I read that there are passages that exist today that are not in some of the oldest scrolls. Since these passages were added along the way—maybe to help explain something—can we trust that the Bible is the same original word of God?

These possible later additions include the following:

While many of the changes are small and not important, "Comma Johanneum" is the only place in the entire Bible that the Trinity is directly addressed. So if this wasn't part of the original text, that would be problematic.

If the original scrolls were inspired, why didn't God preserve them? Alternatively, how can we trust that the Bible we hold in our hands today faithfully represents the originals?

  • To answer your penultimate question ("If the original scrolls were inspired, why didn't God preserve them?"): We don't have the original manuscripts because they may have become idols like the brass serpent that was used to heal the sick in the wilderness.
    – marklark
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 16:00
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    @marklark an idol somewhat different than a cross? christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/5412/…
    – user1054
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 14:26
  • see 2 Kings 18:4. The people of King Hezekiah's time were making sacrifices to the brass serpent, "Nehushtan." Very different. Some people really like old books. I think that the original tablets, scrolls, or letters would generate more devotion... Sacrifices, probably not.
    – marklark
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 22:40
  • I would more worry about translations than bible's edits. English translation is many times wrong and causes western society to be more liberal and look-warm(ignorant).
    – Grasper
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 13:09

7 Answers 7


It's important to understand something about the origins of the Bible. The authors of the various books within it did not sit down to write "The Bible". They intended to write stuff that would be helpful to other people for various reasons: in the case of the Gospels, so people would know the true story of Jesus' life and teachings, and for the letters to instruct the recipients in Christianity. These documents were not collected to form the Biblical Canon until much later, around 400AD.

It is certainly true that there exist manuscripts of New Testament documents (primarily the Gospels and Acts) which show variations. Some either have or have not certain passages: some use slightly different wording. However it is important to note that the vast majority of these 'differences' come from before the period where the documents were collected into 'The Bible'. These differences make a lot of sense. If you have a document that describes the life of Jesus, and you also know of a story that you are certain is true about Jesus, you might well add it in. Of course if people disagreed with you about the validity of the story they would not copy your document.

Once the Biblical canon has been more-or-less defined the variations become much less - again unsurprising, since making changes to the Word of God is a much more serious matter than to a 'true story'. Such differences as exist are likely copying errors.

So TL;DR : No, the Bible has actually changed very little since it became The Bible. Before that there were different manuscripts with some differences, but in reality not a lot of variation.

  • Was is specifically concerning to me is 1 John. If it was added at a later date AND it's the only place in the bible which specifically talks about the trinity... it's not just a small change or word order change.
    – user1054
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:16
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    That's a whole other question. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:42
  • @DanAndrews: I agree with DJClayworth, the insertion in 1 John would make a good question in itself. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 17:28
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    New question here
    – user1054
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 18:51

The discovery of ancient manuscripts that had been lost for centuries presents a puzzle. We can compare manuscripts and use the tools of textual criticism to make a best-guess effort to recover the original text, but ultimately we can't be 100% certain about its exact words.

The question of the Bible's reliability is related to the issue of biblical inspiration. I'm going to list three perspectives, which I will call Inspired Message, Inerrantist, and Textus Receptus. These three groups have very different ways of answering this question.

Inspired Message

For this group, the Bible's reliability is not dependent on our ability to recover the original text. For this group it is the Bible's overall message—its teaching about salvation—that is inspired by God. The Bible stands or falls based on the salvation message, not the presence or absence of the Comma Johanneum or the long ending of Mark.

Members of this group may talk about the Bible's authority, credibility, or truth without making an appeal to the original texts.


This group believes that inspiration by God means the Bible is completely free from error of any kind. Where the Bible touches on other areas—history or science, for example—is just as trustworthy as its teaching on salvation. But the salvation message is still primary, and any changes that have been made to the text over the centuries have not changed this message.

Even to the inerrantist it does not matter that the originals are lost. If we had them we would be able to clear up some questions that arise from the text we have today, but the Bible's salvation message remains clear.

Textus Receptus

This group believes that God in fact did preserve the inspired words of the original text. The manuscripts that were lost, according to this view, were lost because they were inferior. The manuscripts that were preserved and kept in use are God's inspired text. This culminated in the Textus Receptus (TR) compiled by Desiderius Erasmus in the 16th century.

This group includes King James Only proponents, who believe the King James Version (which was translated directly from the TR) is God's preserved Word in English.

