The Nessity Of Brotherly Love (3:10-15) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study ("Sin And The Child Of God"), we saw where John described two different kinds of people... a. One who continuously practices sin, and is therefore "of the devil" - 1Jn 3:8a b. One "born of God," who does not continuously practice sin - 1Jn 3:9 2. John continues to illustrate the contrast between "the children of God" and "the children of the devil" in 1Jn 3:10, presenting two criteria which distinguishes them: a. Practicing righteousness b. Brotherly love 3. Both of these "criteria" have already been introduced earlier in this epistle... a. John enjoined "brotherly love" as necessary to "abiding in the light" - 1Jn 2:9-11 b. He connected "practicing righteousness" to being "born of Him" - 1Jn 2:29; 3:7 4. It is primarily the subject of "brotherly love" that John expounds upon throughout the rest of this epistle, including that which serves as our text for this study - 1Jn 3:10-15 [In these verses, John describes "The Necessity Of Brotherly Love", giving us two main reasons why we MUST love one another. The first of which is...] I. IT DISTINGUISHES THE CHILDREN OF GOD (10-13) A. TWO THINGS "MANIFEST" THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD'S CHILDREN AND THE DEVIL'S CHILDREN (10) 1. The word "manifest" means: a. To show or demonstrate plainly; reveal b. To be evidence of; prove 2. That which clearly demonstrates the children of God are: a. The practice of righteousness b. The love of the brethren 3. Whereas those who are the children of the devil are clearly revealed when they: a. Do not practice righteousness b. Do not have brotherly love B. THE COMMAND TO LOVE IS "FROM THE BEGINNING" (11) 1. I.e., from the beginning of the gospel, spoken by Jesus Himself - cf. Jn 13:34-35 2. Note that Jesus also stressed how loving one another would make the children of God (His disciples) "manifest" to the world: "...by this all will know" - Jn 13:35 C. EXPECT SOME CONFLICT BETWEEN THESE TWO "CHILDREN" (12-13) 1. Just as Cain killed his brother Abel a. He who was of the wicked one killed his brother b. The murder was sparked by the contrast between the works of the two 2. So don't be surprised if the world hates you as well - cf. also Jn 15:18-20 [When we follow the teachings of Jesus, especially His command to love one another, it soon becomes evident ("manifest") that we are different from those of the world. But that difference sometimes leads to jealousy and its unpleasant consequences. What imperative is there, then, to heed a command that makes us stand out so? Well, as John continues...] II. IT SIGNIFIES A PASSING FROM DEATH TO LIFE (14-15) A. IT IS A MARK OF TRUE CONVERSION (14a) 1. Certainly brotherly love is not the ONLY indicator 2. Remember that we must also practice righteousness - cf. Ga 5: 22-23 3. But love for the brethren is a positive sign that true conversion has occurred B. WHEREAS LACK OF LOVE IS AN OMINOUS SIGN (14b-15) 1. That one "abides in death" 2. As we saw earlier, one who hates his brother "is in darkness until now" - 1Jn 2:9,11 3. Indeed, hating one's brother makes one a murderer! (just like Cain) 4. And it should be self-evident that a murderer does not possess eternal life! C. WHEN CHRISTIANS DO NOT LOVE THEIR BRETHREN... 1. It MAY be an indication that true conversion never occurred, and that they are Christians in name only 2. It MAY be that there was true conversion... a. But the Christian is still a "babe in Christ" - cf. 1Co 3:1-3 b. Or that what the writer of Hebrews feared has occurred - cf. He 3:12-14 3. In ANY circumstance, it is not what God desires for us! CONCLUSION 1. Two compelling reasons are therefore given by John for why we should love one another: a. It distinguishes the children of God b. It signifies a passing from death to life 2. John will have more to say about love and its value, but may these two reasons compel us to examine our hearts and our attitudes toward our brethren! "Let brotherly love continue." (He 13:1)
A Giant Among Pygmies
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Ancient books thrill our imaginations with vivid pictures of worlds and cultures from long ago. Beautiful poetry, accurate history, and interesting narrative are but a few of the literary devices these ancient writers employed with captivating genius. Take the writings of Homer, for instance. His epic poems the Illiad and theOdyssey rank among the most influential pieces of literature ever written. It often has been said that a person cannot know Greece without reading Homer. Or consider The Histories of Herodotus, who was said to have revolutionized the way the world recorded history. He changed it from mere folklore and yarn stringing into documentation of actual fact. Also call to mind the writings of Josephus, which shed radiating light on the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation in the early years of the first century A.D. And we must not neglect The Annals by Tacitus, which gives us a bird’s-eye view into some of the most intricate workings of the Roman Empire during the later part of the first century and early part of the second century A.D.
But one ancient book has outshone all of these. In America alone, it generates a 200-million-dollar market every year. It is the best-selling book of all times. Translated into over 800 languages, introduced into over 200 countries, the Bible, and more specifically, the New Testament, stands as the greatest literary achievement the world has ever read.
Yet, as we look at these monumental works of literature, we might wonder how we know Homer actually wrote the Illiad, and how many copies from the past have we discovered? Or how do we know that Josephus wrote in the first century A.D.? Did we find a copy of his works with a handy title page and copyright date in the front cover? And if we did, how many of these copies have we found? And what about the New Testament? Have we found many copies of it? If so, how old are they, and how do they compare with the evidence that verifies the other ancient works? I think the following chart answers many of these questions and speaks for itself.
|How Does the New Testament|
Measure Up to Other Ancient Books?
|Title of Ancient Book||Date it was Written||Date of Earliest Manuscript||Number of Manuscripts|
|Homer’s Illiad||700 B.C.||Unknown||643|
|Histories of Herodotus||425 B.C.||A.D. 900||8|
|Josephus’ Jewish Wars||A.D. 70||A.D. 400||9|
|Annals of Tacitus||A.D. 100||A.D. 900||2|
|New Testament||A.D. 35-100||A.D. 125||5735|
Based solely on the actual manuscripts evidence available, the New Testament stands as the most historically documented piece of ancient literature ever written. F.F. Bruce once stated: “It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians” (1953, p. 19). Aside from any discussion as to the inspiration of these documents, simply looking at their overwhelming manuscript evidence should quickly alert even the most skeptical observer to the fact that the documents of the New Testament are “special” to say the very least.
