From the Hartford Bible Students
Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. ―1 Corinthians 4:6 (New International Version)
HOW WE GOT OUR BIBLE
The story of how the Bible reached us in its present form is a very interesting one. The first copies were handwritten, and in manuscript form -- not in book form at all. These manuscript copies of the Bible were exceedingly scarce in the days of the Early Church. Not all the individual members of those early congregations possessed them. It was not until the year A.D. 120 that the books of the New Testament, as we know them, were complete and available for use, but even then they were very scarce.
Seemingly larger congregations of Early Christians possessed manuscript copies of at least parts of the Bible. There were some manuscripts of the Old Testament in the Hebrew language, and some which had been translated from the Hebrew into the Greek language. This Greek translation of the Old Testament was known as the Septuagint Version.
Besides, there were copies of the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the various apostolic epistles, and the Book of Revelation<197>all in manuscript form. These have reached us by a long and complex chain of circumstances, including the hand copying of manuscripts and translating, both of which were often done under most trying conditions.
The early translators were usually persecuted -- sometimes even unto death -- not by the worldly, but by their contemporary religionists, who often took the viewpoint, as one of the early translators expressed it -- that "ignorance is holiness." The bitter opposition manifested by some against the Revised Standard Version of the Bible indicates that human nature has not changed much since those early days.
One of the first English versions of the Bible was translated by John Wycliffe about the year 1367, although no part of it was printed before the year 1731. Concerning the death of Wycliffe, one of the church writers at the time said:
"On the feast of the passion of St. Thomas of Canterbury, John Wycliffe, the organ of the devil, the enemy of the church, the idol of hypocrites, the restorer of schisms, the storehouse of lies, the sink of flattery, being struck by the horrible judgment of God, was seized with palsy throughout his whole body."
Wycliffe was referred to by another writer as "that pestilent wretch, the son of the old serpent, the forerunner of Antichrist." He was evidently himself keenly aware of the opposition that would be aroused by his translation of the Bible, and in the preface had the following inscribed:
"God grant us, to ken and to kepe well Holie Writ, and to suffer joiefulli some paine for it at the laste."
The first book to be printed was the Bible. It was published by Mr. Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type for the printing press. This was in 1455 or 1456. It was in Latin, and bound in two volumes.
Then in 1526 came Tyndale's English Version of the Bible -- the first English translation to be printed. The language of Tyndale's translation was essentially the same as that in our Common, or King James Version. Tyndale, even as former translators of the Bible, was persecuted by the orthodox church of his day.
In order to complete his task he was forced to leave England, and he became an exile in Germany. But it was this, in the providence of God, that put him in touch with the printing press. This resulted later in large quantities of his printed Bible being smuggled into England contrary to the decree of the church, and distributed among the people. It was in the year 1524 that Tyndale left his native land, never to see it again, and as the historian states:
"At Hamburg, in poverty and distress, and amid constant danger, the brave-hearted exile worked on his translation, and so diligently that the following year we find him at Cologne with sheets of his quarto New Testament already in the printer's hands."
It was difficult enough to stop the circulation of the Wycliffe Bible, when it required months to finish a single copy. But what could be done about Tyndale's translation? These books were pouring into the country in great numbers because they were coming off the printing press at the rate of a hundred a day, and at a price within the reach of many.
The Bishop of London hit upon what he thought was an excellent plan to put a stop to this plague. He contacted a man by the name of Augustine Pakington, a merchant trading between England and Antwerp, and asked what he thought of the possibility of buying up all of Tyndale's copies of the Bible, bringing them to England, and burning them. Pakington was a friend of Tyndale's and sympathetic with what he was doing, so he quickly agreed with the bishop, saying:
"My lord, if it be your pleasure, I could do in this matter probably more than any merchant in England, so if it be your lordship's pleasure to pay for them -- for I must disburse money for them -- I will insure you to have every book that remains unsold." The bishop agreed to this, thinking, as one humorous writer of the time said, "that he hadde God by the toe, whenne in truthe he hadde, as after he thought, the devyl by the fiste."
