A Christian Source with Alternative News  

 

 

Home Page  
A detailed look at the past on how this site came into being, and it's purpose
Get the latest content, and news which will be featured
This is where you contact the webmaster for any content in the website: The Other Side

 

Articles

Many Christian articles on a wide range of topics.

 

Messages

Preaching and Teaching the Word of God.   Also real life stories about witnessing and other related topics.

 

News Items

Local and Worldwide news events religious or otherwise which are impacting the church.

 

Information Center

A resource guide of links with descriptions of content from various websites for Christians and Non-Christians alike.

  

Letters

Letters on a wide range of subject matter that do not pertain directly to this website.  All those other letters that do pertain to this site are kept personal and are not posted unless under special circumstances.

 

Topical Search

A collection of links in this site that are listed by topic rather than from new to old.  News Items are not featured in the topical listing.

 

Author Search

A collection of authors contained in this site only.

 

 

KJV Defended

Introduction

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

 

Second Pages to Chapters

1  2  4  6  8

 

 

 

   
     

 

A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLICAL TEXT

 The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

In the Bible God reveals Himself in three ways: First, He reveals Himself as the God of creation, the almighty Creator God. In revealing Himself in this way, God not only repeats the revelation which He has already made of Himself in nature but also amplifies this revelation and makes it clearer. Hence the Scriptures are the God-given eyeglasses which correct our faulty spiritual vision and enable our sin-darkened minds to see aright the revelation which God makes of Himself in the world which He has created. Second, God reveals Himself as the God of history, the faithful Covenant God. In the Bible God gives a full account of His dealings with men by way of covenant. Third, God reveals Himself as the God of salvation. In the Gospel of Christ He offers Himself to sinners as the triune Saviour God.

But even this is not all that God does for sinners. In addition to revelation there is regeneration. Because of Adam's first transgression all men are sinners (Rom. 5:19). They hate God (Rom. 8:7) and reject His revelation of Himself as foolishness (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore when God saves sinners, He regenerates them through the power of the Holy Spirit. He raises them up out of their death in sin and gives them the gift of faith (Eph. 2:1,8). Through the Spirit they are born again (John 3:5). They are saved through the renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). They believe in God as He reveals Himself in the holy Bible and trust their souls to Jesus Christ His Son.

When the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, we immediately receive from God three benefits of Christ's redeeming grace. The first of these is justification. We are justified by faith (Rom. 3:28). When we believe in Christ His death is reckoned ours (Gal. 2:20), and we receive the gift of His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). The second is adoption. By faith we become the children of God (John 1:12) and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). The third is sanctification. God begins to work within us by His Holy Spirit to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) and to make us more and more like Christ our Lord (Eph. 4:13).

We are saved by faith! This is a mystery which we cannot fully understand, but it means that there are three things which we can and must do to obtain these benefits which Christ purchased by His atoning sacrifice and to know that we have been born again. In the first place, we must repent. Saving faith is a repentant faith. Jesus Christ Himself commands us to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). In the second place, we must receive Christ as our only Lord and Saviour (John 1:12). How do we do this? By believing that He died for us upon the cross. He loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal.2:20). And in the third place, having so received Christ, we must rest in Him as He bids us do (Matt.11:28). When we thus rest in Christ, then we have assurance of faith. Then we know that we have truly received Him as Lord and Saviour.

Does this mean that our assurance comes from ourselves? Do we create our own assurance by our own will power, by our own repenting, receiving, and resting? Not at all! For if our assurance depended on ourselves, we would always be in doubt. We would never know certainly whether we were saved or not. We would never be sure that we had really repented or that we had actually received Christ and were truly resting in Him. Our assurance therefore comes from God. As we continue to trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are truly God's children. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16).

But how does the Holy Spirit testify to us that we are God's children? Does He do this in some private way apart from Scripture? Not at all! For this would dishonor the Scriptures. Then everyone would be seeking these private revelations of the Spirit and ignoring the revelation which He has given once for all in the holy Bible. The Holy Spirit therefore bears witness not apart from the Word but by and with the Word. He guides believers in their study of the Scriptures, and as He guides them, He persuades them that this blessed Book is truly God's Word and leads them more and more to trust the Saviour who reveals Himself in it. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him (1 John 2:27).



