Canonicity

Contents

  1. 1 THE PERFECT STANDARD
  2. 2 PETER’S LEGACY
  3. 3 THE ORIGIN OF THE SCRIPTURES
  4. 4 THE DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION
    1. 4.1 The Principle of Inspiration
    2. 4.2 The Origin of Scripture
    3. 4.3 The Extent of Inspiration
      1. 4.3.1 Unknown Past
      2. 4.3.2 Ancient History
      3. 4.3.3 Objective-Type Law
      4. 4.3.4 Dictation And Prophecy
      5. 4.3.5 Devotional Literature
      6. 4.3.6 Recording Of Falsehoods
  5. 5 THE ART OF WRITING
    1. 5.1 The History of Writing
    2. 5.2 The Materials for Writing
  6. 6 FOUR TYPES OF ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS
  7. 7 CODEX SINAITICUS
  8. 8 CODEX VATICANUS
  9. 9 CODEX ALEXANDRINUS
  10. 10 EPHRAEMI RESCRIPTUS
  11. 11 THE PAPYRI
    1. 11.1 The Oxyrhynchos Manuscripts
    2. 11.2 The Chester Beatty Papyri
    3. 11.3 The Work of Deissmann
    4. 11.4 The Dead Sea Scrolls
  12. 12 THE NEED FOR THE CANON
  13. 13 THE CRITERIA FOR OLD TESTAMENT CANONICITY
    1. 13.1 The Question of Inspiration
    2. 13.2 The Principle of Internal Evidence
    3. 13.3 Documentation by Quotation
    4. 13.4 The Law of Public Official Action
    5. 13.5 The Law of Cause and Effect
    6. 13.6 The Principle of External Evidence
  14. 14 THE ORGANIZATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON
  15. 15 THE TESTIMONY OF JOSEPHUS
  16. 16 THE DEMAND FOR THE SEPTUAGINT
  17. 17 CANONICITY-CONSCIOUSNESS
    1. 17.1 The Talmud
    2. 17.2 The Endorsement of the Canon by Jesus Christ
    3. 17.3 The Endorsement of Eusebius
    4. 17.4 The Endorsement of Tertullian
  18. 18 THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE CANON
    1. 18.1 The Homologoumena
    2. 18.2 The Antilegomena
    3. 18.3 The Pseudepigrapha
    4. 18.4 The Apocrypha
  19. 19 THE REJECTION OF THE APOCRYPHA
    1. 19.1 Prayers and Offerings for the Dead
    2. 19.2 Suicide Justified
    3. 19.3 Atonement and Salvation by Almsgiving
    4. 19.4 Cruelty to Slaves Justified
    5. 19.5 The Doctrine of Emanations
    6. 19.6 The Preexistence of Souls
    7. 19.7 Other Fallacies and Blasphemies in the Apocrypha
  20. 20 THE HISTORY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON
    1. 20.1 A.D. 70-170
    2. 20.2 170-303
    3. 20.3 The Criteria for New Testament Canonicity
      1. 20.3.1 Apostolicity
      2. 20.3.2 Reception By The Churches
      3. 20.3.3 Consistency
      4. 20.3.4 Inspiration
      5. 20.3.5 Recognition
      6. 20.3.6 Internal
    4. 20.4 303-379
    5. 20.5 Eusebius (270-340)
    6. 20.6 The Acknowledged Books (Homologoumena)
    7. 20.7 The Disputed Books (Antilegomena)
    8. 20.8 The Spurious Writings (Apocrypha)
    9. 20.9 The Heretical or Absurd Writings (Pseudepigrapha)
    10. 20.10 The Church Councils
  21. 21 THE EARLY HISTORY OF ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS
    1. 21.1 Caedmon (died in 680)
    2. 21.2 Aldhelm (639-709)
    3. 21.3 Bede (673-735)
    4. 21.4 Alfred the Great, King of England (871-899)
    5. 21.5 From 899-1330
    6. 21.6 Wycliffe (1330-1384)
    7. 21.7 Tyndale (1494-1536)
    8. 21.8 Coverdale and Matthew’s Bible
  22. 22 HOW WE GOT OUR KING JAMES BIBLE
    1. 22.1 The Millenary Petition
    2. 22.2 The Royal Order for a Uniform Translation
    3. 22.3 The Appointment of the Translators
    4. 22.4 The Work Begins
    5. 22.5 Sources of Translation
    6. 22.6 The Work Completed
    7. 22.7 The Reception of the King James Bible
  23. 23 THE HISTORY OF THE MODERN PERIOD
    1. 23.1 The Vogue of the Textus Receptus
    2. 23.2 The Period of Struggle
  24. 24 THE PRESENT PROBLEMS OF THE KING JAMES VERSION
    1. 24.1 Reconstructing the Autograph
  25. 25 EXTERNAL BIBLIOLOGY
    1. 25.1 Continuity
    2. 25.2 Inexhaustible Extent of Revelation
    3. 25.3 Distribution
    4. 25.4 Unprejudiced Authority
    5. 25.5 Attacks on the Bible
    6. 25.6 The Influence on Individuals and Society
    7. 25.7 Scientific Data
      1. 25.7.1 Static Electricity
      2. 25.7.2 The Earth Is Spherical
      3. 25.7.3 The Earth Rotates On Its Axis
      4. 25.7.4 Air Has Weight
      5. 25.7.5 Winds Have Circuits; The Laws Of Evaporation And Precipitation
      6. 25.7.6 Radiation And Polarization Of Lights
      7. 25.7.7 Messages Are Sent By Lightning
      8. 25.7.8 The Circulation Of The Blood
      9. 25.7.9 Quarantine For Communicable Diseases
  26. 26 THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD
  27. 27 SOLOMON’S QUEST FOR HAPPINESS
  28. 28 Footnotes
  29. 29 Appendix
    1. 29.1 THE IMPORTANCE OF BIBLE DOCTRINE
  30. 30 Glossary
Canonicity
The literary below is the exact, complete transcription of R. B. Thieme, Jr.’s advanced doctrine book “Canonicity.”
 
© 1973, 4th impression 2017
Other Format Available

THE PERFECT STANDARD

THE WORD “CANONICITY” IS DERIVED from the Greek word κανών (kanon), which originally meant a rod or a ruler, hence—a measuring stick or norm (Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:16). This is exactly what the Bible is—a norm or standard—the divine and absolute standard. Technically, the canon of Scripture is a collection of many books into one book, our Bible.

    The Bible is the only reliable source of information with regard to eternal salvation and the alternative—eternal condemnation (John 3:36). While eternal salvation is as simple as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), the study and absorption of its many aspects and ramifications can become very complex. Most important, the Bible is the revealed “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), and as such, contains vital information for the believer in time.

    It is my purpose to demonstrate how we acquired this most vital document, from its very origin to the printed page, and to present its relationship to history and its effects upon mankind. This study should give you a deeper appreciation and respect for the Word of God as your most priceless possession.

PETER’S LEGACY

Yea, I think it meet [fitting], as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. (2 Pet. 1:13)1

    Peter was a dying man; yet as long as he had breath left, he considered it imperative to keep on stirring up believers by going over and over doctrines until they could not be forgotten. With time running out, Peter’s style was elliptical, down to earth, and tough. He wanted no sympathy. He was saying in effect, “I am about to die—so what? Don’t weep for me. My objective is to leave behind doctrine in your souls, and I’m going to keep on teaching until the end. So keep on having doctrine in your right lobes.”

    Do you see the important point here? Peter was greatly loved. There had been a tendency to lean on Peter, but soon he would not be there to lean on. Peter insisted that they must never use him as a crutch; instead they must learn to lean on the Word of God and the doctrines it teaches. Peter’s departure from the scene should make no difference—Bible teachers come and go—it’s not the man but the message that counts. Don’t get your eyes on man; get your eyes on the Word of God and keep them there.

    Doctrine had sustained Peter through many trials and persecutions. Before he died, he wanted to leave believers a legacy that no one could take from them—the reality of the Bible.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Pet. 1:16)

    What greater way of substantiating the truth than to say, “We saw it with our own eyes and we heard it with our own ears.” The eye gate and the ear gate are the most essential areas for perception in the system of empiricism. What can be more real than seeing and hearing? I’ll tell you what should be—the Word of God!

    In 2 Peter 1, Peter documents an experience he had shared with James and John—the Transfiguration (Matt. 16:28; 17:1-8). They had seen Jesus Christ as He would appear at the Second Advent; they had even heard the Father’s voice. Yet Peter wrote with utmost conviction:

We have also [in the written Word] a more sure word of prophecy [the biblical account of the Second Advent is more reliable than their empirical observation of the Transfiguration]; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed. (2 Pet. 1:19a)

    Peter ends his dissertation by pointing believers toward the origin of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20-21). So, God vindicates His Word, be it in the Scriptures (Ps. 138:2) or in the believer’s soul. Man comes and goes, “but the word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25a).

THE ORIGIN OF THE SCRIPTURES

    The Bible is the most precious and most important record this world has ever known or will ever know. In order to understand how we got our Bible, it is necessary that we consider the factor that makes this book what it claims to be—the written Word of God!

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet. 1:20-21)

    In verse 20, we have the negative origin of the Bible; in verse 21, we have the positive origin of the Bible. A superficial reading of verse 20 suggests that this verse speaks of interpretation. In the original language (Greek), the issue is not interpretation but origin. The origin of Scripture is one of the first things every believer should understand in regard to the Word of God. So let me give you a corrected translation of these two verses:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture originates from one’s own disclosure. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    This means that God the Holy Spirit so directed the writers of Scripture that without changing their personality, vocabulary, frame of reference, or emotional pattern, God’s complete and connected thought toward man was recorded in their own language and vernacular. As a result, we actually have in Scripture the mind of Christ—the Word of God—the divine viewpoint as it is expressed in human terms under the principle of inspiration. The doctrine of inspiration applies only to the original languages of Scripture and guarantees their accuracy.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16)

    “All scripture” includes both the Old and the New Testaments. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” says literally in the Greek, “All scripture is God-breathed.” The true concept of inspiration is this: God’s thoughts, His doctrines, His plan, His promises, and everything that God wanted us to know was communicated to the human authors of Scripture. Then, in the power of the Spirit, they recorded this revelation in writing.

    Second Timothy 3:16 lists four categories of benefits from the Scriptures:

“Doctrine.” Doctrine is the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Doctrine is the sum total of the divine viewpoint of life (Isa. 55:8-9) and should, therefore, become the basis of our modus operandi in time and our confidence for the future.
 
“Reproof.” When you study the Bible and hear it taught, you are often reproved. An analysis of Scripture usually discloses the areas of weakness where we have failed. The principle is simply that the Word of God does rebuke us, and rightly so. It shows us where we are wrong as well as where we are right.
 
“Correction.” Reproof should always lead to correction. Biblical correction results in the utilization of unlimited operating assets by which we can have perfect happiness, peace, and stability.
 
“Instruction in righteousness.” This involves the entire scope of the Gospel and demonstrates how God can take a sinner and make him righteous through the work of Christ.2
 
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:17)

    “That” introduces a purpose clause, which sets before us the intent of the profit of the Scriptures. This purpose is that the believer may become mature and completely equipped unto all good works. In the Greek ἐξαρτίζω (exartizo), “completely equipped,” is in the perfect tense, meaning “equipped in the past with the result that he keeps on being equipped.” Thus we see that the divinely inspired Scriptures contain all the information that is necessary for the production of divine good.3

THE DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION

The Principle of Inspiration

    The Greek noun, θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), or “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), entails the principle of inspiration and involves both inhale and exhale. In the inhale, the Holy Spirit communicated to human authors, like Paul, God’s complete and coherent message (2 Sam. 23:2-3; Isa. 59:21; Jer. 1:9; Matt. 22:42-44; Mark 12:36; Acts 4:24-25; 28:25). In the exhale, the human writers of Scripture so wrote that without waiving their human intelligence, their vocabulary, their personal feelings, their literary style, their personality or individuality, God’s complete message to man was permanently recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture.

The Origin of Scripture

    The Scriptures are not human viewpoint, but rather the Holy Spirit’s use of human agencies and language (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

    The Bible is the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Therefore, it is the absolute criterion for believers (Ps. 138:2).

    The Bible existed in eternity past. As the mind of Christ, the Bible existed prior to the time it was reduced to written form (Prov. 8:22-31).

    Precanon revelation from God occurred through the Holy Spirit (2 Sam. 23:2; Ezek. 2:2; 8:3; 11:1, 24; Micah 3:8; Heb. 3:7). There was no written Scripture until the time of Moses. Prior to that time, God the Holy Spirit revealed doctrine to members of the human race.

    There were four categories of revelation given to Old Testament prophets and others before the existence of Scripture. God revealed Himself and His plan through the spoken Word (Isa. 6:8-10), dreams (Gen. 15:12; 31:10-13, 24; Num. 12:6; Dan. 10:9), visions (1 Kings 22:19; Isa. 1:1; 6:1), and angelic teaching (Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).