What happened is this: Tyndale accepted the offer, charged a good price for the Bibles he had on hand, and with the money paid his debts and then published a much larger and better edition. Hence the bishop's plan acted as a boomerang, and Tyndale's Bible continued to pour into England.
Poverty, distress, and misrepresentations were Tyndale's constant lot. Prison and death were ever staring him in the face. Finally, in October 1536 he was strangled at the stake and then burned to ashes, fervently praying with his last words, "LORD, open the King of England's eyes."
After this, various translations appear such as the Coverdale Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and others. There was also published in 1568 the Bishops' Bible. And then, in January 1604, at a conference of bishops and clergymen held in the drawing rooms of Hampton Court Palace, the first suggestions were made which led to the revision of versions then in use. This, in turn, led to our authorized King James Version, in 1611.
To prepare this translation, forty-seven learned men from Oxford, Cambridge, and London were selected as impartially as possible from high churchmen and Puritans, as well as from those who represented scholarship totally unconnected with any party. King James I authorized that the cooperation of every Bible scholar of note in the entire kingdom should be secured. Excellent rules were adopted to govern the work of translating. Never before had such labor and care been expended upon translating the English Bible. The language of the King James Version follows closely the pattern of that used by Tyndale in his translation. Revised and improved by a committee of such excellent scholars, it has stood the test of more than three hundred years of popular use.
Since the publishing of the King James Version of the Bible, many other translations have appeared for the use of students. In addition to the first official revision of the King James Version starting in 1881 in both England and the USA, we have seen such translations<197>in addition to those mentioned earlier<197>as Weymouth, Moffatt, Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott, as well as study Bibles such as Scofield's, and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. All of these have their merits, but none of them is any more than a translation. All translations thus far made have one thing in common, which is that they reflect more or less the theological viewpoints of their translators.
Probably the greatest weakness of the King James Version is the fact that when it was translated only eight manuscripts were available from which the work could be done -- the oldest one dating back only to the tenth century. Since then, many hundreds of manuscripts have come to light, some of them dating back as early as the fourth century, and a few even back to the second century.
This fact has been given a great deal of publicity in connection with the new Protestant translation of the Bible. Some have the idea that these newer manuscripts have only been recently discovered; but this is not true. Many students of the Bible have known of the older manuscripts, and for years have been taking advantage of the more accurate presentation of God's Word which they afford.
The original writings of the Bible are all lost, therefore manuscripts now available are merely copies, usually copies of copies, many times removed. The value of a manuscript for critical textual examination depends largely upon its age. The oldest manuscripts, and therefore tending to be the most valuable, are written in printed-style (pre-uncial) letters, in the style of the original writings of the Bible. They contain no punctuation, and they show no division between words.
The Old Testament was divided into chapters, as they now stand, by Cardinal Hugo, in the middle of the thirteenth century. These chapters were divided into verses, as we now have them, by Rabbi Nathan and adopted by Robert Stevens, an English printer, in his edition of the Vulgate, in 1555. The chapter and verse divisions in the New Testament, likewise were done in 1551, long centuries after the original manuscripts were written.
Punctuation was not used in the original writings of the Bible, nor does it appear in the oldest of the manuscripts, as punctuation was not generally used until the end of the fifteenth century. It is important to keep this fact in mind when we study any English translation of the Bible, and to remember that the punctuation is not a part of the inspired record.
