Texts and Versions of the Bible

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Dr. Brown describes the ancient manuscripts of the Bible – in Hebrew, Greek, and other languages – and explains principles of biblical translation. He will also take your Bible-related calls. Listen live here 2-4 pm EST, and call into the show at (866) 348 7884 with your questions and comments.

 

Hour 1:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: The Bible you are holding in your hand is reliable. It’s God’s word. Live by it!

 

Hour 2:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: The scholars have worked hard to produce for you a readable, reliable translation.

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Other Resources:

Doing Word Studies in the Bible

What’s the Best Way to Study God’s Word?

Dr. Brown Interviews Dr. James White on the Reliability of the Text of the Scriptures

6 Comments
  1. Is our trust in the bible based on faith or “sight”?

    Is the ultimate determination of right doctrine found scripturally or spiritually?

    If I test spiritual things by scripture, by what do I test & verify the scripture?

    Can I, by available evidence, prove that God spoke to Moses & the prophets & ultimately divinely inspired & guided the compilation of the “canon” as we now hold it? Or is this to be taken by faith?

    Did Abram have evidence upon which He based his decision to trust God enough to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac? Did he have scriptures upon which he stood while wrestling with this decision? How could he be confident enough in the knowledge that it was indeed God that had required this sacrifice of him (& not some flight of insanity) to be willing to slay his beloved son?

    If Jesus warned against adding to or taking from the book of prophecy given to St John, how can I be absolutely certain that nothing has been added to or taken from it or the rest of scripture? Doesn’t Jesus warning carry with it an implication that the possibility of alteration is possible?

    When Jesus promised that His words would never pass away, didn’t He mean that the truth of what He spoke is eternal & would always remain the truth & never change?….not “the canon of scripture will never change.”

    The “closed canon” of scripture was closed by whom? If by men, were they apostles? If by God, where did He mention that in scripture? If it is not “closed” then how do we know whose version of the truth is valid.

    If the canon is closed, why do so many Christians seem to stand so heartily by the various “confessions”, which seem to be necessary to clarify points not clearly defined in scripture?

  2. The questions above are some with which I’ve been wrestling. I believe that I’ve come to some conclusions, but am testing those by seeking the counsel of others. I realize that there’s a lot here, but even if you could help with one, I’d sure appreciate it.

    Thanks

  3. Cris,

    If you believe the record of Messiah’s coming found in the gospels and that He was YHWH in the flesh, you must believe that what He called the scripture is the very word of YHWH. He called the Law and the Prophets scripture and said that we are accountable to keep all of it. It is this body of writings that prophesy of the Messiah that the gospels declare to us.

    If you believe that the law and the prophets is scripture, then you are stuck with the Messiah spoken of in the gospels, for no other man came at the correct time in history and to the right place according to the prophesies in the Law and the Prophets.

    So, If you truly believe in either the Law and the Prophets or the gospels at face value, you must believe the other to be consistent.

    If you want to pick and chose what parts to believe, you prove that you have no solid reason to believe any of it, because you cannot be sure that the parts you believe are true either. So all you have proven by believing part of it is that you believe in yourself and your ability to discern good and evil for yourself. This sounds a lot like Adam and Eve are your parents. It sounds like you think that you should be the one to decide what the canon should be.

    So Messiah, who is YHWH in the flesh according to the gospels, accepted the canon of what we call the “Old Testament.” If He is YHWH in the flesh, He is not capable of being wrong about His own word. Thus we do not really believe in the Messiah recorded in the gospels if we do not accept what He accepted as infallible scripture. And thus we have invented a Messiah of our own imagination. This can only be a false Messiah.

    If mankind is the tool that YHWH uses to record His infallible word, who would He use to decide on the canon of scripture? The Messiah that is spoken of in the gospels appointed 12 men to teach the whole world whatever He commanded and He said that He would give them His Spirit to cause them to remember what He said and taught. So this would make any teaching by the 12 to be canonical. If there is good reason to believe that the writings we have by them are authentic, the only writers that would then be in question would be Paul, Luke, James, Jude and the author of book of Hebrews.

    Jude really says nothing different from Peter’s epistles.

    Luke consolidated the gospels of Mathew and Mark and added other things that were assuredly believed by the very first believers that had either seen the events or had heard the apostles tell of them. Acts, written by Luke is just the continuation of the story and the record of how Paul came into prominence. If we have no good reason to disbelieve Luke, it is at least good history…if not canonical in the sense of teaching doctrine. A lot of the “Old Testament” is also historical in nature and is necessary to know the truth in context. The same can be said of the book of Acts.

