|Messages By Ovid Need|
How We Got Our Bible
The question, "How can a person know he is saved from his sins?" many times is met with the answer "We know because the Bible says so!"
"But how do you know the Bible can be trusted?" might be our next question. "Where did it come from? Is it accurate? Did the church always have the Bible? If men wrote it, why call it GOD'S WORD?"
These were valid, basic questions, but surprisingly enough the vast majority of Christians quite hazy on the answers. It is vital that a Christian be familiar with the history of the book which we put so much trust in.
Let's cover some brief points on How we got our Bible, and where it came from.
I. The Old Testament
The 39 books of the Old Testament were written over a period of about 1,500 years. The earliest was Job, the last Malachi.
The Bible is not chronologically arranged, but lists the books according to subject. To get a good insight into the circumstances of each, these books need to be studied in chronological order.
(Job, then the five books of Moses.
I & 2 Sam, Psa.
I Kings, Pro, Ecc.
Isa, Joel, Obadiah
II Kings, Jonah, Amos, Nahum
Jeremiah, Micah, Zeph, Hab.
Ezra, Neh, Est, Hagg, Zech, I & II Chron., Mal.
Then the Holy Spirit was silent for 483 years, until Christ came.
The Chronology of the NT goes something like this:
James, I Thess, II Thess
I Cor, Rom, II Cor, Gal.
Mark, Luke, Matt.
Eph, Phil, Col
I & II Pet, Jude
Hebrews, I Tim, Tit, II Tim.
Then all of the books which the Apostle John wrote. We gave you the evidence of why the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jer.
All of our current NT books were written before the fall of Jerusalem, with the last one written around 65 AD.
There are five divisions to the Old Testament:
1. Law 5 books - Genesis to Deuteronomy
2. History 12 books - Joshua to Esther
3. Poetry 5 books - Job to Song of Solomon
4. Major Prophets 5 books - Isaiah to Daniel
5. Minor Prophets 12 books - Hosea to Malachi
Minor in the sense that they are smaller, not minor in their messages.
THE RELIABILITY OF GENESIS - The Biblical record of God, creation, man, his origin and fall, the flood, etc. presented so simply and clearly in the 50 chapters of this book, have been a prime target of critics for years. Their greatest attack has been on authorship, saying, "Moses was too far removed from the events to speak accurately." Or, "Writing was not developed yet. I believe that Adam had the gift of language and of writing in the garden before the fall.
These objections dissolve when we understand that Moses was "inspired by GOD..." (II Timothy 3:16) and really it was GOD writing the book through him. Since archeological discoveries have indicated that "writing is as old as man," it is highly probable that Moses had received written accounts of these events from those who actually participated in them. In fact, the meaning of the word 'generations' includes a written record passed down to each generation. Therefore, Genesis the collection of these records. What Moses did is write them all down into one document.
The other 38 books of the Old Testament were written during or just after the time they describe by someone familiar with the facts. God selected men from various walks of life through whom He "breathed" His WORD. Some were priests, others were prophets, herdsmen, kings, or judges. All worked faithfully, without knowledge of the others (for the most part) and yet the whole is one consistent, unique message of redemption and the kingdom of God. Each wrote from his own personal perspective, as he viewed life and events according to his personality, occupation and understanding.
The ones who were priests wrote in the terms familiar to priests. The ones who were prophets wrote as prophets. The ones who were kings wrote in kingly terms. The ones who were herdsmen, wrote as such. There writings must be viewed this way, yet understood as they meant, in the light of the total scriptures. The reader must place himself within the time and circumstances of the writer, or the message will be missed.
An example of this is in Ps. 45. A king wrote this and the only kind of warfare that he knew of was blood and guts. But we are told in the NT that our warfare is not a blood and guts warfare, but spiritual, 2 Cor. 10:4-5. Our armor is laid out for us (Eph. 6:11), as is our weapon (Heb. 4:12). The OT writers did not know this. When you mentioned war to an OT saint, all he would have known about was battle with horses and swords, death and destruction. Therefore, he used these terms.
Ezekiel would be the same situation. He was a priest and could only describe what he saw in priestly terms. Therefore, when he was shown the coming temple, the church (I Cor. 3:10-17), he could only describe it in the terms of a physical temple.
