Copyists’ Errors— Even in the King James Version?
Question: I came across a list of numerous contradictions in the Bible. Here are just a few: 2 Samuel:8:4 says David took from Hadadezer “seven hundred horsemen,” but 1 Chronicles:18:4 says David took “seven thousand horsemen.” A similar discrepancy occurs between 2 Samuel:10:18 (“seven hundred chariots [and] forty thousand horsemen”) and 1 Chronicles:19:18 (“seven thousand chariots [and] forty thousand footmen”). These are just a few of the errors—and they’re in the King James Bible, which I have always believed was perfect in every word. Help!
Response: The Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts, not in every copy that someone has produced since then. Not every copyist or every translator worked so flawlessly that every copy of the Bible in every language is perfect in every word. These errors you point out were made by someone in centuries past when the documents were copied by hand.
One would have to go to the available manuscripts themselves to determine when these particular errors arose. And no doubt by comparing the many manuscripts we still have with one another it would be possible to determine what the original actually said—whether 700 or 7,000, whether footmen or horsemen, etc. However, it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to determine this because these errors do not affect any doctrinal teaching.
Certain kinds of copying or translating errors that affect doctrine could also theoretically have crept into a particular manuscript, but we have so many copies of manuscripts dating back so many centuries that by comparing these with one another such mistakes can be discovered and corrected. In fact, none of the major Bible translations on the market today contains doctrinal errors. Although there are certain significant translational differences between the King James Bible and the modern translations (including many deficiencies in the latter), any discrepancies in most translations are corrected by other verses in that same version.
—An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 111-12) by Dave Hunt