    James was not one of the 12, but He was the leader of the Jerusalem assembly that the apostles had as their home base. If we can believe Acts, He is the one that lead the meeting of the apostles and elders when they made doctrinal decisions. There does not seem to be any doctrine taught in James that is not what the Law and the Prophets and Messiah and His 12 apostles also taught.

    The book of Hebrews explains how Messiah is the mediator of the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah. It explains from the Law and the prophets how He is our better high priest and perfect sacrifice for sins. It is written to Jewish believers to assure them of the validity of Messiah and to help them accept the soon coming destruction of the earthly temple so that they will continue in the faith even though the physical/symbolic sacrifices are going to vanish away. Christianity depends on the book of Hebrews for its understanding of how Messiah fulfilled the types and shadows that pointed toward Him in the Law and Prophets. There seems to be nothing divergent from the then accepted scripture in the Book of Hebrews.

    Paul claims authority to give commandments from YHWH. Acts shows that He had the signs of an apostle that verified His message. If we do not accept Paul’s writings as scripture, we must also reject the book of Acts. Then we must question Luke and the sources from which he gathered his information. Now Matthew and Mark are even somewhat in question.

    If we say that only part of Paul’s and Luke’s writings are correct, then we are again placing ourselves as the one that makes our own canon of scripture and by so doing we give credence to the idea that YHWH uses mankind to acknowledge what is and isn’t scripture. As for the rest of us, we would probably be wiser to trust the well-meaning men of old that were much closer to the situation than to accept your canon. And maybe we should swallow our pride and at least acquiesce to the fact that in a multitude of counselors there is wisdom.

    As far as there being any major or important changes to what is now called scripture…there really are no known examples. There are lots of speculations and conspiracy theories, but it seems that is all they are.

    As far as contradictions contained in the scriptures, there are virtually none that cannot be reconciled one way or another. They are seeming contradictions and a few scribal errors. Books, big books, have discussed these to the Nth degree and shown that any that cannot be reconciled at this point are of no importance to any doctrine and are probably due to a slip of the pen and not in the attempt to make changes to what was always meticulously copied from previous manuscripts.

    The issue of a closed canon is not one of complete necessity but… Let’s say that it is open… Will we allow some new revelation to be put forth that contradicts or voids previous scripture? If so the previous scripture was never scripture or the new revelation is deception. Muslims, Mormans and many other false belief systems have already gotten the corner on this market. It is obvious by comparing their “new” scripture with the existing canon that they do not have any new scripture, but a deception.

    In all practicality, the canon is closed. Anything that would be newly revealed would only be a continuation or a confirmation of what is already known to be true. Much of what is canonized is that. The “New Testament” is full of quotes from and allusions to the Law and Prophets. Without some pretty dynamic confirmation that some “new writer of scripture” has been chosen directly by YHWH to speak/write authoritatively and without his revelations being in complete agreement with the former scripture, we would be fools to accept it as scripture.

    There are some gifted and spiritual giants of the faith that have written some profound and revealing things. It is interesting that none of these ever claimed to have written scripture or that they should be believed over what the scripture teaches. There are even thousands and thousands of little guys and girls in the faith that have been used by YHWH’s Spirit to convey His truth, but it is not scripture by virtue of it coming from the Spirit of YHWH. There are surely many more things, inspired things, that the apostles and prophets and even Messiah said that were not included in the canon or even recorded. Does this mean that we are missing anything? No. The truth can only be so big. A lie can get as big as someone is willing to make it. I am not saying that the writers of scripture were known to lie, but there are many writings that purport to be by the apostles that certainly are not.

    The real questions are, “What do you want to have added to the scripture and what do you think should not be in it?” If we have an agenda or if we think that we are smart enough to add to the scripture something that YHWH did not think of, we are in deep trouble. We are in deep trouble because in questioning what others have left out or changed and trying to get the splinter our of their eyes, we end up with a huge beam in our eye by wanting it to be different.

    I ask, “What to you is it missing? What to you has been changed? What to you has been added by purely human hands and not by inspiration from YHWH? How else, but by canonization are we to arrive at what is scripture?” It is one thing to question what is or has been and another thing altogether to actually have a better idea that fixes the supposed problem. How should we have come up with what is regarded as scripture?