Bruce, F.F. (1953), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), fourth edition.
3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible is from God
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Kyle Butt, M.Div.
The Bible is the most popular book that has ever been printed. It was one of the first books mass produced on Gutenberg’s printing press in 1455. To estimate a total number of Bibles and portions of it that have been produced and distributed worldwide throughout history would be virtually impossible, but the number stands well over 10 billion, since the United Bible Society alone has distributed over nine billion in the past 70 years (“God Facts,” n.d.). Without dispute, the Bible is the best selling book of all time worldwide (“Best Selling…,” 2014).
Why is the Bible so popular? The reason most often given is that those who are printing, distributing, and reading the Bible believe it is the inspired Word of God. Most people who read the Bible do not think it is good advice from mere men. Nor do they think it is a book of fairy tales written for entertainment. Instead, they believe the Book they are reading is the product of the one true God.
Oftentimes, when people are asked to give reasons that support their belief that the Bible is from God, they say that the Bible claims to be from God. It is certainly true that the Bible contains numerous statements that claim inspiration. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God….” In fact, anyone who wants to search the entire Bible will discover that it contains more than 2,700 instances in which divine inspiration is claimed (e.g., “God said;” “the Lord said;” “by revelation He [God] made known”).
Yet, even though we would expect to find that any book produced by God would claim divine inspiration, such a claim does not prove anything in and of itself. It is a necessary trait of inspiration, but it is not a sufficient trait. Various books claim to be inspired by God (e.g., the Quran, the Book of Mormon), but are contradictory to the Bible, and can be proven to be inaccurate and deficient in other instances (see Miller, 2005; Miller, 2003). Simply because a book or writing claims divine inspiration is not positive proof of its inspiration. Any person could stand in front of an audience and claim to be the President of the United States of America. In fact, he could make that claim over 2,700 times. But his multiple claims to the presidency would fail to prove his case unless he could provide more adequate and sufficient evidence.
When Jesus revealed Himself to the world as the Son of God at about the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), He did not expect people to believe Him simply because He said He was the Messiah. On the contrary, Jesus said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38, emp. added). If the Messiah was not to be trusted merely based upon claims of messiahship, neither should the Bible. Again, though the claim of inspiration is important (and expected if the Bible is the Word of God), mere claims prove nothing.
Those who penned the Bible did not expect the world to receive their writings as God’s Word simply because they claimed they were. The Bible writers insisted that their writings were not based on imaginary, unverifiable people and events, but instead were grounded on solid, verifiable facts. The apostle Peter wrote: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). In his introduction to the book of Acts, Luke stated that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emp. added). The Bible writers understood and insisted that the information they penned was accurate and factual, and should be accepted, not based on a lack of evidence or a “leap in the dark,” but on an abundance of verifiable proof.
So what is the proof that the Bible is of supernatural origin? Why should an honest truth-seeker come to the conclusion that the Bible is the special revelation from the Creator of the Universe? In short, the main, overarching reason that the Bible is demonstrated to be of divine origin is because the Bible writers were correct in everything they wrote—about the past, the present, and even the future.
Eighteenth-century English poet Alexander Pope succinctly noted in “An Essay on Criticism” what every rational person knows all to well—“to err is human” (1709). Even though we may set high standards for ourselves and learn all that we can, and even though we may put as many safeguards in place as is humanly possible, mistakes will be made; ignorance will be revealed; errors will occur. As great of a historian as Herodotus was, he sometimes erred. As brilliant of a man as Aristotle was, he was terribly incorrect at times (see Jackson, 1997). As accomplished a writer as was the eighth-century B.C. Greek poet Homer, sometimes “even good old Homer nods” (Horace, 1.359). It simply is humanly impossible to be correct about everything a person says or writes. “With God,” however, “all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
If an all-knowing, all-powerful God exists (and there is ample proof that He does—see Lyons and Butt, 2014), then such a God could produce written revelation for His human creation that was flawless in its original production. He could guide uneducated men to write about events that occurred hundreds or thousands of years before their time with complete accuracy. He could “move” (otherwise) ordinary men to write flawlessly about any number of contemporary people, places, and things (2 Peter 1:20-21). He could even guide man to write about future events with perfect accuracy. In truth, the all-encompassing reason (which shall be dissected into three parts) that a person can come to the rational conclusion that the Bible is “given by inspiration of God” is because the writers of the Bible were amazingly accurate…about everything.
REASON #1: PREDICTIVE PROPHECY
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a horrible tragedy shocked the United States of America when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Amidst the tragedy, a rumor circulated that Nostradamus, a supposed fortuneteller, had predicted the turn of events. Web sites with information on Nostradamus received thousands, even millions of hits. After all was said and done, the rumored prediction had been fabricated and misunderstood; Nostradamus had not predicted the future. But it was obvious from the public’s response that anyone who can accurately predict the future is more than just a little special. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Who is he who speaks, and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37). The prophet’s point was clear: no one accurately foretells the future unless God informs him of it. Therefore, if the Bible accurately predicts the future, we can know that it is from God.
The fact is, the Bible contains numerous prophecies that ancient history has shown to be perfectly fulfilled in every detail. Consider a few examples. [NOTE: For many other instances that space restraints will not allow in this article, please consult Apologetics Press’s book Behold! The Word of God or visit the “Inspiration of the Bible” section of www.apologeticspress.org.]
The Fall of the City of Tyre
According to history, the Phoenician city of Tyre stood as one of the most ancient and prosperous cities in history. During a visit to the temple of Heracles in Tyre in the fifth century B.C., the historian Herodotus inquired about the age of the temple, to which the inhabits replied that the temple was as old as “Tyre itself, and that Tyre had already stood for two thousand three hundred years” (Herodotus, 2:44). According to the early 20th-century Hebrew and Greek scholar, Wallace Fleming, in his book The History of Tyre, “As early as 1400 B.C., Tyre was not only a great city but was considered impregnable” (1966, p. 8).
In the early sixth century B.C., however, the prophet Ezekiel mentioned several events that were to occur in Tyre as punishment for the city’s arrogance and merciless actions (26:1-14,19-21). The prophet predicted: (1) Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, would build a siege mound against the city; (2) many nations would come against Tyre; (3) the city would be broken down, scraped like the top of a rock, and the stones, timber, and soil would be thrown in “the midst of the water;” (4) the city would become a “place for spreading nets;” and (5) the city would never be rebuilt.
