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The Bible: God’s Perfect Word - Sermon #2

 

Psalm 12:6-7

THE PRESERVATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Intro: Last time we examined evidence for the inspiration of the Word of God. We learned the blessed truth that God literally “breathed His Word through human personalities to give us an inerrant, infallible and inspired record of His revelation of Himself and of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

I do not wish to be repetitive, but I do feel that we need to review a few of the terms we encountered in our study, and I would like to add a new term to list.

        Revelation - The process by which man heard from God exactly what God wanted written down.

        Inspiration - The process of man actually writing down what God wanted said. This is God filtering His Word through human personality.

        Illumination - The process by which God uses the inspired record of the revelation of Himself to speak to the hearts of humanity.

To this list, I would like to add the word Preservation. This is the process by which God has supernaturally protected His word through many reproductions and translations. The idea of preservation holds that God has faithfully superintended His Word down through the ages, so that even today, some 3,500 years after portions of the Bible were written down, we can say that what we possess, what we love and what we read are the very words of God!

Now, we have already discovered the tremendous truth that the original autographs, that is, the writings of the original authors were divinely inspired. Sadly, none of those original autographs have survived to this day. In other words, you can’t go anywhere in this world and find a scrap of paper containing the actual writings of Paul, John, Moses, Peter, James, Daniel, Isaiah or any of the other biblical writers. Since that is true, how can we be confident that the Bibles we possess today are in fact accurate and are the very Word of God? Just as the inspiration of the Scriptures can be decisively proven using both the internal evidence of the Bible itself and the external sources of historical and scientific evidence, it can also be proven that the Bible has been divinely preserved down to this very day. With that in mind, let’s take some time this evening to examine this issue of The Preservation Of The Holy Scriptures.

 

 

 

 

I. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S PROMISES

(Ill. Let’s examine the internal evidence from the Bible itself. The Bible contains several passages that affirm God’s intention to preserve His inspired Word for all generations.)

A. Old Testament Promises Of Preservation

        Psalm 12:6-7, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. [7] Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

        Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

        Psalm 89:34, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

        Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

        Psalm 119:89, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.

B. New Testament Promises Of Preservation

        Matthew 5:18, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

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

        Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

        1 Peter 1:25, “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

C. To my mind, the conclusion from these verses is crystal clear: God had indeed promised to preserve His Word! The internal evidence is overwhelming! I have given you nine passages that explicitly state God’s intentions in this matter.

The question I have for you is this: How many times does God have to say anything before we can conclude that He means it? Once! We have the promise of God, Who cannot lie, Heb. 6:18, Who identifies Himself as the “Faithful and True Witness, Rev. 3:14, that He will forever perfectly preserve His Word, and that is good enough for me. However, while that may be all the evidence Bible believers need, that is not all the evidence we have!

 

II. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S POWER

A. Jeremiah 36:1-32 tells the story of God giving Jeremiah revelation and inspiration to write a portion of the Word of God. Jeremiah writes as he is commanded and king Jehoiakim listens to the word of God. He receives illumination fro the Lord, but he rejects the message. He takes the scroll Jeremiah has written and he literally cuts it to pieces and burns it in the fireplace, Jer. 36:23. Apparently, he thinks that destroying the written word will erase what God has said. However, God’s word is settled, not on earth, but in Heaven, Psa. 119:89. God merely sent His word again through the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 36:28. Despite the actions of Jehoiakim, God preserved His Word!

That is just one small picture of what God has always done in regard to protecting and preserving His Word down through the ages.

B. Down through the ages, there have been several concerted efforts by pagan unbelievers to eradicate the Word of God.

        In A.D. 303, the Roman emperor Diocletion ordered the confiscation and destruction of all the Christian scriptures. Thousands of early copies and possibly some original autographs were burned. However, the Word of God was not eradicated! Earnest believers protected the Word and hid it away in the catacombs, in caves and in graves. Thus the Word of God survived that attack!

        The French humanist Voltaire once said, "Another century and there will not be a Bible on the earth." Two centuries have gone, and the circulation of the Bible is one of the marvels of the age. After he died, his old printing press and the very house where he lived was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and made a depot for Bibles. On December 24, 1933, the British Government bought a book called Codex Sinaiticus from the Russians for half a million dollars. On the same day, a first edition of Voltaire's work sold for eleven cents in Paris bookshops.

        Joseph Stalin This bloody butcher took over all of Russia upon the death of Lenin in the late twenties. From this point on until his death in the fifties, Stalin instituted a "ban the Bible" purge from the U.S.S.R. such as had never been witnessed before. The miserable man literally attempted to wipe the Word of God and the God of the Word from the Russian people’s minds. Did he succeed? A recent poll taken in Russia shows that today more people than ever believe in God and His Word.

