As Jesus said in Mattthew 5:18, Scripture is valid. God tells us what He wants us to know about Him and what He requires of us. And everything He tells us is authoritative for us to believe and obey.
God has preserved His written Word. We have the Bible. But He has done so providentially, not miraculously.
Once upon a time, there were two brothers who printed a Greek New Testament in 1633. They wrote in the preface a bit of good advertising. Their claim was that their edition was “the text now received by all in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” So this form of the text came to be known as the “Received Text” or, in Latin, the “Textus Receptus” commonly abbreviated as the TR (152). This matters today because the New Testament of the King James Version is based on the Textus Receptus. And some believe the Received Text, the Textus Receptus, is how God miraculously preserved the words of the New Testament. And some would say that God did the same thing in the Masoretic Text for the Old Testament. But what does Scripture say about its preservation?
For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Ps. 119:89, KJV).
Does that settle it? Does this mean God has a perfect copy of Scripture in heaven and He’s given us the same on earth in the Textus Receptus and Masoretic Text? Well, actually this verse doesn’t tell us anything about what God has done with Scripture on earth. And when this verse refers to the Lord’s word, instead of referring to the written Word of God, it’s best understood as “God’s all-embracing purpose and will” (831). But that’s not to say that Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about preservation. There are actually verses that have something to say about God preserving His written word. Take, for instance, Psalm 119:152:
Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever (Ps. 119:152).
And, just a few verses after that:
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever (Ps. 119:160).
These verses are talking about Scripture. God made it to last forever. So Scripture does teach preservation. But to what extent? The three common beliefs are these.
One: God miraculously preserved every word in one single text.
Two: God preserved every word providentially in the mass of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in existence.
Three: God providentially preserved, not every word, but the essential message in the available manuscripts.
The first one is incorrect because Scripture doesn’t make this claim for itself. There are some passages commonly quoted out of context or misapplied to argue in favour of preservation (Psalm 12:6–7, Psalm 119:89; 1 Peter 1:25). Some of these passages aren’t making anything about the written Word of God, but God’s oral communication to man. Or let’s look at one of the classic Scripture texts used to support preservation. Take Psalm 12:6–7 quoted from the KJV, as is commonly done:
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever (Ps. 12:6–7).