History reveals that everything Ezekiel prophesied about Tyre came to pass.
- Nebuchadnezzar “besieged Tyre for thirteen years in the days of Ithobal, their king” (Josephus, 1.21). The king of Babylon severely damaged the mainland as Ezekiel predicted, but the island city remained primarily unaffected.
- Regarding the prediction that “many nations” would come against Tyre, in 392 B.C., “Tyre was involved in the war which arose between the Persians and Evagorus of Cyprus” in which the king of Egypt “took Tyre by assault” (Fleming, p. 52). Sixty years later, in 332, Alexander the Great besieged Tyre and crushed it. In fact, Tyre was contested by so many foreign forces that Fleming wrote: “It seemed ever the fate of the Phoenician cities to be between an upper and a nether millstone” (p. 66). Thus, Ezekiel’s prophecy about “many nations” remains as a historical reality that cannot be successfully gainsaid.
- By 333 B.C., Ezekiel’s 250-plus-year-old prophecy that Tyre would be destroyed and its building material cast into the midst of the waters had yet to materialize. But that situation was soon altered. Ancient historian Diodorus Siculus, who lived from approximately 80-20 B.C., wrote extensively of Alexander the Great’s dealing with Tyre (see Siculus, 17.40-46). Secular history details Alexander’s destruction of Tyre, which coincides precisely with Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning what would happen to the city’s building materials. As Ezekiel had predicted, the stones, timber, and soil of the mainland city were thrown into the midst of the sea in an unprecedented military maneuver (Fleming, p. 56), which allowed Alexander to create a land bridge upon which his army could come across to defeat the island city of Tyre. For Ezekiel to have accurately “guessed” this situation would be to stretch the law of probability beyond the limits of absurdity.
- Ultimately, in A.D. 1291, the Sultan Halil massacred the inhabitants of Tyre and subjected the city to utter ruin. “Houses, factories, temples, everything in the city was consigned to the sword, flame and ruin” (Fleming, p. 122). After this major defeat in 1291, Fleming cites several travel logs in which visitors to the city mention that citizens of the area in 1697 were “only a few poor wretches...subsisting chiefly upon fishing” (p. 124).
Taking these accounts into consideration, it is obvious that many nations continued to come against the island city, that it was destroyed on numerous occasions, and that it became a place for fishing, fulfilling Ezekiel’s prediction about the spreading of nets. Furthermore, it is evident that the multiple periods of destruction and rebuilding of the city have long since buried the Phoenician city that came under the condemnation of Ezekiel. The Columbia Encyclopedia, under its entry for Tyre, noted: “The principal ruins of the city today are those of buildings erected by the Crusaders. There are some Greco-Roman remains, but any left by the Phoenicians lie underneath the present town” (“Tyre,” 2006).
So accurate were the prophecies made by Ezekiel that skeptics are forced to suggest a later date for his writings. Yet, such a later date cannot be maintained, and the admission of Ezekiel’s accuracy stands as irrefutable evidence of the prophet’s divine inspiration. With the penetrating gaze that can only be maintained by the Divine, God looked hundreds of years into the future and instructed Ezekiel precisely what to write so that in the centuries following the predictions, the fulfillment of every detail of the prophet’s words could be denied by no honest student of history. “When the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent” (Jeremiah 28:9).
The Fall of Babylon and the Rise of Cyrus
Imagine taking a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and visiting the State House where the Constitutional Convention took place in 1787. During the tour, your guide points to a document dating back to just this side of the Convention—about the year 1820. The piece of parchment tells of a man named George W. Bush from Austin, Texas who would be President of the United States within the next 200 years. But how could someone know that a man named George W. Bush would be born in the United States? And how could someone know more than a century before Mr. Bush ever was born that he would be President of the United States? Furthermore, how could someone in 1820 know that a man from Texas (named George W. Bush) would be President of the United States when Texas wasn’t even part of the Union yet? Such a prophecy truly would be amazing! Yet, obviously no such prediction was ever made. Amazingly, the Bible makes a comparable prediction, which was fulfilled with complete accuracy.
In the eighth century B.C., Isaiah vividly described how God would destroy the powerful kingdom of Babylon, “the glory of kingdoms” (13:19). Writing as if it had already occurred (commonly known as the “prophetic perfect,” frequently employed in the Old Testament to stress the absolute certainty of fulfillment), Isaiah declared Babylon would fall (21:9). He then prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians (Isaiah 13; 21:1-10). Later, he proclaimed that the “golden city” (Babylon) would be conquered by a man named Cyrus (44:28; 45:1-7). (This prophecy is remarkable, especially since Cyrus was not even born until almost 150 years after Isaiah penned these words.) Not only did Isaiah predict that Cyrus would overthrow Babylon, he also wrote that Cyrus, serving as Jehovah’s “anointed” and “shepherd,” would release the Jews from captivity and assist them in their return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple. All of this was written almost two centuries before Cyrus conquered Babylon (539 B.C.).
Amazingly, secular history verifies that all of these events came true. There really was a man named Cyrus who ruled the Medo-Persian Empire. He did conquer Babylon. And just as Isaiah prophesied, he assisted the Jews in their return to Jerusalem and in the rebuilding of the Temple.
Jeremiah also predicted the destruction of Babylon, the most powerful nation in the world at the time the predictions were made (Jeremiah 50-51). He predicted that Babylon’s water would be dried up, and her soldiers would be drunken and sleep a perpetual sleep. The precision of his predictions was remarkably verified when Cyrus redirected the Euphrates River and entered Babylon through the opening where the river usually entered. The entrance was left unattended because the Babylonians were getting drunk during a festival celebration.
Throughout the pages of the Old Testament there are over 250 prophecies about a coming Messiah. Each one of these is fulfilled in minute detail in the life of Jesus Christ. While it is true that most people’s lives can only be chronicled after they have lived it, the life of Jesus was chronicled before He arrived on Earth. In addition, a host of the prophecies concerning Christ were intentionally specific and could not have been arranged by a mere human who was falsely claiming to be the Messiah. For instance, the Old Testament told where the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2), a situation that cannot be manipulated by the one being born. The circumstances of the Messiah’s death were detailed, even down to His burial, which provides another instance in which the deceased could not have connived a fulfillment.