The Extent of Inspiration

Unknown Past

    The Bible portrays historical statements and details unknown to man and unconfirmed by human records (Gen. 1:11). Inspiration guarantees the accuracy of these events. For example, in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we have two accounts of the fall of Satan.4 Satan existed long before man; yet we have in writing, with perfect accuracy, all that God wants us to know about Satan’s fall. There are several accounts of the creation of the universe.5 These are found throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Isaiah, to Colossians 1. Man would have no way of knowing these events were it not for the fact that God Himself provided the information through inspiration so that we might know about eternity past.

Ancient History

    Although the Bible is not a history textbook, it contains many historical citations. All of these are necessary and accurate, and form the basis and background for the communication of doctrine (isagogics). As late as the mid-twentieth century, many scholars of history teamed up with certain archaeologists and said that the Bible was in error with regard to certain parts of its history. Since there were no records to substantiate the historical authenticity of certain passages, they claimed those events never occurred. Since then, however, there have been numerous discoveries from the ancient world, including the translation of Ugaritic (pagan Canaanite literature) and the excavation of Troy. These historical records bear out and actually demonstrate the perfect accuracy of the Scriptures.

Objective-Type Law

    In certain portions of the Word you will find laws governing various phases of individual and national life. For instance, there is the Law of the Individual, which is the first of the four divine institutions.6 Man has a free will, and he is free to operate under his volition. He may decide to depend upon God or to act independently of God. We also find the Laws of Marriage, Family, and National Entity. It is to man’s benefit that they be followed and executed.

    In addition to the divine institutions, there are many more laws found in Scripture. For example, the Mosaic Law describes in detail laws necessary for freedom, privacy, and protection of property.7 Inspiration of Scripture guarantees that these are divine laws. They perfectly express the essence of God and His will for the people to whom they were given. The repetition of these laws in Scripture demonstrates their application to every generation.

Dictation And Prophecy

    Some portions of the Bible contain direct quotations from God. On occasion, God made known future events that man had no way of foreseeing or understanding at the time of their revelation. When God dictated to the prophets of old concerning the conquest of the Edomites (Ezek. 25:12-14), everyone scoffed. Why, the powerful Edomites could never be beaten! Yet their land became an area of desolation just as God had said it would.

    Another example of dictation is the prophecy of the downfall of Tyre, which had been an impregnable fortress for centuries. The people sneered at the prediction of troops marching overland. Ridiculous as it seemed, the prophecy was accurate: Alexander the Great built a causeway from the mainland to the island city. Tyre fell into his hands exactly as prophesied.

    The most significant area of accuracy in the Old Testament prophecies are those which deal with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, Psalm 22 describes in detail the events of the cross, yet at the time of these prophecies, crucifixion was unknown to the Jews.

    Even as history was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the past, so will the prophecies of the Tribulation, the Second Advent of Christ, and the Millennium be fulfilled.

Devotional Literature

    Psalms, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Job are classified as devotional literature. God uses the problems, the pressures, the prosperity and successes, as well as the failures of certain believers, to reveal His plan and principles of grace.

Recording Of Falsehoods

    The record of human or Satanic lies in the text of Scripture does not imply that falsehood is truth, but inspiration guarantees the accuracy of the lie. For example, we have the devil’s conversation with the woman in the Garden (Gen. 3:1-5). While this is exactly what the devil said, it was not all truth. The Book of Ecclesiastes lists many erroneous concepts. These did not have the approval of God, but were the precise thoughts of Solomon when he was out of fellowship.

    You might think that such vital communication from God as man had received down through the years would be carefully laid up for posterity in a place of safety. Far from it; portions of the Word as it then existed were lost or destroyed. Although some were recovered as early as the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8), it would take centuries to find, decipher, and piece together the completed canon of Scripture. Many tedious years of hard work lay ahead.

THE ART OF WRITING

    There are many avenues of approach to our study of canonicity. Let’s begin with the one that was absolutely necessary for man to record and thus preserve God’s thoughts and words for all future generations—the subject of writing.

The History of Writing

    Writing did not come into existence by one stroke of the pen of a genius—it has a history in which there are many factors and stages. The first factor is the symbol of the alphabet; second, the word; third, the sentence. The symbols of the alphabet represent sounds; the word is a representation of an idea, and the sentence represents a thought.

    The first stage of writing was the pictograph—man’s earliest attempt to register and communicate his thoughts in written form. He used pictures to depict objects. For example, in the Hebrew language the letter א (aleph) is the sign of an ox; ב (bet) represents a house; ג (gimmel) stands for camel; ד (dalet) for door; and so on. Originally, these and other letters of the Hebrew alphabet stood for pictographic concepts.

    The next stage in the history of writing was the ideograph. The ideograph is a picture of an idea. The Chinese language, for example, uses thousands of ideographic characters. Let me illustrate: There is one symbol that stands for a “house.” Add to it the symbol that stands for “two women,” and you get the word for “trouble.” This is called an ideograph.

    In the third stage of writing we have the phonogram in which a symbol represents a sound. Actually, there are three kinds of phonogram: a word phonogram, a syllable phonogram, and a letter phonogram. In a word phonogram, a symbol stands for the entire word, and this requires an alphabet of about two or three thousand symbols. In a syllable phonogram, a symbol stands for a syllable. This type of phonogram was used in cuneiform writing. Cuneiform is the wedge-shaped inscription of the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. A syllable phonogram calls for an alphabet of some four or five hundred syllables, while the third type, the letter phonogram, requires about twenty to thirty letters.

    All of the original languages of the Word of God are constructed on a letter phonogram or, as we would call it, an alphabet. The Hebrew, the Chaldean, the Aramaic, and the Greek languages are alphabetical languages. You may have seen their letters from time to time and perhaps are familiar with them. All these types of writing can be seen in the archaeological materials that have been recovered, many of which date back before 2500 B.C.

The Materials for Writing

    Discoveries to date indicate that the earliest writing materials were stone and chisels. Archaeologists have located and excavated pillars and stones of various types. Among the most famous is the Behistun Rock from western Persia (modern Iran), which gave us the key to cuneiform writing.

    In 1868, the Moabite Stone was discovered east of the River Jordan by a German missionary named Klein. Near Dibon he came across what looked like a black basalt tombstone, half-buried in the sand. He dismounted and curiously examined the engraved inscriptions. They appeared to be older than anything he had ever seen; hurriedly, he scratched away the sand. When he looked up, he was surrounded by a group of local Bedouins. They insisted that this was their stone and that they would not part with it. Klein offered to buy the stone from them, but they named a ridiculous sum far beyond his means. So Klein left for Germany to try to raise the money he needed.

    In the meantime, a French scholar, Clermont-Ganneau, heard of the stone. He rushed to the site and copied the writings. It turned out to be the oldest piece of Hebrew literature ever to be found, and it told the story of Second Kings, chapter 3. The French Government immediately provided the money, and Clermont-Ganneau rushed back to the site. The stone was gone! The Bedouins, in their greed for an even higher price, had smashed the stone into small pieces. The French scholar now had to locate the rock fragments and try to piece them together with the help of the copy he had made on his first trip. Today, the reconstructed stone is in the Louvre.

    Another of these stones, the Rosetta Stone, is a basalt tablet that was discovered by Napoleon’s archaeologists in 1799 near Rosetta, Egypt. That tablet held the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics and is now located in the British Museum. Although Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt produced no territorial gains for France, it certainly was a boost for archaeology.

    The second medium for writing was clay. Several forms of clay tablets were in use—cylinders, octagonal cylinders, and small flat tablets, which could be carried easily from place to place by merchants. These clay tablets were smoothed out perfectly and written on while still wet. A sharpened stick or an ivory stylus was used to make an impression on the clay, and then the clay was baked in the sun. Many of these writings have lasted for over 4,500 years and have been beautifully preserved for us.

    Another writing material, which is even mentioned in the Bible, is lead (Job 19:24). Some ancient writings on lead are still extant. Other metals used, primarily in the times of the Graeco-Roman world, were gold, silver, and bronze. Several of these are also in existence today, as are some ivory tablets that came to us from Africa and Arabia.

    The Romans, the Egyptians, and the Etruscans all did some writing on linen. Here, too, some of these documents are preserved to this day. As far as the Old and the New Testaments are concerned, however, these were written on either papyrus, vellum, or parchment.

    Papyrus, from which we get the word “paper,” was the most expensive of the three. It was handmade from an Egyptian reed called papyrus. The pith of the plant was made into strips that formed a very durable type of writing material. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, papyrus was widely used. Undoubtedly Paul, Peter, James, and the other writers used papyrus for the autograph of the New Testament.

    Vellum is a very fine type of skin, which was used by the writers of antiquity. It was primarily made from the skins of calves and antelopes. Parchment, a less expensive substitute for vellum, originated in the Greek town of Pergamon from which it got its Latin name pergamentum. It was made from goat or sheep skins that had been prepared and then polished with a pumice stone. Like papyrus, both vellum and parchment were written on with pen and ink. These skins were so durable that the writing could be erased and the skins used over and over again. Were it not for a relatively recent discovery of science that permits us to trace the original writings, many an irreplaceable document would have been completely lost to us.

    The inks of the ancient world were manufactured from soot, lamp black, and gum, which had to be diluted with water. They were permanent, and came in five colors: black (the most commonly used), red, green, blue, and yellow. Some of our inked records are over three thousand years old, yet the ink is as good now as it was at the time of writing. I doubt that any of our present-day inks will be as legible three thousand years from now.

    Probably the greatest pen of antiquity was the calamus. Ingeniously designed, it took its name from a hollow reed. This reed was cut long-stemmed and apparently had a little vacuum system through which the ink was pulled. It might well have been the forerunner of our fountain pens. One end of the reed was sharpened to a fine point and was kept sharp for writing by means of a small knife, which every scholar carried with him for that purpose. Incidentally, we get the English word “penknife” from its similar use in mending quill pens.

    In the British Isles, writing on wood or bark became very common. The Anglo-Saxon word for bark is boc. Although Anglo-Saxon and English are not the same language, it is from the Anglo-Saxon word boc that we got our English word “book.” As the art of writing developed, wax tablets were eventually used, especially for the purpose of recording various types of legal transactions.

    Then paper was invented by the Chinese around the second century A.D. It was introduced to Arabia about the eighth century, but was not used in the Western world until the tenth century. At first, paper was not utilized in connection with the Bible. By the thirteenth century a paper mill had been built in Germany and when Gutenberg invented movable type printing in 1450, paper came into its own. It was discovered that by means of the printing press and paper, books could be produced cheaply and in quantity; so paper was here to stay.

    Writing has come a long way since the days of the early pictographs, and it has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. This is indeed true where the written Word of God is concerned.

For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful [in its operating energy], and sharper [more cutting] than any twoedged sword. (Heb. 4:12a)

FOUR TYPES OF ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS

    Ancient manuscripts are classified into four groups. The oldest of these are the uncial manuscripts on vellum or parchment. They are written in all capital letters with no punctuation or spaces between words or sentences, or even paragraphs. The syntax (sentence structure) alone is the basis of all punctuation. An Anglicized version of an uncial manuscript would look like this: FORGODSOLOVEDTHEWORLDTHATHEGAVE, etc.

    The second type of manuscript is called the minuscule. It dates back to the tenth century A.D. You can always tell a minuscule manuscript by its semi-uncial script. This script was developed by monks during the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries and consisted of lowercase cursive letters, which now form the basis of our modern small Roman or Greek letters.

    Third, we have the lectionaries. They are so named because of the Bible passages they contain and the purpose they served. For example, suppose a pastor in one of the early churches wanted to read Romans 5:1-12. He would copy that portion of the Word from either the original text, from a Latin copy, or some other ancient language. He would then insert this passage in his order of service. Maybe in the middle of his message he wanted to cover Hebrews 4:1-3; he would have copied that down, too. Perhaps he wished to close with still another verse, so that verse also went into his lesson. The grouping of such Bible passages appointed for reading in worship services became known as lectionaries. Since many of these lectionaries are by far more ancient than the manuscripts presently available to us, they are of great help in determining the text of the original wording of Scripture.

    The fourth type of manuscript was simply called the papyri. This very delicate paper was too brittle to be folded but could be rolled into scrolls. Fortunately, little deterioration occurred when this material was stored in very hot and dry climates; well-preserved papyri has been found that dates prior to A.D. 200.

CODEX SINAITICUS

    We owe much of our knowledge of the Scriptures to a brilliant nineteenth-century German scholar, who spent his life piecing together the original New Testament. At the age of nineteen, young Count Konstantin von Tischendorf amazed his professors with his fluent knowledge of the classical languages and dialects of antiquity. Seven years later, he was appointed lecturer at the University of Leipzig. The following year, he published a new edition of the Greek New Testament.

