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CONTENTS | 1 | 2(1) | 2(2) | 3 | 4 | 5(1) | 5(2) | 6

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THE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS AND OUR MODERN BIBLE

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CHAPTER FOUR

A Bible Chart -- Sources of Our Modern Bible -- The Original Manuscripts and Early Translations -- The Latin Vulgate -- Anglo-Saxon Translations -- John Wycliffe -- William Tyndale -- The Authorised Version -- A Flood of New Material Used In The Revised Version -- Fresh Evidences Still Accumulate Papyri "Finds" In Egypt -- The Testimony Of The Manuscripts Is Final -- Our Modern Bible is The Word of God.

"Thy Word is truth." -- Jesus .

The historical reliability and minute accuracy of the Bible has been amply demonstrated in Chapter Two, by archaeological "finds." The nature of Bible prophecy, dealt with in Chapter Three, has also proved the Bible to be divine beyond all successful contradiction.

Our illustrations in both of these chapters, it is true, have been only selected from Scripture, and therefore much of the Bible has been left untouched. But the examples which we have selected are so diverse, widespread, and representative that we feel confident that the intelligent reader will accept them as guarantees of the whole.

Very few of us, however, are as well informed about the origin of our English Bible as we should be. So we purpose making a review of the transmission of the early Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, and the transmission of the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, until, at last, they became embodied in our modern English Bible -- The Revised Version of 1881-5.

This plan will serve to shew the reader why and how these selected illustrations guarantee the truth of the whole Bible, and why it is impossible to separate them from the general record, within which they are contained. This present chapter will serve to round off our introductory section, which deals with outside evidences of the Bible's truth, and, we hope, prepare the reader to listen with added interest and respect to the unfolding of its true doctrinal teaching.

A BIBLE CHART (58K) (PDF of Bible Chart) (36k)


A look at our Bible chart will enable the reader to get an outline, at a glance, of our plan of approach. The two middle lines are headed, "Greek New Testament Manuscripts" and, "Old Testament Hebrew Manuscripts," respectively. They represent the long period of time from the writing of the early manuscripts until the present time. Branching off to the left of the New Testament line are shown the translations of the Greek New Testament into other tongues. These are known as versions. Branching off to the right of the Old Testament line are shewn translations, or versions, of the Hebrew Old Testament.

The space between the two middle lines contains the pedigree of our English Bible. First, a translation into Latin from the original Greek manuscripts, and then into Anglo-Saxon from the Latin, and at last into modern English.

You will notice that the latest version, the Revised Version of 1881-5, drew on sources outside the middle lines; sources which were inaccessible at the time when the Authorised Version was made in 1611. Thus, these outside lines are shewn running down, and at last converging in the Revised Version at a later date. How all these things came about, it is now our duty to explain in more detail.

Here it would be opportune to remark that we cannot go into minute particulars in the compass of a chapter; therefore we are going to confine ourselves to a bare out line both for the purpose of brevity and for the purpose for which we write -- to convey a clear impression to the reader.

To explain all the minor exceptions to our broad statements would only serve to confuse the issue, and this is the very last thing we wish to do. Therefore, when we speak of a particular translation of the Scriptures being made in another tongue we are not staying to tell you that a few books were omitted in this, or included in that, version. Neither shall we stay to explain in detail that this, or that, translator was helped by someone else; or that there are two or more opinions about certain matters of detail. Therefore you must take all our facts and figures as statements of general, and not of particular, truths.

We mention this in order to anticipate criticism on a subject which, in details, is extremely involved, and in parts controversial; a subject which, in itself, is capable of supplying matter for a volume. Where there is doubt, or two opinions, we have always been satisfied with the modest one. Extravagant claims and exaggeration are no more necessary here than they were in our archaeological and prophetic sections.

THE SIMPLE UNDISPUTED FACTS OF THE TRANSMISSION OF THE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS HAVE SATISFIED THE MOST COMPETENT AND EXACTING CRITICS THAT WE POSSESS TODAY, IN OUR MODERN BIBLE, THE UNCORRUPTED WORD OF THE LIVING GOD.

