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The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God IV

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

I can think of one reason and only one reason to think that Daniel has a late date. Namely, it appears that Daniel is the only book in the Bible that has a lot of apocryphical additions in the LXX, and it is inexplicable to why Daniel was "singled-out" for this.

Do you have any theories?

Sincerely,

Response #1:  

1) Daniel is singularly prophetic in terms of eschatology – uniquely so much so that it is often treated in tandem with Revelation as the two essential books on the end times – so it shouldn't come as any great surprise that it has attracted many apocryphal add-ons in the same vein (the same thing has happened to the book of Revelation, only most of those spurious works never made it into Bible manuscripts, having come centuries later than the Daniel "additions").

2) There is a great deal of apocryphal and pseudepigraphical material which has come down to us from antiquity, and no doubt a good deal more which hasn't survived. And people have continued to concoct such things right down through the centuries – though it is perhaps a bit more difficult to seem plausible if starting today (so it's not uncommon to find things of relatively recent date masquerading as more ancient than they really are). Some of these materials in terms of Daniel were included with ancient codices and that accounts more than anything else for their survival and prominence within this set of literature. But "Bel and the Dragon", e.g., is still nonsense even so (and clearly so to anyone who's wasted time perusing it).

So one can make the argument you are alluding to, but in light of the two points above it wouldn't send the slightest tremor through my faith about the canon, whether generally or in terms of the inspired nature of the book of Daniel "as is".

Please see the links:

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God III

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God II

The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God I

Question #2: 

Hi Bob,

Do we know for certain that the Book of Enoch is later than Jude? Because I have heard scholars say that the Book of Enoch predates Jude.

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

The "Book of Enoch" – that one, that is, that can be found in English translation today is an apocryphal work of unknown provenance and of unknown development. Most English translations are translations of the Ethiopic version (the only "complete" one), and these mss. do not date back to before the 16th cent. or so. There is evidence of such a book in ancient reports, and there are Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew fragments of the book itself (it is claimed); but given the sketchy nature of the other evidence (n.b., the Qumran community was still in existence after the New Testament had been completed), I would not be willing to give credence to these fragments being derived from the same text precisely as the Ethiopic version of the book now bearing this name.

We may actually have to do with two pseudepigraphical "books of Enoch". The best guess from my perspective for the book we have in hand is that it is a composition (or reworking of older material – aka the previous apocryphal "Enoch") which post-dates Jude, but which worked into its text the passage in Jude 1:14-15 as a false "proof" of authenticity. In any case, we may be sure that 1) Jude is authentic and a part of the Word of God, and 2) that any form of the "Book of Enoch" one may find today is not part of the Word of God, not inspired, and of no particular use for Christian edification. Where Jude got his quote (the Holy Spirit is my guess – just as Moses did not learn the details about Adam and Eve from anyone else but the Spirit) may be a matter of some controversy, but it doesn't change either of these two essential points.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

It doesn't matter as much the precise origin of this information as it does the fact that he did not quote a pseudipigraphical work. Many apologetics website of a sure Evangelical bent outright claim that Jude "must have" quoted Enoch, which inspires uncertainty and doubt in me, and not the necessary confidence necessary for growth in spirituality. 

Response #3:  

That is certainly the apologetic point, and one I have had to address several times in the past. See the links:

Issues of Canonicity: The Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch

Issues of Canonicity II: Aramaic, Enoch

Eschatology and the Old Testament (Q/A #2)

I would also add that "Many apologetics website of a sure Evangelical bent outright" usually don't know what they are talking about on any manner of subjects.

To summarize: 1) The real, historical Enoch did say what Jude quotes him to say; 2) Jude most likely received the quote from the Spirit, not from a written source; 3) the written "sources" we have today of any provenance which claim to be "the book of Enoch" are a) not written by the actual Enoch, and b) not the source of Jude's quote.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

First, I just wanted to say thank you very much for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to my questions regarding the "New Heavens and the New Earth", and the term "Forever", I really appreciate it. Secondly, I wonder if I might ask your assistance on another matter?

The Christian brother I mentioned in my previous letter, the Pastor, and I had one other disagreement some time back. Here's what happened, he saw that sadly many Christians today don't value the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), though folks like you and I know that the OT makes up over 77.2% of God's Holy Word, and that our blessed Lord Jesus, and the NT authors highly prized the OT. On top of that he knew that I was learning about things such as Textual Criticism, and the issues of concern surrounding the text of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, and I think it kind of shook his confidence, or took a shot at his "comfort zone." Needless to say, in an effort to comfort himself (I personally believe that is what it was) he concluded, over some time, that the New Testament was not "Scripture", and even wrote an article, for his ministry newsletter, which tried to argue that the NT wasn't Scripture, yet it was still the Word of God - (I know that sounds strange). He concluded that since the NT never calls itself "Scripture", but does call the OT "Scripture" 51 times, then we must be wrong to conclude that the NT is "Scripture." However, I tried to explain to him that the word "Scripture" is sort of a loaded term. As you know, the Hebrew word "kathub", the Greek word, "graphe", and the Latin word, "scriptura", ALL simply mean "writing", "that which is written", etc. So the NT author's were saying something along the lines of, "as the writings say....". The fact that the OT is called "Scripture" just means they are writings, but the fact that they are the "Word of God" defines what type of writings they are. Anyway, he asked me to read his article, so I did, but I had to be honest with him, I told him I thought he was in error, and needed to reexamine his conclusion. Now, before I go any further, let me just say that, I kind of feel a little responsible for his confidence being shaken somewhat, as I was the one who made the textual issues surrounding the Scriptures known to him in the kind of detail that you, I, and others who study these issues would be familiar with. Yet, this was back when I was much "younger" in these things, and was so interested in telling folks what I was learning, that I guess I didn't really think, or consider the fact that everyone might not be ready to hear those kinds of things as early as I was. Even so, I have, since then, tried to assure this man, that the issues surrounding the text of Scripture are nothing to get too worried about, that God has faithfully kept His Word for us, and that we can trust what we have, as I personally do, and I trust you do as well. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that my studies have not only NOT shaken my faith in the Scriptures, but instead, they have given me a truly "overwhelming confidence" in the veracity of the Scriptures, as the Inspired, Infallible, Ever Powerful, Word of the Living God! Suffice it to say, may I ask you to read his article, and tell me what you think, and also, could you help me to be able to present a reasonable argument for the NT being Scripture just like the OT, maybe dealing with some of the issues I raised? I'm not a scholar like you, and I would wager that this brother probably see my opinion on the matter as rather insignificant, yet I would hope to be able to show him strong Scriptural, as well as logical, evidence for a correct understanding. In closing, let me just say, as I stated in my previous letter, I know I am fallible and can makes mistakes in my interpretation of matters, however, I have acted in good faith, trying to be an honest student of the Word. Even so, if it be proven, by Scripture, that I am wrong then I will revise my view. I am not above admitting my wrongs. I have attached the article for you to read at your convenience.

Your humble brother in King Jesus, the Only Way!

Response #4: 

You're very welcome. I have to say I think the response to you of wanting to eliminate (in effect) the authority of the NT – so as not to have answer questions about it – strikes me as a very odd thing for a pastor to do. I have to say at the start that while defending the authority of scripture is an important thing to do versus unbelievers who ask questions, for believers to question the Bible's authority in any substantive way (most people have some questions, especially until they grow up spiritually and get the necessary background) is a course fraught with spiritual disaster. For a pastor to do so is, to me, incomprehensible. So my first thought is for your spiritual safety. I can't imagine any positive teaching emanating from a ministry that does not put the Bible and its authority at center of everything.

Also, before even looking at the article, it is not true that the New Testament is not called "scripture":

And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (graphas).
2nd Peter 3:15-16 NKJV

Since the writers of the New Testament for the most part did not yet have the entire New Testament (if they had any of it) when they wrote, clearly it would be difficult to quote from other books that were still in the process of being distributed – or hadn't even been written yet. But here is a case of Peter calling all of Paul's epistles "scripture". It doesn't get any clearer than that in my book. And in spite of the fact that because of the nature of the New Testament's composition, entirely taking place in a very short window of time (ca. 40 to 68 A.D.), there are some other instances of the above. For example, James 4:5 is actually quoting Galatians 5:17 (Please see the link: "'The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy'. Explaining James 4:5 and other aspects of the Holy Spirit's Ministries"). And Paul's attribution of divine inspiration and canonicity to Luke's gospel is even more remarkable when one remembers that Luke wrote under Paul's guidance and apostolic authority (1Tim.5:18b compared with Lk.10:7). It is also important to say that the way in which the NT is written and written about by its own writers leaves no serious doubt in the mind of any Christian approaching the matter objectively but that they knew that it was "scripture" inspired by the Holy Spirit:

(16) For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the coming return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty. (17) For when He had received honor and glory from God the Father, these words sounded forth to Him from God's majestic glory: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased." (18) And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). (19) Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e., than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), (20) pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. (21) For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:16-21

All scripture is inspired by God (lit., "God-breathed) and useful for teaching, for admonishing, for correcting, and for training in righteousness.
2nd Timothy 3:16

When Peter wrote the first above verses, we are not to imagine that he thought this only applied to the Old Testament, are we? And when Paul wrote this verse directly above, it is hard to argue that he wasn't applying it to the epistle he was penning – of course he was. Now convincing skeptics of the authority and inspiration of scripture is often a difficult task – ultimately God has to lead them to it, and will do so only if they are willing to be led. But the most important thing for us is never ever to let the disbelief of others affect the absolute faith we ourselves possess.

As to the article itself, it is a wonderful thing to support the authority of the Old Testament, but not at the expense of the New. The fact that the Old Testament is scripture does not mean that the gospels, for example, are not. How would we even know about Jesus Christ without the New Testament? We would have the shadow-view of the Messiah which deliberately conflates the cross and the crown, and we would have no idea of what Jesus actually did and said – nor we would know anything directly about the cross on which the entire plan of God, salvation and all creation depend.

A few miscellaneous points. When author says about 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 and Luke 24:32, "No New Testament when this was written", that is not entirely correct. Some of the other books were available when Luke wrote, and at least about half the NT was written and in circulation when Paul wrote his last epistle. It's also important to remember that the unique spiritual gifts of that time, prophecy in particular, filled the gap of teaching truth not revealed in the OT until the NT was completely written and widely distributed. Secondly, your point is very well taken, namely, that there is no distinction between the "scripture", the "Bible", and the "Word of God" – these are three ways of saying the exact same thing. We use them interchangeably and there is nothing wrong with doing so because the Bible does the same thing. There is no basis whatsoever for distinguishing between them. The argument that this is the same thing as equating Father and Son is specious argumentation (comparing apples to oranges), since in the first case the three are the same thing, and the second they are not. I also do not find the attack on the prime example I gave at the outset even understandable, let alone convincing.

