Is the Bible complete without the Apocrypha or other obscure writings? Is there sufficient evidence to prove whether these documents belong in God’s Word? Many facts about the assembly and preservation of the Bible show God’s guiding hand in the entire process. Section I of this thread explains the amazing story of how God preserved His Word! Also, God commands us to seek His kingdom first and to search the scriptures—the Bible—daily. But how can we do this if it has not been translated into the language of the common people? Section II explains which of the 70 English translations produced today you should use.
How We Got the Bible
Where did the Bible come from? Who authored it? How did we get it? Is it complete?
Many sincerely wonder: Do we have the entire Bible? Some feel that we cannot know. Is there any way to prove this?
There are plain answers to these questions.
Consider for a moment. Are you able to preserve important financial papers that you need to keep? Can families preserve treasured photographs, protected in an album? Are companies able to preserve records vital to their existence? Can the National Archives protect important documents and artifacts from America’s history? Is the Internet capable of preserving virtually EVERYTHING?
The answer to all these questions is “Of course!”
If God can create the universe—and all life within it—surely He can preserve His Word. Yet, most seem to think that God is less capable of preserving what is vital to Him than are human beings!
The design and development of the Bible is a fascinating story. This article will explore in essential detail the canonization—the binding and confirming—of those books that God intended to preserve for all time as His Word—Scripture.
Three separate areas need to be understood and appreciated to answer the opening series of questions. We will present the overwhelming evidence in the following general format:
(1) The design and layout of the Old Testament (including canonization).
(2) The design and layout of the New Testament (including canonization).
(3) The study of the Apocrypha and other documents not canonized.
Part 1: The Design and Layout of the Old Testament
The Jews preserved the Hebrew Scriptures. Romans 3:1-2 tells us: “What advantage then has the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”
The oracles of God consist of the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Calendar. To find the source of the true Scriptures, we must look to the Jews, whose leaders were commissioned to preserve and protect them.
How certain can we be that God is able to preserve His Word for us today—nearly 2,000 years after the final canonization of the New Testament? Christ answers this in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”
Notice another statement by Christ that expands on this principle: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18).
The phrase, “the law or the prophets,” is a short term for the Hebrew Sacred Scriptures, as we will see shortly. Christ did not come to destroy the Scriptures, or nullify the Law of God, but to fulfill them—the prophecies of His human existence and sacrifice.
Notice the following verse, which indicates that Christ realized that the Jews possessed the proper Scriptures, prophesying a specific fulfillment: “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?…But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled” (Matt. 26:54, 56).
Acts 17:10-11 shows where the brethren looked in order to find the true Scriptures: “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming there went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
The Megillot or Festival Books (5 books):
Song of Solomon; Ruth; Lamentations; Ecclesiastes; Esther
The Latter Restoration Books (3 books):
Daniel; Ezra-Nehemiah (combined into one); Chronicles (combined into one)
This original order is completely chronological. This will be more thoroughly appreciated once we study the canonization and other historical aspects.
There is another aspect of the significance of the number 22. Sextus Senensis, a Jewish scholar, A.D. 1520, is credited with the following statement: “As with the Hebrews there are 22 letters, in which all that can be said and written are comprehended, so there are 22 books in which are contained all there can be known and uttered of divine things” (Introduction to the Old Testament, Green, p. 87).
With the significance of the 22 books or scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, a type of an alphabetical “acrostic” most likely paralleled those 22 books. An acrostic exists when 22 verses each begin with a word spelled with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each letter (beginning with the first) continues in order all through the alphabet in sequence. In other words, the first letter of the alphabet corresponds with the first letter of the first verse. Then the second letter of the alphabet corresponds with the first letter of the second verse, and so on. The parts of an acrostic can be single verses each, or sets of verses, or possibly chapters or even books.
An example of a complete acrostic is Psalm 119. Here, eight verses are grouped together into 22 sets of verses. The first letter of all eight verses of each set is the same letter of the alphabet. Thus the first eight verses begin with the first letter, the next eight verses all begin with the second letter of the alphabet, and so on. Not only is this poetic chapter a perfect and complete acrostic, the syllables of each verse have to perfectly match each other, because it was set to music.
Psalm 119 covers the subject of the Law of God being perfect and complete. Thus, a perfect and complete acrostic is used to emphasize that completeness. Every single verse of this chapter in the original Hebrew mentions the Law of God, using terms such as law, precepts, judgments, statutes, commandments, etc. The eight verses per meter, times the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, equals 176. There are precisely 176 verses in Psalms 119.
Together, Psalms 111 and 112 form a complete acrostic showing that God will completely redeem His people. Both chapters contain 10 verses each, but the 10th verse of both chapters contains two sections.
The way our Bibles are divided into chapters and verses does not always properly coincide with the method or intent with which these were written (see inset). Proverbs 31:10-31 contains 22 verses forming another complete and perfect acrostic. These verses describe a complete and perfect woman. Another complete acrostic is found in the book of Lamentations. This acrostic emphasizes the complete destruction upon all Israel.
A broken acrostic runs through Psalms 9 and 10. Here, seven letters seem to be purposely left out. This is said to represent the broken condition that will occur on earth during the time frame that Psalms 9 and 10 portray in the prophetic sense.
During Christ’s time (as documented by Josephus and various others), the Hebrew Scriptures consisted of 22 books. As a point of interest, when one adds the 22 books of these Scriptures to the 27 books of the New Testament, a total of 49 books results. To the Jews, the number of 49 (seven times seven) represents absolute completion.
(Also, if every one of the Old Testament books are counted individually—and the Psalms are counted as five because of their natural division—the Old Testament total is 43 books. Adding this to the New Testament total of 27 yields the number 70, which is ten times God’s number of completion or perfection.)
By the second century, many Jews became somewhat envious of the significance of “their” Scriptures being combined with the New Testament to give a total of 49 books. At that time, the Jews adjusted the order of the Hebrew Scriptures to increase the number to 24. This was done by dividing Joshua-Judges into two books and by dividing Samuel-Kings into two books, giving a new total of 24 books (see The Design and Development of the Holy Scriptures [Outline], E.L. Martin, pp. 9, 12).
This slight rearrangement by the Jews gave a different number, but the books within a division were never moved to another division.
Before and during this time, the Jews had complete disgust for the Egyptian Septuagint Version, which totally reshuffled the books of the second and third divisions (the Prophets and the Writings).
As mentioned before, this is where the Catholics inherited their erroneous order of the Old Testament and passed it on to us today in the same distorted order, through the King James Version and most all other versions available today.
Some have observed that many Hebrew Bibles bear the label TANAK (or often TANAKH) on the front cover and have asked what this means. This name is actually derived from the three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures:
TORAH is the name given to the division on the Law of God—first 5 books.
NEBEE-EEM is the name for the Prophets division.
KETHUVEEN is the Writings division.
