Seeking the Everlasting Gospel

Featuring the Bible Teachings of Ted Roberts

New Book by Ted Roberts! Click on Banner to learn more!

 

Did God Preserve the Old Testament Accurately?

 

Article by Ted Roberts 

Also see: History of the Bible

 

Did God preserve the Old Testament accurately? Or is it corrupted by man?

I will like to introduce my friends to “THE MASORETIC TEXT,” for it is important to become familiar with this Hebrew text of the Old Testament. This Hebrew Old Testament was the main groundwork used for the King James Version; indeed, it is used for most, if not all of the English translations! …. But why?

By the Middle Ages there was a small variety of Hebrew texts that were used by the Hebrew Rabbis, and also the Christian movement as well. But problems within the different texts arose – such as placing one’s biased view in the passages other than what was originally intended! The need then came for there to be a Hebrew AUTHORITIVE text that EVERYONE COULD AGREE UPON, with an ‘unbiased’ view. This is where the Masoretic text comes into play.

“Because the words of the Scriptures were considered inviolable, the Masoretes took great pains to ensure that the spelling and WORDING of the text DID NOT CHANGE. EVEN OBVIOUS [to them] IMPERFECTIONS in the received text were replicated TO THE LETTER.” ~ Readers Digest, the Bible Through the Ages.

This is why the Masoretic text became standard amongst most Bible Scholars, BECAUSE IT WAS UNBIASED IN ITS TEXT. Whereas previous Hebrew Bibles were biased, for they directly made changes in the text itself, without the use of marginal notes or footnotes to let their readers know what they did – and this is EXACTLY what the translators of the New International Version did (according to their own preface), making their view upon the scriptures very biased!

"For some 500 years, from the 6th to the 11th century, the responsibility of sorting through manuscripts, compiling them, and copying an authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible was the task of dedicated scribes called Masoretes. This name was taken from the Hebrew word meaning “to hand down.” The Masoretes followed in the tradition of the Sopherim (scribes) who, as far back as the last centuries B.C., worked to preserve the Scriptures. Because many rabbinic INTERPRETATIONS [their own views] of biblical verses are based on details of spelling, it was IMPERATIVE that a SINGLE, STANDARDIZED biblical text be established. Over the course of time, the methods of the MASTERS OF TIBERIAS, and of the BEN ASHER family in particular, came to be recognized as the STANDARD for ALL SUBSEQUENT TEXTS [for it was unbiased]. No less an authority than the great Jewish scholar Maimonides of Spain praised Aaron ben Moses ben Asher’s Masoretic text in the 12th century. According to Maimonides, “Everyone relied on it . . . and I based myself on this for the Torah scroll that I wrote.” Aaron ben Asher’s text has become the basis for modern critical editions of the Hebrew Bible. . . . Rules for Scribes: According to the Talmud, every Jew had to write for himself a copy of the Torah; but because of the skill demanded for such work, an expert scribe was usually engaged to do most of the copying. Such a scribe was required to follow strict rules with regard to such matters as the nature and handling of writing materials, the LETTER-TO-LETTER replication of text, word spacing, and the application of decorative touches to letters. . . Before he began work, the Scribe purified himself in a ritual bath. He ruled a specially prepared parchment, made from a kosher animal, with a stylus and straight-edge for guide lines and spacing. The scribe used a reed pen and carbon-based ink to copy the text. He wrote the Hebrew letters meaning “God” only after pronouncing, “I am writing the name of God for the holiness of His name.” ~ Readers Digest, the Bible Through the Ages.

But, of course, since man’s hands had been involved with its presence upon earth, people have naturally assumed that the Hebrew texts handed down to us (and used for our English translations) have been corrupted . . . this is where the Dead Seas Scrolls come into play! Being found in caves in the 1940’s A.D., we now have texts a thousand years its senior; and so it followed naturally to compare the Masoretic text with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and, of course, its most preserved of all the scrolls found at the dead sea ~ the book of Isaiah.

"Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question [in comparing the Dead Sea Text to that of the Masoretic]. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission - and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage." (Norman Geisler & William Nix, "A General Introduction to the Bible", Moody Press, Page 263).

