How We Got Our Bible
A twelve part in depth teaching series looking at the transmission, preservation, reliability and translation of the Holy Bible. Please click on the PDF links to read each article in full.
To say that the Bible is unique is perhaps an understatement. No other book in the history of mankind has so served to shape and influence the lives of so many for the good than has the Bible. Written over a period of about 1500 years; comprised of 66 books written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) on three different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe) by more than 40 different authors most of whom never met or knew each other, coming from totally different backgrounds. God inspired these men through the agency of His Holy Spirit to write down the exact revelation of His mind and will whilst at the same time making use of their individual personalities and characters.
This teaching take's a look at the character of the Bible, its structure and it's composition.
When we speak of the Bible being the inspired Word of God, how are we to understand this? Did God dictate word-for-word what He wanted written down so the writers of the Bible became human typewriters or did He make full use of their characters and personalities making full use their literary writing styles to bring into being His Word? Were the authors of the Bible conscience of the fact that they were penning the very Word of God or were they oblivious to this realty?
In this teaching we seek to answer these questions and many more as we explore the Biblical concept of inspiration and the evidence to support it from Archaeology.
Without question, the foremost claim to the Bible being the Inspired Word of God is prophecy. No other religious book dares to do what the Bible does. A staggering 27% of the Bible (just over a ¼ ) is comprised of prophecy; that is, God goes down on record to state things that will happen prior to them happening so that when they come to pass you will know that what God said (past) was true and therefore what God says (future) is also true!!
In this teaching we begin to explore the breathtaking prophecies contained within the pages of the Bible, especially as they relate to Israel's Messiah.
We conclude this final part on the inspiration of the Bible by looking at Isaiah 53. This Messianic passage predicts with the most stunning precision and accuracy the person, mission and ministry of Messiah. So staggering and graphic is this passage that many Jews, though not all have sought to deflect it away from Messiah choosing instead to assert that it applies not to the suffering of Messiah but is allegorical of the suffering of Israel as a nation.
In this teaching we shall analyse this astounding passage and document the clear fulfilment of the many prophecies contained within this passage which could apply to none other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. There is absolutely no doubt that this prophecy provides irrefutable proof that the Bible is indeed the Inspired Word of God!!
In this part of our study on how we got our Bible, we now turn to look at the canon of the Bible. When we use the word canon, we don’t make reference to that large military weapon mounted on wheels for that is spelt cannon! Canon is defined as a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged (Oxford Dictionaries). When the word is used in the context of the Bible, i.e. the Biblical canon then it refers to an accepted list of books that are considered to be authoritative Scripture coming from God. At the very heart of the issue of canon lies the question; How do I know that the books I have in my Bible are the books that are divinely inspired by God?
It is this question that we will seek to place at the very heart of this teaching!! This teaching we will focus on the Old Testament canon.
This teaching focuses on the apocryphal books and asks the question, 'do they belong in the canon of Holy Scripture?'. Apocrypha is the name given to the 15 additional books that appear in some Bible translations which contain Jewish religious literature. If one was to pick up a KJV Bible today, one would turn the page from Malachi, past the page separating the Old and New Testaments, straight into the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. However, in the original KJV Bible of 1611, one would have turned from Malachi to 1 Esdras!! In fact, the Apocrypha was a part of the KJV for 274 years and was not removed until as late as 1885. If one picks up a Roman Catholic Bible today, one will find that it consists not of 66 books but of 73 books which includes some apocryphal books known as the deuterocanonical books. Do these books belong in our Bible and if not why not? What about the great mass of so-called lost books claiming to be from Bible characters, known as the Pseudepigrapha, such as the Book of Enoch, the Book of Noah, The Acts of John, The Gospel of Thomas etc.
We shall set out in this teaching to answer these questions along with many more.
