Is the Transmission Of the Bible Like A Game Of Telephone?

Is The Transmission Of The Bible Like A Game Of Telephone?  I’m often challenged with this assertion when talking to skeptics.  The idea is that since the Bible was transmitted orally, it is just as unreliable as any other information relayed in the same way.

If you’re not familiar with the game of telephone, this is how it works.  A group of people sit in a circle.  The first person makes up a long string of sentences and whispers it to the person sitting next to them.  The story is then passed from person to person until it gets to the last person in the circle.  The last person will then relay the story out loud to the rest of the group.  Invariably the story sounds nothing like the original version.  So, is this how the Bible was transmitted? 

Not at all.  There are several key differences between the telephone game and the transmission of the Bible.

The Object Of The Telephone Game Is To Get It Wrong

In the game of telephone, the whole point is to get things wrong.  It wouldn’t be a fun game if nothing changed now would it?  In comparison, the scribes copying the New Testament document were trying to be accurate to the originals.  They weren’t trying to mess up.  Accuracy was of the upmost importance to them.

There Is Only One Line Of Information In Telephone

In the game of telephone, there is only a single thread of information.  The manuscripts of the Bible were spread into different regions throughout the world.  If errors crop up in one group, they can easily be identified due to the multiple lines of transmission.  

The Biblical Documents Weren’t Whispered

The scribes that copied the Biblical documents were using written copies.  A scribe that copied an Old Testament document had to not only memorize the wording, but also the exact character location of each letter he was translating.  Great care was taken in the copying process. 

Memorization Has Changed

Of course, some of the stories were orally transmitted prior to their being written.  On our modern world, we don’t memorize as much as we once had to.  Information is so readily available to us, that we seldom need to memorize. This wasn’t the case with ancient peoples.  They needed to rely on memorization, or the story would be lost.  

You can get a good picture of what this was like if you watch the movie “The Nativity Story”. Early in the movie, an older woman is teaching a group of children verses out of Isaiah.  She relays the verse to them, and they repeat it back to her. She then corrects any errors the crop up.   Again, we see the effort put into getting the story right.

As you can see, there is no comparison between the game of telephone and the transmission of the Bible. They are two completely different ways of relaying information.    Telephone is designed to deliberately alter the information.  The scribes copying the Biblical documents were not.  

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