By taking the initial letters of the three titles (T,N,K) they form the word TANAK. The Bible of the Jews was named for these three major divisions. This shows their acceptance of the true divisions, as opposed to various corrupted versions like the Septuagint.
History of Old Testament Canonization
Moses compiled and wrote all five books of the Law (Pentateuch) during the 40 years in the wilderness. He used pre-Flood documents and other sources to compile the book of Genesis.
Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus were written during the very first years in the wilderness. Numbers was written as the continuous record of the journey through the wilderness. Of course, at the outset, Moses never anticipated that the journey would last 40 years. The book of Deuteronomy was written during the very last months at the end of the journey.
Just before his death, Moses presented to the priesthood of Israel the five books he had compiled and written (Deut. 31:9). These original Scriptures were stored in the Ark of the Covenant. Under authority of the high priest, scribes made copies of these scrolls.
All the kings of Israel were required to copy the entire Pentateuch, or five books of the Law. This precept was added by Samuel and observed by David, Solomon, and later by most of the kings of Judah.
Next, the Book of Joshua/Judges was written by Samuel. This book was classified with the prophets primarily because it was written by a prophet—Samuel. This work was primarily historic, but laid the groundwork for the following books of Samuel/Kings and the Latter Prophets. Samuel established the prophetic order with his “company of the prophets” throughout Israel (1 Sam. 10:5, 10; 19:20).
Some of the historic facts from Joshua were most likely compiled from sources possibly generated by Joshua and some of the loyal servants of God that followed after him. By the same token, much of the detailed information of the history of the earlier kings of Israel and Judah was most likely recorded by Elijah and later compiled and written by Isaiah for the section of Kings in the Book of Samuel/Kings. After all, who was more qualified to write of the experiences of Elijah than Elijah himself?
Elijah carried on with the Prophetic Order of schools in Israel that Samuel had inaugurated over 200 years earlier (2 Kgs. 2:3, 5; 4:38). One of the very purposes of these schools must have been to document historic events and transcribe previous records to be compiled at some later time into canonized manuscripts. Elisha and others associated with these schools for the prophets certainly contributed to the historic records after the time of Elijah.
Obviously, the books of the major and minor prophets were written by the authors to whom the books are attributed. These prophets wrote and sealed their own works, to be added to the Scriptures during subsequent times of canonization.
King David wrote and canonized much of the Psalms. He had assembled all the building materials together with which his son, Solomon, would build the Temple after his death. David established the 24 (2 week) courses for the priests and for the Levites and singers, as well. He wrote two of the five books. These first two books consisted of the first 72 chapters of Psalms, the official Psalms used for the Temple service by the singers.
The Psalms dedicated to Asaph and to Korah were also written by David and dedicated to these outstanding singers. These Psalms would include most of Book 3. Other contributors to the book of Psalms included Moses (author of Psalm 90 and a number of the following Psalms in book 4). More of David’s Psalms appear in book 5 along with some the Psalms of degrees written by Hezekiah.
Solomon compiled and wrote the Proverbs after the time of David. Agur of Proverbs 30 and Lemuel of Proverbs 31 both refer to Solomon. Lemuel means “the king who rejected God.” The writing of Solomon late in his life reflected lessons from much bitter experience. This wise old monarch was offering sage advice from having grievously sinned against God. He advised submission to God (Ecc. 12:13)—hardly the conduct of someone hostile and unrepentant.
Though Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon were written by Solomon, these books, along with other writings, were not canonized until the time of Ezra, as we will soon examine.
The Role of Hezekiah, Isaiah and Jeremiah
During the time of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and Isaiah the prophet (this was during Isaiah’s younger years), the threat of attack and captivity by Assyria was very real. Hezekiah and Isaiah proceeded to canonize certain books for the remnants of Israel and Judah to look for proper guidance, in case all religious services were suspended by an Assyrian invasion and captivity.
At this time, Israel had already been recently taken into captivity. Much of Judah had later been taken into captivity by these Assyrians (2 Kgs. 18:13). These Jews were taken to Eastern Europe where many still live to this day (Compendium of World History, Vol. 2, Hoeh, Chap. 4). Only the Jews of Jerusalem were spared along with other Jews who were able to find refuge behind Jerusalem’s walls. Jerusalem was spared due to God’s favor toward King Hezekiah (2 Kgs. 18:5-7).
Each of the 15 Psalms of degrees (chapters 120-134) coincides with one of the 15 steps leading to the Temple. The singers would advance one step daily with each of the Psalms of degrees at a designated time of the year in their worship service. Of these Psalms, five were attributed to David, another to Solomon, and scholars attribute the other nine to Hezekiah, who also canonized much of the Psalms. Isaiah 38:9-21 shows an extensive psalm by Hezekiah. Certainly he was gifted and sufficiently qualified to be used to compose some of the Psalms.
Hezekiah established a “tri-grammaton” symbol, which indicated that a book of the Scriptures was officially bound or confirmed—canonized. This was continually used to seal canonized books after his time.
Later during the time of King Josiah, Judah was under threat of invasion and captivity as had occurred during the time of Hezekiah about 85 years earlier. Josiah was assisted and advised by certain servants of God, including Jeremiah. This somewhat paralleled the time of Hezekiah, in which he was assisted and advised by Isaiah.
Another similarity was that both Hezekiah and Josiah had been preceded by very wicked fathers. When both ascended to the throne, they re-established the true worship of God in Judah and both reopened and restored the Temple that had been closed and defiled by their evil fathers.
During Josiah’s time, the threat came from Babylon. Yet, Josiah besought God and peace was promised to Judah as long as he lived (2 Chron. 34:27-28). He was much beloved of God for his righteous zeal (2 Kgs. 23:25). During this time, additional scripture was canonized primarily by Jeremiah. This canonization involved most of the minor prophets.
Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations after Josiah was killed in battle—much to the dismay of Jeremiah and all Judah. Lamentations is indeed prophetic of what the modern descendants of Israel are yet to suffer, although written in the shadows of the imminent invasion by Babylon. The book of Jeremiah was not completed until well after the fall of Jerusalem.
During the captivity of Judah in Babylon, Daniel was in an exalted position of power and had authority to preserve Hebrew Scriptures as they were taken to Babylon.
Most likely, there were a number of copies in addition to the Temple Scriptures. The various references that Daniel made to the Scriptures were authentic, as he had access to them and carefully examined them (Dan. 9:2, 11).
Ezra was the priest and scribe who gathered all the books and made the final canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Some of the historical background of that time will be covered shortly, but first we should focus upon some of the editing that Ezra and others made to clarify certain portions of Scripture.
Ezra inserted some editorial notes to clarify to the Jews of his time the current names of certain towns mentioned in the Law. Some of the editorial notes attributed to Ezra are Genesis 14:7, 17; 23:2, 19; 36:31-39.
