Wednesday, April 29, 2020
King James, the Most High and Mighty! Really?
I believe the Scriptures as originally written by men who were inspired of the Holy Spirit are free of error. However, we are thousands of years removed from the original autographs of these men, and if you are like me, the Bibles you read today have been translated into a language unknown to the Hebrew and Greek speaking writers. No matter how careful scribes are, or how much integrity men manifest in producing a Bible translation, errors are unavoidable. It is a sad reality, however, that not all who work on copying or translating Scriptures manifest integrity. In this fallen world we have sin and Satan to contend with. It should come as no surprise that Satan has paid special attention to introducing error into the pages of the Bibles that millions of people read.
II Corinthians 11:3-4
But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
As much as Christians may protest, the fact remains that the very thing Paul warned against in the verses above has occurred. The serpent by his craftiness has led millions astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. One need only observe how the church has lost all practical knowledge of the feast days of Yahweh and have substituted the idolatrous celebrations of Christmas and Easter in their place. In this, they are no different than Jeroboam who erected an altar and golden calf in both Dan and Beersheba as a substitute for the true worship of Yahweh. One can also observe how many churches refer to Sunday as the “Sabbath Day.” The Biblical Sabbath has always been the 7th day of the week. It begins at sundown on Friday and runs until sundown on Saturday. Sunday is the first day of the week, and it is never called the “Sabbath” in the pages of Scripture. Yet the substitution of dates and holy days is merely the tip of the iceberg. So extensive has been Satan’s work in introducing falsehood and corruption to the church that there is hardly an area of doctrine or church life that has not suffered profound alteration. The apostle Paul prophesied the following regarding the state of the church in the last days in which we now live.
II Timothy 4:1, 3-4
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons... For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.
As one surveys the landscape of Christendom today they will observe thousands of denominations and sects all having embraced discordant beliefs. That great error has permeated the body of Christ is hardly debatable. Millions imbibe the polluted waters of false doctrine weekly as they attend their myriad houses of worship. Seeing that Yahweh has not preserved the church without error, why would believers think that the Bible has escaped unscathed through the millennia? The Scriptures have been in the care of sinful men. They have been copied and translated by people who are subject to all the failings of the sinful flesh. The Bible has been distorted as translators and copyists have been motivated by politics, monetary considerations, sectarian beliefs, and various base impulses.
Does it trouble you to hear one of Christ’s ministers declare that all existing Bible versions contain error today? If it does, perhaps your understanding of the environment that is most suitable for spiritual growth needs correcting. Spiritual beings need an adversarial environment to provide them an opportunity to struggle. It is the struggle that transforms fleshly beings into spiritual. Yahweh in His wisdom has allowed sin to be present in the church, and error to enter into the Scriptures, for He knows that the struggle of each individual to arrive at truth is essential to their attainment of spiritual maturity. Yahweh both tests and judges His children as He observes how they respond to the apostasy that exists in Christendom. Do they struggle against the darkness of error and sin? Or are they complacent, accepting as truth whatever other men and women tell them? In the kingdom of God, it is those who stir themselves up, and prepare themselves to do spiritual battle, who make the most progress. Complacency will consign an individual to become mired in the falsehoods and myths that thousands of years of sin and deceit have produced.
I would exhort Christians to view the presence of myriad and profound errors in the Bibles available to them today as an opportunity to exercise themselves spiritually. Do not think that Christianity cannot exist and flourish without a belief in an inerrant Bible translation today. The fact that the church is leavened with sin and error does not prevent you from walking as an overcomer in Christ. You simply need to rise up, exercise yourself unto godliness, and extricate yourself from the morass that Christendom has fallen into. The fact that all Bibles today contain error, much of it profound, does not prevent you from arriving at the knowledge of the truth. You have the Holy Spirit as your helper, and Yahweh will not withhold truth from those who prove themselves to be lovers of it.
Sir Frederic Kenyon, in his book Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, discusses some of the ways in which error has been introduced into the Scriptures.
Before the invention of the printing press... each separate copy of a book had to be written by hand; and the human hand and brain have not yet been created which could copy the whole of a long work absolutely without error. Often... copies were made hurriedly and without opportunity for minute revision. Mistakes were certain to creep in; and when once in existence they were certain to increase, as fresh copies were made from manuscripts already faulty. If the original manuscripts of the sacred books were still preserved, the errors of later copies would be to us now a matter of indifference; but since the original manuscripts perished long ago, we have to try to arrive at their contents by comparison of later copies, all of which are more or less faulty and all varying from one another...
The Mistakes of Copyists
1. Errors of Hand and Eye - The mistakes of scribes are of many kinds and of varying importance. Sometimes the copyist confuses words of similar sound, as in the English we sometimes find our correspondents write there for their or here for hear. Sometimes he passes over a word by accident; and this is especially likely to happen when two adjoining words end with the same letters. Sometimes this cause of error operates more widely. Two successive lines of the manuscript from which he is copying end with the same or similar words; and the copyist’s eye slips from the first to the second, and the intermediate line is omitted. Sometimes a whole verse, or longer passage, may be omitted owing to the identity of the first or last words with those of an adjoining passage. Sometimes, again, the manuscript from which he is copying has been furnished with short explanatory notes in the margin, and he fails to see where the text ends and the note begins, and so copies the note into the text itself.
2. Errors of Mind - ... Errors of the mind are more dangerous, because they are less easy to detect.
The copyist’s mind wanders a little from the book he is copying, and he writes down words that come mechanically into his head, just as we do nowadays if people talk while we are writing and distract our attention. Some words are familiar in certain phrases, and the familiar phrase runs off the pen of the copyist when the word should be written in some other combination. A form of this error is very common in the manuscripts of the Gospels. The same event is often narrated in two or more of them, in slightly different language; and the copyist, either consciously or unconsciously, alters the words of the one version to make them the same as the other... Thus in Matt. xi.19 the Authorised version has “But wisdom is justified of her children,” as in Luke vii. 35; but the Revised Version tells us that the original text had “works” instead of “children” here, the truth being that the copyists of all but the earliest extant manuscripts have altered it, so as to make it correspond with the account in St. Luke... In Matthew xxiii. 14 a whole verse has probably been inserted from the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, and so with Mark xv. 28. In Luke vi. 48 the concluding words of the parable of the house built on the rock, “because it had been well builded,” have been altered in “many ancient authorities” in accordance with the more striking and familiar phrase in St. Matthew, “for it had been founded upon the rock.” Errors like these increase in the later copies...
3. Errors of Deliberate Alteration - An untrue hand or eye, or an over-true memory may do much harm in a copyist; but worst and most dangerous of all is when the copyist begins to think for himself. The veneration in which the sacred books were held has generally protected them against intentional alteration, but not entirely so. The harmonisation of the Gospel narratives, described in the last paragraph, has certainly in some cases been intentional; and that, no doubt, without the smallest wish to deceive, but simply with the idea of supplementing the one narrative from its equally authentic companion. Sometimes the alterations are more extensive. The earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament contains several passages in the books of Esther and Daniel which are not found in the Hebrew. The long passages, Mark xvi. 9-20 and John vii. 53-viii. 11, which are absent from the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament, must have been either omitted in these, or inserted in others intentionally. If, as is more probably the case, they have been inserted in the later copies, this was no doubt done in order to supplement the Gospel from some other good source, and the narratives are almost certainly authentic, though they may not have been written by the Evangelist in whose Gospel they now appear. There is, however, no reason at all to suppose that additions of this kind have been made in any except a very few cases.
