The Bible is with out a doubt the most important book in the history of Western civilization, and is also said to be the most difficult to understand. It has been the vehicle of continual conflict, with every interpretation reflecting passionately held views that have affected not only religion, but politics, art, and even science.
The Bible has been use as the authority for such horrifying acts as the so-called ‘Holy Wars’ in which unholy men slaughtered millions to obtain power, riches and land. The Salem witch-hunts in which thousands of innocent people were executed by ministers of the Bible in an attempt to control the lives of the common people of that day. ‘Manifest Destiny’ which was meant to annihilate the Native American people. It was Christian ministers under President Grant’s administration that passed out diseased ridden blankets to the Native people in an attempt to destroy that so-called "pagan" culture.
The Bible has also been used to justify the segregation and killing of African American people. I’ll never forget watching the news telecast on November 1960 and seeing little Ruby Brides walking up the steps of William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, she was the first black student at the formerly all-white elementary school. Across the street from the school Christian people with their Bibles in one hand and rocks in the other were roped off and held back by law enforcement while they shouted "Niger go home" to a little precious child of God.
The same Bible is used by over three hundred different denominations here in the United States and each one of them claims that the other is wrong and misinformed about what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible itself it can’t be understood without the help of the Holy Spirit because "man can not comprehend the things of the Spirit and the Word is Spirit".
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not implying for a second that the Bible is bad in any way or that it has caused any of the horrible events that religious people have preformed under the banner of it’s authority. The anguish has always been the product of the people that misuse this book and it’s author to try and accomplish their own evil agendas, to control, to gain more power, more land, and more riches. This book we call the Holy Bible has been misunderstood and misused for centuries and it continues even more so today. As long as there are religious people wanting to enslave others by dictating their own religious precepts the Holy Bible will continue to be used as their instrument of authority.
The Holy Bible is comprised of 66 books, written over approximately 1600 years, by at least 40 distinct authors. The Old Testament (Old Covenant) contains 39 books written from approximately 1500 to 400 BC, and the New Testament (New Covenant) contains 27 books written from approximately 40 to 90 AD.
The Jewish Bible (Tenach) is the same as the Christian Old Testament, except for its book arrangement. The original Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew, with some Aramaic, the original New Testament was also mostly written in Hebrew and later translated into the language of the then known world that of common Greek.
Most people still believe that the New Testament was originally written in Greek but Archaeologists have found proof in the late 1970’s that most of the New Testament was actually written first in Hebrew. The Apostles with the exception of Luke were all Hebrews and their native language would have also been Hebrew so it would make sense that those that could write ( and there were many that could not) would write their account of the Gospels in their own language.
However, the religious community has said for years that the Gospels were originally written in Greek and heaven knows that they are infallible and couldn’t possibly be wrong about anything. So it will take another twenty years before the information discovered by archaeologists in the late seventies to filter down to your local churches and become generally known.
The Old Testament begins with the Jewish Scriptures. The historical record of the Jews was written down in leather scrolls and tablets over centuries, and the authors included kings, shepherds, prophets and other leaders inspired by God. In Exodus, God tells Moses to write the Law (Torah) in a book. About 450 BC, all of the Jewish scriptures were collected and arranged by councils of rabbis, who then recognized the complete set as the inspired and sacred authority of God.
Beginning as early as 250 BC, the Hebrew Bible (Tenach) was translated into Greek by Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. The translation became known as the Septuagint, meaning 70, and referring to the tradition that 70 or 72 men comprised the translation team. At this point, the books of the Hebrew Bible were arranged by topic, including history, poetry, and prophecy.
In 90 AD, at the Council of Jamnia, the Jewish elders established the final Hebrew Bible canon. Although the Jewish Scriptures were copied by hand, they were extremely accurate copy to copy. The Jews had a phenomenal system of scribes, who developed intricate and ritualistic methods for counting letters, words and paragraphs to insure that no copying errors were made. In fact, scribal tradition was maintained until the invention of the printing press in 1455. As far as manuscript accuracy, the recent discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has confirmed the remarkable reliability of the Old Testament texts over the years.