A final note. When people get all het up about something like this, in my experience it is pointless to argue with them. It's your business, but I doubt that trying to point out the obvious will have anything other than obvious and predictable results.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

I have a copy of the Codex Sinaiticus and it includes the Sonnini Manuscript (Acts 29) which was discovered, as you know, in the late 1700's. I would be interested in your opinion as to the legitimacy and historical value of this "lost chapter of the Bible".

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Yours in our Savior and Lord,

Response #5:  

I'm looking at the Codex online this moment, and Acts stops with verse 31 of chapter 28. The next page has James (the books are in a different order in Sinaiticus inasmuch as Acts is considered Pauline). So there is no connection between Sinaiticus and this pseudepigraphical work you ask about – it simply is not in that ms.

Were it possible to find a copy of the Greek version of this putative 29th chapter of Acts, I would be able to evaluate it based on the language. But my understanding of the story is that Sonnini claimed to have translated "it" into French, and that the Greek original was "lost" (if it ever existed). Based upon what the "translation" has, it is certainly a fake. I don't see any possibility of squaring the details therein with what we know of the actual Bible. This is sort of "mini-Book of Mormon", but in support of British-Israelism rather than the "latter day" cult. And, of course, if there were any truly ancient source of such a kind, we would certainly have some evidence beyond a single translation (which is, surprisingly, complete!).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Thank you for such a prompt reply. My copy of the Codex is the translation by H. T. Anderson and he acknowledges that the Sonnini Manuscript was not in the Codex, but he included it for reference. He also included "The Epistle of Barnabas", "The Shepherd of Hermas", and the "The Didache". I know the earliest church fathers did not accept the Epistle or the Shepherd, and you have previously told me that you felt the Didache was bogus, but I was just curious about your opinion of the Sonnini Manuscript.

Again, thanks for your reply and for all you do. I enjoy all of your commentaries, and they greatly improve my understanding of the Words of our God.

Yours in Christ Jesus forever,

Response #6: 

You're very welcome – and thanks for the clarification.

FYI, "Barnabas" and "Hermas" are part of Sinaiticus – but are added at the end, after the book of Revelation, as appendices of a sort (they are not part of the canon). "Didache" is not included in that ms.

Please feel free to write me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

You wrote (at http://ichthys.com/mail-Bible-and-Canon.htm): the only reason this debate ever came up was that some of these writings came to be attached to some of the early codices - not systematically but occasionally. They were included by well-meaning people who felt that, for example, the books of the Maccabees might provide valuable historical information for the time between the Testaments. I am confident in asserting that the people who attached these works did not do so with the idea that they were scripture or with any expectation that some in later generations would assume that they were. To use a modern example, this would be like a large study Bible including a number of appendices with, say, some excerpts from Flavius Josephus or Maimonides, then, centuries after the fact, someone finding this study Bible and assuming that the illustrative appendices were part of scripture.

Were the books added in this procedure marked as not being scripture and only providing historical information for example, or were these attachment added without being distinguished in any way?

Response #7:  

It's a good question. No. They are just there. For example, after the Song of Solomon, codex Sinaiticus includes the non-canonical "Wisdom of Solomon" and only has the title; the same thing happens with the "Epistle of Barnabas" which follows Revelation. However, we should note that 1) even titles for books (such as "the Gospel of John") is a later invention – they are probably not original; 2) in both cases Sinaiticus places the non-canonical works after the close of its list of canonical books (however, there are non-canonical works interspersed in the OT, no doubt for chronological and genre reasons). This seems not to have been the issue when the codex was produced that it became later on, it being left to the reader to understand from the title that what he/she was reading was or was not part of the canon – analogous today to study Bible editors feeling no need to point out that the introduction to an given book is not to be considered inspired because it's obvious. One last point, this sort of thing – lack of titles, introductions, and explanations – in ancient texts and mss. is very common (no doubt having a lot to do with economy of precious space and also the time and effort required to produce such massive undertakings).

Question #8: 

An observation / questions on the pericope of the adultress.

(1) Why does this passage appear in Luke in some ancient manuscripts?

(2) Does the style resemble that of Luke?

Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox church has an extremely ancient lectionary that they use for scriptural reading, and their lectionary skips over the parable of the adulteress. So that's another bit of evidence against it. They also don't read Revelation, but that's for a completely different reason (it turns out that very early in the church history

However, I don't like the "unbelievers use this passage too often to suggest that God imposes no standards of holiness whatsoever" argument, because lot's of famous Christians used "the Holy Spirit said so" argument to reach erroneous conclusions. Perhaps most famously, Martin Luther dismissed James as an "epistle of straw" because "only an unbeliever would put so much emphasis on works" (which is basically the same argument but on a different theme).

In the process of composing his Gospel, Luke, following standard literary practice for the time, would have compiled notes which he later collected and collated into a full text. The pericope would be well designated as one of Luke's original "loose leaf" notes that didn't make the cut to the final gospel. Why? The pericope fits quite well in the context where it is sometimes placed in Luke (after 21:38). But it is also immediately before the Passion narrative. Luke's Gospel is just about the right size for a typical ancient scroll, so the omission of this pericope from his Gospel may have been for a no less practical reason than that Luke saw that he was running out of writing room.

Here is some unique Lukan vocabulary:

orthros ("early" – John 8:2; Luke 24:1, Acts 5:21

"all the people" (John 8:2; appears almost 20 times in Luke-Acts, but only 5 times in Mark and Matthew together)

paraginomai ("appear" – John 8:2; appears over two dozen times in Luke-Acts, but only 3 times in Matt, once in Mark, and once elsewhere in John)

kategoros ("accusers" – found elsewhere only in Acts, 5 times)

suneideis ("conscience" – found only here, and twice in Acts) "Mount of Olives", "scribes and Pharisees", "eldest" (8:1, 8:3, 8:9) – unique to the Synoptics.

Response #8: 

The interpolation in John chapter eight is probably of medieval origin and not a part of the Bible. The only mss. which have it appearing in Luke as well are the "F13" family of minuscules, a late group so interconnected that they count really as one witness. They date to the 11-15th cent., so possibly right around the time that this interpolation was invented and was "looking for a home". In Luke, it is placed just before the events of the last supper (i.e., the last possible place to insert it where it would even have a hope of not being seen immediately as spurious). The fact that the text is verbatim the same as the interpolation in John means that beyond all argument that at least one of them is false, and the fact that there is no evidence for the passage ever being in Luke until a thousand years after he wrote his gospel is pretty hard to explain, were it original to that book. In fact, there is plenty of reason to be certain that the pericope doesn't belong in either gospel and that it is not part of the Word of God at all, so we don't need to worry whether or not it seems more "Lukan" or more "Johannine", since in fact it was not written by either man under divine inspiration. From Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:

The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as Papyrus66.75 Aleph B L N T W X Y D Q Y 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space enough on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text. In the East the passage is absent from the oldest form of the Syriac version (syrc.s. and the best manuscripts of syrp), as well as from the Sahidic and the sub-Achmimic versions and the older Bohairic manuscripts. Some Armenian manuscripts and the old Georgian version omit it. In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and from several Old Latin manuscripts (ita.l*.q). No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospels do not contain it. When one adds to this impressive and diversified list of external evidence the consideration that the style and vocabulary of the pericope differ noticeably from the rest of the Fourth Gospel (see any critical commentary), and that it interrupts the sequence of 7.52 and 8.12 ff., the case against its being of Johannine authorship appears to be conclusive.

As to the content, we can discuss that if you like (I don't base my confidence that this is not part of the Word primarily on that consideration; for discussion of content, see the link: "'Father forgive them' and 'Cast the first stone'"). However, portraying our Lord as writing something mysterious in the dirt – something which is never explained – is absolutely not in consonance with our Lord's ministry or the revelation of truth, but it is the sort of thing one finds in made-up pseudepigraphical literature all the time.

For more on this, please see the link:

The interpolation of the woman caught in adultery

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Pacian of Barcelona (bishop from 365-391), in the course of making a rhetorical challenge, opposes cruelty as he sarcastically endorses it: "O Novatians, why do you delay to ask an eye for an eye? ... Kill the thief. Stone the petulant. Choose not to read in the Gospel that the Lord spared even the adulteress who confessed, when none had condemned her." Pacian was a contemporary of the scribes who made Codex Sinaiticus.

I do agree that the writing on the ground is just plain bizarre. But so is the whole incident with Moses and Zipporah.

Codex Bezae contains the passage and it dates from 400 A.D. So it cannot be medieval in origin. It would have to be late antiquity.

Response #9:  

I'm not sure comparing what Moses is told to by God with something odd our Lord is purported to have done of His own accord can be the basis for a valid objection.

Also, I just had a look at Codex Bezae (D). The interpolation is not present there, either in the Greek or in the Latin (this ms. has Greek on the left and Latin on the right facing page). Both facing pages do have a line drawn in (with no particular skill – a late notation) where chapters 21 and 22 break in our modern notation, which I take to mean some user noting that he was aware that some mss. had something here, perhaps the interpolation we are discussing, perhaps not. That may the origin of the incorrect notion that the pericope occurs in this codex (it does not).

As to Pacian, this epistle (Against the Novatians) dates the late 4th cent., and the earliest ms. of it to not earlier than the 6th cent. Whether "Choose not to read in the Gospel that the Lord spared even the adulteress who confessed, when none had condemned her" is really referring to the interpolation we are discussing, however, is doubtful at least in my mind. The only thing the woman actually says in the interpolation is "No, my Lord" (she does not "confess" either in word or deed). There are other things in the actual Latin text left out in the English translation. It should read "the adulteress who no one condemned although she had been shaved (as a punishment?)". So if this is really from Pacian, and if it is really accurately transmitted, it is more likely that he is referring to Mary Magdalene's washing of our Lord's feet with her tears; he has no doubt dimly remembered the details (she isn't shaved; but she does wash the Lord's feet with her hair – that may even be what he means). Later commentators jumped to the conclusion of aligning this passage with interpolation at John 7:53ff., but that is incorrect in my view.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

The only thing I know for certain is that John did not write this and that it was never part of the Gospel of John. I used to believe that it was a purely fictional account written in late antiquity, but your very strong argument that this was written in the high middle ages literally calls everything I know into question. Literally everyone else I read considering this says that this was extant by late antiquity.