Generally speaking, the punctuation of all the English versions of the Bible is very good, but at times it has helped to confuse the meaning of the text. The accompanying lines in Greek are the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), as they appeared from the pen of the original recorder:
When punctuation was introduced into this statement -- which in the King James Version says: "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise," the misplacement of the comma makes it appear that Jesus expected to be in Paradise with the thief on the very day he died. But, by placing the comma where it should be, in harmony with what the Master really meant, Jesus' words simply emphasized that the promise he was making to the thief was made on a day when, from the human standpoint, it seemed impossible that it could be fulfilled: "Verily I say unto thee this day, with me shalt thou be in Paradise." -- Luke 23:43, Rotherham Translation
It is well also to remember that all the manuscript copies of the Bible were written by hand, and that each additional copy of these copies, when needed, also had to be written by hand, letter by letter, at a great expense of time and trouble. And very often, also at some expense of the original correctness. Careful though the scribe might be, it was well nigh impossible to keep from making mistakes. One letter could be mistaken for another. If the manuscript were read to the scribe he might confound two words of similar sound. Remarks and explanations written in the margin might, sometimes, in transcribing, be inserted into the text.
In these, and various other ways, errors might creep into the copy of the manuscript. Naturally these errors would be repeated by the copyist. To these, at times, would be added other errors of his own. It is evident, as copies increased, that errors would also be liable to increase. Therefore, as a general rule, the earlier the manuscript the more nearly correct it is likely to be.
Even in the case of the printed Bible, errors are liable to occur, as all acquainted with the publishing business are painfully aware. And this despite every precaution and care in the preparation of copy by proofreaders and editors with years of training and experience. For example, in an edition of the Bible published in 1653, I Corinthians 6:9 reads: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?" In an old version known as the Printer's Bible, Psalm 119:161 reads, "Printers have persecuted me without a cause."
THREE OLDEST MANUSCRIPTS
The three oldest known nearly-complete (major) manuscripts of the New Testament available for use today are those designated the Sinaitic, the Vatican 1209 (3rd century), and the Alexandrian (5th century). The Sinaitic and the Vatican 1209, were written about the same time. The Sinaitic, however, is complete. The Vatican has a number of omissions, including the entire Book of Revelation. The Sinaitic manuscript is so named from the place it was found in a convent at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It was discovered by the great German scholar, Dr. Tischendorf, in 1859.
The Alexandrian manuscript is the latest of the three, has a good text from Acts to Revelation but is also incomplete. The original of this manuscript can be seen at the British Museum, but copies which exactly represent it are kept in many of the principal public libraries. The Arabic inscription on the first sheet states that it was written by the hand of "Thekla the Martyr." Much of the New Testament is also covered by ancient papyrus manuscripts from a century or more earlier. These generally support Sinaitic and Vatican 1209.
Dr. Tischendorf, who naturally was interested in making a careful comparison of the Sinaitic manuscript with the King James Version, has made available a long list of additions and alterations appearing in the King James Standard Version translation which do not appear in this old manuscript. Careful students of the Bible will wish to be on guard against the unscriptural teachings fostered by these obviously uninspired additions to the sacred text.
On an accompanying page we present an abbreviated list of interpolations. Many have found it helpful to strike out these interpolations in their own Bibles, so that when they read the sacred Word they will not be reading thoughts that have been injected into it by man.
To take proper notice of these spurious passages which were added through the centuries is not in the category of `higher criticism'. It is merely using sanctified common sense, with the aid of concordances and old manuscripts now available, to discover as nearly as possible the purity of God's inspired Word. Higher criticism, on the contrary, is a deliberate decision on the part of the worldly-wise that the historical records of the Bible, its prophecies and its miracles, are but legendary, and at best allegorical tales by which lessons in morality and righteousness are taught.
The following list of interpolations is taken from notes by Professor C. Tischendorf, based on the Sinaitic Manuscript which he discovered at the foot of Mount Sinai. There are many others, but those contained in this list seem to be the only ones which materially change the meaning of the texts in which they appear. Although some have contested the exclusion of these, individuals have deemed it wise to delete these from their Bible:
(Scriptures in BOLD indicate interpolations that are also included in the New World Translation.)