After approximately 400 years of scriptural silence, Jesus arrived on the scene in about 4 BC. Throughout His teaching, Jesus often quotes the Old Testament, (the Septuagint) declaring that He did not come to destroy the Jewish Scriptures, but to fulfill them. In Luke 24:44-45, Jesus proclaims to his disciples, "All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."
Starting in about 40 AD and continuing to about 90 AD, the eye-witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ, including Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude write the Gospels, letters and books that later become the New Testament. These authors quote from 31 books of the Old Testament, and many times from the Book of Enoch and the Book of Wisdom which are books that today are not included in the Bible.
Their material was so widely circulated that by about 150 AD early Christians were referring to the set of writings as the New Covenant. During the 200s AD, the writings were translated into Latin, Coptic (Egypt) and Syriac (Syria) and widely disseminated. At that time, only 21 of the writings were considered canonical. Thereafter, in 397 AD, the current 27 books of the New Testament were formally confirmed and canonized in the Synod of Carthage.
The Origin of the Bible as we know it:
Authorities say as far as it is known all of the original manuscripts of the Bible have perished. That doesn’t mean that they real have it just means we think they have. Archaeologists are discovering things everyday that we once thought had perished forever. There are still two letters (one to the Corinthians and one to the church at Laodicea) that St. Paul had written that we have not yet found.
Most Ancient Copies
We do have some of the most ancient copies made from the original manuscripts, three of the most popular are:
a. The Codex Sinaiticus, originally a Greek Bible belonging to the
forth century. Now in the British Museum.
b. The Codex Alexandrinus, probably written in the fifth century it
contains the *whole Greek Bible of it’s time with the exception of
forty lost leaves. It is also housed in the British Museum.
c. The Codex Vaticanus, written in about the forth century it
contained the *whole Bible of it’s time but parts are lost. It is
housed in the Vatican library in Rome.
The Ancient Versions
The septuagint Vertion. The translation of the Old Testament
Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, made at Alexandra about 285 B.C.
The Samaritan Pentateuch. Not strictly speaking a version, but
the Hebrew text perpetuated in Samaritan characters.
Peshito or Syriac. The *whole Bible, date uncertain (first or second century) apparently a translation into the common language of certain portion of Syria.
The Vulgate. The *entire Bible translated into the Latin language by Jerome at Bethlehem. It was completed about 400 A.D.
For a thousand years this was the standard Bible in the Catholic
*When we say the whole Bible or the entire Bible we are not necessarily talking about the books of the Bible as you know then today. From 40 AD to 1993 there have been 128 different canons to determine which books should be considered scripture and which should not.
In the first 500 years of the Church books like the Book of Wisdom and the Book of Enoch were read in the Churches and considered to be scripture. There are still many quotes from these books in our currant day Bibles. We will talk about canons and the different books of the Bible later on.
The English Versions
John Wycliffe 1320 – 1384
A great English scholar and Bible student he conceived the plan of translating the Bible into common English. He first translated the New Testament about 1380. Exactly how much more he did before his death is uncertain. His friends completed the work after his death. His translation rested on the Latin Vulgate.
William Tyndale 1525 – 1530
Tyndale was next in order of the great English Translators. He was an early and courageous reformer and was determined that the English common people should have a Bible in their own tongue.
Persecution made it impossible for him to do his work in England so he crossed over to the Continent where his New Testament translation was issued in 1525 and the Pentateuch in 1530. Tyndale did not rest entirely on the Latin Vulgate but was a very good Greek scholar and had access to the Greek text of Erasmus and other help which Wycliffe did not possess.
He was martyred before he completed the Old Testament but it is generally thought that he left the material which appeared later in the Matthews’ version of the Bible.
A friend of Tyndale, prepared and published a Bible dedicated to Henry the VIII in 1535. Coverdale’s New Testament is largely base on Tyndale’s. He explicitly disclaimed originality but used the Latin and other versions as helps, as well as Tyndale’s Version.
Matthews’ Bible 1537
About the same time as the second edition of the Coverdale Bible another translation appeared. Its authorship is somewhat uncertain but although it bears the name of Matthews it is generally credited to John Rogers, a friend and companion of Tyndale. This scholar it is thought, had comeinto the possession of Tyndale’s unpublished translation of the historical books of the Bible. It contains Tyndale’s translations in their latest forms but also gives evidence of Coverdale’s work.