“The Isaiah scrolls found at Qumran closed that gap to within 500 years of the original manuscript. Interestingly, when scholars compared the Masoretic (MT) of Isaiah to the Isaiah (Dead Sea) scroll of Qumran, the correspondence was astounding! The texts from Qumran proved to be word-for-word identical to our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted primarily of obvious slips of the pen and spelling alterations (Archer, 1974, p. 25). Further, there were no major doctrinal differences between the accepted and Qumran texts. This forcibly demonstrated the accuracy with which scribes copied sacred texts, and bolstered our confidence in the Bible’s textual integrity (see Yamauchi, 1972, p. 130). The Dead Sea Scrolls have increased our confidence that faithful scribal transcription substantially has preserved the original content of Isaiah.”  ~ From: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=357

"We can now be sure that copyists worked with great care and accuracy on the Old Testament, even back to 225 B.C. . . . Indeed, it would be rash skepticism that would now deny that we have our Old Testament in a form very close to that used by Ezra when he taught the world of the Lord to those who had returned from the Babylonian captivity." ~ Can I Trust My Bible?, R. Laird Harris.

"In a number [small number] of instances the scroll writings [of the dead sea] depart from later convention [such as the Masoretic text]; for example, the Book of Isaiah occurs in two different versions [in the Dead Sea Scrolls], and the arrangement of the Psalms is unusual and includes three previously unknown Psalms. Still, much of the Scripture recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls remains remarkably close to the traditional Old Testament texts, an indication to some scholars that there was a trend toward standardization of the text during the first century A.D." ~ Readers Digest, the Bible Through the Ages.

"The FEW Qumran [Dead Sea] texts that DIFFER from the Masoretic text received much scholarly attention . . . It is clear from the Hebrew texts found at Qumran that the Masoretic text, on which modern English translations of the Old Testament are based, IS INDEED an ancient text that was already stable before the time of Jesus." ~ Invitation to the Septuagint, Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, 2001 A.D.

Considering these things, we can see that God can accurately preserve His Word intact, and that we aren’t in danger of misunderstanding Him through the Written Word. Now, Bible Versions are a different story, and also worth another discussion; for I believe that the true, undefiled Word of God is NOT to be found in an English Version, but in the preserved Hebrew texts, such as the Masoretic – of which all reliable English translations are a variation on! 

 

For many other subjects, visit the Seeking the Gospel Store!

 

Did God Preserve the NEW Testament accurately?

 

Article by Ted Roberts

Also see: History of the Bible 

 

Since we just had a note on the reliability of the Old Testament, it now naturally leads to the discussion of the reliability of the New Testament. Here, I would like to quote from a really good book that paints a good picture on this subject. The following interview comes from the book: “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. He is interviewing Bruce Metzger PH.D., an eighty-four year old man who is the author of a number of books, including: “The New Testament: Its background, Growth, and Content” “The text of the New Testament” “The Canon of the New Testament” “Manuscripts of the Greek Bible” “Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” “Introduction to the Apocrypha” and “The Oxford Companion to the Bible.” Several of these has been translated into German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malagasy, and other languages. He is also coeditor of the “New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha” and general editor of more than 25 volumes in the series “New Testament Tools and studies.” His education includes a master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and both a master’s degree and a doctorate from Princeton University. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by five colleges and universities. In 1969 he served as resident scholar at Tyndale House, Cambridge, England. And Metzger is chairman of the New Revised Standard Version Bible Committee…. Here is the interview:

"Metzger: I’ll be honest with you, when I first found out that there are NO SURVIVING ORIGINALS of the New Testament, I was really skeptical. I thought, If all we have are copies of copies of copies, how can I have any confidence that the New Testament we have today bears any resemblance whatsoever to what was originally written? How do you respond to that? This isn’t an issue that’s unique to the Bible; it’s a question we can ask of other documents that have come down to us from antiquity. But what the New Testament has in its favor, especially when compared with other ancient writings, is the unprecedented multiplicity of copies that have survived.

Strobel: Why is that important?

Metzger: Well, the more often you have copies that agree with each other, especially if they emerge from different geographical areas, the more you can cross-check them to figure out what the original document was like. The only way they’d agree would be where they went back genealogically in a family tree that represents the descent of the manuscripts.

