In the Bible it is written, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Ti 3:16-17) This text in the Word of God reveals to us something of the nature of Scripture and why God gave it the nature that He did.
First, we find that certain writings available to us – we call them Scripture – are possessed of a certain property or characteristic: they are … “given by inspiration,” given by an inbreathing of God, as it were. The breath of God is in these writings as if He breathed them out — or spoke them out – Himself, with His own mouth and breath. The idea is conveyed that these writings are such that they faithfully and perfectly convey the truths of God and promote no error of any kind.
Stating that the Scripture is “given by inspiration” is much more than saying these writings contain truths which the Holy Spirit may often use to instruct and encourage the servant of God, a conclusion one might naturally draw concerning writings with which the eternal God has been intimately involved.
There are, in fact, a great many writings the Holy Spirit frequently uses to exhort and strengthen His servants which are not comparable to Scripture. These texts, written by great men and women of God in many different times, are merely the teachings of saints under the influence and leading of the Spirit of God. Such writings, as helpful as they may be, are not Scripture. We would not say that such texts are inspired, even if we cannot find anything particularly wrong with them. Even if such texts contain much truth, even if no error is perceived in them at all as far as we can tell, still, they merely contain human expression. The words themselves were spawned in the human heart. This is not Scripture, it is not the Word of God. Such is what we may rightly expect to find outside the covers of the Bible.
This concept of inspiration is thus much more than saying that these Scripture writings in the Bible are without error. It conveys not only the fact that the writings are ultimately perfect in basic content and message, but that the words which are employed perfectly express these truths. Ultimately, if the sequence of the words, or if the very words themselves, could be altered so as to improve the quality of the message conveyed, it would be difficult to say that even the basic message was perfect. Ultimately, the message itself is tied in some manner to the words used to convey it. There would be something amiss in ascribing to imperfect writing — writing in which there is something less than perfect expression — that it perfectly conveys perfect truth, that the man of God may be perfected through it, throughly furnished unto all good works. God could certainly use any writing to accomplish this end, as we have already noted, but there is something about this biblical text which implies a superior quality to the Scriptures themselves.
Saying the Scripture, “is given by inspiration of God,” is saying that the words themselves have been specifically selected by God and placed in their particular sequence in a way that perfectly expresses in a written language what God wants to communicate to us. What properly distinguishes special texts of Scripture is that it is God’s own writing through men, and it has the special quality that the words themselves occur in a perfect fashion to communicate what God desires to reveal to us. That is why we call this unique text, “the Word of God.”
To stop short of this type of perfection in the Word of God leaves all men with the continual option to question the wording of the text, assuming that some other message was intended than what is intended, especially when the message is perceived to be inconvenient or potentially troublesome. Once the words themselves have been called into question, so has the clarity and content of the message.
Few earnest folks claiming to be Bible believing Christians will balk at this concept of inspiration, so long as it is confined to the original documents. It is commonly accepted in fundamental circles that the autographs of Scripture, the very material upon which the very first instance of any text of Scripture was penned, contained a perfect, inspired text. It is commonly understood among sincere students of the Bible that God selected the very words themselves, and that the sequence in which these words were placed, perfectly expressed God’s message to Mankind.
Scripture is replete with references to itself as the Word of God and implies that it actually does have the quality implied in the text of Peter with which we began. For example, “The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Ps 12:6) “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” (Pr 30:5) It is not my purpose to prove that this concept of inspiration is perfectly consistent with the entire Bible and that no lesser view does the subject justice: this has been done very well by many already. Neither is it my purpose to emphasize that this property extends to the actual words chosen, or to the sequence of those words.
Most systematic theologies pursuing the inerrant nature of the Scripture do so very well and this wheel need not be reinvented here. However, evidently, few have carefully considered what God’s purpose in inspiring Scripture is, and what this implies about the particular nature and qualities of the inspired text. Why, to what end, did God inspire Scripture and how does this quality of inspiration achieve God’s purpose? And can we, indeed should we, expect to be able to apply this concept to a book we can hold in our hand? This is my present purpose.