    In the spring of 1844, Tischendorf took a trip to the Near East. In the course of his travels, he journeyed to the Sinaitic Peninsula in search of an old monastery that had been hewn from the rock on the side of Mount Sinai. Since there were no hotels or motels in those days, travelers often spent the night in monasteries. When Tischendorf arrived at the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine’s, he was welcomed warmly by the Russian monks.

    After a pleasant meal and a visit with the prior, Tischendorf presented his letter of introduction. He was then given a grand tour of the grounds and buildings and taken to the library. Tischendorf was disappointed by what he saw, but he kept on digging through piles of dusty parchments. Then in a small room near the library he saw a large wastebasket filled to the rim with what looked like ancient vellum. The contents of the wastebasket had been consigned to the fireplace—some of which would contribute to the warmth of his room for that night. Tischendorf was aghast at the thought. Here, if his eyes did not deceive him, was something of real value. Quickly he started going through the papers. Was there more of this kind of material around? If so, would they bring it to him that he might examine it? This is how Tischendorf discovered the 129 pages of what is today known as the Codex Sinaiticus, or the Codex Aleph.

    Unhappily, Tischendorf did not ‘play poker’ well. His face lit up in such a way that the monks knew he had found something priceless in those wastebaskets. So he had to tell them of his discovery of a manuscript that possibly dated back to the second century. Would they let him have it? Immediately the attitude of the monks changed; the answer was no. Tischendorf could not take the papers with him, but he would be permitted to stay on and take some notes. Tischendorf did more than that; he copied the manuscript. In the end, after prolonged bargaining, he was allowed to take 43 of the 129 pages he had found.

    Almost fourteen years would pass before all the negotiations for the transfer of this and other priceless ancient documents—among them the Epistle of Barnabas—were concluded. England’s interest in the manuscripts was made known. The monks were shocked. What, sell their precious papers to English heretics? They would rather give them to Russia—on loan, of course. Triumphantly, and with the full backing of Russia, Tischendorf carried off his prize for further study. He published his findings in 1862. Codex Sinaiticus is still one of the finest and most accurate texts available to us today, and it became the basis of many revisions and corrections of earlier editions of the Bible.

    Years passed. Then in 1933, the Russian Communists decided they had no need of Bibles, old or new, so they sold Codex Sinaiticus to Great Britain for 100,000 pounds sterling. The crumpled pages were restored and bound in two volumes and placed in the British Museum. Later they were photostatically reproduced and the copies sent to libraries throughout the world.

CODEX VATICANUS

    With Tischendorf’s findings made available to the scholars of the world, a new interest in ancient manuscripts was kindled. Someone remembered his history and wondered what had become of the old manuscripts that Napoleon’s scholars had discovered in the Vatican library when the Pope had been captured.

    Actually, Codex Vaticanus, also known as Codex B, was known to be some fifteen years older than Codex Sinaiticus (Codex Aleph). Vaticanus dated back to A.D. 325 or 350, and had probably been brought from the East by Pope Nicholas in 1448. Until the Napoleonic Wars, the manuscript had been hidden from the outside world. In 1809, when Napoleon exiled the Pope to Avignon (later to Savona), it took about fifty wagons to transport the Pope’s library. With the fall of Napoleon in 1815, the papers were returned to the Vatican before anyone had a chance to examine them carefully. Once more in the Vatican library, they were jealously guarded by the Roman Catholics.

    Tregelles, another great scholar and friend of Tischendorf’s, decided to investigate the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican library. He applied to the Pope for permission to examine the manuscript and was promptly refused. When he explained that he was a professor of New Testament literature at Leipzig University, the Pope gave permission for Tregelles to study the manuscript for six hours only. That was in the year 1843. Twenty years later, Tischendorf was permitted to examine the manuscript for some days, six hours at a time. Of course, he had to submit to stringent security measures. He was searched on his way in and on his way out. He could bring no writing materials and could take no notes. The manuscript was laid out on a large table and he could read it for no longer than the time specified. Furthermore, there would be guards watching him all the time he was reading.

    Tischendorf agreed to the Pope’s ground rules. He was searched as he went in and out; no scrap of paper or writing tool was ever found on him. Tischendorf memorized a portion of the text each day, not only in the Greek but also in Hebrew and Aramaic! Since he was a genius in all three languages, this presented no problem. When he returned home, he would sit down and write out that part of Scripture he had memorized. The next day he would go back to the Vatican to master the next portion of the Word. This went on for the summer holidays, and in three months Tischendorf had memorized the entire text of Codex Vaticanus. This was one of the greatest memory feats of all time!

    Upon his return to Leipzig, Tischendorf published the results of his finding. So close was his text to the original, that Pope Pius IX ordered the Vatican manuscript photographed in 1859. In that way it became public property for the world at large. Codex Vaticanus is still one of our most valuable manuscripts of the Word of God.

CODEX ALEXANDRINUS

    A third very interesting manuscript, which very few people knew about, is the Codex Alexandrinus. This Greek language manuscript had been written about A.D. 450 in Alexandria, Egypt. Apparently no one paid any attention to it in the years that followed. In 1621, when Cyril Lucar became the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, he transferred the manuscript to Constantinople.

    Lucar had succumbed to the influence of Calvinistic teaching, and was corresponding with leading churchmen in the Western world. That’s how he learned of England’s keen interest in ancient biblical manuscripts. So, when the British ambassador, Thomas Roe, was scheduled to return home, Lucar sent with him the manuscript as a gift to King Charles I. The beautiful document, Codex Alexandrinus, was presented at court in 1627, just fifteen years after the King James Version of the Bible had been completed. What a pity that it had come so late, because this very ancient manuscript would have helped immensely in the correct rendition of the English text.

EPHRAEMI RESCRIPTUS

    It is fascinating to learn what happened to some of the great libraries of the past and to trace their disposition throughout history. For example, we know that Cleopatra was very fond of reading and that Marc Antony was extraordinarily fond of Cleopatra. When he heard of her love for books, Marc Antony took his army to one of the great libraries of Asia Minor. There he ‘liberated’ 400,000 volumes of literature and took them down to Egypt as a gift for Cleopatra. An act like this would be tantamount to the Library of Congress being stolen and moved to another country. Many of the great libraries of the ancient world have disappeared, and we know of their existence only because history has recorded it for us.

    It is equally interesting to discover that some ancient manuscripts, thought to be lost, were eventually recovered. One of these is known to us as the Ephraemi Rescriptus, or Codex C. This recovery in the sixteenth century involved Catherine de Medici, who was as ambitious as she was clever. Catherine was a member of the colorful Italian family that had risen from obscurity to immense wealth and fame. Over a period of nearly three hundred years, the Medicis had made a name for themselves, which ran the gamut from popes to poisoners to patrons of the arts. They had affiliated themselves with the great houses of Europe through marriage, and Catherine had become the wife of King Henry II of France. She bore him four sons who eventually, through her constant manipulations, became kings.

    Catherine de Medici was an avid, if somewhat superficial reader, who treasured her books and took them wherever she went. Among her favorites were the sermons of a Syrian theologian, Father Ephraem. When Catherine died, her books went to the French National Library in Paris. They were stacked away and ignored for a long time—245 years to be exact.

    In 1834, a student of theology decided to write a thesis on the sermons of Father Ephraem. He went to the French National Library and asked permission to check out some of the Medici books. He was told that they could not be removed from the premises, since the collection had great historic value; however, he was permitted to examine the books. While he was reading, the light fell on the page in such a way that indentations in the vellum were visible. What appeared to the student as so many indentations were, in fact, inscriptions made prior to those of Father Ephraem. What actually had happened was that in 1553, when Father Ephraem wanted to record his sermons, paper was very scarce and hard to obtain. He found some used vellum in an ancient Syrian monastery and simply erased the writing. True, the indentations were still there, but his own sermons could be written over them. Without realizing it, Father Ephraem had erased one of the finest of all Bible manuscripts in order to write his own sermons!

    Immediately, the alert student became far more interested in what Father Ephraem had erased than in what he had written. Through the use of chemicals, the original manuscript was restored. We call this type of manuscript a palimpsest, meaning it was erased and written over. This particular one became known as Ephraemi Rescriptus; in other words, Ephraem wrote over it. Since its discovery, the manuscript has been removed from the Medici stacks of literature and placed where it belongs—in the Bible stacks at the library in Paris.

THE PAPYRI

The Oxyrhynchos Manuscripts

    Archaeological findings have provided us with additional priceless manuscripts of the past. About 1900, Oxford University professors, Dr. Grenfell and Dr. Hunt, went to Oxyrhynchos in Upper Egypt, west of the Nile. They were searching for ancient treasures and trinkets of silver and gold that lay buried in the tombs. During the course of their excavations of the one-time provincial capital, they came upon a tremendous hall filled with stuffed, mummified crocodiles. They were baffled and disappointed; they had expected to find priceless art treasures and jewels in the great chamber, not two thousand stuffed crocodiles! Possibly on the other side of the chamber they would find what they were looking for—and indeed they did. They recovered many valuable artifacts which are still in British museums today, estimated to be worth millions of dollars. This find can scarcely be compared, however, to their discovery of far greater riches—a discovery that came about quite by accident.

    To reach the other side of the great chamber, the crocodiles had to be moved out of the way. It was a tedious job, but it paid off handsomely. When one of the native workers stumbled and fell, the crocodile he was carrying hit a sharp rock and broke open. Dr. Grenfell’s eyes widened in amazement at what he saw: Inside that crocodile were papyri! Upon investigation, they found inside the crocodile mummies an entire library of the ancient world—not just one, but many different kinds of manuscripts. These included some biblical manuscripts from the second century—practically the same time of the autograph of the New Testament Scriptures. Here also were grammar and etymology books that led to further discoveries of principles involved in the syntax and grammar of the koine Greek,8 which we still use today. The Oxyrhynchos Papyri can be seen in museums in both Egypt and Britain. However, all the studies concerned with those papyri have never really been completed.

The Chester Beatty Papyri

    There was increasing excitement over the discovery of papyri and everyone began searching for them. Countless small hills and sand dunes were dug up, and many turned out to be only rubbish heaps of the past, which contained bits of slates, vases, broken pottery—reminders of a life long ago. The Arabs, not to be outdone, began their own treasure hunt. They carried off many valuable treasures and peddled these to any and all buyers. So, here and there, fragments of biblical writings turned up. Among these was an ancient Jewish temple library of the seventh century B.C., discovered at Elephantine, Egypt, during the years 1906 to 1908.

    Another great discovery came on November 19, 1931, when the Chester Beatty Papyri were found. Chester Beatty was a millionaire from Philadelphia who made a tour of Palestine and Egypt. He had heard that some Old Testament papyri in Greek were being offered for sale. Even though the price was exorbitant, Beatty paid it immediately. He then turned the entire collection of documents over to two scholars, F. G. Kenyon and H. A. Sanders. A detailed study of these second and third-century papyri revealed some of the missing papers of the Codex Sinaiticus, portions of Paul’s Epistles and the four Gospels. The ‘haul’ was well worth the price he had paid. This collection is now housed at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Work of Deissmann

    The ever-increasing supply of newly recovered papyri furnished abundant material for research and evaluation by knowledgeable philologists. We owe much to a group of very famous German scholars who, under the leadership of Adolph Deissmann, shed new light on the language of the New Testament. His studies clarified the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of the koine Greek.9 Light from the Ancient East, translated from the German, is a fascinating book on this subject and contains some of Deissmann’s findings.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

    In 1947, a fifteen-year-old Bedouin boy followed a goat that had strayed. When he casually threw a pebble into the cleft of a rock, he was startled at the sound of breaking pottery. Later he returned with a friend to explore the cave. Here they stumbled upon several earthenware jars that contained dirty, musty-smelling parchment. What seemed like an accidental find turned out to be biblical manuscripts antedating the oldest known Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament by one thousand years. This included the complete book of Isaiah. It would take many years and a small fortune to acquire these scrolls from the Arab black market, and even more patience to piece them together and to decipher. There could be no doubt, however, the scrolls were genuine. In the following years, many additional caches were located, including the main library of the Essenes, a Jewish sect. The Dead Sea Scrolls were named after the area in which they had been found.

    What do these discoveries prove to us? That God provided for the preservation and the recovery of His written message, the canon of Scripture.

THE NEED FOR THE CANON

    Why does the believer need a canon of Scripture? Why were the various portions of the divinely inspired Word of God collected and bound into a book called the Holy Bible? Let’s consider four reasons why there was a very definite need for the Canon.

    First, so that believers in every generation might have complete revelation from God. They need to understand the predesigned plan of God,10 the dispensation11 in which they live, their relationship to the angelic conflict,12 as well as many other principles of doctrine. To operate in the devil’s world, believers must have a norm or standard of absolute authority.

    When it comes to absolutes, no ordinary human being can speak with authority—no matter what title or office you may give him. Every human being has some area of limitation because he possesses a sin nature.13 No matter how capable he may be or how excellent his judgment, there cannot be absolute authority vested in any individual. Absolute authority is a divine prerogative.

