|"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" |
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)
HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO MAN
The Great Return continues with a return to the authority of God's word -- the Bible!!!
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -- II Timothy 3:16-17
It is one thing to understand that God is in existence and to know that the Bible is His word and revelation to man, but it is another matter to explain how the Bible come to man.
It has been pointed out in Lesson 2 that the Bible was written by about 40 men over a period of 1600 years (1500 B.C. to 100 A.D.). It should be noted further that these writers were not all scholars, or for that matter, educated, as we would think of it today. They were people from every echelon of society -- lawyers, shepherd, kings, fishermen, doctors, missionaries, etc. To think that such a wide variety of people could compile a book with no contradictions and which is a complete and single unit (with 66 separate books) is almost unthinkable. How can this be explained? Another startling fact is that these people did not all live at the same time, therefore they often wrote without any knowledge of what others had written about a subject. Still more amazing is the truth that often they did not even understand what they had written themselves. I Peter 1:10-12 points out this fact. Someone asks, "if they did not know what they were writing, how could they have written it down?" The Bible explains in II Peter 1:21, that " holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The first part of that same verse tells us that what they were writing did not come from the will (which means mind, or impulse) of man. Thus, since it was not from man's impulse or thinking, from whence did it come? It came from "God-moved" men who wrote it down. This is known as "inspiration."
Inspiration of the Bible
In our previous lesson under What the Bible Claims for Itself, we learned that, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. --- II Timothy 3:16-17.
The word "inspiration" is derived from the Latin word, "inspirare", which means "to breathe into". In speaking of the inspiration of the scriptures, we mean they are "God-breathed" or were produced by an act of God. A description of "inspiration" was noted in II Peter 1:21. Hence, the Bible is not a mere human product. Those who wrote its message were guided by God. The Bible might be thought of as God's letter to man. Everything that God wants us to know about His will is found in this remarkable book.
What does the Bible claim for itself in terms of inspiration? The Old Testament prophets wrote with confidence and assurance that they were guided by a power outside of themselves. The Hebrew writer said it this way: "God, who at sundry times and in diverse manner spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world" (Heb. 1:1-2). Recall again in Lesson 2, the statements by Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord." Many other prophets made the same declaration over and over, "The word of the Lord that came to Hosea ..."; "The word of the Lord came to Joel..."; ''Now the word of the Lord that came to Jonah ..."; "The oracle (word) of God which Habakkuk the prophet saw..."
The New Testament claims a divine inspiration for the teachings of Christ that overshadows the claims of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is heard to say several times, "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time (prophets of the Old Testament)... but I say unto you..." (Matt. 5:21-48). Then at the end of his message, it is written that the people were amazed because "he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29).
One of Jesus' disciples said on one occasion, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ the son of the living God" (John 6:68-69). That the words of Christ were from God is made clear where Christ said, "He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12:48-49). So, this is what the Bible means when it says that it comes from God, or is inspired of God.
It should be pointed out that the Bible is not inspired in the same sense that Shakespeare, Plato, or Milton were inspired. That their works were "inspirational" is denied by no one, but they were not inspired by God (so that God's thoughts were written down instead of their own). Someone might ask, "Why do we use the Bible: to show that the Bible is inspired -- is not this a weakness to attempt to prove inspiration from the Bible itself? The answer is, "No, if it is God who speaks." If God is not speaking, all the evidence in the world could not prove that something human is divine. In Lesson 2, you will recall we examined some of the proofs of God's authorship of the Bible.
The Books in the Old Testament and New Testament
We have learned that there are 66 books in the Bible -- 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. How did we happen to have this many books in the Bible? Why not more? Why not less? We want to become acquainted with a word called "Canon". When the expression is made with reference to the Scriptures it means the list of books that are properly included in the Bible. What was required of a book before it could be included in the "Canon", or list of books of the Bible? The main requisite for a book to be included in the list was that it was considered as inspired and given by God to guide and direct men. All the 66 books in the Bible meet this requirement. Therefore, acceptance by God's people (Jews in the Old Testament and Christians in the New Testament) was a major factor in deciding which books make up the Bible. However, it should be clearly understood that no group or council of men decided among themselves which books should be included. These groups only recognized, acknowledged and supported the books which had already been generally accepted by God's people over a period of years.
Old Testament The list of books (canon) of the Old Testament was well established by the days of Christ and contained the same 39 books which the Bible contains today. "... there is much evidence to indicate that its canon was complete and accepted by about 400 B.C., the close of its period of history" (Pack, p. 47).
The Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived in Christ's day verified the existence of an established number of books at the time of Artaxerxes who ruled in 424 B. C.