One might presume that there is some real purpose in God’s work of inspiration. One might go so far as to search the Scripture for some hint as to what God’s purpose in this work might be. This is where the value of the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is perceived and the significance of it for us is realized. Are you distinctly aware of such a purpose for the inspiration of the Bible, a singularly explicit and primary purpose plainly stated by God Himself?
One need not search very far; the text above itself states that the Word of God, the Scripture, has its inspired quality for a reason. The reason is, “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Ti 3:16-17) In order for the biblical text to have this affect in the lives of men of God, that they might be properly furnished to serve Him, God inspired the text of His Word. He gave the Scripture this property of inspiration in order to achieve this result in the lives of His servants.
Simply moving upon men to write out their understandings of spiritual truths, to publish books and letters containing truth revealed to them directly from God in an imperfect way, this would evidently not be sufficient to achieve the result God has in mind for His Word.
In other words, the text available to the student of God must itself be perfect and flawless in the very words that are chosen, and in the sequence in which these words are ordered, to have its intended affect. The Scripture would not be effectual in achieving God’s intended result without this property, which is why He inspired it and gave it the quality that He did. If it were not so, if His intended affect could be accomplished apart of this unique design, He would not have properly stated that this was His purpose in inspiring it, which He does clearly state.
So, the Bible teaches us that its words are in-breathed by God, ultimately trustworthy: it is as if God Himself is speaking to us, and we can depend upon it to enable us to walk with Him. The Bible perfectly expresses God’s will and nature to us; it is without error and designed to feed and nourish us as we meditate on it. However, if we confine this property to the original manuscripts, and fail to see how it impacts a book we have access to, which we can actually read and understand, then we stop short of anything practically useful in fulfilling God’s intent in inspiring the scripture: that we be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
For babes in Christ who have not developed much of an awareness of the Word of God, this is not so much of an issue at first. The new believer reads the stories in the Bible, hears the basic principles of the faith explained in church, becomes familiar with the epistles of Paul and of Peter and of John, and begins to understand basic doctrine in whatever version of the Bible to which they happen to be introduced.
Perhaps several versions of the Bible are used, perhaps the new believer settles in on one preferred version, perhaps he continues to study many versions in parallel, thinking that every Bible is the Word of God. Eventually, an alert believer will discover, or be told and shown plainly, that there are very real differences between the texts of different versions of the Bible. Going to some spiritual mentor for help or researching the problem in a biblical reference of some type, eventually the new believer will hear it said of some portion of his Bible, “This is a poor translation.”
Any earnest, observant believer who has fallen in love with the Word of God will certainly be alarmed at this. “A poor translation? You mean, I should not trust this version of the Bible? It has … bad translations in it?! it has mistakes in it? How do you know that it has mistakes in it? Where is the true Bible that tells you the right thing? The one that has only good translations in it? I never considered such a thing! I thought all Bibles were given by God and that they all said the same thing!”
The news will be broken gently, but the new convert will soon be told that a REAL Bible does not exist anywhere; all any believer can ever hope to have is something pretty close to Scripture. They may be told that one version is better than some other … they may not be told this. The new believer will certainly be told that no Bible is perfect.
To subdue the inevitable consternation that most surely follows when this revelation is not couched properly, the student will also be confidently reassured that no major doctrines have been affected by this corruption of their Bible.
If the new believer happens to ask how this fact is known precisely, how we know for certain that no major doctrines have been affected by the corruptions, the believer will be told that that all of the Bibles basically say the same thing.
If the new convert asks what he should do when Bibles disagree, he could be told any number of things. Most likely he will be told, “the majority wins, but if you really feel strongly about one of the translations, then go with that one.”
If the new believer presses the issue and suggests that all of the Bibles might then be wrong about something, the reply is, “Well, God would just not allow something like that.” Pressing further, that if God allowed some small problems in every Bible, why He would bother preventing big ones, or why He would not allow all of the Bibles to be wrong about something fundamental, the query does not get a much better response.