Having cleared the way by these preliminary explanations of our intentions we can now proceed to our subject proper -- the ancient sources of our modern Bible.

THE SAMARITAN VERSION

The Jewish Old Testament was written in Hebrew by hand; for printing was then unknown. All such documents are known as manuscripts -- Manu-Scriptus, i.e., written by hand. These early Hebrew manuscripts were written on animal skins, made into rolls for easy reading, and were in existence B.C. 500.

Soon after this, maybe about B.C. 400, the Samaritans made a copy of the first five books of the Old Testament -- The Pentateuch. Although this copy is now known as The Samaritan Version or translation it was really more in the nature of a revision owing to a similarity of language which, at that time, almost amounted to identity.

The Jews and the Samaritans were inveterate enemies. Their animosity was well illustrated 400 years later in a conversation that the Jewish Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink."

The woman replied: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."

No dealings with the Samaritans! Why? Well, a few centuries earlier the Assyrian conqueror of Israel, Esarhaddon by name, had transported thousands of Jews to Assyria, and replaced them by other conquered peoples from far off lands. His object, of course, was to weaken his foes. It can well be imagined what sort of reception these people, who were afterwards known as Samaritans, would receive at the hands of the Jews who remained in the land.

Remarkably enough, these Samaritans, in spite of rebuffs, claimed the right to worship the God of the Jews and to have their sacred Scriptures. But here is the point of our narrative. THE JEWISH SCRIPTURES WERE, VERY EARLY, IN THE HANDS OF A PEOPLE WHO HATED THE JEWS. They would see to it that no Jew ever interfered with their version; while the Jew would likewise zealously guard against such a happening.

This Samaritan Version was destined later to become lost to the Western world, but in still later times to come again within the ken of modern scholars and thus provide an independent means of testing other translations and the Hebrew text itself.

The need and value of such helps will be appreciated if we keep in mind the fact that all early copies of the Scriptures were transcribed by hand. However careful the scribes might be they would make errors which would be repeated by later copyists who would also add mistakes of their own.

Such mistakes should cause us no surprise; rather should we be surprised that there were not more. No two independent scribes working on separate manuscripts were likely to commit exactly the same errors, however, and this fact later provided a wonderful means of comparison and classification which has accomplished miracles of literary reconstruction.

SEPTUAGINT VERSION

The next translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, after the Samaritan, was a very important one which has had a profound effect on the whole civilised world. It was a Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures known as the Septuagint, and was made about B.C. 250.

The Greek language was very widely spoken at this time even in non-Greek lands. The reason is not far to seek. Greece was the dominant world empire at this time. Many Jews in Egypt spoke Greek. This, coupled, it is said, with a desire of Ptolemy, the Greek king of Egypt, to have a copy of the Jewish Scriptures in Greek for his library, resulted in the production of this Greek version of which we speak. There are several extravagant stories of how this was done, but they all lack reliable evidence, so we will leave it at that. The fact, however, of the appearance of a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures about B.C. 250 is a well established historical event, and, therefore, not open to dispute.

The widespread circulation of the Septuagint among non Jewish nations prepared the way among the Gentiles for the advent of the Jewish Messiah.

An illustration of this here occurs to us. There was a eunuch in the house of Candace Queen of Ethiopia, who occupied an important position, being over all the Queen's treasure. He had travelled to Jerusalem to worship, and returning to his native land in his chariot was reading from the Old Testament Scriptures. It so happened that he was reading a prophecy of the Jewish Messiah, from the Greek version, the Septuagint. He read:

"He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;"

A certain Christian named Philip enquired if he understood what he was reading. He admitted his inability to do so without help, and thereupon invited Philip to sit by his side in his carriage and explain matters to him. Then, referring to the book in his lap, he asked Philip,

"Of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?"

The record then informs us that Philip "began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."

Here then is an important sidelight upon the extended use of the Greek version at this time. It was this same version which was used by Jesus and his disciples, almost to the exclusion of the Hebrew, because Hebrew had fallen into general disuse by now, and the Septuagint had become the Bible of the people. For instance, on one occasion, Jesus, as was his custom, went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and there was handed to him a roll of the prophet Isaiah. And finding a ce
rtain place we are told that he read out loud:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor."