TR proponents would argue that the presence of the Pericope Adulterae and the Comma Johanneum in the received text is evidence of these passages' existence in the original, and that the age of other manuscripts is not an indication of their reliability.


I am going to answer as a layman, from my own experience, as I truly have little knowledge of how our Bible came about and the subject has still never peaked my interest enough for me to learn. What I can say is that I am absolutely certain that the Bible is our only infallible guide in matters of religion and alone can be trusted.

Here are my personal experiences and reasons for having no doubts.

Personal Experience

  1. As a young man I was a criminal who had literally prayed to the Devil and subsequently suffered demonic possession at the age of 15 years. In fear of what was happening, I started to secretly read the Bible in my bedroom. (My parents floated around somewhere between atheist and agnostic so I was not church raised, so I had to sort of hide my Bible). After a brief period of reading the Bible it fully arrested my thoughts. I cried out to God in faith. The demon departed and never again bothered me in any way. I stopped thieving, fornicating, brawling, using illicit drugs, hating, committing various criminal offences, all by simply reading and believing the Bible. Then I went to church to figure out what happened to me. I have been a Christian ever since. (Think of the thousands of dollars I saved in therapy sessions, psychiatric medication, etc. just by browsing an NIV Bible)

  2. Having experienced this unusual power in God’s word I was irresistibly drawn into the study of it. In so doing I found everything in it pure and perfect in a way I can’t describe. Nature is pure but the Bible is purer still. Nature has beauty but the Bible more so. In contrast, I have picked up religious books from other religions and I immediately find the absence of this power and purity. That such books would have never been able to exorcise the demon that was in me is obvious to me.

  3. Christians worldwide, since the time of Adam all have similar stories of this life changing experience of hearing of or reading God’s word and having transformed lives by the power of believing in its message. (Before Christ Moses and the Prophets looked forward to Christ and since Christ we look back at him but it is all the same faith in Messiah.)

Although others can’t borrow my faith, for they must have their own, as millions of Christians claim a similar experience from every kind of previous walk of life and background, these experiences creates an intellectual argument in support of the Bible’s claims. The Bible claims to be able to perform these works in those that believe.

Intellectual Experience

  1. I am no expert but I have read the Bible is the most miraculously preserved set of ancient texts in al of world history (compared to the manuscripts of Shakespeare, for example). The fact that ancient manuscripts have been recently found that show miraculous similarity with our current Bible is the greatest wonder of the word in terms of artifacts.

  2. I tend to agree on certain sections that the NIV says ‘these verses were not in some of the oldest manuscripts’ is possibly minor corruptions. However, removing them in my mind, or adding them back has no effect on my beliefs. Therefore they are irrelevant. For example the one about ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone.’ As much as I think the story exemplifies Christian truths, I am not convinced it properly records Jewish law as it was exercised at the time, so I do not trust it to be in the original. Then again, maybe it is valid, for one thing is for certain I am fallible? Either way even such a large chunk like this has no effect on the trustworthiness of the Bible for me as it does not affect the doctrinal conclusions I make from the entirety of the scripture.

  3. Encountering these small cracks in scripture has increased my faith; for it makes me aware that the rest of the ‘enormous structure’ is rock solid! This alone makes it absolutely credible.

  4. The biggest difficulty I had what when comparing all the gospels and seeing minor differences in how the events of Christ were recalled by different witnesses. In the end I found no contradictions that stood out. I think realizing that these gospels represent 1% or les of all that Jesus did and said (for he was speaking often for whole days and one day would be bigger than the New Testament) solves the problem concerning the style of the gospels. Obviously these statements by witnesses are just summaries. Summaries are always slightly interpretative giving certain aspects of an event the witness is thinking is most worth highlighting. These variances therefore further prove the authenticity of the testimonies.

  5. Other religions are filled with legends about their heroes, but the Bible starts by accusing all their heroes of sin. This is so unlike a legend! After a build up of many prophecies over centuries, established with authentic style, Jesus miraculously fulfills many prophecies, which would be impossible to fake. Just one example: It was prophesied that a child of Abraham, and later child of David, would come who would be a ‘blessing to all nations’ so that Abraham would be a father of many nations. Well how difficult would it be for a Jew to start a religion that is accepted by the world, who was born of David’s lineage, born in Bethlehem, fulfills the atonement symbol, becomes a King, etc. If I were to ask you to become a Jew, then convince people that you can have performed many miracles, die, rise again, or have other’s convince people that you have. Then take over the other pagan religions of the world by your new version of your religion. I would say your chance of success is les than 0.000000001. To at the same time fulfill many long recorded prophecies, written over centuries, well we are now taking about the sheer miraculous. Christ’s fulfillment of many prophecies is miraculous and unrepeatable that no person could ever pull off by human juggling. (This alone proves the scriptures are infallible).