Any cursory exploration of the matter will reveal that nearly every Christian believes this way today. All popular commentaries on the Bible say the same thing about this topic. Nearly all brothers and sisters in Christ reinforce the idea. It is claimed that inspiration has been lost, because the originals … the autographs … have been lost. All available sources seem to take for granted that there are mistakes in every Bible, even in the ancient Greek and Hebrew copies surviving from long ago. It quickly becomes apparent that no one really knows where all of the mistakes in the Bible are, or how to fix them, but all agree there are mistakes in every Bible … and the more scholarly minded amateurs will freely point out a few such errors in some translation they have come to dislike.
Eventually one comes to a sobering realization: there is no general agreement about what the correct words in the Bible should be, specifically, even in the original languages. All biblical scholars have different ideas about what the Bible should contain in one place or another. No one – anywhere — really seems to know all of the evidence for sure … and this is not perceived to be a significant problem.
Now, any sane person knowing the truth of inspiration … both the fact AND the purpose … starts having some real problems with this. The claim is that no one knows the truth exactly, the real truth is hopefully buried somewhere in all of the versions “out there,” but no one knows exactly where, and finally, its left up to the individual to decide what is true and what is not, based on how you — the ignorant lay person — feel about it all.
Most everyone claiming to follow Jesus Christ appears to be thinking the same way: inspiration of the autographs does not really mean the believer has access to an inspired Bible today. Few realize the fact that this actually implies the purpose of inspiration has been thwarted, that God’s effort in inspiring His Word is meaningless for today’s believer. Any practical benefit a current believer may obtain from the Bible could still be obtained if the autographs were not technically inspired exactly as God would have them … if the autographs contained small errors equivalent to the imperfections in modern translations.
The new believer will – if he/she follows common carelessness — “just have to take it all by faith” and make the best of the situation. The claim implies there is no completely trustworthy and accurate Scripture in existence anywhere. We are told we must confidently base our eternal welfare upon at least slight corruption and error … and hope for the best. Simply because no one has an answer … the entire dilemma is assumed to be irrelevant. It is not even addressed or defined intelligently.
These are facts, dear friend. No one can dispute them … and I find it very sad.
Most thoughtful people, perhaps without even realizing, just give up at this point. Spiritually, the modern believer lays down the need to have a perfect Bible, and starts believing whatever their pastor tells them, as long as they can stomach it within reason. They never pick a Bible up again with any hope of that Bible being the ultimate and final authority on anything. There will always be some way to cast a doubt upon the text, regardless of its importance or eternal significance.
What this really means is that the modern-day believer can never hope to know the truth about anything for sure… based solely upon the fact that the Word of God says it.
This is not what God intended, my dear friend. It is careless, spiritually shallow and incomplete … and it is based upon a lie. God did not leave His precious Word in this flimsy, broken state. We should know Him better than that.
It is plain that the autographs of Scripture are not available. They never have been generally available. They have not ever been generally available to anyone at any time, not ever. There has never — at any time in the history of the world — been an instant in time in which any significant portion of the autographs of Scripture have been available to anyone. The autographs of the Pentateuch were available for a very short time to a select few, but they perished long before the Psalms were written hundreds of years later. The parchments upon which the original Psalms were placed had deteriorated long before any of the Gospels were written, still many hundreds of years after that. Paul’s actual letters to the early churches did not survive for very long, and a collection of such veritable autographs was never realized at any time by anyone. No one on earth can at this time properly claim that they have any minute portion of any autograph of the Word of God. Even if they did happen to have such a thing, they could never know for certain that they did have it. It was copies of the originals that were in use to bring the inspired texts to the children of God. It is merely copies of copies of copies … of the autographs that are available. This is all that has ever been genuinely available to any servant of God.
Restricting the property of inspiration to the autographs makes the idea of inspiration meaningless because no one has ever benefited from a significant collection of the autographs.
Preservation Essential to Inspiration
If the property of inspiration was diluted and lost over time because only copies of the autographs were available and not the autographs themselves, God’s purpose in inspiring the text has been thwarted. Any benefit that the servants of God have drawn from the Scripture has been derived without the general availability of the autographs. If inspiration does not generally apply to copies of the autographs, then the vast benefit drawn from the Scriptures has been drawn apart from this inspired quality. God would have achieved the same general result had He allowed in the autographs merely the nature of the copies … a nature which – it is generally claimed – is less than truly inspired.
