TRUHT FOR TODAY - BIBLICAL ESSAYS BY PASTOR PAUL MIZZI

The preservation of the Bible and the King James translation

A testimony from antiquity Though unsympathetic with the infant Christian church, Joesephus gives a valuable testimony about the inherited collection of books that the church enjoyed, namely, the Old Testament. Writing about the year 100 A.D., he states: "For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another (as the Greeks have), but only 22 books, which contain the record of all time; which are justly believed to be divine..." (Against Apion, I.8). Josephus was assuming that though Moses and the prophets had written their books centuries before, the Jews still had in possession the Holy Scriptures!

This outlook upon the Holy Scriptures has been, quite justly, adopted by the Christian Church throughout the ages: ďThe Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published itĒ (Psalms 68:11). That same word the Lord uttered through the prophets and apostles is the word being disseminated throughout the world, among the nations. This implies preservation!

Christ and the preservation of the Bible The closest possible identification exists between Christ and the Scriptures: the Living and the Written Word of God. We must be careful to maintain the distinction between the two, but it is evident that they both fall or stand together. Christ witnessed to the veracity of Scripture - "The Scripture cannot be broken". He never cast a doubt upon its reliability; he quoted it incessantly as the highest authority; what Scripture said, God said.

"The communion we have with God on earth is maintained by means of the written Word" (Rabbi Duncan). This is equally true of our communion with His Beloved Son. We can trust the Bible because divine inspiration is more than God just guiding men to write the Scriptures. "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). That inward prompting of the mind to write God's words resulted in revealed truth, without any falsehood or even mistake.

If inspiration, then preservation! Divinely inspired men produced divinely inerrant writings. Of this we are in no doubt. In divine inspiration God has imparted to Scripture the same qualities that belong to himself. This is why the things that the Bible predicates of God it predicated of the Scriptures also.

Like God, they are holy (2 Timothy 3:15), perfect (Psalm 19:7), eternal (1 Peter 1:23), truth (James 1:18), and so on.

His glory, immutability, wisdom, grace and beauty belong to His word as well. Therefore, the Bible can be said to be the product of God, bearing all the properties of its Author.

The Bible issued from God: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," literally, "God-breathed." All this considered, it must settle for us the question of the Bible's transmission. The distance between the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments and our own day is enormous. Centuries of copies and translations separate these originals and us. How intact, we may ask, is the Bible? Do we still have God's authentic Word now?

We could answer this question satisfactorily in terms of textual criticism, and the historical transmission of the text. Abundant evidence exists to support our belief that we have the same Word today that the church has always had. Under God we are indebted to godly and erudite men for their researches in this area, men like Dean Burgon, Edward Miller, Edward F. Hills, David Otis Fuller, Dr. D Waite and others.

However a more straightforward and believing answer is this: God and His Word are one. Therefore, He is not going to overlook this question of the Scripture transmission. It belongs to much to Himself, to His honour and glory for that. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations" (Psalm 119:89-90).

God did not simply give his word to the apostolic generation, for instance, when the New Testament was still freshly written. No, he give it to all generations, for his covenant is unbroken, and his faithfulness is as high as the clouds.

By the logic of faith, we believe, therefore, that He has providentially preserved His Word in the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Received Test of the New Testament. He has sovereignly ensured that a pure stream of copies have come down to us, and are faithfully translated in our Authorised Version. In holding this version we can truly affirm: Here is the Word of God, inerrant, full, perfect, authoritative, sufficient.

We have a strange anomaly today: Christians claim to believe what the Bible says about its own inspiration, but virtually ignore the equally direct statements concerning its preservation. To say you believe in inspiration yet neglect preservation is incongruous.

It is a fact that the one common denominator in all the varied errors, deviations and heresies is that their advocates will first criticize the standard received edition or translation of Scripture.

Preservation has to do with the actual words of Scripture not merely with the general teaching or concepts. If inspiration of the Scripture is verbal (and it is), then so also must be the preservation of it.

It is equally evident that God has preseved the Bible in the church; He deposited His Word with His people. The church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, as Paul affirms; and so it is ridiculous to even suggest that the true text was hidden for eighteen hundred years in the sands of Egypt, to be re-discovered by two liberal Anglican clergymen!

