Did Every Word of the Bible Matter?

In order to address this question let’s make a series of stipulations first. Let us assume that we are first century Christians. Let us also assume that we have in our hands the book of 1 Corinthians, and that we have the very document written at the hand of Paul. Finally, let us assume that the Spirit of God speaks to us through the word of God [1 Corinthians] and that we accept every word of this document to be the inspired infallible word of God in Greek.

There are a few ways we could attempt to answer the question above as first century Christians in possession of the original 1 Corinthians whose belief is that every word of this text is the word of God in Greek.

In the negative there seems to be three meaningful answers: 1.) We could conclude that there are a few [or more] words of little importance to Paul’s overall argument and teaching. That is, perhaps we could conclude that a few words [or more] here or there really don’t matter to the overall structure of Paul’s thought and teaching. 2.) We could conclude that a few [or more] of the words are of little import to God being ultimately God’s inspired infallible words in Greek. 3.) We could conclude that a few [or more] words are of little import to God’s argument and teaching for our church in Corinth.

Positively, the only interesting answer seems to be one, All the words of the original 1 Corinthians matter. Given these four answers, as far as I can tell, these are the only meaningful answers we could bring to the table as first century Christians in possession of the original 1 Corinthians whose belief is that every word of this text is the word of God in Greek when asked to judge, “Which words of 1 Corinthians matter?”

We here at StandardSacredText.com take the latter positive position. We believe that every word of the original 1 Corinthians matters, regardless of how seemingly small and/or insignificant the word may appear. Furthermore, I believe that many who do not hold our position would also maintain that every word of the original 1 Corinthians matters, regardless of how seemingly small and/or insignificant the word may appear.

But what about the copies which come after the original? Does every word of our Greek NT’s matter the way every word of the original mattered? This is where the Standard Sacred Text Christians and the Critical Text Christians part ways. The former still holds to a high and robust defense and necessity of every word mattering. The latter on the other hand plainly and regularly state that not every word matters. They say not every word matters when they proclaim, “We have a sufficiently reliable text” or “We have 95% of the original text” or “We have the original words in the text or apparatus of the N/A 28” or “Rest assured no known error affects any major doctrine” or “Our goal is now the initial text.”

Of course, the elephant in the room is, “Seeing you [evangelical CT/MVO advocate] make so much theological hay over every word of the originals being inspired and inerrant [rather an infallible] it is puzzling and embarrassing that you have no positive theological argument to explain why its “OK” that every word of your Bible is not inspired and inerrant.” In fact, they admit it, and without shame. This is not an oversight or result of ignorance. They know their own Bible is not inspired and inerrant in places if at all. Either that or they know they don’t know if their Bible is inspired and inerrant in places. Then they say it out loud for lost and saved alike to bask in the glory of their doubt and uncertainty.

But let’s say the CT/MVO position is right and let’s further assume that in some Ancient Alien Illuminati Bilderberg temple in South America that there is a document which contains this robust positive theological argument for why the originals have to be inspired and inerrant to the very words, but our Bibles are not and that is “OK” [i.e., acceptable and encouraged to be embraced for the time being]. What then do the CT/MVO advocates mean by “sufficiently reliable,” “no errors affect major doctrine,” and the like?

If they mean that some words don’t matter to Moses’ or Luke’s or Paul’s overall argument, then we have at least two objections: 1.) It is presumptuous to conclude that Moses or Luke or Paul did not need words X, Y, and Z to make their case. Such a claim is only to say, “According to my understanding of Paul, Paul does not need X, Y, and Z to make his point.” It doesn’t get more subjective than that. 2.) Such a construal misunderstands that the argument and thing being taught is not Paul’s properly speaking. 1 Corinthians is not the Word of Paul. 1 Corinthians is the word of God written at the hand of Paul using Paul’s skill and knowledge. To ignore the transcendent quality of the Bible is to ignore the Bible, and some, at least, are very much ignoring the Bible on the point of inspiration, preservation, and certainty.

If they mean that some word’s don’t matter to God, then they are wholly bankrupt in their theology and practice. If all the words of the NT do matter to God because they all mattered when God gave them, then they should matter to us. If all the word of the NT matter to God, then they should matter to us to the same degree that they matter to God. Unless someone can make a robust positive case from exegesis and theology that God only sort-of-kind-of cares of about some words now, then we are not in a place to speak of or treat the words of the NT in another fashion than God does. I mean, they are His words, and they are our Creator’s words, so He gets to say how we speak about and treat those words. All the words matter equally because all words matter equally to God. They did from the original and there is no exegetical or theological grounding to indicate otherwise.

By the way, every time I hear some Ph.D. tell me that some words don’t matter, some errors don’t affect doctrine, we have most of the NT, I hear, “Some words don’t matter to God.” At no point in time are the words of God other than the divinely appointed, inspired, infallible, God-given words of God. They all matter and they all matter all the time. Either admit that you have them all in your Bible or admit that you don’t have them all and that your Bible is faulty and that such a conclusion is devastatingly bad for you, your family, your church, and your country, because the lack of having those words is a direct reflection on the power and person of the God you serve.

If they mean that some word’s don’t matter to God’s argument, then the matter is worse than with Moses, Luke, or Paul discussed above. Most of us have a hard enough time understanding our husbands or wives, and then there is the US tax code. But somehow some “scholar” is going to say that words X, Y, and Z are not necessary to God’s teaching and argumentation therefore they make no impact on any major doctrine. This is the height of superbia. This is Lucifer level, snake-in-the-garden-of-Eden hubris. For my IFB friends, this is good old fashion run of the mile pride. Who are we to say what words God deems necessary to make His case or to reveal His goodness? Who has the chart which states how many words it takes for God to reveal the Gospel and that all others are extraneous or do not affect a single major doctrine? How many and what kind of words does it take for God to make His case to a 1st century Christian? How could you know other than to conclude, “As many words as God deems necessary”?

In sum, it is unclear to me how the CT/MVO advocate can say or behave like some of God’s words don’t matter. Whether they claim that God’s argument or Paul’s argument can suffice without certain words, such advocates are presumptuous, proud, and/or foolish. If they claim that some words mattered to God in the first century but don’t matter now, then they propound their presumption, pride, and foolishness. If I’m wrong on this one, point me to the book or journal article that explains what CT/MVO advocates, especially the formally trained ones, mean by in simplest terms, “Not every word of God matters at this point in time. Your Bible is sufficiently reliable.”

One thought on “Did Every Word of the Bible Matter?

  1. Great discussion. Really good point that the CT advocates would never concede that all the words of the original are not important, so how do the justify the change in position when you move to the copies? When one of them tells me a particular variant doesn’t have to be a big deal, because you can still argue that doctrine from other places in Scripture, I go to Deuteronomy 4:2. The command concerning the word of God says “neither shall ye diminish ought from it”—so whether the doctrine can be found elsewhere is irrelevant.

    Liked by 1 person

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