Walk into a large Bible book store in America and you will find a mesmerizing number of different books claiming to be the Holy Bible, the word of God. At last count there were some 200 of these different versions and translations into English, all differing, yet every one claiming to give you a better sense of "the Word of the LORD" than previous ones. Can you take your pick of "Bibles" and trust them all to be the Word of God? Are there "better" or "worse" Bibles? Is there any "perfect" Bible in English, one where every single word can be trusted? Were only the original autographs inspired, or do we also have any perfect copies, even translations? Is the Bible just a "good book," or is it more? If you wanted to find the genuine "word of the LORD," in English, where would you look?
by Jerry Gentry
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebr. 4:12).
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11).
Two hundred and fifty five times in the English KJV Bible appears the phrase, "the Word of the LORD." This KJV Bible claims, "Every word of God is pure" (Prov. 30:5), and "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever" (Ps. 12:6-7). Where are these words of God to be found today? Are they preserved today in English? Some versions of the "Bible" teach you that Jesus was born to a "young woman," rather than a "virgin." Others leave out verses of the book of Mark as unauthentic.
Still others teach you to pray to "our heavenly father/mother," in an effort to create a genderless god. Others include various "apocryphal" books as part of the Bible. Within these various "Bibles," you can find the "basis" for just about every belief and superstition under the sun. For this reason, we as genuine believers must know what God has spoken, and what He has not spoken. We must identify His words and follow them. Jesus said, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Life itself is derived from the very "words of the LORD." Is it possible to find those "words" today in English?
The very "words of the LORD" were close at hand when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness: "And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do" (Exod. 24:3).
After the children of Israel entered the promised land, "Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God" (Josh. 3:9).
Where will you look today to "hear the words of the LORD?" Are such "words" available to us today? Benny Hinn speaks the words of one Bible, Jerry Falwell another, Billy Graham yet a different one, and the Pope still another. Are all these many "Bibles" good for finding those "words of the LORD," only using slightly different means of expression, thus leaving it to our personal preference? How can you know for sure which Bible is really the genuine "Good Book?" Does it make any difference? God's word promises perpetuity of itself to Israel: "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever" (Isa. 59:21). The veracity of the whole Bible hangs on the truth of this bold claim.
First, a brief history lesson is in order, for an outline of the origin of our genuine Bible. The various books of the Old Testament were originally written in the Hebrew language, with some foreign words (Daniel and part of Ezra were written in Aramean), over a span of some two thousand years. These books were put together by Levite Masorite scribes long before Christ was born on earth. By then, the Old Testament had long since been completed, and had been preserved and meticulously copied and multiplied by those same Masorite scribes, who used a form of Bible numerics to guarantee the accuracy of every word in every scroll, down to every jot and every tittle. The "jots" and "tittles" are the small punctuation marks and vowel indications in the text. No erasures were allowed. If only a single letter were written in error, the entire page was discarded.
Other books, later called apocryphal, were never received as part of this "Masoritic" text, which includes the thirty nine books of our present Old Testament. The Masoritic text of the Hebrew Old Testament and the 39 books found therein are the undisputed standard for the canon of the Old Testament. By Papal fiat apocryphal books were added by adopting Jerome's Latin Vulgate in the fourth century AD. His "Bible" was rejected by all the Hebrew scholars, and later by Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and all Protestant and reformed Biblicists, and for good reasons, which are outside the scope of this lesson. Suffice it to say that the Papacy needed those apocryphal books to shore up it's many false doctrines and superstitions, which the true canon&emdash;"the words of the LORD"&emdash;will not support.
The Hebrew Masoritic text of the canon of the Old Testament is preserved in hundreds of copies in European libraries and elsewhere. It was used by Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and other reformers. The Masoretic text of the Old Testament was the Hebrew text used by the translators of the King James Version of the Bible, whereby the pure Old Testament "words of the LORD" are preserved for us today, in English.
During the days of Jesus Christ and the apostles, the Bible was complete in what we now call the Old Testament. It was preserved in the form of scrolls. Various synagogues held hand written copies, as did many individuals. The New Testament had not yet been written down. Yet even in the early days of the church, Christians, such as the Bereans, had access to "the scriptures." These Christians of the Greek town of Berea "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things [what had been preached] were so" (Acts 17:11). Even without what we know as the complete New Testament, "the scriptures" existed and copies were accessible to genuine believers, who never in any age lacked access to "the word of the LORD," in the form of written copies of the same. "The Christian church thus was never without a 'Bible' or a 'canon'" (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, B. B. Warfield, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1948, p. 411).