A marvellous work of God Those acquainted with the history of the Bible, the way it was copied by hand for centuries, the way it was protected from extinction by the hand of Almighty God, against the ragings of Satan and Antichrist against it, how it was burned and destroyed both by imperial and papal Rome, will surely be impressed by the fact that this is no ordinary book.

Jehovah's covenant, namely, that His sure Word will endure through time and eternity, is being discharged even until now. The pagan world and the antichristian papal church have both expended their resources to destroy the Scriptures and their influence. Ten major imperial persecutions were perpetrated against the people of God during the first three centuries, and in most of them the main idea was to have the churches surrender their holy writings.

Then with the rise of the papal autocratic government, with the setting up of various inquisitorial institutions, the church against was the butt of attack. Scriptures were destroyed, burned up, wherever they could be found. Yet they remain to this day.

The enemies of God have testified against the Scripture and predicted their subsidence; but at no time in the world's history has the Bible been more a power for good, nor has it ever been more clearly marked off for an ever increasing influence. Voltaire predicted that in one hundred years time the Christian religion would be dead and buried, such was his hatred and open mockery for the Bible.

The preservation of the Scriptures, like the divine care over the writing of them and over the formation of them into the established canon, is not accidental. Nothing happened by incident or gave the impression of fortuity. It is the fulfilment of the divine promise. What God in faithfulness has wrought, will be continued until His purpose is accomplished.

The ungodly are helpless in this respect. They cannot restrain the Word of God: Christians may be thrown into prison and mistreated, but the Word of God is not bound. Why is this so? "Concerning they testimonies, I have known of old that thou has founded them forever," and, "For ever, O Lord, they word is settled (established) in heaven" (Psalms 119:152,98). What David wrote cannot come to nought.

And what Christ declared is just as much true: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Preservation! It is everywhere sounded: "The word of God liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23). It is a noble distinction indeed that that Bible is classed with a very few realities which endure forever. The Bible itself says that a time will come when there will be a removal of all things that can be shaken and the continuation of those things which cannot be shaken. Its reference is specifically to the kingdom of God and contemplates, naturally, all that enters into that kingdom (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Eternal endurance is predicated to the Bible. It is indestructible for it is the Word of the eternal God. It is eternal in its own right. What God has spoken cannot be shaken. The Scriptures are the legal instrument by which God "obligates" himself to execute every detail of his eternal decree, and specifically his eternal covenant, to fulfil every prediction His prophets have made.

Christians may rest assured that the Fountain of Truth will remain. Let us then be all the more appreciative of this divine legacy, deposited in the church, the pillar and ground of the truth. The church exists because the Bible exists. Take away the Bible and the church whittles away. Let the Bible shine, and the kingdom will grow.

The manuscripts It has been preserved against all odds, both as a volume and in the purity of its contents. The Massoretic Text (OT) and the Majority Text (or Textus Receptus of the Koine Greek of the NT) today represent the pure and undefiled text as given by the Holy Spirit.

The apographs have all been destroyed or lost, but we can be absolutely sure that we have in our hands the uncorrupted Word of God, contrary to the banal criticisms of the Muslims against the Christian church.

The extant autographs, which count to about 5,000, afford a strong testimony to God's faithfulness in preserving his Word, which is reflected faithfully in the Authorised Version in the English language.

Manuscript evidence is a distinct study; suffice it to say that the Textus Receptus of the New Testament is, for unprejudiced minds, the faithful preservation of the 27 books of the NT. Higher criticism has done a lot of harm in planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the faithful. But the dictum, which cannot possibly be wrong, is this: God who gave it is also able to preserve it. And since he gave it pure he keeps it pure.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is an astounding "confirmation" of the fidelity in the copying and passing on of the Old Testament text. Could it be that there was or are inspired books that have been lost to such an extent that nobody knows about them today? Again, such a supposition militates against the Bible's own assertion that not one jot or tittle will fall from the Word. The church, in spite of persistent attacks, can be confident that it holds the pure Word of God.

Every Christian should study this pertinent question seriously and assiduously. If they are shaky and somehow doubt the accuracy of God's Word as preserved throughout the centuries, then the note of assurance and credibility will be lacking in their ministry. To those who are somewhat mature in the faith and are able to handle these matters, the elders should teach them what is involved and how Satan has tried to subvert this doctrine of preservation through the "scholarship" of Westcott and Hort and their alliies.

Scripture will abide forever The Word of our God abides forever (Isaiah 40:8); forevermore thy Word is settled in heaven (Psalms 119). With such positive biblical evidence we have good reason to believe and rest assured that we have today the Word of God, uncorrupted and whole. Muslims accuse us of holding to a Bible that has been interpolated and corrupted throughout the centuries, but they are not able to present one shred of evidence; they do it simply to find a reason for the validity of the Koran.

The church has historically held fast to the Word, not only as given by divine inspiration but also as preserved throughout the ages. For what good it is to move holy men to write God's own Word only to allow it to be corrupted? This militates even against reason and common sense, but much more it flies in the face of Scripture itself (Psalm 119:152,89).

No part, however seemingly insignificant, can be taken away from the Word (Matthew 24:35); it remains for ever (1 Peter 1:23). The established canon of Scripture is closed; we are not encouraged to expect any more revelation from God; it is complete in Christ revealed in Scripture. Nothing can be added to it (Revelation 22:18-19).

But it is well-known that the compilation of Scriptural books took at least a millenium and a half to take place. God spoke to Adam in the first place, audibly, but it was only at the time of Moses that Scripture began to be written and passed on.

What Moses wrote about the past (creation, the Flood, early civilisations, etc.) is accurate, whether he used written sources or not.

To his writings were added those of the prophets and ultimately the memoirs of the apostles. What God gave was recognised by his own people as authentic and true, and consequently cherished, studied and obeyed.

Godís Word for today

The Authorized Version, for the English-speaking peoples of the world, is certainly the best translation of the Scriptures. It was the culmination of some hundred years of preparation. There was intensive study of the Greek and Hebrew languages. Fine editions of the Bible, such as those of Erasmus, Stephanus and Beza provided the godly and devout translators of the Authorized a refined text, representative of the great majority of manuscripts.

Before the publication of the Authorized several other English translations had been produced: Tyndaleís, Coverdale, Matthews, the Great Bible, Tavernerís, the Geneva and the Bishopís Bible. The translators themselves were men or unparalleled scholarship respresenting the combined intellectual might of Oxford and Cambridge. They were marked by a holy awe and deep reverence for Scripture, which is largely lacking or at least defective in modern translators.

The style and language of the Authorized version is so natural and elegant; so little can be found to be archaic in it, even after four hundred years. It has been greatly blessed by God; we can confidently say that as far as scholarship and fidelity is concerned, no other modern translation can compare with it.

Concluding Reflections I have bypassed using arguments from archaeology and other sources. These are all very interesting and useful, but I have chosen to built my persuasion on purely theological premises. Without the Bible almost nothing can be known about God, and certainly nothing about our eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. But if the Bible is true, then it must be wholly true.

We are persuaded that we love God no more than we love His Word, and how we treat the Bible is how we treat God himself. Do you want to know whether the Bible is reliable? Then listen to Christ: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). "Taste and see that the Lord is good."

1. In apologetics, it is vain and useless to try to gain converts to the Faith simply by presenting the facts. Yes, they are impressive and even conclusive, but man's mind is darkened by sin so that he cannot see. He counts light as darkness and darkness as light.

2. In spite of all the plethora of evidences, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is imperative and indispensable. "The Word and Spirit" bring about the needed conviction and assurance (1 Thessalonians 1).

3. The evidence become meaningful to the eyes of faith. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7;17). But then for the believing heart, "proofs" become well-nigh needless. Credo quia absurdum.

4. We must start with the Bible itself, not placing ourselves as judges over it, but submitting to its claims and teachings. This stance is not blind faith, but intelligent submission to the Creator. When Scripture speaks, God speaks. And it is against Godís nature for Him to speak lies of to have His Word twisted or corrupted!