1. The Principles Of Believing Bible Study


Three principles of believing Bible study are included in this conviction which we receive from the Holy Spirit that the Bible is truly God's Word. These are as follows: first, the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures; second, the eternal origin of the Scriptures; third, the providential preservation of the Scriptures.

1. The Infallible Inspiration of the Scriptures


The Holy Spirit persuades us to adopt the same view of the Scriptures that Jesus believed and taught during the days of His earthly ministry. Jesus denied explicitly the theories of the higher critics. He recognized Moses (Mark 12:26), David (Luke 20:42), and Daniel (Matt. 24:15) by name as the authors of the writings assigned to them by the Old Testament believers. Moreover, according to Jesus, all these individual Old Testament writings combined together to form one divine and infallible Book which He called "the Scriptures." Jesus believed that these Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36), that not one word of them could be denied (John 10:35), that not one particle of them could perish (Matt. 5: 18), and that everything written in them was divinely authoritative (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).

This same high view of the Old Testament Scriptures was held and taught by Christ's Apostles. All Scripture, Paul tells us, is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). And Peter adds, No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Scriptures were the living oracles through which God spoke (Acts. 7:38), which had been committed to the Jews for safekeeping (Rom. 3:2) which contained the principles of divine knowledge (Heb. 5:12), and according to which Christians were to pattern their own speech (1 Peter 4:11). To the Apostles, "It is written," was equivalent to, ``God says.''

Jesus also promised that the New Testament would be infallibly inspired just as the Old had been. I have yet many things to say unto you, He told His Apostles, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come (John 16:12-13). The Holy Spirit, Jesus pledged, would enable the Apostles to remember their Lord's teaching and understand its meaning (John 14:26). And these promises began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Peter was inspired to declare for the first time the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection (Acts 2:14-36). Paul also was conscious of this same divine inspiration. If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37). And in the last chapter of Revelation John the Apostle asserts the actuality of his inspiration in the strongest possible terms (Rev. 22: 18-19).

Jesus, therefore and His Apostles regarded both the Old and the New Testaments as the infallibly inspired Word of God, and the Holy Spirit, bearing witness in our hearts, assures us that this view was not mistaken.

2. The Eternal Origin of the Scriptures

When He was on earth Jesus constantly affirmed that His message was eternal, that the very words which He spoke had been given to Him by God the Father before the creation of the world. For I have not spoken of Myself, He told the unbelieving multitude, but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak (John 12:49-50). And in His "high-priestly" prayer Jesus also states emphatically that the words which He had spoken to His Apostles had been given to Him in eternity by God the Father. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me (John 17 8). The Scriptures, therefore, are eternal. When God established His-Covenant of Grace in eternity, He gave to Jesus Christ His Son the words of eternal life (John 6:68). These are the words that Christ brought down from heaven for the salvation of His people and now remain inscribed in holy Writ.

The Scriptures are eternal. Does this mean that there is an eternal Bible in heaven, or that the Hebrew and Greek languages in which the Bible is written are eternal? No, but it does mean that Jesus Christ, the divine Word, worked providentially to develop the Hebrew and Greek tongues into fit vehicles for the conveyance of His saving message. Hence in the writing of the Scriptures the Holy Spirit did not have to struggle, as modernists insist, with the limitations of human language. The languages in which the writing was done were perfectly adapted to the expression of His divine thoughts.

For ever, O LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven ( Ps. 119: 89) . Although the Scriptures were written during a definite historical period, they are not the product of that period but of the eternal plan of God. When God designed the holy Scriptures in eternity, He had the whole sweep of human history in view. Hence the Scriptures are forever relevant. Their message can never be outgrown. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever (Isa. 40:8). In the Scriptures God speaks to every age, including our own. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15:4).

(c) The Providential Presentation of the Scriptures

Because the Scriptures are forever relevant, they have been preserved down through the ages by God's special providence. The reality of this providential preservation of the Scriptures was proclaimed by the Lord Himself during His life on earth. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). Here our Lord assures us that the Old Testament text in common use among the Jews during His earthly ministry was an absolutely trustworthy reproduction of the original text written by Moses and the other inspired authors. Nothing had been lost from that text, and nothing ever would be lost. It would be easier for heaven and earth to pass than for such a loss to take place.