  6. Legends often make up entire fables, like cities that did not exist, maybe even entire nations that were non-existent. In contrast although the Bible is not a history book, but rather the history of God’s kingdom and revelation, it is yet pinned down into real places, times, and events supported by history, archaeology, etc. Sure there are many atheists that try to prove these things are contradictory but this further confirms that validity of the Bible. The Bible predicts men will hate it. The more they unsuccessfully try to fight God’s word the more attested is its miraculous preservation. Their obsession also proves its spiritual nature for if they had no faith, they would not be so desirous to fight it. There actions and the desperation of them, show the influence of the corrupt nature ruling them. I find the tendency for skeptics to irrationally seize on certain words, wrest them out of their proper meaning, assert other doubtful things as certain and basically carry on irrational arguments under the bias of unexplained unbelief, as faith building. I see desperation in it all, proving that they are convicted by God’s word. Christians tend to have a steady calm in all of that while their faith keeps growing, including professors at universities on the very subjects who supposedly contradict their faith.

  7. The scriptures have a very deep explanation of my human experience. Every year I understand others, and myself more than the previous year. It seems there is no bottom to the depth of their explanation. Either the writers were all so much wiser than I am, as I feel I can never find the bottom of their brilliance, or it is God’s word. As I can tell I am as smart as the next guy, I have to conclude this ‘inexpressible depth’ is divine and infallible.

Why did not God put the scriptures into an armoured bank safe, preserving every word? I think the answer is the same as why he chose to speak through prophets, Jesus and the Apostles. He wanted to condescend into our world, miraculously preserving the truth as his infallible guide, while using human tools do so. The small scratches on the surface prove their authenticity just as wrinkles in the face of Jesus proved that he was not just God but also a man.

Conclusion: The fact that the Bible is the oldest record of God’s dealings with man, and the most miraculously preserved and the most powerfully effective in bringing salvation to sinners. As it alone answers the questions of life and leads to life, as it has no bottom to its depth of understanding, as no one has been able to refute its claims to the concern of believers, as none could fake the prophetic fulfilment that Christ achieved, etc., it is without doubt the only and infallible guide in all matters of religion. Every Christian who has tried it and tested it knows this is true.

The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (NIV Psalms 12:6)

  • Wonderful! More specifically your point no:3 under “Intellectual Experience” is so much of a punch. So is point no: 4. Thanks for strengthening the faith in the Word of God with your testimony. I remembered the saying doctor hurts to heal and so are the events that culminated with this. Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 4:47
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    -1: This answer is way too long. Can you please tighten it up a bit?
    – Jim G.
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 4:02
  • 3
    @JimG. - No. To me the answer is way too short, but it will have to due. If you have a good short answer please post one.
    – Mike
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 4:11
  • @JimG. If anything, the question would be the thing to tighten up, this is a huge topic. Each of Mike's points are both relevant and even succinct and would individually deserve more attention. They are even organized and clearly formatted. Nobody is forcing you to read them.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 19:14
  • 1
    @JimG. I read every word, and most of it got a second pass before making that comment. You should be more careful about what you presume about others. Not everybody's needs or desires in content are the same. Skip the long answers if you like.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 3:19

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

I think it is important to remember that the Bible is revelation not dictation, it is only by looking "through" scripture, per se, that we start to see God revealed. This is partly why the Gnostic gospels are rejected and the various heresies (most of which were based on scripture) have been put down, and all the way back through Abraham and the history of theology and philosophy we see humanity tuning in to the signal of God amidst all the noise.

To base your trust on textual inerrancy is to miss the point entirely.