The Great Bible 1539
This translation is based upon the Matthews, Coverdale and Tyndale Bibles. The first edition was prepared by Mile Coverdale and ordered to be set up in every parish church. It was a large-size volume chained to the reading desk in the churches, where the people flocked to hear the reading of the Word of God.
The Geneva Bible 1560
This translation was made at Geneva by scholars who fled from England during the persecution by Queen Mary. It was a revision of the Great Bible collated with other English translations. A very scholarly version handy in size, and for many years a popular Bible in England.
The Bishop’s Bible 1568
Prepared under the direction Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Mainly a revision of the Great Bible although somewhat dependent upon the Geneva Version, used chiefly by the clergy, not very popular with the common people.
The Douay Bible 1582
A Roman Catholic Version made from the Latin Vulgate. The New Testament published at Rheims in 1582 and the Old Testament at Douay in 1609 – 1610. It contains controversial notes. It is the generally accepted English Version of the Roman Church.
The King James or Authorized Version 1611
The translation now generally used by the English-speaking people. Made by forty-seven scholars under the authorization of King James I of England. The Bishop’s Bible was the basis of this version but the Hebrew and Greek texts were studied and other English translations consulted with the view of obtaining the best results. It has held the first place throughout the English-speaking world for over three centuries.
The Revised Version 1881 –1884
Made by a company of English and American scholars. While it was supposed to be a revision of the Authorized Version it has one distinct advantage over all its predecessors. It reaches back and touches the most ancient copies of the original scriptures. Some of which were not available at the time of the translation of the Authorized Version.
The American Standard Version 1900 – 1901
This version incorporates into the text the reading preferred by the American members of the Revision Committee of 1881 – 1885.
Since that time there have been many translations and visions of the Bible, some of the ones worth mentioning are:
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (NASB)
THE BERKELEY VERSION
J.B. PHILLIPS VERSION
THE NEW OXFORD ANNOTATAED BIBLE
THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION (RSV)
J.B. ROTHERHAM VERSION
(The Emphasized New Testament)
NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV)
THE AMPLIFIED NEW TESTAMENT
THE LIVING BIBLE
THE NEW TESTAMENT IN MODERN SPEECH
(Richard Francis Weymouth)
A TRANSLATION IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE PEOPLE (Charles B. Williams)
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY NEW TESTAMENT (TCNT)
THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE (NEB)
THE CENTENARY TRANSLATION
(Helen Bartlett Montgomery)
A NEW TRANSLATION
A word (or two) about the King James Version, some good, some not so good.
One of my favorite lessons, (which concerns the fact that we can receive much more of what we’re given, if we would just have faith in Him to do exactly what it is He said) is found in the Gospel of Luke, the fifth chapter, verses one through six. However the only places that the heart of this teaching can be found, is in the original Greek text, and the King James Version.
All other translations miss what is written in the Greek text, and what I believe is the point of that is really happening here with Simon Peter. In the King James Version, Jesus is preaching on the shore of the lake Gennesaret, when great crowds of people pressed in on Him to listen to His teaching. He noticed two empty boats standing at the water’s edge, and fishermen washing their nets.
Stepping into one of the boats Jesus asked Simon Peter, its owner, if he would push out a little into the water, so that He, Jesus, could sit in the boat and speak to the crowds from there.
When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon Peter, " launch out into the deep, (that’s a sermon of its own, but not the one I want to talk about now) and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word……"
But now wait a minute, what was it that Jesus told Peter to do? Let’s take a closer look, Jesus told him, "launch out into the deep, and let down your nets," He said nets, like in all your nets, every last one, as someone who was expecting to catch a lot of fish. But what did Peter do? (And the only place you can see this is in the Greek text and the King James Version).
He looked at the circumstances instead of the Master, they had just finished cleaning all those dirty old nets, washed them, dried them and tucked them away.
He and his partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had been fishing here for years. They knew these waters pretty well, they had worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing. If there were any fish out there, he was sure that they would have caught them.
Besides, what does a Rabbi know about fishing away? "Nevertheless at thy word I will (the King James says) let down the net." Just one, why dirty them all again, there’s no fish down there anyway. Then the Bible says " and when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their NET brake." (Luke 5:6)
No other translation of these verses conveys Simon Peter’s total lack of faith and expectation, as does the King James Version. There are countless numbers of other example of the special way these beautiful truths of God are communicated within the pages of this version of God’s Word once termed, " The Noblest Monument of English Prose."
