The Doctrine of the Bible Part I


by Jimmy Swaggart

Of course, the last Book written, which was approximately 1,600 years after Moses, was the Book of Revelation, written by John the Beloved.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE BIBLE

The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God; it is, in fact, the very Word of God.

Of the translations, there are none that can equal the King James. As one of the most noted Greek Scholars of the Twentieth Century stated, “When you hold the King James Bible in your hands, you can be certain that you are holding the very Word of God.”

But yet, we must remember, while the Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit, meaning that it is error-free, that does not include the translations. The King James Translation was finished in 1611; the men who did the work were some of the most able scholars in the world of that day. As many people may not know, some of them did not even claim to be Born-Again. But yet, the Lord turned this to His Favour.

These men were not trying to favor any particular interpretation of the Word, their only ambition was to get the Hebrew of the Old Testament translated into English as perfect as possible, and the same with the Greek as it regards the New Testament. And yet, the King James Translation has been revised several times since it was originally written, and rightly so.

I have a page from the very first translation of the King James. It is framed and hanging on the wall in our Administration Building. Due to the heavy Elizabethan usage of the language, it would be very difficult for most people to read it at all. So it was good that it was edited, again with the thought in mind of keeping it as close to the original Text as possible.

THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS

There are no original manuscripts of the Bible, due to antiquity. The first Books were written by Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). In fact, Moses probably wrote Job before he wrote any of the Books listed above, and did so in collaboration with Job, who was alive the last years of Moses’ sojourn in the desert, before leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt.

If, in fact, that is the case, then Job is the oldest Book in the world.

Of course, the last Book written, which was approximately 1,600 years after Moses, was the Book of Revelation, written by John the Beloved. Incidentally, he was the last Apostle of the original Twelve to die.

Even though there are none of the original manuscripts left, and that is because of age, Scholarship states, that for any work of antiquity, if there are ten identical copies, the original is judged as genuine. There are over 10,000 copies of the Books of the Bible, or copies of part of the Books.

This means that there is greater proof of the authenticity of the Bible, than any other book in the world. Probably the most recent discoveries of copies of particular Books in the Bible are the Dead Sea Scrolls.

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

In 1947 three Arab shepherds were tending their sheep and goats along the cliffs on the northwest coast of the Dead Sea. One of them, Juma Muhammed Khalil, threw a stone into a small hole he saw in the cliff and heard a shattering sound that raised his hopes that gold might have been stored within. Muhammad edh-Dhib, a younger companion, later returned and entered the cave. Here he found about ten elongated jars, only two of which contained anything. Three large rolls were removed from one jar and later taken to Bethlehem where the shepherds sought to sell them to antique dealers. The Bedouins found several other Scrolls and fragments there some months later. Four of the manuscripts were sold to the Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Jerusalem, and later three Scrolls were obtained by the Hebrew University.

In periods of religious and civil tension among the Jews, their adherents apparently grew in number.

After the discovery of these first Scrolls was publicised in late 1948, a clandestine search in many caves was undertaken by the Ta’amirah Bedouins.

The Antiquities Department of the Jordan took charge in 1949 and worked out an arrangement with the Bedouins that encouraged them to offer their discoveries to the officials in charge. Thus began what has proved to be the greatest recent discovery of Biblical and related materials in the Holy Land.

THE PROPHET ISAIAH

From the first cave came the complete Isaiah “A” Scroll, which dates from about 100 B.C., the Isaiah “B” Scroll, which preserves parts of Chapters 16 through 66, dates from about A.D. 50; an almost complete commentary on Habakkuk 1 and 2, copied about 40 B.C. through A.D. 25; a fragmentary Aramaic interpretation of Genesis, from about A.D. 1 through A.D. 25; and, an important document containing the rules and teachings of the religious community (probably the Essene’s) that occupied the settlement of Qumran, about seven and a half miles south of Jericho. The Essene’s were a sect of the Jews who believed they had been chosen by God to prepare the way for the new age to come (Isa. 40:3) by living a holy life in the wilderness away from the “sons of darkness” dwelling in the cities of Judah.

THE ESSENE’S

They sought to observe the Old Testament Law perfectly, according to the Apocalyptic interpretations by their “teacher of righteousness.” They came to Qumran in the late Second Century B.C. and took over the ruins of an ancient fortified settlement built during the Ninth and Eighth Centuries B.C. by the Hebrews and destroyed in the Sixth Century B.C. Here the Essene’s lived, farmed, wrote down their beliefs and rules, composed interpretations, and made copies of the Old Testament.

In periods of religious and civil tension among the Jews, their adherents apparently grew in number. The group at Qumran was evidently the largest, but the Essene’s followers seem to have been scattered widely. They’d rendered a great service in their devotion to the copying of the Scriptures.

The only translation that can be concluded as the Word of God is a word-for-word translation, such as the King James.

