Then we looked at the “Why?” Why did God speak His word to us? We saw number one was so that we may know Him. Every single person who ever lives knows that there is something or someone greater than themselves—but they may not know God specifically. They may build statues and temples to honor the one they think is the Creator. But in order for us to know God, then He needed to speak His word to us so we could know Him and obey Him. And also that we may know Jesus Christ, and we may know that we have eternal life in Him. So, with all that out of the way, let’s continue by looking at “What?”
What books do we have to show us God and to show us how to find eternal life in Christ? Before we do that, however, I want to take a moment and look at what books have been left out. And why? A word we’re going to talk about real quick is the term “Apocrypha.” The word literally means, “hidden” or “concealed.” If you go into a Catholic Church, or many Episcopal churches—they're actually kinda joined at the hip; Episcopals are really just Catholics who can be gay and can get divorced—you will find that their Bibles have about 80 books in them, whereas a Baptist or Methodist or Pentecostal church will only have 66. Which one is correct? The one with 66. There are 15 books in the Apocrypha. Books like 1st and 2nd Macabees, Judith and Tobit and Esdras.
Why are these books not in Protestant Bibles? Or, rather, why are they in Catholic Bibles? They are in Catholic Bibles because without them Roman Catholicism would not have a lot of their beliefs. Salvation by works comes from Tobit 4:11—“For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness.” 2nd Macabees 12:43—And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.
Ever hear the word “Purgatory?” This is where the Papists developed their system called “indulgences.” Send us your money, and grandpa gets a hundred years knocked off of his time in Purgatory. Johann Tetzel, the famous Roman priest who went around Wittenburg selling indulgences--the action that led Martin Luther to nail his 95 Theses to the door at Castle Chruch (not, as many people believe, to split from Catholicism, but rather to reform it)--Tetzel is famous for making this sales pitch--
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings
the soul from purgatory springs.”
Some more errors in the Apocrypha:
- Judith 1:5—Now in the twelfth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Nineveh the great city, fought against Arphaxad and overcame him. Nebuchadnezzar was not the king of the Assyrians, he was the king of the Babylonians.
- Baruch 6:2—“And when you are come into Babylon, you shall be there many years, and for a long time, even to seven generations: and after that I will bring you away from thence with peace.” Baruch 6:2 says the Jews would serve in Babylon for seven generations where Jeremiah 25:11 says it was for 70 years. Jeremiah 25:11--“And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
And as I mentioned before, it’s not a narrative story. It’s not something that was written to entertain us. It was written so that we may know God. Some people will ask, “Well, why isn't it easier to understand?” Because God knows how our minds work. If it was too easy, we would read it once, put it down, and probably never pick it up again. You read a comic book, maybe a couple times, then out it goes. The reason the Bible—it’s not really hard to understand, but you do have to study.
2nd Timothy 2:15—Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. God made this word in a way that we would have to number one, seek Him and His wisdom to understand. Because He wants His children to know that He is willing to give us whatever we need. But also, He spoke it so that we would set time aside to study it, to not just rush through it. That’s why it’s called the HOLY Bible. That word “holy” means “set apart.” We are to “set apart” time to study this book that is “set apart” from all other books.
The word “Scripture” is used 53 times in the New Testament. When you see that word in the New Testament, keep in mind that until the New Testament was written, the only Scripture people had was the Old Testament. There’s a reason Jesus did not quote from 2nd Peter. It hadn't been written yet. In fact, one of the verses I used last week, 2nd Timothy 3:15—from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The only Scripture Timothy had was the Old Testament. So, in all actuality, read the Old Testament and find salvation through Christ. The Romish contention that "Sola Scriptura is not a concept found in Scripture" is asinine. The idea comes from Scripture itself--they just don't want to admit it. So, that’s the “What?”
The “Where” and “When” we really need to look at together. Where and when were the books of the Bible written? If you ever had a paper to write for school. Your history teacher said, “Your assignment is to write a 5-page paper on Ben Franklin” you could probably knock it out in your room in an hour. But books of the Bible are quite a bit different from a 5th-grade book report. The events they record, the ideas they express, didn’t just happen all at once. You pick up the paper and they have four or five stories on the same event. A warehouse fire, or the election. But some of the books of the Bible books contain, literally, a history that covers hundreds of years.
And as I mentioned earlier, they are not all arranged chronologically. If you go through your Bible, you will find that some books are placed before others, even though the events of the second took place before or at the same time as the first. The first book you find would be Genesis. However, many scholars believe that the book of Job was actually written before Genesis. Micah wrote at the same time as Isaiah. The same is true for the New Testament.
That said, it is truly amazing that we have the Bible we have, because the different parts were written over thousands of years in places thousands of miles apart. Of course, most of the Old Testament was written in Israel, whether in the desert, or in Jerusalem. But one thing we need to keep in mind is Israel did not always live in peace with its neighbors--or even with each other. What you see going on in the Middle East right now is about 5000 years old. Twice the nation of Israel was taken captive. Once into Babylonia, modern-day Iraq. And once into Assyria. Not Syria, but Assyria. A nation that does not exist anymore, but they literally bordered Babylonia. It was kinda like Minneapolis/St. Paul. They didn’t like each other. But they didn’t like the Jews even more. For many years, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. So there were times when Israel was threatened with being wiped out. The book of Esther tells about one such instance. The book of Daniel was written during one of these captivities. The books of Jeremiah and Joel also; Nehemiah, Ezra.