Josephus gave his estimation of the Old Testament by saying, "It is true, our history has been written down since Artaxerxes, but has not been esteemed of like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time. And how firmly we have given credit to those books of our nation, is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, ... to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them" (Pack, p.43, 44).
The books which THE COUNCIL OF TRENT (1546 A.D.) added to the Catholic Bible are admittedly additions to the 39 book canon of the Jews which had existed for at least 1946 years. Something was done at the Council of Trent by non-Jews which the Jews themselves had not dared to do -- add something to God's word. (See Rev. 22:18-19).
New Testament The first pronouncement of a canon of New Testament writings was made at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. The council received a list of 27 books, the same books which are in our New Testament today. This council did not, however, select the books to be included in the New Testament. They only gave recognition in a formal way to books that Christians had accepted as God's word for three hundred years.
On this matter, Thomas says, "Though the collection of the New Testament canon seems slow, the acceptance of a written rule of faith was primitive and apostolic. These books had been serving as God's word to Christians ever since they were written. They had authority before they were collected. The church fathers quoted the New Testament freely. Origen alone quoted it 17,922 times in his known writings. The extant works of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Eusebius, seven men, reflect a grand total Of 36,289 clear-cut quotations of New Testament literature. Nothing like this ever happened to secular literature. It is obvious that not only today is the Bible the world's most studied book but it was just that in the first few hundred years of the Christian era, and even before the New Testament had gained its final status as a one-volume collection" (Pack, p. 55).
Therefore, it happened, that over the first few hundred years, all of the books (and there were many) which were quite obviously nothing more than the products of men's minds were gradually discarded until the 27 genuinely inspired books which we have today, remained. This was possible because early Christians recognized the inspired books at the time they came out.
Question: The Roman Catholic church has claimed that she originated, gathered the books of the Bible and declared them to be inspired. Is this true? Please study only one Scripture reference, II Tim. 3:16-17, complete this course, then decide for yourself whether this claim is true.
Preservation of the Bible
In the quotation from Josephus earlier, an indication of the Jewish attitude toward the Scriptures is given. CARRELL'S explanation further reveals how meticulous and accurate the Jewish scribes were in their work. He said, The Bible is the most well-preserved book in the world. It has been handed down to us through many centuries by faithful men who took the greatest pains to guard it from any change. In ancient times there were no printing presses, and all copies of the Bible had to be made slowly and carefully by hand. Of course, error was very possible. To insure accuracy, the ancient Bible copyists counted the words and letters on each page of the Bible. They carefully noted the middle word and letter on each page. After finishing copying a page, they counted all the letters and words to see that not one was left out or an extra one put in. If a mistake was discovered on a page, that page was destroyed and another one written. This was done because a later reader might not know whether a change had been made by the original copyist or someone else at a later time. The pages were connected end to end to form a long scroll which was then rolled up on a stick.
These books were written on parchment which lasts a long time. And many hundreds of these ancient manuscripts remain in existence today. These have been diligently compared by scholars who testify to the great accuracy of these ancient copyists. They made very few mistakes. For example, recently some very old Bible scrolls were discovered in a cave in Palestine. Scientific tests showed that these scrolls were written about 100 years before Christ, and that they are 1,000 years older than the oldest copy of the Bible then known. One of the scrolls contained the book of Isaiah, an O.T. book. Careful comparison showed that it differed from our modern book of Isaiah in only twelve minor points, none of which changed the meaning. In over 1,000 years of copying, the book of Isaiah had remained unchanged. (Carrell, p. 6).
The question arises: Do we have the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible? No, we do not, but we can be certain beyond doubt, that the Bible as we have it, is exactly the same as the original document. How can this be? Carrell's illustration will clarify the point.
A certain rich man wrote a will, according to which his money was to be divided among twenty heirs after his death. These heirs were naturally interested in the will, and each one made a copy of it. In process of time the rich man died, but before his will could be brought out and read, the courthouse, where it was kept, burned, destroying all records.
It was then discovered that there were some differences in the various copies of the will. Someone said it would be impossible to recover the original will. Alarmed, the various heirs brought their copies together for comparison it was discovered that there were a few slight differences. A few numbers had been copied wrong in some copies. In others, a word had been dropped, or a wrong word written in. But no two people made the same mistake. By comparing the various copies carefully, they were able to correct all mistakes, and to arrive at a final copy which all agreed must be identical with the original will. They were even more certain they knew the rich man's will than if they had had it alone. For a single copy might be forged or changed in process of time, but no one could change all the copies. (Carrell, p. 6).