Response #10: 

It's possible. People have been attacking the Word of God since the beginning. Blessedly, the truth is discernible for all who bother to knock with persistence and in the correct way.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

I was reading Guinness, and he mentioned an interesting fact: the reckoning of the Jewish canon, combined with the books of the NT, equals to 49, or seven times seven. This motivated me to look at the development of the Hebrew canon, which in turn motivated me to look at the Council of Jamnia. However, I learned that according to contemporary historians, "plenary inspiration" may have not been the only criterion used to determine which books were canonical and which weren't.

"The writing had to be sanctioned by usage in the Jewish community. The use of Esther at Purim made it possible for it to be included in the canon. Judith, without such support, was not acceptable."

Could it be possible that Judith is just as inspired as the Book of Esther, but was simply omitted because of a technicality?

Sincerely,

Response #11:  

Inspiration, along with the lack of it, is a fact. Either God inspired a book or He didn't. If you're asking my opinion, Judith is most definitely not inspired. Blessedly, this has been the judgment of history as well, including councils, Jewish and church. But all a council can do is to affirm what God has done. They might get it wrong. In this case, I don't believe they did. If in doubt, read the book. That clears the matter up as far as I'm concerned – though it is a waste of time, and for most believers without a teaching gift and without depth of scholarship reading things which aren't true masquerading as the truth is potentially dangerous.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dr. Luginbill,

I have to backtrack a bit on this question, because I missed it, and just now thought of it. You make the following statement:

The portion of the text in verse 51 of Luke chapter 24 which says "and He was taken up into heaven" is not a part of the original text but a later addition, added no doubt in an attempt to homogenize the end of Luke with the beginning of Acts (i.e., making Luke end with the ascension just as Acts begins with it).

I am not doubting what you say, as I am positive you know more about this than I ever will but, here is my question: I am told that we no longer have "the original text" available, so my question is: if this is true, how can we say that this verse is not in the "original text". Again, I don't doubt what you say, but...Maybe the "original text" applies only to the Old Testament and not the New Testament? Just a thought, because I don't know.

Thanks so much again.

As always, Blessing and grace be on you.

Response #12: 

When you think of any ancient text, unless we are talking about an inscription on stone or a letter on a piece of papyrus, we never have the "original autograph", that is, the first copy that Plato or Vergil – or Moses or Paul – wrote down on paper (papyrus). What we have are copies of copies. However, that does not mean that our texts of the Aeneid or of Plato's Apology are not mostly what they actually wrote. In fact, what we have today in terms of most Classical texts are modern critical editions which are indeed substantially what the authors wrote down in their own hand. That is because important works tended to be very scrupulously cared for, and also because we usually have a variety of testimony about these works – the ones which have survived – in the form of manuscripts which sometimes date back quite a long way. The entire purpose of the art and science of textual criticism is to establish the original text. This is possible to a very great degree even with Classical texts where the witnesses are not as numerous or as ancient as we would like. In terms of most important Classical works the places where there is serious argument about what was originally written is generally restricted to less than a few percentage points of the text. When it comes to the Bible, the situation is different in that, in particularly in regard to the New Testament, we have such a great wealth of resources (which puts any Classical author other than Homer in the shade by comparison) that the issue is even less likely to be in serious doubt. So when it comes to the biblical text, there is more than enough evidence, in my scholarly opinion, to come to a very confident determination of what is "the correct text" -- which would be "the original text" – in pretty much every case of possible confusion; and in the vast majority of such instances, it makes little doctrinal difference.

For example, as a native English speaker, if you were trying to reconstruct a letter found in a garbage dump which had worm hole in it so that the text read "When you get home, please tell [ . . . ] brother how much I love him too", the number of possibilities for words to fill the lacuna is in fact very small. Someone who is not a native speaker might suggest "the" – but we native speakers know that is not correct; the most likely possibilities are "your", "our" or "my" – and we might be able to eliminate the wrong ones if we know something about the writer, e.g. There are a lot of other ins and outs to this simplified picture, but suffice it to say that in the case of all doctrinally important places where there are questions about the text, the right answer can almost always be supplied with sufficient work by those who understand the original languages, textual criticism, the historical background and the doctrinal underpinnings of what it is we are looking at (the last element being seldom achieved or applied nowadays, however, even though it is often the most critical point).

For something like Luke 24:51, this is, in my view, not even a close call, as it turns out. The passage is not present in the original hand of ms. Sinaiticus, the oldest and best ms. of the NT we possess, nor it is present in the also venerable codex Bezae. While it is present in some other ancient mss., we can see clearly enough how this passage might have been added as an explanation or a gloss, but it is more difficult to explain why it might have been left out (not to say that scholars haven't made the opposing argument as well). As I say in the quote, it was "added no doubt in an attempt to homogenize the end of Luke with the beginning of Acts (i.e., making Luke end with the ascension just as Acts begins with it)". This reasonably explains the addition; there is no such compelling motive (or any motive at all that I can discern) which would explain its removal (pace the opinion of some "scholars") – and it can't be an accident because that identical "accident" is found in more than one unrelated ms. tradition. In my view, someone suggested this addition early on to explain Luke's opening statement in Acts about his "former account" which ran "until the day in which He was taken up" (Acts 1:2). This is not really a contradiction without the addition (since the ascension constitutes the actual end of the first advent), but one can understand how a strict construction might see it as such an want to "fix" the end of Luke to comport with this statement.

These are some of the considerations one goes through in the process of establishing the text. Although this is a somewhat simplified view, I hope you can see already why I don't go through the details every time there is a textual variant in a passage I'm translating or exegeting – not in terms of explaining the text-critical process to the reader, that is. It would be very easy to lose the entire spiritual point if immersed too deeply in these text-critical details. In fact, that is essentially what much of modern biblical scholarship has done, and the results have not been edifying. Furthermore, when it comes to passages such as the one you ask about here, generally speaking tradition is also at work . . . in supporting the text everyone is comfortable with from translations such as the KJV. I have no doubt that the reason why this passage which is not part of the original still occurs in most English Bibles has to do with tradition at least 50% . And in many cases of spurious inclusion (such as Jn.7:53 - 8:11), that is the only reason for it (i.e., in that passage few serious persons who know anything about textual criticism believe that it is original to the gospel of John; see the link).

Here are some links at Ichthys where related issues are addressed:

The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.

Issues of the biblical text

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

I have discovered the bible in chronological order and want to know who discovered it was not written correctly? Just wondering because I want to read it in chronological order and was wondering why it was written or printed different.

Please add my email to any list for bible studies.

Response #13:  

Good to make your acquaintance. As per your other email, I have added your name to the Ichthys mailing list. I only use this email list to announce major postings (which only happen once or twice a year or so). Please keep Ichthys in mind when/if you change your email address – it's my practice to delete addresses once mail comes back as undeliverable. There is also an RSS subscription service on the site which I use to announce the weekly email question and answer response postings – you can subscribe on the email page (at the link).

As to your other question, as I point out at the two links you may have bumped into ("The Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible I" and "The Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II"), the question of "how we got our Bible" is a very involved one with many different aspects to it. The Bible is, I suppose, roughly chronological in this respect: the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) were written first, and the last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was written last, and each deals with events that happened first and will happen last in human history respectively. In between, one can say that all of the Old Testament books were written and deal with events which happened before those of the New (with the exception of the prophecies of the OT which deal with the Tribulation and Millennium), there being about a five hundred year gap between the last of the prophets and the first of the gospels.

In terms of the exact ordering of the books in English versions, it is important to say that while the books themselves are divinely inspired, their sequencing in manuscripts and printed versions is not. There is a different traditional order in the Hebrew Old Testament, for example, and in terms of the New, some of the older manuscripts have variations from the order with which we are familiar (e.g., in Sinaiticus, Acts follows Philemon and Hebrews comes between the Thessalonian epistles and the letters to Timothy – since these first two books mentioned were considered Pauline or, in the case of Acts, connected with Paul [through Luke]). Does it make any difference? Not really. What matters is that we have the entire inspired Word of God with nothing lost and nothing added.

For those who wish a "chronological Bible" – something which is not really possible to produce as you will see from perusing the links above – there are really two issues. Do such folks want a Bible in which the books are arranged in the order in which they were written? Or is what they want a Bible which puts events described in scripture in the chronological order in which they occurred? The latter is problematic for one reason because it would mean cutting and pasting bits and pieces of different books here and there (e.g., the book of Acts spans the time frame of much of the rest of the New Testament after the gospels, for example, and Kings and Chronicles cover much of the same time periods); the former is problematic because many books were written contemporaneously and many more can only be guessed at in terms of their precise dates of writing. So what a person would end up with if either method of "reorganizing the Bible" were to be attempted would be a very unsatisfactory result, and one in which little confidence could be placed, even if done by diligent and knowledgeable individuals. Since what we have is perfectly fine, therefore, I have always resisted signing onto or supporting any such attempts. But the two links above will give you some information on the "ins and outs" of all this.

Do feel free to write back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

At Revelation 20:5, Your footnote (#31) for this verse states: The sentence "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (KJV), is a later, non-scriptural addition, and is not a part of the actual biblical text.

I am surprised that you would make such a statement. Once we begin to pull even a single sentence from the cannon of Scripture, we are on a very slippery slope. It is in every other English translation I can find, yet you assert that it is not part of the actual biblical text, and you do so without any explanation or basis for your assertion? To me, this is a very dangerous way to handle the Word of God. Since we have not even a single copy of the original "actual biblical text," upon what evidence do you base your claim? More explanation should certainly be included in your footnote.

Humbly and sincerely,

Response #14: 

Dear Friend,

The canon of scripture consists of all the divinely inspired books of the Bible in their original forms, that is, in their original languages and in the exact words of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek set down by their human authors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit at the time of writing. All English translations are just that, namely, renderings of one text or another of these original writings. When I say "text", what I mean is a scholarly compilation of the best manuscripts available at the time. The KJV is not, of course, therefore "inspired", and in fact the translators of that version were working from a text which was not even fully complete based on Erasmus' version of the New Testament in Greek wherein he had back translated into Greek from the Latin Vulgate to make up for lacunas in the mss. with which he was working for the book of Revelation. This is a long way of saying that you may rest assured that I take this job for the Lord very seriously and have as my primary concern "getting it right". Since this half verse (Rev.20:5a) is in fact from all I know about the history of the text most definitely not a part of the original text as John wrote it, pretending otherwise because people in the past have "gotten it wrong" would be something with which the Lord would most definitely not be pleased. I serve Him, not tradition. I am happy enough with tradition – when it is correct. But it is the truth I love.