Jesus also taught that the same divine providence which had preserved the Old Testament would preserve the New Testament too. In the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew we find His "Great Commission" not only to the twelve Apostles but also to His Church throughout all ages, go ye therefore and teach all nations. Implied in this solemn charge is the promise that through the working of God's providence the Church will always be kept in possession of an infallible record of Jesus' words and works. And, similarly, in His discourse on the last things He assures His disciples that His promises not only shall certainly be fulfilled but also shall remain available for the comfort of His people during that troubled period which shall precede His second coming. In other words, that they shall be preserved until that time. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).



2. How The Old Testament Text Was Preserved

In discussing the providential preservation of the holy Scriptures we must notice first a very important principle which accounts for the difference between Old Testament textual criticism and New Testament textual criticism. The Old Testament Church was under the care of the divinely appointed Aaronic priesthood, and for this reason the Holy Spirit preserved the Old Testament through this priesthood and the scholars that grouped themselves around it. The Holy Spirit guided these priests and scholars to gather the separate parts of the Old Testament into one Old Testament canon and to maintain the purity of the Old Testament text. In the New Testament Church, on the other hand, this special priesthood has been abolished through the sacrifice of Christ. Every believer is a priest before God, and for this reason the Holy Spirit has preserved the New Testament text not through any special priesthood but through the universal priesthood of believers, that is, through the usage of God's people, the rank and file of all those that truly trust in Christ.

With this distinction in mind let us consider briefly the history of the Old Testament text and then pass on to a discussion of the problems of New Testament textual criticism.

 

1. How the Priests Preserved the Old Testament Text



The Hebrew Scriptures were written by Moses and the prophets and other inspired men to whom God had given prophetic gifts. But the duty of preserving this written revelation was assigned not to the prophets but to the priests. The priests were the divinely appointed guardians and teachers of the law. And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD. saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee (Deut.31:24-26). Thus the law "was placed in the charge of the priests to be kept by them along side of the most sacred vessel of the sanctuary, and in its innermost and holiest apartment." (1) Also the priests were commanded, as part of their teaching function, to read the law to the people every seven years (Deut. 31:12). Evidently also the priests were given the task of making correct copies of the law for the use of kings and rulers, or at least of supervising the scribes to whom the king would delegate this work (Deut. 17:18).

Not only the Law of Moses but also the Psalms were preserved in the Temple by the priests, and it was probably the priests who divided the Hebrew psalter into five books corresponding to the five books of Moses. It was David, the sweet singer of Israel who taught the priests to sing psalms as part of their public worship service (1 Chron. 15:16,17). Like David, Heman, Asaph and Ethan were not only singers but also inspired authors, and some of the psalms were written by them. We are told that the priests sang these psalms on various joyful occasions, such as the dedication of the Temple by Solomon (2 Chron. 7:6), the coronation of Joash (2 Chron. 23:18), and the cleansing of the Temple by Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:30).

How the other Old Testament books were preserved during the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah we are not told explicitly, but it is likely that the books of Solomon were collected together and carefully kept at Jerusalem. Some of Solomon's proverbs, we are told, were copied out by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah (Prov. 25:1).

Except for periodic revivals under godly rulers, such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, the days of the kings were times of apostasy and spiritual darkness in which the priests neglected almost entirely their God-given task of guarding and teaching God's holy law. This had been the case during the reigns of the ungodly rulers who had preceded the good king Asa. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law (2 Chron. 15:3). And during the reign of Manasseh the original copy of the Law had been mislaid and was not found again until Josiah's time (2 Kings 22:8). Because the priests were thus unfaithful in their office as teachers, Jerusalem was finally destroyed, and the Jews were carried away captive to Babylon (Mic.3:11-12). But in spite of everything, God was still watching over His holy Word and preserving it by His special providence. Thus when Daniel and Ezekiel and other true believers were led away to Babylon, they took with them copies of all the Old Testament Scriptures which had been written up to that time.

 

(b) The Traditional (Masoretic) Hebrew Text of the Old Testament



After the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, there was a great revival among the priesthood through the power of the Holy Spirit Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts (Zech. 4:6). The Law was taught again in Jerusalem by Ezra the priest who had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments (Ezra 7:10). By Ezra and his successors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all the Old Testament books were gathered together into one Old Testament canon, and their texts were purged of errors and preserved until the days of our Lord's earthly ministry. By that time the Old Testament text was so firmly established that even the Jews' rejection of Christ could not disturb it. Unbelieving Jewish scribes transmitted this traditional Hebrew Old Testament text blindly but faithfully, until the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. As Augustine said long ago, these Jewish scribes were the librarians of the Christian Church. (2) In the providence of Gad they took care of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures until at length the time was ripe for Christians to make general use of them.

