No other question is more fundamental. WHAT is the Bible? Does it have a purpose? Can it be proved that the Bible is an inspired revelation from God for man of essential knowledge man could not otherwise discover by himself?
How can you be sure — if there be an original inspired revelation, given directly by God to his prophets and apostles — that it has been accurately preserved?
Theologians, Too, Have Erred Today, theologians have joined ranks with atheists and agnostics in pronouncing the Bible as myth. Why? What are their motives?
The Bible is, in today's philosophy, the inspiring record of man's search for a concept of God — not the inspired record of God's revelation to man of essential knowledge man needs to know but would not otherwise be able to obtain!
The world's foremost theologians assume — without demonstrable proof — that the Bible has an essentially natural origin in human traditions! This conclusion subtly implies it is without genuine authority.
To acknowledge the authority of the Bible would mean preaching what it says! It would require one to reject the traditions inherited from pagans. It would mean letting the Bible correct where he or she is wrong. That goes against human nature!
What the Bible Really Is The Bible authoritatively claims to be the written revelation of the Creator God for mankind. In it the Creator God speaks of absolutely vital knowledge that everyone needs to understand — but which would be inaccessible by any natural means.
In the Bible, God speaks with authority through its writers. The Bible, whether one wants to believe it or not, possesses supreme authority over our lives, since it comes from the Supreme Creator. The Bible repeats hundreds of times: "Thus saith the Lord." In Scripture, God speaks in the first person — "I" — and challenges us to test him to prove whether he speaks the truth (Isa. 44:6-9).
Without the Bible we can never fully understand the lessons of the past, the meaning of the present and the goals of the future!
Scripture, when rightly understood, gives a rational meaning for man's being here and the causes of this world's ills. It explains exactly why this world has wars, sicknesses and suffering. These are the penalties of a wrong way of life. There are hundreds of religious, political and economic cures in the world, but none of them touches upon the true causes of earth's problems. Only God's mind is great enough to know the answers to today's troubles. No book but his Bible can explain the laws that eternally regulate human life and human affairs — laws that, when violated, bring the penalties of sickness, war and death.
Only the Bible is able to point the way out of impending chaos! Yet men reject its solutions as out-of-date. Its truth they do not want to grasp. That's why "the Lord has a controversy with the nations" (Jer. 25:31). Ever since the beginning of human life, God has had a controversy with humanity. Humans reason that their ways are better. Man assumes that he knows more than God. Yes, "there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). For nearly 6,000 years humans have wanted to avoid acknowledging God as Supreme Ruler. And they hide their eyes from plain evidence in order to label Scripture as myth and tradition.
God Is Able to Preserve His Book Some critics challenge the accuracy of copies of the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Can we be sure that the Bible has not been so corrupted so that it no longer is the revelation of God to man? Has it been so changed and corrupted by myth since the original writing as to be highly doubtful, if not altogether altered? Of course, the very idea is preposterous if there is a God who reveals himself in the written word.
Let the facts speak for themselves. For years the critics claimed the Hebrew Bible was of no authority. "A late and altered form of earlier Hebrew writings," they insisted.
Then came the year 1947.
In the summer of 1947 a sheer coincidence led to the discovery of the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible so far known. Among a collection of literary works found in a cave in Wadi Qumran on the north side of the Dead Sea, a 23-foot leather scroll was found to contain the complete text of the book of Isaiah in Hebrew. Expert examination of the document revealed beyond doubt that this Isaiah text dated from about 100 B.C.
This copy of Isaiah, now about 2,000 years old, is unique evidence of the reliability of the text of the Holy Scriptures that have been handed down to us. The text in all fundamentals agrees with what we have in our present-day Bibles. The only differences are minor spelling changes and misplaced words, changes that represent, the carelessness of unofficial sectarian scribes who copied that particular text of the book of Isaiah.
In other words, the present Masoretic Hebrew text, which is a continuation of the official Hebrew Bible, is far superior in preservation to the unofficial copy_ of Isaiah made 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, the ancient scroll of Isaiah, just like the printed copies of Isaiah in any modern-day Bible, whether Hebrew, Greek, English or German, has the same 66 chapters of our present-day text.