    Shalom

  4. Bo,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.

    I do not doubt any particular portion of scripture, nor do I feel it necessary to add anything in particular.

    I have the Old and New Testaments included in the Canon. I believe them to be the inspired word of G_d, as far as they rightly reflect that which was originally given from G_d.

    The question is why I believe them. Why I believe that I have the words that God intended, the way He intended? Do I believe them because of tradition? Do I believe them because they are beautifully woven together, by many writers, over long periods of time? Do I believe them because they are historically accurate? Or do I believe them because the Spirit has impressed upon my heart, the truth of the scriptures which I hold?

    If Yeshua warned against altering the Revelation given to John, why did He give the warning? To me, it seems to be because someone might do just that. If the possibility of tampering exists, doesn’t it follow that I need a way to verify the truth of the scriptures that have come to me through the hands of many, many scribes?

    If Abram had enough assurance to faithfully obey the voice of the Lord, and sacrifice his promised son, without any scriptural basis, shouldn’t we be able to have a similar level of confidence when seeking whether the body of scripture which we hold is an accurate representation of the intentions of God, by God adding His “stamp of approval”?

    Ultimately, I believe in God and that Yeshua is His Son because He revealed this truth to me through His Spirit. I believe scripture, despite its’ historical accuracy, its’ beauty,etc., because God, by His Spirit has convinced me.

    Old learned followers of Yeshua still disagree, perhaps unto death, regarding the proper interpretation of various points of doctrine, based on their understanding of the text….still believing the other to be wrong, though the other also bases his position on his understanding of the text.

    Which old guy do I believe? or….do I simply wait until I also am old, so I can have disagreements of my own?

    I believe that, just as Abram could have confidence, as Moses could, as Noah & the Prophets, because God impressed upon their hearts the truth that He was the One speaking to them, so also we can. So, as we argue ad naseum regarding the proper doctrinal understanding, perhaps we have quenched the Spirit of God, being afraid to listen to Him, because maybe we’d be led astray,….when, to me, the entirety of scripture is taken by faith & supported by evidence. It would be much more difficult to believe if it were not so well supported. We are told that we walk by faith and not by sight.

    If (IF) anything were ever to be taken from or added to the Canon, if anything were ever to be mistranslated, etc.,we can trust confidently in God to lead us and teach us. I am nowhere, as far as I recall, directed to trust in man (the preacher, the prophet, etc.) I am told to trust in God. This is the only way I can securely lay this foundation of belief in the Canon of Scripture as the word of God.

    Otherwise, I must be able to demonstrate that it was actually God that spoke to Abram & not anyone, or anything else. I do believe, but I believe because God has assured me of the truth, not because the evidence has convinced me.

    It seems that followers of Yeshua are afraid of saying that everyone else is wrong. Why are we afraid of actually being able to stand and be sure we have proper understanding of doctrine? Israel has maintained that their God is the only God. Yeshua said the He is the ONLY way to the Father. He promised that the Spirit would lead us into all truth & promised that the anointing with which He anoints us would teach us all things. If Abram could be sure it was God, where in scripture does it say that I can’t have the same level of assurance in that God is leading me?

    I think we’d have a lot more success and would be a much more united people, if we let God lead us. I think we trust the bible more than we trust God(proper understanding required). It seems that we feel we must be spoon fed, while being encouraged to search the scriptures for ourselves……when looking at the scriptures, this is where I end up….but a large part of the reason that I posted this is that I need to be open to correction.

    I’m sorry that I ramble, been a long day.

    Thanks again for your response. I hope that in what I’ve said, I’ve not offended in any way. I truly want, and am willing to be corrected if it is warranted.

    Hope it’s all clear! 🙂

    Cris

  5. Cris,

    I will have to say that the first thing that convinced me of scripture being truly inspired was when I was challenged to read it by a person that was witnessing to me when I was 16. I started in Genesis and was amazed that it just seemed right even though it was incredible and against evolutionary science and against the way I was living.

    That was my first reason to consider it different than other books.

    Next it was the declaration to me after I was saved that the Bible was completely true with no mistakes. I accepted this declaration because of the position that this person had because of leading me toward the Messiah. I accepted this idea also because it still just seemed to be on a different plain than other writings.

    Lastly I realized that there was nothing that the scripture did not answer at least in principle and that it was so cohesive and internally consistent. I found no real contradictions and it answered the questions of life accurately. The scholarly investigation of how it came to be, how it was preserved, and it’s place in changing the world is the icing on the cake. The canonization processes that were used seem good enough for me as they have stood the test of time.

