Origin of the BibleóDid the Catholics Give us the Bible?

by Ulrike Unruh

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1. Divine Inspiration

Christians base their beliefs and faith in the revelations God has given us, of Himself, in the divine and verbal inspiration of the Bible. This Word tells us that the Holy Ghost motivated the minds of the prophets and apostles of old to pen every word of Scripture. Our faith in divine inspiration is based on Bible texts such as:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Christians also believe that God's Word has been protected and preserved by the hand of God.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

2. THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPHS

As most believers know, the Bible is often referred to as 'the Holy Scriptures.' It is made up of two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament is a collection of 39 books which were originally penned mostly in the Hebrew language. The New Testament is a collection of 27 books, written originally in Greek; though some portions were probably written in Hebrew or Aramaic, a north Semitic language. The original autographs (masters) were the hand-written scrolls penned by the inspired prophets and apostles. They were written on vellum (the skins of clean animals, such as calf, goat or antelope) or papyrus. Vellum is more durable and costly than papyrus; but an entire antelope skin would only furnish two or three pages of a manuscript. Because of this fact the vast majority of manuscripts were written on papyrus. Papyrus is a reed-like water plant with thick fibrous stems from which a kind of paper was made in ancient times. The average papyrus scroll was about ten inches in width and about thirty feet in length. After years of constant use, being rolled and unrolled, the original autographs (master scrolls) especially those of papyrus, became worn and began to fall apart.

3. COPIES OF THE MASTERS

Before the original masters completely disintegrated they were carefully copied. The Almighty, who had initially inspired their production, then moved His faithful followers, first the Aaronic Priests and later the Masorites, to make copies of the originals. Thus began the work of providential preservation. After all, it would have been short-sighted of God to infallibly inspire the Scriptures only to have them discarded after a few decades. Jehovah must needs, as promised, preserve His Word in accurate copies for the following statements to be true:

Divine Preservation

  1. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. (Psalm 12: 6-7)
  2. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
  3. The word of the Lord endureth for ever (1Peter 1:25)

A Divine Warning

The God of Israel anticipated Satan's intended attack on the Scriptures: and how the enemy of souls would seek to frustrate the divine work of preservation by causing unbelieving scribes to add to, delete and distort the sacred writings. That is why this solemn, yea frightening, warning appears at the end of the Bible. It not only addresses copyists and translators who intentionally corrupt Jehovah's Word, but also those who knowingly promote their corrupted publications.

Revelation 22:18

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

I repeat: to preserve His word, JEHOVAH the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel must needs ensure that accurate copies of the inspired masters be made; else His promise that 'the Word of the Lord abideth forever' was meaningless - if not false. Consequently the Almighty caused faithful believers to copy His Word. This is how He organised that work.

4. THE MASORITES

The Masorites were Jewish scholars who, like their B.C. predecessors the Aaronic Priests, had the sacred task of copying the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. In his book Story of Our English Bible, W Scott wrote over a hundred years ago concerning the reliability of the copies made by these faithful priests and scribes.

Quote:

"It is well known that among the Jews it was the profession of the Masorites, or doctors of tradition, to transcribe the scriptures. We know to what extent these indefatigable scholars carried their respect for the letter; and when we read the rules under which their labours were carried on, we understand the use that the providence of God (who had 'confided his oracles to the Jews') made of their superstition.
They reckoned the number of verses, words, and letters in each book. They tell us, for instance, that the letter A occurs forty-two thousand three hundred and seventy-seven times in the Bible; the letter B thirty-eight thousand two hundred and eighteen times; and so on to the end. They were scrupulous of changing the position even of a letter, though evidently misplaced, but limited themselves to noting in the margin, supposing some mystery was involved. They tell us which is the middle letter of the Pentateuch, as well as of each of the books of which it is composed.
They never allowed themselves to correct their manuscript; and if any mistake escaped them, they rejected the papyrus or the skin which they had blemished, and recommenced upon a fresh one; for they were equally interdicted from even correcting one of their own errors, and from retaining for their sacred volume a single parchment or skin in which an error had been made...

"These facts, we repeat it, together with the astonishing preservation of the Hebrew text (1200 years more ancient than that of the Septuagint), plainly tell us how the intervention of the mighty hand of God was needed in the destinies of the sacred book." (Ref:A1)

In his book God Wrote Only One Bible, Jasper James Ray confirms this fact about the faithfulness displayed by these ancient scribes in copying the Scriptures.

He writes:

"In making copies of the original manuscripts, the Jewish scribes exercised the greatest possible care. When they wrote the name of God in any form they were to reverently wipe their pen, and wash their whole body before writing "Jehovah " lest that holy name should be tainted even in writing. The new copy was examined and carefully checked with the original almost immediately, and it is said that if only one incorrect letter was discovered the whole copy was rejected.
Each new copy had to be made from an approved manuscript, written with a special kind of ink, upon skins made from a 'clean' animal. The writer had to pronounce aloud each word before writing it. In no case was the written word to be written from memory." (
Ref: D1)

It is a sad fact that the Gentiles who copied the New Testament Scriptures were not as diligent as the ancient Aaronic scribes and Masorites. Therefore it is in the New Testament texts where most errors are found.