Here again we can tell by the rendering of the passage that Jesus was reading from the Greek translation -- the Septuagint.

The wide use made of this early version has proved invaluable to scholars, past and present, and has contributed in many ways to the excellence of our present English translations.

THE SYRIAC VERSION

We have now arrived at New Testament, or Christian times. It was about 250 years after the Septuagint was made that Jesus came, as Moses and the Prophets in the Jewish Scriptures of the Old Testament had foretold. His life and teaching are recorded by four biographers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; while the Acts of the Apostles records the early missionary journeys of the disciples of Jesus after his death, and also of their preaching to the Gentiles, and of the wide-spread success of their labours, which one contemporary pagan said had "turned the world upside down." The rest of the New Testament Scripture is made up of letters to bodies of believers in Corinth, Galatia and elsewhere, and ends with the book of Revelation.

These early writings were quickly multiplied, and were in wide-spread and general use by 150 A.D. Not only so, but translations were made very early into other tongues Egyptian, Ethiopian, Armenian, Latin and Syrian, to mention a few.

The Syrian translation appears to have been made as early as about 150 A.D. Both Old and New Testaments were translated out of their original languages into the Syrian, which translation, known as the Syriac Version, became the Bible of the Syrian Christians.

Some time later a very serious dispute arose among them. The breach grew wider, and was never subsequently healed. Both went their separate ways, and both held on to their Bible. This Syriac Bible subsequently became lost to the Western world like the Samaritan Version. But in the 16th century a Syrian priest was sent to Europe by Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch, to acknowledge the papal supremacy; and with him, it is said, he brought a copy of the Syriac Version. This reminds us very much of the covered glories of lost cities so recently brought to light -- yes, and of God's precious truth itself lost for many a long year but found again in these last days.

LATIN VERSIONS

By this time Greece had lost her place as a world empire, and Rome had now assumed the lead. Even in Christ's day Rome had annexed Palestine, and when the Roman soldiery crucified Jesus the charge against him was written over his cross in Hebrew, Greek and Latin; because Latin was the language of Rome.

Just as there had been a natural demand for the Jewish Scriptures in Greek, so there was now a need for the Bible in Latin. Thus we find that very early in the third century Latin copies had become greatly multiplied. The source of these Latin translations is clearly marked on our chart. They were translations into Latin from the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and from the Septuagint Greek Version of the Hebrew Old Testament.

So many variations and mistakes were occurring in these copies, for reasons which we cannot stay to explain, that a revision became necessary. This revision was undertaken by Jerome, a scholar of the third century A.D. His revision became known as the Latin Vulgate, and has been appropriately styled the "Revised Bible" of the Western Church.

Jerome translated the Old Testament this time direct from the Hebrew, as shown on our chart. He is said to have also used the Septuagint and the Old Testament Syriac. For the New Testament he only revised the earlier Latin copies, although there is reason to believe that he consulted the early Greek and Syriac manuscripts of the New Testament which were then extant.

THE BIBLE'S JAILERS

This Latin translation of Jerome became the standard version of Western Europe for the next thousand years. It is from this Latin Vulgate that our Anglo-Saxon and early English Bibles directly sprang. Before we pass on to shew how this happened we would have something to say about Jerome and his times.

The Christian Church by now was rapidly growing corrupt. Haughty bishops were striving for power over the flocks and over one another. The Bible, read and understood by the common people, is the biggest stumbling block in the way of men seeking power. Therefore the bishops, instead of welcoming Jerome's very necessary revision, attacked him for a "schismatic" and "heretic" as they have since done to so many others.

Later, when the hue and cry of bigotry and ignorance died down, we find that the Latin Vulgate was no longer regarded as dangerous. The Church seemed to forget that it was only a translation from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek; they began to regard it as Scripture itself. "'It is the version of the Church'; they said, 'and in her own language.' 'Why should it yield to Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, which have been for all these hundreds of years in the hands of Jewish unbelievers and Greek schismatics?'"

