The Bible was written by various different authors over a 1000 year period. Yet all the Books of the Bible connect like pieces of a puzzle. Aside from the occasional translation and copying error, that is.
Every prophecy penned in the Bible has come true, except for some of the end time prophecies, and if you read the Biblical prophecies about the end times and compare them to today you'll be astonished.
Declining morality, Israel's invincibility, globalism...All these things were foretold in the Bible.
So must be understood spiritualy. Historically and even scientifically, the world we live in today tells the story of the bible. The supernatural does exist, and the divine nature of the Bible can be seen in its mathmatical perfection, fulfillment of prophesy (predictions of the future) and change it brings to peoples lives. It is as relevant today as when it was first inspired - read it and consider these things for yourself - step outside your box and see the truth.
We can actually be pretty sure that the bible is at most intact in its original form. When it comes to the New Testament, I can personally guarantee that the original ancient Greek we have today is correctly translated, as I use at least 3 versions when studying (ancient greek, modern greek translation and a normal english translation - usually NIV or ESV)
There are several reasons why there are many translations today:
1) Languages change. The King Jame's version, for example, though a great translation for its time, is now not enough for people to understand. A lot of words have changed their meaning. Someone once half-jokingly said "if King James was alive today, he'd use NIV", and this is probably accurate to an extent.
2) Some translations value structure and accuracy over clarity and vice-versa. Depending on the application, you'd want the right translation. A bible scholar should go for structure more than clarity, but a pastor in an international church should go more for clarity and explain, when there's possible ambiguity, the original text.
3) The word of God was meant to be understood by everyone. There's no "holy language", even though some sections of Christianity wrongfully think of themselves superior for using latin or ancient greek.
Now when it comes to the manuscripts we have, there is a surprisingly high consistency among them. Most of the differences are spelling mistakes or small unimportant omissions/additions. It just means God cares more about the message, rather than spelling. It is important to say that whenever there's a controversial passage that not all scholars agree whether it should be there or not, one of the two apply:
1) It's not changing anything at all.
2) It's already paraphrased in other sections, so they don't create new theology.
Other differences include different ordering of paragraphs, which still doesn't change the meaning much.
This fact is not hidden from Christians. In fact, controversial verses are noted in all modern bibles. There's usually a keynote saying "this verse was not found in all manuscripts", "this word could also mean X", or something similar to that.
To sum up, any differences between manuscripts:
- do not define key christian theological points, OR there are other non-controversial verses to back up the same message; they don't change the main message.
- are not used as an excuse of debate among Christians; they're not a source of denominations or disagreements.
- are documented and accessible to all Christians; some bible versions have more extended information.
I know that no "original" manuscripts have been found yet, but this doesn't mean that the manuscripts we have today are not accurate - especially given their consistency among versions found in different parts of the world. Even though some people might say that the manuscripts we have today are "copies of copies of copies [...]" it's not really true as there's still a high chance that our oldest manuscripts are direct copies of the originals.
(Check comments for more)
When I was younger (10-16 years old) I was a very devout Christian. I strongly believed that the Bible was the ultimate source of truth and that it should hold authority over every other religious book and any scientific or philosophical book that opposed it. However, I see now that my previous opinion was wrong and arrogant. Why should a two thousand year old book that had gone through multiple translations, forgery, and had content that had been edited in after its initial completion have any authority over any other text whether it be religious, secular, ancient, or modern? It shouldn't, and it doesn't. Also, the events that occur in the Bible are ridiculous and have no logical or historical basis. For instance, the book of Genesis claims that the Earth formed before the Sun and any other celestial body (and the rest of the universe, actually). Today we know that the Earth - as well as the Sun and rest of the planets in the solar system since they all came to be at around the same general period of time - probably formed about 4.54 billion years ago (http://www.Universetoday.Com/75805/how-old-is-the-earth/). We also know that the Universe must be at least 13.8 billion years old (http://www.Space.Com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.Html). Genesis also claims that humanity originated in the Garden of Eden which, seeing as to how the Bible's authors originated somewhere in the Middle East, very was probably located somewhere in Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia). However, the leading theory proposed by modern anthropologists and biologists alike is that Homo sapiens most likely originated from somewhere in Africa (http://curiosity.Discovery.Com/question/africa-the-cradle-of-humanity). There are other reasons why I no longer subscribe to the Christian faith - as well as other religious groups - but I don't want to spend too much of my time listing them. My main reasons, just to be clear, have nothing to do with spite, hatred, Satanism, or any other emotional reason. Me rejecting religious notions was a result of me searching tirelessly for the truth and the evidence just happened to lead me away from religion and supernatural claims altogether. Have a nice day! :)
Empirical, Rational studies into the Bible has found that it is Flawed, Ethically, Geologically, Historically, Biologically, Socially and Anthropologically.
