The autographa of the Bible (that is, the original copies of the writings that now form our Bibles) are lost to us. This is not a serious issue for identifying what the texts originally said. Textual criticism has established the original text of the vast majority of the New Testament (well north of 99%). We can reconstruct the original text based on over 15,000 extant Greek and Latin manuscripts from the early centuries of the church spread across the Mediterranean basin (some mere fragments, others nearly complete New Testaments like the Codex Vaticanus). Add into this the abundance of citations of the Old and New Testaments in the Church Fathers (it has been said that one could reconstruct the entire text of the New Testament from citations in the Church Fathers) and one can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament with a high degree of confidence. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has added to the general confidence in the reliability of Jewish copyists of the Old Testament.
Despite this fact, some folks believe that the loss of the autographa is a serious problem. Bart Ehrman puts it like this:
why should one think that God performed the miracle of inspiring the words in the first place if he didn’t perform the miracle of preserving the words? If he meant to give us his very words, why didn’t he make sure we received them? (Bart Ehrman and Daniel B. Wallace, The Reliability of the New Testament, (Fortress Press, 2011), 14).
I presume that Ehrman’s argument goes something like this:
(1) If God were to inspire the Bible, then he would ensure that the original copies were retained for posterity.
(2) God did not ensure that the original copies were retained for posterity.
(3) Therefore, God did not inspire the Bible.
However, I see no reason to think that (1) is true. This seems to me on the level with arguing:
(4) Bill would only approve of a car for his daughter Debbie if it had no aftermarket parts.
(5) Debbie’s new car has aftermarket parts.
(6) Therefore, Bill did not approve of Debbie’s new car.
Let’s assume that Bill is a perfectly reasonable fellow who is also perfectly knowledgeable about cars and that his concern is with aftermarket parts that will impugn the safety of the car. Based on this knowledge, (4) is much too strong. Granted there are many parts that would not pass muster with Bill (e.g. a nitrous oxide system which would promise an insane 300 additional horsepower at the flick of a switch). But there are many other aftermarket parts that would be inconsequential (e.g. fuzzy dice, Betty Boop floor mats, chrome exhaust tips).
So the mere fact that Debbe’s car has some aftermarket parts is not in itself sufficient ground to believe Bill didn’t approve of it. And that means we should reject (4).
The “aftermarket emendations” of the Bible are the equivalent of fuzzy dice, Betty Boop floor mats and chrome exhaust tips. Consequently, just as the loss of some original parts provides no reason to doubt that Bill approved Debbie’s new car, so the loss of the autographa provides no reason to doubt that God inspired the Bible.