[Source: Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Sir Frederic Kenyon]
Sir Frederic Kenyon is a bit more optimistic in his view of the extent to which men have deliberately altered the Scriptures than I am. I have found the deliberate alteration of the Scriptures, often to accommodate the errant traditions and orthodoxy of the church, to be quite extensive. It is this latter type of corruption of the Biblical text, errors of deliberate alteration, that concern me the most. The Bible has suffered tremendous alteration in order to satisfy the traditions, beliefs, or agendas of various men. A poignant example of this is observed in the omission of the divine name from the Old Testament. As the title of this series suggests, the Bible is “Yahweh’s Book.” It is a book intended to reveal the Creator to mankind. 6,828 times in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to record the memorial name of God. Bible scholars refer to the name of God in the Old Testament as the “Tetragrammaton.” Tetragrammaton is a Greek word meaning “four letters.” In the Hebrew the letters used to spell the name of God are Yod He Vav (Waw) He. This is frequently represented as YHWH or YHVH in English.
Keep in mind that the Hebrew alphabet did not contain vowels. Ancient Hebrew was a consonantal alphabet. This has led to some debate about the proper pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, with opinions including Jehovah, Yahweh, Yahveh, Yahuweh, and many other variants. Yahweh disclosed His name to Moses when Moses inquired as to whom he should say was sending him to Pharaoh and the Israelite elders.
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh); and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM (Ehyeh) has sent me to you.'” And God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”
The above passage is not the first occurrence of the Tetragrammaton in Scripture. It is first found in Genesis 2:4. “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God (Elohim) made the earth and the heavens...” In fact, the name Yahweh was recorded more than 160 times in the Scriptures preceding Exodus 3:14-15. The name Yahweh should be one of the most frequently occurring words in our English Bibles today. Yet, without exception, all of the most popular Bible versions have removed the memorial name of God from the Scriptures and have replaced it with a titular substitute. In most cases, Yahweh has been replaced with “God,” “Lord,” or “Lord God.” The words Lord and God are NOT names. They are nouns denoting one who is a ruler, and a deity. They are like the word “father.” I am a father, and at times my children may call me “father,” or “dad.” However, neither of these words are my name. They describe my position in the family, but my name is Joseph.
The replacement of the name of Yahweh with a title began with the ancient Hebrews. The Jewish people are renowned for adding to, and taking away from, the word of God. Christ chided them for this 2,000 years ago.
“Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”
“Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
The Jewish religious leaders devised what are known as “fence laws.” These were regulations that they devised in order to insure that no man would accidentally transgress a commandment of Yahweh. For example, in the Old Testament Yahweh commanded that a man could not be beaten with more than forty stripes.
If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.
To avoid accidentally transgressing the commandment of Yahweh, the Jewish religious leaders established a law that said a man could only be beaten 39 times. This way they would not accidentally violate Yahweh’s commandment by striking the man one time too many. We see that this “fence law” was practiced in the day in which Paul lived.
II Corinthians 11:24
From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.
One of the more grievous fence laws that the Jews devised was a result of misinterpreting the third of the ten commandments.
“You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God (Elohim) in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible has rendered this verse in the following manner:
“Thou dost not take up the name of Jehovah thy God for a vain thing, for Jehovah acquitteth not him who taketh up His name for a vain thing.”
The Amplified Bible provides this further insight.
You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Apart from bizarrely omitting the actual name of Yahweh from the verse, the Amplified Bible does a good job of relating the sense of this commandment. Yahweh desires that His name be venerated. He wants it to be spoken in a manner that exercises integrity and truth. There are many ways in which a person may vainly utter the name of Yahweh. To make a promise in His name and not keep it is to utter His name in vain. To use His name in jesting, or in the act of cursing, is to use His name in vain. Yet, Yahweh never intended for His people to forbid the utterance of His name. The Holy Spirit surely would not have inspired holy men to record the name Yahweh more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament if He did not want it spoken.
The Jewish leaders, however, created a fence law to make sure that the name of Yahweh was never uttered in an unworthy manner. In essence, they forbid the speaking of the memorial name of God. The ancient Jews were unwilling to alter the Scriptures, so they left the Tetragrammaton in the text of the Old Testament, but they were instructed to speak the word Adonai, which is translated as “Lord.” This was considered less holy, and acceptable to be spoken. Whenever an individual reading the Scriptures in the Temple or the synagogues came across the name of God, they knew to substitute Adonai for Yahweh.
This alteration became further ingrained when the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. In the Septuagint, there is no indication that Yahweh was ever in the text, for the translators rendered the Tetragrammaton as Kyrios, meaning “Lord.” Thus they followed the tradition of the Jews in substituting Lord for the memorial name of God. This same practice of omitting the name Yahweh became an established tradition due to long practice. The traditions of men have supplanted the divine inspiration of the Creator so that in every one of the most popular English translations sold today, you will no longer find the Tetragrammaton. Whether you read from the King James Version, the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, etc., you will find that the name of Yahweh that the Holy Spirit caused the prophets of old to record nearly 7,000 times has been eradicated from the pages of Scripture. It is hard to imagine a more profound alteration to the word of Yahweh.
The reason that there is so little protest among Christians today regarding this severe deviation from the original text of the Scriptures, is that the popular English Bibles are in accord with the current traditions of the churches. There are a great many Christians today who actually think “God” is the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They have heard this word uttered all their lives, while never hearing a pastor or fellow Christian use the name of Yahweh. So widespread has this substitution of the divine name become, that a growing number of believers today will no longer spell out the word God. Instead, they write it with an underscore as G_d. In doing so they are perpetuating the tradition of the ancient Jews by creating their own fence law. Mistakenly thinking the noun “God” is holy, they will not even write it out, when in fact this is not the memorial name that Elohim disclosed to Moses.
If Satanic men with evil intent had sat down and said, “Let’s erase Yahweh’s name from the memory of His people by removing it from the Bible,” they could have done no worse than the Jewish religious leaders whose reasoning was corrupted through deceit. If you are reading one of the many Bible versions that have substituted titles for the memorial name of God, then you are reading from a text that has been deliberately altered to conform to the traditions and whims of man. Seeing that not even the name of Yahweh is safe in our Bibles, what else may have been tampered with? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Many corruptions have entered into the Scriptures to perpetuate the religious institutions and doctrines of man. We observe that the translators of the King James Bible received specific instruction to subordinate accuracy and integrity of translation to political and religious considerations. Following are two of the rules set down by King James for those men chosen to produce this Bible translation.
1. The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit.
3. The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation etc.
It is rules such as these which suborn men, causing them to make unfaithful alterations to the Scriptures. One might well ask, “Why was it important for the translators of the King James Bible to use the word Church rather than Congregation?” The Tyndale Bible, the first to be printed in English, was produced in 1526 and used the word Congregation to translate the Greek word Ekklesia. This Greek word occurs 115 times in the New Testament. Ekklesia is a joining of the word “Ek” and “Kaleo.” “Ek” corresponds to our English word “out,” and “kaleo” to the word “call.” The Ekklesia were literally “the called out.”
In Greek society the word Ekklesia was used as a reference to summoning the army for assembly. A crier could go forth and call men to assemble for battle. The term also was employed to refer to other types of public gatherings for special civic purposes, such as to vote on laws. In the latter case only full citizens were invited to participate. Thus, whether it was a call for the army to assemble, or a call for a political assembly, only certain individuals were called out of their communities to assemble together.
Ekklesia is an appropriate Greek word to describe the gathering together of the body of Christ. Those who were disciples of Yahshua were spread throughout their communities. At certain times they would assemble together and the Spirit would minister in and through the various members of the body of Christ. The Matthew’s Bible of 1537 also used the word “congregation” to refer to the assembly of the body of Christ. The word “congregation” derives from the word “congregate,” which means “to gather together.”
It was the Geneva Bible of 1557 that first used the word “church” as a rendering of the Greek word Ekklesia. The Bishop’s Bible of 1568 was a revision of the Geneva Bible, and it also used the word “Church.” The word church comes down to us in English through the German word Kirk. Kirk in turn comes from the Medieval Greek Kurikon, or “Lord’s House.” Those who supported a hierarchical form of church government preferred the word church over congregation or assembly. I should be remembered that the King of England held the position of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In the year 1536 The Act of Supremacy was passed, coinciding with the English monarchy’s split from the church of Rome. In place of the Pope, the King of England was declared to be the head of the Church of England.