These were early days in the Church's history, but already she was shewing her teeth: a foretaste of things to come for those who should afterwards aim at making the Bible available in the common tongue. From now on, as her power grew, so did her inveterate hatred of the Bible. Yet today Romanists will tell you that they have been the Bible's custodians!

Jailers are custodians, and they have certainly been that. A Bible manuscript in a library under lock and key does not disturb their equanimity, but a Bible in the hands of the common multitude provokes them to frenzy. A helpless frenzy now, thank God, but they were not always so impotent, as we shall see.

ANGLO-SAXON TRANSLATIONS -- UREN FADER

Now to return to the Latin Vulgate. It became the standard version of all Western European translations, and its influence can be clearly traced in them. Our own English Bible, with which we are immediately concerned, also came direct from the Latin Vulgate, as a glance at the chart will shew.

In the ninth century and onward, Bede, King Alfred, and others are said to have translated some of the Latin Bible into Anglo-Saxon. The copies, of course, were few and were confined to religious houses and a few wealthy people.

These translations, like all others, became out-of-date with the passage of time and the change in our language which is always going on. At this period of history this normal change was accelerated by the introduction of Norman-French brought over by William the Conqueror. There was thus a need for continual modernisation of Bible translations.

This has provided shallow critics with one of their objections to the Bible. "It is," they say, "always being translated, revised and altered." By which they imply that, it either must be very defective to need such continual alteration, or else it must suffer corruption by such continual copying, revising, and re-copying. Shallow criticism!

How would this sticking to one final translation work out in practice? Take first our Authorised Version which seems still to refuse to give place to the more correct Revised Version. In the Authorised Version are many words which, although perfectly intelligible to our forebears in Shakespeare's day, have now wholly changed their meaning.

The word "let" used to mean "hinder." Now it means "allow," an exactly opposite meaning. "Conversation" then meant "behaviour"; now it means "speech." "Prevent" meant "go before," now it means "to stop." "Quick," which we associate with speed, then meant "living." These are a few among hundreds of words which have either become obsolete or obsolescent in the three hundred odd years since the Authorised Version in 1611.

Thus we see that apart from fresh discovery of manuscripts and improvements in the knowledge of the ancient languages, revisions are necessary on the grounds of change in the English language alone. If an objector still feels inclined to demur let him try his hand at this from King Alfred's day:

Uren Fader dhic art in heofnas, Sic gehalged dhin noma, To Cymedh dhin ric, Sic dhin uuilla sue is in heofnas and in eardho, Vren h1af ofer uuirthe sel us to daeg, And forgef us scy1da urna, Sue une forgefan sculdgun vrum. (The beginning of the Lord's prayer.)

This surely shews the imperative need for a new translation into more modern English better than any argument of ours.

JOHN WYCLIFFE AND OUR "MODIR TONGE"

The next important step in the pedigree of our English Bible is the translation from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was born in Yorkshire in 1324, and later became the parish priest of Lutterworth. He was a servant of the Church, yet he was moved with noble sentiments to which the Church herself has never aspired. He was not a product of his profession, but rather a green shoot out of a dry ground.

"He laboured on at the great work of his life, till the whole Bible was translated into the 'Modir tonge,' and England received for the first time in her history a complete version of the Scriptures in the language of the people."

This aroused the hatred of his brethren in "Holy Orders" as is seen in the complaint of Bishop Arundel to the Pope. He spoke of "That pestilent wretch, John Wycliffe, the son of the old serpent, the forerunner of anti-Christ, who had completed his iniquity by inventing a new translation of the Scriptures."

The real character of this "pestilent wretch" comes out in the preface to his translation where he beautifully defines our duty in quaint old English:

"To ken and to kepe well Holie Writ, and to suffer joiefulli some paine for it at the laste."