If you want any knowledge in any of those fields, then you will find infinitely more truthful and Authoritative texts at any Library on planet Earth.
The Bible is purely a Theological Document, nothing more.
Though even the Theology in the Bible is severely Flawed.
The Bible wins no prizes in any field, not even it's own.
Essentially it is a very useless piece of literature.
Definitely a waste of time reading it.
Here's the text that motivated me to ask this question: "The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven. The Bible is the product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book."
The Bible is a collection of ancient writings by a plethora of different authors with a wide variety of different ideas, many of which are in serious conflict with each other. Therefore it lacks any kind of authoritative motivation in any one direction.
Many of these writings are not what we would today refer to as historical accounts. They are folk tales that went around quite a few campfires and creative embellishments before being written down. Therefore any historical facts, such as a place that was known to have existed at the time, are just there as props to the mythical/folk tale content of the stories. They can in no way be looked on as authoritative history.
And, on top of that, it's not complete. In some places you have incomplete works by different authors spliced together to make them look complete, and there are hundreds of works that existed in the ancient world that are not included. Therefore, it's not even effectively authoritative on what people of the ancient world believed.
What it is authoritative on is which writings from the ancient world served the interests of the church and the English monarchy at the time of The Bible's compilation. But, being as that church has gone through many changes, and there are now many different churches (or sects) The Bible is no longer authoritative on any existing set of Christian beliefs.
The Bible is pretty much an allegorical tool one can use to search for helpful ideas. Because it gives you a point in every direction, if you crack it open to an idea that seems particularly helpful to your current situation, you could feel that this was God directing you to that page because he's trying to tell you something. But then you can do that with any other book as well. So The Bible isn't even the authoritative word of God.
The only authoritative word of God would be any message God sends to you directly, by whatever means he chooses to use. To say he was limited to The Bible would put some contradictory limitations on the concept of God.
Is it truthful? I think only extreme fundamentalists seriously consider the question of is this a fully accurate historical account. What's of value to the common Christian are the ideas they get from it. And if the ideas set them on a course for a good life, the book is validated by fulfilling its promise.
But, it can just as easily be used by evil people to justify evil ends. So it isn't a matter of is The Bible for real. It's a matter of is the person reading it for real? Are they sincere? Are they looking for guidance from God, or are they just looking to justify they're current lifestyle?
If it's the latter, they make of The Bible a deceitful, dishonest book. If it's the former I leave it with a question mark, because only the results for the individual will tell.
I have a copy sitting on my bookshelf where it belongs, between the bhagavad gita and Aesop's fables. It is a reflection of the primitive society that produced it, and has very little to offer a modern civilized world.
If you draw inspiration from it, that's great. Pick and choose the good parts, and discard the nonsense bits... Like any other ancient book. That's all it is.
The bible is a book, written by decadent men, pushing a homophobic, misogynistic, and slave-owning society and should be treated accordingly. It's a book of hatred. I don't see it as the bread of life. I see it more as the cancer of humanity. It has no moral code, that any modern person would accept.
The bible's dogma has not stood the test of time. There are so many contradictions in the bible, last count was over 400. God's advice on children, beat them with a rod, if they talk back, kill them. Not the best advice giver, considering god drowned all his children. Then god asks for our love, or we burn forever. Lets look at the ten commandments, the first four have nothing to do with morality there more about god's ego. But almost all are punishable by death which is immoral as number six says do not kill. The book uses guilt, shame, fear and hatred, not the best teaching tools. If we are going to take the god of the bible seriously, we should admit that he never gives us the freedom to follow the commandments we like and neglect the rest. Nor does he tell us that we can relax the penalties he has imposed for breaking them. Christian pretend to know things they don't know, and call it faith. Wishful thinking does not make something true. If this confuses you, its because you don't know what it is like to really believe in god.
While believers like to think the bible is the 'word of god', they haven't even come close to proving such a nonsensical statement. The reality is that the bible is a 100% MAN-MADE invention. It was MAN who created God, not the other way around. So while there are some good verses in the bible that can help people live better lives, there's also a lot of incredibly BAD stuff. The Bible endorses some of the worst human behavior including slavery, murder and rape. What the psychopath and sadist do because they are mentally ill, the biblical 'moralist' does for "duty" or "justice". Humanity could use a whole lot more kindness and mercy and a whole lot less biblical 'morality'.