Strobel: How many New Testament Greek manuscripts are in existence today?

Metzger: More than five thousand have been cataloged.

Strobel: With the similarities in the way Greek letters are written and with the primitive conditions under which the scribes worked, it would seem inevitable that copying errors would creep into the text.

Metzger: Quite so.

Strobel: And in fact, aren’t there literally tens of thousands of variations among the ancient manuscripts that we have?

Metzger: Quiet so.

Strobel: Doesn’t that therefore mean we can’t trust them?

Metzger: No sir, it does not. First let me say this: Eyeglasses weren’t invented until 1373 in Venice, and I’m sure that astigmatism existed among the ancient scribes. That was compounded by the fact that it was difficult under any circumstances to read faded manuscripts on which some of the ink had flaked away. And there were other hazards inattentiveness on the part of the scribes, for example. So yes, although for the most part scribes were scrupulously careful, errors DID CREEP IN. But, there are factors counteracting that. For example, sometimes the scribes memory would play tricks on him. Between the time it took for him to look at the text and then to write down the words, the order of words might get shifted. He may write down the right words but in the wrong sequence. This is nothing to be alarmed at, because Greek, unlike English, is an inflected language.

Strobel: Meaning . . . .

Metzger: Meaning it makes a whale of a difference in English if you say, ‘Dog bites man’ or ‘Man bites dog’ - sequence matters in English. But in Greek it doesn’t. One word functions as the subject of the sentence regardless of where it stands in the sequence; consequently, the meaning of the sentence isn’t distorted if the words are out of what we consider to be right order. So, yes, some variations among manuscripts exist, but generally they’re inconsequential variations like that. Differences in spelling would be another example.”

Strobel: How many doctrines of the church are in jeopardy because of variants?

Metzger: I don’t know of any doctrine that is in jeopardy.

Strobel: None?

Metzger: None.

Strobel: So the variations, when they occur, TEND TO BE MINOR rather than substantive?

Metzger: Yes, yes, that’s correct, and scholars work very carefully to try to resolve them by getting back to the original meaning. The more significant variations do not overthrow any doctrine of the church. Any good Bible will have notes that will alert the reader to variant readings of any consequence. But again, these are rare.

So rare [adds Strobel] that scholars Norman Gieler and William Nix conclude, “The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book - a form this is 99.5 percent pure.”

Strobel: How did the early church leaders determine which books would be considered authoritative and which would be discarded? What criteria did they use in determining which documents would be included in the New Testament?

Metzger: Basically, the early church had three criteria. First, the books must have apostolic authority - that is, they must have been written either by apostles themselves, who were eyewitnesses to what they wrote about, or by followers of apostles. So in the case of Mark and Luke, while they weren’t among the twelve disciples, early tradition has it that Mark was a helper of Peter, and Luke was an associate of Paul. Second, there was the criterion of conformity to what was called the rule of faith. That is, was the document congruent with basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative? And third, there was the criterion of whether a document had had continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large.

Strobel: They merely applied those criteria and let the chips fall where they may?

Metzger: Well, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that these criteria were simply applied in a mechanical fashion. There were certainly different opinions about which criterion should be given the most weight. But what’s remarkable is that even though the fringes of the canon remained unsettled for a while, there was actually a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament within the first two centuries. And this was true among very diverse congregations scattered over a wide area.

Strobel: So, the four gospels we have in the New Testament today met those criteria, while the others didn’t?