Matthew 5:22 -- without a cause
Matthew 6:13 -- For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:25 -- or what ye shall drink
Matthew 16:2 -- When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
Matthew 16:3 -- This entire verse.
Matthew 17:21 -- and fasting
Matthew 18:12 -- into the mountains
Matthew 20:7 -- and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive
Matthew 22:13 -- and take him away
Matthew 23:35 -- son of Barachias
Matthew 24:10 -- and shall hate one another
Matthew 24:31 -- sound of a
Matthew 24:41 -- women shall be
Matthew 25:6 -- cometh
Matthew 27:52 -- and the graves were opened
Matthew 27:53 -- and went
Matthew 28:19 -- therefore
Mark 4:37 -- so that it was now full
Mark 6:51 -- beyond measure, and wondered
Mark 7:8 -- For . . . as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do
Mark 7:14 -- unto me every one of you
Mark 9:24 -- with tears
Mark 9:29 -- and fasting
Mark 9:44 -- This entire verse.
Mark 9:45 -- into the fire that never shall be quenched
Mark 9:46 -- This entire verse.
Mark 9:47 -- fire
Mark 9:49 -- and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt
Mark 10:24 -- for them that trust in riches
Mark 10:30 -- houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions
Mark 14:30 -- twice
Mark 14:68 -- and the cock crew
Mark 14:72 -- the second time, twice
Mark 16:9-20 -- All these verses.
Luke 2:40 -- in spirit
Luke 8:45 -- and sayest thou, Who touched me?
Luke 16:16 -- and every man presseth into it
Luke 17:12 -- which stood afar off
Luke 17:35 -- women
Luke 18:11 -- with himself
Luke 22:43 -- This entire verse
Luke 22:44 -- This entire verse.
Luke 22:68 -- me, nor let me go
Luke 23:5 -- teaching
Luke 23:34 -- Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
Luke 24:42 -- and of an honeycomb
John 1:25 -- asked him, and
John 3:13 -- which is in heaven
John 4:9 -- for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
John 5:3 -- waiting for the moving of the water
John 5:4 -- This entire verse.
John 5:25 -- and now is
John 8:1-11 -- All these verses.
John 8:59 -- going through the midst of them, and so passed by
John 16:16 -- because I go to the Father
John 19:23 -- and also his coat
John 21:25 -- This entire verse.
Acts 6:3 -- Holy Ghost and should read: spirit of
Acts 6:8 -- faith should read: grace
Acts 8:37 -- This entire verse.
Acts 9:31 -- churches should read: church
Acts 15:32 -- and confirmed them
Acts 18:5 -- pressed in the spirit should read: earnestly occupied with the Word
Acts 18:21 -- I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but
Romans 3:22 -- and upon all
Romans 6:12 -- it in
Romans 7:6 -- that being dead should read: being dead to that
Romans 8:26 -- for us
Romans 11:6 -- But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work
Romans 14:6 -- and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it
I Corinthians 2:1 -- testimony should read: mystery
I Corinthians 6:20 -- and in your spirit, which are God's
I Corinthians 7:5 -- fasting and
I Corinthians 10:28 -- for the earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof
I Corinthians 15:24 -- cometh
Galatians 3:1 -- that ye should not obey the truth
Galatians 3:17 -- in Christ
Galatians 5:19 -- adultery
Galatians 5:21 -- murders
Ephesians 5:9 -- Spirit should read: light
Ephesians 5:30 -- of his flesh, and of his bones
II Thessalonians 2:9 -- Even him
I Timothy 3:16 -- God should read: who
I Timothy 4:12 -- in spirit
I Timothy 6:5 -- from such withdraw thyself
II Timothy 3:3 -- without natural affection
Hebrews 12:18 -- mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire
should read: fire that might be touched and burned
Hebrews 12:20 -- or thrust through with a dart
I Peter 2:5 -- spiritual (before the word sacrifices)
I Peter 3:8 -- courteous should read: humble
II Peter 1:1 -- God and should read: our Lord and>
I John 3:16 -- of God
I John 5:7 -- in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one
I John 5:8 -- And there are three that bear witness in earth
I John 5:13 -- and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God
Revelation 1:17 -- unto me, Fear not
Revelation 2:22 -- their should read: her
Revelation 5:3 -- neither under the earth
Revelation 6:2 -- to conquer should read: he conquered
Revelation 9:4 -- neither any green thing
Revelation 9:13 -- the four horns of
Revelation 10:6 -- and the sea, and the things which are therein