God said that He inspired His Word for a purpose. That purpose would not be achieved without the property of inspiration as we have understood it. Neither would that purpose be achieved if the nature of inspiration were confined merely to the autographs of Scripture. God was certainly able to govern the nature, content, and quality of the copies if He chose to do so, just as He was able to inspire the autographs. In order for Him to have achieved His purpose in inspiring the text, God must have managed the nature of certain copies such that the original purpose of inspiration has been preserved in these copies. Therefore, He did so. Inspired portions of the Word of God exist at this very hour even though no autographs exist.
It is evident that minor “flaws” or discrepancies HAVE indeed crept into many of the copies of the Word of God, especially in copies of the New Testament Scripture. All copies are not exactly the same, very few if any are identical in every jot and pen stroke. Nearly two millennia separate us from the most recent autographs; the extant collection of Greek New Testament texts differ in several thousand instances, though most of these instances are extremely minor. There are even instances in Old Testament Hebrew copies which are understood to be in error by the wisest of human scholars. No one claims to be able to perfectly reconstruct the complete contents of any autograph in its entirety.
Apparently, the quality of inspiration has been preserved for us within some level of tolerance in the exact wording of the text which does no injustice at all to the meaning of the text. As the quality of the autographs could not have been improved by adjusting the words or their sequence, it is also true that variations in the wording and sequence may be made without diluting the inspired quality.
This is inherent in the nature of language itself; our word choice generally allows for some flexibility in how we frame our thoughts without compromising our intent. Seeing this, we understand that the inspired quality of the autographs allows the same kind of flexibility, and we have evidence of this within the Word itself: as important as even the Decalogue is, when God lays it out the second time He doesn’t use the exact same wording. (Ex 20:20,De 5:21) One thing we can be sure of based on the nature and character of God, that which we need in His written word for us, that which He inspired to achieve His purpose, He has preserved unto this day.
Translation Essential to Inspiration
Still, even if we could now construct a single complete copy of the Bible that was “as inspired” as the autographs, this is still of very little value to the common Christian. We do not generally converse in ancient Greek or ancient Hebrew, the languages in which the autographs and copies were expressed. Most of the servants of God have not been able to converse and/or mediate in these languages at all. Those who consider themselves to be scholars in Greek and Hebrew today are often trusting word meanings and syntax understanding provided by other such scholars rather than being immersed in Greek or Hebrew society and culture. All men are sinful and have some theological bias, with a particular interest in having the Word of God say this or that.
Sometimes such men providing linguistic insight are honest, but they may not be, being driven by ulterior motives. Even if one could obtain an inspired copy of the Word of God in the ancient Greek or Hebrew, one would typically not be able to understand it without the aid of such men.
It is not possible to return to the ancient cultures in which the original Greek and Hebrew languages were fluently spoken in order to learn these languages in a consistent, neutral and accurate manner. Modern Greek and Hebrew culture may get us very close, but there is no guarantee that it is exact. We find ourselves in a state such that the proper meanings of the words and contexts presented in inspired copies of the Word of God in ancient languages may not always be learned with absolute certainty. No one can obtain this information in a neutral and consistent manner any longer, without the special intervention of God.
Such is actually the inherent frailty of language; it changes with time and it is foreign to those who do not speak it fluently in a cultural setting. In order for a language to convey the inspired Word of God to a servant of God, the medium must be a language that the servant understands.
It is not possible to understand a language properly apart from its use in a cultural setting. Word meanings must be clearly understood and clarified by the culture from which the language springs, or from dictionaries constructed to preserve the meanings of such words during the current working of the language. Such dictionaries do not exist for any ancient language: dictionaries are a fairly recent development, compiled “post mortem” for the languages we wish to understand. Only the servants of God who lived in cultures fluently using the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages could fully benefit from the inspired Word of God as penned in copies of the autographs. This is a very small portion of the number of the servants of God throughout the ages. This is apparently not sufficient for God to have achieved His stated purpose in inspiring His Word in the Bible.