Thus the word “Church,” or “Lord’s House,” bears a double meaning. Note again the inscription printed in the front of all of the King James’ Bibles. “To the Most High and Mighty, Prince James, King of Britain, France, and Ireland... Defender of the Faith.” The King wanted his citizens to bear in mind that he was the head and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the word “church” conveyed this idea much better than the more accurate translation of “congregation” or “assembly.”
Another example of deliberate alteration of the text of the Scriptures is observed in the words “baptize” and “baptism” in our English Bibles. These words are translated from variants of the Greek word “baptisma.” This Greek word means “immerse” and indicates a full immersion beneath the water. Baptism serves as a symbol or death to our old sinful life and our resurrection into our new life in Christ. As people are plunged beneath the water they are carrying out a ritual burial, and as they are brought back out of the water they are symbolizing that they have arisen to new life in Christ.
The Church of England, however, followed the Roman Catholic practice of sprinkling water on the forehead of the individual. It was decided, therefore, that the translators of the King James Bible could not translate the Greek word baptisma into English as immerse. This would upset the tradition of the Church of England. It would be a gross error, however, to render the word as “sprinkle,” for this was clearly not the meaning of the Greek. The solution was to not translate the word at all, but rather to transliterate it. This means that the word was carried from Greek to English unchanged and without translation. This meant that the church could then define baptism to mean whatever they wanted it to mean. Instead of immersion, they could define baptism as sprinkling. It would have been difficult to define immersion as sprinkling.
Thus far we have observed how men have made deliberate alterations to the Scriptures, removing the name of Yahweh that occurs nearly 7,000 times; translating the Greek word ekklesia as church rather than congregation or assembly; and intentionally choosing not to translate the Greek word baptisma in order to accommodate their false traditions. All of these actions lead men and women away from the truth.
A further egregious alteration of the text of Scriptures is observed in the inaccurate rendering of the Greek word aeon and its various forms. The Greek word aeon means “an age of varying length.” In the book God’s Plan of the Ages, I have demonstrated how this word has been unfaithfully translated in a variety of inaccurate and often contradictory ways to support the false teaching of eternal torment. Following is an excerpt from that book.
God's plan of the ages has been transformed (by men in the church) into something that is a gross aberration from the original. Yahweh is shown to be angry forever, and His wrath to be eternal. Those cast into hell and the lake of fire are believed to never escape. The reconciliation of "all things" through Christ is denied by the church. The church does not perceive the end of Christ's reign to come when all things will be subjected to Him that God the Father might be "all in all."
The church fell into error centuries ago. Over time myths and fables have come to be regarded as sacred truth due to their long antiquity. When in more recent centuries men in the church have applied themselves to translate the Scriptures into English, the influence of the mythology of Rome held sway over their minds. The Bible translations adopted by the masses of Christendom have become impregnated with the myths of pagan people. Words were translated to convey that false belief that had been adopted as orthodox theology.
Nowhere do we see this more profoundly than in the confused and errant renderings of the Greek word aion and its variants. Consider the following examples showing the varied and inaccurate manner in which translators have rendered this word. All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
That in the ages (aions) to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages (aions) and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints...
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course (aion) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (aions);
Through faith we understand that the worlds (aions) were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (aion), according to the will of God and our Father:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world (aion), against spiritual wickedness in high places.
II Corinthians 4:4
In whom the god of this world (aion) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
I Corinthians 2:6
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world (aion), nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world (aion) are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And the cares of this world (aion), and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world (aion) to come eternal (aionian) life.
But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (aion), and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world (aion) to come...
Since the world (aion) began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
These verses represent a fair sampling of the many ways in which the Greek word aion has been translated. In other places, the translators have rendered this same word as "eternity," "for ever," "for ever and ever," and "everlasting." Following are a few examples.
According to the eternal (aionian) purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord...
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal (aionian) judgment.
For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever (aions) and ever (aions).
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever (aions) and ever (aions).
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting (aionian) fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting (aionian) chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
It is evident that in each instance the translators interpreted this word to mean what they thought it should say according to the beliefs they had adopted. In the original KJV Bibles that were released in the 1600s, the translators included a list of restrictions that King James of England had placed upon them. One of these instructions was that the Bible could contain no translation that would upset the orthodoxy of the Church of England. The Anglican Church taught a doctrine of eternal damnation, therefore the scholars working on the King James Bible had to conform their translation to this belief.
It is apparent that the translators were very inconsistent in the interpretation of this word. If the word aion and its variants mean eternal, everlasting, or for ever, then the word should make sense when interpreted this way in the other Scriptures in which it is found. In this, it fails the test. Consider how nonsensical the following Scriptures would be.
That in the eternities (aions) to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from eternities (aions) and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints...
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the eternity (aion) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the eternities (aions);
Since the eternity (aion) began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
It is quite obvious that the Greek word aion is not referring to eternity in these and many other verses. The Greek word aion refers to an age that has a beginning and an end. Its variants refer to ages, or as an adjective to that which is age-lasting, or age-abiding. J. Preston Eby in his writing The Savior of the World, shares the following:
And now in reviewing the Scriptures we have just quoted we note that this aion is something which has a king; it has princes; it is in darkness; it had a beginning; it has an ending; it is evil; it has wisdom; it has children who marry; it has cares. The aions we find were made by Christ, simply through His spoken Word, and we also find in Colossians 1:26 that the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory, has been hidden from these aions. Now, if AION means ETERNAL, consider how ridiculous the Word of God would be! The Holy Spirit would be found saying, "the mystery which has been hid from eternities;" "the mystery of Christ which in other eternities was not made known;" "in the eternities to come;" "You walked according to the eternity of this world;" "by whom also He made the eternities;" "the rulers of the darkness of this eternity;" "now once in the end of the eternities has He appeared;" "the harvest is the end of the eternity;" "since eternity began;" "in the eternities to come," etc. etc... Suffice it to say here that there have been "aions" in the past, there is this present "aion," and there are "aions" to come. And these all combined make up TIME, encompassing the whole of the progressive plan and program of God for the development of His creation.
Laying aside the myths of Rome, let us now translate these passages consistently, using the word "age," or "ages" in these same Scriptures. At once, the confusion is resolved, and a consistent teaching regarding the ages of God comes into view.
Eph. 2:7 "in the ages (aions) to come."
Col. 1:26 "the mystery which has been hid from the ages (aions). "
Eph. 2:2 "you walked, according to the age (aion) of this world."
Heb. 1:2 "by whom also He made the ages (aions)."
Heb. 11:3 "the ages (aions) were formed by the Word of God."
Gal. 1:4 "deliver us from this present evil age (aion)."
Eph. 6:12 "the rulers of the darkness of this age (aion)."
II Cor. 4:4 "the god of this age (aion)."
I Cor. 2:6 "the wisdom of this age (aion)."
Lk. 16:8 "the children of this age (aion)."
Mk. 4:19 "the cares of this age (aion)."
Mk. 10:30 "the age (aion) to come."
Lk. 20:35 "but they that shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age (aion)"
Heb. 6:5 "and have tasted the powers of the age (aion) to come."
John. 9:32 "since the age (aion) began."
Eph. 3:11 "according to a plan of the ages (aions)."
Heb. 6:2 "and of age-abiding (aionian) judgment."
Rev. 19:3 "and her smoke rose up to the ages (aions) of the ages (aions).
Rev. 20:10 "tormented day and night to the ages (aions) of the ages (aions)."
Mat. 25:41 "depart from me, ye cursed, into age-abiding (aionian) fire."
Jude 6 "he hath reserved in age-abiding (aionian) chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
The Bible has much to say about the ages God has allotted to creation. Before Yahweh ever began to create He had established a master plan for the ages. All would culminate in a great final age of the ages when all would be reconciled to the Father, when sin and death would be no more.
Myths borrowed from pagan societies are no substitute for truth. Though it be a remnant who are able to endure sound doctrine in this hour, let them hold fast the truth by proclaiming the fullness of the reconciling work of Christ, the Savior of the world.