Revelation 11:17 -- and art to come
Revelation 12:12 -- inhabiters of (before the sea)
Revelation 14:5 -- before the throne of God
Revelation 14:12 -- here are they
Revelation 16:5 -- and shalt be should read: the holy
Revelation 16:7 -- another out of
Revelation 16:11 -- and their sores of their deeds
Revelation16:17 -- from the throne
Revelation 18:22 -- whatsoever craft he be and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee
Revelation 20:5 -- But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished
Revelation 21:24 -- of them which are saved and honor
Revelation 21:26 -- and honor
Revelation 22:3 – more
THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES
There is not much that need be said analytically concerning the Old Testament manuscripts. It is rather surprising to realize that the earliest Hebrew manuscripts in existence, of most of the Old Testament, do not date back earlier than about the 9th century A.D. Within recent years, however, manuscripts of the Book of Isaiah and parts of others have been discovered which date back to the first and second centuries before Christ. This general lack of early Hebrew manuscripts is less important than it might seem.
As far as can be learned, there appears to have been a gradual, though a not too critical revision of the Palestine manuscripts going on almost continually from the days of Ezra. History indicates that from the Dispersion, this process of Hebrew manuscript revision ceased. At that early date, the Hebrew Old Testament was made as nearly correct as the best scholarship of the Jewish academies could make it. After this, the older manuscripts gradually disappeared. The manuscript of the Book of Isaiah, recently discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, is nearly identical with those from which our English versions of the Bible have been translated.
While it is true that the existing Hebrew Masoretic manuscripts are not very old, yet much dependence can be placed upon them, owing to the great reverence the Jewish scribes held for the Word of God, and their consequent carefulness in transcribing. It is said that these scribes were so scrupulous that even if a manifest error appeared in the copy from which they were transcribing they would not change the text, but would write an explanatory note in the margin, giving the proper thought.
It is claimed, also, that even if one letter were larger than another, or a word running beyond the line, or other irregularity, they would copy it exactly as found. Another important factor which enters into the accuracy of the Old Testament is that in the recensions more than one person was occupied in making the copies. One scribe copied the consonants; another inserted the vowels, points, and accents, in fainter ink; a third revised the copy; and a fourth wrote in the Masorah.
This, briefly, is the story of the Bible as it has come to us from earliest times, all the way to the King James Translation -- and now to the most modern translations. All the details have not been presented, as the story would have been too long. But our hope is that the question, how our Bible has reached us, has been answered comprehensively enough to increase our enthusiasm for its use, and to cause its influence to be more effectual in our lives.
Equally important to the purity of the Bible, in obtaining the most exact and best translation and separating from it the interpolations of men and mistranslations, is an understanding of the message of the divine plan which it presents. Of great assistance to this end are the availability today of Hebrew and Greek concordances listing every word in the Bible, together with the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek term from which it is translated.
Likewise, we believe that it is due time for God's Word to be better understood. Therefore, there have been other valuable helps provided by God. Most important among these is the book, "The Divine Plan of the Ages." It is the first volume of a series of six entitled, "Studies in the Scriptures." Thousands have been helped to a better understanding of the harmony of the Bible through the use of these wonderful volumes, and we commend them to every thoughtful person interested in the study of God's precious and inspired Word.
The Bible Translated
From the Hartford Bible Students * P.O. Box 493 * Manchester, CT 06045 Web Site