Moses also inserted some editorial remarks. Some of those attributed to him are Genesis 2:13-14; 12:8. (This was the location where Bethel was yet to be settled.)
Samuel added some important parts to the Law. In 1 Samuel 10:25, which states, “Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord,” the term “a book” should be “the book.” This indicates that Samuel wrote in a book that already existed. The only book that was laid up before the Lord at that time was the law of Moses.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 is the part that Samuel added, dealing with instructions concerning a king over Israel. Ezra later inserted editorial comments in Deuteronomy 34:5-6, and 10 pertaining to Moses after the time of his death.
As stated above, Ezra was responsible for the final canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures. It was understood in the first century that the prophetic spirit in that era had ended with Ezra.
Ezra came to Jerusalem and Judea after the Babylonian captivity, where over 40,000 Jews had returned to rebuild Jerusalem and other cities. The Temple had been rebuilt by about 515 B.C. Most of these returning exiles were not zealous to obey God. Many had intermarried with the surrounding idolatrous gentiles. In about 457 B.C., God sent Ezra to rectify the situation.
Ezra 7:10 summarizes: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”
Ezra came with 2,000 priests, Levites, and servants of the Temple to restore the worship of God. This process of turning the Jews back to God took about 13 years.
Nehemiah, who was sent to be governor over Judea, assisted Ezra in restoring the true worship in Judea. Ezra and Nehemiah summoned all the Jewish leaders together to sign a special covenant that they would henceforth obey the laws of God (Neh. 10:28-39). However, the high priest Eliashib was not present at this gathering.
This meeting established the governing assembly in Judea known as the Great Assembly. It was headed by Ezra, Nehemiah and all the principle priests and elders of Judea. This 120-member assembly also convened to establish which books were to be canonized. They assisted Ezra in his responsibility of final canonization during the years that followed. After Ezra’s death, the high priest was to preside over the Great Assembly.
Eliashib, who never met with the assembly, disagreed with Ezra and the assembly. Eliashib had other allegiances (Neh. 13:4-7). His grandson, Manasseh, was married to a Samaritan princess. This represented a political-religious alliance between the top families of Samaria and Judea.
Manasseh was excommunicated from Judea. He relocated to Samaria, where Samballat (his wife’s father) made him high priest of the Samaritans. One of the points of the above-mentioned covenant was for those who married gentile wives to put them away.
Manasseh refused to give up his Samaritan wife. This event was the real beginning of the Samaritan form of religion, and the beginning of reasons for later antagonism that developed between Samaritans and Jews. Manasseh had a temple built on Mt. Gerizim (a counterfeit of the Temple on Mt. Zion). He also rejected all the Hebrew Scriptures except the Pentateuch—the five books of the Law.
Ezra and the Great Assembly later divided the Hebrew Scriptures into the 3 major divisions and 22 individual books. Ezra changed the Jewish script to square script, as had been used in Babylon, in order for Jews to recognize Samaritan schemes to pass their counterfeit writings as canonized Scripture. The Temple Scriptures and eventually all copies of it were changed to square script.
Since the Samaritans had also corrupted the Sacred Calendar, Ezra changed the names of the months to the names of those the Jews learned in Babylon. Thus, Abib became Nisan, Zif became Iyar, etc. The Babylonian names for the months of the calendar have been retained to this day.
Chronicles was written by Ezra. Isaiah had long since written the Book of the Kingdoms (Samuel/Kings). The outlook of the book of Chronicles was from a priestly perspective. Ezra emphasizes throughout this book that Jerusalem has always been the headquarters of God’s government. This was emphasized to show that the Samaritans were falsely claiming they were the center of God’s religion.
Ezra references 15 secular sources to validate his claim, while the Book of the Kingdoms gave hardly any outside secular sources. Ezra, along with Nehemiah, took careful measures to counter the deceitful tactics of the Samaritans by canonizing the Hebrew Scriptures (source of the Old Testament). Likewise, the Samaritans’ descendants, under Simon Magus, counterfeited the New Testament, and attempted to have it canonized—without success.
How do we know that we have the same Hebrew Scriptures that Ezra canonized? After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, preservation became the responsibility of Jewish religious leaders instead of the state. Several Jewish sects made sure that the others did not change the text.
In the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., some of the Jews tried to replace the official text with illegitimate ones. To stop this effort, the officials restored the old authoritative manuscripts handed down since pre-Roman days. These were made the standard text—the Masoretic Text. This is the same one followed today and is the same set of scriptures that Ezra canonized.
Why Is the Bible Divided Into Chapters and Verses?
The chapter and verse divisions of the Bible were added for the sake of convenience in referencing certain locations or points in Scripture. The original manuscripts for both the Old and New Testaments contained no such divisions.
An English scholar by the name of Stephen Langton was credited for dividing the Bible into chapters about the year A.D. 1205 and thereafter. Langton was a professor at the University of Paris and later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.
This is confirmed by the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, under the article “Stephen Langton”: “Stephen, however, migrated to Paris, and having graduated in that university became one of its most celebrated theologians. This was probably the time when he composed his voluminous commentaries (many of which still exist in manuscript) and divided the Bible into chapters” (Vol. 16, p. 178).
This same source shows that Langton also was instrumental in the formulation of the Magna Carta in England after about 1213 while serving as Archbishop of Cantebury.
Another individual sometimes credited with dividing the Bible into chapters was a Cardinal by the name of Hugo of St. Cher, who died in 1263.
Concerning this claim, the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, gives us more insight. From an article entitled, “Hugh [Hugo] of St. Cher,” we read: “With the aid of many of his order he edited the first concordance of the Bible…but the assertion that we owe the present division of the chapters of the Vulgate to him is false” (Vol. 13, p. 859).
The work of dividing the Scriptures into chapters, by Langton and his assistants, was not inspired by God (as far as we know). However, this work was foundational for the following project in which a French printer by the name of Robert Estienne (usually known by the Latin form of his name, Stephanus) accomplished in 1551. In this year, Robert Stephanus divided the Greek New Testament into verses (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 9, p. 799).
Then, in 1555, Stephanus divided the entire Latin Vulgate Bible into verses. He took Langton’s chapters as they existed and further divided them into verses.
Jewish scholars came to recognize the value of these added divisions. By 1445, Mordecai Nathan of France had divided the Hebrew Bible into chapters. Later, Jewish scholars had further divided the chapters of the Hebrew Bible into verses. Still, the numbering system for verses most commonly used today is primarily that by Stephanus as appeared in the Geneva Bible.
Even though these divisions into chapters and verses provide much convenience for those who study and reference the Scriptures, they are still of human devising. As a rule of thumb, one should ignore these divisions when studying the Bible. These artificial divisions sometimes interfere with the sense of continuity in understanding certain scriptural accounts.
One example of an erroneous chapter break is at the end of Matthew 16. Verse 28 actually belongs with chapter 17. This verse quotes the words of Jesus:
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.”
