Understanding the value of God’s Word

 

What is the Bible?

 

The Bible is comprised of 66 separate writings or books. It was written over a period of approx 1400 years by more than 40 authors from various walks of life.

While many of the authors are identified, some remain unknown.

The Bible is divided in the OT, comprised of 39 books, and the NT comprised of 27 books. The OT, the Bible of the nation of Israel, was divided into 3 segments: The Law or Torah, the Prophets of Nebi’im, and the writings of Kethubim. While the Old Testament was original written in two Semitic languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, the vast majority of it is in Hebrew.

With the growth of the Greek Empire came the spread of the Greek language, and the Old Testament was translated into Koine (common) Greek around 250-150 BC. This translation is referred to as the Septuagint or the LXX. It contains the same books as the Hebrew Old Testament, but the order and breakdown of the books was changed to the from now used in the Old Testament.  

By the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, koine Greek had become the popular language used throughout most of the Mediterranean world. Therefore, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. However, a few Aramaic phrases are found in the New Testament because Aramaic was the vernacular of the people of Israel. Jesus and His disciples spoke Aramaic as well as Koine Greek. Much of the Old Testament was translated into Aramaic, and these works are referred to as the Targums.   

 

 

How was the Bible written and translated?

 

The Bible itself tells us how it was written:

“All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Men “moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1 Peter 1:21)

 

The Greek world for inspired, theopneustos, means “God-breathed.” The Holy Spirit carried men along, moving and guiding them as they wrote in their own words what God wanted them to say. Thus we have verbal inspiration, because the words of the original text were inspired by God. And because all Scripture was given by inspiration we have plenary inspiration, which means total or complete inspiration. Every part of the Bible is inspired. The Bible does not merely contain the words of God, but it actually is the Word of Gd. Thus the original writings, often called autographs, are infallible-without error. This concept is called the verbal, plenary inspiration of the autographs      

 

 

Autographs

 

         In early history, writing was done on stone, clay tablets, leather (animal skins), and papyrus scrolls. The New Testament autographs were probably written on papyrus. Papyrus, made from the inner bark of a reed plant, was formed into a paper-like material which was glued together and rolled into a scroll. Normally the writing was done on only one side of the scroll, so that as it was read it was unrolled with one hand and rolled up with the other. The scrolls were kept in a cylindrical box called capsa.

            According to the Jewish Talmud, the Scriptures were to be copied only on the skins of what God deemed as clean animals, such as sheep, claves, and goats. Parchment (dried animal skin) was costly but more durable and permanent then papyrus.

 

The Accuracy of the Copies

 

            Eventually the scrolls were replaced by the codex. The codex (plural codices) was made from folded sheets, quires, which were stitched together like a book. Copies of the Old Testament were transcribed by hand under the strictest measures. The men who copied the manuscripts were called scribes. If one error was found the entire copy was destroyed. Thus the accuracy of the Old Testament is phenomenal. This accuracy has been confirmed by the large number of copies, by the Septuagint, and by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

            More than 5000 ancient Greek copies of all or portions of the New Testament have been found. Although there are minor variances in the copied manuscripts, none affect doctrinal issues.       

 

 

The Canon

            The same omnipotent Sovereign who inspired men to write the Word of God led other men to recognize that these were the books which would comprise the canon of Scripture. The canon is the group of books which are recognized to be inspired by God. This group comprises the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament canon 39 books were fairly widely accepted in the days of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself, who is one with the Father, always affirmed and never contradicted the Old Testament. Revelation, the last of the New Testament books to be written, was completed before the end of the first century A.D. By A.D. 367 Bishop Athanasius compiled the first know list of the current 27 books of the New Testament.

 

 

Translations

            The Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek copies of the 66 books of the Bible are the basis of the translations made in the various languages of the world. A translator will study the original words of these copies, determine what those words mean, and then select the best way to faithfully transmit the meaning of the original words in their context into the language of their translation. This is called a primary translation.

            A secondary translation occurs when a translation is made from a primary translation of another language, say English, into a third language. Thus a secondary translation is not made from a copy of the original language but from a second language translated from the original language (the primary translation).

 

 

How do we know the Bible is what it claims to be – The Word of God?

            Believing the Bible is ultimately a matter of informed faith. You either believe what the Word of God says about itself or you don’t. You either believe the testimony of Jesus Christ regarding the World of God or you don’t.

            There are several areas of objective evidence that test and support the veracity of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the autographs.

            First, there is bibliographic evidence for the Bible’s authenticity. No other ancient writings have as much manuscript evidence as does the Bible. Aside from 643 copies of Homer’s work, which were written about 850 B.C., the other classical words written between 450 B.C. and 10 B.C. have anywhere from 3 to 20 copies each, but the New Testament has over 5000. And not only is there more than an ample quantity of copies of the Bible, but the quality of the biblical manuscripts surpasses that of other manuscripts as well.   

            The passage of time is also a factor. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date from 200 B.C. to A.D 68, greatly reduce the time span between the writing of the Old Testament books to our earliest existing copies of the Old Testament. The time span between the autographs of the New Testament and its existing copies is between 100 and 200 years, vary low figure.

            Second, there is internal evidence for the authenticity of the Bible. The Bible not only claims to be the Word of God, but it also states that not the smallest letter or stroke will pass away from the law (the Old Testament) until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17, 18). Many of the writers claimed to be eyewitnesses who wrote what they saw, heard, or experienced. Although there were so many different authors who wrote over such a long time span, there are no contradictions in what they wrote. Also, what was written in the Old Testament, sealed and canonized, is often seen fulfilled in the New Testament. Thus there is the internal evidence of fulfilled prophecy.