Having said this, you do have a point about the brevity of the footnote. Generally speaking, I try not to get too much "into the weeds" where textual issues are concerned, because that is not usually very edifying for readers. But, inasmuch as I have had questions on and have discussed this passage on numerous occasions in the Q and A section of the website, in order to respond to your concern I have now expanded the note in question as follows:

The sentence "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (KJV), is a later, non-scriptural addition, and is not a part of the actual biblical text. While Revelation is not as well attested in terms of mss. as other books of the NT, it does occur in some of the oldest and best uncials; this half-verse is absent from codex Sinaiticus, the oldest and best witness to the original text, as well as from most other mss. which include the book of Revelation, and occurs only in a few mss. such as codex Vaticanus and the Latin versions of the Bible. It is safe to say, therefore, that this half verse is a gloss, added by a later copiest to explain "This is the first resurrection" and the (only) apparent absence of other believers besides those who were martyred (though, in fact, scripture is merely emphasizing the special rewards which come to the martyrs, and not saying that the rest of the Church is not resurrected at this time too – which it most certainly is). As is often the case in the transmission of ancient mss., marginal explanations such as this (known as glosses), erroneous material has made its way into the text in one tradition when the ms. was recopied (since the copiest wrongly assumed that this was not an explanation but an actual part of the text accidentally left out and placed in the margin later). The presence of this half verse in most English versions has to do with tradition based upon the Latin Vulgate favored by the Roman Catholic church, and the fact that the translators of the KJV did not have access to many of the earlier mss. such as Sinaiticus (that ms. having come to light only in the 19th cent.).

Thanks again for your email. Do feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Thank you for your prompt reply, as well as your thorough explanation. I certainly respect your expertise, but if the sentence is obviously a gloss, and not meant to be included, can you tell me why every single English translation has included it? There seems to be no division of opinion, except for you. If, as you say, this is "erroneous material," why have ALL of them chosen to keep it? Does it not make you a little hesitant to be so dogmatic against such a large number of other well-qualified persons? It simply seems to me that if what you assert were straightforward, or even up for debate, then it would be agreed upon by at least a few others?

Again, no disrespect intended

Response #15:  

Hello again, Friend,

You are very welcome.

As to your observation/question "Does it not make you a little hesitant to be so dogmatic against such a large number of other well-qualified persons?", I would wish to point out that this supposition is actually not correct. It should not be imagined that Bible translations are done by individuals who give careful and godly consideration to every instance of potential inaccuracies in the text. In point of fact, Bible translations are done by large committees, and the text upon which the translations from which all the individuals involved must use is decided ahead of time by the editorial board. This was the case with the KJV, and this is the case with every major translation ever since. If you think about it, this really is the only practical way to proceed. If every translator could determine his own text of any given passage, there could never be a single, coherent methodology and the result would be a mish-mash.

This is a long way to say that the reason why the NASB translator, for example, of this portion of Revelation has included Revelation 20:5a is because it was present in the Greek version he was given as the basis for his translation. It was not "his job" to determine the text. It was his job to "translate the text received".

Now I suppose that an English translation might do due diligence and come up with its own entirely new version of the Greek text of the NT before proceeding with the translation, but that would be very time-consuming, onerous and expensive – and unless those involved in that effort were diligent students of the substance and theology of the scriptures as well as of the text, it probably wouldn't be much different in any case from the present critical versions of the GNT (whose producers are scholars but not necessarily strong, Bible-believing Christians: Erasmus is responsible indirectly for the Textus Receptus that served as the basis of the KJV where the error we are discussing occurs, e.g.).

Now I suppose that translator "T" (the names of the men who do this work are almost always kept secret, by the way – not a procedure which give me confidence in their product), if he were actually doing due diligence and not merely getting through the process might notice the problem in Revelation 20:5a. This is unlikely, because if a person has to translate the entire text of Revelation, for example, working to a deadline, there is not going to be time to figure out what the whole book means – even if said person is gifted as a teacher and might be able to do so given the time. It took me many years to research and complete the Coming Tribulation series (which of course contains a complete translation of Revelation), and I can tell you very frankly that without understanding what it means there will be places where the translation is going to be incorrect (just as if I were a near-native speaker of both French and English I would still probably make mistakes in translating a calculus textbook since I know nothing whatsoever about calculus). More to the point, without understanding what it means, the person doing the translating is not going to be sensitive to places where the people who produced the Greek critical text have gotten it wrong (as in our passage).

So this (analyzing of textual issues) is not really what translators do. They translate to their best ability the text received and focus more on getting the style correct than on worrying about textual issues or often even meaning (they often are caught making interpretive assumptions which are incorrect because of an insufficient understanding of the true theology behind any given passage). But suppose our translator "T" did happen to notice this problem. And suppose he did go to the editorial board and argue that this half verse was not original (based upon very convincing evidence – convincing to anyone with experience in textual criticism, that is). What would be the result? First, the editorial board would reply that he was to translate the text as it stood because that is the practice all the translators must follow (i.e., to avoid "mish-mash"). If he felt strongly enough about it and made a convincing enough case in their estimation, they might let him include a footnote to the effect of "these words do not occur in some ancient mss", but probably not "these words do not occur in the best ancient mss." – because that would make it look too much like they were doing what they were actually doing, namely, sacrificing truth for consistency of method . . . and tradition.

This brings us to the last reason why things are as they are. I.e., it is not really the case that "many qualified persons" have thought about this carefully and after judicious consideration decided that, well, yes, this half verse is more likely original than not. No sir. Rather it is the case that this half verse is left in without explanation because that is what everyone else in the past has done. English Bible translations are commercial enterprises, and as a result they do whatever they must do to avoid controversy (which might negatively affect sales). There are actually a number of famous places in scripture where erroneous material has "always been there" and as a result is thought by Bible believing, Bible reading persons such as yourself to be "scripture" (see the link: "Interpolations"). Taking such thorns out, while the right thing to do, would also provoke exactly the sort of reaction my writing has produced in your case.

In our situation, I have no profit motive whatsoever (Ichthys materials are free and this ministry does not even accept donations). I am explaining the truth of things because I care about the spiritual welfare of a brother in Christ (who might get some wrong ideas about the resurrection – such as buying into the invidious and destructive false doctrine of "soul sleep" – if he believed this half verse to be genuine scripture). But a commercial enterprise is concerned about the bottom line much more than about truth. Even if said translation is "non-profit", the people who work at the institute are very keen not to lose their jobs because of blow-back from unhappy readers who have the wrong idea about a given passage's originality. So it is much safer just to go with what everyone else does and has done in the past.

So what we actually have in this passage – assuming that a translator "T" really even did give any consideration to the issue and really did research it correctly – is a case of including the half verse because X, Y and Z include it, little caring that X, Y and Z include it only because U, V and W included it, who did so only because R, S and T included it . . . until we finally get to the original mistake – which is not found in codex Sinaiticus, our best witness by far to the Greek text of the New Testament.

So instead of having a legion of well-qualified, well-intentioned men who have done due diligence and done their best to present an accurate reflection in their translation of the actual text, what we have instead more resembles a herd which has followed the leader from the beginning out of questionable motives. And if a blind man leads a group of blind men, all will end up in the ditch. That is why I do not find this argument persuasive. Now I have no doubt that there are some out there who do (wrongly) feel that this half verse is part of scripture, and I am happy to debate the point on the merits (which is what I tried to do in the previous emails) rather than on the basis of "what others have done" – which is a weak strawman of an argument for the reasons discussed above. But in my experience, all those I have ever met who wanted to stick up for this one have only done so because it supported some false doctrine they were defending (such as the aforementioned "soul sleep"; see the link).

I certainly give you credit for this: you seem to have legitimate questions about scripture and you are determined to have them answered. That is the way to proceed with spiritual growth. But it is not an easy path, not if a person is determined to persevere to the end. It is my hope that you will come to see Ichthys as a reputable help to you in this quest of spiritual growth which is absolutely essential to everything important in the Christian life. One thing you will not find here is any tolerance for following the herd – when they are clearly wrong. It is always better to "follow the Lamb, wherever He goes" (Rev.14:4).

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who is the very Truth.

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Blessings to you my brother. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thought on a matter? In recent times I have come to see that there are a few areas in the NT where authors quote from "scripture" though the quotes are not found in the OT (at least as we have it today). That said, there are statements found in the NT which appear to point to the possibility that some of the NT writers quoted each others writings as "scripture." Below I have listed the major sections in the NT where this seems to be evident. I wonder if you would care to share your thoughts on the matter? I apologize for it's lengthiness.

1) James 4:5 speaking of the spirit within us says, "the spirit which He has made to dwell in us spirit lusts enviously." This is quite similar to Paul's statement, in Galatians 5:17, that "the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh."

2) In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to validate a minister's right to earn living, but he also quotes another saying as scripture which is only found in Luke 10:7.

3) In John 7:37-38, our Lord Jesus, speaking of the giving of the Holy Spirit, states that scripture says that "rivers of living water will flow out of him [the one believing on Jesus.]" Now, it is clear that Jesus is alluding to Isaiah 44:3, 55:1, and 58:11, however, if we look closer at Jesus' words we see that He also seems to be referring to His own words to the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4:10, 14.

4) In 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter seems to link Paul's letters along with the writings of the OT, referring to them both as the scriptures.

5) Finally, if we look at 2 Timothy 3:16 I believe it is better to see this clause as defining what scripture is, by nature, as apposed to which texts make up the scriptures. For example, Paul says that scripture is "God breathed", therefore we can deduce that if a document is "breathed out by God" then it would be, by definition, scripture. Also, we are told in the Bible itself that there were other Prophets who spoke the word of the LORD yet we do not posses their writings (at least not now). Still, are we prepared to say that the words of those Prophets, and the words of the writings of the Prophets which we do have in our Bibles, are somehow different in their authority? It seems that the authority of the OT or NT writings is not in the fact that they are called "scripture", i.e. "writing", but rather that they are called the "Word of God", which reveals what kind of writings they are. Suffice it to say, I would be open to hear your thoughts on my comments above.

Sincerely in Christ, our Mighty King,

Response #16: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend. I hope you and yours had a good holiday season.

As to your questions, let me start by saying that you broach a number of issues here, all of which are inter-related but which also require individual handling. To begin, the issue of quotation of the Old Testament in the New Testament is a very much under-appreciated "problem" – "problem", I say, for interpreters of the Bible, not of course for the Spirit who inspired the writing. What I mean to say is that it is not so straightforward an issue as many seem to think, for some of the reasons you allude to and for others as well. I will give some links at Ichthys where this issue is discussed, but in a nutshell let me say that the "rules" for quotation with which most people in modern times are familiar are definitely not the same "rules" used in NT quotations from the OT.