Due to the primitive writing materials of clay, papyrus, or leather, we do not have the original writings produced by these men, but we do have copies that are very reliable reproductions.
Those who copied the OT word of God had such a profound respect for it that they regarded even the letters as holy. These copyists were in the habit of counting every letter for fear that a letter might be lost in transcription. (Berkhot, pg. 14 [Palestian Jews]).
CANONIZING THE OLD TESTAMENT - "Canon," meaning measuring rod or rule, is the title given to those religious writings which came up to the high standards required for inclusion in the Old Testament. The work of canonizing the Old Testament was done during the "silent years" between Malachi and the birth of Christ.
Jewish tradition tells us that in the days of Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, a council of 120 was formed with Ezra as its president, to reconstruct the worship and religious life of the people after the return from Babylonian Captivity. It is thought probable that this group of spiritual leaders (or certainly their successors) combine the many religious writings handed down for the past 1500 years into the Old Testament.
Josephus, noted Jewish historian, mentions 22 books which they "believed to be divine" and then he listed them. It is significant that although they combined many books which we have divided (I and II Kings, etc.), our 39 books are exactly the same in content as their 22 books!
The high standards required by the canonizes included such questions as, "Is it divinely inspired," "Was it written by a prophet or spokesman for God?," "Is it authentic, that is, does it tell the actual facts?," or is it loaded with tradition? "Is it genuine, can it be traced back to the time and place of the writer?"
The over 600 quotations of the Old Testament as the "law and the prophets," "Holy Scriptures," etc. by our Lord and His Apostles certainly indicate that He approved of their selections. It is with utmost confidence that we accept the Old Testament as God's divinely inspired Word. They quoted from every book which we have today and from none of those which we do not have.
THE GREEK SEPTUAGINT - LXX - This was the first translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into another language, in this case Greek. Seventy scholars were brought to Alexandria from Palestine which gave it the name, septuagint. The work began around 280 B.C. and was completed about 100 years later. It is significant to us because it proves the Old Testament was canonized (collected into one document) by this time. It is also important as its agreement with the Hebrew text shows the faithfulness with which early translators did their work.
THE APOCRYPHA is the title given to the 14 books contained in the Roman Catholic Bible (written before Christ, between the Old Testament and the New Testament). They contain fancy stories and contradictory thoughts that immediately establish that they are not on a par with Scripture. They are full of nice sounding stories which are obviously tradition.
They have never been accepted by the Jews as inspired writ, were not quoted by Jesus, nor any of the apostles, and were not recognized by the early church. They were "slipped in" with a translation of the Greek Septuagint in the Fourth Century A.D., over the objection of the translator, Jerome, who latter refuted them. They were finally recognized by the Catholic Church in the Council of Trent, 1546 A.D. but, they have never been accepted by the Protestant Church.
II. The New Testament
The New Testament is not arranged chronologically. James was the first, about 50 A.D. There are very convincing evidence, both in Scripture and without, that the Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. We covered this at length on a SN. That would mean that its primary purpose was to warn, instruct and encourage the New Church of the coming calamity.
The New Testament is divided into five divisions -
1. The Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
2. The History of the Early Church - Acts
3. Paul's Epistles - 13 books - Romans to Hebrews
4. General Epistles - 7 books - James to Jude
5. Prophecy - The Book of Revelation
Although Acts does contain the critical first sermons and defenses of the gospel. It is probably more of a foundational doctrinal book than is Romans.
THE NEW TESTAMENT AS "SCRIPTURE" - From the first the Early Church used the Old Testament in their services with the same authority as did the Jews in the synagogue. As the New Testament books appeared, they were given the same respect as the prophets or Moses, and used right along with the Old Testament scripture.
Paul in I Timothy 5:18 refers to "Scripture" and the only place this passage is found is Luke 10:7. He evidently regarded Luke's Gospel as "Scripture" before he wrote his great message on inspiration in II Timothy 3:16. Peter placed his and the other apostle's writings on a par with the Old Testament prophets in II Peter 3:1, 2. He also showed in II Peter 3:15, 16 that he was familiar with Paul's writings and regarded them with the same degree of authority reserved for the Old Testament writers. This seems to be the common attitude of all early church leaders. And he found them as difficult in his day as we do today.
As we saw when we went through the book of Deut, the division came as the result of a heretic named Marcion in the second century.
THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS were written on Papyrus (which consisted of two slices of Egyptian water plant pressed together), consequently they have not been preserved. Vellum, a much improved writing material, began to be used around the Fourth Century. There are several copies from this era that are still in existence.
ANCIENT TRANSLATIONS - The first translations of the New Testament from the original Greek Language are very significant.
The Syriac, was written in Aramaic. Translated before 150 A.D. it has always been regarded with utmost respect and became the official scriptures of the eastern churches. From it translations have been made into Arabic, Persian and Armenian.
The Old Latin Version, translated in the Second Century, became the Bible of the western churches, and for more than a thousand years was the chief source of nearly every version of the Scriptures made in the west. Jerome made the Latin Vulgate from this version around 400 A.D. The Latin Vulgate was the Bible used by the Church of Rome, from which their present English version is translated. (See History, for this division.)
There are two outstanding facts gained from these ancient translations. One, the New Testament was completely compiled by the Second Century, with the exception of II Peter. (For between these versions all 26 of the other books are included.) Two, our New Testament can be traced back to within 100 years or less of the Apostles.
Hundreds of other manuscripts, both versions and translations into still other languages, appeared during the Second and Third Centuries. These were destroyed by the Roman Emperors, particularly Diocletian who ordered the destruction of "the sacred writings of the Christians."
It is important to note that there would have been many still alive when these letter (books) started appearing. Who had personally known Christ and the resurrection. There is no record of anyone refusing what these men said about him.
III. Ancient Manuscripts
When Emperor Constantine professed Christianity in 312 A.D., he authorized Eusebius (Known as the Father of Church History) to prepare 50 copies of the "Scriptures" to be used in the churches. The question naturally arose, "Which religious books are regarded as scripture?" Through his research the answer became obvious; the 27 New Testament books we have in our Bibles today because they had been universally accepted since the earliest days of the Church.
He found that the only books about which there had ever been a question did not seem to be such that they should be omitted, for usage had long established their being recognized as "inspired scripture," along with the others. See page 50 in principles....
The tests of canonicity seem to be much the same as the Old Testament asking, "Was it written by an apostle or close associate of an apostle," "Does it agree with the doctrine of the Lord and His apostles," "Is it genuine as to facts, date of writing, and author," and "Was it accepted for use in the Early Church." The formal ratification of our present 27 New Testament books was by the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D., they only recognized the books which had been used by the church for over three centuries.
The most ancient existing manuscripts of the entire Bible comprise only a fraction of those in existence. It has been stated by scholars that we have more than 4,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, 8,000 of the Latin Vulgate, and at least 1,000 of other ancient versions. All told we have more than 13,000 manuscripts of all or parts of the New Testament, not to mention the 1,700 fragments of the Hebrew Old Testament and the 350 copies of the Greek Septuagint.
SINAITIC MANUSCRIPT, 340 A.D., written in Greek, is today in the British Museum. IN 1844 Dr. Constantine Tischendorf discovered this manuscript quite by accident in the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai. He saw some pages of it in the hall waiting to be used to light the monastery fires, so he rescued them. Eventually it was given to the Czar of Russia, and after the Revolution of 1917, was sold to the British Museum for the sum of $500,000.
VATICAN MANUSCRIPT, 350 A.D., written in Greek, is in the Vatican Library in Rome, Italy. Revealed for the first time in a Vatican Library catalogue in 1481, it was not opened to the public until after Tregelles, famous Biblical scholar, was permitted to study it for several days. He revealed that he had memorized it and could reproduce it, then the pope in 1889 permitted it to be photographed and at last released to the libraries of the world. More than likely, the temple furniture is there also. Titus arch of triumph pictures the Roman army bringing it all in.
ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPT, 450 A.D. This was written in Greek and located in the British Museum. Probably written in Alexandria, Egypt. It was presented to King James I of England in 1627.
EPHRAEM MANUSCRIPT, 450 A.D., was written in Greek and is located in the National Library of Paris, France. It is thought to have been written in Alexandria. It was scrubbed clear by someone who did not recognize its worth and the discourses of Ephraem, a Syrian father of the Fourth Century, were copied on it. This was given to the French Library in Paris where a student noticed the faint writings underneath the Syrian. Later, chemicals were applied that brought out much of the original writing.
