Skeptics often challenge the accuracy of the Bible manuscripts. The idea is that copies have been made of copies, causing errors to creep in as each copier makes mistakes and repeats the errors of previous copyists. Also, words change their meaning. An obvious modern example is the word “gay,” which does not have the same meaning now that it had 50 years ago. It is true that the original documents written in the first century do not exist. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain Old Testament documents from before the time of Christ. In January of 2018, the Library of Congress announced that it had obtained the oldest complete ancient Torah scroll sheet totally legible to the naked eye.
So how do we determine the accuracy of Bible manuscripts? We use copies of the biblical manuscripts that are very old and compare them to the documents that were used to produce a particular translation of the Bible. Gary Rendsburg writing in Biblical Archaeology Review (November/December 2019, page 51), said this about the Torah scroll in the Library of Congress: “The document is nothing short of outstanding! Compared to the other old Torah scroll sheets and fragments surveyed, this sheet, composed of five columns of text, is perfectly legible. Every single letter can be read easily.”
So how does this ancient copy of the Torah line up with the five books of Moses found in your Bible? The answer is “very well.” There is nothing in this oldest Torah manuscript that changes anything stated in the Bible you have. The copyists were very careful not to make mistakes. While some paraphrase Bibles might inject modern human bias or error, that is generally not true of the academic translations of the Bible. This ancient Torah scroll validates the Pentateuch, but similar techniques confirm other passages in the Old and New Testaments. We can trust what we read in modern translations of the Bible.
— John N. Clayton © 2019