I got a really elaborate question about the infallibility of Scripture from an old friend of mine. I am breaking her complex questions into a number of smaller posts so that each isn’t excessively long. The first follows here.
How many mistakes are there that we don’t know about?
This question is a bit confusing because, if we know there is a mistake, then we know it rather than not knowing it as the question above implies. There is no way for me to say how many mistakes there are that are unknown. Let me read into her question a bit more. I think she means to ask about how many variations are there among the NT manuscripts, which evidence is withheld from the Church. I personally am ambivalent about whether this evidence is knowingly withheld or just ignorantly not known. If we look hard enough at scholarship, we can find an answer. Presently, as of 2013, there are roughly 400,000 variations among the NT manuscripts. Most of these variations do not effect the meaning of the text except in small ways: of course, it should concern us if a variation changes the meaning at all, at least in how we think of accuracy in this scientific age. We might need to rethink how we think of accuracy, however, in light of the fact that God is Trinity. I cannot go into this now, but it is worth the time to ponder on how truth in Christianity is linked to the intrapersonal relationships among the Father, Son, and Spirit, who all together constitute the “Truth.” I know that there are at least two texts (one in Hebrews and one in Mark) in the NT whose meaning is changed considerably by a variation. Whether the variations among the manuscripts affect the meaning in only small ways or in large ways doesn’t change the fact that we have to face this difficulty. A fellow colleague of mine once said that it does us no good as the Church to put our head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend as though this difficulty and potential danger to our faith doesn’t exist. The variations are literary and historical facts; nothing can change that. If we decide to obfuscate (hide) or suppress these historical and literary truths as leaders of the Church or as a leader in a parachurch organization like an adventure youth camp or in universities and seminaries, we have serious character issues. Suppression of the truth is the work of the kingdom of Darkness, not the work of the kingdom of Light (God) who uncovers all attempts to hide truth. I will not offer a solution for the variations here; I will give a number of suggestions in my other posts that deal with this topic. I only wanted to lay out the current state of the NT manuscript data, so we, as the Church, are not ignorant of our own Scripture around which so much of our Faith revolves.