        For thousands of years the enemies of truth have sought to destroy the precious Word of God. Every attempt to do so has failed miserably as the Bible continues to be read and loved by millions of people.

C. In 1526, William Tyndale had produced the first English translation of the Bible to be printed on a printing press. This new version was hated by the Roman Catholic Church and in particularly by the Bishop of London. A certain man named John Packington, who knew the Bishop and his hatred of the Tyndale translation, but who was also secretly a friend of Tyndale, went to the Bishop of London and told him he knew how to get all of Tyndale’s Bibles. The Bishop told him to get them and that he would gladly pay whatever they cost. The Bishop of London promised to buy them wit the intention of burning them a Paul’s Cross Cathedral in London. Packington when to Tyndale and told him of the deal he had made with the Bishop. Tyndale responded by saying that he knew the Bishop would burn his Bibles. However, printing the Bibles had left Tyndale deeply indebted.

Tyndale decided to sell the Bibles to the Bishop of London. He saw several advantages in doing so. First, he could use the money to pay his way out of debt and have even more Bibles printed. Secondly, when the people of England saw the Bishop of London burning the Word of God they would be come enraged. So, the enemy of the Word of God actually allowed Tyndale to pay off his debts, correct the text of his translation and print three times the number of Bibles that had been destroyed!

Later, when some of Tyndale’s associates were arrested and asked where they received the money to print their Bibles, they answered that the money came from the Bishop of London. This one instance is proof that God is able to preserve His Word despite the attempts of all its enemies to destroy it.

 

III. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S PROVIDENCE

(Ill. Despite the fact that God promised to preserve His Word and that He has exerted His divine power to preserve His Word, there still may be some doubt in a few minds about whether or not we have an accurate record of God’s inspired in our hands today. Well, we do not have the time needed this evening to examine all the evidence that exists for the preservation of the inspired Word of God, but we do have time to look at a small portion of the evidence that exists.)

 

(Note: Let me say first of all that the Old Testament text has never really been questioned at to its authenticity. The Jewish scribes were faithful copyists of the divine text. You may have heard of all the extensive efforts they went to in order to ensure that their copies matched the originals in every detail. They actually had men whose only job was to count the letters in the copies. They counted the “jots and tittles, Matt. 5:18, or the “little horns that formed parts of the letters themselves. If the number of letters, of jots and tittles, did not match the number in the original, the copy was destroyed! If there was even one error, no matter how small in the text, the copy was destroyed and the copyist started over. These Jewish scribes were so faithful to the Word of God when they came to the name of God, they would wash themselves, and get a new pen before they wrote God’s name. Then they would discard that pen and use another to proceed. Due to their meticulous care of and reverence for the Old Testament Scriptures, the Hebrew text, called the Masoretic text, has never been questioned!)

The issue we face is related to the New Testament. The question is this: can we, with confidence, really say that we have a copy of the inspired word of God? Let’s take a moment to examine the evidence. Every English Bible in existence today came from one of two streams of Greek texts. One stream is called the Alexandrian Text, while the other is called the Byzantine Text. The Byzantine Text has come to be known as the Majority Text or the Textus Receptus (The Received Text). There is no way, in the time we have allotted, that we can examine all the nuances of each textual line. However, we can look a couple of astounding particulars that should help the issue to become clear.

A. The Perversion Of The True Text - (The Alexandrian Text) - This text family receives its name from the fact that it originated in Alexandria Egypt. It was the work of such early church fathers and Clement and Origin. Both of these men are held in high esteem by biblical scholars, but it should be noted that both of these men rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible, leaning instead toward an allegorical interpretation. This simply means that they believed the Bible was a collection of spiritual stories designed to teach truth. Much could be said about these men, but it is enough to know, for now, that they did not accept the Bible as it was literally written. This fact alone makes the texts that they had a hand in creating suspect.

This family of texts rests on about 45 manuscripts, many of which are very ancient, some dating back to around 330 AD. The two primary texts in this family are called Sinaiticus (Codex Aleph) and Vaticanus (Codex B). These are the oldest known manuscripts in existence. Both date from the 4th Century. Codex Aleph was discovered in the 1840's at a monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai by a man named Count Constantin von Tischendorf. He saw several old leaves from ancient books in a pile to be used to start fires in the kitchen. Upon inquiry, he discovered that they had an even older book in the monastery. The monks then showed him the manuscript known as Sinaiticus. This ancient manuscript contains over 12,000 corrections and revisions by someone other that the original copyist. It also contains several spurious books such as The Shepherd of Hermes, The Gospel of Thomas and the Didache. All of these books have been rejected by the believing church for nearly 2,000 years.