Now notice the next verse, which begins chapter 17: “And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into an high mountain apart.”
The following verses show that they saw the glorified Christ in vision, fulfilling Matthew 16:28.
The separation of these verses by a chapter break actually interferes with understanding of the continuity of the event being described. Closer examination will show that the ideal chapter break would better fit where verse 24 begins, in order not to break the context.
Dividing the Bible into verses can also communicate the wrong message, since so many are inclined to quote verses as “stand alone” when they are not meant to be removed out of context. Notice a verse that appears in Colossians:
This verse by itself, which is only part of a parenthetical expression, gives the impression that it encourages some type of physical self-denial. But in the proper context, we find the opposite to be the case. To understand the meaning of this verse, we need to read the verse that precedes it to establish the context.
“Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances” (Col. 2:20)
Here, we see demonstrated one of the problems with the dividing of verses. By taking isolated phrases out of context, many have invented numerous false doctrines.
The verses of some books are clearly delineated by punctuation, such as the book of Proverbs.
The verses of the poetic book of Psalms and various other locations are more established due to the writings being already written in segments that fit easily into the verses as established by Robert Stephanus. These verses fit into meters and are set to music in the original Hebrew. Most always, they are correct.
Two exceptions are the final verses of Psalms 111 and 112, in which case the last verse should have been split into two verses. Together the two chapters form a complete acrostic of 22 verses, not just 20 verses.
The original authors of the Scriptures did not intend that their writings be broken up and divided as has been done.
A number of the smaller books of the Bible can be read in one sitting. This is the best way to read it. To cover a larger segment at a given time helps to get the overview of the writer, rather than concentrating on phrases and segments of sentences as the verse divisions lead many to do.
Remember, while the chapter and verse divisions are convenient and helpful in a number of ways, they are of human devising. These divisions lead many to think of scriptural instruction in a “bits and pieces” approach rather than seeing the bigger picture. Be on guard to not let these artificial divisions cause you to forget the writers’ intended overview!
Part 2: The Design and Layout of the New Testament
The apostles and other disciples of Christ wrote the New Testament. Certain apostles canonized it. Notice the prophecy in Isaiah 8:13-17:
“Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hides His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him.”
Isaiah 7:14, 8:8 and 9:6 all show the general context of the above-quoted verses. They speak clearly and undeniably of the time of Christ. His disciples were to bind up the testimony and seal the Law. This they did. Christ delivered the New Testament, yet He required His servants to record—and to bind up and seal—that written record.
The New Testament was written to those “called out” ones (John 6:44, 65), who were to grow in character and qualify for rulership in the coming kingdom of God. It was not a commission to a nation, or for preservation in the same sense as the Old Testament had been.
The real identity and mission of Christ and the concept of called out ones becoming part of the God Family and ruling with Christ “threw” the Jews “for a loop,” as seen inIsaiah 8:13-17. Such a concept was so foreign to them that they considered it blasphemy (John 10:31-38). They had been molded into a certain pattern of thought and outlook regarding the meaning of the Scriptures and the fulfillment of prophecy.
Only the Jews who were part of those called out and whose minds God had opened were able to understand. Of course, all of the very first called out ones—of God’s Church—were Jews, as those from other tribes of Israel and gentiles began to be called shortly thereafter.
At first, the apostles believed that Christ would return in their lifetime and that canonization of the gospels, Acts, and a number of letters would not be needed. After all, the “70 weeks” prophecy of Daniel 9 gave no indication that the final half of the “week” would be delayed nearly 2,000 years.
Besides, the servants of that time might not have understood the seven times delay upon Israel, Judah or upon Babylon. (Yet, there was no need to understand this at that early stage of time.)
Also, the Olivet prophecy, described in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, sounded as if it applied to the Jews of that time. Jerusalem had been surrounded by armies. Terrible warfare and suffering had occurred, and it appeared that the first four seals had been (and were being) fulfilled.
The apostle Paul thought that Christ would return in his lifetime (1 Thes. 4:15-16; 2 Thes. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). Eventually, those surviving apostles (whether in the Greek and Roman world or dispatched among distant tribes of Israel) realized that Christ would return much later.
Notice the apostle John’s answer to the Roman Emperor Domitian when he questioned him about the reign of Christ: “You [Domitian] shall also reign for many years given you by God, and after you very many others; and when the times of things upon the earth have been fulfilled, out of heaven shall come a King, eternal, true, Judge of the living and the dead…” (Ante-Nicean Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson, pp. 560-2).
Now we turn to particular writings in the New Testament that indicated the apostles were very aware of their responsibility to bind and seal the New Testament. Recognize that in a general sense of the term, all the writers of the Scriptures, both Old Testament (O.T.) and New Testament (N.T.), were called prophets.
Notice the words of the resurrected Christ to those who were slow to understand the significance of events leading up to His miraculous Resurrection: “Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
Again, in a general sense, Christ referred to all the writers of the Scriptures as prophets.
When the apostle Peter stated, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed…” (2 Pet. 1:19), he was not exalting himself and the other apostles above the writers of the O.T.
He was well aware that he and the other apostles had been personally tutored by the One who inspired all the other prophets. The “more sure word of prophecy” was a direct reference to Christ, as opposed to His human instruments of that time. Christ had opened up new understanding to His Church—He was the Source of that “more sure word of prophecy.”
Now notice the words of Paul at the conclusion of Romans: “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (16:25-26).
The “scriptures of the prophets” mentioned here cannot refer to the Old Testament prophets, because the revelation to which Paul refers did not occur until Christ made them “manifest.”
Paul also acknowledged the abundance of the revelations given to him (2 Cor. 12:7). He knew that he was to disseminate this understanding to the Church: “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:25-26).
With full humility, but with a strong sense of reality, Paul could state to the Church, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).
Now note what Peter said regarding Paul’s writings: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
Paul’s letters were referred in context to “the other scriptures.” Since Peter had canonized many of Paul’s letters, he knew firsthand that they were now scripture. Note that Paul, shortly before his martyrdom, instructed Timothy to bring Mark with him (2 Tim. 4:9-11). It was for a specific mission in which he also instructed Timothy to bring “especially the parchments” (vs. 13).
There are strong indications that Mark was dispatched to Babylon with those parchments to present to Peter (1 Pet. 5:13), the chief apostle who canonized those very writings of Paul. By that time, Paul had been martyred, but the parchments were already sent to their destination.
Shortly after Peter canonized those parchments—Paul’s letters—he too was martyred at the behest of the Roman Emperor Nero. The writings that Peter had canonized up to that time comprised all the writings of the New Testament except what John would later add and canonize.
The four gospels, as they appear in the King James Version and other versions, are arranged in the correct order. Matthew was written first. Matthew was a Levite, and primarily addressed his gospel to the Jews. Mark was written next. Mark was a companion and an interpreter for Peter. He wrote the account as Peter had proclaimed it—Peter being the eyewitness in this account.