    There has been only one member of the human race to whom absolute authority was given—the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18). Because He is absent from the earth and at the right hand of the Father, He must leave behind a standard which carries the same authority with which He spoke during His incarnation. That absolute standard of authority is found only in the Word of God (1 Cor. 2:16).

    The entire Bible is the Word of God! Just remember that our Lord said to His disciples,

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:12-13a)

So rest assured that the New Testament Epistles carry the same weight as those words which the Lord spoke in person. They are addressed to you and to me.

    Second, a Canon was necessary so that people might have God’s Word in writing. Whether you realize it or not, you happen to be one of the generations of believers who has in your possession the greatest treasure of all time—the completed canon of Scripture! There is nothing more rewarding and profitable than to go ‘prospecting’ in the Word of God. In addition to Bible doctrine, the Word contains thousands of promises to which God has put His signature. All are guaranteed by the very essence of God, and you and I have them in writing.

    This has not always been the case, since revelation from God in the past dispensations came to man in other ways. Since the completion of the canon of Scripture in A.D. 96, all extrabiblical revelation has ceased. Today, if anyone claims that God speaks to him in a dream or trance, he is out of line; God speaks to us only through His Word. Therefore, in order to learn, understand, and apply God’s Word, Bible doctrine must be taught exegetically, categorically, and isagogically. God made every provision necessary for our assimilation of the content of the divine textbook.14 Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, that Book should become your manual for living. So you see, there should be no such thing as a drab, depressing, miserable existence for any believer. Life should have meaning, purpose, and definition; God has a special plan for you. Everything that you will ever need in life for inner peace and happiness, for blessing and strength and stability is found in the completed canon of Scripture. There is no substitute for Bible doctrine or for positive volition toward it on your part.

    Third, there was a need for the preservation and circulation of the sacred writings. For example, in A.D. 320, the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered the destruction of all sacred books of the Christians. Although Diocletian was not aware of it, his persecutions acted as a catalyst to precipitate the necessary settlement of a grave dispute. Theologians had been arguing over the inclusion of James, Hebrews, and Second and Third John into the Canon; but now that controversy had to be resolved in a hurry. The Roman soldiers were on their way to carry out the order, so Christians attempted to determine what was sacred and what was not.

    Fourth, there had to be some norm or criteria for canonicity so that people might know which writings were canonical. The inspired writings had to be protected from the infiltration of non-canonical books. A tremendous mass of literature had appeared in the first three or four centuries, all of which claimed to be authoritative and inspired. Much of this literature was promoted by various cults in an attempt to prove their false theology or heretical ideas. They even went so far as to maintain that some of these were Paul’s lost messages. Something had to be done to determine which books were canonical and which were not canonical.

    After the Roman emperor Constantine became a Christian, he was so eager for doctrine that he ordered fifty copies of the Scriptures for the churches of his new capitol—Constantinople. Again the question: What is Scripture and what is not? This had to be settled once and for all. The scribes began their mammoth task of writing out by hand the fifty copies that the emperor had ordered. The job was completed before Constantine’s death in 337.

THE CRITERIA FOR OLD TESTAMENT CANONICITY

    With the awareness of the need for a Canon, five criteria were agreed upon. On this basis, the inclusion or exclusion of certain books into the Canon was eventually determined.

The Question of Inspiration

    Was the book of divine origin (2 Pet. 1:21)? Every extant book of an acknowledged messenger of God, commissioned by God to make known His will, was immediately accepted as the Word of God.

The Principle of Internal Evidence

    Was its claim to inspiration adequately sustained by the awareness of the writers that this was indeed sacred Scripture? There are certain passages of Scripture that explain this principle of canonicity. For example: Deuteronomy 31:24-26; Joshua 1:8; Judges 3:4; Jeremiah 36.

    Nehemiah 8:1-8 is a critical passage, which presents the facts that the people were taught the Word of God. When Daniel went into captivity, he took with him a copy of the Old Testament as it then existed. By reading the prophecies of Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10, he discovered that Israel had a future. This is brought out by Daniel 9:2, 5-6. Another passage which is especially clear on the first two criteria for canonicity is Zechariah 7:12.

Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

Documentation by Quotation

    The New Testament contains quotations from the Old Testament made by Jesus Christ and others who declared it to be the Word of God. We have many such passages, among them Matthew 22:29, and John 5:39 and 10:35.

The Law of Public Official Action

    This is a historical law that required that public action be taken immediately to solemnly declare a portion of Scripture to be the Word of God. We have an illustration of this in Nehemiah 8:5.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

    When liberalism, socialism, religiosity, and legalism gain a foothold in a nation, that national entity invariably declines. This pattern of apostasy was followed by the Jews many times, with resultant discipline from God (Lev. 26:14-39). Often military defeat (Deut. 28:25) served to awaken the Jews to a realization of their spiritual status and an awareness of their need for Bible doctrine. The prophets or priests would publicly read and teach the Word of God. To do so, they had to know which books to read on such occasions.

The Law of Cause and Effect

    The cause is the existence of the Canon, and the effect is the recognition of the Canon. The Old Testament books are not canonical because Israel recognized them as such but because they were of divine origin. Inspiration was the mechanics by which they had come into existence, and that is what made certain books canonical. So we might say that canonicity is a recognition of what God has done in the field of communication. Passages like 2 Kings 2223:2 and Nehemiah 8 are not historical accounts of the ratification of the Canon but the result of the existence of the Canon. In other words, the Canon existed; therefore, it was recognized.

The Principle of External Evidence

    There are also some extrabiblical evidences that led to the completion of the Canon. The year 586 B.C. saw God’s administration of the fifth cycle of discipline to Judah. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed, and the Jews had gone into the Babylonian captivity (2 Chron. 36:11-21). During their captivity (586-516 B.C.) the Jews realized why they had disintegrated as a nation. This led to a resurgence of the study of Bible doctrine. At last the Jews became aware of the importance of the written Word as a part of their spiritual heritage—so much so, that we have extrabiblical evidence with regard to their consciousness of the Canon as it then existed. There were men like Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who kept reminding the people of the importance of the Scriptures. There were other outstanding leaders like Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, who led the advance column out of captivity back to Jerusalem. They all recognized that they had the Canon. By the year 425 B.C. all the Old Testament books had been written, and the Old Testament Canon was collected and closed.

    More than that, apparently these same Jewish leaders invented a marvelous system for the preservation of the Canon. They counted every letter in every book. They knew the middle letter of the Canon. Now whenever copies were made of the Scriptures and a scribe arrived at the midpoint of the text, they would check his work by counting the exact number of letters. The same was done upon the completion of the text. As a result, we are assured that the Old Testament we have today is precisely the same as at the time of its original writing.

THE ORGANIZATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON

    In content, the Hebrew Old Testament Canon is exactly the same as our Old Testament in the English, but the number of books and their arrangement in the Hebrew Canon is different. We have, first of all, a threefold division of the Canon: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.

    We’ve already seen that every writer of the Old Testament had the gift of prophecy. Moses, for example, was the unique prophet—the greatest prophet who ever lived—until the coming of Jesus Christ. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. They are called the Torah, or the Pentateuch, and consist of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

    The second group of books in the Old Testament Canon are the Nabhiim, or the Prophets. All of these men had the gift of prophecy, but some were called the former prophets and others the latter prophets. The former prophets preached before the Babylonian Captivity, and the latter prophets preached after the Babylonian Captivity. In the Hebrew Canon, there are eight prophetical books, four in each category. Among the former prophets we have Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. There was no breakdown into First and Second Samuel or First and Second Kings as we have it in the English Bible. Joshua is the human author of the last chapter of Deuteronomy and of the Book of Joshua (with the exception of the last five verses). Samuel wrote Judges and First and Second Samuel. The human author of Kings is anybody’s guess. What matters is the principle of inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16).

    The latter prophets are commonly known as the major and the minor prophets. They are not major or minor in content or importance, but only in length. The three major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Isaiah wrote in classical Hebrew; Jeremiah wrote in everyday Hebrew; and Ezekiel struck a happy medium between the two; yet each one wrote under the principle of inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21).

    The minor prophets, which we divide into twelve separate books, are all one book in the Hebrew Bible, called the Twelve. Apart from the Book of Daniel, the Twelve include everything from Hosea to Malachi.

    It is important that you have some understanding of the arrangement of the books of the Hebrew Canon for this reason: Occasionally Jesus would quote a passage from the Old Testament. He might then say, “As Jeremiah said,” when in reality He was quoting Zechariah. Had Jesus made a mistake? No! Jesus knew what He was saying. He was quoting on the basis of a system that the Jews used for locating a passage. Remember that modern books did not exist in those days; they used scrolls instead. Often a scroll contained more than one book, but the entire scroll was identified by the name of the first book. In our example, it would be called the “Jeremiah Scroll.”

    The third section of the Hebrew Old Testament is called the Kethubim or the Writings. Its writers had only the gift of prophecy but did not hold the office of Prophet. The Writings were divided into three sections: the Poetical Books, the Five Rolls (also called the Megilloth), and the Historical Books.

    There are three books of poetry: Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. The Five Rolls or Megilloth are five separate books, each of which is read at a different feast. The first of these five books is Song of Solomon, always read on the Passover. The Book of Ruth is read on the day of Pentecost. After Ruth came Ecclesiastes, which is read at the Feast of the Tabernacles. Then Esther is read at the Feast of Purim because it contains the origin of that holiday. The last of the Megilloth is Lamentations, also known as The Five Rules. Jeremiah wrote Lamentations in the form of a funeral dirge, on the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem by the besieging armies of Nebuchadnezzar. As one might expect, Lamentations is read annually on the anniversary of that sad day.

    The three Historical Books are found at the end of the Hebrew Canon: Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah (one book), and Chronicles. As is the case with Samuel and Kings, there is no division of Chronicles into two books in the Hebrew. When we add the number of books in the Hebrew Old Testament, we have only twenty-four books compared to our thirty-nine. Their arrangement of the Canon is better than ours in every way.

THE TESTIMONY OF JOSEPHUS

    The generally accepted date for the completion of the Old Testament Canon is the year 425 or 424 B.C. The fact of its existence was recognized by the Jews but blatantly denied by a bombastic character by the name of Apion. He flatly declared that there was no such thing as the sacred Scriptures. I don’t know what believers of his time did about this attack on the Word of God, but I do know what one unbeliever did—he came to the defense of Scripture promptly and in no uncertain terms.

    Flavius Josephus was an unbeliever. By race he was a Jew; by mannerism, adoption, and citizenship he was a Roman; and by profession he was an outstanding soldier and eminent historian. From the time that Josephus had been promoted to the rank of a Roman general, he was pro-Roman all the way. Yet for all this, he simply could not let this scurrilous accusation against the validity of the Canon go without a formal objection. He sat down and refuted Apion’s claim, point by point, in a book called Contra Apion.

    Keep in mind that Josephus was an unbeliever; he was not emotionally involved and therefore could write clearly, objectively, and concisely on this matter. He had one passion in life—accurate presentation of history. He once said that a historian should record the facts of history without interpreting the facts. He must report accurately what was said, what was done, what was expressed. So, while Josephus had little or no love for his own people, the Jews, he could not let Apion get away with historical inaccuracy.

    In Contra Apion, Josephus describes the sacred books of the Jews. He states that the time during which these books were written extended from Moses to Artaxerxes I, who reigned from 465 to 424 B.C. Furthermore, he demonstrates that there never was a time that the Jews did not accept this text as the Word of God. Canonicity was, in fact, a definite part of Jewish history. He further states that nothing was ever added to the Canon after the death of Artaxerxes in 424 B.C.; the line of prophets had ceased to exist, and no one dared make any addition, subtraction, or alteration to the canon of Scripture.

    But make no mistake. Josephus was not personally interested in defending the Canon, but only in proving historically the existence of the Canon. And so, quite unintentionally, an unbeliever provided us with reliable extrabiblical documentation of how the Canon was completed and recognized—hence, of its existence.

THE DEMAND FOR THE SEPTUAGINT

    In the centuries following the Babylonian captivity, many changes took place for the Jews. The Persian Empire, which had been favorably inclined toward the Jews, collapsed. Alexander the Great extended his conquests. He, too, was pro-Semitic, and the Jews prospered during his reign and under his successors, the Ptolemies.

    At that time the largest group of Jews in the world had settled at Alexandria in Egypt. The city had been founded by Alexander the Great, and the Ptolemies had made it their capital. They loved books and collected them. During their dynasty, they had built one of the finest universities of the ancient world in Alexandria, the Museion, which contained an immense library. Alexandria was the home of many brilliant Greek philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, and writers. No wonder the city became a great center of learning and culture. It was here that the first translation of the Hebrew Canon was made.