    I doubt that Revelation or any other book of scripture has been maliciously changed. It would be too obvious to the student of scripture. It all still fits together too well. The small differences that are contained in the thousands of manuscripts are all non-issues as to true doctrine. I have caught wind of poor translations and bad study notes, but these are just man’s ideas about the scripture and not the scripture itself that is flawed.

    As to Abraham and Moses, it seems that there were physical appearances to them that we usually do not get the benefit of. The prophets were spoken to in visions and dreams most of the time. The apostles walked with YHWH in the flesh for 3.5 years. We do not stand in the same place as them. YHWH reveals things to us through the scripture that these men wrote and by bringing things to our remembrance concerning these things mostly. Our revelation is more on a personal level. Theirs was often on a universal level.

    We should be thankful for the universal revelation and that YHWH speaks to us in our hearts. We should just never think that what we hear in our hearts can trump the universal revelation that YHWH has provided. We dare not excuse our actions by saying that YHWH has not revealed that to me yet when He had it written to us thousands of years ago. We dare not sin with the high hand presumptuously.

    Shalom

  6. Again, thank you.

    The Lord healed me.

    He gave me truth.

    Then as I grew, I was confronted with a seeming myriad of doctrinal differences within the body of believers.

    The truth gave me foundation upon which to stand, an anchor in the storm. It was seemingly left up to me to determine the proper understanding of the scriptures, as those in leadership all seemed to (seem to) have a surety that their idea was correct, based on a right understanding of scripture. I am rebuilding the house (my walk with God and my understanding of the scriptures) which satan sought to destroy. God may not tell me all the secrets of the universe, and I’m okay with that, but as far as He will allow me access to the truth, I’m in with both feet.

    I do not want that I should be prideful, but I have to take a stand, as there are so many views of scripture……I will not yield to the idea that God will not allow me to find actual, real truth, when I seek with a sincere heart. And the truth always stands in contrast to that which disagrees with it, i.e., untruth.

    I don’t believe that I should adopt a tolerant, “Unity in Diversity” type of attitude when it comes to this. Behind hallucinogens and lies which I believed, I found myself incarcerated by the County and state mental health systems.

    The truth healed my mind & set my feet on a firm foundation, which is God’s word. I need to be able to hold onto that truth, as it is the mooring of my soul & the hope which I have to offer to others. When challenged with, “why do I believe that God exists?”, “why do I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah?”, and “why do I believe that the bible is actually the word of God?”….I have needed answers.

    Caught between Baptists, Calvinists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Arminians, pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib, pre-millenial, Seventh Day…..hey I should be happy I have a choice, right?…wrong. If Calvinism is true then those who oppose it are just wrong.If Calvinism is just wrong then it’s just wrong. The same goes for the others.

    Question has become for me, “How the heck do I figure out who to believe?”

    Answer: Believe God, minus all the human additives. So How do I figure out which One is God? If I listen to people, they all tell me that they’re right, or maybe that none of us can really be sure…..Sorry.

    I find peace in the quiet place with God. I find assurance, or correction, or conviction. I’ve been told that anyone who believes God speaks to them or leads them with visions or dreams is crazy…..hmmm, I had to look that up….turns out, not true. Question is, how to know it’s God.

    If I feel led to drive to the city for no apparent reason, but it’s clear that’s where I’m being led……how to know it’s God. If I can know that it’s God, then what about all those confusing divisions in the body?…..hmm, maybe I can seek God & actually find truth in Him.

    It seems like, in many churches, the bible has replaced the presence of God. It seems like if someone is sure that it’s God speaking to them, then they’ll replace the scriptures with what they hear….seems like, if it’s God, He’ll agree with what He already said.

    Seems like the question keeps coming back to whether the bible is verified ultimately by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of believers, or whether there are a set of scientific proofs which can be presented to serve as concrete evidence. I believe that the evidence is part of it, but without the enlightening of the Spirit, I cannot get there.

    I believe that the questions regarding proper doctrine follow the same path….It is the Spirit who teaches the believer & uses the evidences to undergird the teaching, but ultimately it must come to rest in my trusting God.

    I’m asking that my ideas be challenged, that I might be corrected. I made some grievous errors in my walk & never want to repeat them or lead those for whom I’m responsible down a remotely similar path.

    I just want truth, truth I can chew.

    Again, thank you.

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