John Wycliffe had good reason to believe that he himself would have to suffer at the hands of a vicious priest hood. But even while they were preparing to strike, Wycliffe died December, 1384, and his enemies could now only vent their spleen by malicious words. One monkish fulmination reads:

"On the feast of the passion of St. Thomas of Canterbury, John Wycliffe, the organ of the Devil, the enemy of the Church, the idol of heretics, the restorer of schism, the store house of lies, the sink of flattery, being struck by the horrible judgement of God . . ."

The frustrated fury thus expressed by those who realised that they had been cheated of their prey is thus manifest. Their curious mixture of vicious vindictiveness and utter childishness later found occasion for satisfaction when "forty years later by a decree of the Council of Constance, the old Reformer's bones were dug up, burnt, and thrown into the river."

Thus was satisfied the honour of the "custodians of the Bible," whose conduct was fitting for wilful and nasty children but unworthy of grown men.

"DEATH FIRES" -- " KEN AND KEPE WELL"

The followers of Wycliffe, however, were not so fortunate. Their living flesh, not their unconscious dust, had to suffer the "paine" which Wycliffe knew was sure to come upon those whose only crime was a desire to "ken and kepe well Holie Writ." And as one writer observes, commenting on an extract from the preface of Wycliffe's Bible -- "to suffer joiefulli some paine for it at the laste":

"What a meaning that prayer must have gained when the readers of the book were burned with copies round their necks, when men and women were executed for teaching their children the Lord's Prayer and the ten commandments in English, when husbands were made to witness against their wives, and children forced to light the death-fires of their parents, and possessors of the banned Wycliff Bible were hunted down as if they were wild beasts."

Thus acted these "custodians of the Bible" without whose good offices we should never have had the Bible! The puerile absurdity and wicked impudence of such a claim will be evident to anyone who will take the trouble to read an outline of church history through the ages.

But by now Wycliffe and other bold spirits in England and other lands had kindled the torch of religious reform which all the machinations of Rome were unable to extinguish.

Wycliffe's Bible was the last to be handwritten, for soon after this, printing was invented, and this was to prove too great a mountain to be moved by the efforts of Bible-burning bishops. There was also at this time a revival in learning of the Hebrew and Greek languages which had been neglected for centuries owing to the domination of the Latin church in Western Europe. Here then were three things: a widespread desire for church reform -- a renaissance of learning, and -- the printing press!

WILLIAM TYNDALE, MARTYR, 1477-1536

Into this propitious period was born noble William Tyndale, to whom, under the hand of God, we owe so much. The secret of Tyndale's superhuman achievements was a deep and burning determination to see the English people instructed in God's precious word. To this end he devoted all his energies and great scholarship.

"With consistent and unswerving purpose, he devoted his whole life to this one work; and through dangers and difficulties, amid enemies and treacherous friends, in exile and loneliness, he accomplished it."

When Tyndale's intention became known he soon found that England was an unsafe place for him. Determined not to be turned aside from his self-imposed and sacred mission, he chose the life of an exile by seeking asylum in Germany. Here, in the comparative, but not actual, safety of a country which was ahead of England in religious reform, Tyndale settled down to his labour of love. After many vicissitudes Tyndale produced a printed copy of the New Testament, directly translated from the original Greek manuscripts available to him.

Tyndale had thousands of copies printed and sent to his beloved England which he had so reluctantly left, and which he was destined never to see again. In order to escape detection these testaments had to be smuggled into the country hidden in bales of cloth and sacks of flour. Not all thus escaped discovery, for:

"Thousands of copies were thus seized in these various disguises and were burned with solemn ceremony at the old cross of St. Paul's as 'a burnt offering most pleasing to Almighty God'."

FANATICAL FRIARS

The printing press, however, was to prove the undoing of the Church. The money paid by the Bishop of London in buying copies of Tyndale's Bible to burn was finding its way back, through agents, to Tyndale who, thus enriched, turned out more copies than ever and was also enabled to proceed to the translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew. (
See chart)

Thus frustrated they could only resort to preaching sermons against Tyndale's work -- and what sermons! A sample of the ignorance of the fanatical friars at this time is the following "exposure" of Tyndale's work:

"There was a new language discovered called Greek, of which people should beware, since it was that which produced all the heresies; that in this language was come forth the New Testament, which was full of thorns and briars: that there was another new language, too, called Hebrew, and they who learned it were turned into Hebrews."