    By the year 280 B.C., the large Jewish community at Alexandria had been influenced by Greek culture to such an extent that its citizens had adopted the Hellenistic Greek of Alexander the Great as their own language. They could no longer read the Scriptures in the original Hebrew. (Hellenistic Greek was the transitional Greek between the classical Attic Greek and the koine Greek of the New Testament.) True, they still tried to adhere to the legal code and observe their holy days, but now they clamored for a translation of the Holy Scriptures into Greek.

    This required real experts. By traditional account, seventy-two Alexandrian Hebrew scholars gathered together and produced an amazingly accurate translation from the manuscripts in their possession. It was named in their honor and memory the Septuagint, or the Seventy, after the number of translators. The Septuagint was then circulated among the Greek-speaking Jews. It was also widely used in Palestine during the incarnation of Jesus and in the time of the apostles. So the existence and acceptance of the Septuagint in the year 280 B.C. gives us yet another historical proof of canonicity.

CANONICITY-CONSCIOUSNESS

The Talmud

    The Talmud is not part of the Bible. Completed before the end of the seventh century A.D., the Talmud is a written collection of civil and religious laws of the Jews alongside diverse opinions, commentary, and interpretations put forth by leading rabbis. The word “Talmud” comes from the Hebrew word, לָמַד (lamad), meaning “to teach.” Picture it as a quarterly magazine with hundreds of rabbis as contributors. Many of these rabbis were unbelievers, but they agreed on one thing—the extent of the Canon. Throughout the Talmud there was always canonicity-consciousness. The rabbis of the Talmud recognized the Hebrew Canon. They identified (though not always accurately) the human writers of each book as follows:

AUTHORS BOOKS
Moses Torah, Job
Joshua Deuteronomy 34:5-12, Joshua
Samuel Samuel, Judges, Ruth
David Psalms
Jeremiah Jeremiah, Kings, Lamentations
Hezekiah and his colleagues Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes
Men of the Great Assembly Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel, Esther
Ezra Ezra, Nehemiah, genealogies of Chronicles as far as himself

The Endorsement of the Canon by Jesus Christ

    Jesus Himself swept the entire range of the Old Testament books and endorsed them all in one statement.

From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias [Zechariah], which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. (Luke 11:51; cf. Matt. 23:36)

This endorsement of Scripture takes us all the way from Genesis 4:10 to 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. Remember that Chronicles was the last book in the arrangement of the Hebrew Old Testament Canon.

The Endorsement of Eusebius

    Eusebius, the famous historian of the Patristic era (fourth century A.D.), was a Christian historian. Yet he stated that the entire Old Testament Canon was recognized and accepted in his day, although he personally questioned the inclusion of Esther into the Canon. He catalogued the books of the Old Testament in his Ecclesiastical History, but omitted the Book of Esther.

The Endorsement of Tertullian

    Tertullian, another famous historian of that same era and one of the Patristic writers, did not agree with Eusebius. He reasoned that if the Jews included Esther in the Canon, the book belonged and should be listed among the inspired Scripture. Out of that disagreement came one good thing—the classification of the Old Testament Canon under four categories.

THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE CANON

The Homologoumena

    These were the books that in the third, fourth, and even fifth centuries had been accepted as undisputedly canonical by the Patristic writers. “Homo” means “the same,” and all were of the same mind regarding the books in the first section.

The Antilegomena

    The books in the second section caused a good deal of argumentation among the Patristics. The following were disputed canonical books: Esther, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, and Proverbs.

    The Book of Esther had been accepted as part of the Canon for over one thousand years. Suddenly its place in the Canon was questioned. Why? Because the name of God is not once mentioned in the entire book. Or take Canticles, also known as Song of Solomon—the Patristics did not want to accept that one either. They had a trend toward asceticism, and Canticles dealt with a love affair. Perhaps these men had never experienced love of the opposite sex and were shocked. So they debated whether or not such a book should really be in the Canon.

    As for Ecclesiastes, they argued that the philosophy of this book simply could not be reconciled with Bible doctrine and Judaism. Of course, there is a simple answer to this apparent problem—the author, Solomon, was looking at life from the human viewpoint at this period of his life. The Patristics either did not know this fact or completely failed to recognize it.

    They questioned Ezekiel because chapters 4048 seemingly contradicted the Mosaic Law. Here, too, is a simple explanation: Ezekiel 4048 deals with the Millennial use of the animal sacrifices, not with the Levitical offerings. The presence of Proverbs in the Canon disturbed them because apparently one proverb contradicted the next. The truth was that these men did not understand the Book of Proverbs. And what easier way out is there (without losing face) than to say “This appears to be contradictory”? Had they discovered the system under which Proverbs was written, the Patristics would have agreed that the proverbs were far from being contradictory. They were merely two-line poems, recording various experiences on different occasions, and they were designed to communicate doctrine. So you see that the problem lay with the Patristics and not with Scripture. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

The Pseudepigrapha

    Next, we have the category of spurious writings. The cautious Patristics developed this category to keep any and all forgeries of the Scriptures out of the Canon. At that time, ancient scrolls were being discovered and were claimed to have Old Testament authors. Various cults wanted Old Testament substantiation for their beliefs. For example, some might say, “You are not saved simply by faith in Christ; in addition, you must do various things.” When challenged with “Where do you find that?” they would produce a book, such as The Penitence of Jannes and Jambres, as a proof text.

    Where had they gotten the idea? All we know about Jannes and Jambres is that they opposed Moses at the court of Pharaoh (2 Tim. 3:8), and that they are called magicians in Exodus 7:11 and 8:7. But look what these forgers had done. They embellished the known facts to make a fantastic tale of penitence. Supposedly, Jannes and Jambres felt sorry for what they had done; they renounced their sins and had become ascetics. This, then, was one of the books that tried to infiltrate the Canon.

    Another such book was The Magic Book of Moses. Its erroneous claim to fame was the fact that Moses actually spoke in tongues.15 In reality, the book was sponsored by a group of people who were promoting the tongues movement; so they ‘uncovered’ this scroll and attempted to peddle it as Scripture. The Patristics branded these books pseudepigrapha—from “pseudo” meaning false, and “epigraph” meaning inscription or title—because they were written under false names. They said, in effect, “This is a phony forgery!” I realize that this is redundant, but such strength of language is necessary in condemning these faked writings. And with those words, everything that was not canonical was once and for all rejected.

    This third category was absolutely necessary so that all those books written by unknown persons between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 might be classified under the pseudepigrapha and not be included in the Canon.

The Apocrypha

    Some of you may have Bibles that have the Apocrypha inserted between Malachi and Matthew. Does it belong in our Bibles? It does not! The Old Testament Apocrypha are books written after the Canon was closed around 425 B.C. Although they were asserted to be canonical, these books were rejected as being spurious and fraudulent and definitely not a part of the Word of God. As a matter of fact, the principles of canonicity were reviewed when the Apocrypha was introduced. The word apocrypha means “hidden” or “secret,” but, due to their doubtful authenticity, the word has come to mean “spurious,” “fraudulent,” or “forged.” Their proposed addition to the Canon was nothing short of an attempt on the part of the devil himself to infiltrate God’s Truth.

    The Apocrypha includes fourteen books found in the Septuagint and the Vulgate but never in the Hebrew Canon. They were originally written in the Greek language, except for Ecclesiasticus, First Maccabees, part of Baruch, Judith, and Tobit. These latter were written in Aramaic. While they are not canonical, they do fill us in historically on the four hundred silent years between the Old and the New Testaments.

THE REJECTION OF THE APOCRYPHA

    The Apocrypha was never in the Hebrew Canon. Every card-indexing catalogue of the canon of Scripture in the ancient world listed only the twenty-four Jewish books of the Old Testament (thirty-nine as we have them today), but it excluded the Apocrypha in toto.

    Neither Jesus Christ nor any of the New Testament writers ever quoted from the Apocrypha. Never even once!

    Josephus expressly excluded them from his list of sacred Scripture in his book. He explained that these books were excluded from the Canon because they were spurious. These apocryphal books were never asserted to be divinely inspired, or to possess divine authority in their contents.

    The early Christians did not regard the Apocrypha as divinely inspired. Not until the late fourth century did certain church councils slip apocryphal books into the accepted Canon.

    No prophets were connected with these writings. Each Old Testament book was written by a man who was a prophet, either by office or by gift, or both.

    These books contained many historical, geographical, and chronological errors. They so distorted and contradicted Old Testament narratives that in order to accept the Apocrypha one had to reject the Old Testament.

    The Apocrypha teaches doctrines and upholds practices that are contrary to the canon of Scripture.

Prayers and Offerings for the Dead

    In Second Maccabees 12:41-46, not only are prayers offered for the dead, but monetary offerings are brought on their behalf and even recommended. I am quoting from the Douay-Rheims version (the authorized Catholic Bible) of the Old Testament, which is a revised version of the Latin Vulgate:

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sin. (v. 46)

This is contrary to all Scripture (John 3:18, 36). You simply cannot buy the unsaved dead out of their unsaved status, nor can you improve their condition by prayer.

Suicide Justified

    Second Maccabees 14:41-46 deals with a revolt against the Syrians, led by the Maccabean brothers. Here we find an attempted suicide that was not successful until the third try. The sacred Scriptures would relate such an incident without praise and without the implication that it should be admired or imitated. The Bible teaches that to take one’s own life is to superimpose human volition over divine volition (Ps. 31:15), but the Apocrypha justifies this suicide and calls it a noble death.

Atonement and Salvation by Almsgiving

    At least two of the books in the Apocrypha state that sins may be atoned for and salvation may be obtained by giving large donations. Interesting, isn’t it? Especially in view of 1 John 1:9 and such passages as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5. Ecclesiasticus 3:33 (must be distinguished from Ecclesiastes) speaks of atonement by almsgiving. Tobias 4:11 states that salvation can be purchased:

For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.

Cruelty to Slaves Justified

    Ecclesiasticus 33:25-29 declares that the best way to treat a slave is to pile the work on him, and that, if need be, cruelty to slaves is fully justified. How does that compare to God’s admonition in Deuteronomy?

Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant [slave] which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him. (Deut. 23:15-16)

The Doctrine of Emanations

    This is a cosmological concept characteristic of Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. It explains the world as an ‘outflowing’ from one absolute source but never uses the word “God.” This is frequently encountered in Indian metaphysics. In contrast to creation, emanation is entirely impersonal and metaphorical.

    Nowhere in the Word of God is there any teaching on emanation; but you find it in the Apocrypha, in the Wisdom of Solomon 7:25, where we read that “. . . she [wisdom] is a vapour of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of . . . God.”

    What we have here is a rehash of Platonism. Platonic philosophy presented the idea of a material universe and the Demiurge as its creator, but explained the physical world as possessing only relative reality. Plato also taught that knowledge is partly a matter of recollections of a previous life with all souls preexisting.

The Preexistence of Souls

    The preexistence of souls is also mentioned in the next chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon, 8:19-20. This is the teaching of the doctrine of traducianism,16 which claims that the soul, as well as the body, is produced in procreation by the parents. We know that ultimately only God can give soul-life.

Other Fallacies and Blasphemies in the Apocrypha

    Just in case you aren’t convinced that the Apocrypha has no place in the Scriptures, let’s note a few additional things. If you want to take the time, you can dig them out of the Apocrypha for yourself.

    The Apocrypha advocates hatred of the Samaritans. So, if you follow the teachings of the Apocrypha, you must hate the Samaritans before you can be saved. Since there are no Samaritans left today for us to hate, where does that put us as far as salvation is concerned? In Proverbs 6, lying is second on the list of the seven worst sins; in the Apocrypha, lying is sanctioned. The Bible strictly prohibits anything connected with witchcraft (Deut. 18:10-12), but magical incantations are encouraged in the Apocrypha. Assassination, in violation of the laws of divine establishment (Matt. 19:18), is also suggested. In the Apocrypha, seven angels are said to have the power of intercession. In view of Romans 8:34, 1 Timothy 2:5, and Hebrews 7:25, this is outright blasphemy!

    Now, where do you find all these things—including Purgatory—mentioned? Only in the Apocrypha! Is it any wonder, then, that the Apocrypha was rejected?

THE HISTORY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON

    The canon of Scripture would be incomplete without the writings of the New Testament. The history of the New Testament Canon can be divided into three periods. The first period began in A.D. 70 with the fall of Jerusalem.

A.D. 70-170

    This was the period of circulation of the separate New Testament writings among the churches and their gradual collection into one book—the New Testament Canon. Up to that time, the poor communication systems, plus the preference of the people for the oral testimony and face-to-face teaching of the apostles, hindered the formation of the Canon.

    We have a number of historical statements of that early period regarding the Canon. For instance, Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) recognized the divine authority of the New Testament and often quoted from many of the Epistles.

    In The Epistle of Barnabas, the writer quotes from both the Old and the New Testaments, stating that these were canonical. Another early Christian work that was written in Greek—the Didache (also called The Teaching of the Lord Through the Twelve Apostles)—contains twenty-three quotations from Matthew and Luke alone, declaring them to be divinely inspired.