In order for God to achieve His general purpose, “that the man of God might be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” the inspired nature of the Word of God must transcend the barriers imposed by language and its evolution over time. Therefore it does.
God is certainly able to govern the translation of His Word into another language. God is not confined by ancient Greek and Hebrew in order to express Himself. As the Author of all languages, God is able to express Himself perfectly in any language He pleases. As the Sovereign of the universe, He has managed every aspect of the changes in all languages at all times. Words mean exactly what He intends for them to mean in all cultures and times.
If it be true that God’s purpose in inspiring His Word would not generally be achieved unless He superintended its translation into other languages and adapted His inspired expression to accommodate changes in language over time, and if it be true that God is able to do this, then we may be sure that He did so. God has achieved His purpose in inspiring His Word by monitoring and governing its translation into languages that are common to many, if not all of His servants.
Now we have something meaningful. God’s purpose in inspiring His Word implies that it is possible today to learn a modern language in which the Word of God exists in its inspired form … equivalent to the autographs in its representation of God’s written revelation.
It has never been God’s intention that His children must depend on other men or woman as a final authority to obtain a correct understanding of His Word, not to mention what the very words in the inspired text are supposed to be. While there is truly a place in the Church for Spirit-filled teachers, and while it is certainly also true that great benefit is brought to the true Church through these godly men and women, it has never been our Lord’s way — since Scripture has become available – to allow any sinful man, or small group of men, to become His ultimate authority on earth about anything. The final responsibility for discerning and accepting truth rests in the hearts of individual believers as they meditate on the Word of God for themselves … a Bible that they can read and understand in their own language without the imposition of sinful men. This is a concept that is deeply fundamental to our walk with God.
We can be entirely free from such academic linguistic religious enslavement when it comes to knowing the truth. When we are in error about spiritual truth, there is no one to blame but ourselves. We are each individually responsible before God for what we believe. For the those of us who have a Bible in our own language, we have God’s infallible Word at our disposal, and it is given to us individually to search and study. For those who do not, it is indeed possible to fully learn a modern language in a neutral and accurate manner in which the Word of God is perfectly expressed. Most all of us who are sincerely seeking after the living God may do so. There will be no excuses for us at the Great White throne.
There was a day when the great apostle Paul preached the Gospel to the Bereans. These were noble men in that they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things” spoken by Paul “were so.” (Ac 17:11) No one was asked to take Paul as the ultimate authority in any matter. Paul drew his authority from the Word of God, which was available to both him and his audiences. They were all encouraged to search the Word of God and to test everything Paul said. They were not required to take the word of any sinful man on its own, even from a man that was capable of miraculous feats.
No question was ever made of the texts available to these humble people at the time. They did not have autographs. We do not even know for sure that they had the original Hebrew. The Law and the Prophets had been translated into Greek and Aramaic … and Berea was in the very center of Greece. It is likely that these folks had both the Hebrew text and a Greek translation available to them. No differences in authority were ever drawn based upon the language of the text.
There was another day when a rich man died and was buried. In hell he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off. He pleaded with Abraham to send someone back to tell his five worldly brothers of their danger, to witness of the eternal world to them. Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” (Lk 16:29)
These men had Moses and the Prophets. They had the Old Testament. They did not have the autographs … they only had copies. That was enough.
The rich man responded fretfully, “Nay, father Abraham! But if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent!” (Lk 16:30)
Abraham was unmoved by the plea. These five men, like all others in their day, had the inspired Word of God available to them in a current language. It happened to be their very own native tongue. God Himself, as a warning and a guide to these five men in the matter of their eternal destiny, had Himself breathed out the very words of the text. The words could be trusted ultimately, without fear, without the aid of other sinful humans who might corrupt God’s message and its clear meaning. These men already had access to the most powerful witness possible. They lulled about casually and carnally in the presence of this witness every day. Sending back a fire-breathing human to wake these spiritual corpses would not so much as entertain them well, much less convince them. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” (vs 31)
There was yet another day when self-righteous men, men who were immersed in the texts of the Law and the Prophets, came to the Eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and challenged His divinity. Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God. These lawyers had convinced themselves – in carnal reasonings beyond the scope of the inspired texts — that God could not take on a sinful human frame and retain His Holy nature. They were indignant at Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God in human form. They rejected Him.