It’s revisers in 1881 expressed admiration for "its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turn of expression…the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm." It entered, as no book has, into the making of the personal character and the public institutions of the English-speaking people. We owe to it an immeasurable debt.
The not so good:
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many manuscripts more ancient then those upon which the King James Version was based, helped to point out the fact that this version had grave defects, and that these defects were so many and so serious as to call for a revision of the English translation.
The task was undertaken by the authority of the Church of England, in 1870. The English version of the bible was then published in 1881-1885, and the American Standard Version, embodying the preference of the American scholars associated in the work, was published in 1901.
With the discovery of more ancient manuscripts, it was found that many of the passages entered into the King James Version were never part of the original text. Passages such as the following:
Mark 16:9-20, talking about the signs that will accompany a believer …., Driving out demons, speaking in new tongues, picking up snakes and drinking poison etc..
John 7:53 – 8:11, the account of the woman caught in adultery. (Which is a hard one for me because I’ve always wanted to know what Christ wrote in the dirt)
Romans 8:1, the added statement qualifying "no condemnation." Changing the requirement from one condition, that of being ‘in Christ’, to two conditions, that you also "walk not after the flesh, but the Spirit."
I John 5:7,and the first part of verse 8, " for there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, The Word, and The Holy Ghost and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth."
But one of the greatest problem with the King James Version is presented in the English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different meaning from that which they had in 1611.
These words were once accurate translations of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures: but now, having changed in meaning, they have become misleading. They no longer say what the King James translators mean them to say.
The King James Version uses the word:
"Let" in the sense of "Hinder"
"Prevent" to mean "Precede"
"Allow" in the sense of "Approve"
"Communicate" for "Share"
"Ghost" for "Spirit"
"Wealth" for "Well-being"
"Allege" for "Prove"
"Demand" for "Ask"
"Take no thought" for "Be not anxious"
"Perfect" for "Complete"
"Conversation" for "Conduct"
The Bible must not be disguised in phrases that are no longer clear or hidden under words that have changed or lost their meaning. It must stand forth in language that is direct and plan and meaningful to people today.
The Bible is more than a historical document to be preserved, and it is more than a classic of English literature to be cherished and admired. It is the record of God’s dealings with men, of God’s revelation of Himself and His will. It records the life and work of Him in whom the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among man.
The Bible carries its full message, not to those who regard it simply as a heritage to the past or praise its literary style, but to those who read and study it that they may discern and understand God’s word and His true will.
The Canons -
The development of the New Testament Books
Most people think that the Bible has always contained the sixty-six books that they know as the Bible today. They also think that the first century church read from these same books but that is simply not true.
The books that were read in the first century church were the four Gospels, the letters of Paul, the Book of Wisdom and the Book of Enoch. They did not include the Epistles of James because they felt that they contradicted Paul’s Epistles.
Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind Father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scripture and since he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only ten letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s Gospel ( he also deleted references to Jesus being a Jew). Marcion’s "New Testament", the first to be compiled forced the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and the letters of Paul.
According to one list compiled at Rome in AD 200 (the Muratorian Canon), the New Testament consists of the four Gospels, Acts, and 13 letters of Paul.
The earliest extant list of the books of the New Testament, in the number and order in which we presently have them, is written by Athanasius, a Roman Catholic Bishop of Alexandria, in his Festal letter of 367 A.D..
The Roman Catholic Pope, Damasus the first, in a letter, listed the New Testament books in their present number and order.
The Council of Hippo affirmed the Canon written by Bishop Athanasius.
The Council of Carthage reaffirmed the Canon of the Old and New Testaments.
At the Council of Florence, the entire Church recognized the 27 books of the New Testament, though did not declare them unalterable. This Council confirmed the Roman Catholic Canon of the Bible which Pope Damasus I had published a thousand years earlier.
In his translation of the Bible from Greek into German, Martin Luther removed four New Testament books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation) and placed them in an appendix saying that they were less than Canonical.
Once again the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent reaffirmed once and for all that they have the "infallible decision" to determine the canon of the New Testament and list the 27 books listed by Pope Damasus the first.