From this point, we have many other manuscripts including the BEZA MSS of 550 A.D. now in the Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, England. THE CLAROMONTANUS of 550 A.D. is now in the National Library of Paris. THE WASHINGTON MANUSCRIPT of 550 A.D. is now in the National Library, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., and many others.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS - These men were the earliest leaders of the Christian Church after the days of the Apostles. For the most part they were well educated men and voluminous writers. THEIR WRITINGS COMPRISE A GREAT BRIDGE BETWEEN THE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS NOW IN EXISTENCE AND THE ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS. These writings are compiled in the 38 volume of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. They quoted repeatedly from the New Testament.
Clement refers to Matthew, Luke, Romans, Corinthians, Hebrews, I Timothy and I Peter.
Ignatius referred to the Gospels as "the word of Jesus."
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, in a very short letter that takes only ten minutes to read, quoted from two-thirds of the books in the New Testament.
Irenaeus quoted from the New Testament 1,800 times, Tertullian 7,200 times.
In fact, although we have only a small percentage of the writings of the Early Church Fathers preserved for us to the present day, they still contain all but eleven verses of the New Testament. This indicates that we can trace the actual words of the New Testament within a very few years of their writing.
IV. Various Translations
LATIN VULGATE, 450 A.D. - Translated by Jerome from Hebrew, Greek and Latin manuscripts.
WYCLIFFE'S VERSIONS, 1382 - The first Bible translated into English by John Wycliffe, He is called "The Morning Star of the Reformation." Terribly persecuted by Rome for doing this.
COVERDALE BIBLE, 1535 A.D. - By Miles Coverdale, is the first version printed in English.
GENEVA BIBLE, 1560 A.D. - Translated by William Whittingham, who was the first to use verse and chapter divisions found in our modern Bibles. This Bible has been reprinted, and I would love to have a copy of it. If any of you would like a blessing from God you could get one of these.
THE KING JAMES VERSION, 1611 A.D. - When King James severed ties with the Catholic Church, a need arose for an English version to be used in the Protestant Churches. And besides, the Geneva Bible stepped on too many toes in high places. He had to have something that toned down the Word of God, and that didn't present such strong speaking against improper authority.
On July 22, 1604, the king announced that he had appointed 54 men as translators, the only qualification being that they should be "proficient as Bible scholars." The process of revising was the most thorough of any translation to that date. The scholars were organized into six different groups to translate a given section of the Scripture. When completed, their translation was gone over by the other five groups. A committee of six was selected from all the translators to be the final authority in making the revision complete.
The King James Version stands in a class by itself. Its smooth flowing "Old English" language has given it a majestic note not shared by any other translation to date. It is still the favorite Bible of the masses, and although some of its archaic words are cumbersome, it is doubtful that any existing translation will replace it. We do not possess the manuscripts from which the King James was translated, but the ancient M.S.S. found since 1611, verify its accuracy and reliability.
The translators went back to the roots of the English language to make this. It was out-dated when published. This fixed the English language to a root which it is only now starting to break away from.
What is the advantage of a fixed language?
1.) We can read old documents back 400 years or so. Other languages cannot say this. They are cut off from their past within 100 years or so, (this is a reason that English is being warred against today.
2.) Allows all English speaking people to understand one another.
THE AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION, 1901 A.D. - This Bible is a revision of the English Revised Version of 1895, which was a very thorough translation itself. The ASV is regarded by conservative Bible scholars as the most reliable and best translation available today.
THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION, 1952 A.D. - Published and heavily promoted by the National Council of Churches of Christ in America, the RSV has been the center of no little controversy. In places the translators have improved upon the text, but in many others they have not. Theological bias of the translators in several passages seems toward a liberal view of the Deity of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. This version falls far short of being the final answer to a clear, up-to-date translation that can be used with confidence by all Christians.
Working from right to left on the chart we see that the line of authenticity goes from our present English Bible to the existing ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS to the existing writings of the Early Church Fathers, to the ORIGINAL BIBLE OF THE EARLY CHURCH. In reality, this is textual evidence unshared by any other ancient document. When all the facts are considered objectively, the only logical conclusion one can come to it that the same God that divinely inspired men to write His matchless Word has divinely preserved it through the centuries, so that we may say with the Lord Himself, "Thy Word is truth!"
"Copied from HOW WE GOT OUR BIBLE - Rise of Protestant Churches," by Tim F. La Haye."
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