In Christ's day, Greek, not Hebrew, had become the language of Palestine. Greek was a second language throughout most of the Latin Roman world, from North Africa to the Isles. Greek was the language in which our New Testament was originally written. By the end of the first century, the last of twenty seven books of our present New Testament had been penned&emdash;all written by hand and all written in Greek. Those original autographs, penned by eight different writers&emdash;Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude&emdash;were meticulously copied and shared among various churches. The four gospels were first brought together in one volume and multiplied as "the Gospel." Later Acts and the general epistles&emdash;Hebrews, James, 1 &2 Peter, 1,2 &3 John, and Jude were penned, and the thirteen epistles of Paul. Lastly, around 96AD, the Book of Revelation was penned, and our New Testament canon was finished.
"The earliest name given to this new section of Scripture was framed on the model of the name by which what we know as the Old Testament was then known. Just as it was called 'The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms' (or 'the Hagiographa'), or more briefly 'The Law and the Prophets,' or even more briefly still 'The Law,' so the enlarged Bible was called 'The Law and the Prophets, with the Gospels and the Apostles' (see Clement of Alexandria, 'Strom.' vi. 11, 88; Tertullian, 'De Praes. Haer.' 36), or most briefly 'The Law and the Gospel' (see Claudius Apolinaris, Irenaeus); while the new books apart were called 'The Gospel and the Apostles,' or most briefly of all 'The Gospel.' The earliest name for the new Bible, with all that it involves as to its relation to the old and briefer Bible, is traceable as far back as Ignatius (AD 115), who makes use of it repeatedly (e. g., 'ad Philad.' 5; 'ad Smyrna.' 7)" (Ibid., p. 413).
The process of bringing all the books together was undisputedly complete by the end of the second century, most probably much earlier.
"The history of the New Testament is here only given up to the beginning of the third century [200AD]; for at that time the New Canon was firmly established both in idea and form, and it acquired all the consequences of an unalterable entity" (The Origin of the New Testament, Adolph von Harnack, Williams & Norgate, Ltd., Edinburgh, 1925, p. v). The Greek autographs of the New Testament were copied, multiplied and used throughout the Christian world. Today there are over 5000 such copies found in libraries over Europe and elsewhere. This body of authentic hand made copies of the Greek New Testament, all in agreement, is called the Received Text, from which we get our King James New Testament.
Much confusion exists in the later church world about the canon of our New Testament. Great controversy raged during the third and fourth centuries in various schools of theology, over which books should be included and which books should be left out. That controversy did not climax until about one hundred years after all the New Testament "was firmly established," as Harnack states, in the New Testament as we know it today.
"Its authority was as fully recognized as if only one and the same New Testament stood beside the Old Testament. All the long-drawn developments, starting with the beginning of the third century [200AD], that were necessary for the production of a really uniform Canon (of twenty-seven books) had practically no significance for its prestige, which was already perfect, or for its consequent effects, which were immediate" (Ibid, p. 115).
"Before the middle of the second century, the greatest part of the books of the New Testament were read in every Christian society throughout the world, and received as a divine rule of faith and manners. . .We are well assured, that the four gospels were collected during the life of St. John. . . And why may we not suppose that the other books of the New Testament were gathered together at the same time?" (Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern, John Lawrence Mosheim, N. Bangs & T. Mason, New York, for the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, 1821, pp. 93-94).
Further, an early translation of all 66 books of the Bible was made into Latin: ". . . the Itala became the first complete collection [in Latin] into one body of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. It was made before the close of the second century, and remained in use among the Latin-speaking populations for a long time" (History of the Lutheran Version of the Bible, John P. Hentz, The F. J. Heer Printing Co., Columbus, OH, 1910, p. 67).
Yes, little controversy over the New Testament canon is found until well into the third century. And then it was not the church, but so called "theologians" (higher critics?) of that "great" school of theology in Alexandria, Egypt, and some noted others, that tried to dismantle the already firmly established New Testament identical with ours. Common usage headed off their subterfuge. Even in the Latin West, the present canon was again ratified in 297AD at Carthage, because of undisputed common usage, and again one hundred years later it was acknowledged by the Roman Bishop Gelasius. It took Carthage an extra 200 years, Rome an extra 300 years, to find the very New Testament canon God had completed and given to His church by around 96AD!