Luke’s gospel was written for Greek readers. He was a companion of Paul. Luke also wrote the book of Acts in the Greek language. Since Luke was not an eyewitness, he based his writing upon much diligent research, compiling what a number of apostles and disciples had earlier documented (Luke 1:2). Luke strived to write the things “in order” (vs. 3) and thus establish a chronological order of events.
The fourth gospel (John’s) was written after the other three gospels. The others were left in the same order since Peter’s canonization. John’s gospel was unique from the others, just as Luke’s was unique from those that preceded his. John had been away from the area of Judea and the Mediterranean region for about 50 years. He and the other surviving original apostles had been dispatched to the areas of the 12 tribes of Israel where God had called many into His Church.
By the time of A.D. 90, John was the only surviving apostle of the original 12. God had preserved his life for a special mission. Neither Peter nor John himself, nor the others, originally understood why John would live longer or what his mission would be (see John 21:21-23).
John’s final mission was multifaceted. First of all, he wrote his gospel. In spite of the observations of Eusebius and other historians, John most likely wrote his gospel when he was in the region of France for about 50 years, well before the 90s A.D.
The tone of John’s gospel reflects careful forethought and peaceful introspection. It was carefully written over a period of time, most likely well before John returned to the turbulent region of Judea and Asia Minor.
John went to the area of Ephesus, in Asia Minor, after he returned to Judea and found the Temple and Jerusalem long since destroyed. Certainly, John must have been well aware of the Jewish war that had occurred about 20 years before his return to the area.
The Church of Ephesus was the headquarters during the era that bore the very same name. From here, John wrote his general letters to the churches. The tone of these letters reflected a great amount of turbulence mixed with urgency, due to the apostasy, as well as persecution.
Shortly after John arrived and settled at Ephesus, Emperor Domitian began the second imperial persecution (the first was carried out by Nero). John was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, where he received the Revelation and the command to write it down. Christ probably allowed John to be imprisoned to give him the solitude and precious time necessary to carefully document the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This was to be the final book of the New Testament and the entire Bible.
When John was released from prison, he went back to Ephesus. Here, he worked closely with an apostle named Philip (one of the original deacons) and Polycarp. With the help of Philip, he trained and advised Polycarp and others who would oversee the initial stage of the Smyrna era.
After completing his own writings, John may have revised some of them with editorial comments. But his final important mission was the final canonization of the New Testament. His canonization, like Ezra’s, was extremely vital for the preservation of the true Scriptures. Just as Ezra had to canonize the true Scriptures in order to set them apart from Samaritan counterfeits, John had to take measures to protect the true Scriptures from counterfeit writings by the followers of Simon Magus and others of similar persuasion.
Upon his binding and sealing of the New Testament Scriptures, Christ commissioned them to be preserved by an unexpected group. The Church of God, systematically persecuted and hunted down over the centuries, was in no position to preserve these Scriptures.
God used the Greeks to preserve these Scriptures. Unlike the Church of God, the Greeks were not persecuted, but were free to remain in their homeland. Their mission would be to treasure, preserve and copy the New Testament word for word and letter by letter—through the long, dark night of the Middle Ages.
It was not essential for these people to believe or even understand the central message in order to preserve them. God did indeed preserve these Scriptures through the Greek people.
We have already mentioned that the order of the gospels is the same as presented in modern Bibles. The book of Acts follows next. Then we come to a section that has been dislocated from its original position—the seven general epistles: James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John and Jude.
The church in the east, in Greek-speaking regions, insisted that the General Epistles appear before Paul’s letters. The universal church in the west, headed by Rome, insisted that Paul’s letters come first, especially the book of Romans. They opposed anything that was labeled as Jewish or “Judaizing practices.” Thus, the objection of the Greek eastern church was overruled in favor of the west, and the general epistles were moved.
Here are some other reasons the general epistles belong before Paul’s letters:
•They were intended for the general Church of God and were not addressed to any specific congregations as were Paul’s.
•They mainly contain general information.
•God always sent his servants to the Jews first (Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10). This included Paul.
•All the authors of the general epistles preceded Paul in the order of time.
•General epistles do give some necessary background to better understand Paul’s letters.
Paul’s letters are supposed to follow the general letters as established in the original canonization and confirmed by the Greeks, who were to preserve the N.T. Scriptures. Paul’s letters generally contain stronger meat and more specific instructions. The pastoral epistles of Timothy, Titus and Philemon are even stronger. Hebrews, written by Paul, was originally rejected by the Catholics because it sounded “too Jewish.”
Now we summarize the order of the New Testament, containing 27 books in 4 major sections:
Gospels and Acts:
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; Acts
James; I Peter; II Peter; I John; II John; III John; Jude
Letters to Specific Churches from Paul:
Romans; I Corinthians; II Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; I Thessalonians; II Thessalonians
General Letter of Paul:
Pastoral Letters of Paul:
I Timothy; II Timothy; Titus; Philemon
Other Writings of John:
(Paul wrote the following books while in prison: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.)
As stated before, when one adds the 22 books of the O.T. to the 27 books of the N.T., a total of 49 books results—representing absolute completion. Out of envy, the Jews of the second century altered the number of their books to 24 (as explained earlier) in order to erase this significance.
But the true Scriptures remain intact even though the order of the O.T. has been rearranged primarily by the Roman Catholic Church, following the order of the corrupt Septuagint version. Then they simply rearranged the N.T., as well.
The Church of God can maintain purity of doctrine since God has guaranteed that all the Scripture has been preserved. This is most foundational and vital for those who seek God’s truth!
Part 3: The Apocrypha and Other Illegitimate Documents
The Roman Catholics contend that they are the exclusive preservers of the Bible, with the authority to determine which books should be in the O.T. or N.T., and the order in which they are to be placed. They also acknowledge that they have exercised due authority by adding the seven books of the Apocrypha and portions of three others to the O.T.
Some Catholic translations contain the following books, called the Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and I and II Maccabees.
Besides these books, one portion is inserted in the middle of Daniel 3, titled, “Song of the Three Holy Children.” At the end of Daniel is an added chapter (13) called “Susana and the Elders.” Then is chapter 14, called “Bel and the Dragon.”
The word Apocrypha comes from the Greek and means “hidden” or “secret in origin.” In English, synonyms for apocryphal include words such as “unauthentic” and “ungenuine.” The very name of these books verifies their lack of authenticity!
The Apocryphal writings come from a mysterious beginning with a secret origin. With this in mind, notice the following comments in regard to the sharp contrast between the canonized Scriptures and apocryphal writings:
“Christianity as it springs from its Founder had no secret or esoteric teaching. It was essentially the revelation or manifestation of the truth of God.” The Apocryphal writings are further defined as “inconsistent elements existing side by side with the essential truths of Christianity” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 2, p. 176).