By what authority did the early Christians add additional books to the canon of Holy Scripture? How did they recognise these additional books as Scripture? Why 27 books of the New Testament and not 26 or 28? If the Old Testament was attested to by no less authority than Jesus Christ Himself, then by what authority was the New Testament received? Did a council of bishops convene in the 4th century to decide which books would make up the New Testament? If not, then how did the New Testament come to be developed? We endeavour to answer these questions in this teaching, and as we shall see, the issue of the New Testament canon cannot be tackled without placing central, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!!
I’m sure that every Christian at some point in their experience when talking with an unbeliever about the Bible has had the accusation thrown at them that the Bible has been changed and is full of errors!! When asked this question, I usually respond by throwing the question back at the person by asking them ‘how do you know?’ It is at this point that one is greeted with a barrage of responses ranging from; ‘there are so many different versions of the Bible’ to ‘there are no originals?’ These are all very valid responses and deserve a proper response. The Christian makes a very bold claim, namely that what he holds in his hand is the Word of God. To simply assert this whilst side-stepping the issue of preservation will simply not do. The question that we have to deal with as Christians is the same question that every religion of antiquity has to deal with; namely, have we in our possession a true representation of what was originally written down?
In this teaching we seek to answer this question as it pertains to the Old Testament Scriptures.
In comparing the figures for the amounts and dates of the available manuscripts for classical Greco-Roman authors with that of the New Testament, there is no way that the charge can be levied against the New Testament that we cannot know what originally written whilst at the same time quoting authors of classical antiquity. This is because New Testament scholars have at their disposal some 5800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, some dating within decades from the original manuscripts. In short, if one is to dismiss the Bible as being reliable, then on what basis and authority does that one have to say that he knows anything of ancient secular history, seeing that the standard by which ancient history is derived, namely the manuscript evidence is absolutely eclipsed when held in comparison against the Bible!!
In this teaching we examine the manuscript evidence for the New Testament and ask the question, 'Is the Bible that we have in our hands today what was originally written down?'
As of October 2014, the Bible has been translated into some 2883 languages. This statistic represent a staggering 98% of the world’s population. In spite of this, there are still global projects underway to see the Bible translated into many more languages. God in His infinite sovereign wisdom chose to have the original inspired Autographa written in the languages of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Yet. He did so with the foreknowledge that not everyone in the world would speak these languages, meaning that translations would inevitably have be made.
In this teaching we explore some of the earliest versions of the Bible; Syriac, Latin and Coptic. Moreover, we explore the amazing history of the English Bible from the first ever English translation in 1380 up to the King James Bible of 1611. Whatever way you look at it, courageous men of God gave their lives to give the English speaking people the Word of God in their own language!! The question is, what are we doing with it?
The battle rages today in some evangelical circles as to which the are best Greek manuscripts to use in translating the New Testament. Some argue that the Byzantine manuscripts are more reliable because there are far more of them, whilst others argue that the Alexandrian manuscripts are more reliable because though fewer in number, the age of the manuscripts are far closer to the original. All modern Bible translations today with the exception of the NKJV and a few others are based on the Alexandrian type-text which has been the case since the controversial publication of the RV Bible in the 1880's. Up until that time, all English Bibles had been based on the Byzantine type-text. Why the need to change this? Are the modern Bibles corrupt? Which Greek text is the most reliable? Does it even matter?
We seek in this teaching to answer these questions and to explore the position of a growing group within conservative Christianity who hold that the King James Bible is the absolute and only preserved Word of God in the English language. Fasten your seat belts as we explore these issues together!!
In this final part in the series 'How We Got Our Bible' we explore the differences and similarities between some of our most popular English translations of the Bible that are out there today. We answer such questions as: What is a formal equivalence translation and a dynamic equivalence translation? How can you tell the difference? What is a good translation of the Bible? Should a Christian use a paraphrase Bible as their main Bible for study? What about Eugene Peterson's, The Message? Is it a reliable translation or has there been deliberate attempts by Eugene Peterson to corrupt the Word of God in the name of inclusion? Is the NIV a reliable translation? We seek to answer these questions and more in this final part of the teaching as we explore the topic of Bible translations.