Archive for the ‘Thomas Holland – Crowned with Glory’ Category

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Chapter 1: The Monarch Of Books

"Both read the Bible day and night,

But thou read’st black where I read white."

-William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel (1818)

For the past two thousand years the world has been blessed with the monarch of books, the Holy Bible. It has been loved, read, and written about more than any other book in history. Today, the Bible has been printed, published, recorded, placed on CD-ROM, and videotaped. It has been translated in whole or part into every major language throughout the world. Many languages have several translations available. In English, for example, there have been over one hundred versions of the New Testament in the past century.

Of all the books of antiquity the Bible stands as the most attested. There are over five thousand ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament alone. Although the contents of these manuscripts mostly agree, there are some differences. Such variants are the subject of this book. Were these variants accidental or deliberate? Is it possible to know the original wording of the Scriptures? Or, despite the passage of time and inclusion of textual variants, have the very words of Scripture been preserved for all generations?

For a number of years there has been a controversy brewing among the Bible reading public. Some believe that the Bible, especially the New Testament, needs to be reconstructed in light of recent textual discoveries. The reconstruction of the New Testament is known as the science of textual criticism. Others believe the original text of the Bible has been preserved over time. This is known as the doctrine of biblical preservation. Neither side is without bias, nor is this book offered in an unbiased fashion. What it does seek to do is to inform those who are interested in this debate from both a scholastic and scriptural perspective.

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Chapter 2: Tampering With Texts

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"I fancy that the poor fellow murmured some incoherent delirious words,

and that she twisted them into this meaningless message."

-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez (1904)

The Bible warns of those who would "corrupt the word of God" (2 Corinthians 2:17) and handle it "deceitfully" (2 Corinthians 4:2). It refers to false gospels and epistles (2 Thessalonians 2:2), combined with false prophets and teachers who would seek to "make merchandise" of the true believer through "feigned words" (2 Peter 2:1-3). It did not take long for this to occur. In the days of the apostles and shortly afterwards, several doctrinal heresies arose. [A standard text on this subject is Heresies by Dr. Harold O. J. Brown (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1984 edition).] Their beginnings are referred to in the New Testament (Galatians 1:6-8; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7; and Jude 1:3-4). Such heresies plagued the early church and attempted to influence the transmission of Scripture, changing the text to fit their various doctrines whenever possible.

Gnosticism

Gnosticism was by far the most influential heresy confronting the early church. Historian Will Durant defines Gnosticism as "the quest of godlike knowledge (gnosis) through mystic means." [Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 3 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 604.] Not only did the Gnostics corrupt many readings found in the New Testament; they offered their own writings as inspired Scriptures such as the The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Acts of Andrew, and The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene). Gnosticism assumed a variety of forms and sects that broadened its base and growth.

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Chapter 3: Testimony Through Time

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"A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day."

-Emily Dickinson, (1872)

The Church at Antioch has a noteworthy position in Scripture as the first place believers were called Christians (Acts 11:26). It is also interesting that where both Antioch and Alexandria are mentioned in the same passage, Antioch is listed as a place of service and Alexandria as a place of disruption (Acts 6:5-10). Could it be that God, who foreknows all things, provides for us our starting point in searching for the original text? If so, the direction would not be in Alexandria, Egypt. Instead, it would be in the cradle of New Testament Christianity at Antioch of Syria, where the Traditional Text originated.

Ignatius (d. 107 AD)

Ignatius (or Theophorus) was the bishop of Antioch, Syria. Because of his Christian testimony, he was arrested and sent to Rome to be martyred by wild beasts in the imperial games. En route to his martyrdom this saint wrote letters to six different churches (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans), as well as one letter to Polycarp.

Ignatius was sound both in doctrine and spirit. Traditionally it is claimed that he knew several of the apostles personally and sought to follow their examples. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me" (1 Corinthians 4:16). Ignatius lived this admonition. He patterned his life after Paul’s, and his theology and attitude reflect his closeness with the Apostle John. Like John, Ignatius proclaimed the Trinity and deity of Jesus Christ. He states that Christians should be found "in the Son, and in the Father and in the Holy Ghost" (Magnesians 13:1) [Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers.] and refers to Christ as "our God" (Trallians 7:1). Concerning biblical atonement, he writes:

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Chapter 4: Forging The Metal

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"God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age,

some by sickness, some by war, some by justice."

-John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624)

From the fire of the Reformation the word of God was forged for the laity. No longer did it solely rest in the hands of ecclesiastical orders. Yet the privilege did not come without a price. Many saints sacrificed wealth, reputation, and ultimately their lives, in order to secure a copy of sacred Scripture. It is because of their suffering that we have been granted the franchise to read the Bible for ourselves. For this, we owe them eternal gratitude and the responsibility to recognize their efforts.

