I believe the Scriptures are inspired, infallible, inerrant, trustworthy, and our only rule of faith and practice.[ii] The autographs[iii] are inspired and inerrant in the most direct and immediate fashion. The Holy Spirit moved on men (2 Peter 1:19-21), the result being that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). No copy or translation is on par with the original, in the sense of this original being where the divine transaction between God and writer first took place. This does not mean we should doubt having the word of God in the present tense. All scripture is given by inspiration.
I accept Francis Turretin’s phrasing – authentic formally & authentic materially – but doubtless with a slightly nuanced meaning. The scriptures in their present condition may not be “authentic formally” because they are not the original form or writing. They are “authentic materially” because the same truth is expressed. The word of the Lord is forever settled in heaven (Cf. Psalm 119:89); the original documents were written on perishable media (think “paper”[iv]). The original text, the words of God, survive and exist without the original media. The original message is not a physical object that has perished. God’s message is not lost, when copied or translated accurately.
I believe, then, that the Scriptures are inspired by God; the original words (though not the original documents) are preserved by God; the preserved words are translated into languages other than or in addition to the original languages.[v] In the English language, I believe the King James Bible represents this work of God, and can legitimately be considered the inspired words of God, preserved and translated.[vi] I believe the King James Bible is inspired and inerrant because original documents, the preserved original language manuscripts, and copies from which it is derived are both inspired and inerrant – not because the King James translators themselves were inspired. I do not believe that God’s words are only preserved in English.[vii]
Unlike many (most?) in the “King James Only” camp, I do not spend my time on tirades against other translations of the Bible.[viii] Apparently, here I differ with many of my brethren. I am loathe to say that the words “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) or “Eber, Peleg, Reu” (1 Chronicles 1:25) somehow are no longer God’s words when printed within the lids of the American Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, New International Version, or the Revised Standard Version. When the Douay-Rheims Version (DRA, 1899 American Edition) says in John 14:6 “Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” it is a clear testimony that Jesus is the only way, even though contained in a Catholic translation. This is not an endorsement of these Bible translations, but a simple acknowledgement that God’s word cannot be bound or broken! (Compare 2 Timothy 2:9, John 10:35, & Isaiah 55:11, for examples). Wherever it is accurately translated – even in translations with which I otherwise disagree – God’s word is God’s word!
The King James Bible translators, in The Translators to the Reader, put it this way:
“Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the King’s speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere.”
God’s word is resilient; it is powerful and persistent; it cannot be bound or broken. Bury it and it will rise again! John 6:63 “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (Jeremiah 23:29, Ephesians 6:17)
[ii] “Biblical inerrancy means the Bible contains no error. It is without error in faith and fact. If we have the self-disclosure of the holy God, it cannot be mixed with error.” J. Otis Yoder & Harold S. Martin, Biblical Inerrancy and Reliability (Harrisonburg VA: Fellowship of Concerned Mennonites, 1985, p. 9)
[iii] In theological discussion the autographs (or autographa) refer to the first or original writing (or manuscript) of the documents of the Bible. Therefore, for example, the first document created when Matthew penned his gospel is the “autograph.” When the original document is copied, it is still the Gospel of Matthew but the copy is not considered the autograph.
[iv] Much of the scripture, so it is believed, was originally written on papyrus, a writing material made from a papyrus or reed plant. We get our English word paper from the word papyrus. It may not seem troublesome to scholars to discuss our “not having” the inspired writings, but it is troublesome to destroy the people’s confidence in the Bible.
[v] “Another rendering of the authentic version is itself also Sacred Scripture, so long as it has been translated into other languages as devoutly as possible, and corresponds to it precisely and completely—as much, at least, as this can be done. Such translation is not only permitted and useful (contrary to what certain papal teachers have determined), but also entirely necessary (Acts 2:4, 6, 11; Nehemiah 8:8, 9, 14, 18), so that it may be of use to all people (Deuteronomy 31:11; Colossians 3:16), and so that it may be understood, read, and heard by all people and those of any kind—also lay-people.” – Synopsis Purioris Theologiae or Synopsis of a Purer Theology
[vi] Some people express it this way: Copies and translations have derivative inspiration. Derivative means not original or secondary. That seems okay to me, although I’m not sure that is the best way to express it, or what all may mean when they use the terminology.
[vii] Some people think “King James Only” implies this.
[viii] The multiplying of translations nevertheless causes a great deal of confusion.