How We Got Our Bible
NOTE: The first article on this subject appeared in the September issue.
The Canon Of Scripture Recognized
I quote again from page 57 of “The Scripture of Truth.” “How, then, did the Inspired Writings come to be recognized as the Scriptures of God, and to hold, as they do today, an absolutely unique place among all the other writings on the face of the earth?
“Some of the books, especially the Pentateuch — i.e., the first five books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy) — were from the first regarded by the Jews as the very utterances of Jehovah, their divine origin and authorship having never at any time been questioned. Indeed, these books of Moses hold to this day a higher place in the minds of Jews than any other part of Scripture; so much so, that every Jewish synagogue throughout the world has at least two or three copies of the Pentateuch, although in many cases they do not possess any other parts of the Old Testament. The Samaritans actually reject everything but the Pentateuch.
“With some of the other books, however, it was different — that is, their true character was not at once discerned. All, however, in course of time were ultimately recognized as having come from God; and, although they have been collected and arranged in their present form by human hands, their selection from amongst all other literature was not left to the caprice of any man or body of men, whether Church or council. Indeed, this was the fatal mistake made at the Council of Trent, A. D. 1545-63, which, by the way, was practically a Roman Catholic Council, being presided over and controlled by the Pope — when they decided that the fourteen uninspired books of the Apocrypha should be included in the Canon of Scripture. But any child can see that that decision cannot really alter the true character of those uninspired books, which were written nearly two thousand years previously, any more than spurious metal can be converted into gold by being hall-marked! As Luther truly said, ‘The Church cannot give more force or authority to a book than it has in itself. A council cannot make that to be Scripture which in its own nature is not Scripture.’
“How, then, was this all-important matter settled? It was decided by the internal testimony and intrinsic value of the writings themselves — just as the true character of a tree, though questioned, and even vehemently denied, for a time in the dead months of winter, will, nevertheless, soon be established beyond all doubt — not on the authority of some expert gardener or association of gardeners, but by its own unanswerable evidence in the flower and fruit it bears.
“So with the books which form the Canon of Scripture. It seems to have been the custom for the inspired writers to deliver their writings to the priests to be placed by the side of the Law for safe keeping (Deut. 31:9). Josephus tells us that this practice was always followed, copies being made for personal use by kings and others (Deut. 17:18). But when first these sacred utterances were made and put in writing, they were in some cases only recognized as the ‘Word of the Lord’ by ‘the poor of the flock’ (Zech. 11:11), while by others they were often indignantly repudiated, and the writers themselves were imprisoned and slain (Jer. 36:5, 23, 24).
“But sooner or later the tree was known by its fruit; and those very writings which were at first rejected, became in course of time honoured and revered; until every part of the true Word of God, which is declared to be ‘living and powerful’ (Heb. 4:12), asserted its own authority. Though written by man, it came to be recognized as the voice of God; and has ever since been regarded as such — in the case of the Old Testament by the Jews, and in the case of the Old and New by the whole Christian Church.
“And the very fact that those other books have been allowed to pass so completely away, is sufficient proof in itself that they never were intended to be included in the Canon of Sacred Scriptures; for had they ever formed a part of the true Word of the Lord, they must, in their very nature, have remained to this day, since it is written, ‘The Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever … The Word of the Lord endureth for ever’ (1 Peter 1:23-25).
“But instead of abiding for ever, what has happened to them? They served their little day and generation, and then, like their authors, fell on sleep and saw corruption. The fire that is to try every man’s work, of what sort it is (1 Cor. 3:13), has in a sense tried all those writing; and what has been the result? In comparison with the Scriptures they have proved but dross, and hence, like all other dross, they have perished; while those books which form the Canon of Scripture — tried by the same process — have proved themselves to be as silver, tried in a furnace, and hence they have not perished, but are ‘purified seven times’ (Psa. 12:6).
“As Dr. George Salmon, in his introduction to the New Testament, says, ‘The Scriptures, by their own weight . . .crushed all rivals out of existence.’
“So the removing, as it were, of those lost books is perfectly natural— ‘as of things that are made, that those things (like the Scriptures of God) which cannot be shaken should remain’ (Heb. 12:27).
“And we can almost imagine we hear the Scriptures saying of those lost books, as John, writing by the Spirit, said of certain professors whose spurious character had been discovered: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us’ (1 John 2:19).”
Some Translations Of The Scriptures
The Old Testament was written originally, except for three small sections which were written in Chaldean, in the Hebrew language. The whole of the New Testament was written originally in Greek.
The Septuagint Version: About 277 B.C. (a little over 100 years after the close of the Old Testament Canon) a Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures was made. This was said to have been the work of 70 scholars at Alexandria and hence its title. This Greek translation, which was faulty in many respects, was apparently ignored entirely by our Lord when here on earth. However, the translation was the basis of many future translations.
The Vulgate Version: In the second century A.D., a Latin translation was made of the whole Bible. This was translated from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the original Greek of the New. It was called the “Vulgate or Common or Public” version. This was the first Bible to be taken to England.
Other Translations: In 1250 A.D. the Bible was divided for the first time into chapters and 300 years later into verses. In the fourteenth century, John Wycliffe was the first to translate the whole Bible into the English language. William Tyndale in 1525 was the first to publish the English New Testament in print. He wisely used the word “love” in 1 Cor. 13, rather than the word “charity”. Tyndale, for his testimony to Christ, was eventually strangled and then burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic authorities.
The Great Bible: In 1539, “The Great Bible” was issued. It was given this title because of its size. It was also called “The Chained Bible” because it used to be chained to the desks of churches for safe keeping. It was also called ‘‘The Treacle Bible” because Jer. 8:22 was rendered, “Is there no treacle in Gilead?”
The Geneva Bible: In 1560, “The Geneva Bible” appeared, so called because it had been prepared by the Reformers in Geneva where they had fled from the persecution of Queen Mary.
This version was translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek, and is also known as “The Breeches Bible” because Gen. 3:7 is rendered, “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves breeches.
This was the first Bible in which italics were used to indicate words which are not in the original. It was also the first whole Bible which was divided into verses; and it was the first to omit the apocryphal books since their introduction into the Septuagint about the fourth century.
The Douay Bible: In 1582 the Roman Catholics issued their Douay version of the New Testament and in 1610 the whole Douay-Rhemish Bible was issued, so called because the Old Testament was translated at Douay, and the New Testament at Rheims. These translations were made from the Latin Vulgate, and contain some gross errors, which cannot possibly be supported by the original Hebrew or Greek.
The Authorized Version: Under the patronage of King James I., “Fifty-four translators, including High-church men, Puritans, and the best scholars in the land, undertook the task, sitting in sections at Westminister, Oxford, and Cambridge. They had the Hebrew and Greek originals to refer to, besides many other ancient documents of great value. Indeed, never before had such an amount of careful labour been expended on the English Bible.
“In 1611, after about five years of close study, what we call the Authorized Version was published. In this version, the marginal references from one passage to another, so useful to Bible students, were adopted.”
The beautiful and stately language of the Authorized Version has so endeared itself to English-speaking people all over the world, that it has remained the Bible of the people for over three centuries.
Since the Authorized Version, there have been the Revised Version, the American Revised Version and several other good and useful versions. However, it is unlikely that any of these versions will ever fully replace the beloved “Authorized Version”.
When Queen Victoria was asked concerning the greatness of Britain, she held up her Bible and said, “This Book is the secret of Britain’s greatness.” How true this is today—where the Bible holds sway — there is intelligence, prosperity, and power! Where the Bible is kept out, where it is not read nor revered, there is poverty, illiteracy, and darkness.
Indeed, the inspired Word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.