Actually, there are hundreds of other apocryphal writings, such as the “Gospel According to the Egyptians,” “Gospel of the Birth of Mary,” “The Apocalypse of the Virgin,” and on and on.
Most all the oldest known versions of apocryphal writing differ from each other. It is very rare to find any two that are identical.
Between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100, many apocryphal writings appeared among the Essene Jews. One of the most notorious of these spurious documents was the book of Enoch.
It should be noted that Jude 14 does not mention this book, but rather is quoting a prophecy by Enoch handed down by God’s servants from before the time of Noah.
The document called the Book of Enoch made an attempt to discredit God’s Sacred Calendar in the first century. It was summarily rejected by Jude and all the other apostles.
Another interesting fact pertaining to the book of Enoch is that even the Catholics reject it! In spite of such a questionable track record, some continue to wonder whether such apocryphal works might be inspired, as were the canonized Scriptures. The best solution to this issue is to ask: Did Christ and the apostles ever recognize them or quote from any books of the Apocrypha? Did they ever show any approval of them?
To answer this, there are 263 direct quotations of the O.T. found in the N.T. Beside this, there are 370 statements found in the N.T. which are references to passages in the O.T. In both the O.T. and N.T., there are no quotes and no allusions to any of the writings of the Apocrypha!
It is well documented that Essene Jews originated many apocryphal writings. It would be beneficial to learn more about the nature of the beliefs of these Jews.
The Encyclopedia Britannica informs us: “The Essenes were an exclusive society, distinguished from the rest of the Jewish nation in Palestine by an organization peculiar to themselves…They had fixed rules…and regulations for the conduct of their daily life even in its minutest details.
“Their membership could only be recruited from the outside world, as marriage and…[all association] with women were absolutely renounced…the tenets of the society were kept a profound secret, it is perfectly clear from the concurrent testimony of Philo and Josephus that they cultivated a kind of speculation, which not only accounts for their spiritual asceticism, but indicates a great deviation from the normal development of Judaism, and a profound sympathy with Greek philosophy, and probably also with Oriental ideas [emphasis ours]” (11th edit., Vol. 9, p. 779).
It is also interesting that this same article continues on the subject of the Essenes: “Their office-bearers were elected” (Ibid., p. 780).
Remember thatI Timothy 4:1-3 categorizes forbidding to marry with doctrines of demons. The Essenes resorted to the fabrication of fictitious documents to justify the many doctrines of demons they adopted.
The Apocrypha is traced from the Vulgate of the Roman Catholic Church after the fifth century. From there, it was traced back to the Septuagint and on to Alexandrian influences—originating from a mixture of hybrid sources such as Samaritan and Essene writings.
The more devout Jews of the Dispersion accepted no other canon than the very Scriptures accepted by the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea. The following quote illustrates the exalted position of the canonized Scriptures even outside the area of Judea.
Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (Egypt) explained why he “makes no quotations from the Apocrypha, and he gives not the slightest ground for the supposition that the Jews of Alexandria of his time were disposed to accept any of the books of the Apocrypha in their Canon of ‘Holy Scripture’” (Philo in Holy Scripture, Ryle, p. 33).
The law portion of the Greek Septuagint version of Alexandria (Egypt) was translated from the Samaritan Pentateuch rather than the official Jewish Version. This can be categorically proven by the existence of 2,000 places where the Septuagint disagrees with the official Jewish Version, but agrees perfectly with the Samaritan Pentateuch.
The Jews used in translating the Septuagint were “Samaritan Jews.” As late as the early A.D. 300s, the Apocrypha was not yet added to the Septuagint. These apocryphal writings were later added to the Septuagint version, which was already corrupted before these unwarranted additions.
In the fourth century (300s A.D.), at the Council of Laodicea, the Apocrypha was still excluded from the Scriptures (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 16, p. 189).
In the year A.D. 384, renowned Roman Catholic scholar, Jerome, began translating the Latin Vulgate. He made his translation directly from the Hebrew (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 881). This translation from the Hebrew excluded the Apocrypha, as Jerome had rejected it as being false.
Shortly afterward, at the Council of Carthage, Augustine, the Canaanite Bishop from Hippo, North Africa, led the way for the approval of the seven Apocryphal books. This was the first official “acceptance” of these questionable writings still rejected by many Roman Catholic scholars.
It was not until the Council of Trent (1563) that the Roman Catholics declared the Apocrypha to be “equal” with any of the books of the Bible. The Catholics intended to alienate the Protestants with this ruling and did so by declaring anyone who rejected the Apocrypha to be “anathema of Christ.”
There are a few other books that some have questioned as being “lost books of the Bible” simply because they are quoted once or twice. Remember that, in Acts 17:28, Paul quoted heathen poets.
Certainly, no one claims that heathen poets were a missing part of the scriptures, but the logic that some employ is equally without basis. Paul quoted certain religionists who condemned Cretians as always being liars in Titus 1:12-13. This does not mean he sanctioned that statement along with anything else they may have said as worthy of being canonized.
The following are some of the so-called “lost books” of the Old Testament:
Note that the last 4 books listed were quoted in the books that Ezra canonized. Why did he not add these books to the canon? The answer is that God did not authorize him to do so.
When writers compile information in order to complete part of a bigger picture, every source that contributes any given part of the big picture may not be relevant in its entirety. Even though the sources may be completely reliable and accurate, they may not be a part of the bigger picture that God is guiding the writer or prophet to communicate.
During the time that Samuel conducted his “company of the prophets,” part of their duties would have had to include the recording of events and compiling of accounts from sources written previously.
Many isolated accounts were combined into a unified bigger picture in documenting the flow of historical events. This would have applied to Elijah as he conducted the schools of the prophets at a later point in time. God allowed such servants to document not only the history in general, but also many accounts in which God dealt with individuals, kings and entire nations.
When servants such as Isaiah or Ezra later canonized the accounts into larger works, they mainly compiled other existing works into a larger unified flow of history. So these servants and prophets actually built upon the labor of previous servants.
Some of the books listed above could have been drafts that God inspired for later servants to contribute to the bigger picture. This being the case, God would only cause the final product to be canonized, not every draft in the stages of development.
Those who question the ability of God to preserve the Hebrew Scriptures or the Greek New Testament fail to realize that this is something that He has carefully engineered and brought to pass. Only those who stand in awe of God’s power to preserve His Word will avoid being washed away in a sea of doubt.
After having proven all things (1 Thes. 5:21), including God’s ability to preserve the complete Bible, we are able to confidently trust God when He makes an unequivocal promise.
Almighty God plainly states, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). We must all grow to the point that we can take God at His word—and believe Him!
The introduction of the King James (KJV) or Authorized Version (AV) of the Bible states, “But how shall men meditate in that which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue?…Translation it is that opens the window, to let in the light; that breaks the shell, that we may eat the kernel.”