The response of the Master to this rejection was to reference the Scripture. “He answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; say ye of Him Whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (Jn 10:34-36) There is much in this text pertaining to our discussion here.
Jesus referred to the Scripture as, “the word of God.” He quoted the chosen text as if the words were perfect and unquestioned, even though He and his audience did not have access to the original autographs. He understood that their access to the text contained in copies of the autographs was enough to hold them responsible for this truth. There was nothing about the copies that was inferior to the autographs.
Jesus drew conclusions from the text of the copies of the autographs as if they contained the very words of God. He based His conclusion in their debate upon the words of the text as if the words themselves were ultimately reliable, unquestionable. The meaning of the text was clear because the words were perfect. The order of the words was perfect. No one objected saying, “Well, we all know that what God really said was …” That evasion was not an option. All of them had the same words to deal with.
And as John tells the story, he is speaking to Gentiles in Greek, so he must translate the Hebrew words from scripture into another language, and he has no problem doing so with confidence and authority. (Jn 20:31)
In passing, as an aside, Jesus stated what they all believed: “the scripture cannot be broken.” (vs 35b) Now, thousands of years later, I would like to remind us all …
The scripture cannot be broken.
The scripture cannot be broken by time. The scripture cannot be broken by errors introduced by copying. The scripture cannot be broken by language. The scripture cannot be broken by false teachers and translators desiring to corrupt the Word of God, who so very much long to alter and twist it in order to hide its powerful message. God inspired the Scripture so that His servants … in the power of the Holy Spirit … in all ages … in many languages … could challenge and expose false teachers. (Tit 1:9) It is given as a reliable weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to enable the soldiers of Jesus Christ to find the way of holiness through the midst of unholy seducing spirits swarming in profusion throughout a sinful and perverse generation. Nothing can take the Word of God away from us … God has said so.
Jesus appealed to the lawyers based on the validity of an inspired text that was available to them. He clearly stated that the text was exactly the way it was intended to be. It was still the words of God. He said it would always be that way: the Scripture cannot be broken.
Today, when one quotes the Word of God to bring truth to the Church, truth that is controversial in our wicked and perverse generation, the ultimate evasion of is — “That must be a poor translation … God did not really say … Look here at this translation, and what this Greek scholar says.” It is often easy to find another translation or commentary in which the wording has been altered, or skewed, or omitted altogether, such that the truth being presented is hidden or absent. If the truth in question is not corrupted in one version, it will certainly be obscured in some other. The hunt continues until some real question has been brought against the truth, and the very Word of God itself is thereby made a question … it is handled deceitfully.
God gave His Church the inspired Word of God so that His servants would not have to suffer under the deceptions and twisting of heretics and demons without clear guidance. With this in mind, the first thing that the false teacher must do is question exactly what the Word of God is. This is done quite easily today. Actually, the foundation of most any discussion in the Church begins and ends without any hope of having such an authority. God never intended for His Church to function like this.
So long as any Christian believes God abandoned the preservation of His Word once the first copy or translation was made of it, such that they must now forever question the actual wording of the text, they can never even begin to enjoy the fruit of God’s work in inspiring the text.
How can we memorize words and hide them in our heart, meditating on them day and night, when the very words might be in error and convey an inaccurate, incomplete, or incorrect message? Few, if any, can do so confidently. Many can memorize … memorizing is not the issue … the key is mediation on the Word of God — running the words over and over again in our mind and heart while praying and asking for enlightenment, when facing a subtle heresy among our brethren, when facing a precarious temptation in which we need God’s truth. How can we take what we believe is a corrupt text and let it change our life? How can we walk safely over the pits of Hell relying on a text which has been corrupted by time and language? What should we make of a sword given to us to wield against sin … with no edge? One which bends and wilts under the force and pressure of use? That is not a weapon, it is a snare.