When it comes to such citations, sometimes it is a matter of an NT writer quoting verbatim from the Septuagint Greek translation (aka the LXX). Sometimes the writer will modify the LXX. Sometimes the writer will (apparently) translate anew from the Hebrew MT (Masoretic Text). Sometimes the writer will paraphrase only. Sometimes the writer will conflate a number of passages. And ofttimes some combination of the above will be the case. So unless we have an instance of a word for word lifting of a quotation directly from the LXX with no changes whatsoever (which happens maybe a quarter of the time?), each quotation, citation, paraphrase, or allusion will have to be considered on its own merits. Clearly, the Spirit has no problems with this approach whatsoever since what we have in the final result is The Word of God, even if the verbiage or even the meaning has been slightly changed, modified or adapted from the LXX text – and there is always a good reason for all changes: for one thing, the LXX is frequently wrong about the meaning of the Hebrew MT it is translating. But whenever there is a citation in pure (or near pure) LXX in the NT, we can be sure that the Spirit wanted this new language present and has sanctified the truthfulness of it, even if the LXX is wrong about the Hebrew in large part or small.

However, it is important to note that things do not work that way in reverse. So (pace the Greek Orthodox Church), the LXX is in general a very much flawed translation that is of less value than is often supposed in understanding the OT and the original Masoretic Text of the OT. The best work I know of on this set of issues is the now somewhat dated Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Gleason Archer and G. S. Chirichigno, a book which took a stab at this problem but did not come close to solving all the issues involved (or investigating/analyzing all the potential passages satisfactorily). As I have said many times, this would make a terrific Th.D. thesis . . . except that to do a good job the candidate might never get around to graduating. Here are some links:

Did Jesus quote the LXX?

Paul's use of the LXX in Hebrews

The LXX vs. the MT

LXX and prophetic allusions in the NT

NT and LXX: quotation or "mis"-quotation?

Amos 9:11-12 MT vs. LXX and Acts 15

As to your specific questions:

1) An acute observation on your part! In fact, James 4:5 is actually quoting Galatians 5:17 – something few if any other interpreters have recognized (as James is often erroneously thought to pre-date Galatians), and James thus recognizes Paul's epistles as "scripture", that is, "the Word of God" and thus part of the canon. Please see the link: "'The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy'. Explaining James 4:5 and other aspects of the Holy Spirit's Ministries".

2) Very good! This is another proof I use (and others use) to show that NT writers recognized previously written NT books as "scripture", that is, "the Word of God" and thus part of the canon.

3) This is not a quotation issue or a textual issue; this is a translation issue. In point of fact, Jesus' words, "as the scripture said" refers not to "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" but to the previous words "He that believeth on me". This confusion would be corrected in most versions merely by taking out the comma after "me" so as to demonstrate where the true connection is (i.e., "Whoever puts his faith in Me as the scripture has told him to do . . ."). The scripture in toto proclaims faith in Christ as the key issue for all mankind (even the OT; compare Gen.15:6 to Rom.4:1ff.), and the promise of the Spirit is one which belongs to believers only. That was an important point for our Lord to emphasize to an audience assuming that this promise of the Spirit was their birthright simply by being Jewish, but we see on the day of Pentecost that it is only the believers who receive the gift, and Peter specifically tells the audience who respond to the miracle:

"Repent [of your unbelief]". He said also "Let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus as a demonstration of the forgiveness of your sins [which comes as a result of this faith/repentance], [so that] then [as a result of your faith/repentance] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e., through that laying on of hands in the baptism)."
Acts 2:38

Without repentance from unbelief replaced by faith, no gift of the Spirit. Please see the link: : "Rivers of living water quotation?"

4) Yes indeed. Another very clear demonstration of the fact that Peter recognized that Paul's epistles – and his own – were "scripture", that is, The Word of God and as such a part of the canon.

5) 2nd Timothy 3:16 makes it clear that "scripture", that is, writing inspired by the Holy Spirit and ordained to be part of the canon, the written "Word of God", is all divinely inspired. That does not mean that OT prophets speaking by and in the Spirit were not proclaiming the words God meant for them to proclaim. Nor does it mean that those who teach the Word today are not – in, one would hope, most but certainly in some cases – proclaiming God's truth. But scripture, the written Word of God, the canon, the unique presentation by God of His truth in an eternal form, is special in very many ways. What we have in the canon is precisely what we are meant to have. Other words, writings, speeches, etc. – even those given by godly men or prophets, even under the direction of the Spirit – which do not occur in the Bible are not part of the Word of God, the canon, or as we say following biblical uses, are not "scripture".

I hope this helps answer your questions. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi--I have a question for you...you once wrote to me years ago that the different manuscript copies of the Greek NT agree about 99.5% of the time and where they do disagree, it doesn't change the meaning--correct? I did find this website that mentions some of this. Do you agree with it?

http://mit.irr.org/joseph-smiths-inspired-revisions-king-james-bible

Joseph Smith's "Inspired" Revisions to the King James Bible; Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as LDS or Mormon Church...

The first part in this link is about textual criticism of the Bible. Anyway, a Mormon on CARM claims that the Bible has been changed "100,000" times. He gave no proof. I was wondering if that claim holds any water.

Oh, BTW--when I mentioned some time ago on the boards that you used to teach Biblical Hebrew, but didn't any longer--this other Mormon, oceancoast, told me it must be because you weren't very good at it in the first place. I told him that was NOT true, but at any rate, you certainly know more than WE do about, put together! *;) winking

Anyway, I would appreciate what knowledge you have about the "100,000" changes that have supposedly been made in the Bible over the centuries. Different translations don't constitute changes to me. I presume he meant 100,000 differences between ancient manuscript copies.

Thanks and God bless. Hope you didn't get hammered to much by the cold and ice that came through your area a little while ago.

Response #17:  

Good to hear from and happy 2017.

We have discussed these matters before. I would not say that the small number of places where there are textual disagreements are always insubstantial. Sometimes they are very important. But this is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater and assume that we can't essentially trust what we have. Any person of average intelligence comparing two or three or four reputable English versions can easily see that the meaning is essentially the same throughout the entire Bible. That could never happen if the text were completely "up in the air". It is not. You are absolutely correct that differences in translation are usually due to understanding the same text in a different way. Because one translator got it right and one got it slightly wrong (or both did) has nothing to do with the state of the Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic text of the passage in question. As to those texts, they are in extremely good shape. Textual criticism is both a science and an art. The biblical version owes most everything to the Classics where Greek and Latin texts of authors from antiquity were rediscovered in manuscript form during the renaissance and afterwards but had numerous errors due to the difficulties of copying from ms. to ms. with complete accuracy. Depth of knowledge in the languages, the subject matter, and the methodology of ancient book production has meant that over the centuries our versions of ancient authors are, while not completely clean, in the 95% or greater range, even though in many cases there is a great paucity of evidence, especially in comparison to the Bible. For the New Testament, for example, there are thousands of mss. that date to this period of the late middle ages until the printing press ended the production of mss. – and a great deal of evidence much older than that (e.g., Sinaiticus is probably late 3rd cent.). I am teaching Catullus this semester, and his entire corpus of poetry goes back to a single manuscript discovered in 1305 – and that ms. is now lost. Nevertheless, through diligent scholarship his corpus has been repaired to such a fine degree there is probably less than one serious question per page of text. For the NT, there is an superabundance of evidence – all that is needed is the skill, experience . . . and knowledge to do it right. The last point is usually the critical one. Mis-translations and incorrect decisions on the text are mostly the result of not understanding well enough what Paul or Peter or John means (generally and also in the specific context). Classicists have been able to correct the texts of ancient authors through deep understanding of the genres and languages and propensities of individual authors. More of that is needed in specific cases in the NT. But what we are discussing here is fine tuning of the sort that would be wasted on the average Christian anyway since in our lukewarm era of Laodicea few are really interested in in-depth Bible teaching in any case. But I digress.

As to "1,000's of changes", I hope it will be obvious from the above that this is ludicrous. The statement itself is nonsensical. Who did the changing? And from what did they change? The Bible was written book by book and the original autograph in each case whether in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek was/is the Word of God in its perfect inspired form. All other ms. are copies and by now copies of copies of copies. But that does not mean that the copies are far removed from the original. In fact, they are even close than the 95% + mss. of the Classics. A lot closer. In my experience, we have much more than enough evidence to reconstruct the correct reading of every passage in the Bible. Does that mean that all agree on the correct reading in those (relatively) small percentage of cases where there is an issue? Not at all. But that is not a change. That is a challenge: to Bible teachers/scholars to do the work and get it right; to Bible students to find someone who is doing the work and getting it right.

I think what correspondent may mean is that the KJV – which of course is not "the Bible" but merely one translation of the Bible – has been modernized over the centuries to eliminate particularly difficult and archaic English vocabulary (i.e., such as "froward"). There is even a New KJV version, of course. But to interact with any profitability with correspondent, it would be necessary to know what he/she means, exactly. That is not clear from the statement.

On Hebrew, I would be happy to teach it – except that I am up to my eyeballs teaching Latin and Greek. As the latter is the "job" I was hired to do (along with researching in Classics, and, of course, doing one's share in administration), I don't see this changing in the near future.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Thanks for your in-depth answer. I remember discussing the differences between the Alexandrian texts and Textus Receptus--because of a cyber friend who thought all the Alexandrian ones were "Corrupt"--but not about the sheer numbers of GNT's available and how to find the correct original rendering.

The Mormons get mad when I point out the inconsistencies and blatant anachronisms in the Book of Mormon--and get even madder when I show them that the supposed anachronisms in the Bible are really not--just the fault of the translators and what manuscripts they had available at that time. And most of their gripes about anachronism come from the KJV. It's a good translations, but based upon only a few late Greek manuscripts and some of the Masoretic texts and the LXX. One such thing one Mormon pointed out to me is from Luke 2:33, where the KJV has "And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him." This Mormon said that the translators deliberately changed the wording from the Greek, so as not to give readers the idea that Joseph was really Jesus' father, instead of God, and not to confuse them. He basically said this was no different than what Joseph Smith did in HIS supposed "inspired translation" of the Bible. But I pointed out that more modern translations like the ESV, NIV, and NASB, have "And his mother and his father..." in this verse. So, no attempt to change the Greek (I presume the more modern ones are more accurate). I said this was NOT the same thing as the blatant changes and additions that JS made to HIS version of the Bible, where he completely changed the wording, which completely changed the meaning--such as in Romans 4:5, where it says that God "justifies the UNgodly", JS's "translation" has "justifieth the GODly." Thus changing the meaning. I think you told me once not a single GNT manuscript copy has "godly" here.