During the First Century A.D. they were victims of the political disorder between the Romans and Jews and were forced to abandon their settlement in A.D. 68 when the Roman army attacked the revolting Jews in Jerusalem. Before leaving, the Essene’s hid their sacred documents in tightly sealed jars in the nearby cliffs. Qumran was occupied by the tenth legion of the Roman army for a few years and again during the Bar Kokhba rebellion of A.D. 132 through A.D. 135. Evidently some of the caves had been entered, jars broken, the contents scattered, and some manuscripts removed during the centuries since. From 1951 through 1958 the site was excavated, and its complex of buildings proved to be an Essene settlement.

MANUSCRIPTS

From 1952 through 1956 ten other caves with related materials were discovered. In addition, five caves in Wadi Murrabbaat produced materials from the revolt of A.D. 132. The latter was twelve miles south of Qumran.

More than 250 caves in the area have been carefully examined by archaeologists. In the nearby caves IV and XI, more than 40,000 fragments of manuscripts have been found. Almost 400 manuscripts of varying sizes from Qumran cave IV alone have been identified since 1956. Of a total of almost 600 manuscripts from the eleven Qumran caves about 125 are Biblical. Every Book of the Old Testament is represented except Esther, but only Isaiah “A” is complete.

In cave XI a manuscript, copied about A.D. 50, containing 37 Psalms was found and has since been translated and published. Included in this collection is the 151st Psalm, previously known only from the Greek.

A Scroll of Ezekiel from cave XI was so disintegrated that it is a complete loss. In the same cave a copy of the Targum of Job was found (paraphrased in Aramaic), two-fifths of which is readable. It was translated in 1962; scholars set its date as A.D. 50. Also during 1962, in a monastery in Spain, a copy of the Palestinian Targum was recovered and it is believed to date from as early as A.D. 50.

These discoveries have reopened the study of the history of the Targums, indicating an earlier origin than was previously thought. Thus, the study of the Essene writings found in the various caves not only greatly expands our knowledge of sectarian Judaism in the New Testament period, but also verifies the historical accounts left by Philo and Josephus concerning the Essene’s, their practices, history, and doctrines.

(Incidentally, a “Targum” was an Aramaic paraphrase of the Old Testament, which in later Judaism was often used to accompany the reading of the Hebrew original in the Synagogues. In fact, it was probably similar to (“The Expositor’s Study Bible”.)

WORD-FOR-WORD TRANSLATION

Our present society is being flooded with so-called translations which are really interpretations or thought for thought translations, such as the Message Bible.

Actually, these types of efforts cannot even be construed as Bibles. At best they are religious books.

The only translation that can be concluded as the Word of God is a word-for-word translation, such as the King James. There are one or two other word-for-word translations; however, with these I am not familiar. But yet there are several other things that need to be said about the King James Translation.

THE KING JAMES TRANSLATION

As we have already mentioned, the King James Translation, despite being edited several times, still contains a fairly liberal usage of Elizabethan English. To all King James devotees, and I am one, it must be understood, that the Prophets and the Apostles who were used by the Spirit of God to write the Sacred Text, did not speak Elizabethan English. As well, when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were originally written, the Words of Christ were not in red. These particular words in red are actually a marketing tool that was not used until the Twentieth Century.

And again we emphasize, while the original manuscripts were most definitely inspired by the Holy Spirit and, thereby, error-free, doesn’t mean that the translation is error-free. No translation was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and none to my knowledge were claimed to be.

A CHRONOLOGY OF BIBLE TRANSLATION

The following chronology includes events of major importance in the long and dramatic story of Bible translation. The list is necessarily selective and places special emphasis on the background of the English Bible, providing information basic to further study of a fascinating field.

A.D. 350 through 400 — First stabilization of New Testament Canon of 27 Books.

1500 B.C. — 500 B.C.1)500? B.C. — The Old Testament is put into writing.

250 B.C. — 100 B.C. — The Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, according to tradition, by 72 Hebrew scholars, was completed in Alexandria, Egypt. This version contains 45 Books, the Alexandrian Canon, used by the Early Church, and continues to be the Old Testament Canon of the Latin and Greek Church.

A.D. ANNO DOMINI

A.D. 522)A.D. 52?  — A.D. 1003)A.D. 100?  — The New Testament is written, coming to us in Koine (common) Greek, the common language of the time, although some portions may have been first set down in Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ.

A.D. 1004)A.D. 100? — Formulation of Palestinian Canon of Hebrew Bible at Synod of Jamnia.

A.D. 350 — A.D. 400 — First stabilization of New Testament Canon of 27 Books.

A.D. 4005)A.D. 400?  — Jerome completes his final translation of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, based on the Septuagint and translated from the Hebrew, and other ancient versions.

A.D. 600 — A.D. 900 — The Masoretic Text in Hebrew is developed by the Masoretes, a school of Jewish textual critics. The Masoretic Text, used in the Jewish Bible, has been an important reference in preparing translations into other languages.

A.D. 1382John Wycliffe completes his translation, the first complete Bible in English.

A.D. 1456 — The Gutenberg Bible, a folio edition of the Latin Vulgate, is printed from moveable type, an epochal event that inaugurated the era of printing.