Until this find, the oldest and fullest manuscript in Hebrew was the Codex Petropolitanus, dating from about A.D. 916. All this makes clear how accurate the Jews have been in copying, generation after generation, the books of the Hebrew Bible. God has indeed given divine protection to the Book which contains his commands and revelations to man!
Between 1949 and 1951 additional manuscripts were located in other caves near the Dead Sea. In these scrolls were 19 books of the Bible — all telling the same textual story as the Isaiah manuscript!
True, minor and on occasion significant variations occur. But remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls were not copied by the official scribes of the Jewish community. Jesus never recognized the Dead ea sects as having any authority over the true Hebrew text, commonly called the Masoretic Hebrew text.
The Dead Sea Scrolls plainly show Samaritan and other influences. Between the time of Alexander the Great and the second century B.C. the Samaritans tried their best to influence the Jewish community and alter the inspired scriptures. They failed. The minor variations that do occur in the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls are added proof that the standard Hebrew Masoretic text is the official Bible text God has preserved.
What Jesus Revealed Through whom has God preserved his authoritative written word accurately?
Jesus said: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).
Has this happened? Was Jesus right? Or has the Law — the Hebrew Bible — been hopelessly lost and corrupted?
Luke quotes Jesus as saying, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). Modern critics assume Jesus was wrong. They think the Old Testament has not been accurately preserved. But they are wrong!
Jesus also announced, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (See Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33)
Jesus' words — the very words recorded by the apostles in the New Testament — shall not pass away!
Of course the modern critics prefer to quote Jesus as saying, "Heaven and earth cannot pass away, but my words shall pass away!" But these critics are wrong! Jesus is right. His words have not passed away. The critics have merely been unwilling to look for his words where he said they could be found! They have, instead, looked elsewhere so that they would not find Jesus' words.
Notice where we ought to look for the authoritative text of the Bible. Read it from the Revised Standard Version which the modern critics have themselves translated: "Then what advantage has the Jew?"
Yes, what special duty did God give to the Jews? Notice:
"Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written, 'That thou mayest be justified in thy words...' " (Rom. 3:1-4, RSV).
To whom were the oracles of God, the written record of God's revelation delivered through Moses and the prophets — the Hebrew Bible — committed? To the Jews!
But what if the Jews did not believe and did not practice the things written in the law, the prophets and the psalms? What if the Jews have become divided into Orthodox, Reformed and other schools of thought? Does their rejection of some of the truth nullify the faithfulness of the written word of God, which they are required to preserve from generation to generation?
"God forbid," declared the King James Version. "By no means," reiterates the Revised Standard Version.
So the Jews — by these very words of the theologian translators of the Bible into English — are seen to have preserved the Hebrew Bible faithfully!
Now consider the New Testament. It was offered first to the Jews. But the Jews, as a nation, rejected the New Testament — though many individual Jews did accept it in the first century. What did God, in his wise foreknowledge, do? He revealed his word to the gentiles, specifically the Greeks, for a very great purpose.
Greeks Preserve New Testament Notice Paul's statement. The Jews originally had the advantage over the Greeks because the Jews received the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1-4). Now, however, declares Paul, "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him" (Rom. 10:12). No difference? Why?
The answer is found in verses 14 and 15: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?..."
The Greeks, too, received "the word of God." God sent to them a special apostle — Paul. Paul went almost exclusively to Greeks. He spoke to other gentiles only as they were found in the Greek-speaking world. Paul wrote to Greek-speaking churches, not to Ethiopian-, Chinese-, German- or Persian-speaking churches. There was a very special reason.
Let us read further — Romans 10:19-20: "But I say, Did not Israel know? [That is, did not Israel recognize God's message? But they refused it, as a nation, and were in part blinded spiritually.] First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation [the Greeks were then a foolish nation, filled with vanity of mind] I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me."
Notice that Paul applied these prophecies to his day — the New Testament period.
When the Jews, as a nation, rejected the message of Jesus Christ, God raised up the apostle Paul to go to the Greek-speaking world with that same message. The Greeks would hear! They did hear! They received the oracles of Jesus Christ — the New Testament — even if most of them were never converted! And they have preserved it! Jesus declared: "My word shall not pass away" — and it has not passed away. The Greeks alone of all peoples copied, generation after generation, the New Testament in the very language God inspired it to be written! No other people did it! The Samaritans corrupted it, the Latins and Egyptians translated and sometimes altered it. Only the Greeks have accurately copied it in its original language.