In contrasting the God of Israel with the pagan idols of old, the prophet Isaiah issued a challenge to those who believed in the potency of their pagan deities. Isaiah said this about the idols: “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them…. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods” (41:22-23). According to Isaiah, any deity that could consistently forecast the future would be recognized as a true God, while any unable to tell the future should be relegated to the rubbish pile of false religions. In order to prove that the God of Israel was the true God, Isaiah quoted this from the mouth of God: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (46:9-10). Truly, Isaiah’s God could tell the future. The fall of Tyre and Babylon, the reign of Cyrus, and the coming Messiah are but a few of the more prominent examples. When evidence is honestly considered, the truth seeker must admit that the prophecies contained in the Bible show that it was penned by the inspiration of God.
REASON #2: SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY AND FOREKNOWLEDGE
While the Bible does not present itself as a scientific or medical textbook, it is only reasonable that if God really did inspire the books of the Bible, they would be completely accurate in every scientific or medical detail found within their pages. Furthermore, all scientific and medical errors that fill the pages of other ancient, non-inspired texts should be entirely absent from the biblical record. Is the Bible infallible when it speaks about scientific disciplines, or does it contain the errors that one would expect to find in the writings of fallible men in ancient times?
The Egyptians were renowned in the ancient world for their progress in the field of medicine. Dr. Samuel Massengill, early 20th-century pharmaceutical chemist, noted that “Egypt was the medical center of the ancient world” (1943, p. 13). Herodotus recorded that it was king Darius’ practice “to keep in attendance certain Egyptian doctors, who had a reputation for the highest eminence in their profession” (Herodotus, 3.129). Among the ancient documents that detail much of the Egyptian medicinal knowledge that has survived, the Ebers Papyrus (discovered in 1872) ranks as one of the foremost sources (Bryan, 1930, p. 1). It consists of a host of medical remedies purported to heal, enhance, and prevent. “Altogether 811 prescriptions are set forth in the papyrus, and they take the form of salves, plasters, and poultices; snuffs, inhalations, and gargles; draughts, confections, and pills; fumigations, suppositories, and enemata” (p. 15). Among the hundreds of prescriptions, we find disgusting treatments that caused much more harm than good. For instance, under a section titled “What to do to draw out splinters in the flesh,” a remedy is prescribed consisting of “worm blood, mole, and donkey dung” (p. 73). Remedies to help heal skin diseases included such things as cat dung, dog dung, and a hog’s tooth (p. 92). It seems that the Egyptians were among the first to present the idea of “good and laudable pus” (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 10). While it must be noted that some of the Egyptian medicine was helpful, the harmful remedies and ingredients cast a sickening shadow of untrustworthiness on the entire Egyptian endeavor as viewed by the modern reader.
Admittedly, the Bible is not devoted to long lists of medical prescriptions. The Bible writers did not intend to write a medical textbook. There are, however, especially in the first five books of the Old Testament, numerous rules for sanitation, quarantine, and other medical procedures that were to govern the daily lives of the Israelites. Interestingly, the harmful remedies and ingredients prescribed by other ancient civilizations are missing entirely from the pages of the Bible. In fact, the Pentateuch exhibits an understanding of germs and disease that the “modern” medical community did not grasp until relatively recently.
Germs, Labor Fever, and Biblical Sanitation
In 1847, an obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis was the director of a hospital ward in Vienna, Austria. Many pregnant women checked into his ward, but 10-18% of those women never checked out. About one out of every six that received treatment in Semmelweis’ ward died of labor fever (Nuland, 2003, p. 31). Autopsies revealed pus under their skin, in their chest cavities, in their eye sockets, etc. Semmelweis was distraught over the mortality rate in his ward, and other hospital wards like it all over Europe. Nuland noted that Australia, the Americas, Britain, Ireland, and practically every other nation that had established a hospital suffered a similar mortality rate (pp. 41-43). If a woman delivered a baby using a midwife, then the death rate fell to only about 3%. Yet if she chose to use the most advanced medical knowledge and facilities of the day, her chance of dying skyrocketed immensely!
Semmelweis had tried everything to curb the carnage. He turned all the women on their sides in hopes that the death rate would drop, but with no results. He thought maybe the bell that the priest rang in the wee hours of the morning scared the women. So, he made the priest enter silently, yet without any drop in death rates. As he contemplated his dilemma, he watched young medical students perform their routine tasks. Each day the students would conduct autopsies on the dead mothers. Then they would rinse their hands in a bowl of bloody water, wipe them off on a shared, dirty towel, and immediately begin internal examinations of the still-living women. Medical doctor and historian Sherwin Nuland commented concerning the practice: “Because there seemed no reason for them to wash their hands, except superficially, or change their clothing before coming to the First Division, they did neither” (p. 100). As a 21st-century observer, one is appalled to think that such practices actually took place in institutes of what was at the time “modern technology.” What doctor in his right mind would touch a dead person and then perform examinations on living patients—without first employing some sort of minimal hygienic practices intended to kill germs? But to Europeans in the middle-19th-century, germs were virtually a foreign concept.
Semmelweis then ordered everyone in his ward to wash his or her hands thoroughly in a chlorine solution after every examination. In three months, the death rate fell from 18% to 1%. Semmelweis had made a groundbreaking discovery…or had he? Almost 3,300 years before Semmelweis lived, Moses had written: “He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean” (Numbers 19:11-12). Germs were no new discovery in 1847; the biblical text recorded measures to check their spread as far back as circa 1500 B.C.
Germs and the Water of Purification
When Old Testament instructions are compared to the New Testament explanations for those actions, it becomes clear that some of the ancient injunctions were primarily symbolic in nature (e.g., John 19:31-37). With the presence of such symbolism in the Old Testament, it is important, however, that we do not overlook Old Testament instructions that were pragmatic in value and that testify to a Master Mind behind the writing of the Law. One such instruction is found in Numbers 19, where the Israelites were instructed to prepare the “water of purification” that was to be used to wash any person who had touched a dead body.
At first glance, the water of purification sounds like a hodge-podge of superstitious potion-making that included the ashes of a young cow, hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet. But this formula was the farthest thing from a potion intended to “ward off evil spirits.” On the contrary, the recipe for the water of purification stands today as a wonderful example of the Bible’s brilliance, since the recipe is nothing less than a procedure to produce an antibacterial soap.