How can we build truth into our life through the inspired Word of God if we do not know what the correct words are? Do we continually stand as a judge of what the words ought to be … or do we hide them in our heart and let them change our lives?
What criteria do we use to accept or reject the words we’are studying? Will we, as others, just go from version to version whenever we’re faced with temptation or false doctrine … hoping and hopping from one commentary to another until we’re pleased with what tickles our stubborn itching ears?
Can we build a house with a rubber tape measure? Can we mark and cut with a ruler stretching and yielding under the tension of our work? Can we build a tower with a plumb line having no substance or weight? a little string wandering about at the slightest disturbance? Will we draw up maps in ink that decay and blur with use … such that they are of no practical value when we are lost? Do we wish to submit to a delicate brain surgery under blunted, dirty instruments? Will we give medical prescriptions to our loved ones in an ancient unknown language, and leave them in the hands of the superstitious and arrogant to decode?
Truthfully, earnestly, if we do not think we have the inspired Word of God, how have we been surviving without it? Do we really care about the truth? Or have we despaired for the lies that were told us about God’s Word? Isn’t it one or the other? As for me, I lost confidence in my Bible once as a believer … it was taken from me for three long days. “Everyone knows that there are small mistakes in it, what does it really matter?” I wanted to die.
If we are doing anything of value where we need a guide to help us, we will choose a guide that is neutral and solid if there is one available to us. We will cry out for such a guide with all of our being if we are earnest. Demand a guide that will provide the same perfect guidance in all of the stresses and pressures of practical use. It must be consistent. It must be available … legible … understandable. The more important the task, the more precisely accurate the guide must be. It must not give under pressure, it must not move and sway under we as you test it, as we trust our life to it … as you trust it with our eternal destiny. It must be true if we are to survive. To work with anything else is a continual vexation and anguish.
Doubtless, without any final authority to rest in, many rely on the Spirit of God as best they can … perhaps we rely on the voice of God to teach us apart from what is written. Jesus did not commend this way. Neither did Paul. Neither does the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not always speaking to us in a clear, external manner. He calls us, for the most part, to walk in wisdom and in godly community. This is His primary means of protecting us from the false spirits wooing and calling all about us. Those who follow their own hearts – and that is essentially what we have left when the inspired Bible is lost — do not consistently come up with the same truth, even when they claim to be hearing the voice of the same Spirit. Even the apostles could not do this … even they made their final appeal to the authority of the written Word of God.
So then, what is the Word of God in the English tongue? What is our medicine when we are sick? Our map when we are lost? Our food when you are hungry? Our light … when we are out in the darkness and don’t know where to turn? Where is that text, that we can hold in your hand, that we can hide in your heart … without questioning the words, the text that is perfect and complete and unquestioned in our soul and mind? God says He inspired a holy Book for us and He has given it to us for these precious purposes. Where is it?
Well, none of the modern translations claim to be the final, authoritative, infallible Word of God. I have yet to meet a single soul – and I have personally talked to hundreds, and I’ve heard many more — that believes any one of the modern versions of the Bible is perfect and inspired.
Note that most modern Bibles are copyrighted: if we memorize a book of the Bible and quote it to a friend without “express written consent of the publisher,” we will be violating copywrite law! Evidently, these texts are not written to edify the saints. They are positioned to make someone a name, to make money. Many of the translators of these bibles have been enamored with evolution, idol worship, ecumenical sentiment … many of them did not even believe the autographs themselves were inspired. Further, their translation work is based on a corrupt Greek text, rooted in desperate theory which discards the vast weight of extant Greek manuscripts on a subjective whim – a theory well known in circles of textual criticism as The Syrian Recension. It does not take a Greek or Hebrew scholar to see the fallacy of their reasoning.