Today about 4,500 examined Greek manuscripts confirm the integrity and purity of the New Testament text. In 1935 a fragment of John's gospel in Greek, dating from the time of Emperor Trajan, A.D. 98 to 117, was discovered in Egypt. The fragment was part of a codex or book, indicating that the entire New Testament IN PROPER ORDER was circulating within a score of years following the death of the last apostle. This and other fragments and texts witness to the accuracy with which the Greek New Testament has been preserved through fire and sword.
But what about minor variations in the Greek New Testament?
Bible a Living Book! The answer is that Scripture is a living book, using living languages. In English, for example, if we are to understand the Bible, we need new wordings from time to time as old wordings become difficult to understand. Many readers of the English Bible would be unable to read with understanding the translations into English made in the century before the King James Version was published. We have these versions in the libraries of the Ambassador Colleges. It would be useless to quote from them in The Plain Truth — they are too difficult to understand. Old English almost seems to be a foreign language today.
In the same way slight changes were necessitated over the centuries in the Hebrew and Greek because of the gradual changes in wording and expression in those two languages. For his word to be understandable in public reading, God permitted over the centuries minor scribal variations in spelling and word order for clarity. That is why no two hand-copied codices or complete manuscripts of either Old or New Testament agree 100 percent in every detail. God has purposed it! He intended his word, even in the original languages, to be living, active, intelligent channels through which his will might be expressed.
These minor changes — contrary to the usual opinion — prove rather than disprove the inspiration and divine preservation of Scripture. Inspiration is not of any value whatsoever in a dead, unintelligible language! The Greeks, as also the Jews, have not been left to decide for themselves whether or not they want to preserve it. God has made them preserve his word correctly.
I have before me, as I write, the Greek New Testament in the first printed edition published in Constantinople in 1912. It is the Greeks' official authorized printed text of the Greek New Testament. When the Greeks published this edition they checked their authoritative manuscripts. The Greek religious authorities are held responsible by God for it. In the reproduction of this first edition (in Constantinople) before me, a typographical error occurred. Mark 7:16 was, by accident, left out of the printed text! So, in later production, when the printing of the new edition came out, in all faithfulness to the original printed edition, the Greeks did not insert this accidentally missing verse (Mark 7:16) in the text. They placed a note in the text and put the verse at the foot of the page for all to read. In other words, once an officially approved printed edition was made, there were to be no additions or deletions in the printed edition. And if an error, due to human oversight, later is found, it is required to be printed below. Every Greek must thereafter, when reading, insert the accidentally missing verse placed at the bottom of the page!
This is fundamentally the same way the Jews preserved the Hebrew Bible! When the Jews had officially approved a manuscript for synagogue use, if, at a later time, they found a scribal error which they had not noticed, they left the text just as it was — with the aforesaid scribal error. But in the margin of this officially approved text, they inserted the correct reading and every man who read in the synagogue had to read what the margin had! When they recopied that manuscript, they recopied the aforesaid scribal error in the text and the true reading in the margin! That is how they have preserved the Bible; God has not left it to the individual to decide these matters.
Greek Text Arrives in the West For centuries, during the Middle Ages, the only Bible-accessible to Western Europe was the Latin Vulgate Bible. It was the work of the scholar Jerome, who prepared it from many old Latin translations — which differed among themselves.
Rome has not preserved through the centuries the New Testament in the original inspired Greek.
Jerome attested to the corruption of the Latin translations of his day.
"If we are to glean the truth," said Jerome, "from a comparison of many, why not go back to the original Greek and correct the mistakes [in the Latin] introduced by inaccurate translators, and the blundering alterations of confident but ignorant critics... all that has been inserted or changed by copyists" (Jerome, Vulgate Preface, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6).
For thirteen centuries the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible dominated the Western world. Then, in 1453 the Turks conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Greek world. Many Greek scholars fled west. They brought their manuscripts with them. Soon Erasmus and Ximenes, Stephen, Elzivir and Beza published texts of the New Testament in Greek. In a few instances these Greek New Testament texts contained additions from the Latin Vulgate, which these scholars translated into Greek. A striking example is I John 5:7, which occurs in no Greek manuscript preserved by the Greeks. It made its appearance in the King James Version ultimately from the Latin Vulgate.