When we look at the ingredients individually, we begin to see the value of each. First, consider the use of ashes. The chemical known as lye is one of the main ingredients in many soaps today. In fact, lye, in high concentrations, is very caustic and irritating to the skin. In more diluted concentrations, it can be used as an excellent exfoliate and cleansing agent. Various lye-soap recipes reveal that, to obtain lye, water often is poured through ashes. The water retrieved from pouring it through the ashes contains a concentration of the chemical. Moses instructed the Israelites to prepare a mixture that would have included lye mixed in a diluted solution, which would have been ideal for stopping the spread of germs.
What about the specific ingredients for the water of purification? Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol, the same ingredient that we find today in some brands of mouthwash (McMillen and Stern, p. 24). “Cedar wood has long been used for storage cabinets because of its ability to repel insects and prevent decay. In oil form, applied to humans, it is an antiseptic, astringent, expectorant (removes mucus from respiratory system), anti-fungal, sedative and insecticide” (“Cedar Oil,” n.d.). The Israelites were instructed to toss into the mix “scarlet,” which most likely was scarlet wool (see Hebrews 9:19). Adding wool fibers to the concoction would have made the mixture the “ancient equivalent of Lava® soap” (McMillen and Stern, p. 25).
Thousands of years before any formal studies were done to see what type of cleaning methods were the most effective; millennia before American pioneers concocted their lye solutions; and ages before our most advanced medical students knew a thing about germ theory, Moses instructed the Israelites to concoct an amazingly effective recipe for soap, that, if used properly in medical facilities like hospitals in Vienna, would literally have saved thousands of lives.
The Old Testament record added another extremely beneficial practice to the field of medicine in its detailed descriptions of maladies for which living individuals should be quarantined. The book of Leviticus lists a host of diseases and ways in which an Israelite would come in contact with germs. Those with such diseases as leprosy were instructed to “dwell alone” “outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). If and when a diseased individual got close to those who were not diseased, he was instructed to “cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” (13:45). It is of interest that the covering of one’s mustache (“upper lip”—ASV) would prevent spit and spray from the mouth of the individual to pass freely through the air, much like the covering of one’s mouth during a cough.
In regard to the understanding of contagion that is evident in the quarantine rules in the Old Testament, Roderick McGrew noted in the Encyclopedia of Medical History: “The idea of contagion was foreign to the classic medical tradition and found no place in the voluminous Hippocratic writings. The Old Testament, however, is a rich source for contagionist sentiment, especially in regard to leprosy and venereal disease” (1985, pp. 77-78). Here again, the Bible exhibits amazingly accurate medical and scientific knowledge that surpasses any known human ingenuity available at the time of its writing.
Many physicians who have compared Moses’ medical instructions to effective modern methods have come to realize the astonishing value and insight of the Bible. As 20th-century pharmacologist and Hebrew scholar, Dr. David Macht of Johns Hopkins University, once wrote: “Every word in the Hebrew Scriptures is well chosen and carries valuable knowledge and deep significance” (1953, p. 450). Indeed, the accurate medical practices prescribed thousands of years before their significance was completely understood provide excellent evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible.
REASON #3: THE OVERALL FACTUAL ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE
Suppose we were to ask a group of historians to author the most up-to-date history of the United States of America on the market. Suppose we gave them years to finish it and unlimited resources to use for their research. At the end of that period, with their newly published volume in hand, could we be confident that they had accurately recorded the significant dates and information perfectly? No, we could not. In fact, within just a few years, as every decent publishing company owner knows, we would need a second edition. Within a decade, so much new information would have come to light that a third or fourth edition would be necessary. And within 20 years, we most likely would need a completely new book if we wanted to preserve history accurately. But when we look into the 66 books of the Bible, we find perfect historical accuracy that has never needed updating or correcting.
Every single statement of the Bible that can be historically checked or verified has shown that the Bible writers never once made a mistake. The fact that the books of the Bible are perfectly accurate indicates that an intelligence beyond human ability must have been involved in the composition of the books.
The Accuracy of Acts
Sir William Ramsay was a one-time unbeliever and world-class archaeologist. His extensive education had ingrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. But along with that scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (specifically the book of Acts). As Ramsay himself remarked:
[A]bout 1880 to 1890, the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts (1915, p. 38).
As could be expected of someone who had been trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view. He eventually abandoned it, however, because he was willing to do what few people of his time dared to do—explore the Bible lands themselves with an archaeologist’s pick in one hand and an open Bible in the other. His self-stated intention was to prove the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as recorded in the book of Acts. But, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. In fact, after years of literally digging through the evidence in Asia Minor, Ramsay concluded that Luke was an exemplary historian. Lee S. Wheeler, in his classic work Famous Infidels Who Found Christ, recounted Ramsay’s life story in great detail (1931, pp. 102-106), and then quoted the famed archaeologist, who ultimately admitted:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the book of Acts—KB/EL]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (Ramsay, 1915, p. 89).
Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, is now widely acknowledged as an extremely accurate historian in his own right—so much so that Ramsay came to believe in Christianity as a result of his personal examination of the preciseness of Luke’s historical record. What legitimate reason is there to reject Luke’s amazingly accurate testimony? As Wayne Jackson summarized:
In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable, in view of the fact that the political/territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change (1991, 27:2).
The Pilate Inscription
The last few days of Jesus’ life were the most tragic of any in human history. Amidst all the violence, there stood one man who had the power to stop all the torture. One man could call off the Roman soldiers and save Christ from being crucified. His name—Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who governed the area of Judea at the time of Christ’s death. The story of the crucifixion can hardly be told without mentioning the name of this Roman official who sentenced Christ to death—even though Pilate knew He was innocent (John 18:38; 19:4,6).
Although the Bible mentions Pilate on several occasions, his name could not be found among the archaeological evidence. For hundreds of years, no stone inscriptions or other physical evidence could be produced to support the idea that a man named Pilate had anything to do with either Christ or Judea. Because of this, many mocked the Bible and claimed that creative biblical writers concocted Pilate from their own fertile imaginations. After all, if Pilate were such a prominent leader, wouldn’t there be some kind of archaeological evidence to verify his existence?