Other anachronisms the Mormon said were in the Bible were "camels before they were domesticated" as in the parts about Abraham having camels. I researched and found out that camels were domesticated, probably in Mesopotamia, long before Abraham. This Mormon was going by some archaeological dig that found camel bones in a valley in Israel, dating back to around 900 BC, in an ancient copper mine. This guy said this proves that camels are an anachronism in the OT, and that they didn't exist in Israel/canaan in Abraham's day. But I did some more research and pointed out that Abraham came from Mesopotamia--where camels were first domesticated--and he was a NOMAD, who would have camels with him, and pass through to Egypt and then to Canaan, which is maybe why no camel bones have been found dating prior to 900 BC, because it was mostly nomads who used camels and they travelled around a lot. I showed this from a link in an article that came from a MORMON owned magazine. Suddenly, this Mormon says he accepts that Abe may have had camels--but then denies that he contradicted himself, even when I showed proof. Sad, huh?

One such anachronism I don't understand--the Bible translations I have looked at all say that Abraham came from "Ur of the Chaldees." The Chaldean dynasty didn't exist back in his day, as this Mormon pointed out. I did discover that it is actually "Ur of the Kasdim". And that the Chaldees is basically from the Latin. So, again, it appears to be a result of the translation, not the Hebrew manuscripts, which have "Kasdim." So, why the "Chaldees" in the OT instead of writing "Kasdim"?

Thanks again. A blessed New Year to you and yours!

Response #18: 

Good stuff.

Yes, I can't find any evidence of any textual variant for Romans 4:25 in any ms. anywhere (not that I have read them all, of course, but there are no indications of such in any critical text I have examined) – and it would make little sense in this context of "justification through faith" for God to be justifying those who are already godly.

On camels and archaeology, archaeology has not recovered one trillionth of a percent of the potential surviving evidence (which itself would only be a minuscule fraction of what was left behind and of course what is left behind is always ambiguous in any case), and that "science" is notoriously deficient in analyzing and interpreting what they have found. In my experience, they get it wrong a lot more often than they get it right. That is understandable. If someone recovered a box of cornflakes twenty thousand years from now, they would be hard pressed to figure anything out correctly – assuming as we should that the cornflakes were dust and the writing and pictures on the box were obliterated. When we do find writing or pictures, that is helpful. Otherwise, bones are bones, and even dating the bones is far more problematic and inaccurate than people generally imagine.

On the Chaldeans, we get that name from the Septuagint's translation of / Kasidiym. This translation (i.e., the LXX) is also much overrated. It is occasionally helpful for vocabulary studies (almost never for textual questions), but in many cases, as here, the translators, who lived in the third century B.C. and who had less access to information about the distant past than we do today, merely guessed when they didn't know. The Chaldeans are the Babylonians of the Babylonian empire (where Daniel was exiled and which was destroyed by the Persians). But Kasidiym seems to be a generic term for the people who lived in that area rather than a specific ethnic term – as in "Europeans" (as opposed to, e.g., "Germans"), a term which would work for all who populate that continent today and also those who did so in the third millennium B.C., even though the population and language maps have changed completely.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Hi--Thanks for explanation about Chaldees. I don't know why Bibles don't go back and use Kasidym, or however it is spelled.

I do have one final question: this Mormon guy claims that Hebrew language came from the Egyptian language. I looked up Hebrew on Wikipedia and it says this about it:

"Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. The Hebrew language is the only living Canaanite language left."

Then I looked up Egyptian language and it has this:

"The Egyptian language belongs to the Afroasiatic language family.[4] Among the typological features of Egyptian that are typically Afroasiatic are fusional morphology, nonconcatenative morphology, a series of emphatic consonants, a three-vowel system /a i u/, nominal feminine suffix *-at, nominal m-, adjectival *- , and characteristic personal verbal affixes.[4] Of the other Afroasiatic branches, Egyptian shows its greatest affinities with Semitic, and to a lesser extent Cushitic.Egyptian language - Wikipedia

So. does this mean that Hebrew comes from Egyptian? I am not sure I am reading this properly, but it appears that both Egyptian and Hebrew have the same roots in the Afroasiatic language family, but that doesn't mean Hebrew came from Egyptian, does it?

Just wondering.

Response #19:  

In terms of Kasidiym, Bible translation is a commercial venture so tradition weighs heavily in favor of continued error, especially where the error is "beloved" (as in some famous interpolations that have no business in any translation such as the "woman caught in adultery" intrusion). The companies/committees responsible are usually unwilling to do anything that might result in any "flak" from any interest group because "flak" tends to affect sales negatively.

On Hebrew and Egyptian, I'm no student of the Afroasiatic language family theory. But I do know a few things about the much better grounded Indo-European theory (which we know from solid evidence is more than just a theory). In the case of the Indo-Europeans, even language with marvelously similar syntax and morphology such as Latin and Greek are not derived one from the other but are separate branches coming down from an original ancestor. How Hebrew could have been derived from Egyptian, even if we posit a commonality of ancestor (and I'm not at all convinced of that; if what little I have seen is accurate, we are dealing with mostly speculation rather than solid evidence of common vocabulary as in the case of IE), is a great mystery to me. Abraham's family came from Babylonia at a time when Egypt and the Egyptian language were already long in place. I've never heard of anyone positing ancient Egyptian to be significantly similar to the Northwest Semitic languages such as Phoenician, Aramaic and Hebrew – all of which are indeed quite close in every way. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the nature of the evidence for ancient Egyptian of that era is highly problematic (hieroglyphics and lack of vowels, e.g.). So I think it unlikely and would be interested to know if anyone is actually pushing this theory. From the background it seems more likely that correspondent has mistakenly transmuted "potential common ancestor" to "Hebrew definitely derived from Egyptian". Not that I can see how it would matter one way or the other even so.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Greetings, I was hoping to get your expert opinion concerning a proper understanding of the verse mentioned in subject. That is, is the best interpretation that the Pharisee stood "by himself" or that he prayed "to himself"? I have compared translations as well as commentaries, but I was hoping to receive a little input from you as well. I appreciate all that you do! God bless!

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. (NIV)

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (ESV)

"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (NASB)

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (KJV)

Cheers,

Response #20: 

Good to hear from you. Hope things are going well for you.

As to your question, this phrase is very problematic and most unnatural where it occurs in the Greek text following statheis (i.e., it ought to mean "standing towards himself" as it stands) – when it is present, that is. The phrase is not present in the very best Greek ms., codex Sinaiticus. The Ca corrector places it back in, but as Scrivener noticed, that corrector's main concern seems to be assimilating Aleph to other mss. So I do not feel that this phrase is part of the original text. Why was it placed there to begin with? My guess is that someone who felt uncomfortable with this hypocritical behavior being called "praying" who wanted to make it clear that the Pharisee's prayers didn't go beyond himself put this in as an explanation (a gloss), which was picked up by later copiests and found its way into the text thereby (a not at all uncommon occurrence).

Best wishes for a good week ahead.

In Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hello, Dr. Bob!

There are some things that I cannot settle in my mind. Matters that are confusing to me.

1. The Bible says that one has to separate from erring (either in doctrine or practice or both) brothers and sisters in Christ. (By the way, I used to belong to the Landmark/Missionary Baptist group of Baptists). But on the other hand it also says to respect and/or submit to the supervision of pastors/elders "who have the rule over" the assembly because they are accountable to God and so that they will do so with no grief but joy.

I was also told that our Lord founded the church for the purpose of fellowship among believers and worship. Christians who are lone wolves and isolationists are competing and fighting against the Lord's body. Moreover, house churches are not proper churches that is why Paul wrote Titus to set in order the things that are wanting in Crete by organizing the churches there to have ordained elders.

2. I was taught that modern translations of the Bible are based on the corrupt codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and therefore should be avoided. Ancient translations of the Bible in other languages were not based on these manuscripts but on the Textus Receptus because Christians of old knew that those other codices were written by heretics and Roman Catholic scribes, whose teachings lead people astray. Oldest does not mean the best manuscripts. The manuscripts that were commonly accepted among Christians of every language and that taught sound doctrine are the best.

If you have the time please let me know what your thoughts are about these.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for the writings that clears up otherwise overlooked and taken for granted teachings of the Bible. It is in the way that you present and explain ideas that makes the reader understand the thought easily. I hope and pray that you always have the reserved energy spared in answering many emails.

Many Bible teaching websites do not have persons who can email back those who ask questions. On your part you even do it personally after working on your day job. I am not trying to flatter you, sir. I just want you to know how much I appreciate the comfort and help the explanations you give to believers who are weak and slow in understanding like me. I just want to live right for the One Who did not hesitate to endure the cross despising the shame to redeem undeserving sinners like me. And it has to begin by having the Biblical perspective of everything. You are helping me a lot in that direction. Thank you so much!

Sincerely in Him Who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Response #21:  

Good to hear from you again, my friend, and thanks so much for your kind and supportive words (Ps.115:1)! I'm very happy to be able to help all my brothers and sisters in Christ grow up spiritually and progress in their walk with the Lord – as much as I am able and as much as they are willing – with the hope that one day each and every one will likewise help through their own ministries to build up the Church of Jesus Christ (Eph.4:11-16).

To take your questions in reverse order, there is no end, apparently, to the ignorance abroad about the Bible and its origin. The Bible is the Word of God. And it is absolutely perfect in its true and original form. That true and original form was the collection of books as they were first penned in Hebrew and in Greek (with small parts of each Testament in Aramaic). Naturally, the original "autographs" as they are technically called do not exist any longer, but the Bible is the best documented ancient text to have come down from antiquity – and that documentation exists mostly in manuscripts.

There are many good manuscripts which have come to light and an abundance of other witnesses to the text as well. So much is this so that in my opinion and experience as a Classical scholar and as someone who has been reading and teaching from the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic for a very long time now there really is not a single passage of the Bible whose original form cannot be recovered based on the evidence we have. This is not as outrageous a claim as it may seem; anyone who has done textual criticism in a Classical author, for example, will understand that even for most of these famous texts in Latin and in Greek, it is usually the case that over 95% of the text is clear and indisputable once having been carefully examined by scholars who know the language in question and the author in question well.