The fact that these books have survived these thousands of years, shows that what we have today is truly a work of God. And the same is true for the New Testament. We are reading through Philippians. Philippians was written to a church in a city controlled by Rome, which spent about a couple, three hundred years doing everything it could to destroy the church. if you were found to be a Christian—one who worshipped Jesus Christ as Lord—you could either confess, renounce Christ, and be spared. Or you could be killed in some of the most horrific ways imaginable. Yet the church grew, and it grew very quickly as a matter of fact. And the writings of men like Paul and Peter and James and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, survived. And when you look at the Old and the New Testament, being written in such widely scattered places, and by about 40 different authors—some were farmers, some were prophets to kings, some were kings, some were fishermen, and some were tentmakers. And yet everything they wrote, all their words, all their writings, all pointed to one supreme truth—Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, some people might say, “Well, we don’t have the original writings of Moses and Isaiah and Matthew Mark Luke John. So how do you know that what we have here is actually what they wrote?” I'm glad you asked. When copies were made of the Scriptures—well, for one thing, did they have scanners and fax machines, and copiers? You may remember that old Xerox™ commercial with the monk in a monastery, and the priest asks him to make 5000 copies of this book, and he sneaks into an office and runs them through a Xerox™ machine. Eh, not so much.
For the Old Testament, the process of copying was remarkable. It was very strict, very precise, you didn’t just, “Well, that’s a whole lot of words, is there an easier way to write that? Maybe I coould leave out a few words so it's not so hard to understand.” Today we have the Living Bible and the NLT, the CEV, and one dreadful one called “The Message.” These are “paraphrases.” They convey the meaning of the Scripture, but it's not a word-for-word translation. Jewish scribes did not paraphrase. I found an article that details what the Jewish scribes had to go through when making copies of the Scriptures:
1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word "YHVH," every time they wrote it.
6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc).
9. As no document containing God's Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah - a Hebrew term meaning "hiding place." These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a Jewish cemetery.
It was a whole lot different than popping a quarter into a copying machine and spitting out 100 copies. Now, someone may say, “Yeah, that’s nice, but after Christ, they went back and changed the Old Testament to match what the New Testament said.” Not so fast there Hoss.
About 1947, a young boy was wandering out in the Qumran area of Judea, in Israel. He had lost the sheep or the goat or whatever animal it was that he was supposed to have been watching. so he's wandering around, calling out for it. He's frusrated, he picks up a stone, tosses it into a cave, and hears something shatter. Sounded like a clay pot. Well, come to find out, it wasn’t just “a” cave. It was a system of 11 caves, and there were many, many, clay jars containing over 800 very old papyrus scrolls. Among these scrolls, they found fragments of every book in our Old Testament, except for Esther. The contents of these scrolls were published between the years 1950-1956. And since these scrolls were found near the Dead Sea, what do you suppose they called them? Hey, you guessed it! These were the “Dead Sea Scrolls.”
Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls important? It is because they were found to have been written about 200 BC. 200 years before the birth of Christ. And one of the scrolls is of particular importance—they found 22 copies of the scroll of Isaiah. The entire book, all 66 chapters! Well, they didn't have chapters back then but you know what I mean. Isaiah wrote more prophecies about Christ than anyone other than probably King David. Much of the book of Isaiah is made up of prophecies about the Messiah. Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53 are some of the clearest prophecies about Christ. If any part of the Old Testament could be accused of being changed to make it sound like it was talking about Christ, it would be Isaiah. Guess what? After examining these scrolls of Isaiah, they found that the only differences were in the spellings of a few words, and none of these variations affected the meaning of what was written. In other words, what we have today as the book of Isaiah is probably pretty doggone close to what was originally written.
Now, how did we get it into English? Well, it wasn’t easy. The Roman Catholic system did not particularly care for people reading the Bible in their own language. Because if they did—well, the charge was, “People will teach heresies!” This coming from the mother of so many heresies. What they were actually afraid of was that people just might find that many of Rome’s teachings could not be found in the Bible. So the Roman Catholic system was very intent on making sure that anyone who dared translate the Bible into English was to be made......um, dead. The first man to translate the Scriptures into English was a fellow named John Wycliffe in 1380. He did not have the Greek or Hebrew, so he had to translate using the Latin Vulgate. He survived, died a natural death, but Pope Martin V, being as kind and gracious a tyrant as any of the medieval popes, ordered Wycliffe's bones dug up, crushed, and thrown into the River Swift.
The first man to translate the Bible out of the original languages was a fellow named William Tyndale in 1525-1526. He was the first to make an English translation from the Greek and Hebrew. Anmd although he finished the work, he was betrayed to Rome by a man he thought to be a friend, was ordered by to be strangled while being burned at the stake (Boy, gotta love those popes!)
Then about 85 years later, a group of about 50 scholars was commissioned, and using Tyndale's Bible and Coverdale's Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Great Bible, and a couple other English translations, they finished this new translation of, quote, “The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments: translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty's special command” for the man who had commissioned the work, and can you guess who is being referred to as "His Majesty?" You guessed it, a fellow named King James I of England, in 1611.
Then of course you got the Revised Version, the New Revised Version, the New King James, the American Standard, the New American Standard, and so many more. So there is a rough overview of the Bible, from God to us. Again I would refer you to my previous post on this subject for more resources on how we got our Bible. Next week, we’re going to look at a thumbnail sketch of the apostle Paul, his life and why I keep talking about this guy so much.