    There are still others who mentioned the Canon: Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna; Papias, the Bishop of Hierapolis; Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch; and Justin Martyr, a prominent Christian apologist. All quoted Matthew, John, and the Pauline Epistles, and referred to them as Scripture. From these men and their writings, we can establish the fact that the formation of the New Testament Canon was a foregone conclusion. The early Church fully recognized the authority of Christ and of the apostles, giving the Gospels and the Epistles the same rank as the Old Testament Scriptures. These were read in their worship services and preserved in their archives.

170-303

    This was the time of the early Church Fathers. Some of the well-known men of their day, who historically referred to the Canon, were Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

    The fact of the existence of the New Testament Canon was definitely and clearly established. Now a controversy began over certain New Testament books. The canonicity of Second Peter was questioned since it was so different in style from Peter’s first epistle. They argued over Hebrews because no one could determine the author. No one really liked the Epistle of James; besides, they didn’t know which James (there are four mentioned in the New Testament) wrote it. Jude had to go, along with Second and Third John, because of their brevity. As for Revelation, they could not decide whether the author was John the Apostle or John the Presbyter. This great debate went on from A.D. 303 to 394 until the problems were finally resolved.

    As in the case of the Old Testament, there was an attempt to infiltrate a number of previously rejected writings into the Canon of the New Testament. These included the Acts of Paul and Thekla and the Epistle of Barnabas. You will recall, this was discovered by Tischendorf at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai. There was the Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Andrew. Both read like the proverbial dime novel. So here, too, some criteria had to be set up to specify once and for all which books were to be excluded and which were to be included in the New Testament.

The Criteria for New Testament Canonicity

Apostolicity

    Every book of the New Testament must either be written by an apostle or someone closely associated with an apostle (that is, Mark was under Peter, and Luke was associated with Paul).

Reception By The Churches

    The books must be universally received by the local churches as authentic at the time of their writing.

Consistency

    They must be consistent with the doctrine that the Church already possessed—namely, the Old Testament and Apostolic teaching.

Inspiration

    Each book must give evidence, internally and externally, of being divinely inspired. The spiritual gift of discernment was used to determine canonicity (1 Cor. 12:10).

Recognition

    Each must be recognized as canonical in the catalogues of the Church Fathers and must be used by those who had the gift of pastor-teacher.

Internal

    To be canonical, each book must contain exhortation to public exegesis of the Word (that is, Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Rev. 1:3; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13; also, Peter’s famous statement at the end of his second epistle. Although Paul had thoroughly braced Peter in Galatians 2:6-14, Peter places Paul’s writings on a par with the Old Testament Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:15-16).

303-379

    Largely instrumental in determining the extent of the Canon were two events in history: the Diocletian persecution, during which every attempt was made to destroy the Scriptures, and the Emperor Constantine’s order for fifty copies of the Bible for use in the churches of Constantinople.

    It was during this final period, and in the years shortly thereafter, that the great Church Councils were held. They resulted in the formal ratification of the Canon, which by then had been in existence for several hundred years.

Eusebius (270-340)

    This great historian, as a trusted friend of the Emperor Constantine, enjoyed access to all the church archives. He promptly set about to record the history of the Church. With scholarly precision, he set up a system for classifying the New Testament books. This would eventually solve the entire problem of canonicity. He used the same categories that were set up for the classification of the Old Testament.

The Acknowledged Books (Homologoumena)

    Into this first category Eusebius placed the four Gospels, Acts, the fourteen Pauline Epistles, First Peter, First John, and Revelation. Regarding Revelation, he stated that its place in this category was doubted by some, and then qualified his remark with a question mark.

The Disputed Books (Antilegomena)

    The next category was made up of bona fide scriptural books that had been a source of disputation. We have already seen the objections to James, First and Second Peter, and Second and Third John. It is interesting to learn that Martin Luther called James “a right strawy epistle”; he would have thrown it out of the Canon, could he have done so. Hebrews was not mentioned at this time; it had been accepted upon the decision that there must have been some good reason why the author remained unknown.

The Spurious Writings (Apocrypha)

    As in the case of the Old Testament, there was a New Testament Apocrypha, which included the Acts of Paul, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of the Twelve, and the Revelation of Peter.

The Heretical or Absurd Writings (Pseudepigrapha)

    This fourth category contained most of the known forgeries, among them the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Andrew.

The Church Councils

    About this time it was decided that a Church Council should be called to settle the matter of the Canon once and for all.

    There were four sessions in particular: the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364); the Council of Rome (A.D. 382); the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393); the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397).

    The Council of Laodicea recognized and accepted all books of the New Testament Canon except Revelation; but at the following three Councils, Revelation was accepted.

    As far as canonicity is concerned, one of the greatest things ever to be discovered was the Muratorian Fragment. This was found in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, in 1740 by a librarian named Muratori. Although it was mutilated at both ends, the fragment showed that cataloguing of the New Testament had been done as early as the second century. This particular card index of the books of the ancient world lists all the New Testament books beginning with Luke, referred to as “the third Gospel”; it omits Hebrews, James, the Epistles of Peter, and Second and Third John. The unknown writer then goes to great length to distinguish between the writings that should be accepted by true believers and those that should be rejected.

    The question of canonicity came up again with the rise of liberalism in the nineteenth century, and this of course led to our twentieth century modernism. All this background information is necessary in order that you might know how we acquired the Bible in its present form.

THE EARLY HISTORY OF ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS

Caedmon (died in 680)

    The Bible in the English language is not as new as some may think; it has a history that goes back to a stable boy turned singer, by the name of Caedmon. He became known as the first English Christian poet. It seems that Caedmon was a member of the abbey at Whiteby and apparently also a soloist in the choir. In those days, Latin was the official language of England. Although the common people spoke Anglo-Saxon, the aristocracy and priesthood spoke Latin, and all church services were conducted exclusively in Latin. The common people never understood what was said or sung. Caedmon resented the condescending attitude of the aristocracy and determined that he would henceforth sing only in his own glorious Anglo-Saxon language. But what would he sing?

    Caedmon had a great idea: He would sing Bible stories in the language of the people. While Caedmon could neither read nor write, he found a monk who was sympathetic to his idea. The monk agreed to translate the first chapter of Genesis into Anglo-Saxon. Caedmon memorized the words, paraphrased them, and set them to music. He traveled all over the country, and wherever he went he sang, “In the beginning God created . . . .”

    The response of the British people to hearing God’s Word in their own language was tremendous. Caedmon increased his repertoire with accounts of the beginning of man, the stories of Genesis, the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, Daniel, and passages dealing with the Resurrection, Second Advent, heaven, and hell.

    Caedmon is said to have been one of the greatest singers of that time. Was it his lyric tenor that charmed his audience? Perhaps, but the real impact was the content of his message—the people were literally starving for God’s Word in their own language. It will never be known this side of heaven how many people found Jesus Christ as their Savior as they listened to the songs of this unique troubadour.

Aldhelm (639-709)

    News of Caedmon’s unusual songs had spread to the south of England. Aldhelm, the bishop of Sherborne, a great Latin scholar and student of the classics, was also a poet in his own right. He had written prose, mostly in the form of letters, riddles, and short poems. Aldhelm was so fascinated by the work Caedmon had done that he decided to translate the Psalms into Anglo-Saxon. This work was finished before his death and published on a limited scale.

Bede (673-735)

    About one generation after Caedmon, there lived a man who became known in English history as “the Venerable Bede.” He was the most learned man and the most famous writer of Anglo-Saxon times. Although he wrote a number of Latin commentaries on many books of the Bible, his most substantial and noted work is An Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Bede was well acquainted with both Caedmon’s and Aldhelm’s efforts. As a believer, he was convinced that the people needed a translation of the Gospel. After some deliberation, he settled on the Gospel of John and began work immediately, for he knew his life was ebbing away.

    We are told that as he lay dying, he dictated the last verse of John to his scribe. Now his countrymen would have the Gospel in their own tongue. Weak but satisfied, he sang a praise to God and breathed his last. Thus another phase of the Bible in the language of the people had been realized. However, there would be no complete Anglo-Saxon Bible until the time of King Alfred, roughly 150 years later.

Alfred the Great, King of England (871-899)

    Alfred the Great is famous for many accomplishments. He not only drove the Danes out of England, but he also deserves the credit for giving his subjects the Bible in their native language. It is interesting to note that Alfred, who did not learn to read or write until he was twelve years old, grew up to be a great king and a great scholar. So impressed was he by the grace of God and the Scriptures that he wrote, “I, Alfred, by God’s grace, dignified with the title of King, have perceived and often learnt from the reading of sacred books, that we, to whom God hath given so much worldly honour, have particular need to humble and subdue our minds to the divine law.”

    In an all-out effort to educate his people, Alfred saw to it that everyone learned to read his native Anglo-Saxon language. The primer they used was a translation of the Bible, much of which was the king’s own work. It was his wish “that all the freeborn youth of his kingdom should employ themselves on nothing till they could first read well the English Scriptures.”17 This meant that a young man could neither serve in the army, enter business, nor follow a profession until he had passed a reading test based on the Word of God. Under these conditions, it stands to reason that everyone in the realm would be eager to master the art of reading. In so doing, the reading of Scripture became almost mandatory, and Alfred’s subjects were “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). Never before was the Bible so easily available and so widely read. And we know, of course, that God’s Word shall not return to Him void (Isa. 55:11).

From 899-1330

    Alfred the Great had left his people a great heritage. But, unhappily, things did not stay as he would have wished. In 1066, the Normans invaded England. Actually, the Normans were Norsemen who had lived in France for some two hundred years. By this time, they spoke a combination of Scandinavian and French. Once they had conquered England, the language of that country underwent a tremendous change. The Normans did not like the Anglo-Saxon language and, over a period of about one hundred years, the two languages were blended into one totally different English.

    If that were not enough, the rise of Romanism eventually began to supplant the great system which Alfred had instituted. With the increase of papal domination came attempts to suppress the communication of God’s Word. In the thirteenth century, church authorities went so far as to forbid Bible translations in the vernacular. Only the Vulgate—the Latin translation that Pope Damasus had commissioned Jerome to make in 382—was considered acceptable.

Wycliffe (1330-1384)

    Let’s skip down to John Wycliffe, a biblical scholar at Oxford. Wycliffe began to see England’s need for the sacred Scriptures in the familiar speech. By this time, the old Saxon tongue of the Alfred translation could no longer communicate, and if the Latin Vulgate was studied at all, it was generally limited to the clergy and academics.

    From his own study of the Scriptures, Wycliffe strongly believed that Christ and His Word alone were man’s supreme authority—not the church at Rome. He frequently attacked the doctrines formulated by the Roman church, and he insisted that all men had the right of access to the Scriptures. The church hierarchy denounced his teachings as dangerous and heretical—the pope himself issued several edicts of condemnation—but Wycliffe never backed down. In 1380 he published his English translation of the New Testament from the Latin, and a few years later the Old Testament translation was complete. These translations would ultimately break the power of Romanism in England. Hence, Wycliffe became the forerunner of the Reformation.

Tyndale (1494-1536)

    Nearly two hundred years passed, and again the English language underwent drastic changes. At that time, William Tyndale, a linguistic genius, began work on still another translation of the Bible. I say this man was a genius because he mastered eight languages—Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and English. He wrote great literature in all these languages.

    Because of fierce persecution and opposition from the established church, Tyndale was forced to flee to Germany. In a matter of months, his translation, based on Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament, was completed. His English translation of the New Testament was printed in part at Cologne and finished at Worms. In spite of the opposition by Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII, six hundred copies were smuggled back into England in 1526. The Tyndale Bible was promptly denounced and suppressed.

    While Henry VIII ruled over England, Charles V, through inheritance, reigned over most of Europe. Charles V was a zealous Catholic and violently hostile toward the Reformation movement. He instigated the arrest and death of Tyndale. Tyndale was found and seized at Antwerp, where he was secretly revising his translations. He was confined in prison in 1535, tried and convicted of heresy, and condemned to be strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. Just before he died, Tyndale looked toward heaven and cried out in prayer, “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.”

    Why am I telling you all this? So that you might know what it took to bring about the very freedoms we enjoy today—to own, to read, and teach God’s Word without outside interference or coercion.

Coverdale and Matthew’s Bible

    Tyndale was not the only one who worked on an English Bible. The Coverdale Bible, which came out in 1535, fared much better. It was even dedicated to King Henry VIII. The Matthew Bible, a combination of the Tyndale and the Coverdale translations, was published in 1537. This had been compiled and edited by John Rogers, who used the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew. Strangely enough, this was the first Bible authorized by the king for sale and for reading. Matthew’s Bible forms the basis of all other revisions, including the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, and the King James Version.

HOW WE GOT OUR KING JAMES BIBLE

    By now the rift between Protestants and Catholics had widened considerably. In England, where Parliament consisted primarily of Puritans, Protestants, and Anglicans, the people began to talk about a new standard translation. James I was on the throne, and it seemed that Tyndale’s prayer was being answered.