5. MANUSCRIPTS

A 'manuscript' is a hand-written document, not one that is typed or printed. The word 'manuscript' is often abbreviated as MS or ms (singular) and MSS or mss (plural). Currently there are between 5250 and 5309 extant (existing) manuscripts of the Scriptures or parts of it. Manuscripts fall into two categories:

  1. Masters: These were the original autographs. There are currently no original autographs or masters in existence. They have all long since been replaced by copies.
  2. Copies: These are hand-written copies of the masters or hand-written copies of earlier copies. Some 5000+ hand-written copies of the whole or parts of Scripture are still in existence.

Manuscripts produced by the early Christians fall into three categories:

  1. Copies of masters or copies of earlier copies.
  2. Versions : These are translations of Scripture made directly from the original languages. For example from Hebrew or Greek into Syriac, Latin, German, English or French. A translation from Latin into English, or from English into Chinese, cannot strictly be called a 'version.' It is simply a translation of a translation: whereas a 'version' must be a translation from the original. Bear this important fact in mind.
  3. Church Fathers: "Our third group is the early church fathers. These are the men who led the Christians in the first few centuries after the New Testament was completed. We have record of their early sermons, books and commentaries. They will be able to provide us with much information on disputed passages. Many may have seen the original autographs." Ref: B1)

As regards the format of ancient manuscripts, they are often described as:

  1. Uncial or Majuscules: written in capital letters with no spaces: e.g. NOMANHATHSEENGD.
  2. Cursives or Miniscules: written in small letters and later with spaces: e.g. No-man-hath-seen-gd.

 

The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation, they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. . . . Here for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith. . . . In a most wonderful manner it (the word of truth) was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness.

We wish to quote from a book entitled Our Authorized Version Vindicated, copyright 1930, by Benjamin G. Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson wrote:

. . . down through the centuries there were only two streams of manuscripts. The first stream which carried the Received Text in Hebrew and Greek, began with the Apostolic churches, and reappearing at intervals down the Christian Era among enlightened believers, was protected by the wisdom and scholarship of the pure church in her different phases; by such as the church at Pella in Palestine where the Christians fled, when in 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; by the Syrian Church of Antioch which produced eminent scholarship; by the Italic Church in northern Italy; and also at the same time by the Gallic Church in southern France and by the Celtic Church in Great Britain; by the pre-Waldensian, the Waldensian, and the churches of the Reformation. This first stream appears, with very little change, in the Protestant Bibles of many languages, and in English, in that Bible known as the King James Version, the one which has been in use for three hundred years in the English speaking world.

The second stream is a small one of a very few MSS. These last manuscripts are represented: (a) In Greek:--The Vatican MS., or Codex B, in the library at Rome; and the Sinaitic, or Codex Aleph, its brother (in the Russian Museum in Moscow). (b) In Latin:--The Vulgate or Latin Bible of Jerome. (c) In English:-- The Jesuit Bible of 1582, which later with vast changes is seen in the Douay, or Catholic Bible. (d) In English again:--In many modern Bibles which introduce practically all the Catholic readings of the Latin Vulgate which were rejected by the Protestants of the Reformation; among these, prominently, are the Revised Versions.--pp. 12, 13.

But let us see what the Waldenses believed, according to their own historian, Jean Leger. Wilkinson, page 32, says:

This noble scholar of Waldensian blood was the apostle of his people in the terrible massacres of 1655, and labored intelligently to preserve their ancient records. His book, the General History of the Evangelical Churches of the Piedmontese Valleys, published in French in 1669, and called "scarce" in 1825, is the prized object of scholarly searchers. It is my good fortune to have that very book before me. Leger, when he calls (Robert) Olivetan's French Bible of 1535 "entire and pure," says: "I say 'pure' because all the ancient exemplars, which formerly were found among the Papists, were full of falsifications, which caused Beza to say in his book on Illustrious Men, in the chapter on the Vaudois, that one must confess it was by means of the Vaudois of the Valleys that France today has the Bible in her own language. This godly man, Olivetan, in the preface of his Bible, recognizes with thanks to God, that since the time of the apostles, or their immediate successors, the torch of the gospel has been lit among the Vaudois (or the dwellers in the Valleys of the Alps, two terms which mean the same), and has never since been extinguished." --Leger, General History of the Vaudois Churches, p. 165.

Wilkinson also shows (pp. 42-43) that Erasmus recognized two parallel streams of Bibles:

 

THE TWO PARALLEL STREAMS OF BIBLES

Apostles (Original)

Apostates (Corrupted Originals) 

Received Text (Greek)

Sinaiticus and Vaticanus Bible (Greek)

Waldensian Bible (Italic)

Vulgate (Latin). Church of Rome's Bible. 

Erasmus (Received Text Restored)

Vaticanus (Greek). 

Luther's Bible, Dutch, French, Italian, etc., (from Received Text).

French, Spanish, and Italian (from Vulgate).

Tyndale (English) 1535 (from Received Text).

Rheims (English) from Vulgate (Jesuit Bible of 1582). 

King James, 1611 (from Received Text)

Oxford Movement. Westcott & Hort (B and Aleph). American Revised 1901. 

 
This should be sufficient to persuade the reader not to regard these two streams of Bibles as equally pure or good. The new translations have given occasion for many departures from the most essential doctrines of our Christian faith.

The OT Bible books were already chosen long before the Catholic Church was known.
The NT Bible books were chosen by the early Christian church leaders. They were only recognizing those writings that had made their authority felt in the churches and were truly apostalic in authorship.

History tells an interesting story about the preservance of the Bible that is little told.

See The two lines of Bible translations