The Greek texts of the early printed editions in the West were vastly superior to the Latin versions previously circulated. From these Greek texts the early English translations came — including the renowned King James Version of 1611. Very few basic errors appear in the King James Version — though it is by no means a perfect or always clear translation.
The Bible-publishing Nations God used — and is using — the Jews and Greeks to preserve his word in their original languages.
But neither Jews nor Greeks have published the Bible in quantity for all the nations to read in their own languages. That duty has been committed to the birthright nations of the House of Israel — the nations who inherited from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, immense national blessings so they would be able to distribute Bibles at little or no cost to all nations around the world.
Who are the birthright holders who were to become the world's leading publishers of Bibles in all languages? The English-speaking nations — the British people worldwide and the United States of America.
These peoples are identified in Bible prophecy. It's made plain in the free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.
The 10 tribes of the ancient House of Israel rejected God. They went into Assyrian captivity after a three-year siege. God promised to withhold his birthright blessings from them for 2,520 years — seven prophetic "times" (7 X 360). That penalty ended at the beginning of the 1800s A.D.
It is no coincidence that British engineers and financiers in 1803 produced the first practical paper-making machine in history. That in 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded. By an extraordinary "coincidence" Lord Stanhope had in the same year perfected a stereotyping process. That process made Bible manufacturing cheap, accurate and speedy!
In 1805 massive numbers of the English New Testament appeared. A complete Bible for quantity distribution appeared in 1806. Friedrich Konig, a German, came to London in 1806, and in four years perfected the printing machine. The story, if continued, would fill pages. This is one of the greatest series of events in history. It ranks in importance with the Jewish and Greek preservation of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures! Yet the world today takes little note of the greatest of the birthright blessings!
Do We Have All the Bible? One final question should be answered with regard to the preservation of Scripture. Do we have all the Bible?
The testimony of history itself is that none of the Hebrew Bible has been lost since the days of Christ. For nearly two thousand years, through persecution and war, the Jews have preserved it as God intended! The same books composing the Bible in Jesus' day are used today in the synagogues and in the churches.
But what about the fact that some editions of the Bible have seven more books (the Apocrypha) added to the Old Testament than the Jews have? Are these added books part of the revealed word of God?
The official authority for the copying of the Hebrew Bible was vested in officially appointed scribes (Matt. 23:2). They never accepted the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are unauthoritative books. These books contain definite errors, plus a measure of historic truth — just as all human-books do. The apostles never quoted from the Apocrypha. They never referred to these seven added books as inspired. The Catholic Church in the West did not accept them until about A.D. 398, at the Council of Carthage-300 years after the Bible was completed in the days of the apostle John.
The Greek Bibles used by the inspired New Testament Church under the guidance of the apostles did not contain the Apocrypha. These uninspired books were not added to the Old Testament canon by the churches in the East until after A.D. 315, according to the admission of the bishop Cyril of Jerusalem. Here is proof that the Apocrypha was never approved by Christ or the apostles. The Bible was completed in the days of the apostles!
The same may be said of the so-called lost books of the Bible. These books were never lost because they were never part of the Bible. They are outright frauds! They are spurious — uninspired and full of errors!
If you want the full story of the Apocrypha, write for the reprint article "Do We Have the Complete Bible?"
But what about the New Testament? Is it complete? Here again the testimony is the same — the New Testament has been preserved exactly! The early Greeks recognized no other New Testament books than we have today. No New Testament book has been lost.
If you want an illustration of God's intervention to preserve his word, turn to Jeremiah 36, beginning with verse 23. King Jehoiakim, at a time of national crisis in Judah, rejected God's message and had an entire scroll of the word of God cut with a penknife and consumed by a fire. Certainly burning the only copy of the word of God would destroy it if anything would! — he thought.
But what happened? Did it perish forever? No! Read for yourself the account in Jeremiah 36:32.
You can depend on the Bible. It is the inspired word of God in print! It carries absolute authority. By it you are to be judged!