According to G. F. Moore (1927), the earliest of these scribes were called Tannaim (Teachers). These scribes not only copied the text of the Old Testament with great accuracy but also committed to writing their oral tradition, called Mishna. These were followed by another group of scribes called Amoraim (Expositors). These were the scholars who in addition to their work as copyists of the Old Testament also produced the Talmud, which is a commentary on the Mishna. (3)

The Amoraim were followed in the sixth century by the Masoretes (Traditionalists) to whom the Masoretic (Traditional) Old Testament text is due. These Masoretes took extraordinary pains to transmit without error the Old Testament text which they had received from their predecessors. Many complicated safeguards against scribal slips were devised, such as counting the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book. Also critical material previously perpetuated only by oral instruction was put into writing. It is generally believed that vowel points and other written signs to aid in pronunciation were introduced into the text by the Masoretes. (4)

It was this Traditional (Masoretic) text which was printed at the end of the medieval period. The first portion of the Hebrew Old Testament ever to issue from the press was the Psalms in 1477. In 1488 the entire Hebrew Bible was printed for the first time. A second edition was printed in 1491 and a third in 1494. This third edition was used by Luther in translating the Old Testament into German. Other faithful Protestant translations followed, including in due time the King James Version. Thus it was that the Hebrew Old Testament text, divinely inspired and providentially preserved, was restored to the Church, to the circle of true believers. (5)

(c) The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint)

Although the unbelief of the Jews and their consequent hostility deprived the Church for a time of the Hebrew Old Testament and of the benefits of Hebrew scholarship, still the providence of God did not permit that the Old Testament Scriptures should ever be taken away wholly from His believing people. Even before the coming of Christ God had brought into being the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament translation which was to serve the Church as a temporary substitute until such a time as the ancient Hebrew Bible could be restored to her. According to tradition, this translation was made at Alexandria for the library of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, by a delegation of seventy Jewish elders, hence the name Septuagint (Seventy). According to Irwin (1949), however, and other modern scholars, the Septuagint was not produced in any such official way but arose out of the needs of the Alexandrian Jews. (6) The Pentateuch, it is said, was translated first in the 3rd century B. C., the other Old Testament books following later. From Alexandria the use of the Septuagint rapidly spread until in the days of the Apostles it was read everywhere in the synagogues of the Greek-speaking Jews outside of Palestine. Then, at length, converts from these Greek-speaking synagogues brought their Septuagint with them into the Christian Church.

When one studies the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament, one is struck by the inspired wisdom which the Apostles exhibited in their attitude toward the Septuagint. On the one hand, they did not invariably set this version aside and make new translations from the Hebrew. Such an emphasis on the Hebrew would have been harmful to the gentile churches which had just been formed. It would have brought these gentile Christians into a position of dependence upon the unbelieving Jewish rabbis, on whose learning they would have been obliged to rely for an understanding of the Hebrew Old Testament. But on the other hand, the Apostles did not quote from the Septuagint invariably and thus encourage the notion that this Creek translation was equal to the Hebrew Old Testament in authority. Instead, they walked the middle way between these two extremes. Sometimes they cited the Septuagint verbatim, even when it departed from the Hebrew in non-essential ways, and sometimes they made their own translation directly from the Hebrew or used their knowledge of Hebrew to improve the rendering of the Septuagint.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews there are three Old Testament quotations which have been the subject of much discussion. The first of these is Heb. 1:6, And let all the angels of God worship Him. This clause is found in Manuscript B of the Septuagint as an addition to Deut. 32:43. On this basis the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has often been accused of citing as Scripture a verse not found in the Hebrew Bible. The text of the Septuagint, however, is not certain at this point. Manuscript A reads, And let all the angels of God give them (Him) strength, and this is the reading adopted by Rahlfs (1935), one of the most recent editors of the Septuagint. If the reading of A is correct, then the text of B must have been changed at this point to agree with Heb. 1:6, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews could not be quoting it. He may have had Deut. 32:43 in mind, but the passage which he was actually citing was Psalm 97:7, which is found both in the Hebrew Old Testament and in the Septuagint and which reads (in the Septuagint), worship Him all ye His angels.