Another friar, Buckingham by name, is reported to have preached thus:

"When the simple man reads the words, 'If thine eye offend thee pluck it out and cast it from thee,' incontinent he will pluck out his eyes, and so the whole realm will be full of blind men, to the great decay of the nation and the manifest loss of the King's grace. And thus by reading of the Holy Scriptures will the whole realm come into confusion."

A PATHETIC OLD MAN

Wycliffe had been fortunate enough to escape their clutches, but this time the Church caught their victim alive. It appears that a traitorous priest named Phillips wormed his way into unsuspecting Tyndale's confidence and then betrayed him to papal agents. He was taken to a castle at Vilvorde near Brussels, and thrown into a dungeon. During this time this pathetic old man wrote a moving letter to the Governor. It shews the straits to which he had been reduced for no other crime than a burning zeal for the word of the living God. He writes:

"To beg your Lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here during the winter, you will request the procureur to be kind enough to send me from my goods which he has in his possession a warmer cap, for I suffer extremely from a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased by this cell. A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin; also a piece of cloth to patch my leggings -- my shirts too are worn out."

Thus this voluntary exile was now a prisoner in a foreign land in the hands of men devoid of compassion, who, after punishing him by a protracted imprisonment, brought him to the stake where he was strangled and burnt, September, 1536.

His great work survived him, however, and today the world benefits from it. But how few shew their appreciation by treasuring and prizing this precious volume which we have in our mother tongue, and for which men like Tyndale have bled and died.

A writer many years ago declared: "The zeal of those Christian days seems superior to this our day, and to see the travail of them may well shame our careless times." If that were true in those relatively zealous days, how much more is such a statement true of these our modern times?

REFORM FEVER

At the time of Tyndale's death on the continent the reform fever was spreading throughout England and the bishops were unable to ignore the popular clamour for a free reading of the Bible in English.

Added to this, King Henry VIII's personal quarrel with the Pope led to a breakaway from Rome and the establishment of an independent Church of England. Henry, now willing to offend Rome, supported the plea for a national Bible, and he found time-serving, servile bishops, willing to help forward the project.

William Tyndale had already done the work thoroughly and well, but the odium of his name still attached to his work, and the possibility of the bishops acknowledging his translation after all they had said about it and done to it, was out of the question.

But the few Bibles which followed after Tyndale were little more than editions of Tyndale's work, and they all eventually found their final expression in our Authorised Version, which was made at the command of James I in 1611.

Although the Authorised Version is a monumental work which has profoundly influenced English life and literature as nothing else has, on account of the dignity and purity of its English style, we must remember that further study and knowledge has shewn that still much was left to be desired. Apart from the inevitable obsolescence of words, after three centuries, there is also the fact that the same Greek word of frequent repetition in one chapter is rendered by two or more English synonyms. This, while contributing to euphony, often detracts from the pointed meaning of word repetition. Again, there are a variety of Greek words rendered by only one English word, so that our knowledge of what an apostle really wrote suffers in consequence.

Another important thing to remember is the paucity of old manuscripts and versions available to the translators of 1611. The principal old manuscripts which have since become available for the scholars who gave us our Revised Version, 1881-5, are shewn on our chart. They are the VATICAN MANUSCRIPT about 350 A.D. and at present at the Vatican in Rome; THE SINAITIC MANUSCRIPT about 350 A.D. and now in the British Museum; and the ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPT somewhere after 400 A.D. and also in the British Museum.

THE VATICAN, SINAITIC AND ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPTS

Two of these three manuscripts were probably known to the Authorised translators, but they were not available for the work. The third, the Sinaitic, had not then been discovered.

How un-get-at-able the Vatican Manuscript must have been in 1611 is well illustrated by the efforts of recent scholars to study it. Sir Frederick Kenyon tells us:

"In 1843 Tischendorf, after waiting for several months, was allowed to see it for six hours.

