One of the criticisms young Bible students may hear about the Bible is that we can’t be sure what we have now is an accurate representation of the original text. While this argument chooses to ignore the fact that no one questions the accuracy of other ancient manuscripts like the Iliad (for which fewer original copies and fragments than the Bible exist), it is repeated by many – including at least one other major world religion. There’s a fun activity you can do with older children and teens that can show them how easy it is to prove our current Bible is extremely faithful to the original.
I have to give kudos to the person who originally thought up this activity. I learned about it from my minister who did it as a class activity in college. The original activity involved two sections of the class – each with thirty students. It could easily be adapted by setting up the activity using adults as the other class, or playing the role of the other class yourself. For some real fun, find a bigger space and have an adult class do the activity with your class.
Find a 100 word passage of scripture your students would not know or copy a hundred words from some other unfamiliar text. You will need two such passages if two classes are doing the activity together. Make 30 copies of each text or just one text if you are playing the role of the other class. Give a copy of the original text to each student in the other class, a group of adults, or you can do this yourself. The person with each copy should mark out ten random words of text using a black Sharpie so the word cannot be seen at all. If two classes are doing the activity, give each class a different text with the same instructions.
Now give the 30 copies of the text with missing words to the class that has not seen the original text. Comparing the thirty copies to each other, can they determine the original text with accuracy? If they are careful, they should be able to do so with 100% accuracy. (The amount of time this takes will vary based on your students.)
After they have experienced how easy it is to recover the accurate text, explain to them that what they did was more difficult than what scholars have needed to do to make sure the Bible was accurate. There are only a couple of minor places where there is a major disagreement between the two ancient languages in which the New Testament was originally translated. Those are clearly marked in most Bibles and neither changes anything in the Bible.
Taking the time to do a few activities like this with young Bible students can help protect them from the weak arguments they may hear attempting to undermine the Bible. It’s worth taking the extra time and effort to do them.