OceanSide church of Christ
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THE WORD OF GOD (4)
Do We Have the Word of God Today?
Victor M. Eskew
A. There are some people who doubt that the Bible we use today is truly the Word of God.
1. The reasons:
a. We no longer have any of the original documents of the inspired writers.
b. A long time has passed since the originals were written.
c. When things are copied, changes and errors can creep into the text.
2. Some recent comments from FB:
a. “You can quote the bible all day long to ‘prove’ your point, yet at the end of the day, the Bible was just a book written by several people a long time ago. It is just a story book, and should be treated as such” (Melissa Hart).
b. “I think there is great debate in the scriptures and the scripture itself contradicts itself and has been written by man and has been translated time and again” (Margaret Reap).
c. “Since we do not have the original text, we can’t be sure what was exactly written in the Bible. If you’ve ever translated foreign text or played the telephone game, you know that we bring our own biases and beliefs into what we read/see/hear” (Susan Sweirkowski).
d. “And again, we have no idea how accurate the bible is – and unless you know all the languages, you can’t say anything was translated correctly – and even then, it would only be from your point of view. It doesn’t matter how ‘carefully’ anyone tries to translate, something is always lost or changed” (Susan Sweirkowski).
B. The statements of these young women reflect the perception of many people in our society.
1. The Bible is an old book.
2. The Bible is a manmade book.
3. The Bible is an untrustworthy book.
4. The Bible should be treated as a storybook.
C. In this lesson, we want to strengthen your faith in the Bible. We want you to trust that the Bible you hold in your hand now is the Word of God.
I. GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL CARE WAS INVOVLED IN THE PROCESS
A. Providence: God’s power to govern and direct the affairs of men in a non-miraculous way without violating man’s freewill.
B. God promised that His Word would last “forever.”
1. Psalm 12:6-7
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
2. Matthew 24:35
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
3. I Peter 1:24-25a
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
C. God says that His Word will endure forever.
1. Is God a liar? No (Tit. 1:2).
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.
2. Over the course of human history, God has been providentially involved in preserving His Word for mankind. The church had God’s Word in the first century; we still have it today.
II. THE CARE GIVEN TO COPIES OF SCRIPTURE
A. The original documents written by the inspired writers are called autographs.
1. The autographs (originals) no longer exist.
2. All we have today are copies of the originals and copies of copies.
3. NOTE: There was always a need for copies to be made.
a. All churches needed the books written by the inspired men.
b. No printing presses existed in the first century.
B. The Jews had always taken extreme care when the copied the Scriptures. The following is a list of some of the rules they followed.
1. The scribes were not allowed to copy sentence by sentence or even word for word. They had to copy letter for letter.
2. Each line on a new page had to be the exact same as the line on the old page. If the first line of the original had nine words, the first line of the copy page had to have nine words.
3. The copyist had to copy the page with such exactness that the number of the words on the page could not be changed. If the original had 288 words, then the page being copied had to have 288 words.
4. After the page was copied:
a. The number of the letters on that page was counted and compared to the original.
b. Another would check to see what the middle letter was on the copy and on the original.
c. A third person would check to see if the middle words agreed between the original and the copy.
5. After the book was completed, the middle verses of the books were compared to each other.
6. If a single error were found, the entire manuscript was destroyed to ensure that it could never be used as a master copy in the future.
C. Examples of accuracy:
1. When comparing the Yemenite copies of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) are compared with the Mesoretic copies for Eastern Europe, a discrepancy of only 9 letters was found.
2. The findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
a. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves at Qumran in 1947.
b. Prior to the discovery, the oldest OT texts dated back to only 980 A.D.
c. The Dead Sea Scrolls have manuscripts dating back to 250 B.C.
d. A comparison of the older Dead Sea Scrolls and the newer Masoretic texts show little differences between the two.
Table 1. QUMRAN VS. THE MASORETES
Of the 166 Hebrews words in Isaiah 53 only
17 letters in the Dead Sea Scroll 1 QIsb differ
From the Masoretic Text (Geisler and Nix,
1986, p. 382).
10 letters – spelling differences
4 letters – stylistic changes
3 letters + added word for “light” (v. 11)
17 letters = no effect on biblical teaching
(“The Dead Sea Scrolls & Biblical Integrity,” Garry K. Brantley, www. Apologeticspress.org)
D. Important note:
1. We have a papyrus fragment, P52 John Rylands Fragment that dates to 125 A.D.
2. Three key uncial manuscripts date to approximately 350-400 A.D. These were unchanged for some 1600 years. It is quite possible that these manu-scripts were made from copies made from the originals themselves, thus, a third or fourth generation copy.
III. THE CHURCH FATHERS
A. These were men who were connected with the church who lived and wrote in the second through fifth centuries.
1. Apostolic Fathers (70-150 A.D.)
2. Ante-Nicene Fathers (150-300 A.D.)
3. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (300-430 A.D.)
B. Interesting facts:
1. The Apostolic Fathers quote every book of the New Testament except Philemon and III John.
2. In all, there are some 32,000 quotations of the Bible by the Church Fathers.
3. If our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were to be destroyed…then we could reconstruct the New Testament from the quotations of the Church Fathers alone.
IV. MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE FRO THE NEW TESTAMENT
A. The manuscript evidence for the New Testament is abundant.
1. The numbers:
a. There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.
b. In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages.
2. The dates: “The New Testament, however, has a fragment within one generation from its original composition, while books written within 100 years from the time of the autograph [original manuscript], much of the New Testament in less than 200 years, and the entire New Testament within 250 years from the date of its completion” (“Manuscript Evidence for the Bible,” Ron Rhodes).
B. This means nothing to us until we do a comparison of the New Testament evidence with the evidence that exists for other classical works that date back to Bible times. (NOTE: These classical works have no originals that exist either).
The Work Date Earliest Time # of Copies
Homer’s Illiad 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 years 643
Sophocles 496-406 B.C. 10000 A.D. 1400 years 193
Caesar’s Galac. Wars 100-44 B.C. 900 A.D. 1000 years 10
Herodotus 480-425 B.C. 900 A.D. 1300 years 8
(http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence, by Matt Slick)
1. These works have fewer MSS and more time between the original and copy, yet none are thought untrustworthy.
2. The New Testament has more MSS and less time between the originals and copies, yet it is said to be untrustworthy.
V. VARIATIONS BETWEEN THE MANUSCRIPTS
A. A variation is any difference between any manuscripts at all.
B. Types of differences: spelling, missing or added words, different word order
C. The variations are extremely minor.
Manuscript #1: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.
Manuscript #2: Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.
Manuscript #3: Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world.
Manuscript #4: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whle world.
Manuscript #5: Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.
2. The numbers:
a. Of all the variants, 99% hold no significance at all.
b. Only about 50 variants have any significance – and even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is affected by them.
A. No other book of antiquity has as strong testimony as does the Bible.
B. The consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure.
C. What you and I hold in our hands today is the Word of the living God that He has preserved throughout the ages.
D. Psalm 119:89
For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.