(Continued from No. 623, July 2009)
2 Timothy 3:16
RELATIVE VALUES OF ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS
As to the relative values of ancient manuscripts, we quote the following comments from the pen of that eminent German scholar, Constantine Tischendorf, who spent many years of his life in diligently searching out and comparing the various ancient manuscripts and translations of the Scriptures in many languages, and who has furnished to the Church the results of his investigation in a careful exhibit of the various departures of the English Authorized Version of the New Testament from the three oldest and most important MSS.
Mr. Tischendorf says: “As early as the reign of Elizabeth the English nation possessed an authorized translation, executed by the Bishops under the guidance of Archbishop Parker; and this, half a century later, in the year 1611, was revised at the command of James the First by a body of learned divines, and became the present ‘Authorized Version.’ Founded as it was on the Greek text at that time accepted by Protestant theologians, and translated with scholarship and conscientious care, this version of the New Testament has deservedly become an object of great reverence, and a truly national treasure to the English Church. The German Church alone possesses in Luther’s New Testament a treasure of similar value.
“The Authorized Version, like Luther’s, was made from a Greek text which Erasmus in 1516, and Robert Stephens in 1550, had formed from manuscripts of later date than the tenth century. Whether those manuscripts were thoroughly trustworthy ─ in other words, whether they exhibited the Apostolic original as perfectly as possible ─ has long been a matter of diligent and learned investigation. Since the sixteenth century Greek manuscripts have been discovered of far greater antiquity than those of Erasmus and Stephens; as well as others in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Gothic, into which languages the sacred text was translated between the second and fourth centuries; while in the works of the Fathers, from the second century downwards, many quotations from the New Testament have been found and compared... One thing is agreed upon by the majority of those who understand the subject, namely, that the oldest copies approach the original text more nearly than the later ones.
“Providence has ordained for the New Testament more sources of the greatest antiquity than are possessed by all the old Greek literature put together. And of these, two manuscripts have for long been especially esteemed by Christian scholars, since, in addition to their great antiquity, they contain very nearly the whole of both the Old and New Testaments. Of these two, one is deposited in the Vatican, and the other in the British Museum. Within the last ten years a third has been added to the number, which was found at Mount Sinai, and is now at St. Petersburg. These three manuscripts undoubtedly stand at the head of all the ancient copies of the New Testament, and it is by their standard that both the early editions of the Greek text and the modern versions are to be compared and corrected.
“The effect of comparing the common English text with the most ancient authorities will be as often to disclose agreement as disagreement. True, the three great manu-scripts alluded to differ from each other both in age and authority, and no one of them can be said to stand so high that its sole verdict is sufficient to silence all contradiction. But to treat such ancient authorities with neglect would be either unwarrantable arrogance or culpable negligence; and it would be indeed a misunderstanding of the dealings of Provi-dence, if after these documents had been preserved through all the dangers of fourteen or fifteen centuries, and delivered safe into our hands, we were not to receive them with thankfulness as the most valuable instruments for the elucidation of Truth.
“It may he urged that our undertaking is opposed to true reverence; and that by thus exposing the inaccuracies of the English version, we shall bring discredit upon a work which has been for centuries the object of love and veneration both in public and private. But those who would stigmatize the process of scientific criticism and test, which we propose, as irreverent, are greatly mistaken. To us the most reverential course appears to be, to accept nothing as the Word of God which is not proved to be so by the evidence of the oldest, and therefore most certain, witnesses that He has put into our hands. With this in view, and with this intention, the writer has occupied himself for thirty years past, in searching not only the Libraries of Europe, but the obscurest convents of the East, both in Africa and Asia, for the most ancient manuscript of the Bible; and has done all in his power to collect the most important of such documents, to arrange them and to publish them for the benefit both of the present age and of posterity, so as to settle the original text of the sacred writers on the basis of the most careful investigation.
“The first of these great manuscripts already referred to which came into possession of Europe was the Vatican Codex. Whence it was acquired by the Vatican Library is not known; but it appears in the first catalogue of that collection, which dates from the year 1475. The manuscript embraces both the Old and New Testaments. Of the latter it contains the four Gospels, the Acts, the seven Catholic Epistles, nine of the Pauline Epistles, and the Epistle to the Hebrews as far as ix. 14, from which verse to the end of the New Testament it is deficient; so that not only the last chapters of Hebrews, but the Epistle to Timothy, Titus and Philemon as well as the Revelation, are missing. The peculiarities of the writing, the arrangement of the manuscript, and the character of the text ─ especially certain very remarkable readings ─ all combine to place the execution of the Codex in the fourth century.