Metzger: Yes, it was, if I may put it this way, an example of ‘survival of the fittest.’ In talking about the canon, Arthur Darby Nock used to tell his students at Harvard, ‘The most traveled roads in Europe are the best roads; that’s why they’re so heavily traveled.’ That’s a good analogy. British commentator William Barclay said it this way: ‘It is the simple truth to say that the New Testament books became canonical because no one could stop them doing so.’ We can be confident that no other ancient books can compare with the New Testament in terms of importance for Christian history or doctrine. When one studies the early history of the canon, one walks away convinced that the New Testament contains the best sources for the history of Jesus. Those who discerned the limits of the canon had a clear and balanced perspective of the gospel of Christ. Just read these other documents for yourself. They’re written later than the four gospels, in the second, third, fourth, fifth, even sixth century, long after Jesus, and they’re generally quiet banal. They carry names - like the gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Mary - that are unrelated to their real authorship. On the other hand, the four gospels in the New Testament were readily accepted with remarkable unanimity as being authentic in the story they told. You have to understand that the canon was not the result of a series of contests involving church politics. The canon is rather the separation that came about because of the intuitive insight of Christian believers.They could hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in the gospel of John; they could hear it only in a muffled and distorted way in the gospel of Thomas, mixed in with a lot of other things. For somebody now to say that the canon emerged only after councils and synods made these pronouncements would be like saying, ‘Let’s get several academies of musicians to make a pronouncement that the music of Bach and Beethoven is wonderful.’ I would say, ‘Thank you for nothing! We knew that before the pronouncement was made.’ We know it because of sensitivity to what is good in music and what is not. The same with the canon.

One of Metzger’s distinguished predecessors [adds Strobel] at Princeton Theological Seminary, Benjamin Warfield, put it this way:

“If we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must . . . declare it to be marvelously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied - a care which has doubtless grown out of truereverence for its holy words . . . The New Testament [is] unrivaled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use.”

 

For many other subjects, visit the Seeking the Gospel Store!

 

Was the “Apocrypha” Heavenly Inspired?

 

Article by Ted Roberts

Also See: History of the Bible

 

What is the Apocrypha? Briefly, they were a set of books that were primarily written in between the book of Malachi of the Old Testament, and had lasted on into the New Testament era; and were written by Jewish men of Judaism, and are considered by many to be just as Godly inspired as the Old and New Testaments!

We must know that Jesus himself, who quoted many times from the Old Testament, NEVER QUOTED EVEN ONCE from the Apocryphal books! However, since they were written from about 200 to 300 years prior to Jesus until about 100 years after his death, a lot of scholars were convinced (and many times still are) - considering their early date, and they being born out of Judaism - that they too must be “inspired by God!” So much so, in fact, some Bibles today still contain the Apocryphal writings. Even the first editions of the King James Version (KJV) contained them! However, and even though at first included in the KJV, many scholars of that day (indeed, many "Puritans" no doubt!) viewed the Apocrypha being mixed within the scriptures as an intrusion on the "inspired Books." King James himself wasn’t too sure about them being authentic words of God. Here is a quote from the king:

“Some of them [some of the books of the Apocrypha] are as like the ditement [words, statements] of the Spirit of God as an egg is to an oyster.”

In other words – they just didn’t fit the Spirit of God, or God’s words, in his view! And, in accordance to the "Puritans" of that time, being in the early to mid 1600’s England, the conference of the KJV had decided that:

“Such Apocrypha as have any repugnance [contradictory or inconsistence] to canonical [recognized as being genuine or inspired] scripture shall be REMOVED and not read” in the services of the church.

In fact, within the first hundred year history of the KJV text, the Apocrypha were finally removed ~ thanks to the hard work of the Puritans.

Very few times, however, are the Apocrypha included with the Old Testament – even though the Roman Catholics use many of them as part of their Old Testament scriptures. We must realize, however, that these books were never considered by the Jews of the time of Jesus, and before, as being "inspired by God." The Jews did, however, see good wisdom and instruction in them, but NEVER accepted them as “Godly inspired.” And to back this up, and as I pointed out earlier, even though many of them were around 200 to 300 years before Christ, Jesus never even once quoted out of them. Yet, as far as the Old Testament was concerned, he did nothing but quote from them: A proof, in my own opinion, that Jesus never himself accepted the Apocrypha as being inspired by his Father. Yet, this opinion of mine can be a mistake, seeing as there are a "couple" of Old Testament Books that he did not quote from – but that is a considerable difference! – seeing that there were only a couple that he didn't quote, and that he quoted none of the Apocrypha. Not only He, but none of the Apostles quoted from any of them either – even though Jude did mention the book of Enoch, but it was not a part of the Apocrypha.

Considering all of this, it is safe to conclude that what is considered as to being “Scriptures” (minus the books of the Apocrypha), is what has been handed down to us in our modern Protestant Bibles, and called the “Old Testament.”