A.D. 1516Erasmus completes his translation in Greek.

A.D. 1522Martin Luther translates the Bible into German.

A.D. 1535William Tyndale issues his English translation, which powerfully influenced all of the English versions that followed.

A.D. 1535Miles Coverdale issues his translation dedicated to King Henry VIII.

A.D. 1537Coverdale’s Bible becomes the first Bible to be printed in England.

A.D. 1537Matthew’s Bible is produced, based primarily on the Tyndale and Coverdale Bibles.

A.D. 1539 — Coverdale issues the Great Bible, essentially a combination of his own earlier work and Tyndale’s Bible.

By the beginning of the Third Century, twenty-two of the Books comprising our present New Testament had become widely accepted.

This work was authorized by Henry VIII.

A.D. 1560 — The Geneva Bible, produced by CoverdaleWilliam Whittingham, John Knox, and others in Geneva after Mary became queen. It is the first English Bible to divide the Chapters into Verses.

A.D. 1582 — A.D. 1610Douay-Rheims (Catholic) Bible appears, a direct translation into English from the Vulgate by the Catholic College; the New Testament issued at Rheims, the Old Testament in 1609 and 1610 at Douay, France.

A.D. 1611 — The great King James (or Authorized) Version.

Completed by the group of “learned men,” all renowned scholars, appointed by King James. While there have been other translations from then until now, the King James is concluded by many scholars to be closer to the original text than any other effort. Down through the last several centuries, it, by far, has been the most widely used and widely known.

THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE

At the end of the First Christian Century, the Jewish Rabbis, at the Counsel of Gamnia, closed the Canon of Hebrew Books — these Books considered as authoritative by the Jews.

Their decision resulted from:

 The multiplication and popularity of sectarian apocryphal writings.

 The fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), which created a threat to the religious tradition of the Jews.

 The disputes with Christians over their interpretation of Jewish Scriptures in preaching and writing.

 There never was any doubt about the five Books of the Law — the Pentateuch — but, beyond that various sects of Judaism disagree.

The prophetic collection was generally agreed upon by 200 B.C., but the major problem concerned the other writings.

Four criteria operated in deciding what Books should occupy a place in the authoritative Old Testament Scriptures:

 The content of each Book had to harmonize with the Law.

 Since Prophetic inspiration was believed to have begun with Moses (1450 B.C.) and ended with Ezra (450 B.C.), to qualify for the Canon and to be considered inspired, a Book had to have been written within that time frame.

 The language of the original manuscript had to be Hebrew.

 The Book had to have been written within the geographical boundaries of Palestine, with the exception of Daniel and possibly Esther.

WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM “APOCRYPHA”?

On the basis given above, the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament were selected for the Palestinian Canon of Scriptures. Failing these criteria, the rest of the ancient Jewish writings came to be classified as “Apocrypha” or “Pseudepigrapha6)see Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha and Sacred Writings literally, “false writings.”

A number of Christian writings, other than those that came to be accepted from the New Testament, appeared early and were considered by some authorities to be worthy of Canonical status.

The Didache,7)see Didache – Early Christian Writings the Epistle of Barnabas,8)see Epistle of Barnabas – Early Christian Writings I and II Clement,9)see 1 Clement – Early Christian Writings | see 2 Clement – Early Christian Writings the Shepherd of Hermas,10)The Shepherd of Hermas – Early Christian Writings the Apocalypse of Peter,11)see The Apocalypse of Peter – Early Christian Writings and the Acts of Paul12)see The Acts of Paul – Early Christian Writings were some of the more popular ones.

By the beginning of the Third Century, twenty-two of the Books comprising our present New Testament had become widely accepted.

Four principles or considerations operated in determining which Books should occupy a place in the authoritative New Testament Scriptures:

 Was the Book written by an Apostle?

 Was the Book’s content of a Spiritual nature?

 Was the Book widely received by the Churches?

 Was evidence in the Book of Divine Inspiration?

As far as is known, it was the Easter letter of Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria in A.D. 367 that first listed the 27 Books of the New Testament as authoritative.

Jerome, by his Latin translation of these same twenty-seven Books (A.D. 382), further established this list as Canonical for the Churches.

The group of Books, which numbered about 14, and referred to as the “Apocrypha” is believed to be spurious, or at least non-Canonical. This in no way implies that the Books in question do not contain some good things, nor does it mean they were written by evil men. It simply means they were believed not to be inspired; consequently, they were not placed in the Canon of Scripture.

Eleven of these Apocryphal Books have been accepted by the Catholic Church, included in the Roman Catholic Canon and placed in the “Douay Version” of the Bible.

Why were these Books not considered inspired or Canonical by the rest of the Church? Some of the reasons relate specifically to the Old Testament, some to the New Testament.

(This message was derived from the book by Jimmy Swaggart, “Brother Swaggart, How Can I Understand The Bible?”.)

Scriptures from: (The Expositor’s Study Bible)[KJV/ESB]. iPad & iPhone & Hard Copy: by Jimmy Swaggart. 

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