The second Old Testament quotation causing difficulty is Heb. 10:5, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. This is a quotation from Psalm 40:6 and is found in this form in the majority of the manuscripts of the Septuagint. The Hebrew text, however, reads Mine ears hast Thou opened instead of but a body hast Thou prepared Me. Because of this the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been accused also of using a mistranslation of the Hebrew text as a support for the Christian doctrine of Christ's atoning death. But this is not a necessary conclusion. For in Psalm 40 and in Heb. 10 the emphasis is not so much on the sacrifice of Christ's body as on Christ's willing obedience which made the sacrifice of His body effective. Because of this emphasis the inspired author of Hebrews was justified in regarding the Septuagint as sufficiently accurate to express this central meaning of the passage. The opening of Christ's ears to make Him an obedient servant he considered to be the first step in the preparation of Christ's body for His obedient sacrifice.

The third Old Testament quotation to present a problem is Heb. 11:21. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff. This is usually thought to be a reference to Gen. 47:31, where the Hebrew text and the Septuagint differ, the former stating that Jacob bowed himself upon the bed's head, the latter that he bowed himself on the top of his staff. This difference is attributable to the fact that in Hebrew the words bed and staff are the same except for their vowel points, so that bed could easily be mistaken for staff and vice versa. It is usually said that Heb. 11:21 follows the Septuagint reading of Gen. 47:31, but this too is not a necessary conclusion, since actually Heb. 11:21 refers not to Gen. 47:31 but to Gen. 48:1-22. Here Jacob sat apparently, on the edge of his bed and may very well have had a staff in his hand.

(d) The Latin Old Testament (Vulgate)—The Apocrypha

The earliest Latin version of the Old Testament was a translation of the Septuagint. Scholars think that this translating was probably done at Carthage during the 2nd century. Many other such translations were made during the years that followed. In the fourth century Augustine reported that there was "an infinite variety of Latin translations," (7) and Jerome that there were as many texts of this version as there were manuscripts. (8) Jerome at first attempted to revise the Latin Old Testament, but in 390 he undertook the labor of producing a new translation directly from the Hebrew. This version, which Jerome completed in 405, later became known as the Latin Vulgate and is the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, having been so proclaimed at the Council of Trent (1546).

In his prologue to his translation of the Old Testament Jerome gave an account of the canonical Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible and enumerated them exactly. Then he added: "This prologue to the Scriptures may suit as a helmed preface to all the books which we have rendered from Hebrew into Latin, that we may know that whatever book is beyond these must be reckoned among the Apocrypha." (9) Thus Jerome was one of the first to use the term Apocrypha (noncanonical) to designate certain books which were included in the Septuagint and the Latin Old Testament versions but had never been part of the Hebrew Scriptures. The names of these apocryphal books are as follows: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, First and Second Maccabees, certain additions to the books of Esther and Daniel, First and Second Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasses. These books were written by Jewish authors between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. Some of them were written in Hebrew or Aramaic and then translated into Greek. Others were written in Greek originally.

The Roman Catholic Church rejects First and Second Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses. Hence in the printed Latin Vulgate they are placed after the New Testament as an appendix and in small type. The other apocryphal books are mentioned by name in the decrees of the Council of Trent, where they are declared sacred and canonical and a solemn curse is pronounced against all those who will not receive them as such. Accordingly, in the printed Latin Vulgate they are interspersed without distinction among the other books of the Latin Old Testament.

Protestants have always opposed this attempt of the Roman Catholic Church to canonize the Apocrypha for several reasons. In the first place, it is contrary to the example of Christ and His Apostles. Never in the New Testament is any passage from the Apocrypha quoted as Scripture or referred to as such. This is admitted by all students of this subject, including present-day scholars such as B. M. Metzger (1957). (10) This fact is decisive for all those who acknowledge the divine authority and infallible inspiration of the New Testament writers. And all the more is this so if it be true, as Metzger and many other scholars have contended, that Paul was familiar with Wisdom, James with Ecclesiasticus, John with Tobit, and the author of Hebrews (who may have been Paul) with 2 Maccabees. (11) For if these Apostles knew these apocryphal books this well and still refrained from quoting or mentioning them as Scripture, then it is doubly certain that they did not accord these books a place in the Old Testament canon. According to C. C. Torrey (1945), however, only in the Epistle to the Hebrews is there clear evidence of a literary allusion to the Apocrypha. (12)