A little historical evidence applied with common sense can easily sort out this controversy over the New Testament canon. The Alexandrian school of theology was like many modern theological institutions. Various books unfriendly to the pet theology of certain circles were questioned. The book of Hebrews, written to the scattered tribes of Hebrew Israelites, was unfriendly to the establishment apostate church. In North Africa, somewhat after Tertullian, history records "an African negro slave at Carthage, whom his master had caused to be instructed among the catechumens. . . was baptized" (The Antiquities of the Christian Church, Joseph Bingham, Vol. IV, Book XI, Ch. V, Sect. 2, Robert Knaplock, London, 1715, p. 230). It is not surprising to find the beginnings of a multi-racial church in the doctrinally corrupt North African church arena, whose leaders made every effort to corrupt the Bible in every way possible.
In the fourth century, the book of Revelation was hated by the growing state church, under influence of Emperor Constantine and his court prophet and historian Eusebius, and for obvious reasons. Historically, the Roman Emperor was long revered as "vicar of the gods." Popular theologians (Eusebius and later Augustine of Hippo) taught that the millennium was already established on earth, through the newly unified state/church under Constantine. The Emperor (later the Pope) was declared to be God's "vicar," an idea borrowed naturally from pagan Roman tradition. There was little need for the return of Jesus Christ, therefore the Apocalypse or Revelation was unneeded and declared to be a fraud. Yet there was one major problem: a majority of nearly two thousand local churches accepted the book of Revelation as scripture. Therefore, out of common usage, it was "forced upon" the theologians and the Emperor was overruled by God, who alone establishes and preserves His word in the earth!
Even with the canon firmly in place, various Bible translations and versions were a popular pursuit during early times as well as today, within studied theological circles. In early centuries of the Christian era, various scholars schooled in Hebrew, Greek and Latin made "translations" from the Greek. Even copyists got in on the act, and corrected their "originals" back to what it "should" say! Against such a backdrop, in the fourth century a famous liberal Bible scholar named Jerome was commissioned by the Roman Bishop to bring together various Latin translations of the Bible into a single standard version. Jerome's work, which culminated in the Latin Vulgate, was not immediately accepted even in the fourth century church of the West, where it was intended for circulation.
An earlier translation into Latin, called the "Itala," already mentioned, carried all the same 66 books as we find in our modern King James version. Augustine of Hippo used the "Itala," before Jerome's Vulgate was available. After slow acceptance, Jerome's Latin Vulgate finally came into common usage. Later it was declared to be the official Bible of the Roman Catholic church. The Latin Vulgate became the basis for later Roman Catholic Bibles in English, such as the modern Reims/Douay Version, which contains the 66 books of the canon, plus other "apocryphal" books, in contrast with the Masoritic Hebrew and Received Greek Texts which became the basis for early Protestant Bibles, such as those of John Calvin (Geneva Bible) and Martin Luther (German Bible) and the later King James Version in English. Such, in the briefest manner, is the history of the preservation of the Bible.
Internal evidence within the 66 books of the Bible prove the authenticity of "the words of the LORD," for every believer.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105), and "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (v. 130). How can the believer in any age find and put such "words" into practice? Are we left to ourselves to identify which are "the words of the LORD," and which are not? No, the believer is not left to such guesswork.
In every age, mankind is confronted with the reality and completeness of Holy Writ: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32), Jesus said. Such is not an option, but a command. How could believers of Job's day, or the first century, second century, third century or twentieth century or any century, "know the truth" for sure, unless the verbally inspired and inerrant Bible were available? It would be impossible. Such a Bible has always been available, as to the Bereans, who: "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). "The scriptures" were available to the Bereans, and to all believers before and after them.
Job did not have to guess and worry about his salvation. He declared: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25). Job knew for sure, and so can we, if we trust Jesus Christ in yielded faith in his revealed, preserved and inerrant Word.
Yes, when a believer identifies "the words of the LORD," he can say, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him" (Prov. 30:50). He can say: "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." (Ps. 12:6-7).
Christian, look no further. When you look to the Authorized King James Bible, you have found the inerrant, infallible, verbally and plenary inspired true "word of the LORD." Base your daily thoughts, words and actions on that "word of the LORD" and you will never go wrong, no matter what are the circumstances of your life.
What higher critics of the Bible can never learn, you the Bible believer already know. What liberal theologians debate with uncertainty, you the believer already possess in absolute terms. What the great former Bible schools, such as Harvard and Yale, have long since lost, you the Bible believer possess in the very palm of your hand.
Yes, you carry "the word of the LORD"&emdash;every word of the LORD&emdash;in your hand and speak that word with your lips. The King James Bible is "the word of the LORD."