"In 1845 the great English scholar Tregelles was allowed indeed to see it but not to copy a word. His pockets were searched before he might open it, and all writing materials were taken away. Two clerics stood beside him and snatched away the volume if he looked too long at any passage!"

In 1867, however, Tischendorf, as a result of spending fourteen days collating difficult readings or passages, was able to publish the most perfect edition of the Vatican Manuscript which had yet appeared.

Since then a photographic facsimile copy has made its contents the common property of the world's scholars (1889-90). Thus we see that the revisers of 1881 at least had the work of Tregelles to help them with the Vatican Manuscript.

"WAITING TO BE BURNED"

Next we have the Sinaitic Manuscript, undiscovered in the days of the Authorised but made available in time for the Revised Version. The history of this version, like that of the Vatican, reflects little credit on the "Bible's custodians." This time the jailers were so ignorant as not to recognise their prisoner; the reason being that it was written in the "new language" which had been "invented" --Greek! Dr. Tischendorf, a German scholar in search of ancient manuscripts, visited the monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai. There he saw some sheets of old vellum filled with Greek characters. He recognised what they were and, not disguising his surprise, asked what they were doing in the wastepaper basket! The reply was, "They are waiting to be burned!"

He managed to obtain possession of about forty sheets. In his fear lest others should be burned he warned the monks of their great value. This warning prevented the acquisition of the other sheets for fifteen years (1859). But eventually, with the good offices of Tsar Alexander II, some decorations, and 9,000 roubles, the monks were persuaded to part with their treasure which, apart from the labours of Tischendorf, would have stoked the fires in the monastery furnaces!

The third ancient manuscript available for the Revised Version is the Alexandrian Manuscript. This was in possession of Cyril Lucar, the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople. Cyril Lucar presented it to the English king Charles I in 1628, just seventeen years too late for the Authorised Version.

RESURRECTED MANUSCRIPTS

By this time also the Samaritan Version had come to light. So effectively had it become lost that men questioned the reliability of the references made to it by early writers, and began to disbelieve in its existence. But in 1616 a traveller, Pietro della Valle by name, found a complete copy of the Samaritan Pentateuch in Damascus. Since that time many more have been found and now contribute their share to the testimony of other resurrected witnesses. Then, in addition to the re-appearance in Europe of the Syriac Version, of which we have already spoken, there are now the voluminous writings of the Early Fathers.

"These Early Fathers quoted Scripture so largely in their controversies that it has been said, if all the other sources of the Bible were lost, we could recover the greater part of it from their writings."

Thus, you see, the Revisers had the ancient manuscripts and the recovered Syriac and Samaritan Versions, not to mention the Egyptian, Ethiopic, etc., and the writings of the Fathers also, all of which combined to make our Revised Version a very reliable document.

There was also something else very important, and that was the enormous growth in textual criticism. This scientific comparison and study of various renderings is sometimes known as "Lower Criticism." Lower Criticism confines itself to the study and comparison of the text of Scripture, while "Higher Criticism" is applied to the "substance or contents of a book."

This "Lower Criticism" has done, and is doing, much good work, which is more than we can say of "Higher Criticism," as the reader of our Archaeological chapter will have realised. This result has been arrived at by allowing full and free debate, made possible by the religious freedom gained for us by the early reformers.

Like all enquiry, Bible criticism has had to suffer at the hands of extremists. But truth has nothing to fear from investigation; only time is required for the Bible to emerge triumphantly from the most penetrating examination.

Sir Frederick Kenyon, speaking from long and wide experience, says:

"The history of Biblical criticism, as of all ancient history and literature, is full of erroneous views confidently proclaimed, eagerly accepted by those who wish to appear in the vanguard of advance, and then disproved or allowed to sink into obscurity."

We have seen how this has been so in our Chapter Two. Then Sir Frederick, summing up the findings of modern research -- a process which we believe will go on indefinitely -- says:

"The tendency of modern research has been, again and again, to CONFIRM THE SUBSTANTIAL INTEGRITY AND TRUSTWORTHI-NESS OF THE BIBLE RECORD."

