types of Variants

  • Explain the 4 types (i.e. not meaningful & not viable, viable but not meaningful, meaningful but not viable, and viable & meaningful)
  • Go through a few examples of each type

6) Text Reconstruction (Exercise)

  • Each group receives 4 “manuscripts” [see attachment titled Text Reconstruction (Exercise)] from which they will attempt to discover the original wordings

7) What happens if we have no NT manuscripts?

8) Conclusion


Manuscript Errors in the Bible (Slides)

Manuscript Errors in the Bible? (Participants Notes)

Scribal Work (Exercise)

Text Reconstruction (Exercise)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated.