The Word Of God
The Bible is the Book through which God has revealed His will to man, and in which mankind has set before them the ways of life and death.
With regard to the authenticity of our current Bible, some question its origin; others question its purity. Have historical figures, tasked with the preservation of the Word of God, tampered with its message?
If you believe in a supreme God, an infinitely sovereign God who has established His holy Scriptures to be His way of communicating His will to mankind, then you should conclude that He has the power to preserve His Word. Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” – (Matthew 5:18). Speaking through the Apostle John in Revelation 22:18, 19, God states, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
The Bible contains sixty-six books, or pamphlets, bound together in one volume. The word "Bible" is derived from the Greek word "ta biblia" meaning the book, or the book of books. The word is derived from a root designating the inner bark of the linden tree on which the ancients wrote their books. It is spoken of as "the book" being superior to all books. The application of the word Bible to these sixty-six books can only be traced back to the fifth century of our era; the word “scriptures” prior to this time was applied to these carefully-preserved sacred writings.
In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
The Bible Authors
There are at least thirty-six different authors, who wrote in three continents and many countries, during a period of fifteen hundred years. Among these authors were men in every vocation of life, thus touching all the experiences of men. It was written in two languages, Hebrew and Greek, with the exception of a few passages in the Old Testament which were written in Chaldaic Ezra 5:8; 6:12; 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4-7, 28, and Jeremiah 10:28), and the remainder of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.
At the present time, all of the ancient records of the original documents of the Old Testament now in existence are recorded on baked clay tablets deposited in museums of antiquity. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, some striking excavations confirming Bible history have been made. Clay tablets have been unearthed at various periods, the most noteworthy of which were the excavations made in 1845 from the long-buried ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh where, at one time, was one of the world’s greatest libraries.
Of the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament Greek, there are several now in existence in a state of excellent preservation. One of these was found in Alexandria, Egypt, as late as 1628. It was copied from one of the first manuscripts, is dated A.D. 350, and is now in the British Museum. This one, like those discovered at various intervals of this era, strikingly agrees and harmonizes with all other manuscripts now in existence and shows how God, in His infinite wisdom and in miraculous ways, has watched over and preserved His revelations to mankind.
Original Writings And Translations
The Old Testament was first written in the Hebrew language upon long scrolls of papyrus (paper), which were afterwards translated into other languages. The Septuagint is the oldest of the versions meaning, by its name, the translation "by the seventy." It was composed from the original records at Alexandria, for the Alexandrian library, by a company of seventy learned Jews about 285 B.C. The order of this translation is according to reliable testimony given by Alexander the Great, following his visit to Jerusalem in 332 B.C., at which time he had become familiar with the prophecies of Daniel 8:21 concerning himself, and regarding his career and fate, which were so accurately fulfilled in his life, death and the division of his kingdom after his death. This is mentioned by Josephus, book 11, chapter 8.
The Bible In Remote Time
Before mass printing, the Scriptures were very costly, resulting in their limited circulation. Few people had an opportunity to read them for themselves and, therefore, they knew but little about their contents. Because of this, their illuminating and life-saving truths were unknown and the error and dark superstitions of the imaginative minds of the people were worldwide.
It required much effort and long tedious hours of writing to transcribe new copies of the Scriptures; but by the employment of hundreds of scribes, thousands of bulky volumes of this sacred book were finally copied and sold for a high price.
During the 6th century A.D., when the world was suffering under the plague of the Turkish and Arabian hoards led by the notorious outlaw Mohammed, Palestine was overrun, Jerusalem was captured; and as their conquests spread throughout northern Africa, Alexandria declined. The great Alexandrian library fell into their hands and the books, including many Bibles, were distributed among the four thousand departments of the capitol and served to feed the fires for six months.
A few centuries after the age of the apostles, and for many centuries thereafter, the Bible was in limited circulation. This was due to the influences emanating from Rome as the Papacy grew, extending her power universally, bringing the world into that long period known in history as the “Dark Ages.” This continued until the beginning of the Reformation in the 13th century, limiting and controlling access to copies of the Bible.