Altogether then, for the reasons we have outlined, our present English Bible, the Revised Version, is a remarkable and decisive document -- the finding of three very early manuscripts, the rediscovery of the Samaritan and Syriac versions, the use of the writings of the Early Fathers, the growth in knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and the discovery of a host of manuscripts of all ages have made it so.

EGYPTIAN MANUSCRIPTS

Knowledge has not stood still since 1881. Many years ago Sir Frederick Kenyon expressed a belief that on account of the dryness of Egypt's climate we might yet hope to find buried papyrus manuscripts of an earlier date than our ancient vellum copies of 350 A.D. His hopes have now been realised in a great flood of literary riches. PAPYRI DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN FOUND WHICH TAKE OUR NEW TESTAMENT TEXT RIGHT BACK TO THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES OF CHRIST.

Speaking of this new accession of wealth Sir Frederick says:

"In 1895 only one Biblical text on papyrus was known . . . now the papyri have gone far to fill the gap between the dates when the New Testament books were written and the earliest extant vellum copies."

Then Sir Frederick makes a very telling comparison with the very fragmentary evidence which we have for the writings of the early classical writers. He notes that critics accept them as authentic on very few manuscripts. He says:

"Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principle Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us, of Sophocles, of Thucydides, of Cicero, of Virgil; yet OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR WRITINGS DEPENDS ON A MERE HANDFUL OF MANUSCRIPTS, WHEREAS THE MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ARE COUNTED BY HUNDREDS, AND EVEN THOUSANDS."

Then reverting to the modern discovery of Egyptian papyri he says:

"The last fifty years (1941) . . . The discoveries of papyri in Egypt have materially reduced the gap between the earliest extant manuscripts of the New Testament and Septuagint and the date at which the original books were written. They have established with a wealth of evidence which no other work of ancient literature can even approach, the substantial authenticity and integrity of the text of the Bible as we now possess it."

Then in further explanation of the significance of these recent Egyptian finds of papyri Sir Frederick says:

"The Vatican and Sinaitic carry us back, as we have just seen, to about the middle of the Fourth Century -- say A.D. 350 -- and the papyri a century earlier. But the New Testament was translated into Syriac and into Latin by about A.D. 150, and into Egyptian somewhere about A.D. 200; and the copies we now possess of these versions are lineal descendants of the original translations made at these dates . . . If we can. ascertain with certainty what were the original words of the Syriac or Latin translations, we can generally know what was the Greek text which the translator had before him; we know, that is, what words were found in a Greek manuscript which was extant in the first half of the second century, and which cannot have been written very far off from A.D. 100.

OUR INCOMPARABLE VERSIONS

All things fairly considered, we can confidently affirm that in our incomparable English Revised Version we have a book which conveys the exact meaning of the original languages as far as one language can express another.

To those thoroughly acquainted with Hebrew and Greek and able to read in these tongues, the gain is doubtless great, especially when it is remembered that textual criticism is in such a sound position that men of sober judgement are quite sure that questionable readings have been reduced to a small minimum.

Sir Frederick Kenyon, formerly Director of the British Museum, after a long life devoted to these studies, and knowing all the facts as we can never hope to know them, could sum up his life-long findings by declaring:

"THE CHRISTIAN CAN TAKE THE WHOLE BIBLE IN HIS HAND AND SAY WITHOUT FEAR OR HESITATION THAT HE HOLDS IN IT THE TRUE WORD OF GOD, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries."

That is the keynote of our chapter -- the authenticity of our English Bible. We have it in another language, it is true, than those in which it was originally written, but we have it essentially as God gave it.

Here then, armed with a threefold assurance, we can proceed with the utmost confidence.

Archaeology has proved Bible history to be true -- Prophecy has proved the Bible to be divinely inspired The manuscripts prove that, in our mother tongue, we possess that Bible today.

What more can an intelligent and reasonable reader ask of us before following with keen interest and anticipation what is to follow?

CONTENTS | 1 | 2(1) | 2(2) | 3 | 4 | 5(1) | 5(2) | 6

 


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