In the midst of all this confusion, God expects us to receive some text — in a language that we understand and think in — as inspired by Him to us. He expects us to treat that text as His personal word to us. Then, let us do so. Let that text become the ultimate authority in our lives … an authority that weighs more than experience, more than miracles, more than lofty high-sounding words, equivalent to the Holy Spirit Himself, or to Jesus Christ standing before us in Person. We will accept no inconsistency between its pages and our God … no, we cannot tolerate such a thing and rest easily in it. If an angel from heaven contradicted this text, we would challenge him — we would sooner trust its content than the testimony of those screaming from Hell or singing from Heaven, angels or men or whatever. Find that text with the help of God. He has inspired it and preserved it for us. This is implied by His promise, and from His eternally faithful nature
We are to hide that text in our heart and life until it is a part of the very fabric of our being, until we know it better than our own soul. Love it as the very Word of God to us. Bathe in its words daily, hourly. Pray it out to our loving heavenly Father when we are adoring Him. Study His Word when we are confused or discouraged. Sing it out when we are exulting in His majesty. Trust it as eternally worthy of our faith. Walk upon its texts fearlessly as God’s deliverance from the eternal pit, in doing battle with a sleepless, relentless enemy. Quote it shamelessly when we are rebuking and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ. Test every teaching against it, every philosophy, ever motive. Believe nothing that contradicts ANY part of this book. Drive away our doubts and heresies with it. Let it root out the sin in us ’till there be none. Let the Holy Spirit take the chisel of the inspired Word of God and shape us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Just do it!
No doubt, if such a text exists in the English language, it is the Authorized Bible, commonly known as the King James Version. The only measure used to conclude that any text is inspired can be used with this text: it has been generally received as inspired by the saints of God. The KJV is the only English text that a significant portion of English-speaking Christians have ever trusted as inspired. Very many have trusted it implicitly as the Word of God with great power in the Holy Spirit – Who Himself, it is believed, watched over its translation.
Though hundreds of years old, the Authorized King James Bible is yet in our English language, and common standard dictionaries abound to elaborate on archaisms as our language has evolved over time. I can meditate on its texts unhindered by the challenges of modern critics, without wondering what the words are supposed to be. I understand what its words mean, as do those in the culture around me. The text of the English Word of God is generally readily understood by second graders and scholars; its texts are still freely memorized by pre-schooler and aged saint. Without advertisement, for most of the twentieth century, it survived as the best seller among all English translations, though relentlessly attacked in most all theological schools and religious circles by those who would supplant it, critics making their living on the claim that we cannot access inspiration without their scholarly assistance. If people begin to trust the KJV again they will be looking for other employment. Do not imagine they are neutral witnesses.
The KJV does have archaic expressions that need to be clarified. It may even have words or punctuation here or there in one form or another that might be updated. In my opinion, it should still be received as equivalent to the autographs and trusted in its content with the confidence that God has preserved His written revelation perfectly in its pages. The Authorized Bible, its rough sequel, the New King James Bible, are two of the handful of only English Bibles available that have any real promise of being accurate representations of the original Greek writings of the New Testament. In my opinion, it is not an error to boil our selection of an English Bible down to one of these two.
Very few saints are left in our day in who really trust any Bible … perhaps only a remnant … and it seems fewer and fewer as the days roll by. The rest are living without an awareness of an inspired authority to turn to. Their inspiration from God is, “somewhere … out there …” in a perfectly useless place, a meaningless dissonant commotion of all of the versions and commentators and opinions. Consequently, people are doing that which is right in their own eyes. Would Satan have things any other way? It is any wonder that the Church is so very weak in our day? I do not expect it to get better any time soon.
But I should not … indeed, I cannot … sit back waiting … in silence.
“When the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?“ (Ps 11:3)
Oh God! How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Oh, how I love thy Law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation! More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold! In keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps 119:103, 97, 105, 98-99; Ps 19:10-11)
My brethren … we have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For 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 Ghost. (1Pe 1:19-21)
Awake to righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (1Co 15:34, Mt 4:4)
In meekness instruct those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2Ti 2:25-26)
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby … being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever … for the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (1Pe 2:2, 23, Heb 4:12-13)
All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away: but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you. (1Pe 1:24-25)