“The Alexandrine Codex was presented to King Charles the First in 1628 by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had himself brought it from Alexandria, of which place he was formerly Patriarch, and whence it derives its name. It contains both the Old and New Testaments. Of the New the following passages are wanting: Matt. 1:1 to 25:6; John 6:50 to 8:52; 2 Cor. 4:13 to 12:6... It would appear to have been written about the middle of the fifth century.
“The Sinaitic Codex I was myself so happy as to discover in 1844 and 1859, at the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, in the later of which years I brought it to Russia to the Emperor Alexander the Second, at whose instance my second journey to the East was undertaken. It contains both Old and New Testaments ─ the latter perfect without the loss of a single leaf... All the considerations which tend to fix the date of manuscripts lead to the conclusion that the Sinaitic Codex belongs to the middle of the fourth century. Indeed, the evidence is clearer in this case than in that of the Vatican Codex; and it is not improbable (which cannot be the case with the Vatican MS.) that it is one of the fifty copies of which the Emperor Constantine in the year 331 directed to be made for Byzantium, under the care of Eusebius of Caesarea. In this case it is a natural inference that it was sent from Byzantium to the monks of St. Catherine by the Emperor Justinian, the founder of the convent. The entire Codex was published by its discoverer, under the orders of the Emperor of Russia, in 1862, with the most scrupulous exactness, and in a truly magnificent shape, and the New Testament portion was issued in a portable form in 1863 and 1865.
“These considerations seem to show that the first place among the three great manuscripts, both for age and extent, is held by the Sinaitic Codex, the second by the Vatican, and the third by the Alexandrine. And this order is completely confirmed by the text they exhibit, which is not merely that which was accepted in the East at the time they were copied; but, having been written by Alexandrine copyists who knew but little of Greek, and therefore had no temptation to make alterations, they remain in a high degree faithful to the text which was accepted through a large portion of Christendom in the third and second centuries. The proof of this is their agreement with the most ancient translations ─ namely, the so‑called Italic, made in the second century in proconsular Africa; the Syriac Gospels of the same date, now transferred from the convents of the Nitrian desert to the British Museum; and the Coptic version of the third century. It is confirmed also by their agreement with the oldest of the Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement and Origen.
“These remarks apply to the Sinaitic Codex ─ which is remarkably close in its agreement to the ‘Italic’ version ─ more than they do to the Vatican MS., and still more so than the Alexandrine, which, however, is of far more value in the Acts, Epistles and Apocalypse than it is in the Gospels.
“No single work of ancient Greek classical literature can command three such original witnesses as the Sinaitic, Vatican and Alexandrine Manuscripts, to the integrity and accuracy of its text. That they are available in the case of a book which is at once the most sacred and the most important in the world is matter for the deepest thankfulness to God.”
OTHER MEANS OF VERIFICATION
Another remarkable means for preserving and verifying the New Testament writings is their copious quotation in other writings. Origen, who wrote in the early part of the third century, quotes 5745 passages from all the books in the New Testament; Tertullian (A.D. 200) makes more than 3000 quotations from the New Testament books; Clement (A.D. 194) quotes 380 passages; Irenaeus (A.D. 178) quotes 767 passages; Polycarp, who was martyred A.D. 165, after serving Christ 86 years, quoted 36 passages in a single epistle; Justin Martyr (A.D. 140) also quotes from the New Testament. These were all Christian writers; and in addition to these, the Scriptures were largely quoted by heathen and infidel writers, among them Celsus (A.D. 150) and Porphyry (A.D. 304). Indeed the entire New Testament, with the exception of about a dozen verses, has been found scattered as quotations through various writings that are still extant. And if every copy of the New Testament had been destroyed by its enemies, the book could have been reproduced from these quotations contained in the writings of the early Christians and their enemies.
While the means for the preservation of the Scriptures have been thus remarkably complete, and in view of the unparalleled opposition with which they have met give evidence of Divine care in their preservation, the means for their verification, and for arriving at an understanding of them in God’s due time, are found to be none the less remarkable. No other book in the world has ever had such attention as this book. The labor that has been spent in the preparation of complete concordances, indexes, various translations, etc., has been enormous; and the results to students of the Bible are of incalculable value. And while we recognize the providence of God in all this, we should and do appreciate these labors of His children and their great service to us, though we utterly repudiate as useless the labor that has been spent on many so-called theological writings, which are nothing more than miserable efforts to support the vain traditions of men, the accumulated monstrous volumes of which would indeed form a monument of human folly.
Just in “The Time of the End,” when the prophet (Dan. 12:9,10) declares that “the wise [the meek and faithful children of God] shall understand,” we find these wonderful aids coming forward to our assistance. And parallel with these has happened the general spread of intelligence and education and the placing of the Bible in the hands of the people, thus enabling them to use the helps provided.
In view of these things, our only reasonable conclusion must be, that this wonderful book has been completely under Divine supervision in its preparation, and in its gradual and seasonable unfolding to the understanding; and yet it has all been accomplished through human agency. Those who are too careless, or too indifferent, or who permit themselves to be too much engrossed with the cares of this life to give it a studious examination, should not be expected to comprehend its weight of authority, and its full evidence of credibility. We are aware of the fact that in these days when the art of printing has flooded the world with literature of every description, good, bad, and indif-ferent, one might reasonably reply, We cannot examine everything. Very true, but this book has a claim superior to that of any other book in the world, and no man is as justifiable in laying it upon the shelf, as he would be in doing with the Koran or the Vedas.
The very existence of such a book, animated with such a spirit of justice, wisdom, love and power, and disclosing such good tidings of great joy to all people, having such a history and authorship, and containing such varied information ─ historic, scientific, and moral; and so remarkably preserved for so many centuries, though so violently opposed, is sufficient to awaken at least a suspicion of its value, and to claim the attention and investigation of every reasoning mind. The claims of this book upon our attention are by far superior to those of any other, and these reasonable claims appear on its very surface, while every systematic and properly directed effort at investigation rewards the diligent student with copious and abundant proof, both of its truthfulness and of its value.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE
The Bible claims to be a book written under Divine inspiration. The word inspire signifies to breathe in, to infuse, to fill, to inhale ─ as to inspire the lungs with air. (See Webster’s Dictionary.) Hence, when it is said that certain scriptures, or writings of godly men, were given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16), it signifies that those men were in some way, whether through miraculous or natural means, inspired by, or brought under the influence of God; so as to be used by Him in speaking or writing such words as He wished to have expressed. The prophets and apostles all claimed such inspiration. Peter says, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)
Through Moses we have the Law of God and the only existing credible history of mankind from the creation of Adam down to his own time, covering a period of about 2500 years. While Moses and the other Bible writers were holy men, inspired with pure motives and holy zeal, and while personal pride, ambition, etc., were no part of their spirit, we learn that Moses was inspired with the knowledge of God’s Law, both in its great principles and also in the minutiae of its typical ceremonials, by revelation from God at Mount Sinai, and of some points of duty at the burning bush at Horeb, etc.
As for his historical writings, Moses was evidently guided of God in the collation and presentation in its present complete and connected form of the history of the world down to his day, which was really in great part the history of his own family back to Adam with an account of the creation doubtless given by God to Adam while he was yet in fellowship in Eden. Nor does a correct handing down of family information, covering a period of over 2300 years, seem impossible, or liable, as it would now be, to have become polluted; for, aside from the fact that it was handed down through the God-fearing family line of Seth, it should be remembered that at that time the bodies, brains and memories of men were not so weak as they are now, and as they have been since the flood; and finally, because the long lives of two men link Adam with the family of Abraham, the family of covenant favor ─ with Isaac, the typical seed of promise. These two men were Methuselah and Shem. Methuselah was over 200 years old when Adam died, and had abundant opportunity, therefore, for information at first hands; and Shem, the son of Noah, lived contemporaneously with Methuselah for 98 years, and with Isaac for 50 years. Thus, these two living, God‑fearing men acted as God’s historians to communicate His revelations and dealings to the family in whom centered the promises, of which Moses was one of the prospective heirs.
In addition to these facts, we have the statement of Josephus that Methuselah, Noah and Shem, the year before the flood, inscribed the history and discoveries of the world on two monuments of stone and brick which were still standing in Moses’ time.
As for the writings of the prophets, their devoted, godly lives attest their sincerity; their lives were spent for God and in the defense of righteousness, and not for gain and worldly honor. And as for proofs that God acted through them and that they merely expressed His messages, as Peter declares, it is to be found in the fulfilment of their predictions. These we need not enumerate here and now, as they are elaborated in MILLENNIAL DAWN, Volumes I and II; and will be further discussed in Vol. III, now in course of preparation.
This brings us to the examination of the inspiration of the New Testament. Of the four gospel narratives and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which are merely historic narratives, it might with considerable force be argued that no inspiration was necessary. But we must remember that since it was God’s will that the important doings and teachings of our Lord and his disciples should be handed down, for the information and guidance of His Church throughout the Age, it was necessary that God, even while leaving the writers free to record those truths in their own several styles of expression and arrangement, should nevertheless exercise a supervision of His work. To this end it would appear reasonable that He would cause circumstances, etc., to call to the memory of one or another of them items and details which, otherwise, in so condensed an account of matters so important, would have been overlooked. And this was no less the work of God’s spirit, power, or influence than the more noticeable and peculiar manifestations through the prophets.
The Apostle Peter tells us that the prophets of old time often did not understand their own utterances, as they themselves also acknowledge (1 Peter 1:12; Dan. 12:4, 8‑10); and we should remember that the twelve apostles (Paul taking the place of Judas ─ Gal. 1:17; 1 Tim. 2:7) not only filled the office of apostles ─ or specially appointed teachers and expounders of the Gospel of the New Covenant ─ but they also, especially Peter and Paul and John, filled the office of prophets, and were not only given the spirit of wisdom and understanding by which they were enabled to understand and explain the previously dark prophecies, but in addition to this we believe that they were under the guidance and supervision of the Lord to such an extent that their references to things future from their day, things therefore not then due to be fully understood, were guided, so as to be true to an extent far beyond their comprehension, and such consequently were as really prophetic as the utterances of the old‑time prophets. Illustrations of this are to be found in the Revelations of the Apostle John, in Peter’s symbolic description of the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10‑13), and in numerous references to the same period by Paul also, among which were some things hard to be understood even by Peter (2 Peter 3:16) and only partially then by Paul himself. The latter, however, was permitted to see future things more clearly than others of his time, and to that end he was given special visions and revelations which he was not allowed to make known to others (2 Cor. 12:1‑4), but which, nevertheless, influ-enced and colored his subsequent teachings and epistles. And these very items which Peter thought strange of, and called “hard to be understood,” are the very items which now, in God’s due time, for which they were intended, so grandly illuminate not only Peter’s prophecies and John’s Revelation, but the entire word and plan of God ─ that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
That the early Church considered the writings and teachings of the apostles different from all others, in authority, is manifest from the early arrangement of these writings together and the keeping separate from these, as apocryphal, other good writings of other good men. And yet there were, even in the days of the apostles, ambitious men who taught another gospel and claimed for themselves the honors of special revelations and authority as apostles and teachers of no less authority than the twelve apostles.
And ambitious men of the same sort have from time to time since arisen ─ Emanuel Swedenborg and many less able and less notable ─ whose claims, if conceded, would not only place them in rank far above Paul, the prince of the apostles, but whose teachings would tend to discredit entirely, as “old wives’ fables,” the whole story of redemption and remission of sins through the blood of the cross. These would‑be apostles, boastful, heady, high‑minded, have “another gospel,” a perversion of the gospel of Christ; and above all they despise and seek to cast discredit upon the words of Paul who so clearly, forcibly and logically lifts up the standard of faith and points to the cross ─ the ransom ─ as the sure foundation, and who so clearly showed that pseudo‑apostles, false apostles, would arise and deceive many.
It not only required an inspiration to write God’s plan, but it also requires an inspiration of the Almighty to give an understanding of that revelation; yet this inspiration is of a different sort. When any one has realized himself a sinner, weak, imperfect and condemned, and has accepted of Christ as his Redeemer, and full of love and appreciation has consecrated his heart (his mind, his will) to the Lord, to henceforth please not himself but his Redeemer, God has arranged that such a consecration of the natural mind brings a new mind. It opens the way for the Holy mind or will of God, expressed through His written word, to be received; and as it is received into such a good, honest, consecrated heart, it informs that heart and opens the eyes of the understanding, so that from the new standpoint (God’s standpoint) many things wear a very different aspect, and among other things the Scripture teachings, which gradually open up as item after item of the Divine Plan is fulfilled, and new features of the unfolding plan become due to be understood, and from the new standpoint appreciated and accepted.
Just as with astronomers, the close observation of facts and influences already recognized often leads them to look in certain directions for hitherto undiscovered planets, and they find them, so with the seekers after spiritual truths; the clear appreciation and close study of the known plan lead gradually, step by step, to the discovery of other particulars, hitherto unnoticed, each of which only adds to the beauty and harmony of the truths previously seen. Thus it is that “The path of the just is a shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18)
Of course the writings of all such as have their wills fully subjected to the mind of God, as revealed in His Word, must be also somewhat inspired by God’s spirit, received from His Word by their complete subjection to its leading. The spirit of the truth inspires and controls to a greater or lesser extent not only their pens but their words and thoughts, and even their very looks. Yet such an inspiration, common to all the Saints, in proportion to their development, should be critically distinguished from the special and peculiarly guided and guarded inspiration of the twelve apostles, whom God specially appointed to be the teachers of the Church, and who have no successors in this office. Only twelve were “chosen,” and when one of these, Judas, fell from his honorable office, the Lord in due time appointed Paul to the place; and He not only has never recognized others, but clearly indicates that He never will recognize others in that office (Rev. 21:14).
With the death of the Apostles the canon of Scripture closed, because God had there given a full and complete revelation of His plan for man’s salvation; though some of it was in a condensed form which has since expanded and is expanding and unfolding and will continue to expand and shine more and more until the perfect day ─ the Millennial Day ─ has been fully ushered in. Paul expresses this thought clearly when he declares that the Holy Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation, and that they are sufficient.
As we consider, then, the completeness, harmony, purity and grandeur of the Bible, its age and wonderful preservation through the wreck and storms of six thousand years, it must be admitted to be a most wonderful book; and those who have learned to read it understandingly, who see in it the great Plan of the Ages, cannot doubt that God was its inspiring Author, as well as its Preserver. Its only parallel is the book of nature by the same great Author. (Pastor Russell, Reprints 1144-1149, September 1889)
“POPE’S PASS ON ANTISEMITE CLERIC ANGERS: That Jews are perplexed at what the Pope says and does could qualify as the Hebraiac understatement of the new millennium. Specifically Jewish leaders and Holocaust historians seem unable to reconcile Pope Benedict XVI’s quote that he feels ‘full and indisputable solidarity’ with the Jews and his Holiness’s decision the very next day to nullify the excommunication of a bishop who denied that Jews were gassed in the Nazi death camps.
“The Bishop in question, Richard Williamson, one of four traditionalist bishops whose excommunication were lifted, believes ─ contrary to historic documentation ─ that 6,000,000 Jews did not die in the Holocaust and none by being gassed. Leaders, including Nobel laureate Elie Wisel, and proactive Catholics say the Vatican’s decision has done irreparable harm to a half-century of ecumenical dialogue, which prompted Israel’s Chief Rabbinate immediate protest and suspension of official ties with the Vatican. Such outrage was expressed by organizations including the World Jewish Congress, that the Pope demanded that Bishop Williamson retract his Holocaust denial before being admitted to the church.”
“NEWS UPDATE… SPOTLIGHT ON DR. DEATH: Every time Nazi hunters got near the truth of the whereabouts or the fate of Airbert Heim, the monstrous physician who administered horrific deaths to his subjects as the Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Sachenhausen concentration camps ‘in the name of science,’ some obstacle arose either in South America (one of his likely known addresses) and now it appears in Egypt, said to be his final residence before his reputed death sometime in 1992. Why the Egyptians remain close-mouthed on this criminal and why he was able to elude justice could be one of the most enduring modern mysteries of Arab-complicit Nazi-sympathizing.”
“SYNAGOGUES UNDER ATTACK: World Jewry may not be shocked at the level of vitriol hurled at it, but the quantity and the levels of violence spilling over into the desecration and destruction of synagogues is indeed shocking. Synagogues in Europe and Venezuela have come under attack by armed men, fire-bombings and a hand-grenade, and the State of Israel and the World Jewish Congress have made their urgent concerns to the appropriate governments publicly loud and clear.
“The European Jewish Congress is calling on the EU to take action in the wake of assaults on synagogues in Paris, Brussels, London, Toulouse, and Helsingborg and unusually hateful rhetoric, protest chants and postings of ‘Death to the Jews’ and other inciting, offensive language. Venezuelan Jewish community president Abraham Livy Benshimol speaking at the WJC Plenary Assembly in Jerusalem recently said: ‘Where we live, anti-Semitism is sanctioned.’”
(The above 3 items are from World Jewry, April 2009)
IN THE PRESENCE OF THE KING
If we could always feel each little thing
We do, each hour we spend
Within the presence of the King,
What dignity 'twould lend!
If we could realize our every thought
Is known to Him, our King,
With how great carefulness would it be fraught,
And what a blessing bring!
If, when some sharp word leaves a cruel sting,
Our faith could know and feel
'Twas heard within the presence of the King,
How soon the wound would heal!
Oh, when the song of life seems hard to sing,
And darker grows the way,
Draw nearer to the presence of the King,
And night shall turn to day!