The Holy Bible, the Christian Bible; what is it, and how should it be read? These two questions have been asked since the first Bibles came about, yet we are still not in agreement.
First, let me get some preliminaries out of the way: I am not a pastor or preacher, I am just a child of God; these are my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, and are only that. Before each study, I pray to my Heavenly Father and ask for guidance and wisdom, and I let the Holy Spirit guide my actions. Any biblical quotes I give will be from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Now, let us get into the questions; first, is the Bible to be taken as is? For this first question, we need to look at what the Bible is, and where it came from.
The Bible is a collection of writings that were written between about the 15th century BCE and the 1st century CE. These original writings were inspired and God-breathed; our present Bible is composed of copies of these inspired documents. The Bible was written by about 40 authors; the authors wrote as they were guided by the Holy Spirit.
The original writings were composed of scrolls that were quite large and extremely valuable, only the Jewish Pharisees were in possession of them, and they were kept in the Synagogues. In the latter half of the first century CE, the New Testament was written, yet it was not written as a book at the time – books did not exist, only scrolls; only during the 4th century CE were the letters and writings of God incorporated into a “book” (also called a codex). For a preacher in the first centuries CE, his “Bible” would have been a few scrolls that he could carry – maybe only a couple of chapters of what we call the Bible now. Once the Bible was written in the 4th century CE (hand written that is, the printing press did not come for another 1,100 years), it is known as the Latin Vulgate, it was only allowed to be used by a select few and was kept in the church due to its value. Think of this, it is said that each Bible was written on vellum (sheep skin), and it took 250 sheep and thousands of hours to handwrite each Bible – by today’s standards, each Bible written then would have cost about $100,000, not something you want the illiterate peasant to grab for fire starter.
The major timeline points of the Bible are:
- In 368 CE, the Latin Vulgate was written. The Latin Vulgate was a revision of the Gospels using the Greek manuscripts available, the Old Testament taken from the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament), and the actual Hebrew Old Testament that was around at the time. The Latin Vulgate contains the Apocrypha (books of questionably authorship that some religions use).
- In 1228 CE, Stephen Langton divided the Bible into chapters.
- In 1388 CE, John Wycliffe decided that he was tired of the Latin Bible and the host of translation errors that were in it, so he did the unthinkable at the time and translated the Bible into English, and he translated it from the original Hebrew and Greek texts that were available at the time; this was the beginning of good things to come. The Catholic church of the time was furious with Mr. Wycliffe, they felt that the only language the Bible should be in was Latin, and it should only be translated from their texts; texts that were translated from each other, a guarantee for inaccuracies to develop since it was placing man’s influence into the Bible, not God’s.
- In 1448 CE, the Old Testament was divided into verses by R. Nathan; the New Testament was divided by R. Stephanus in 1551 CE.
- In 1454 CE, Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press and produced the first printed Bible, the Gutenberg Bible; this Bible was printed in Latin based on the Latin Vulgate of the time.
- In 1525 CE, William Tyndale translates the New Testament; his translation is based off of the original Latin Vulgate and original Greek manuscripts. By 1526, in direct defiance of the Pope of the time, Tyndale had produced and sold over 6000 copies of the New Testament across England; sadly, most of these early copies were destroyed by the Church of England. One key item to note here is that ninety percent of the New Testament in the King James Version is taken directly from Tyndale’s work. In 1536, the Church of England executed William Tyndale for heresy; before being strangled and burned at the stake, he yelled out, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”
- In 1535 CE, Myles Coverdale, a student of Tyndale’s, produced a full Bible based on most of Tyndale’s work and some of his own translations.
- In 1537 CE, John Rogers published the Matthew’s Bible. This Bible was all of Tyndale’s translations, combined with Coverdale’s work. One of the key things about this Bible is that the King of England, Henry VIII, gave permission for this Bible to bought and sold across England; the Lord opened the King’s eyes.
- In 1560 CE, the Geneva Bible is printed; it is based on the original Latin Vulgate, Hebrew, and Greek texts.
- In 1568 CE, the Archbishop of Canterbury had the Geneva Bible revised to be used by Catholic Church; this became known as the Bishops Bible.
- In 1609 CE, the Rheims-Douay Bible is produced; this is the Bishops Bible with the 14 books of the Apocrypha added.
- In 1611 CE, King James authorized the production of a new Bible, the King James Version. The King James Version is a re-translation of the Bishop’s, Geneva, Matthews, Cloverdale, and Tyndale translations as well as the original Latin Vulgate. This original King James Bible had all the books of the Bible including the 14 Apocrypha; the Apocrypha was removed in 1885.
- By 1760 CE, the King James Bible had been misprinted so much that the University of Oxford and Cambridge set out to update it. In 1760, the Cambridge edition was published, and in 1769 the Oxford edition was produced. Both of these editions went back to the original King James and cleaned it up – they fixed around 300 translation errors, and updated the spelling and grammar to be more with the times.
- By 1894 CE, the King James Bible was again updated, this time it was updated where the scholars were given the leeway to change the original King James text if the scholar deemed it necessary.
- Commencing around 1901 CE, the ‘modern English Translations’ of the Bible started coming onto the scene; in the first half of the 20th century, more than 50 translations were made, after 1950 50 more came, and since 2000 CE, over 60 more translations and rewrites have come.