A second reason why the books of the Apocrypha cannot be regarded as canonical is that the Jews, the divinely appointed guardians of the Old Testament Scriptures, never esteemed them such. This fact is freely admitted by contemporary scholars. According to Torrey, the Jews not only rejected the Apocrypha, but after the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., they went so far as to "destroy, systematically and thoroughly, the Semitic originals of all extra-canonical literature," including the Apocryphal, "The feeling of the leaders at that time," Torrey tells us, "is echoed in a later Palestinian writing (Midrash Qoheleth, 12,12): 'Whosoever brings together in his house more than twenty-four books (the canonical scriptures) brings confusion.' " (13) And additional evidence that the Jews did not recognize the Apocrypha as canonical is supplied by the Talmudic tract Baba Bathra (2nd century) and by the famous Jewish historian Josephus (c. 93 A.D.) in his treatise Against Apion. Neither of these sources make any mention of the Apocrypha in the lists which they give of the Old Testament books. For, as Torrey observes, the Jews had but one standard, acknowledged everywhere. Only such books as were believed to have been composed in either Hebrew or Aramaic before the end of the Persian period were received into the Old Testament canon. (14)

There is reason to believe, however, that the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria were not so strict as the Palestinian rabbis about the duty of shunning apocryphal books. Although these Alexandrian Jews did not recognize the Apocrypha as Scripture in the highest sense, nevertheless they read these books in Greek translation and included them in their Septuagint. And it was in this expanded form that the Septuagint was transmitted to the early gentile Christians. It is not surprising therefore that those early Church Fathers especially who were ignorant of Hebrew would be misled into placing these apocryphal books on the same plane with the other books of the Septuagint, regarding them all as Scripture. Schuerer (1908) mentions Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and others as having made this mistake. (15) And later investigators, such as Torrey, (16) Metzger, (17) and Brockington (1961), (18) have pointed out another factor which may have led numerous Christians into this error of regarding the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament. This was the practice which Christians had, and are believed to have initiated, of writing their literature in codex (book) form rather than on rolls. A codex of the Septuagint would contain the Apocrypha bound together indiscriminately with the canonical Old Testament books, and this would induce many gentile Christians to put them all on the same level. Such at least appears to have been the popular tendency in the early and medieval Church.

But whenever early Christians set themselves seriously to consider what books belonged to the Old Testament and what did not the answer was always in favor of the Hebrew Old Testament. (19) This was the case with Melito (?-172), Julius Africanus (160-240), Origen (182-251), Eusebius (275-340), Athanasius (293-373) and many later Fathers of the Greek Church. In the Latin Church greater favor was shown toward the Apochrypha, but even here, as we have seen, the Apocrypha were rejected by Jerome (340-420). And in his preface to the books of Solomon Jerome further defined his position. "As the Church reads the books of Judith and Tobit and Maccabees but does not receive them among the canonical Scriptures, so also it reads Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people, not for the authoritative confirmation of doctrine." (20) Augustine (354-430) at first defended the canonicity of the Apocrypha but later came to a position not much different from Jerome's. There should be a distinction, he came to feel, between the books of the Hebrew canon and the "deuterocanonical" books accepted and read by the churches. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) also adopted Jerome's position in regard to the Apocrypha, and so did Cardinal Ximenes and Cardinal Cajetan at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. (21) Hence, the decree of the Council of Trent canonizing the Apocrypha is contrary to the informed conviction of the early and medieval Church. And this is the third reason why Protestants reject it.

But although all Protestants rejected the Apocrypha as canonical Old Testament Scripture, there was still considerable disagreement among them as to what to do with these controversial books. Luther rejected 1 and 2 Esdras, and placed the other apocryphal books in an appendix at the close of the Old Testament, prefacing it with the statement: "Apocrypha — that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriptures, and yet are profitable and good to read." (22) The early English Bibles, including finally the King James Version, placed the Apocrypha in the same location, and in addition the Church of England retained the custom of reading from the Apocrypha in its public worship services during certain seasons of the year. In opposition to this practice Puritans and Presbyterians agitated for the complete removal of the Apocrypha from the Bible. In 1825 the British and Foreign Bible Society agreed to this, and since this time the Apocrypha has been eliminated almost entirely from English Bibles (except pulpit Bibles).

