It’s accepted practice these days for both Christians and critics of Christianity to place emphasis on the importance of the Bible’s original manuscripts. To listen to their arguments, one would draw the conclusion that the same God who is powerful enough to speak a non-existent universe into existence and to raise the dead somehow isn’t capable of preserving his word throughout history. So we have unbelievers asking questions such as, “How can you really trust what the Bible says? How can you say the Bible is inerrant when you don’t even have the original manuscripts to know it still says what was in the originals?” In an effort to seemingly appease those critics as if their questions are valid, we now have Christian ministries in their statements of belief including such phrases as, “We believe the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts.”
God has proven that he is the one who establishes his word and guards it so that it will last forever. The multitude of his fulfilled prophecies through the ages confirms that. Here’s the assurance he gave us through his prophet-king, David, in Psalm 12:
6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
We also have these words from the Word who was with God, the Word who was God, the Lord Jesus himself:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35
Don’t Christian ministries with their “inerrancy” statements believe what Jesus said? In Matthew 5, Jesus even covered everything in the Old Testament under his inerrant preservation clause. On top of that, we have other examples where God proved he could preserve his word without original manuscripts. In Jeremiah 36:1-2, God told the prophet to write down his words in a scroll and in verse 6 of that chapter, his assistant went to the temple to read it. Later on in the chapter, the king’s servant, Jehudi, read some of God’s words to the king. The king hated what he heard, took the scroll that had God’s words on them, cut them up, and tossed them into his fireplace (v. 23). In response, the Lord had Jeremiah write the same exact words all over again on a different scroll and the Lord “added besides unto them many like words,” (v. 32).
Therefore, when the Old Testament was complete, Jeremiah’s original no longer existed, but God’s words were still preserved. In the closing chapters of Jeremiah, The Lord once again told Jeremiah to write down all of his words of judgment against Babylon which comprised all of Jeremiah 51. Then Jeremiah’s friend Seraiah traveled to Babylon to read all of God’s words in public. After Seraiah finished reading God’s words on the scroll, the Lord told Jeremiah to tell Seraiah to attach a rock to the scroll and drop it in the river Euphrates as an example of Babylon’s impending doom. So, once again, by the time the Old Testament was finished, the original manuscript with God’s words in Jeremiah 51 was destroyed. Nevertheless, he still preserved every last word and they are printed in the copies we have today in every Bible that is translated directly from the Masoretic Text manuscripts.