    It is necessary, however, that you understand some of the background connected with the reign of King James I. Elizabeth, Queen of England, had a beautiful cousin, Mary Stuart, who had returned from France in 1561 to take her rightful place as Queen of the Scots. Scotland was in a state of turbulence: the clans fomented discontent; the new faith preached by John Knox swept across the chilling lochs; and Catholic Mary was held in contempt, not only for her presence in Scotland but for her continuing claim to the Tudor crown of Elizabeth. Then Mary unwisely married Lord Darnley. This created further antagonism, both to the English because of his Tudor connections, and to the Scots because he was Catholic.

    The Scots had become Calvinistic in their beliefs and resented Mary’s Romanism and the influence of her French court. The people were determined that never again should the Roman Church be allowed to gain and hold political power in their nation. After a series of indiscretions and acts of poor judgment, Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, who then became James VI of Scotland. Fleeing the wrath of the Protestant nobles, Mary sought refuge in England.

    Elizabeth was in a quandary. She dared not send Mary back to Scotland, for the Scots might execute their divine right monarch; she was equally afraid to give her sanctuary in England where Mary was certain to be a rallying point for all manner of malcontents. Therefore, Elizabeth was obliged to keep her ‘guest’ strictly confined and thus began a kaleidoscope of intrigues and plots that was to span almost two decades. Eventually, Mary’s continued sedition left Elizabeth no other alternative. Mary was executed in 1587.

    James VI, Mary’s son by Lord Darnley, who had been King of Scotland since 1568 under the regency of the Earl of Moray, was reared a Protestant. He was taught Calvinistic theology, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Jamie was quite a student. He could discourse on theological subjects in both English and Latin. When Elizabeth died, she left no heirs, thus ending the House of Tudor. James VI was brought down from Scotland and crowned James I of England, beginning the reign of the House of Stuart.

The Millenary Petition

    The year was 1603. James had led an uneasy life in Scotland and actually looked forward to coming to England. However, he soon found that England, too, had its troubles. The Puritans were in revolt against the established church. Puritan preachers had come together to write a petition, in which they beseeched his noble Majesty for a change in the established church service and the removal of such superstitions as the sign of the cross. Furthermore, the Puritans refused to use the prescribed prayer book because of its corrupted translations.

    This petition became known in history as the Millenary Petition because a thousand signatures were said to be affixed to it. It resulted in the Hampton Court Conference on January 14, 1604, over which King James himself presided. It was during one of the endless debates that the leader of the Puritans, Dr. John Reynolds asked, “May your Majesty be pleased, that the Bible be new translated, such translations as are extant not answering the original?”18

    Immediately Reynolds’ request ran into opposition from Bancroft, the Bishop of London. The Bishop claimed that if all who wished were permitted to come up with translations, the country would be swamped with Bibles. So the talks dragged on.

The Royal Order for a Uniform Translation

    Finally the King of England grew weary listening to the debates. He sided firmly with Reynolds in favor of a new Bible. James professed, “I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English . . . . I wish some special pains were taken for a uniform translation; which should be done by the best learned in both Universities, then reviewed by the bishops, presented to the Privy Council, lastly ratified by royal authority, to be read in the whole Church, and no other.”19

    James was vitally interested in theology and in languages. He was knowledgeable in the Scriptures and in Bible doctrine. Besides, the thought that a new and better translation of the Bible should be published during his reign appealed to James tremendously. He made but one condition: he would handpick the translators himself.

The Appointment of the Translators

    On July 22, 1604, the King announce that he had appointed fifty-four men to make the new translation. How did he select the scholars? His only requirement was that they must be good linguists. Half of them were Hebrew experts and the other half experts in Greek. The list included Anglicans and Puritans, believers and unbelievers. Of those selected, seven men died before the work was begun, including John Reynolds, who had asked for this translation. Actually, only forty-seven men worked on what we call today the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible.

    It was a perfect time for the translation to be undertaken, for the English language had been greatly improved by men like Shakespeare, Donne, and Spenser; classic literature had reached its peak. The beauty of the English language of that day and its power of expression are thus preserved for us in the King James Bible. Thus, a style of language which would otherwise be long outdated has come down to us fresh and, with the exception of some words, very much to the point.

The Work Begins

    The scholars were divided into six teams; two teams worked at Oxford, two at Cambridge, and two at Westminster, with the work portioned among them. In each of the groups, the teams were further broken down into an Old Testament team and a New Testament team. All worked independently of each other.

    That explains, of course, why the word pneuma was translated “Spirit” in one place and “Ghost” in another. It was simply a matter of esprit de corps—school spirit. The Westminster group used Ghost, and the Oxford group used Spirit. Each put down what he preferred. One of the teams worked entirely on the Apocrypha, which as you know, is no longer included in the King James Version of the Bible.

Sources of Translation

    The teams translating the Old Testament used the Masoretic Text as their source. Work on this text had begun in the fifth century A.D. and was completed in 1425. It was an accurate rendition of the original Hebrew Scriptures. For the Greek, the Textus Receptus (“the text received by all”) was used. This edition was based on tenth-century manuscripts that had been put out by Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1516 and published by Elzevir. In its second edition, a Latin preface containing the words “textum receptum” had been printed, from which it apparently received its name.

The Work Completed

    It took the scholars three years to finish their work of translating the Bible and an additional nine months to revise the text and put it together. To everyone’s satisfaction, the old ecclesiastical words of the Bishop’s Bible of 1568 were all retained. Surely four years or less is not too long for a work of such magnitude. The preface says, “matters of such weight and consequence are to be speeded with maturity: for in a business of moment a man feareth not the blame of convenient slackness.”

    All in all, the 1611 edition was a good translation from the manuscripts that were then available. The majestic Anglo-Saxon, with its clarity and style, its directness and force, have made the King James Bible an English classic and a model for hundreds of years.

The Reception of the King James Bible

    Yet upon its release, the Authorized Version turned out to be the most unpopular and universally condemned translation that had ever come off the printing press. It caused the biggest ruckus ever raised over an edition of the Bible in the English-speaking world. Some criticism was justified because, in the process of printing, over four hundred typographical errors were made which had to be corrected. For the most part, however, the criticism was unfounded and biased. The Catholics condemned it for favoring the Protestants. The Arminians thought it favored Calvinism. The Calvinists claimed that it favored Arminianism. The Puritans objected to the church polity and the ritual, as well as the used of such words as “bishop,” “church,” “ordain,” and “Easter.” In short, everyone who considered himself to be an expert on the subject screamed in protest and began to write pamphlets condemning the new version of the Bible. No one liked it except King James I.

    So, His Majesty intervened to settle the argument. He took the bit in his teeth and the pen in his royal hand and wrote in so many words: “This is it, whether you like it nor not!” He wrote in defense of the truth and ratified the Authorized Version, to the immense relief of the translators. As a result, everyone swallowed hard and said, “Yes, Your Majesty,” and that was that. Right down to this hour, the King James Version is still the most widely used translation of the Bible. I think that every believer should have a copy of the King James Bible, preferably a Scofield Edition. Although he was not a language scholar, Dr. Scofield was a genius in his summary of doctrine. Apart from four or five erroneous footnotes (Gen. 6; Heb. 6; and Rev. 2 and 3), the Scofield Edition of the King James Version is still one of the best. The New American Standard Bible, published by the Lockman Foundation, is also an excellent translation.

    While other translations made a fairly good contribution in some fields, none came close to the King James Bible. If you like good English, I suggest that you read the translation of the New Testament by Richard Francis Weymouth. Another good translation of the New Testament was done by Charles B. Williams; it takes cognizance of the Greek tenses. Kenneth W. Wuest is a fine orthodox scholar and knows the original languages. His amplified version is good.

    The Revised Standard Version uses the words of the original manuscripts and puts in italics, or in fine print, those passages that are not found in the better manuscripts. Most other modern translations are so bad that we wonder why they were ever called translations. No matter how beautiful their English, they are interpretations—an interpretation and a translation are two different things. What we need is more communication of doctrine and less rhetoric. This is where textual criticism comes in.

THE HISTORY OF THE MODERN PERIOD

The Vogue of the Textus Receptus

    Obviously the King James Version had been translated very well at the time of its release, but it wasn’t long until very definite problems were detected in its text.

    About fifteen years had passed when Thomas Roe brought back from Turkey that beautiful manuscript—Codex Alexandrinus. Since then, and up to the present, over five thousand manuscripts of the Bible have been uncovered, all of them more ancient and more accurate than those that had been used as the basis for the Authorized Version. Upon closer examination and comparison, a great number of discrepancies as well as mistakes showed up in the content. Textus Receptus had been in vogue from 1516 to 1750; now it was challenged.

The Period of Struggle

    Naturally, the backers of the Textus Receptus strongly opposed those philologists who favored the newly discovered, more ancient manuscripts. Here is the interesting thing: These five thousand manuscripts in question, when compared to the Textus Receptus (the basis for the New Testament text of the King James Version), had less than one percent difference in text. This is absolutely fantastic!

    Textus Receptus, for instance, had included the last half of Mark 16; Codex Sinaiticus made no mention of it, nor of the last half of Romans 8:1. There were other discrepancies as well, and scholars began to realize that over a period of some thousand years, apparently mistakes had been made in copying one manuscript from another.

    You realize, of course, that in the ancient world all copies of the Scriptures had to be made by hand. If you think that is easy, I suggest that you try it for yourself. Write out the Book of Romans. Then check through it and see how accurate you were. Perhaps then you would understand that in writing Hebrew or even Greek for twelve hours every day, the scribes might make a mistake—especially when there were no spaces between phrases, paragraphs, or words—all of them in capital letters.

    The period of struggle over the correct text of the English Bible lasted from 1750 till 1830, and it gave rise to a new science in philology—textual criticism. Finally, in 1830, the Textus Receptus proponents conceded, and the struggle for the recognition of the older manuscripts was won. What amplifying I do, what corrections I make, go back to the work of over five thousand manuscripts that precede the Textus Receptus. These changes are necessary so that you can be taught with perfect accuracy what God intended to communicate to you.

    We might well call the years following 1830, right up to the present, the period of the improved text. These years produced the unraveling of the true text and its meaning. We owe our technical knowledge of the language of the Scriptures to brilliant scholars who carried on the work of their predecessors. Among those great men was Dr. Karl Lachman of Berlin, who sought to restore the earliest manuscripts, and who led others in the quest for ever greater advances in textual criticism. In addition to Tregelles and Tischendorf, three outstanding English scholars contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the critical exegesis of the New Testament. They were Dr. Henry Alford, B. F. Westcott, and Dr. F. J. A. Hort. Westcott and Hort worked together for thirty years and produced an excellent text.

    Another fine edition of the New Testament was published by Dr. Eberhard Nestle at the turn of the century. But perhaps the two most distinguished philologists of all time were Adolf Deissmann and Hermann Van Soden. Their tireless studies resulted in important advances toward our complete understanding of the koine Greek. Soden’s life was cut off in 1914 before his work could be finished properly, but Deissmann lived long enough to publish his findings. It is to men like these that we owe a debt of gratitude for furthering our knowledge of the original Scriptures and their communication and interpretation according to the time in which they were written.

THE PRESENT PROBLEMS OF THE KING JAMES VERSION

Reconstructing the Autograph

    We have already seen that the discovery of more ancient manuscripts created controversy over the King James Version. Other problems arose as brilliant philologists clarified the grammar, syntax, and etymology of the Greek language.

    Many of the corrections I make do not imply errors in the text but are due to anachronisms. You see, over the past few hundred years the English language has undergone further changes. Words no longer convey the same meaning they once did. Let me illustrate: In the year 1611, “enter into thy closet” (Matt. 6:6) referred to a private room or a bedroom. Today we think of a closet in terms of a clothes closet. Although it is ridiculous and hard to believe, I bump into people occasionally who still pray in their clothes closet. This is not what that verse says at all.

    Let’s take another example: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13). Today “charity” means simply an expression of benevolence toward those who are less fortunate. In 1611, charity was the strongest English word for love. When you said, “I cherish thee” in 1611, you put yourself on the line. If you merely said, “I love thee,” you were just trifling; therefore, no one took you seriously. So you can see that the meaning of the word charity has changed considerably over the years.

    We find many of these anachronisms in Scripture. Since they tend to make the King James Version a bit obscure, they need to be corrected. This in no way indicates that there was any error in the manuscripts: It only indicates that language has changed. We see that even in our day—just listen to the current generation, and you’ll see what I mean. In spite of all this, the Bible is the most up-to-date, pertinent book for everyday living. It is applicable to every generation of believers.

EXTERNAL BIBLIOLOGY

    There is a tremendous amount of external evidence for the existence of the Canon, of which the following are only a few.