Critics were silenced when, in 1961, an Italian archaeological team working at Caesarea found a stone tablet that measured 32 inches high, by 27 inches wide, by 8 inches thick. On this slab, now known as the “Pilate Inscription,” were the remains of this simple title: “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea”—almost the exact same title as the one given to him in Luke 3:1. This, then, became yet another find to remind us that the more we uncover the past, the more we uncover the truth that the Bible is indeed the Word of God (see Price, 1997, pp. 307-308).
The truth is, numerous archaeological finds have verified the Bible’s accuracy. As the renowned archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” (1959, p. 31). Truly, the perfect historical accuracy, without the tell-tale mistakes that are found in works written by mere humans, testifies to the Bible’s divine origin.
No series of books in human history has maintained the supernatural consistency that is present within the pages of the Bible. From the first book of Genesis to the last book of Revelation, approximately 40 men penned individual treatises that combine to form the best-selling, most widely distributed, perfectly unified, flawlessly written book ever produced. Mere human genius never could have produced a work with such predictive prophecy, scientific foreknowledge, and overall factual accuracy. Common sense demands an adequate explanation. The only rational conclusion, which is in keeping with the evidence at hand, is that the Bible is “given by inspiration of God.”
“Best Selling Book of Non-Fiction” (2014), Guinness World Records, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1/best-selling-book-of-non-fiction/.
Bryan, Cyril (1930), Ancient Egyptian Medicine: The Papyrus Ebers (Chicago, IL: Ares Publishers).
“Cedar Oil” (no date), Spavelous, http://www.spavelous.com/Articles/Health_Nutrition/Aromatherapy_Chart.html.
Fleming, Wallace B. (1966), The History of Tyre (New York: AMS Press).
Glueck, Nelson (1959), Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy).
“God Facts” (no date), http://www.wwj.org.nz/gfacts.php.
Herodotus (1972 reprint), The Histories, trans. Aubrey De Sélincourt (London: Penguin).
Horace, “Ars Poetica,” http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/horace/arspoet.shtml.
Jackson, Wayne (1991), “The Holy Bible—Inspired of God,” Christian Courier, 27:1-3, May.
Jackson, Wayne (1997), “Homer Sometimes Nodded, but the Bible Writers Never Did!” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=249.
Josephus, Flavius (1987), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus: Against Apion, trans. William Whitson (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2014), “7 Reasons to Believe in God,” Reason & Revelation, 34:108-120, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1175.
Macht, David I. (1953), “An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciation of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 27:444-450, September-October.
Massengill, S.E. (1943), A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy (Bristol, TN: S.E. Massengill).
McGrew, Roderick (1985), Encyclopedia of Medical History (London: Macmillan Press).
McMillen, S.I. and David Stern (2000), None of These Diseases (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell), third edition.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Is the Book of Mormon from God?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1187.
Miller, Dave (2005), The Quran Unveiled (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Nuland, Sherwin B. (2003), The Doctor’s Plague (New York: Atlas Books).
Pope, Alexander (1709), “An Essay on Criticism,” http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/ldc/ling001/pope_crit.htm.
Price, Randall (1997), The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
Ramsay, William (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton).
Siculus, Diodorus (1963), Library of History, trans. C. Bradford Welles (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
“Tyre” (2006), Columbia Encyclopedia, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Tyre.aspx.
Wheeler, Lee S. (1931), Famous Infidels Who Found Christ (Peekskill, NY: Review and Herald Publishing Association).
3 Good Reasons to Believe the Bible Has Not Been Corrupted
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The image on the front cover of this month’s R&R is St. Catherine’s Monastery where Codex Sinaiticus was discovered by Constantin von Tischendorf in 1844.]
Many are those who insist that the Bible has been corrupted over time, that we do not really know which verses belong in the Bible, and that translation errors are so plentiful that we do not have the original message. Yet these allegations have been confronted and refuted time and time again. Apart from the Old Testament (which has been fully verified), a myriad of books over the years have masterfully demonstrated the integrity of the New Testament text, including such volumes as J.W. McGarvey’s Evidences of Christianity, Kurt and Barbara Aland’s The Text of the New Testament, F.F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture, Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament, F.H.A. Scrivener’s A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Sir Frederic Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Benjamin Warfield’s An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, and many others. Those who cast aspersions upon the integrity of the biblical text manifest either abysmal, inexcusable ignorance of the long established facts of the matter or deliberate bias. If the reader desires the truth regarding the authenticity and integrity of the Bible, the evidence is available—if the individual is willing to spend the time and effort to weigh that evidence and arrive at the proper conclusion (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Do we have the message that the original authors penned? The fact is that the books of the New Testament are the most extensively verified books of ancient history. The facts completely undermine and discredit any attack on the integrity and transmission of the Bible.
REASON #1: THE NEW TESTAMENT GREEK TEXT HAS BEEN AUTHENTICATED
We know how the original New Testament books read because we have three surviving classes of evidence by which to reconstruct the original New Testament: Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic citations. The current number of Greek manuscript copies containing all or part of the New Testament now stands at 5,795. This amount of manuscript evidence for the text of the New Testament is far greater than that available for any ancient classical author. The time between the writing of the original books of the New Testament and the earliest surviving copies is relatively brief. Although no two manuscript copies agree in every detail, the degree of accuracy achieved by most scribes was remarkably high. The vast majority of textual variants involve minormatters that do not alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. Suitable solutions to these differences are detectable. Even if they weren’t, manuscript evidence is so prolific that the original reading is one of the extant options. Even those variants that some might deem “doctrinally significant” (e.g., Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11) pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness/certainty is unquestioned. We can confidently affirm that we have 999/1000ths of the original Greek New Testament intact. The remaining 1/1000th pertains to inconsequential details.
Additionally, a wealth of ancient versions provides further verification of the purity of the biblical text, including Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Old Slavonic, and others. Textual critics through history have steadfastly affirmed the value of these ancient versions in reconstructing the New Testament text. For example, Vaganay observed: “After the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the versions constitute the most valuable source for writing the history of this text” (1934, p. 28; cf. Vogels, 1923, p. 84—“The versions are very valuable for establishing the original text of the Bible.”). Though noting the limitations, the Alands admitted: “[T]he importance of the versions is substantial” (1987, p. 182).
The same may be said for the wealth of textual materials available via the so-called “Church Fathers,” i.e., early Christian writers who quoted, paraphrased, and otherwise alluded to passages from Scripture in their letters, commentaries, and correspondence. This latter source of information is so prolific that Metzger affirmed: “Indeed, so extensive are these citations that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86).