For example, let's say your email came to me garbled, and the first sentence read "There are s . . . things th_t I ca_not settle _n m_ mind" – well, it wouldn't take a Ph.D. to reconstruct correctly what you actually wrote. Could I make a mistake and think you said "on my mind" instead of "in my mind"? Perhaps. But my colleague would probably realize that such is not the correct idiom and after his explanation I'd agree – and this is after exchanging only a few emails with you. If I had read all of the emails you ever wrote over and over again for forty years, I dare say my chances of reconstructing any garbled ones would be excellent, even if I had no help from anyone else.

When it comes to the Bible, we do not have the one copy of your hypothetically garbled email; rather we have thousands upon thousands of copies. Granted, they might not all read the same thing and some folks who did the copying might have made other mistakes. But for someone who wants to find the truth, the evidence is there. It does, however, take a lot of preparation in learning the languages well and in doing this sort of thing for many years to be in a position to "do the work" well.

I venture to add the very important point, namely, that only someone who really understands on a very deep level what Paul, for example, is trying to say – and what the Bible actually means – is going to have success in the niceties of biblical textual criticism. And, by the way, the percentage of the New Testament, for example, where there are such questions in the first place, that is, where there are issues about the text where true scholars who are actually true believers have disagreements, is minuscule: far less than one tenth of one percent of the NT. On top of that, only one serious textual disagreement in a hundred is potentially doctrinally significant. Mind you, it's all important, but whether Paul says "your love" or "our love" when speaking to, e.g., the Corinthians – when there was in fact mutual love – is not going to change any doctrine I know of. And most of the "questions" are along these lines (i.e., is there an "and" here or not?).

This is not to say that there are no important textual disagreements at all. It is to say that any honest scholar who really is a believer and who really does want to get to the bottom of things and who is also not willing to tamper with the evidence to support some position which may or may not be true will be able to find out the truth. The folks you refer to seem to me not to fall into this category. Anyone who wants to claim, for example, that the KJV – an excellent translation by the way – is nothing short of "inspired" are looking at things the entirely wrong way. First of all, no translation is perfect. Anyone who has any experience with any foreign language at all knows that you cannot express any sentence from language A in language B without changing some things. The objective, in translation, is to get as close as possible to the meaning as you understand it based upon what you know about the two languages and the subject matter while preserving the tone and the emphasis (almost impossible).

The KJV is a fine effort and I use it all the time. But it is not perfect as no translation could ever be perfect, because, of necessity, things have to be changed to avoid producing gibberish and to produce a work which is readable and understandable in the other language. In short, all translations are interpretations, really. And if the person doing the translating doesn't really understand the subject material, the translation will suffer. I know nothing about calculus, so if I tried to translate a calculus textbook into, say German, not only would I be facing the problem that my understanding of German is not perfect because I am not a "native speaker", but also because I do not understand calculus I would make mistakes based purely on that deficiency.

The gentlemen who translated the KJV were some of the best scholars of their day, but they weren't perfect and we can't even saw for certain what percentage of them were believers. They certainly didn't understand many doctrinal truths. Just for one thing, most of them were a-millenial in their theology, meaning that they didn't believe in a literal Millennium and took almost everything the Bible has to say about eschatology as metaphorical and not literal. Not only is that dead wrong but it also cannot help but have negatively affected their understanding of very many biblical passages – and that in turn cannot help but negatively affect the translation to at least some degree.

Now the KJV was based on something called "the Textus Receptus". But the TR is not a manuscript. The TR is a critical text, akin to the critical texts which are printed in any Greek New Testament you might buy off of Amazon today. The TR, just like other such texts, is based on manuscripts. But the mss. the editors of the TR used – and by the way these are not the same people who translated the KJV – were very much later than much evidence which has since surfaced. That is because it took centuries after the Reformation for many Classical era mss. to surface from libraries and private collections and monasteries . . . and even ancient garbage dumps. And things are still being found today. And while it may be true that "older does not necessarily mean better" it is certainly true that "much older ought at least to be taken into account". And the two best biblical manuscripts, the two you mention, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, are nearly a thousand years older than the mss. used by Erasmus, the editor of the critical edition upon which the TR is mostly based. Trust me when I say that if these two mss. were available at the time, Erasmus would have used them.

The slanderous accusation that these and other ancient witnesses to the text of the NT were "written by Roman Catholic scribes" is insane – there wasn't really even a "Roman Catholic church" or a pope until centuries later (claims to the contrary are merely RC propaganda). At the time these venerable ms. your correspondents vilify were produced, there was a major church in Rome but also in every major city of the empire, and the "metropolitan" bishops vied for power amongst each other (RC dominance in the west really only came fully into its own after the barbarians took down the western empire). Even today, the Eastern Orthodox church does not accept the pope as their authority – as I'm sure you know – and all of these Greek ms. were produced in the eastern empire, not in the west. Why? Because they spoke Greek in the east and Latin in the west. So while the Latin version of the Vulgate and other Old Latin translations of the Bible have mainly western provenance, the exact opposite was true in the east.

So this statement is beyond absurd. As to the accusation that these ms. were produced by heretics, there is no evidence whatsoever for any such thing – that charge has been made up out of whole cloth. And this is a very odd criticism, moreover, for anyone who has actually read these mss. There is very little difference, in fact, between the TR upon which the KJV is based and these mss. or the modern text-critical editions which parallel the TR. For example, I don't know offhand of a single place in the gospel of Matthew, the first book in almost all complete Greek ms. of the Bible, where these older ms. would result in any serious changes if they had been known to Erasmus and preferred by him. The same goes for just about every book in just about every place – as I said, they are all about 99.9% identical in their substantive parts.

So why all the fuss? It is true that there were additions and errors in some of the later ms. (all ms. have some problems), and this resulted in mistakes in the TR. For example, Erasmus didn't have a complete ms. of the book of Revelation and so he took the Latin translation and personally back-translated it into Greek to fill in the gap (the last six verses). He made some good guesses, but it wasn't what the Greek actually said once we got, e.g., Sinaiticus. But the differences aren't that astounding.

One place where it does make a difference is in the gospel of Mark, and it is places like this which have me thinking that folks who are vehemently against solid evidence which is clearly very good and important are showing their true colors. Beyond all reasonable argument, when it comes to the art and science of textual criticism, the gospel of Mark ends at Mk.16:8 (see the link). However, since the end has seemed abrupt to some, over the centuries a number of industrious scribes or theologians of unknown origin (in Byzantium, mostly) have sought to expand it and give it a "fitting" ending. In doing so, they introduced, well-meaningly no doubt, a number of flagrant doctrinal errors on account of their lack of spiritual immaturity (the spiritual maturity of the Church generally fell off immediately after the apostles; see the link "the Seven Churches" for the divine synopsis of the Church Age).

For one thing, the longer interpolation (the technical word for erroneously adding one's own material to a text which is not original to it) of Mark supports water-baptism as necessary for salvation! Now anyone who has read the rest of the New Testament ought to realize that this is both ridiculous and very spiritually dangerous works-salvation and inconsistent with both the tenor of the Bible and directly contradicted by many other scriptures. But the church-visible of the middle ages when these latter mss. were produced (the ones which were the basis for the TR and hence the KJV) was very much into works salvation, and water-baptism of all sorts was an important works ritual (entirely misunderstood as is largely the case today too). So it is understandable if unforgivable that these things were inserted into some later mss.

What is less understandable is why modern folks should follow suit when it is very plain from all the best evidence (including Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) that this passage in Mark is erroneous . . . unless, of course, that is the whole point. There are certain groups which do preach erroneous baptismal regeneration and false doctrines of this ilk. So they are threatened by any evidence which demonstrates that there is no biblical basis for this heresy. That is to say, they are threatened by the truth and as a result they seek to slander, undermine and eliminate any evidence for the truth – and that is unforgivable. In other words, they are the true "heretics".

I have no doubt that any serious person who really did want a saving relationship with the Lord and that any genuine believer who really did want to grow in Him correctly would, simply by reading scripture (even the KJV), come to the conclusion that whatever this (erroneous) passage in Mark meant, it was inconsistent with all of the rest of scripture to take it as these heretical groups take it. The fact that our present access to better mss. makes this more clear rather than less clear is unquestionably a good thing and not a bad thing. So I don't really think the real issue is manuscripts or textual criticism or even the KJV – which as I say is an excellent translation which I personally use all the time. No, the real issue is the desire of certain groups and churches to keep their people from the truth by proclaiming that they have the truth and everyone else is somehow incorrect, tainted or even evil. For anyone in such groups, the type of Bible they use is the least of their problems. Because I know for a fact that if they were genuinely interested in the Bible and were actually reading their Bibles for themselves and seeking the truth, then the Spirit would soon use that truth of scripture to deliver them from such harmful places and lead them to better pastures (Ps.23:1-3).

All of this brings me to your first question. Let me say first and foremost that there is only "one Church", namely, the Body of Jesus Christ. This Church is composed of all who are genuinely believers in Him. And it doesn't matter whether or not a believer is a member or a frequent attender of some particular brick-and-mortar establishment. Our membership is in heaven, not on earth (Phil.3:20). No human organization has the ability to grant us salvation or to take it away. That is what the Roman Catholic church claims to be able to do, but that is a lie. It is equally a lie if claimed – or insinuated – by any other group.

Secondly, we are here on earth after salvation to please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not human beings. If what we are doing as our personal application of the truth really is Spirit-led and pleasing to our Lord, then we should not give any serious credence to the opinions of others. Of course physical churches want to be able to claim – or insinuate – that everyone who does not join their fellowship is somehow spiritually deficient. Such organizations depend upon growth of membership to produce further growth, and they also depend upon such growth for growing "reputation", and most of all for money. If one of these groups refused to accept donations, they might be worth listening too. As it is, in most cases it is really all about money . . . or mostly about money. And that tells anyone who is not "as foolish as a dove" quite a lot (we are supposed to be innocent as doves but wise as serpents, after all, so as not to be taken in by false teaching).

Ideally, there would be fellowships of other believers wherever we go, and, ideally, these would all consider themselves Christians and that would be more than sufficient. That was how it was in the days of the apostles. Paul is adamant about the pernicious nature of man-made divisions (1Cor.1:11-17) of which modern day denominations are the equivalent. Certainly it is important to stick up for the truth, but that is to be done one scripture, one interpretation, one teaching at a time. Proclaiming that "we are the people" and sitting pat on some dusty creed which is barely understandable and chock full of error is no excuse to stop actually reading, thinking about, and learning about the Bible.

For any Christian or any group of Christians who are genuinely seeking the truth – which is what Christ has called us to do, because we cannot walk in the truth and speak the truth and serve/minister the truth unless we actually know the truth – there may be disagreements on some level on some points with others who are like-minded, but because the truth is the truth perseverance will bring all together in a unified bond of love eventually as good behavior reinforces good behavior in a virtuous cycle "until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose 'attainment' is defined by Christ" (Eph.4:13).