Continuity

    This is a very important word in connection with the canon of Scripture. By continuity, we mean that over a period of sixty generations (roughly 1,600 years) the Old and the New Testaments were produced and put together. The forty human authors of the Bible included kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, physicians, poets, statesmen, scholars—men from all walks of life and with all concepts of living. Yet they had perfect organized continuity, perfect agreement of type and anti-type, of prophecy and fulfillment, of historical sequence, and the progression of doctrine in the original languages. There can be no doubt that someone greater than these men was responsible for the origin of the Scriptures.

    There is no other book written over a period of 1,600 years that has ever stood up under the extremes of persecution for several thousand years and survived all attempts to destroy it. You simply cannot ignore that kind of evidence; you must admit that the impact of continuity is tremendous and cannot be denied.

Inexhaustible Extent of Revelation

    In addition to continuity, the Bible covers everything that God deems necessary for mankind to know and could never be known apart from divine assistance and revelation. No man could clearly delineate such invisible things as heaven, hell, eternity, or the soul; yet all are adequately and accurately described.

Distribution

    The Bible is the most widely circulated book in the world and has been translated into nearly one thousand languages and dialects. That may not sound very impressive until you realize that this includes practically every language ever reduced to writing. The work still goes on with Bible translators and Bible societies endeavoring to bring God’s Word to a lost and dying world. Just think of the giant strides that have been made in that direction. In 1600, only eleven years before the King James Version, there were only forty translations of the Bible in existence.

Unprejudiced Authority

    Have you noticed that the Bible does not compliment man but instead records his sins, his weaknesses, his doom? For example, Solomon was the richest king and the wisest man who ever lived. His fame was known throughout the world. Yet he was told, as were many others, to record his failures. Normally, kings recorded their exploits (often exaggerated), but no man would voluntarily write about his failures. Least of all would he record how he, the ‘lover-boy of the ages,’ was jilted. God said, “Write—in detail,” and Solomon recorded how the most beautiful woman in the world, whom he loved, rejected him. As a result, we have the Song of Solomon—not pornography—a beautiful love story with great doctrinal applications.

    Without God’s direction, Hosea would never have written how his wife ran away with a prince. He loved her so deeply that he would not have wanted to embarrass her by disclosing how he got her back—he found her in a slave market and bought her for the price of a slave that had been gored by a bull. So please note that all through the Bible we have this fantastic principle of unprejudiced authority.

Attacks on the Bible

    We have already seen some of the attacks that have been made upon the Bible. Behind these attacks is Satan’s fear of divine truth from the Scriptures.

    We mentioned the Emperor Diocletian’s order for the destruction of the sacred writings of the Christians. He was but one of the many who tried to destroy God’s Word. Apion attacked the sacred writings of the Jews, and Josephus came to their defense.

    One of the greatest attacks that has been repeatedly made on the Bible throughout the centuries is summed up in a phrase in 2 Peter 1:16: “cunningly devised fables.” Stated in modern terms, the attack would go like this: “The accounts in the Bible are mere figments of someone’s imagination; this is folklore; these are fables or, at best, they are true events that have been embellished over the years in the retelling.” In this way Satan tries to discredit the Bible and sow confusion among those who study the Bible.

    In some instances people would try to explain away miracles or even entire books of the Bible. This was the case with the Book of Revelation. Those who attacked the Bible agreed that John was indeed on the Island of Patmos, but they claimed the truth of the matter was that he had a sunstroke. This resulted in hallucinations, and John only imagined all of those things he wrote in Revelation.

The Influence on Individuals and Society

    No other book has influenced the course of history as much as the Bible. Biblical principles saved the Roman Empire when nothing else could have done so. The genius of Julius Caesar devised a system based on the principles of divine establishment. Although Caesar was an unbeliever, he had excellent norms and standards and, therefore, had the good sense to recognize the concepts provided by God for all mankind.

    A period of civil war followed the assassination of Caesar. Later, when the nation was in the process of disintegration, when the socialism of that day had all but destroyed free enterprise, when Rome’s gold reserves had been exhausted, and all these factors began to accumulate to spell disaster, what happened? Bible doctrine came to the rescue. A maximum number of believers learned doctrine and under that influence the world enjoyed a great period of prolonged peace and prosperity during the golden age of the Antonine Caesars. These Caesars, like Julius Caesar, were unbelievers, but they understood establishment.

    The German historian, Theodor Mommsen, the author of The History of Rome, and the English historian, Edward Gibbon, the author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, both agreed that the best time to have been alive was the period of the Antonine Caesars (A.D. 96-180).

    In the past, as well as the present, women were considered chattel and on a par with a fair horse or with cattle in many countries. This was seldom true where the influence of the Bible was felt. During the reign of the Antonine Caesars, womanhood was protected and the position of women was never better. Wherever Bible doctrines and Christianity have made their inroads, the role of the woman is elevated. I don’t suppose there is one woman in a thousand who appreciates exactly what is meant by the freedoms that are provided by the Word of God. Certainly the influence of Christianity and the Scriptures has been illustrated both in England and the United States of America.

    Modern historians with a liberal slant ridicule the era of the British Empire under Queen Victoria, Disraeli, and Gladstone—all of them believers. Those were the years when the sun never set on the Union Jack. Wherever the British went, they sent their missionaries; consequently, they had a fantastic outreach of evangelism. Wherever Bible doctrine exists, the living standards are greatly improved. Bible doctrine motivates the production of divine good. Often the concern over the spiritual welfare of man overflows into concern for man’s physical well-being. I call this principle blessing by association.

    Think what the British did for India and Africa in the nineteenth century. Exploit those countries? Far from it. Britain brought Africa out of the stone age, broke up the whole system of anarchy existing among the tribal factions, and made it possible for millions of Africans to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. There were individual cases of exploitation, for remember, man has a sin nature.20

    Freedom can only be maintained by adherence to the biblical principles of divine establishment. Apostasy and neglect of Bible doctrine curtail evangelism and freedom in any national entity. Jesus Christ alone can free man from the bondage of sin and the yoke of religion (John 14:6; cf. John 8:32). And it takes Bible doctrine in the believer’s soul, established as norms and standards, to appreciate and remain in that status of freedom (Gal. 5:1).

Scientific Data

    This next approach has to do with a principle of inspiration that is rather significant in our day of ‘science-consciousness.’ While the Bible is not a textbook of science, whenever it deals with scientific subjects, it is one hundred percent accurate in its statements.21 Immutability, which is an integral part of God’s essence, is the basis for all scientific phenomena. The only reason why the law of gravity continues to operate is simply the immutability of God. Divine faithfulness is the sole basis for all ‘laws’ of science. There is no such thing as a scientific law—only immutability in action.

Static Electricity

When he uttereth his voice,
There is a multitude of waters in the heavens,
And he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He maketh lightnings with rain,
And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. (Jer. 10:13)

    In this verse we have a very interesting illustration of static electricity. Those of you who have been in academic classrooms know that static electricity may be formed by the condensation of vapor. Is this knowledge comparatively new? Indeed not. Jeremiah had it long before modern man discovered it.

The Earth Is Spherical

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.
    (Isa. 40:22a)

    Over two thousand five hundred years ago, Isaiah stated that the earth is spherical. The same thing is taught in Proverbs 8:27. In both passages the Hebrew word חוּג (chug) is found. It should have been translated “spherical,” but was rendered “circle” in Isaiah and “compass” in Proverbs.

    Just think of all the people who stubbornly maintained that the earth was flat. They insisted that if you sailed through the Gates of Heracles (Gibraltar), you would drop off into nothingness. “Don’t get out of the Mediterranean” was the law until the Phoenicians became bold enough to sail around Africa.

The Earth Rotates On Its Axis

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. (Luke 17:31)
 
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. (Luke 17:34)

    The statement that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ is to occur simultaneously “in that day” (v. 31) and “in that night” (v. 34), describes one and the same event and can only be explained on the basis that the earth rotates on its axis.

Air Has Weight

To make the weight for the winds;
And he weigheth the waters by measure. (Job. 28:25)

    No scientist before Galileo (1630) was ever aware of or accepted the principle that air had weight. Yet we are told explicitly in Job 28:25 that this is so. The Hebrew word for “wind” is רוּחַ (ruach), which is also translated “air.”

Winds Have Circuits; The Laws Of Evaporation And Precipitation

The wind goeth toward the south,
And turneth about unto the north;
It whirleth about continually,
And the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea;
Yet the sea is not full;
Unto the place from whence the rivers come,
Thither they return again. (Eccl. 1:6-7)

    The heading for verse 6 could well be “Winds Aloft.” In 1630, Galileo discovered that winds have regular circuits. Was he the first to make this discovery? Solomon said, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9b). Ecclesiastes 1:6-7, in which Solomon makes a clear declaration of winds aloft, also gives the principle of evaporation and precipitation.

Radiation And Polarization Of Lights

They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens:
Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice. (Ps. 65:8)

    “Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.” The Hebrew word מוֹצָא (motsa’), “outgoings,” is “radiations.” The significance of the word רָנַן (ranan), “rejoice,” is that electric lights will play music; this is what this passage says in the Hebrew. As you may already know, there have been demonstrations of polarization of light playing music in the physics laboratory.

Messages Are Sent By Lightning

Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go,
And say unto thee, Here we are? (Job 38:35)

    Who invented telegraphy? God did, for here we have the first mention of messages being sent by electricity.

The Circulation Of The Blood

Or ever the silver cord be loosed,
Or the golden bowl be broken,
Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the cistern. (Eccl. 12:6)

    This verse describes the circulation of the blood long before Dr. William Harvey discovered it.

Quarantine For Communicable Diseases

And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. (Lev. 13:45-46)

    Centuries before it was developed in medical research, the principle of quarantine for communicable diseases existed as laws laid down by God for His people, Israel.

    In summary, the few areas we have examined demonstrate the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Scriptures. But even if there were no such proofs, God’s attitude toward His Word (Ps. 138:2b) and the testimony of Scripture concerning itself (Ps. 19:7-11) should be more than convincing that our Bible is a priceless treasure.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD

The Lord gave the word:
Great was the company of those that published it.
    (Ps. 68:11)

    All who were convinced of the power of the Scriptures tried to impress believers in their generation of the importance of the Word of God. Moses stressed the necessity of spiritual nourishment (Deut. 8:3); Job considered Bible doctrine more vital to his soul than food for his body (Job 23:12); Jeremiah found happiness through the intake of the Word (Jer. 15:16), when by human standards he should have been miserable.

    Throughout the Bible, there are passages of Scripture that stress the importance of the Word of God in the believer’s life.22

SOLOMON’S QUEST FOR HAPPINESS

    Solomon had everything that life could offer. He was prominent, brilliant, wealthy beyond our wildest imagination; in short, Solomon should have reached the peak of happiness and contentment. Yet Solomon was miserable. Why? He thought that he could find happiness outside the plan of God and apart from the Word of God.23

    In his frantic search for happiness, Solomon tried many experiments which, he hoped, would provide contentment. He started out with academic training, followed by the “eat-drink-and-be-merry” route. This didn’t work. Perhaps he would be happy if he had a progeny to whom he could leave his vast possessions. Well, that wasn’t the answer either.

    In turn, he tried philosophy and the humanities, as well as varied business ventures. But he found out, like so many who accumulate wealth, that money isn’t the key to happiness. He decided to add to his harem, but it didn’t take long to learn that promiscuity brought nothing but disappointment. He wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:28 that the one “which yet my soul seeketh . . . I find not.”

    Don’t misunderstand me concerning the details of life. They have their proper place, but they do not bring happiness when you use them as a substitute for fellowship with God through His Word. That, too, was Solomon’s conclusion. His experiments had failed; his frantic search for happiness was a disaster. Once he was restored to fellowship, he knew that he must warn others not to make the same mistakes. It remains for us to profit from his experience.

    Just as Peter left us the legacy of the reality of the Word, so Solomon leaves us a legacy—the importance of the Word. Solomon was an old man and much wiser when he wrote Ecclesiastes and recorded his own failures—no ruffles and flourishes, no attempt to whitewash his past or to justify his actions—just a forthright statement of the facts. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Solomon recorded his human viewpoint efforts for finding happiness and the dismal, frustrating, and disappointing results. Finally, he emphasized the grace solution and ended by showing the importance of the Word.

And moreover, because the preacher [man with a message] was wise, he still taught the people knowledge [the importance of doctrine]; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. [These, by contrast, are the expression of divine viewpoint.] (Eccl. 12:9)

    Then he drove home his point that the only answer for the believer in time is doctrine—not money, not prominence, not power, not success, not anything that we count as important, but the Word of God.

    God gave us His Word that we might learn to know and love Him and that we might function according to His predesigned plan (Deut. 29:29). More than that, He intends for us to advance to spiritual maturity through the daily intake of doctrine thus glorifying Him in the angelic conflict.24 Of course, whether or not you ever reach that goal, depends entirely on your volition—on your attitude toward the doctrine contained in the canon of Scripture.