Brothers and sisters, the errors that have crept into your Bibles are myriad, and they are profound. I have set forth just a sampling of the many deliberate alterations of the text of Scriptures that have unfaithfully been foisted upon the body of Christ. How is a disciple of Yahshua to recover from so much error in the church and in the Scriptures? There is only one way. They must take upon themselves the task of laboring diligently as a seeker of truth. Yahweh has allowed truth to be obscured through the introduction of much leaven. In this way He can test and prove those who are sincere lovers of the truth. These ones will pursue truth until they find it. They will manifest that zealous questing for truth described by Solomon in the Proverbs.
My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of Yahweh, and discover the knowledge of God.
Is it time for you to do a truth check-up? How diligent has your quest for truth been? How zealously have you labored to acquire understanding and to arrive at the true knowledge of God? Yahweh has permitted the Bible to be corrupted by error so that those who are passionate for truth and who would acquit themselves as overcomers, might prove themselves by exercising themselves with patience, longsuffering, and perseverance in a lifelong quest for the true knowledge of heaven.
Note: This chapter has touched upon a number of topics that cannot be fully addressed here. Following are links to writings that further expound upon these subjects.
Christmas and Easter
Divine Names in the Bible
Eternal Torment and the Reconciliation of All Men
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Biblical inerrancy means different things to different people. To some it means that the Scriptures as originally written by men inspired of the Holy Spirit were a perfect representation of the words of God. For some, though not all people, Biblical inerrancy also means that the Bible in its original form was perfect in all of its statements, whether they relate to history, science, medicine, or any other field of human study. I am among those who believe the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts, and I clearly believe that Yahweh, being the Creator of all things, has a far better understanding of history, science, and medicine than any human. I am confident that no original writing that He inspired men to write contained error.
More extreme views of the Bible inerrancy doctrine affirm that there are extant today specific versions of the Bible that are flawless, not having deviated through the years from the original autographs. Some people make similar claims of translations of the Bible that have been rendered into other languages. They insist that the Bible translators were divinely guided to a perfect and flawless expression of the thoughts and words of God as they labored to translate the Scriptures. One of the most recognized examples of this radical belief in an inerrant Bible is observed among those who assert, often with great prejudice and a very contentious spirit, that the King James Version is a perfect, and flawless English translation of the Scriptures. Many who hold to such a view demonize all other English Bible translations, and at times suggest that a person is not truly saved, nor in right standing before God, if they are using any Bible other than the KJV Bible.
I recently came across the account set forth by Samuel Martin on his blog where he writes of his uncle Virgil in the 1950s reproving Samuel’s father for speaking about recent scholarly developments relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Bible translations such as the Revised Standard Version. Virgil was a Nazarene preacher, honest as the day is long, and very sincere in his beliefs and loyal in his affiliations. He brought short the conversation by stating, “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”
This, of course, sounds much like the words attributed to Ma Ferguson of Texas who claimed that Jesus spoke the King’s English. Such comments are not at all uncommon. There exists a large group of conservative, fundamentalist Christians who have been raised in denominational churches that equate the King James Bible with the words of Christ and the apostles. Not all are ignorant of the fact that Christ and his apostles did not speak English, but a great many have no knowledge of the history and process of Bible translation.
A Sampling of English Bible Translations
Loyalty toward a particular Bible version for many is not unlike the attitude of sports fanatics who root for their favorite ball team, or individuals who believe the state or nation in which they were born and raised is superior to all others, simply because it is their state. These types of loyalties are frequently dissociated from fact and evidence. They represent emotional decisions, for their favored Bible version was the Bible their parents used, or the one their pastor, church, or denomination reads from.
As disciples of Christ, our loyalty should be to God and His kingdom, and our allegiance should be to truth wherever we may find it. Bible translations need to be judged upon their individual merits and shortcomings. It does no one any good to suspend a critical and unbiased examination of the evidence available to them. Yet, many turn a blind eye, and stop their ears, to any explanation of the merits and shortcomings of a beloved Bible translation. An Adamic sense of loyalty has closed their minds to consider that their translation may in fact have shortcomings and contain errors.
Christians may be surprised to learn that the type of bias manifested by zealous proponents of the KJV Only crowd is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, the history of manuscript and translation bias provides some examples that make the KJV Only proponents appear downright wishy washy. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church dominated Europe and they forbid the Scriptures to be read in any language other than Latin, or in any translation other than Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. The penalty for violating this order was either excommunication, or, in darker times, death by drowning, burning at the stake, or some other form of torture that the inquisition could dream up. The Roman Catholic Church has given abundant evidence to the fact that religious people, even those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, when not subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit, are often some of the most prejudiced, hateful, and violent among all humanity.
The predilection for favoring a particular translation has frequently been due to a language, or cultural bias. At times, it has even been due to a prejudice against the Jews, as in the case of some who favored the Greek Septuagint translation over the Scriptures in the original Hebrew tongue. As far back as 2,000 years ago, there were religious men quarreling over Bible translations. When the Greek Septuagint gained popularity, some suggested that it was a far superior translation than the Hebrew Scriptures from which it was translated. There even developed myths that suggested that the 72 translators of the Septuagint were divinely aided in their work. One legend recorded in the Babylonian Talmud states that King Ptolemy of Egypt gathered the 72 Jewish scholars who created the Septuagint translation, placing each man in a separate room, and only then disclosed to them why they were summoned. Ptolemy is reported to have entered into each man’s chamber and said: "Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher." The Talmud relates that every one of the 72 Jewish men wrote out an exact copy of the Torah in the Greek language, word for word in agreement with each other for Yahweh guided them to produce a perfect translation.
Such an account is not only incredible, it is a complete falsehood. Yet men resort to such vanities in order to magnify a preferred Bible translation, embellishing it with exaggerated claims of being perfect and without error. One can imagine many present day Christians entertaining similar fictions in their minds regarding the manner in which the King James Bible came into existence.
One of the reasons the Greek Septuagint had reached a place of ascendancy among Jews, and later among Messianic Christians, is that Greek was the most widely spoken language of the Roman Empire. Jews who emigrated outside of the land of Canaan frequently adopted the language of the land in which they were dwelling. The Hebrew language waned, with fewer people being able to speak or read the language. When Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, many disciples of Christ arose who had never had any familiarity with Hebrew. It was quite reasonable that they would prefer a Greek translation of the Scriptures.
When in the year 382 A.D. Pope Damasus I delivered to Jerome the task of creating an updated Latin Version of the Bible, Jerome at first began to translate his Latin Bible from existing Greek manuscripts. He later reconsidered this decision, determining that it was far better to translate the Old Testament from the original Hebrew. It is hard to dispute such logic, for it is far better to translate from an original source language than to translate from a translation, as long as reliable original language manuscripts exist and the translator understands the language. Jerome was immediately taken to task for his decision to translate from the Hebrew, rather than from the Greek Septuagint. One of his critics was none other than St. Augustine. Following is a discourse between the two men as they carried forth a correspondence on this topic.
I have received letters so long and eagerly desired from my dear Desiderius ... entreating me to put our friends in possession of a translation of the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Latin. The work is certainly hazardous and it is exposed to the attacks of my calumniators, who maintain that it is through contempt of the Seventy that I have set to work to forge a new version to take the place of the old. They thus test ability as they do wine; whereas I have again and again declared that I dutifully offer, in the Tabernacle of God what I can, and have pointed out that the great gifts which one man brings are not marred by the inferior gifts of another. But I was stimulated to undertake the task by the zeal of Origen, who blended with the old edition Theodotion’s translation and used throughout the work as distinguishing marks the asterisk and the obelus, that is the star and the spit, the first of which makes what had previously been defective to beam with light, while the other transfixes and slaughters all that was superfluous.