But if instead our purpose is carnal and we are only using the Bible to further our own organization, its reputation, size and wealth, then virtuous cycle turns into vicious circle as things go from bad to worse. That, sadly, is the state of things with most Christian organizations in the church-visible (as opposed to the true Church) nowadays. There is authority in the Church, but it is to be lovingly and sparingly administered, mostly through the Word of God for the purpose of building up, not isolating. That is how Paul did it. That is how Peter did it. That is how John did it. Just read their epistles and see. Demanding respect and response without earning it through teaching the truth in a helpful, orthodox, substantive, sufficient and detailed way is not biblical.

Let those elders who lead well be held worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and in teaching.
1st Timothy 5:17

It is a difficult time for Christians, for Christians, that is, who are really interested in doing what the Lord wants them to do, namely, striving to grow up to spiritual maturity, to walk closely with Him, and to help others do the same through whatever ministry He calls them to once they are ready for it. That is because so few others nowadays are willing to accept that call. It takes courage to "go outside the gate" and endure the reproach of others for doing so – but that is what our Lord did, after all:

(12) Therefore Jesus too, in order that He might sanctify the people through His own blood (i.e., His death on the cross), suffered outside the gate (i.e., separated from fellowship). (13) So then let us go out to Him outside of the camp (i.e., likewise choosing God over the world), bearing His reproach. (14) For we do not have here [on earth] a city which [is meant to be] lasting; rather we are eagerly looking forward to the city that is destined [to come] (i.e., the New Jerusalem).
Hebrews 13:12-14

So it seems to me that in fact such groups are actually doing the very thing that they are accusing others of doing, namely, dividing and isolating believers from each other and from the truth, and for worldly reasons at that.

Yes, this is not easy stuff. But then, doing "the right thing" is often not the easiest course of action.

You are always welcome here at "my church", my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

This is absolutely wonderful!

My husband is extremely excited. I know he will really enjoy your CT 7. Just recently he finished reading Revelation. I want to let you know I can't keep from reading your writings.

I don't have time to go into much detail but I was so so excited when I came across your writings in Christology 6) The interpolation " Father forgive them". I have felt for many many years that this was inaccurate but I never said much as I didn't have the facts to back it up. It's in all the movies and talked about so much. It was something that I always felt didn't make sense. I actually would feel a sense of anger. I'm now jumping up and down with a sense of confirmation now on how I have felt. Thanks for writing on this.

Take care and keep up all your wonderful work. You're a blessing

Response #22: 

Thanks!

I'm very much appreciative of your enthusiasm and good words (Ps.115:1).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Why do you show the Thessalonians epistles as having been written before the Corinthian ones? Or is that explained in some article of yours?

Response #23:  

As to the early nature of the Thessalonian epistles, these are educated guesses based upon internal evidence, but a pretty standard conclusion (one finds it not only as early as Ramsay's work, but it is the most common conclusion of the majority of contemporary evangelical-leaning NT introductions as well). Thiessen gives a number of compelling reasons for why the epistles seem to have been written in relatively close proximity to Paul's original visit to Macedonia which of course occurred during the second journey. I think it is pretty clear that the impression these letters give is that of first written words to relatively new converts; e.g., 1Thes.2:2 -- in fact the first two chapters seem to be a close parallel reprising of all the at-that-time recent events of his journey from Macedonia southward as recorded in Acts. Moreover, it seems (from e.g., the presence of Timothy and Silas in 2Thes.2:1; *cf. 2Cor.1:19) that the letters were written from Corinth. Consider also that Timothy's rapid journey and return in 1Thes.3:1-7 which would seem to rule out travel from a great distance by sea which was generally unpredictable with the odds being that one leg or another would result in delay. So this would also put the letters in that same early time frame (as opposed to what we know of the other epistles such as those clearly written later from Rome). Both epistles have a heavy eschatological element which in both cases (the resurrection in the first and the Tribulation/antichrist in the second) are correctives to misunderstandings due no doubt to the brief nature of Paul's original stay. He had touched on these things, but with only three weeks to teach the whole realm of doctrine these subjects had obviously gotten a bit of short shrift as not being "first principles", so he had to clear things up in these letters – as a result of which we are all the beneficiaries.

Question #24: 

Thanks again.

Is it known how many old testament writers there were?

Response #24: 

You're very welcome, my friend.

As to your latest question, I'm not sure anyone has ever tried to count them up. It would be difficult. For one thing, many of the Psalms are not attributed to a specific author, and since for many of them the author is identified, it could easily be the case that at least some (if not all) of the non-attributed Psalms are written by individuals unknown to us. Similarly, while we have some traditional attributions for the historical books, it's difficult to say who wrote what (e.g., 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, Ruth, etc.), or even how many persons (there are some horrid secular theories about these matters which are dead wrong; see the link which will lead to more: "The Documentary Hypothesis").

I believe that Solomon wrote Job, but that is an educated speculation. I also firmly believe that the tradition that Moses himself wrote the Pentateuch is correct, but he clearly didn't finish the last part of the last book which speaks of his own death. That would probably have been done by Joshua, but, again, if it were someone else, then we would have to add another anonymous author to the list.

I have some information and links on these matters at "The Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible I" and "The Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

What is the meaning and explanation of this verse?

"The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions."
(1 Samuel 3:1)

Response #25:  

We know that in Moses' day the Lord spoke with him frequently, and of course there are many examples of Him speaking with others in the early days of Israel (Gideon comes to mind). Visions, dreams and direct communications supplemented the written word throughout much of Israel's history, and even inspired communications which were meant to be written down and included in the canon (the Prophets) are closely related to this category. But at the time of this verse you ask about, no doubt in large part due to a lack of interest, "the word of the Lord was rare[ly given]; there were not many visions [given by Him]". But Samuel was to be the beneficiary of many communications from the Lord (as on this occasion). This statement does help to explain why neither Samuel, nor Eli (less defensibly in his case, obviously) recognized immediately that the voice Samuel heard was the Lord's.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Question #26: 

How do we know if the absence of prophecy in this age isn't a judgment from God as well?

Response #26: 

We have the completed canon of the scriptures, so that accounts for the absence of dreams and visions to supplement the written Word – which now doesn't need to be supplemented. The fact that so many people want the former when they have the latter is indeed, I would say, an indication of the general lack of interest in the truth (as opposed to be agog for any excitement and entertainment) which characterizes our Laodicean era. And in terms of the explication of the truth (Bible teaching) – of which there really is a dearth nowadays – that is likewise a function of the lack of true demand in today's church-visible.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Good day.

I am interested in the chronological order of the books of the bible.

I came across your chronological order but I do not agree, according to Dr. Michael Heiser and Dr. Hugh Ross the book of Job was written a couple of centuries before the Pentateuch was written.

Please can you verify that.

Thank you.

Response #27:  

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question about the time of writing of the book of Job, one should start by pointing out that there is no extra-biblical evidence extent that might help us date the book – with the exception of speculation in Jewish tradition that postdates the New Testament. All we really can know about the origins of the book of Job must come from what is termed the "internal evidence", that is, what we may glean from the book itself. Most who have tried to place the book earlier than I have done have done so mainly on the basis of Job being from "the land of Uz", and attempting to correlate that fact with one of the Uzes of scripture (of which there are several of course). But even if such a correlation were legitimate, that says nothing really helpful about the chronology of Job. After all, we still call the country France by that name, even though the Francs first came to rule over it over a millennium ago. Likewise, simply because Job was from the land of Uz doesn't tell us how close in time he was to the eponymous founder's lifetime (they were still calling it "the land of Uz" during the final days of southern kingdom: Jer.25:20; Lam.4:21)

What we can say without question is that the book of Job is written in Hebrew. "A couple of centuries before the Pentateuch" the children of Israel were dwelling in Egypt and were not yet even particularly numerous. There would be no reason for a book such as this, taking place in the desert country east of Edom many hundreds of miles away (months away, in terms of the travel times of those days), to have been written in Hebrew. The language of Job is difficult and there are many vocabulary items which are often styled as "Aramaisms", but the greater influence of Aramaic one sees in Job, the later one will have to see the composition of the book. That is because Aramaic only began to become a lingua franca in the middle east about the 10th century with the rise of the Assyrian (and especially thereafter) Babylonian empires (centuries after the Pentateuch had been written). A good deal of the book of Daniel is in Aramaic, but Daniel, of course, is much later, one of the last of the prophets.

It is certainly possible that Job lived much earlier than Solomon did. Just as Moses was given by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit to know and to write the history of the garden of Eden and Adam and Eve – even though they predated him by millennia – so it was not beyond the power of God nor outside of prophetic precedence for Solomon to have been given a similar charge. That is my best estimate, given the nature of the language (compared to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), the genre of the work, and the association of the book of Job in the textual tradition with these and other biblical works of "wisdom literature".

You are certainly free to disagree (the Bible doesn't say one way or another, of course), but anyone who wants to place the book as early as you report would certainly have to answer the obvious and seemingly impossible question of how it could have come to be written in Hebrew . . . even to get to first base on the scale of credibility.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Is it possible the book of Revelation was written in Aramaic? In Revelation 9:11, John referred to the Angels name in Hebrew and in Greek. Why would a book written Hebrew state what a Hebrew word is? Just like the book might not have been written in Greek and the reference to the Greek name.

Response #28: 

The book of Revelation was originally written in Greek by the apostle John ca. 68 A.D. It was never written in Aramaic (or Hebrew); it has that in common with all of the other New Testament books. Why are there small bits of other languages in some few places in the NT (and OT as well), but only in those few places? I'm not sure a definitive answer can be given in every case; but I can say that these snippets are usually helpful in one way or another. For example, the fact that our Lord says to the young girl, talitha koum, "little girl, get up!" (Matt.5:41), lets us know that He spoke Aramaic – as well as Greek and Hebrew – and that Matthew was definitely written in Greek (since this is added as an explanation). There are many reasons "why" which could be adduced for giving the dual name of the leader of the locust demons in Revelation 9:11 (for instance, it may be that this is to let us know that both Jews and gentiles will be targets, that is, the whole world), but I am certain that the positing of a Hebrew or Aramaic exemplar for the book is not one of them. We have a tremendous amount of manuscript, papyri and other evidence for the texts of all the New Testament books, and not one actual scrap of all such positive evidence is in Aramaic or Hebrew . . . or any other language other than Greek until the Bible began to be translated into other languages in the following centuries.

 

 

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