(e) The Pseudepigrapha—Enoch, Michael the Archangel, Jannes and Jambres

In addition to the Apocrypha there are also the Pseudepigrapha. These are other non-canonical books which were held in high esteem by many early Christians but which, unlike the Apocrypha, were never included in the manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint or of the Latin Vulgate. Because of this circumstance the texts of many of these Pseudepigrapha were lost during the middle-ages and have been found again only in comparatively recent times. They are called Pseudepigrapha because most of them falsely claim to have been written by various Old Testament patriarchs. Actually, however, they were composed between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D., mostly by Jewish authors but in some cases perhaps by Christians. (23)

One of the best known of the Pseudepigrapha is the Book of Enoch, an Ethiopic version of which was discovered in Abyssinia by James Bruce (c. 1770). This Book is of special interest because Jude is commonly thought to have quoted it in his Epistle. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (Jude 14-15; Enoch 1:9). Among early Christians there were three reactions to this seeming quotation of the Book of Enoch on the part of Jude. (24) First there were those like Tertullian, who accepted both the Epistle of Jude and the Book of Enoch as canonical. Second, there were those (mentioned by Jerome) who rejected both the Epistle of Jude and the Book of Enoch. Third, there were those like Origen and Augustine, who accepted the Epistle of Jude as canonical but rejected the Book of Enoch. This third position was adopted by the Church at large and is undoubtedly the true one. For it is not certain that Jude actually did quote from the Book of Enoch. He may have been quoting a common source, a traditional saying handed down from remote antiquity. And even if he were quoting from the Book of Enoch, this would not necessarily mean that he was endorsing this book as a whole or vouching for its canonicity.

Jude 9 is another verse which is often attributed to the Pseudepigrapha. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee. According to Origen and Didymus of Alexandria, Jude is here quoting from a non-canonical book called The Assumption of Moses. This book was lost for many centuries until in 1861 Ceriani published about a third of it from a manuscript in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. This manuscript comes to an end, however, before reaching the account of the death of Moses, and so there is no way of verifying the statements of Origen and Didymus concerning Jude's use of this book. (25) But even if the manuscript were complete and did contain the desired incident, it would still be preferable to suppose that Jude was quoting not The Assumption of Moses but a common source, probably an ancient oral tradition. For a similar instance is related by the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 3:1-3), and this indicates that encounters such as these between the good and evil angels were not fabulous but actual events.

There are also several verses of the Apostle Paul in which he has been accused of citing passages from lost non-canonical books as Scripture. In 1 Cor. 2:9, for example, Paul says, but as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. According to Origen, Paul quoted this verse from the Apocalypse of Elijah. Jerome denied this allegation but admitted that the verse occurred not only in the Apocalypse of Elijah but also in another non-canonical book entitled the Ascension of Isaiah. It is probable however, that Paul is here quoting freely from Isaiah 64:4. Such, at any rate, was the opinion of Clement of Rome (c. 90) and of Jerome. And the same may be said concerning Eph. 5:14, where Paul writes, Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Here again Paul seems to be quoting freely, this time from Isaiah 60:1, in spite of the statement of Epiphanius (c. 390) that these words were also found in the Apocalypse of Elijah. For, as Robertson and Plummer (1911) observe, it is more reasonable to suppose that the author or editor of this lost book quoted from Paul than that Paul quoted from him. For if Paul and the other New Testament writers refrained from quoting even the Apocrypha as Scripture, why would they quote other non-canonical books of much lower status in this way. (26)

In 2 Timothy 3:8 Paul refers by name to the magicians who contended with Moses at Pharaoh's court. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth. Origen asserts that here Paul is quoting from the Book of Jannes and Jambres. But there is no need to suppose this. For in the days of Paul the names of these two magicians were well known everywhere both in Jewish and in gentile circles—to Pliny (d. 79), for example, and to Apuleius (c. 130). Hence when Paul identifies these two adversaries of Moses by employing these familiar appellations, we need not conclude that he is quoting from a book. (27)

 

A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLICAL TEXT

Part Two Continued

 

 

web analytics

 Questions and Comments


Independant Baptist Persuasion


Thanks for Visiting Please Come Again!