But I was encouraged above all by the authoritative publications of the Evangelists and Apostles, in which we read much taken from the Old Testament which is not found in our manuscripts. For example, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my Son’: ‘For he shall be called a Nazarene’: and ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’: and ‘Rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly’ : and ‘Things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, which God hath prepared for them that love him’, and many other passages which lack their proper context. Let us ask our opponents then where these things are written, and when they are unable to tell, let us produce them from the Hebrew. The first passage is in Hosea, the second in Isaiah, the third in Zechariah, the fourth in Proverbs, the fifth also in Isaiah...
Are we condemning our predecessors? By no means; but following the zealous labors of those who have preceded us, we contribute such work as lies in our power in the name of the Lord. They translated before the Advent of Christ, and expressed in ambiguous terms that which they knew not. We after His Passion and Resurrection write not prophecy so much as history. For one style is suitable to what we hear, another to what we see. The better we understand a subject, the better we describe it. Hearken then, my rival: listen, my calumniator; I do not condemn, I do not censure the Seventy, but I am bold enough to prefer the Apostles to them all. It is the Apostle through whose mouth I hear the voice of Christ, and I read that in the classification of spiritual gifts they are placed before prophets, while interpreters occupy almost the lowest place. Why are you tormented with jealousy? Why do you inflame the minds of the ignorant against me? Wherever in translation I seem to you to go wrong, ask the Hebrews, consult their teachers in different towns. The words which exist in their Scriptures concerning Christ, your copies do not contain.
[Source: Jerome’s Apology, Book II, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol 3.]
For my part, I would much rather that you would furnish us with a translation of the Greek version of the canonical Scriptures known as the work of the Seventy translators. For if your translation begins to be more generally read in many churches, it will be a grievous thing that, in the reading of Scripture, differences must arise between the Latin Churches and the Greek Churches, especially seeing that the discrepancy is easily condemned in a Latin version by the production of the original in Greek, which is a language very widely known; whereas, if any one has been disturbed by the occurrence of something to which he was not accustomed in the translation taken from the Hebrew, and alleges that the new translation is wrong, it will be found difficult, if not impossible, to get at the Hebrew documents by which the version to which exception is taken may be defended. And when they are obtained, who will submit, to have so many Latin and Greek authorities: pronounced to be in the wrong? Besides all this, Jews, if consulted as to the meaning of the Hebrew text, may give a different opinion from yours: in which case it will seem as if your presence were indispensable, as being the only one who could refute their view; and it would be a miracle if one could be found capable of acting as arbiter between you and them.
[Source: Augustine of Hippo’s Letter LXXI, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 1]
I will share a judgment on the correspondence that appears above. I believe that Jerome argues well from the perspective of one who is a lover of truth and who wants to produce an authentic and accurate translation of the Bible. Jerome is not concerned about the approval of men. He desires to be faithful to the testimony of the evangelists (those who wrote the Gospels) and the apostles. In many places the evangelists and apostles quoted Old Testament passages. Many of these Old Testament passages are not to be found in the Septuagint, or they are obscured by a poor translation, yet Jerome declared that they appeared in the Hebrew Scriptures that were extant at the time and present among all the Jews in their synagogues.
Saint Augustine - Catholic Theologian
On the other hand, Augustine is arguing from the perspective of one concerned with politics. He is concerned lest there be a division between Latin and Greek factions of the church. He argues that if the Latin Scriptures that Jerome is laboring to produce should deviate from the Greek Scriptures that “differences” will arise. Such an argument is unworthy of one who proclaims to be a follower of Christ. Truth, not politics, should be the guiding principle for the disciple of Christ. It matters not whether there be irreconcilable differences between the Septuagint and a new Bible translation, as long as the new translation is accurate to the original autographs of the prophets, and consistent with the inspired quotations of the Gospel writers and apostles.
Jerome mentions that he has been inspired by the zeal of Origen, one of the early church fathers and the creator of the Hexapla, the six translation Bible previously mentioned. Origen used a system of asterisks and obelisks to mark where the Greek translations deviated from the Hebrew. Origen marked with an obelisk and asterisk where words or sentences had been added or omitted in the Greek text. Some of the additions and omissions were deliberate, and done with evil intent. Jerome describes Theodotion, who produced one of the Greek translations, as “a man who, after the passion of Christ, was a Jew and a blasphemer.” That is to say, Theodotion denied that Yahshua was the Christ, the Son of God. Theodotion made deliberate alterations to the Greek Scriptures to obscure those passages in the Old Testament that would lend credence to the truth that Yahshua was indeed the Son of God and the Jew’s promised Messiah. These alterations had made their way into the Septuagint of Jerome and Augustine’s day. In a follow-up letter Jerome asks Augustine why, if he is so zealous for the Septuagint, does he not use the original version of that translation ascribed to the seventy, rather than the altered and corrupted versions that were common at the time.
Jerome ascribes the introduction of errors into the Septuagint to Origen who merged Theodotion’s version of the Greek Old Testament with the original Septuagint. Origen did, however, indicate where changes had been made to the Greek text. Where there was additional material added by Theodotion, he marked the content with an asterisk. Jerome then challenges Augustine to only accept those portions of the Septuagint where there are no asterisks, for then he would be true to the original Septuagint. He cautions Augustine, however, warning him that if he is faithful to the seventy that he will find himself at odds with all of the Bibles in use by the Christian churches of the day.
I am surprised that you do not read the books of the Seventy translators in the genuine form in which they were originally given to the world, but as they have been corrected, or rather corrupted, by Origen, with his obelisks and asterisks; and that you refuse to follow the translation, however feeble, which has been given by a Christian man, especially seeing that Origen borrowed the things which he has added from the edition of a man who, after the passion of Christ, was a Jew and a blasphemer. Do you wish to be a true admirer and partisan of the Seventy translators? Then do not read what you find under the asterisks; rather erase them from the volumes, that you may approve yourself indeed a follower of the ancients. If, however, you do this, you will be compelled to find fault with all the libraries of the Churches; for you will scarcely find more than one manuscript here and there which has not these interpolations.
This discourse between these two men reveals the disparity that existed in the Greek Bibles over 1,600 years ago, and the prejudice that existed among men such as Augustine who favored a specific translation. Augustine’s bias in favor of the Septuagint was not based upon the merits of the translation, for it had been corrupted, and many variants existed. I believe Jerome’s attitude is the proper one. He favored examining all the existing manuscripts, whether Hebrew, or Greek, while laboring to arrive as closely as possible to the original words of the prophets. Ironically, in time, the Roman Catholic Church would manifest the same bias in favor of Jerome’s Latin translation as Augustine had demonstrated for the Greek Septuagint.
In the 16th century we see a similar manifestation of translation bias for a specific Bible as some began to inordinately venerate Erasmus’ Latin/Greek Bible which came to be known as the Textus Receptus. Erasmus never boasted of having created a flawless Bible translation. As so often happens, the error of claimed inerrancy originates with others who come afterwards. In this case, the claim of an inerrant text was motivated by the basest of motives, the love of money.
The sobriquet Textus Receptus was attached to Erasmus’ Greek New Testament by a publisher to boost sales. Erasmus’ title for his Greek and Latin New Testament was Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum which roughly translates into English as “The New Testament, Diligently Revised and Improved.”
It wasn’t until 1633, a century after Erasmus first published his Bible translation, and long after he had died, that the phrase Textus Receptus was used to describe this often altered Greek New Testament. The Elzevir publishers of the Dutch city of Leiden included a preface to the book which read, “Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus,” which translates into English as, "so you hold the text, now received by all, in which (is) nothing corrupt." Leave it to merchants to create a controversy that continues to this day. In a self-serving attempt to magnify the book they were offering for sale, the Elzevir publishers claimed that this Greek translation was inerrant, and that it was received by all.
It is misguided to claim that any Greek or English translation existent today is inerrant. Erasmus did not claim his Greek New Testament to be inerrant. Rather, he continued to make corrections to it throughout his life. Neither did the translators of the King James Bible profess that they had produced a flawless English Bible version. The KJV translators included a preface to the Bible that was titled “The Translators to the Reader.”
Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one,... but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.