The Bible as we know it today has been passed down through the centuries. Over the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion of different translations and “specialty” Bibles. Some of these can be helpful. Others are pitifully inaccurate. How can you be sure which one to use? Which is the most accurate?
The word “bible” conjures up mystery in some people’s minds. from the Greek biblos, it simply means “a sheet or scroll of writing; book.”
The languages in which the Bible was originally written are primarily Hebrew, for the Old Testament (with a few exceptions in Daniel and Ezra), and Greek in the New Testament. If a person is not able to read Hebrew and/or Greek, then he must rely on reading a translated version in his own language or vernacular. Of course, no Bible translation is 100% accurate. There will be errors, based on the meaning of certain words, phrases, idioms and each individual’s preconceived ideas. God could have directly sent men who could have translated the Bible into the language of the people. But God has tested the Bible “scholars” of this world to see how careful and diligent they are in keeping His Word accurate.
Dead Sea Scrolls Offer Proof
The Old Testament was preserved by the Jews, who were one of the twelve tribes of Israel. They were entrusted (Rom. 3:1-2) to carry down, from generation to generation—by precisely copying and meticulously preserving—the entire text of the Old Testament. The Jews took this responsibility so seriously that, as they were making copies, they counted the words and letters to make sure nothing was added or omitted. This text is known as the “Masoretic Text.” Without doubt, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 proves the accuracy of the Old Testament scriptures we have today. The climate around the Dead Sea is quite arid and perfect for preserving materials such as the scrolls.
These scrolls include complete books and portions of books written 2,000 years ago. One well-preserved scroll of the Book of Isaiah was written in “square letter” Hebrew, which dates it to the second century B.C. This single document alone put to rest the speculation that Isaiah was written after the time of Christ—thus proving correct the prophecies of Jesus.
Most of the scrolls were written between 100 B.C. and A.D. 68, and most likely hidden just before the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
When these newly-discovered scrolls were translated and then compared to our modern King James Bible, they harmonized completely. The only significant differences are those of spelling. We cannot be surprised at this, because, even in our lifetime, certain words have undergone changes in spelling. For instance, “subtil” to “subtle” and “centre” to “center.”
Dr. Yigael Yadin, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, once said, “What is astonishing is that despite their antiquity and the fact that the scrolls belong to this pre-standardization period, they are, on the whole, almost identical with the Masoretic Text known to us. This establishes a basic principle for all future research on texts of the Bible. Not even the hundreds of slight variations established in the texts, affecting mainly spelling and occasionally word substitution, can alter that fact.”
Professor Miller Burrows of Yale University states, “The conspicuous difference in spelling and grammatical forms between the [Isaiah Scroll] and the Masoretic Text, makes their substantial agreement in the words of the text all the more remarkable.”
The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls allows us to travel back 1,000 years earlier than the oldest previously known manuscripts. They provide for us proof that the Old Testament, as we have it, is accurate and reliable.
In the first three centuries, the Catholic Church used the oldest available fragments of the New Testament. These are called the “Western Text.” They are full of notable corruptions, contradictions, deletions and counterfeit additions. They vary so much that there is no way of accurately knowing what constitutes the New Testament. Scholars admit that they originated in Rome.
Catholics and Protestants agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but disagree on which books belong in the Bible. The Catholic Old Testament canon includes books such as Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and I and II Maccabees, with added sections in Esther and Daniel that are missing in the KJV. These added books are referred to as the “Apocrypha” and are not accepted as scripture by Protestants and others. Among scholars, it is common knowledge that there are obvious historical inaccuracies in the books of Tobias and Judith.
The Codex Vaticanus just happened to be found in the Vatican Library in 1481. The quality of the text is amazingly intact. But it leaves out a substantial amount of text. For instance, Genesis 1:1 through 46:28 is missing, as well as Psalms 106 through 138, Paul’s Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews 9:14 through 13:25, and the entire book of Revelation. In the gospels alone there are 748 whole sentences, 452 clauses and 237 words missing. Codex Vaticanus has all the books of the Catholic Old Testament except for I and II Maccabees.
The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in A.D. 1844 by Prof. Tishendorf on a trash pile outside the walls of St. Catherine’s Monastery, at the base of what some believe is the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It had been thrown out as garbage by monks. On nearly every page there are corrections and revisions by as many as ten different people. It contains most of the New Testament plus the “Epistle of Barnabas” and “Shepherd of Hermes.” Codex Sinaiticus lacks II Maccabees, but includes IV Maccabees.
The Greek Septuagint was translated during the Hellenistic era (331 B.C. to A.D. 100), to benefit Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, who spoke Greek. About 250 B.C., the first five books of the Bible were translated by 72 Hellenist Jews. The name Septuagint comes from the Greek phrase “of the seventy.” A few decades later, the books of the Prophets were translated as well. This is where the Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus originated.
Codex Alexandrinus has all of the books of the Catholic Old Testament, plus III and IV Maccabees.
The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament has many corruptions and should not be used.
The text of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) has been the work of so-called higher critics over the past 150 years. They base their work on both the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. But they originated in Egypt in the fourth century A.D., through the work of schools and critics in the early centuries after Christ. Together, these texts are also known as the “Alexandrian Text.” Some think they should rely on the oldest text available. This text has about 5% of the known Greek manuscripts and has been altered over the years. The fact that it is the oldest manuscript does not make it accurate. As a copy of the text wore out, a new copy was made—written by hand. This explains why there are few old copies. Each was disposed of and destroyed as a newer one replaced it. Critics seem to forget that accurate copies of the original are far superior to corrupt copies, no matter how old they are.
When King James commissioned a group of 57 scholars to translate the Bible in 1607, he looked for the best men at that time to produce a new translation using only the original Hebrew (Masoretic Text) and Greek (Byzantine/Received/AntiochianText) manuscripts.
These men were divided into six groups: Three for the Old Testament, two for the New Testament, and one for the Apocrypha (later dropped). When each group finished its work, they submitted it to another group of twelve men for review. This next group found it necessary to add certain words not found in the original in order for the text to flow in the English language. These added words are in italics so that anyone reading will be able to tell which words were added. The initial job was finished in two years, but an additional nine months was taken for yet another group to evaluate the work of the first groups. Since it was first published in 1611, only minor modifications (mostly spelling) have been made.
The King James Version uses the “Byzantine Text” (also known as the “Syrian” “Antiochian” and “Received” texts) for its main manuscript of the New Testament. This text circulated throughout the Byzantine Empire. It also circulated in Syria and in its capital, Antioch. Scholars often call it Koine (Greek: “common”) to designate its 95% accuracy.
There are some small differences among the almost 5,000 Greek manuscripts that we use to compare. But most of these differences do not change the intent or meaning of the verses.