The German Bible

Perhaps no other translation of the Bible, apart from the King James Version, has had a greater impact upon its people and their culture than the German Bible of Martin Luther (1483-1546). Not only has this delightful version affected the history and language of Germany, but also the many immigrants and early settlers who carried their copy of Die Heilige Schrift to the United States.

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Chapter 5: The English Jewel

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"The English Bible – a book which, if everything else in our language should perish,

would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power."

-Thomas Babington Macaulay, Edinburgh Review (1828)

John Rainolds had been addressing the newly crowned king of England, James I. Various concerns among the Puritans had arisen, and now was an opportunity to present them before the king. It was cold and damp that wintry day, much like the coldness that faced this English Church of the Reformation. Elizabeth, the beloved queen, had died and the thick-tongued Scotsman now ruled in her stead. Dr. Rainolds was well aware of the concerns that had risen within the Church and the nation. What would this new king do?

Within the contents of his address, Rainolds raised a proposal: "May your Majesty be pleased to direct that the Bible be now translated, such versions as are extant not answering to the original." With lisping tongue the king answered, stirring the desires of all those who wished to see a new translation that would standardize the word of God among the English-speaking world. "I profess, I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English, but I think that of Geneva is the worst." [Gustavus S. Paine, The Men Behind the King James Version (1959; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), 1.]

With these few fateful words, the greatest English translation the world has ever known was born. The place was Hampton Court. The day was Monday, January 16, 1604. By July 22 of the same year, Bishop Richard Bancroft had been notified by the king to appoint certain learned men, numbering fifty-four, for the purpose of newly translating the Scriptures. What they produced John Livingston Lowes called "the noblest monument of English prose." For us, it simply became the Bible.

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Chapter 6: Oracle Of The Jews

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"They give us Scriptures, but Thou makest known the sense thereof.

They bring us mysteries, but Thou revealest the things which are signified.

They utter commandments, but Thou helpest to the fulfilling of them.

They show the way, but Thou givest strength for the journey."

-Thomas `a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (1415)

According to Scripture the Hebrews were God’s oracles (Romans 3:1-2). It was unto the Jews that the Old Testament revelation and canon were committed. This is why twice in the Old Testament they were instructed not to add to or take from the word of God.

"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2).

"Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:6).

Faithful Hebrew scribes took this task very seriously. Precise steps were taken in preparing the parchment upon which they wrote, and in preparing themselves in order to write on it. According to the Hebrew Talmud, a body of civil and religious laws that also provided commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, the rules for the scribes consisted of the following:

  1. The skins of the parchments had to be prepared in a special way and dedicated to God so that they would be clean in order to have God’s words written on them.
  2. The ink that was used was black and made in accordance to a special recipe used only for writing Scripture.
  3. The words written could not be duplicated by memory but must be reproduced from an authentic copy that the scribe had before him. And, the scribe had to say each word aloud as he wrote it.
  4. Each time the scribe came across the Hebrew word for God, he had to wipe his pen clean. And when he came across the name of God, Jehovah (YHWH), he had to wash his whole body before he could write it.
  5. If a sheet of parchment had one mistake on it, the sheet was condemned. If there were three mistakes found on any page, the whole manuscript was condemned. Each scroll had to be checked within thirty days of its writing, or it was considered unholy.
  6. Every word and every letter was counted. If a letter or word was omitted, the manuscript was condemned.
  7. There were explicit rules for how many letters and words were allowed on any given parchment. A column must have at least forty-eight lines and no more than sixty. Letters and words had to be spaced at a certain distance and no word could touch another.

In his book, The Text of the Old Testament, noted Old Testament textual scholar Dr. Ernst Wurthwein mentions that the scribes counted the verses, words, and letters of each part of the Scriptures they were copying. [Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 19.] The Jewish historian Josephus (37-95 AD) comments on the preciseness of the Jewish scribes and their faithfulness in copying the Old Testament Scriptures:

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Chapter 7: Understanding The Dead Sea Scrolls

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"It is concealed and hidden, but God does not forget it.

Delayed is not forgotten!"

-Hans Christian Andersen, Delaying Is Not Forgetting (1872)

West of the northern half of the Dead Sea lies the ruins of Qumran. A fantastic discovery was made in 1947 in the various caves throughout that region. Scrolls and fragments of scrolls were found. These ancient writings became the center of attention for the media, as well as for students of the Bible and archaeology. Like sheep desiring water, a Bedouin shepherd had led a thirsty world to the most acclaimed find of the twentieth century, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Many claims have been made regarding the Scrolls. Some, while drinking at this newly found fountain of knowledge, have seen the Scrolls as a pool of Bethesda offering spiritual or academic healing of some sort. Others have seen them as the waters of Marah, bitter and full of corruption. Perhaps the best way to view them is to see them for what they are, scrolls written by scribes. Like the many writings of men, they offer things that are both sweet and bitter.