The entire preface can be found at the following link:
Consider the language used by the translators. They said their aim was to make a “better” translation of the Scriptures. They did not say a “flawless,” nor an “inerrant” translation, for perfection was beyond their grasp. They stated that they sought to produce a “good” Bible translation. Once again, the language employed falls short of the grandiose claims of many today who would, out of irrational bias, declare that in the KJV Bible is found a perfect and inerrant translation of the Word of God.
It is unreasoning and baseless to claim that either the Textus Receptus or the KJV Bible are inerrant. Not only did Erasmus publish five different versions of his Latin/Greek Scriptures, but other men altered them further. Robert Estienne, known as Stephanus, produced five different versions of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, making further changes to the text with each edition. Theodore Beza in turn took the third edition of Stephanus’ text, editing it nine times between the years 1565 and 1604.
We find that a similar experience befell the King James Bible. The 1611 edition of the KJV Bible, the very first one to be published, is very different than the KJV Bible sold today. There have been numerous revisions to the KJV Bible. The version sold today is widely identified as the 1769 Baskerville Birmingham revision. This Bible, was originally printed in Birmingham, England by renowned printer John Baskerville. The Baskerville revision of the KJV Bible modernized the language. The 1611 Bible used spellings such as "Hierusalem,"' "Marie," "assone," "foorth," "shalbe," "fet," "creeple," "fift," "sixt," "ioy," "middes," and "charet," which you will no longer find in a KJV Bible, though they still are advertised as “1611 King James Bibles.” Baskerville followed the revisions of F.S. Paris and H. Therold who produced an updated language version of the KJV in 1762. The Baskerville Birmingham Bible also introduced some other changes of wording.
Font Developed By, and Named After, John Baskerville
It is well to comment somewhat on John Baskerville, the printer. Although a near genius at originating innovations in printing that led to vastly improved print quality, the man was all his life a professed atheist. In his later years he lived openly with the wife of another man (her husband had reportedly abandoned her), though they never married. Baskerville was a member of the Lunar Society, a philosophical society attended by other “enlightenment” thinkers such as Erasmus Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin. He was very outspoken against those he considered to be religious bigots. That he would print a very successful revision of the King James Bible that has become the standard text for KJV Bibles today is not inexplicable, for the Bible has always been a best seller. He was, after all, a merchant seeking to turn a profit.
Although Baskerville was an atheist, and no friend of Christians, this does not necessarily mean that the KJV Bible is a wretched work (though it certainly contains errors and shortcomings). It does, however, destroy the argument that would suggest that the KJV Bible we have today was produced by a divine act of God as he moved upon Christian men resulting in an inerrant text of the Scriptures in the English language.
More will be shared on the subject of errors in the Biblical text in the next chapter. My point in this post, is that claims of inerrant Bible translations are not a new phenomenon. Manuscript and translation bias has existed at least as far back as the time of the early church when Jewish myths about the translators of the Septuagint were passed around to bolster the reputation of this Greek Bible. The same type of bias was demonstrated by the Roman Catholic Church who favored Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, and by Protestants in Europe from the 16th century forward who placed an inordinate veneration upon Erasmus’ Textus Receptus. Today we find that there are many Christians committing the same egregious error by suggesting that the KJV Bible is inerrant, or superior, to all other English language Bibles. The saying of Solomon is true:
That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Dead Sea Scrolls - Isaiah Scroll
The followers of Yahshua owe a great debt to the Hebrew people. The Bible exists because Yahweh inspired Hebrew men to record His words for mankind. Although the Bible has One primary Author, that being the Spirit of God, it has numerous human authors. We are told in the Scriptures that Yahweh’s Spirit inspired holy men of old to record His words. These men were all Jews. The apostle Paul affirms this in his epistle to the Romans.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
The word “oracle” may be unfamiliar to modern believers. In the day in which Paul wrote, the word “oracle” was well understood. Temples were built for the various Greek and Roman deities, serving as centers of worship for these pagan gods and goddesses. It was common to appoint an individual at these temples to hold a sacred role as the spokesperson, or mouthpiece, of the deity. People would come from far and wide to inquire of these individuals. They were even sought out by the rulers of nations who hoped to receive counsel from the gods. These temple servants who spoke for the deity were referred to as “oracles.” Somewhat confusingly, the words they spoke were also referred to as “oracles.”
Yahweh has appointed oracles to speak His words as well. We recognize these individuals today more readily as “prophets.” Moses is declared to be a prophet. He is also said to have been entrusted with the oracles of God.
“This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, 'God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.' This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.”
The manner in which Yahweh moved upon these men to proclaim His words is aptly defined by the word “inspiration.” The apostle Paul attests to the Bible being written through means of men being inspired by the Spirit of God.
II Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness...
The word “inspiration” came into English via the Latin word inspirare which means “inflame; blow into.” This is an interesting derivation. One can imagine a man sitting by a small stack of kindling that is smoldering. In an attempt to get the material to combust, to erupt into flames, he would blow upon it. Suddenly flames would appear, light and heat would be produced, as the breath of man exhaled upon the material caused it to ignite. Even as the breath of man “inspires” a fire to burst forth, so too does the breath of Yahweh inflame the soul of man.
One can readily see the similarity between the words “spirit” and “inspiration.” Throughout the Bible words for breath and wind are commonly used to describe both the spirit of man and the Spirit of God. On the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts, there was a sound as of a mighty, rushing wind. Then tongues of fire appeared over the heads of the 120 individuals gathered in obedience to Yahshua’s command. These individuals were “inspired.” The Spirit came upon them and manifested as tongues of flame above their heads.
A prophet can aptly be described as a man set aflame by the Spirit of God. Jeremiah used a term related to fire to describe the sensation of containing the words of God within his being.
But if I say, "I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name," then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.
I believe what Jeremiah described in these words was the common experience of many prophets. When the Holy Spirit moved upon them, the words of God would be like a fire within them seeking to erupt. The divine breath seeks a way to be expressed, to go forth as a purifying flame altering everything that it touches.
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
When Yahweh set forth to deliver to mankind a book of divine authorship, He sent His Spirit upon appointed men who acted as conduits of His words. These “oracles,” or “prophets,” were borne along with the Spirit who entrusted to them the message of Yahweh.
II Peter 1:21
For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to do so - it never came by human impulse], but men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled) by the Holy Spirit.
We can be sure when Moses set out in obedience to Yahweh to write the first five books of the Old Testament, that his writings were marked with the breath of God. These were divine writings, and the message of Yahweh was communicated faithfully. This is true of all of the writings contained in the Bible and designated as holy Scriptures. The most recent of these anointed writings are nearly 2,000 years old, and the oldest of them are about 3,500 years removed from this present day. Understandably, none of the original autographs of these “holy prophets” (Luke 1:70) remain to this day. The animal skins, papyrus, or other material upon which the Scriptures were written were subject to decay, destruction, and loss.
The Hebrew people who were entrusted with the words of God placed great emphasis upon maintaining the holy writings. A group of men were assigned the task of safeguarding the divine words, of making new copies of the Scriptures when the existing ones began to show wear. These men were known as scribes.
The Bible itself does not set forth any instructions for scribes to follow, but the Jewish people developed elaborate instructions to guard against the encroachment of any aberration into the word of Yahweh. In the Talmud (writings of Jewish civil and religious law) we find some of the earliest recorded instructions to scribes.
A synagogue scroll must be written on the skins of clean animals, prepared for the particular use of the synagogue of the Jew. These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals. Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex. The length of each column must not extend over less than forty-eight, or more than sixty lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters. The whole copy must first be lined; and if three words be written in it without a line, it is worthless. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other colour and be prepared according to a definite recipe. An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least to deviate. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him...
Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between every word the breadth of a narrow consonant; between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; between every book, three lines. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so. Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him...