The Bible is inspired by God in such a way that we cannot base doctrine on any one verse. Doctrine or teaching is not found nicely wrapped up in one place. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10).
The actual differences in manuscripts involve words or phrases that do not change the intent of the verse. By putting all the verses together on any particular subject, you can come to a sound decision on what the verses’ intent is.
The last part of Mark’s gospel is not found in some of the oldest manuscripts, but it is found in some copies. The language used is somewhat different than that of the rest of the book, leading some to believe that someone other than Mark actually finished this section. But if these last verses are left out, the chapter does not come to a logical ending. Because God does things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40), these verses do belong; they were inspired by God to be there.
referring to John 7:53-8:11, the margin notes in the New King James Version (NKJV) state, “NU brackets 7:53 through 8:11 as not in the original text. They are present in over 900 manuscripts of John.” Again, this section does not take away nor add anything that would change the intent of the book. In fact, a theologian once said, “the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity.”
One deliberate hoax that was perpetrated after the New Testament was completed is found in 1 John 5:7-8: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree as one.” Transcribers who believed in the pagan Trinity concept added the italicized words to support their beliefs.
Those who use this verse to support the Trinity doctrine are either ignorant of the verse being altered, or are blatantly trying to deceive. Nowhere does the Bible teach the pagan doctrine of the Trinity. Although this verse is found in the KJV and the NKJV, there is a marginal note in the NKJV stating, “NU, M omit the rest of v. 7 and through on earth of v. 8, a passage found in Greek in only four or five very late mss.”
The Critical and Experimental Commentary says of this section that the verse was not found in the Latin Vulgate until the eighth century. Adam Clarke’s Commentary states, “But it is likely that this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every MS. Of this epistle written before the invention of printing, one excepted, the Codex Montifortii, in Trinity College, Dublin: the others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve.
“It is wanting in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, Ethiopic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc., in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. have it not. It is wanting also in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin.”
When one language is translated into another, certain problems arise. Even under the best conditions, translations produce inaccuracies, because there is no exact correspondence between languages in syntax and vocabulary.
Even though there are a few phrases that are disputed in the Greek, we can still understand its vocabulary, idiom and grammar much better than we did 150 years ago.
This is not always the case with Hebrew. Because it is a much older language and the Israelites lost much of the knowledge of certain aspects, two different translations by two different people will wind up with two different renderings of a particular passage. Vowels did not originally exist in the ancient Hebrew, but were invented in approximately A.D. 700 to help unify Hebrew pronunciation. Thus, the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton “YHWH” (“Lord” in the Old Testament) is constantly disputed. People will not even attempt to say the word, out of fear of mispronouncing God’s name.
Realize that the meanings of certain passages in the Hebrew are still subject to interpretation. Additional research and new discoveries will assist in solving some of the difficulties of the ancient Hebrew language. But until then, we cannot criticize a translator when he has done his best with the knowledge he has.
Due to peculiarities of Hebrew grammar, some verbs are often uncertain. Translators faced difficult obstacles. Hebrew verbs in perfect tense can be translated as present, simple past or present perfect. The word ahabti can be translated “I love,” “I loved,” or “I have loved.” Yadati can be translated “I know,” “I knew,” or “I have known.”
Hebrew words in imperfect tense can be translated as imperfect, present or future. Yiktob can be translated as “he is writing,” “he writes,” “or he will write.”
The RSV translates Isaiah 42:6 as, “I have taken you by the hand and kept you,” whereas the KJV translates it “…and will hold thine hand, and keep thee.”
Also, certain idioms in one language are not understood in another. To “kick the bucket” in the United States usually means “to die.” But to say “kick the bucket” in a foreign tongue may mean to literally “kick a bucket”!
Types of Translations
There are two basic types of translations: (1) literal, in which translators use the original manuscripts to interpret word for word; (2) freeinterpretation, in which translators render meaning by meaning.
The KJV and the NKJV (Revised Authorized Version) are both literal translations. They follow the Greek and Hebrew text word for word wherever possible. But where the English idiom does not correspond with the original text, the words often come out sounding cumbersome and not understandable.
The KJV often sounds odd because it uses 17th-century language. People then generally knew whether a speaker was talking to one person or many. This is preserved in Classical English. If a speaker were addressing one individual, he would use “thee” or “thou.” If he were addressing a group of people, he would say, “you” or “your.” The NKJV has replaced “thee” and “thou” with the more modern “you” and “your.”
Some other literal translations are the American Standard Version, the Revised Version, the King James II Bible by Jay P. Green; The Holy Bible in Modern English by Ferrar Fenton; Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible by Robert Young and the Jewish Publication Society translation of 1917.
Most of the newest Bible versions use the second method of translating, describing the meaning of each passage. First, a translator tries to understand what the verse is saying. Then he attempts to convey this message to the reader using his own way of explaining what the verse means. If the translator has little or no knowledge, or a wrong understanding, of a particular verse, he does a great disservice to the reader. This is one way in which an individual’s own ideas are promoted. For example, go back to the 1 John 5:7-8 issue, where those who believed in the Trinity tried to palm off their own ideas.
A translator may also need to add words or phrases in order to convey his message or translate other words into a more modern usage (for example, “feet” instead of “cubits”).
Some examples of free translations are Today’s English Version, The New English Bible, The Bible, A New Translation (Moffatt) and New International Version (NIV). The English Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (New Testament; full Bible due in 2004) both appeared in 2001.
As a matter of fact, the NIV has been revised yet again. It is called Today’s New International Version. This newest of the new translations is gender neutral. “Sons of God” will be replaced with “children of God,” in Matthew 5:9, and “a man is justified by faith” will be changed to “a person is justified by faith” in Romans 3:28.
Working to preserve gender specific language, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood said, “This is incredibly serious to evangelicals, how the Bible is translated…We believe the Bible is the word of God, so changing these things deliberately is dangerous.”
By comparing both types of translations, most people can learn more about the Bible and its teachings. The literal translation will take you back to the thought process of the original, while the free translation will help you feel closer to the times by saying things in a more modern way. For instance, shekels, minas and talents will become pennies, nickels and dollars.
As a general rule, a translation produced by just one man will tend to be slanted toward that man’s ideas.
A translation by a committee or team of scholars will be more moderate or conservative. Sometimes though, a compromise will take place in order to please all. If this happens, then the original thought may be lost altogether.
Everyone should have at least one good study Bible. Despite some inaccuracies of the King James Bible, we recommend it as your primary study Bible, not only because it is one of the most accurate, but because many study tools, such as Strong’s Concordance, Thayer’sGreek-English Lexicon and others, are based on the KJV. The numbering system that these study aids use makes it easier to cross-reference and study the meaning of certain words.
No Bible translation is 100% accurate. But when God opens a person’s mind to His understanding, that person will always strive to divide truth from error.
This post was modified from its original form on 26 Sep, 6:32
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