Codex B was discovered in the Vatican library in 1481. It too, dates from the 4th Century. This manuscript is the one most relied on by modern Bible translators. This codex has been heavily corrected by Roman Catholic copyists. By the way, the King James Translators knew of the existence of Codex B, but chose to avoid it.

What is interesting is that these two manuscripts, which form the basis for all modern versions of the Bible, disagree with one another over 3,000 times in just the four Gospels alone! There are 43 other manuscripts that support this textual family. Remember, every new version of the Bible, with the exception of the NKJV (It gets its footnotes from the Alexandrian line of texts), was translated from Greek texts based on these manuscripts. A whopping total of 45 manuscripts stand behind all the new versions of the Bible.

These texts were taken, translated, collated and come to us today in the form of the Nestles-Aland 27th Greek Text. This text is considered the standard by most Bible scholars. Yet, it still only rests on some 45 manuscripts!

B. The Preservation Of The True Text (The Traditional Text) - The other text family had its origin in the city of Antioch in Syria. The scholars in Antioch took a more literal approach to biblical interpretation. They considered the Bible to be more than mere allegory; they believed it to be the very Word of God. As a result, they were diligent in seeing to it that they were faithful to copy it correctly, employing many of the same techniques of their Jewish predecessors. It is this textual line that has given the world many of the great Bible translations: The Erasmus Greek Text, 1522 (Later to become known at as The Textus Receptus, 1633); Martin Luther’s German Bible, circa 1530; Tyndales Bible, 1522; Coverdales Bible, 1535; The Geneva Bible, 1560 and the King James Bible, 1611.

While the new versions rest on a total of 45 manuscripts, those versions that were translated from the Majority Text rest on over 5,210 manuscripts! The overwhelming number of manuscripts agrees with the Majority Text. By the way, when the Nestles-Aland 27th Text is compared to The Textus Receptus, you find that there are some 3,000 words omitted in the Nestles-Aland text and some 20 verses are also omitted. Among the verses omitted are: Acts 8:37 and 1 John 5:7.

C. This is astounding when you consider that Caesar’s Gallic Wars, which was written in 52 BC has only 9 good manuscripts supporting it and the oldest dates from some 900 years after the time of Caesar! The Iliad by Homer was written in 900 BC. There are only 643 copies. The earliest copy was made about 400 BC. The textual tradition of the Iliad ranks a distant second to the NT tradition when you consider MSS numbers, age of documents, and quality of texts. Tacitus was a Roman who lived from about AD 55-117. His two long works are Histories and Annals. Only four and one-half of the fourteen books of Histories survive, while only ten of the sixteen books and two partial books of Annals survive. The text for both depends on one ninth century MSS and one eleventh century MSS.

D. When you total it all up, the New Testament rests on over 86,000 fragment and manuscripts. There is more evidence for the accuracy of the New Testament than there is for any ancient writing, period! Do we have the Word of God? Absolutely!

E. While the Majority Text has much more evidence in its favor against the Alexandrian Text, some would argue that the Alexandrian texts are older, and therefore they are more reliable. Well, older is not always better!

The simple explanation as to why more early manuscripts from the Alexandrian line exist is that the Majority texts were worn out through use. The fact that many, many more copies of this line exist is proof positive that it was favored by the ancient church over the Alexandrian line of manuscripts.

 

Conc: I have merely scratched the surface of this matter of the preservation of the biblical text. However, I hope you can walk away this evening confident of the fact that you hold in your hands, and hopefully in your hearts, the very Word of God. By the way, don’t let it bother you that the two lines of texts seem to be so different. When all the manuscripts are collated and laid along side the Majority Text, they are found to be in agreement 98% of the time! Of the 2% that disagrees, most is trivial in nature.

The bottom line is this: of all the manuscripts in existent of all variations, the difference between them that could be called “substantive is a mere 1/10th of 1 percent! That is a total agreement among all the textual lines of 99.9%!

If the two textual lines are in fact so close, then does it matter which version you use today? I think it does! The overwhelming majority of the evidence rests in the corner of the Majority Text and thus in the King James Version. For me the argument has been forever settled! The new versions may contain the Word of God in so far as they are accurately translated, while the King James Version is the Word of God!

I close with this question: has God perfectly preserved His word to this day? All the evidence says He has! Therefore, read your Bible with confidence. Base your life upon it with assurance. It is the preserved and inspired Word of God! God has superintended His word through thousands of translations and copies. He has never re-inspired the Bible, some think He did in 1611. He never re-inspired it, but He has preserved His Word and He has preserved it in its inspired, infallible and inerrant form! Blessed be His great name!

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