Have you ever opened up the Bible and asked yourself, "Can I trust what is on these pages?" I think the worst thing anyone can do is to leave this question unanswered. I'm happy to know that there is actually an entire field called "Christian Apologetics" that is devoted in answering questions like this one.
I am by no means qualified to answer this question like professional apologists are, having spent an enormous amount of time studying this subject, but I can share with you what I have learned so far that has settled this question for me personally.
When Christians have faith that the Bible is inerrant and inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), but have not been taught about the process of spreading Scripture throughout history, the word "error" can sound alarming. To some, it may seem as if what is meant by error is that Scripture itself has errors. However, I have come to terms with how it's entirely possible for Scripture to be inerrant and yet fallible people make mistakes along the way in the process, and yet still be able to trust in the reliability of the Scripture we read today.
I recently listened to a podcast by "Ultimate Questions" where apologists Jon Topping and Wesley Huff discussed "Textual Variances", and I asked him a question that I will share his response to further down. ( https://www.jontopping.com/post/episode-17-textual-variances-with-wesley-huff?fbclid=IwAR339dod9Ve2HE_25kC94kzaGlxL1EtPOKltECAHxY7apcCoQ_pYuUigqEw )
But first, what do some people mean by errors, or a more specific and accepted term known as "variants"? Apologist Tim Barnett explains in an article on this subject that variants are places in the manuscripts that differ from one another. More specifically, a "textual variant" is any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, even spelling differences. (https://www.str.org/w/textual-variants-it-s-the-nature-not-the-number-that-matters)
Prior to listening to this podcast, I was confused about why there were so many variants in the first place. I presupposed that every manuscript copy could and should be identical to each other, and I also seemed to think that these variants were intentional. This led me to ask Wesley Huff the following question on his Facebook post where he shared this podcast.
Why did scribes sometimes take liberties in adding to the text and why weren’t they more apprehensive about doing so?
This is what he responded: "the vast majority are good faith additions. Some are accidental, I.e. they were familiar with another Gospel (potentially already having familiarity with say, spending a year copying Matthew’s Gospel) and then when they come to Mark’s Gospel and encounter similar stories they unconsciously fill in the gaps in the story from their familiarity of another. Some scribes thought they saw errors and were correcting the text (in the case of hard to understand wording or grammar for example). This could be a reasonable explanation for the longer ending of Mark developing. The abrupt end of the original ending of Mark is both grammatically awkward and jarringly abrupt. Scribes later could have tried to smooth out the ending by amalgamating portions of the other Gospel endings or by creating a type of post-script for the reader. Some copies we have are more like commentaries or paraphrases but those extra bits end up in later copies where such additions weren't necessarily known to not be part of the original text."
Upon reading this response, I became aware that it is wrong to leave out the human element when trying to understand why there are so many variances. Some skeptics want to claim that this is precisely why you can't trust what we have in the Bible, however lets consider this human element for a moment.
Today, as I was studying the Bible, I decided I would type a few Bible verses on my computer instead of copying and pasting it from a Bible website. I found myself trying my best to get every word in the right order, with the correct spelling, and I often lost my place. I was only trying to copy a few Bible verses, and yet this allowed me to get a small perspective as to what a scribe's experience must have been like trying to document Scripture accurately. When I was done, I checked to see if I got each word right, because my intention was not to change what is written in my Bible. I made mistakes along the way and corrected them. In the same way, Scripture is inerrant, but people can make mistakes sometimes, and we can know where they are at, like I could know where I made a mistake by comparing what I wrote to the Bible in front of me.
I recommend listening to the full podcast to learn more on this, but I'd like to leave you with the words of J. Warner Wallace: "The same process that revealed to me (as a skeptic) the passages that couldn’t be trusted also revealed to me (as a believer) the passages that can be trusted" (Cold Case Christianity, page 110). It is actually a great advantage for us to have so many manuscripts, because we are able to compare them in order to determine what belongs and what does not, and this should give us confidence in what we have today.