These contentions have been verified by the greatest textual critics and linguistic scholars of the past two centuries. Their conclusions have not become outdated, but remain as valid today as when first formulated. If the integrity of the text of the Bible was fully authenticated in their day, it remains so today. Consider the following statements by some of these world class authorities.
Scholarly Verification of the Purity of the New Testament Text
F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was a biblical scholar who taught Greek at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds, chaired the Department of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield, received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Aberdeen University, and served as the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester. He wrote over 40 books and served as Editor of The Evangelical Quarterly and Palestine Exploration Quarterly. Bruce declared: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the N.T. affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1975, pp. 19-20, emp. added). He also stated:
In view of the inevitable accumulation of such errors over so many centuries, it may be thought that the original texts of the New Testament documents have been corrupted beyond restoration. Some writers, indeed, insist on the likelihood of this to such a degree that one sometimes suspects they would be glad if it were so. But they are mistaken. There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament (1963, p. 178, emp. added).
Bruce further insisted:
Something more ought to be said, and said with emphasis. We have been discussing various textual types, and reviewing their comparative claims to be regarded as best representatives of the original New Testament. But there are not wide divergencies between these types, of a kind that could make any difference to the Church’s responsibility to be a witness and guardian of Holy Writ…. If the variant readings are so numerous, it is because the witnesses are so numerous. But all the witnesses, and all the types which they represent, agree on every article of Christian belief and practice(1963, p. 189, emp. added).
Bruce Metzger (1914-2007) was also a scholar of Greek, the New Testament, and New Testament Textual Criticism, serving as professor at Princeton Theological Seminary for 46 years. Described by prominent biblical scholar Raymond Brown as “probably the greatest textual specialist that America has produced” (as quoted in Ehrman and Holmes, 1995, p. xi), Metzger was a recognized authority on the Greek text of the New Testament. He served on the board of the American Bible Society, was the driving force of the United Bible Societies’ series of Greek Texts, and served as Chairperson of the NRSV Bible Committee. He is widely considered one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century. Concerning ancient versions, Metzger stated:
…even if we had no Greek manuscripts today, by piecing together the information from these translations from a relatively early date, we could actually reproduce the contents of the New Testament. In addition to that, even if we lost all the Greek manuscripts and the early translations, we could still reproduce the contents of the New Testament from the multiplicity of quotations in commentaries, sermons, letters, and so forth of the early church fathers (as quoted in Strobel, 1998, p. 59).
Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) was a British bishop, biblical scholar and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham and holding the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge. His colleague, Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), was an Irish theologian who served as a Professor at Cambridge. Together, they pioneered the widely recognized Greek text The New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881. They are still considered to be renowned textual critics. They forthrightly asserted:
With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament…there is no variation or other ground of doubt…. [T]he amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text. Since there is reason to suspect that an exaggerated impression prevails as to the extent of possible textual corruption in the New Testament…we desire to make it clearly understood beforehand how much of the New Testament stands in no need of a textual critic’s labours (1882, pp. 2-3, emp. added).
These peerless scholars also insisted: “[I]n the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writing” (p. 278, emp. added). They add: “The books of the New Testament as preserved in extant documents assuredly speak to us in every important respect in language identical with that in which they spoke to those for whom they were originally written” (p. 284).
Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) was a Professor of Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. He is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians. In his Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Warfield insightfully observed:
[S]uch has been the providence of God in preserving for His Church in each and every age a competently exact text of the Scriptures, that not only is the New Testament unrivalled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use, but also in the abundance of testimony which has come down to us for castigating its comparatively infrequent blemishes…. The great mass of the New Testament, in other words, has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no, variation (1886, pp. 12-13,14, emp. added).
Richard Bentley (1662-1742) was an English classical scholar, critic, and theologian who served as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and was the first Englishman to be ranked with the great heroes of classical learning. He was well-known for his literary and textual criticism, even called the “Founder of Historical Philology,” and credited with the creation of the English school of Hellenism. Here are his comments on the integrity of the New Testament text:
[T]he real text of the sacred writers does not now (since the originals have been so long lost) lie in any single manuscript or edition, but is dispersed in them all. ‘Tis competently exact indeed even in the worst manuscript now extant; nor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost in them (1725, pp. 68-69, emp. added).
Marvin Vincent (1834-1922) graduated from Columbia University and became professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in the late 19thcentury. He is best known for his Greek analysis of the words of the New Testament in his Word Studies in the New Testament. Regarding the integrity of the text, he observed:
The vast number of variations furnishes no cause for alarm to the devout reader of the New Testament. It is the natural result of the great number of documentary sources. A very small proportion of the variations materially affects the sense, a much smaller proportion is really important, and no variation affects an article of faith or a moral precept (1899, p. 7, emp. added).
Sir Frederic George Kenyon (1863-1952) was a widely respected, eminent British paleographer and biblical and classical scholar who occupied a series of posts at the British Museum. He served as President of the British Academy from 1917 to 1921 and President of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. He made a lifelong study of the Bible as an historical text. In his masterful Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Kenyon affirmed:
One word of warning…must be emphasized in conclusion. No fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading. Constant references to mistakes and divergencies of reading…might give rise to the doubt whether the substance, as well as the language, of the Bible is not open to question. It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain. Especially is this the case with the New Testament. The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church is so large, that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world (1895, pp. 10-11, emp. added).
In his monumental The Bible and Archaeology, Kenyon further stated:
The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established (1940, pp. 288-289, emp. added).
Indeed, “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear of hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, faithfully handed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (1895, pp. 10-11).
Samuel Davidson (1806-1898) was an Irish biblical scholar who served as Professor of Biblical Criticism at Royal College of Belfast and Professor of Biblical Criticism in the Lancashire Independent College at Manchester. He authored many books on the text of the Bible. Referring to the work of textual criticism, Davidson concluded:
The effect of it has been to establish the genuineness of the New Testament text in all important particulars. No new doctrines have been elicited by its aid; nor have any historical facts been summoned by it from their obscurity. All the doctrines and duties of Christianity remain unaffected.… [I]n the records of inspiration there is no material corruption.... [D]uring the lapse of many centuries the text of Scripture has been preserved with great care…. Empowered by the fruits of criticism, we may well say that the Scriptures continue essentially the same as when they proceeded from the writers themselves (1853, 2:147, emp. added).