  • 1
    Interesting point, but I disagree. If we cannot trust in textual inerrancy, what then can we base our faith on??
    – Top12Gun
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 2:24
  • @Top12Gun: What did Abraham base his faith on? Textual inerrancy is one of the favorite arguments of Muslims because the Koran is still chiefly read in the same language is was originally written in, so does not suffer as much from translational issues as the Bible.
    – kurosch
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 17:28
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    Abraham based his faith on the God who spoke to him. Unless this is much more common than I'm aware of, we don't often have that luxury today. If we cannot trust in textual inerrancy, how do we even know that God spoke to Abraham?? What's to say that happened at all?? You see, if we cannot trust one part of the document to be true, how can we trust any of it?? The fact remains that either you believe all scripture is God-breathed, or not. If not, then how is the Bible worth anything at all??
    – Top12Gun
    Commented Sep 8, 2012 at 14:45
  • Textual inerrancy doesn't prove that what was written is true, just that it hasn't changed over time. The text serves as spiritual guardrails that keep us on the path of discovering God's deeper truths. It doesn't have to be 100% literally true in order to do that, which is actually a good thing because it frees you from having to constantly defend against the nitpickers and amateur critics.
    – kurosch
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 16:22
  • If it's changed over time, it still all falls apart, IMO. If we cannot believe that the Word of God that we use today is the same as the one from 2000 years ago, how can we know it's true?? IMO, textual inerrancy is everything.
    – Top12Gun
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 4:15

Addition of Mark 16.9 to 16.20, do not in any way lead to any new twist to the event of Resurrection in Bible vis-a vis its depiction in other Gospels. This applies to all other citations in the question also

All these citations do not change or contradict any belief within Bible. We could have argued against these additions, had it been something entirely new and not in consonance with other Gospels and if it is something very much contradictory to some other verses at some other place. The fact that the earlier version exists and points to these citations as “additions” without actually contradicting any other verses or messages, only strengthens the veracity of the Bible that it has withstood test of time.

  1. It has proved that there were no attempts to change its central message as depicted by different Gospels “BY ADDITION OF THESE NEW VERSES” and

  2. Most importantly it has also proved that there are "NO REMOVAL OF VERSES FROM ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT" for being contradictory with what has been already revealed or written.

I need not mention here that it is more serious and pure forgery if any verses are found “removed” from any original versions of any book (Not restricting this only to Bible)(reminds me of satanic verses issue) for being contradictory. If the original verses are itself removed from a book for being contradictory, then everything for which that book stands for, is in doubt. Under this instance, the book will have no authority to contradict its detractors.

In brief the above cited addition are not at all affecting any of the truth for which Bible stand for:

Mark 16.9-11are the same events mentioned in Luke 24.1-12, though summarised form.

Mark 16.12-13 also summarises the same events as are mentioned in details in Luke 24.13-32.

Mark 16.14 is the rebuke of his disciples for their doubting which is mentioned in more details in Luke 24.36-43

Mark 16.15.20 is the commissioning of his disciples for teaching the Gospel to all nations which is same as mentioned in Luke 24.44-49.

Luke 22.43-44 is an observation that is similar to Mathew 26:37 and Mark 14:34 and is nothing new in the whole context of Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane. This only depicts the great spiritual struggle Jesus was passing through.

John 7.53-8.11 is not at all contradicting anywhere with what Christ taught in his entire ministry on this earth. (Case of prodigal son Luke 15.11-32)

1John5.7-8 addition is also not something new but found woven through all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The idea of Trinity is in no way dependent on this verse but there are explicit references to Trinity at umpteen places and more distinctively at Mathew 28.19, John 14.26, John 15.26 Mathew 1.18, 1 Corinthians 12.3, 2 Corinthians 3.18, 2 Corinthians 13.13, Ephesians 2.18.


According to 2 Timothy 3:16, all scripture is God-breathed, meaning that God is the sole initiator, inspiration and driving force behind it. Therefore, either we believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, or our faith has no basis. No verses have yet been added or removed that change the meaning of the text; whether or not it falls under the purview of Deuteronomy 4:2 & 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6 is another matter entirely. I believe it does, but I also believe that if God has allowed it into the Word that He promises is God-breathed, there's a reason for that.


There are indeed problems in trusting the Bible if it has altered over the centuries, not only in the ways we have discovered but perhaps even in ways we are only dimly aware of if at all. It appears there have been very significant changes and additions, just two of which are the Johannine comma and the Long Ending to Mark (verses 16:9-20).

We could say that it is a miracle that Mark 16:9-20 is neither new nor contradictory, being somewhat similar to the ending of Luke, and that this proves just how reliable the Bible really is. Or we can say that whoever wrote the Long Ending already had Luke in mind and so of course they harmonise. Since the ending of Luke could hardly be different to that of Matthew, it seems reasonable to doubt whether even Luke's ending is historical. Archbishop Peter Carnley, former Anglican primate of Australia writes in The Structure of Resurrection Belief:

There is no suggestion that the tomb was discovered by different witnesses on four different occasions, so it is in fact impossible to argue that the discrepancies were introduced by different witnesses of the one event; rather, they can be explained as four different redactions for apologetic and kerygmatic reasons of a single story originating from one source

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