[Source: Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Frederic Kenyon]
These words were recorded in the early centuries following the time of Christ. It can be assumed that similar instructions had been passed along orally for many centuries prior. Around 500 A.D. a group of scribes called the Massoretes (meaning “tradition”) arose. They are renowned for their attention to accuracy as well as for innovations to preserve the pronunciation of Hebrew words. Before you read the following quotation from the writing of Neil R. Lightfoot, let me define the words “codex” and “codices” for those to whom they may be unfamiliar. The earliest Biblical writings were recorded on scrolls. This began to change around the first century A.D. at the same time that the Christian church came into being. The Romans began to place their writings in book form. Such a book was called a “codex.” The plural of this word is “codices.” At first, the pages of these books were made from wood, and later from papyrus, vellum, or paper. The Latin word “codex” literally means “trunk of a tree.”
Chinese Bamboo Book, or Codex
In Europe, the bark of the Beech tree was used for the pages of a codex. It is from the word “Beech” (German bok - pronounced “boke”) that we get our English word “book.”
The following excerpt describes the meticulous attention to detail employed by the Massoretes to ensure that the Hebrew Bible was copied with flawless precision.
The Massoretes, who go back to about A.D. 500, succeeded the earlier scribes. The Massoretes of Tiberias were the most important of the Massoretes, and the Ben Asher family of Tiberias, with whom several of the model codices are associated, are especially renowned.
The work of the Massoretes is truly significant. Their labors are spread out over a period of four or five centuries, and their contributions are many. They are perhaps best known for their system of vowels and accents which they devised for the Hebrew text. It will be remembered that all of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet are consonants. Thus the Old Testament was first written without vowels. Although this may seem strange to us, it was sufficient during the many centuries when Hebrew was a spoken language. When eventually Hebrew was no longer spoken, the danger was imminent that the proper pronunciation of the consonantal text might be lost. To meet the danger, the Massoretes, on the basis of their well-kept traditions, inserted vowel points above and below the lines of the text. It must be emphasized, however, that they did not bother the text itself; they only added a means by which to ensure the correct pronunciation of the text.
The Massoretes were not concerned with only such things as proper pronunciation. They also sought ways and methods by which to eliminate scribal slips of addition or omission. This they achieved through intricate procedures of counting. They numbered the verses, words, and letters of each book. They counted the number of times each letter was used in each book. They noted verses that contained all the letters of the alphabet, or a certain number of them. They calculated the middle letter, the middle word, and the middle verse of the Pentateuch; the middle verse of the Psalms, the middle verse of the entire Hebrew Bible, and so forth. In fact, they counted almost everything that could be counted. With these safeguards, and others, when a scribe finished making a copy of a book, he could then check the accuracy of his work before using it.
[Source: How We Got the Bible, Neil R. Lightfoot]
You may wonder why I would write about Scribes that created copies of the Hebrew Scriptures as recently as the tenth century A.D.. The reason is that these copies that the Massoretes made are the oldest existing copies of the Hebrew Scriptures known today. (The Dead Sea Scrolls are much older, but they contain primarily fragments of the Hebrew Bible.) There are actually much older copies of the Old Testament in languages other than Hebrew, such as the Greek Septuagint, but these are not valued as highly because they are a translation, and not the original language of the Old Testament.
You may well ask, “What happened to the older Hebrew manuscripts, for they first began to be recorded as far back as 1,500 B.C.?” This means that there are no existing manuscripts of the first 2,500 years of the Hebrew Scriptures. Neil R. Lightfoot provides the answer for us.
The Jewish scribes looked upon their copies of the Scriptures with an almost superstitious respect. This led them to give ceremonial burial to any of the texts that were damaged or defective. Their motive was to prevent the improper use of the material on which the sacred name of God had been inscribed. Before burial, however, faulty manuscripts were hidden away in a “ginizah” (from Aramaic genaz, to hide), a kind of storeroom for manuscripts that were unusable. But however noble the intentions, the replacement of older copies with newer ones, and the burial of those discarded, have deprived us of early Hebrew manuscripts.
The modern Hebrew Bible (Old Testament only) is based upon the Massoretic text of the Scriptures. Following is a list of five of the most important Hebrew manuscripts.
1. The Aleppo Codex. First in rank among the Hebrew manuscripts, the Aleppo Codex derives its name from the city in Syria where it had long been located. A beautifully written codex of the entire Hebrew Bible, it was finished sometime in the tenth century. Unfortunately, it is no longer complete; large sections of it were destroyed in Arab riots against the Jews...
Arab mobs, looting and burning and killing, destroyed all the synagogues in Aleppo, including the 1,500 year old Mustaribah Synagogue. Found in the ashes of this synagogue was the prized Aleppo Codex. A quarter of the manuscript had been destroyed - almost all of the Pentateuch and all of a number of other books as well. Smuggled out of Syria to Jerusalem, it is now being used as the base of a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible to be published by Hebrew University.
2. The Leningrad Codex. Of equal rank with the Aleppo Codex is the Leningrad Codex. Now the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, it was written in Cairo about the year 1010. It, too, is a beautiful manuscript, with pages ornately wrought.
The manuscript today is in the National Library of St. Petersburg, Russia. Although the city’s name is once again St. Petersburg, the manuscript is still known as the Leningrad Codex... It is the Leningrad Codex that mainly underlies most editions of the modern Hebrew Bible...
3. The Cairo Codex. This manuscript of the Former and Latter Prophets was written by Moses ben Asher in 895. Subsequently, it came into the possession of a Jewish sect in Jerusalem known as Karaites. After being carried off by the Crusaders and later returned, it made its way to the Karaite community in Cairo, where it remains today.
4. The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets. Written in 916, this manuscript includes Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets.
5. British Library Codex of the Pentateuch. Containing most of the Pentateuch, this codex is an important witness to the text. An undated manuscript, which formerly was thought to be from the ninth century, is now dated a century later.
Since we have no ancient manuscripts of the Bible in the Hebrew language, how do we know whether it has been copied accurately during the preceding two and a half millennia? There are actually a number of ways. Although the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain the entirety of the Hebrew Bible, they do include large portions, including the entire book of Isaiah on a single scroll. The Dead Sea Scrolls were made by a sect of Jews called the Essenes who dwelt in the wilderness of Judea from the first century B.C. until the second century A.D.. This means their writings are nearly a thousand years older than the existing Hebrew Scriptures copied by the Massorete scribes. Among the Dead Sea scrolls is a copy of the book of Isaiah. When comparing the Isaiah scroll to the Massoretic text copied nearly a thousand years later, they have been found to be nearly identical. In a thousand years there was no significant change to the text. Comparison of the Massoretic text to other scrolls and fragments discovered with the Isaiah scroll reveal that there has been no substantial change to the text. This takes us much closer to the original writings, but we can go further back still if we look at the Old Testament in other languages.
In the second century B.C. the Greek ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy II, wanted to build a great library. There were many Jews dwelling in Alexandria, Egypt at the time. These Jews spoke Koine Greek, and were not fluent in Hebrew. Ptolemy sponsored a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and 70 Jewish scholars were appointed to make the translation. The word “Septuagint” means “the seventy.” The Septuagint became a very important translation for the Jews, for many Jews no longer spoke Hebrew fluently.
There are diverse views among scholars regarding the differences/similarity between the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew Masoretic Text. Some scholars focus on the similarities, for the same thoughts are conveyed in both Hebrew and Greek in the great majority of instances. This has led some scholars to suggest that the translators of the Septuagint must have worked from a Hebrew manuscript very similar to that of the Masoretes. Other scholars focus on the differences between the Greek and Hebrew Old Testaments, for the fact that there are differences cannot be denied. There are verses found in the Hebrew that are absent in the Greek Septuagint, and vice versa. The Septuagint also contained numerous apocryphal books, and some sections from apocryphal writings were added directly into the text of books such as Daniel. However, in the great many places where we find agreement between the old Greek texts and the Masoretic texts of the Scriptures, we are once more assured that the basic message of the Bible has remained consistent throughout its thousands of years of existence.
