By Elysia McColley
One criticism of the Bible is that it is corrupted, meaning that the document we have today is not the same as the document that existed 2000 years ago. There are many different ways to approach the topic of Biblical corruption, and I will address some of them through a series of blog posts. I want to begin by pointing to some truths that we need to be aware of as we approach the question of whether or not the Bible was corrupted.
- If God is omnipotent, then He is fully capable of preserving the Bible, despite what people may try to do to it. The idea that He has not preserved the Bible is an insult to His character.
- People may corrupt the meaning of the Bible, but they cannot corrupt the words that God has spoken.
- The books of the Bible were written, preserved, and canonized by people who are fallible but were divinely inspired.
The Bible was not corrupted, but parts of the Bible could be said to be abrogated. Abrogation refers to the idea that a later revelation overrides a previous revelation. For example, in Acts 10:9-16, Peter has a vision in which a cloth full of animals is dropped down from heaven. According to the law given to Moses in the Old Testament, many of the animals in the cloth were considered “unclean” and therefore not to be eaten. However, a voice from heaven told Peter to kill and eat. This passage abrogates the dietary laws of the Old Testament; people can still follow those laws if they choose to, but following them is not required in order for them to be followers of Jesus.
In fact, abrogation of some portions of the Old Testament, such as its dietary restrictions, is at the heart of the New Testament. We no longer have to fulfill the law in order to please God because Jesus came as the law’s fulfillment. He pleased God for us through a sacrificial death that fulfilled the law on our behalf. The gospel is good news because we could not fulfill the law perfectly – we will always fall short of it – but Jesus could. Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (NIV). Because He fulfilled it, we can put our faith in Him and stand righteous before God.
None of this is to say that the Old Testament is nullified. Abrogated portions of it are still important to us today, as New Testament believers, because they reveal to us more of what Jesus’ death actually accomplished on our behalf. Abrogation of the law is not the same as corruption; parts of the Bible can be abrogated while the book as a whole remains consistent.
In the next post, we will look at early examples of the Bible spreading to other cultures and being translated into other languages while remaining consistent.