Manuscripts of the Bible
In the foregoing section, we were introduced to the subject of manuscripts which were copies made of the original documents. In the illustration just given, 20 copies of the original document were mentioned, but for the books of the Bible there are literally hundreds. The differences in these manuscripts have been accurately analyzed, (ever-so-slight as they are) by scholars and corrected so that today we can be certain that we have exact replicas of the originals. And, today since we have printing presses, millions of copies of the Bible in its original purity are turned out yearly. It is impossible for further error to be incorporated into the text of the Bible. You will be interested in becoming acquainted with some of the manuscripts from which most scholars do their work.
The Vaticanus This manuscript is generally believed to be the oldest of all and is dated in the 4th century A.D. It was written in Greek and contains all of the Old Testament except the first 46 chapters of Genesis and the Psalms from 105 to 137. It contains all of the New Testament through Hebrews 9:14. After 1500 years the writing is still clear and legible. It has been in the Vatican library in Italy since before 1481 A.D.
The Sinaitcus This manuscript is also dated in the 4th century A.D. It was discovered in 1859 by the German scholar Tischendorf in a monastery at Mt. Sinai. It was also written in Greek and contains practically all of the Old Testament and New Testament. It is now located in the British museum but facsimiles are in all great libraries and are thus accessible to scholars.
The Alexandrinus It is dated at the first part of the fifth century A.D. It was written in Greek and contains both the Old Testament and New Testament. It is not considered as reliable as the first two manuscripts. It was made in Alexandria, Egypt, and has been kept in the British Museum since 1627.
The Ephraem Manuscript It is supposed to have been written in the early part of the fifth century A.D. It was written on very expensive vellum (parchment) and contains much of the Old Testament and New Testament (all of the New Testament except II Thessalonians and II John). It is now kept in the Royal Library in Paris, France.
There are many other manuscripts and countless quotations from early Christian writers (already referred to) by which the exact text of the original documents may be determined.
Versions of the Bible Through the Years
The Old Testament was Originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament written in Greek. But, as pointed out earlier, since it's original writing, translations or versions have been made into over a thousand languages.
Before Christ In about 285 B.C., seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, made the first translation of the Bible -- the Old Testament only was translated from Hebrew into Greek and called the Septuagint, or the LXX, in reference to the 70 scholars who did the work. This was likely the version of the Bible in Christ's day and the quotations of the New Testament writers were apparently taken from this version on many occasions.
After Christ (1st century A.D. to the 14th century A.D.) in the year 405 A.D., the great Scholar, Jerome, completed his translation of the Bible, called the Latin Vulgate, and it became the most widely used Bible of the world for over a thousand years. It has been the "official" Bible for the Catholic Church all the time and their Rheims-Douay version (an English translation) was taken from it.
The English Versions (14th century A.D. to the present). The first complete English translation of the Bible was made by John Wyclif, in 1382, in England. Heretofore, the Bible had been in Greek, Hebrew, Latin and several other languages, such as the Coptic, Arabic and Slavonic. Wyclif had to write it out by hand and the price of one copy was tremendous. Scribes had to write nearly a year to complete a single copy.
With the invention of printing in the 15th century, the printed Bible came into use:
*Gutenberg Bible -- printed in 1455 in Latin. This was the first printed Bible.
*Tyndale's Bible -- printed in 1525 in English. This was the first complete printed English Bible.
*Other versions followed these and from the end of the 16th century until now, there have been hundreds of translations.
One of the most influential and popular English versions since the first one in 1525, has been the King James Translation of 1611. This is the Bible that most of the English-speaking world has used for 300 years. There have, however, been a number of revisions of the Bible since then, and of late a number of modern English translations have come out also. This has been done in an effort to give the world a Bible which they can more readily understand as the meaning of some of the words used in the King James version have changed since the 17th century.
Conclusion Having studied how the Bible came from God to man and why it is God's word, we now turn our attention to God's Preparation of the World for the Coming of Christ.
inspiration - "God-breathed", thus written by God.
canon - a list of books which meet the requirements to be accepted in the Bible.
version - a translation of the Bible from one language into another language
translation - a version of the Bible from one language into another language.
manuscripts - copies of the original documents of the books of the Bible.
Carell, William, Bible Correspondence Course
Dacus, Pence (ed.), New Testament Christianity, Vol. 1, No. 1, June, 1964.
Lightfoot, Neil, Living Word Series, How We Got Our Bible, R.B. Sweet Co., Inc., Austin,
Pack, Frank (ed.), Our Bible, Abilene Christian College, Abilene Texas, 1953.
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