Frederick H.A. Scrivener (1813-1891) was a prominent and important New Testament textual critic of the 19th century. Having graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, he taught classics at several schools in southern England. His expertise in textual criticism is self-evident in that he served as a member of the English New Testament Revision Committee (Revised Version), edited the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis and several editions of the Greek New Testament, collated the Codex Sinaiticus with the Textus Receptus, and was the first to distinguish the Textus Receptus from the Byzantine text. In his A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Scrivener admitted:
[O]ne great truth is admitted on all hands—the almost complete freedom of Holy Scripture from the bare suspicion of wilful [sic] corruption; the absolute identity of the testimony of every known copy in respect to doctrine, and spirit, and the main drift of every argument and every narrative through the entire volume of Inspiration…. Thus hath God’s Providence kept from harm the treasure of His written word, so far as is needful for the quiet assurance of His church and people (1861, pp. 6-7, emp. added).
J.W. McGarvey (1829-1911) was a minister, author, educator, and biblical scholar. He taught 46 years in the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, serving as President from 1895 to 1911. He summarized the point: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1974, p. 17).
Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) was a prominent Founding Father of America. He served in the Continental Congress (1778-1779, 1781-1784), as its President in 1782-1783, and was the founding president of the American Bible Society. In his refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, Boudinot explained: “[T]he facts upon which the Christian religion is founded, have a stronger proof, than any facts at such a distance of time; and that the books which convey them down to us, may be proved to be uncorrupted and authentic, with greater strength than any other writings of equal antiquity” (1801, p. 239, emp. added). This Founding Father’s view of the purity of the text of the New Testament was the view of the vast majority of the Founders.
With all the kindness one can muster, these eminent, well-studied, competent, peerless scholars, whose expertise in the field of Textual Criticism is unsurpassed, are far more qualified and accurate in their assessment of the credibility, integrity, and authenticity of the biblical text than any alleged scholar or skeptic living today. Truthfully, God knew that the original autographs would not survive, and that His Word would have to be transmitted through the centuries via copies. The transmission process is sufficiently flexible for God’s Word to be conveyed adequately by uninspired, imperfect copyists. Indeed, the original text of the New Testament has been thoroughly and sufficiently authenticated.
REASON #2: THE TRANSLATION PROCESS WORKS
God knew that the vast majority of the human race could not learn Greek or Hebrew. He knew that His Word would have to be read in translation in the language of the common people. The translation process is sufficiently flexible for God’s Word to be conveyed adequately by uninspired, imperfect translators. While some English translations may well seek to advance a theological agenda, generally speaking, most translations do not differ on the essentials. Most English versions convey these essentials: (1) what one must do to be saved and (2) what one must do to stay saved. As imperfect as translations might be, most still convey this basic information. This fact is verified by Jesus and the apostles’ own use of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text en voguein first-century Palestine. Some think this translation was achieved by 72 Jewish scholars who were invited to Alexandria, Egypt roughly two and a half centuries before Christ. Though considered by scholars as an imperfect translation of the Hebrew, most of the direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint. Hence, the Bible gives implicit divine endorsement to the use of imperfect, manmade translations, further implying that God’s Word has been adequately transmitted down through the centuries via translation.
A host of books have been published over the years that discuss principles of Bible translation (e.g., Nida, 1964; Beekman and Callow, 1974; Ryken, 2009; Grant, 1961; et al.). All human languages share in common a variety of linguistic features that may be suitably utilized to transmit God’s meanings. The United Nations stands as an indisputable testimony to the fact that meaning can be conveyed from one language to another. Indeed, messages all over the world are effectively translated into different languages every day. Likewise, the meanings of the words, grammar, and syntax of the biblical (parent) languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek have been amply transferred to English Bible translations. Even when English translations differ with each other on any given passage, further study will enable the Bible student to ascertain the meaning(s) intended. As with the transmission of the Greek text, the translation process provides the individual with the possibilities when more than one meaning is possible. When all is said and done, one may confidently say that God’s message has been suitably transferred from the original biblical languages into English.
REASON #3: THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH TRANSLATION DEMONSTRATES PRESERVATION
All languages are in a constant state of flux. Thus new translations are inevitable and necessary. But though the Greek text has been verified, and though we know that translation can be done accurately, how do we know that today we have God’s Word available since the translating has been done by many different people over several centuries? Answer: Because the history of English translation has been traced and verified. We know that the Hebrew and Greek texts were translated into Latin early on, and eventually began to be transferred to English in the 14th century. The hall of fame of great Bible translators in the English-speaking world verifies the accomplishment of this transference of God’s Word to the present: John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, John Rogers (the Matthew’s Bible), Richard Taverner, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Matthew Parker (the Bishop’s Bible), the King James Bible (1611), the English Revised Version (ERV—1888) and its American counterpart, the American Standard Version (ASV—1901), and the host of English translations that have appeared in the 20th and now 21st centuries (cf. Lewis, 1991). We know the Bible has not been corrupted because we have the English translations generated through the centuries that enable us to examine and verify the text of the Bible. Coincidentally, even if we did not know English translation history, we can take the authenticated Greek text and make a completely new translation in English.
The evidence is available and it is decisive. Currently circulating copies of the Bible do not differ substantially from the original. Those who reject the Bible’s divine authority must do so for reasons other than their ability to know what God intended to communicate to the human race.
All human beings can know the truth and be saved. All can know that God exists and that the Bible is His Word. All can know that Christianity is the only true religion and that all must obey the Gospel of Christ in order to be forgiven of sin and saved. All can know that we must live the Christian life, worshipping God correctly, and living faithfully to God in daily behavior.
Aland, Kurt and Barbara Aland (1987), The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Beekman, John and John Callow (1974), Translating the Word of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Bentley, Richard (1725), Remarks Upon a Late Discourse of Free Thinking (Cambridge: Cornelius Crownfield).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Bruce, F.F. (1963), The Books and the Parchments (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Bruce, F.F. (1975 reprint), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Bruce, F.F. (1988), The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Davidson, Samuel (1853), A Treatise on Biblical Criticism (Boston: Gould & Lincoln).
Ehrman, Bart and Michael Holmes (1995), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Grant, Frederick (1961), Translating the Bible (New York: Seabury Press).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1895), Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper & Row).
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