The translation of the Bible into the English language in 1380 by John Wycliff was the chief event of the beginning of the Reformation. To perform such a work, at this time of the world’s dark drama, required a bold heart and fearless purpose that danger could not appall. For undertaking this work, Wycliff was attacked from many quarters. It was said that he was introducing among the multitudes a book that was reserved exclusively for the priests and it was claimed that, by doing this, the gospel by him was laid open to the laity and the gospel pearl would be cast abroad and "trodden under the feet of swine." The people at large, regardless of station, were exhorted in the preface of his translation to read the Scriptures.
At the age of twenty, while the great reformer, Martin Luther, was attending the University of Erfurt, he found a Bible. Holding it in his hands, he was thrilled with joy and exclaimed, "Oh God, could I but have one of these books, I would ask no other treasure.” And later, while in a convent, he had free access to a Bible which was chained, so as not to be removed. By constant and diligent study, he finally became master of the language in which it was written and made a complete translation of the New Testament in 1332, and of the entire Bible in 1334.
William Tyndale, likewise inspired by the same motive that actuated the zeal and work of Wycliff, translated the New Testament into the English language in 1525, and later portions of the Old Testament Scriptures. The purpose of his whole life seemed to be an ardent desire to give the Bible to the common people, and thus the light of divine truth began once more to shine forth but, as before, not without opposition. These brave reformers, in so dealing with the words of the living God, were trampling on the feet of Satan, and thereby courting persecution. And, as usual, he was not without agents to do his bidding; so men endeavored to stem the rising tide of the Reformation by burning the Bibles and the reformers as well.
The burning of Bibles was commenced in England with the destruction of Tyndale’s edition of the New Testament at St. Paul’s Cross, London, in 1527, followed by the burning of the second edition three years later. Not many years after this, there were wholesale burnings of the writings of Wycliff and all the early reformers.
It seemed that the commencement of this period of hunger and thirst for the Word of God could be traced to John Wycliff, and toward him the minds of the tyrants of the time turned in awe-inspiring hatred and revenge. Forty-three years after his death, by order of the Council of Constance, his bones were dug up and burned. By order of Charles V of Germany, Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake at Vilvord, Brussels, on Oct. 6, 1536. The vengeance of other rulers was also appeased at the mercy of the reformer who stood for God and His Word; but with the price of blood was God’s message to man, as well as redemption purchased and, amid scenes of trying persecution, His truth marched steadily on to triumphant victory.
This work, so nobly commenced, was sanctioned by divine approval and could not be suppressed. The Word of God could no longer be bound; that keen desire to read and know the Scriptures was rooted in the minds of each individual so deeply that it could not be easily dispensed with. The conflagration kindled the fire of persecution and was beyond the power of human strength to suppress, and men and women could see that the Bible gave them the right, which had hitherto been denied them, of reading and acquiring spiritual knowledge and strength for themselves. Schools were established, the art of printing discovered, and the commencement of a new and glorious era of the world burst forth.
The first book printed from moveable type was a Latin Bible, printed by John Gutenberg at Metz, Germany, in 1456. A copy of the edition of the Scriptures was sold in New York City in 1911 for $50,000.00. This was the highest price ever paid for a single book.
The Holy Bible To The World
After the long dark night of sin had spread her black wings over the earth, and Bibles had been destroyed out of the land, the rays of morning light burst forth. The Reformation began, the period of knowledge and education came with thousands of wonderful inventions, the chief of which, for the dissemination of knowledge, was the steam printing press in 1811. Bibles were printed by the thousands and great Bible societies were organized. Perhaps the greatest of these is the "British and Foreign Bible Society," which has published the Scriptures in nearly 500 different languages. A total of 227,150,770 Bibles and portions of the Bible had been printed by this company alone up to 1912. The American Bible Society, since its organization in 1816, has printed over 100,000,000 Bibles in over one hundred languages. While these are the largest Bible societies, there are twenty-five others printing and distributing Bibles, by the millions, to the world.
These facts bring to our minds the statement of Christ in Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." God is truly preparing the people for His final judgment and providing them with the light of His Word, thus giving an opportunity for each to make a choice, according to the teaching of the Word, before the end of the reign of sin and wickedness and the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace.