A basic dictionary definition of integrity might read as follows:
integrity –noun1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
When considering Bible integrity, I think that all three of these definitions apply.
1. The first entry illustrates the spirit of integrity, exemplifying character and honesty. If our Bible is the word of God, and God cannot lie, then we should expect that our scriptures will be honest and properly reflect the ethical and moral character of our God. As Jesus said, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) and also therefore may not contradict.
2. The second point might apply to the wholeness of the scripture: we must be assured that nothing has been added or taken away, that its integrity has truly been preserved. It would be rather pointless for God to speak to us, even those in the latter days, just to have it immediately lost before its time. Jesus also told us that heaven and earth would pass away before one jot or tittle should pass from the law (see Matthew 5:18).
3. The third definition speaks of soundness and perfection of condition, and I think its analogy of the ship's hull is most applicable. A single breach in the hull will sink the entire ship. If God has spoken to us with words, it is reasonable to assume that he might want them to be perfectly understood. In this aspect I will point out that a Bible is only as sound as its translation. The same God that created the languages at Babel he also poured out his spirit in tongues on the day of Pentecost, and so it is worth consideration that he who magnifies his word above his name (Psalm 138:2) might likewise have had a hand in perfecting his word in the age when "knowledge shall be increased" (see Daniel12:4).
(9) And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
(10) Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
From a practical standpoint, it is impossible to prove any type of doctrine upon an unsteady foundation of shifting sand. The cry of our Protestant Reformation was "solas scriptures!" But it is precisely concerning this foundation of scripture that we see so much uncertainty. Without a sure foundation we are left with either our personal feelings or our historical traditions, and these both lead to error.
(12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
(8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
If "the way which seemeth right unto a man" and "philosophy and ... the tradition of men" would spoil us unto death, then we must have a sure source of our doctrines and our beliefs, a foundation for our faith. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things. The spirit of God will never conflict with his word, and this should be our guide.
(4) And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
To date I have studied the topic of the preservation of our Bible texts and the integrity of our various English translations for about ten years. I had received a challenge to examine a claim that the King James Bible deserved a proper examination, even that its words might be have been carefully chosen by God and translated as intended.
I did not like that challenge, because there were several places in the Bible where it was awfully convenient to reserve the possibility to reason that "This should have been better translated as..." or "It shouldn't say that, but the translators were biased." You could say I grudgingly agreed to review the material I had inherited.
However, regardless of some reasoning that was not necessarily sound, there was a very strong point: God had promised to preserve his word, and there was a scientific method of disproving this particular challenge: I simply had to find one single example of a translational (or source) error in a King James Bible. If I could do that, I could then look for another candidate for a "perfect bible" or return to "our Bible is mostly accurate, but no translation is perfect, and I'll decide where it's wrong."
I worked hard to put our Authorized Version to the test, even submitting myself to waves of skeptics, to give them a chance to put forth their favorite challenges. I have not yet been able to find an instance of error or mistranslation. In contrast, I have become more aware of errors and mistranslations in every other bible translation I have compared. I would not have noticed this before, but there are also severe doctrinal differences contained in the more recent English translations as well.
(29) Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Mar 7:9, 13
(9) And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
(13) Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
But does it really make a difference which Bible translation you use? That depends. If you don't read your Bible much, it won't make much difference, and if you never read your Bible at all, likewise it will never make a difference. If scripture is not our authority, we become the slaves of human error, personal feelings, vain philosophy and tradition. But without a Bible, we are left with our "personal feelings" and the philosophy and traditions of men, precisely that which the Preacher, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ himself warned us about.
I would like to challenge each reader to consider this challenge. If God did indeed speak to the prophets of old through the Holy Ghost to give us our scriptures, it would be reasonable to assume that he would preserve them until the latter day. And if he did preserve them until the latter day, it would also be reasonable to expect that he would take an active hand in translating them as he intended. Our God is not an irresponsible or lazy God: he is active, caring, and involved. Therefore, to test this theory, be willing to test your Bible, and hold it to a standard of absolute perfection. A single error would be sufficient to identify it as a mere work of men.
On this topic I remain open to challenges from friends, skeptics, or even adversaries. After this much testing, I have proved to my own satisfaction that the King James Bible, also known as the Authorized Version, is indeed faithfully preserved, perfect and inerrant, and contains the word of God as he intended it to be spread throughout the world in the latter days, in the commonly recognized international language of English. People may not always perfectly read this Bible, but the text itself, including the words, grammar, and punctuation, does pass the test.
There is much that could be said on this, and it is a serious subject worthy of study. No doctrine can be proved without scripture, and no proof can be more solid than the integrity of the scriptures that it is based upon. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17) and it is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword (See Hebrews 4:12). His words are pure, like silver, purified in the furnace seven times and he has promised to preserve them for ever (Psalm 12:6-7).
(18) For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
(19) And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
I think it is very important that we neither add to nor take away any words from his Book, not merely out of fear of plagues or eternal death, but because we really do want to know what God has to say to us. Please consider this test: examine your bible for any error, and insist on a standard of perfection.
(5) Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
(6) Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
There are a lot of different types of questions having to do with Bible Integrity. I have tried to take samples and group them below for easy access.
Old Testament Challenges against our Hebrew and Greek texts
There is one particular type of bible challenge that will compare two parallel sections that seem to differ in some aspect. Often the claim is made that because two accounts do not simply parrot each other word for word, that one or the other must be in error.
I think that any challenge should be taken seriously, and they also give us a good opportunity to compare the integrity of various English translations when they chose to depart from the Hebrew text. Additionally, most of the times these tests have no direct effect on any particular doctrine, so they are more likely to be evaluated fairly and without prejudice.
Defending the New Testament with Knowledge of the Old
One of the more common objections that I hear against the Authorized Version is against the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4. It seems to me that if people were more familiar with their Old Testament they would have no such objection, and understand why this is the only legitimate translation of the Greek pascha in this context.
A popular skeptic's claim against the integrity of the gospel accounts is that although Jesus promised to be in in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights, there is obviously no three days and three nights between Friday evening and Sunday morning. These skeptics have a legitimate question. This is another example where a familiarity with the Old Testament would answer this question.
Be Ready to Answer Any Question...
I truly believe that we should be ready to give an answer to any question. I encountered what seemed to be a rather bizarre claim against the King James Bible, and because this person claimed that he would be willing to make a public retraction if he was ever shown to have a mistake, I decided to answer his challenge by personal letter. Although he was not true to his word and he did not honor his promise to answer all serious challenges, this question turned out to be more interesting than I expected, so I have included it here.
But Does this Have Any Effect On Doctrine?
It becomes difficult to find examples that would constitute a "pure" defense of Bible Integrity, because so often the issue of translation starts to have a visible effect on Christian Doctrine. One of the areas of obvious change lies in the doctrines of Life, Death, Immortality, and Eternal Punishment, and so I have borrowed a few examples from our "Death and Hell" section to illustrate this point.
For our first example, William C. Procter of R.A. Torrey's "The Fundamentals" relies upon translational changes in the Revised Standard Version to promote doctrines of "eternal sin" and "eternal conscious torment." His logic and scriptural support is examined and found to be unsupported by the the classic King James Version.
For our second example, a live Wednesday night Bible study at a Baptist church is reviewed to find out what differences their Rick Warren style multiple translation readings have on the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment. I did not have access to every translation that was read aloud, so sample modern translations of the NIV, NASB, NLT, and the ASV are compared with the plain reading of the KJV.