It has always been interesting to me that the Protestants in accepting which books are to be included in the New Testament would also have to accept the "Infallible Decision" teaching of the Catholic Church. Because Protestant Scholars like Martin Luther and many others of his time didn’t agree with the Council of Trent. They believed that books like the Epistle of James contradicted the writings of Paul and constituted "Another Gospel" that Paul warned about.
James disagrees with Paul’s teaching of justification by faith alone and in a rebuttal to Paul’s letter to the Romans James writes, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" James 2: 21,24
But Paul, some two years before had written "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
But to him that worketh not, but believe on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Rom 4:1-5
The Gospel that Paul taught stated that it was by grace through faith alone and not by works or laws or speaking in tongues or baptism that a man was to be justified before God.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph 2: 8,9
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" Rom 3:28
"Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" Rom 5:1
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (speaking of justification) Rom. 4: 16
The early church was preaching two different Gospels, the gospel of grace and the gospel plus works and law, one to the circumcised and one to the uncircumcised. That’s what Paul meant when he said: "I communicated to them that gospel which I preach. It wasn’t the same gospel that the messianic leaders were teaching.
Paul believed that God had reviled something different to him for the New Testament Gentile believers than that which was contained in the old Mosaic Covenant. As to the dietary laws that were added to the Gentiles by James Paul had already written in I Corinthians 8: 7-13 that when it come to eating food sacrificed to idols "we are no worse if we do not eat , and no better if we do".
Was that written under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit that said to James "...For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols",
Which are we to believe, James when he says "it seem good to the Holy Spirit" to add these things, or Paul who wrote, "For Christ is the end of law for righteousness to them that believe." And who, when writing to the Galatians concerning the account of the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2:10 wrote, that they didn’t add anything "only they would that we should remember the poor". Completely omitting the four laws that James added.
The Bible isn’t a "rule book" meant to enslave people to the Law. And it isn’t something that was meant to be used to build various kinds of denominations, most of which are based more on pagan rituals than biblical text. The Bible is a book of Covenants. Therefore, if we fail to understand about Covenants, we will also fail to understand what the Bible is all about. It’s important that we understand which of these Covenants we are under and how they apply to our life.
In the simplest terms, a Covenant is an instrument of agreement. It is a compact made between two or more individuals. Some of the Covenants are conditional others are unconditional. They all have their own set of rules and regulations as well as duration.
Biblical Covenants: (just a few)
The Edenic Covenant (Genesis 1&2, Hosea 6)
The Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3)
The Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9)
The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12)
The Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20 – Deuteronomy 28)
The Palistinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 29 & 30)
The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17)
The New Covenant (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22)
The Eternal Covenant (Hebrews 13 & 2 Timothy 1)
The Blood Covenant (Hebrews 9 & 12)
To use an analogy, the Bible is sort of like having an automobile repair manual that has information in it on several different kinds of automobiles (Covenants). All the information in the manual is good and necessary if you want to understand mechanics, but if you try to apply the information in the chapters on ‘How to repair your Ford’ when working on your Volvo, even if it seems to work, it will never function at the ‘manufactures specifications’.
Many denominations know very little about "rightly dividing the word of truth" or even that it is suppose to be rightly divided. Instead they teach what they call "the full counsel of God", which meant, this week we will fix your car (no matter what you’re driving) with the information in the Covenant on Fords (grace), next week we’ll use the information in the Covenant on Dodges (Law) and the week after that, something else, it all applies.
While it’s true that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"
(2 Timothy 3: 16), not all scripture applies to your covenant with God. Case in point, (Genesis 17:10). " This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you". This was part of the Abrahamic Covenant, and as a Gentile it doesn’t apply to me.
Not all Scripture is addressed to the Jew, nor is it all addressed to the Christian, the scriptures need to be rightly divided and applied to the Covenant in which it is addressing. This is very important in understanding scripture and as far as I know there is not one religious group doing this today.
The truth about the Covenants has been buried under a lot of traditions, denominational doctrines and dogmas handed down for generations.
Much of what Christians believe today comes from the Gentile church of the fourth and fifth centuries, from the Catholicism of the middle and dark ages, and from the Protestantism of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. And quite frankly, it’s wrong.
God said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).