A passage in 2 Esdras (a book of the Apocrypha) mentions the “24” accepted books of the Old Testament:

2 Esdras 14:45-46 (Apocrypha):

Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people.

“24” Books? Yes, the Hebrew Old Testament contains 24 Books; even though the Protestant Old Testament contains 39 Books - they are still the very same books! The Protestants decided to break up the 24 inspired Books into a more readable 39 Books (such as make Samuel, Kings and Chronicles into 2 parts each, and make the Book of “The Twelve” into twelve separate books for each minor [or later] prophet), yet they are the same Books. No books were added, nor taken away.

In the quote above from 2 Esdras, we can conclude a couple of things: first, that even the books of the Apocrypha admit that there are a set of Books set outside of them, and had greater authority, for they were to be made public to everyone; and second, we can only guess that the “seventy” books that were also mentioned in the passage were the books of the Apocrypha themselves, and saying that they should only be given to the wise of the people; for, no doubt, these wise would be immune as to placing them next to the "inspired Books" of God, and they would only use them as they were intended - that is, for history’s sake, and for some wise sayings, and for some edification - but not for doctrine; and that these books also, more than likely, contained human errors – absent an “inspiration by God.”

Erasmus, Dutch Scholar in the early 1500’s (and compiler of the “Received Text” of the Greek New Testament), had expressed:

“It is of great importance to know in what spirit the church [Roman Catholic] approves a thing. It surely does not wish Judith, Tobit, and Wisdom [some books of the Apocrypha] to have the SAME WEIGHT as the Pentateuch [the Books of the Mosaic Law, set in the Old Testament]."

And here is a statement written by Walter J. Harrelson, in his Protestant view of the Apocrypha in “The Parallel Apocrypha”, published in 1997, concerning Martin Luther’s views on them:

"The literature of the Apocrypha provided one of the contested points at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. For Martin Luther [Protestant Reformer of the Fifteen Hundreds A.D.], the apocryphal literature had its APPROPIATE place in the Christian Bible, even though it LACKED the “authority” of the Old Testament. Accordingly, in his 1534 translation of the entire Bible [into the German language], he collected the Apocryphal writings from their location in the Latin Vulgate [Catholic Bible by St. Jerome] and placed them together at the end of the Old Testament collection as an APPENDIX, preceded by an introduction that explained his reasons for doing so. Luther would surely not have spent the time and energy required for rendering these writings into German if he had not been convinced of their value for the Christian community.

"Luther’s motivation for placing the Apocrypha in an APPENDIX is plain. He knew that these writings were not to be found in the Hebrew Bible used by the Jewish community. St. Jerome long ago had made note of this fact and had retained only a portion of the Apocryphal writings then available to him. Luther also recognized that certain texts of the Apocrypha supported, or were used to support, Christian doctrines and practices that HE REJECTED, such as the doctrine of purgatory and prayer services for the dead (1 Maccabees 12:43-46) and the great emphasis upon almsgiving (Tobit). In Luther’s case, however, the critical import of the Hebrew scriptures was their testimony to Christ; what counts in the scriptures of the Jews is “what pertains to Christ.” Theoretically, Luther and the other Reformers could have used the Apocryphal literature to discover “types,” or symbolic foreshadowing, of Christ and Christian teachings, but they did not do so. Nevertheless, Luther preserved the writings, despite their not having the “authoritative standing” that the Jewish Bible [Old Testament] did."

Even St. Jerome (who constructed the first Catholic Bible in about 400 A.D.), knew where to place them:

"St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books [Old Testament] and ecclesiastical books [Apocrypha]. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture….” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Canon).

"As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees [Apocryphal books], but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures [Old Testament], so let it also read these two Volumes [Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus ~ also of the Apocrypha] for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church." ~ St. Jerome, in his commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.

However, Scriptural or not (and I personally feel, as I have already pointed out, that they are NOT), we can safely conclude that Jesus did not preach from them, and neither did the Apostle Paul or the other 12 Apostles: that is, according to the New Testament books that we have. They showed no place ANYWHERE in there as having a place in God’s Word. But, they CAN be used as good history ~ of which we most certainly need them for today, but NOT as a doctrinal vehicle!

 

For many other subjects, visit the Seeking the Gospel Store!