At least five hundred different scribes were responsible for writing the Dead Sea Scrolls. [Norman Golb, Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls? (New York: Scribner, 1995), 154.] Most of the Scrolls are dated before the time of Christ, while some are dated during and after Christ. One wonders if any of the writers of the Scrolls heard the message of Jesus Christ and his condemnation for not practicing what they had copied (Matthew 23:13). What is certain, however, is that those scribes who heard the Savior’s message had access to what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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Chapter 8: Textual Considerations

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"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more!

Men were deceivers ever,

One foot in sea, and one on shore;

To one thing constant never."

-William Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing (1598)

There are a number of passages found in the Traditional Text that have fallen upon hard times. With the discovery of various manuscripts and advancements in textual criticism, we now have about six thousand places where the Traditional Text differs from the more popular Critical Text. Most of these are minor variants not affecting the gist of the text. Some, however, are of greater significance.

The purpose of this chapter is not to examine all the passages that have textual variations in them. Nor is this chapter designed to condemn the Critical Text simply because it differs from the Traditional Text. It is the focus of this chapter to take a closer look at the textual support of certain passages that are currently considered erroneous. Consequently, the other side of the textual evidence that espouses the Traditional Text and biblical preservation is presented, establishing that what has been handed down to us through the ages has been correct after all.

Despite one’s position concerning textual criticism, an additional point needs to be addressed: those who profess to believe its contents should not treat the word of God as they would any other book. Along with sound searching and solid study, we must not forsake our faith in biblical principles and promises. William Shakespeare is not the only one to warn us of the folly of man and the ever-changing nature of his comprehension. Scripture itself repeats the charge and informs us that the arm of flesh will fail. Therefore, our confidence must be placed in the Lord and his word (2 Chronicles 32:8; Psalm 118:8).

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Chapter 9: Translational Considerations

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"'Tis written: ‘In the beginning was the Word!’

Here now I'm balked! Who'll put me in accord?

It is impossible, the Word so high to prize,

I must translate it otherwise"

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust (1808)

Shortly after the Authorized Version was first published in 1611 it came under fire. In 1612 Hebrew scholar Hugh Broughton wrote a thesis entitled, A Censure of the Late Translation for Our Churches, in which he expostulated the new translation. Broughton had been considered for a position as one of the translators but was overlooked. Therefore, his reproach for the King James Version may have been a result of not being placed on the committee. Nevertheless, it does establish that very early this beloved version was condemned by some. Time has not changed such condemnation. In fact, there has been a revival of criticism as contemporary versions have found their way into the mainstream of the Bible reading public.

Such criticism is usually unwarranted and frequently demonstrates the lack of perspective offered by the one who is disparaging the translation. An anecdote involving one of the KJV translators, Dr. Richard Kilby, provides for us a wonderful example of this very thing. Kilby, who had headed the Old Testament group at Oxford, was in the congregation of a young minister who found fault with a certain way a phrase was translated in the KJV. The minister, who did not realize that Kilby was in his congregation, offered his own translation as the correct one and questioned why it had not been considered. After the service, Kilby took the parson aside and addressed the issue noting that the translators had indeed considered the parson’s reading as well as thirteen other readings. However, because of the Hebrew syntax, they had settled on the reading found in the KJV. [Gustavus S. Paine, The Men Behind the King James Version (1959; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), 137-138. David Otis Fuller, Which Bible? (Grand Rapids: International Publications, 1975), 17.]

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Chapter 10: Deliberating The Arguments

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"Except the Word of God beareth witness in this matter,

other testimony is of no value."

-John Bunyan: Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)

When there are differences in the Greek manuscripts, textual scholars usually depend on two basic principles to determine the perceived original reading. First, they consider the external evidence. This means they regard the age of a manuscript, its geographical distribution, and its relationship with other textual families. Second, they will observe the internal evidence. This means they consider the textual variant in light of what the original writer would most likely have written. It takes into account style and vocabulary, the context, and how the variant harmonizes with other passages written by the same writer. These evidences are logical and certainly are of great value. Nevertheless, we should also embrace the biblical promises from God concerning preservation, thereby approaching the issue both scripturally and scholastically.

There are basically two arguments against the Traditional Text, with an additional one as it concerns the Authorized Version. First, there are those who reject the Traditional Text at a certain reading based on manuscripts that are considered older. Second, the Critical Text is embraced because the manuscripts it is based on are characterized as better. One does not have to look long to find this older/better argument employed. Both arguments sound authoritative and certainly deserve our consideration. To this a third argument is added to support modern versions of the Bible. It concerns the need for simplicity.

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