Keep in mind that the Old Testament was written over a span of about one thousand years. The last book, Malachi, was likely written somewhere between the years 445 and 420 B.C.. The Torah portion of the Septuagint was written in the 3rd century B.C., and other books were completed in the next two centuries. Therefore, the gap between the time the last book of the Old Testament was written, and the translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek was at most a few centuries. There are existing manuscripts containing some books of the Septuagint that date back as far as the 2nd century B.C..
Although the Latin Vulgate is a translation of the Bible into a secondary language, it is important due to its antiquity and the prominent role it has occupied in the church age. The word “vulgate” means “common.” This Latin translation was the standard Bible used in Europe for more than a thousand years.
In 382 A.D., Pope Damasus I commissioned Eusebius Hieronymus (also known as Jerome) to create a standardized Latin edition of the Bible. At the time many disparate Latin translations existed, and a need was perceived to bring some order and harmony to the Latin scriptures. Jerome began by producing a revised Latin version of the four gospels. This was completed in 384 A.D. shortly before the death of Pope Damasus I. Jerome then fell out of favor in Rome and departed to the Holy Land where he took up residence in Bethlehem. There, he obtained access to a copy of the Hexapla, a version of the Scriptures produced by Origen in about 150 A.D.. The Hexapla was an ancient form of what may be compared to a parallel Bible today. Origen’s Hexapla listed six translations of the Bible in parallel columns. This massive work spanned some 6,000 pages and was originally contained in 15 volumes. Included in the Hexapla was a Hebrew Bible (written in the Hebrew alphabet), as well as a Hebrew Bible transliterated in Greek letters, a copy of the Greek Septuagint, and three additional Greek versions of the Scriptures written respectively by Theodotion, Symmachus, and Aquila of Sinope. Using the Hexapla as his primary resource, Jerome was able to complete his Latin translation of the Old Testament.
By the 6th or 7th century, Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible had become the standard throughout Europe, replacing the Old Latin scriptures. In 1546 at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church officially assigned Jerome’s Latin scriptures the title “Vulgate,” making this the official Bible of Romanism. One rather serious shortcoming of this official sanction of the Roman Church is that when Catholic translations of the Bible were later made into English, they were translated from the Latin Vulgate, rather than from the original Hebrew and Greek. Thus, Catholic Bibles in English have actually been translations of a translation.
When Gutenberg invented the printing press, one of the first books to be printed was the Latin Vulgate, which was done in the year 1456.
The Textus Receptus
In 1516, Desiderius Erasmus sought to revise Jerome’s Latin Bible, improving upon it. Perhaps in order to demonstrate the superiority of his translation, Erasmus placed the Greek text of the Scriptures in parallel with the Latin. The inclusion of a Greek text of the Bible proved to be quite valuable, causing Erasmus’ Bible to be highly sought after. For many, the Greek portion of Erasmus’ Bible became far more valuable than the Latin. Erasmus’ Greek New Testament would eventually become known as the “Textus Receptus,” meaning “Received Text,” though Erasmus himself never referred to it as such. More will be mentioned about this in the next chapter.
Undoubtedly, the great prominence attained by Erasmus’ Greek and Latin text was due to the fact that it was the first Greek New Testament to be published in Europe. Note the emphasis on the word “published.” There were many extant Greek New Testaments at the time, but none had ever been published using the relatively new invention of the printing press. The printing press made books much more financially accessible to the general population. To have a book copied by a scribe was prohibitively expensive. A great many Bible scholars and students rejoiced to find a printed copy of the Greek New Testament that they could afford.
Erasmus’ Textus Receptus
(Latin and Greek Text Side by Side)
Erasmus’ Greek New Testament has been criticized due to the fact that he had access to only six Greek manuscripts, none of them of great antiquity, and there were some portions of the New Testament missing from the manuscripts (specifically the last six verses of the book of Revelation). It is suggested by numerous scholars that Erasmus was under some pressure to quickly produce his Latin/Greek translation, which led to hasty, and somewhat sloppy work. Rather than seeking out a Greek manuscript with the missing verses from Revelation, Erasmus re-created the missing verses by translating backwards from Latin into the original Greek, a process whereby he was forced to guess what Greek words were originally used by the New Testament writers. There were also numerous spelling errors in his translation, and many other corrections that needed to be made. Erasmus would eventually publish five versions of his Greek New Testament, making corrections and improvements with each edition.
Erasmus’ Greek New Testament proved to be highly sought after by European Christians who wanted to produce a Bible translation in their native languages. Martin Luther used Erasmus’ Greek New Testament when creating his German translation of the Scriptures (Luther’s New Testament was completed in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534). William Tyndale used Erasmus’ New Testament when creating his English Bible, as did the translators of the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible. In fact, from the 16th through the 19th centuries, most English Bibles used the Textus Receptus as the foundation for their translations. In the 19th century, older, and more reliable, Greek manuscripts began coming to light, leading to better Greek New Testaments. Westscott and Hort published their Greek New Testament in 1881 based largely upon the highly regarded Codex Vaticanus. The Textus Receptus has declined in favor among Bible scholars and translators as more ancient Greek manuscripts have come to light.
The Great Manuscripts
I will bring this chapter to a close by making mention of three of the oldest and most valuable (to scholars) Bible manuscripts extant today. All three of these manuscripts were discovered AFTER Erasmus published his Greek New Testament, and AFTER the King James Bible was published. These manuscripts, listed in the order of their importance, are as follows.
Page from the Codex Vaticanus
The Codex Vaticanus contains both the Old and New Testaments and is written in Greek. It derives its name based upon the place in which it resides. Since the 15th century this manuscript has been located in the Vatican library. The codex became known to Western scholars due to a correspondence between Erasmus and the Vatican, but access to the manuscript was restricted until 1889-1890 when a complete photographic facsimile was produced. The Codex Vaticanus is regarded as the oldest and purest quality New Testament manuscript, and it is among the oldest Old Testament manuscripts in any language, though it is not in the original language of Hebrew.
The Codex Vaticanus is missing the following portions of Scripture:
Hebrews 9:14 to end of book.
I and II Timothy
The Codex Vaticanus has been dated to the first half of the 4th century A.D. (Prior to 350 A.D.). It differs significantly from both the Latin Vulgate and the Textus Receptus.
A close rival to Codex Vaticanus is Codex Sinaiticus. It is dated accurately to between the years 325 A.D. and 360 A.D.. The nearer date would make it slightly more recent than the Vatican manuscript. The Sinaiticus manuscript was discovered by Constantin Tischendorf at St. Catherines Monastery near Mount Sinai. The discovery was made in the late 19th century. The manuscript is currently divided up between four locations, with the majority of it residing at the British Library. The story of the discovery of the manuscript, and Tischendorf’s efforts to gain access to it, makes for exciting reading. Like Codex Vaticanus, it is written in Greek. The Codex Sinaiticus is especially valued because it contains the complete Greek New Testament.
The Codex Alexandrinus is a 5th century Greek Bible. It contains the majority of the Septuagint and the New Testament. The manuscript resided for some time in Alexandria, Egypt, from whence its name is derived. It was later taken to Constantinople in the possession of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was subsequently gifted to King Charles I of England (the son of King James VI of Scotland - King James I of England) in the 17th century, and now resides in the British Library along with Codex Sinaiticus. Thus the manuscript came to England too late to be of use to the translators of the King James Bible.
Aside from the Bible manuscripts in their original Hebrew and Greek, and translations into other languages such as the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, there exist ancient manuscripts in Syriac, Coptic, Georgian and other languages. These are also valuable to use to compare with the original language manuscripts. There additionally exists a large assortment of writings by the early church fathers in which nearly every Bible passage is discussed. These writings include quotations of the various passages of Scripture, and are also valuable to Bible scholars who are seeking to arrive at the original words of the Bible.
Although there exist a great many variations in the existing Bible manuscripts, the vast majority of the differences are nothing more than the spelling of specific words, alterations of word order, or other non-critical differences. There are no differences that would alter the basic doctrines of the faith. The Bible is by a wide margin supported by a greater number of ancient manuscripts than any other book in the world today.
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