Most of these translations were for one purpose, to make the Bible more readable; this task was accomplished by modernizing the text and grammar. Three schools of translations began to appear; word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and a combination of the two. Word-for-word translation is a misnomer since they are not literally word-for-word to the original Greek and Hebrew text, they are closer to being word-for-word to the King James Bible. Think of this, Genesis 1:1 in the original Hebrew is “בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃”, which translates to “in the beginning created God – the heavens and the earth” – not very readable as word-for-word.
In 1946 CE, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of scrolls dating back to the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain biblical text a full thousand years older than the oldest biblical manuscripts that were in existence at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery; this glorious find meant that Bibles translations could be translated from texts older than the Latin Vulgate, this was a monumental find.
So, how important was the find of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Well, after I have just bored you with this very condensed history of the Bible; that answer is simple. When you look at the Bible, how it started as a verbal telling, moved to scrolls, moved to basic Bibles, moved to ornate Bibles, translated back and forth, words and scripture were twisted and manipulated, and all of this over a span of 3400 years, and then compare it to the Dead Sea Scrolls that were written over 2000 years ago, you find out that very little of the Bible had changed. Think of that; a book that was hand-written, rewritten, translated over and over for over 3400 years and is still very close to manuscripts written 2000 years ago – that in itself is a monumental feat that screams of direction by the Most High. The Bible is truly God-Breathed and must be revered as so.
So, back to the first question: is the Bible to be taken as is? I say, “most definitely so and without any exception.” In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Now, I want you to think on that one; sit, think, pray on it.
Now the second question: Is the Bible a living document that needs to conform to the times at hand?
For the Bible to be considered a living document that needs to change with the times, we must answer the following questions: is the Bible error ridden, mythical, exaggerated, outdated, antiquated, bigoted, unloving, hateful, misquoted, and not relevant? Many ‘Christians’ believe so, even some churches.
Let us break this question down:
Is the Bible error ridden? Some say that the Bible has errors and contradictions in it, and they immediately point to Genesis to show what some call the greatest error. In Genesis 2:16-17, it says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then, in Genesis 3:1-7, “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” When one reads these passages, one might say, “They ate from the fruit, yet they did not die; the Bible must be wrong!” However, think upon the time in history, the location, and who is involved. You see, before the great sin, Adam and Eve had eternal life and they were meant to live forever; Adam and Eve’s eternal life ended exactly at the moment Adam sinned against God, their eternal life died at that exact moment.
There is a lot written in the first three chapters of the Bible, enough written to be a couple of studies onto itself; that will be a later muse. For now, when you read the Bible remember one thing, the Bible is like an onion as it has many layers; the more you read it, the more will be revealed to you.
Does the Bible speak of mythical creatures as if they were real? Well, who is to say they are not real; a scientist who was not there, or our ancestors who were? We all know that dinosaurs walked the earth, archeologists study their bones, kids gawk at them in museums; but if you ask most people if dinosaurs are in the Bible, you will most likely get a resounding, “No, that was before Adam and Eve.” However, if you read the Bible, Genesis 1:20-24 says,
“Then God said, “Let the water swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the large sea-creatures and every living creature that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds. He also created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So God blessed them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” Evening came and then morning: the fifth day. Then God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
In Genesis, you see where God created every creature, period. It does not say, “God destroyed the dinosaurs with a big meteorite that caused a massive flood which killed 99% of things living, then He repopulated it with some new kinds of creatures that were cute and fluffy.” No, Genesis is quite clear, God made all creatures over a two-day period, period. God created the universe and earth in six days, period. Some people, even some pastors and preachers say, “Well, the six days actually spanned over millions and millions of years.” If this is so, then during the third set of millions of years (their day 3), God made plants. Then, during the fourth set of millions of years (their day 4), God made sunlight. Then during the fifth set of millions of years (their day 5), God made the birds of the air and fish of the sea. And finally, on their sixth set of millions of years (their day 6), God made animals and man. So, we had plants for millions of years before we had sunlight to nourish them? You might ask about how radiocarbon dating says that dinosaurs are millions of years old, how it proves it; but the Bible speaks as if the earth is only about 6000 years, how can this be? This muse is not about the inerrancy of science that is based on guesses; it has to be guesses since we have no firsthand evidence from a million years ago to prove something is a million years old – a good site to help explain this is https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/dinosaurs-and-the-bible/). You might then say, “The Bible doesn’t even mention dinosaurs or anything like them ever being created.” It is true that the Bible does not mention the word ‘dinosaur’, the term dinosaur was not coined until 1842 CE, before that they used the words dragon, leviathan, behemoth, and tannin; a great example of this is in Job 40:15-24:
“Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you. He eats grass like an ox. Look at the strength of his loins and the power in the muscles of his belly. He stiffens his tail like a cedar tree; the tendons of his thighs are woven firmly together. His bones are bronze tubes; his limbs are like iron rods. He is the foremost of God’s works; only his Maker can draw the sword against him. The hills yield food for him, while all sorts of wild animals play there. He lies under the lotus plants, hiding in the protection of marshy reeds. Lotus plants cover him with their shade; the willows by the brook surround him. Though the river rages, Behemoth is unafraid; he remains confident, even if the Jordan surges up to his mouth. Can anyone capture him while he looks on, or pierce his nose with snares?”
This sounds like the dinosaur called diplodocus. Moreover, Job mentions the Leviathan in Job 41,
“Can you pull in Leviathan with a hook or tie his tongue down with a rope? Can you put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he beg you for mercy or speak softly to you? Will he make a covenant with you so that you can take him as a slave forever? Can you play with him like a bird or put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain for him or divide him among the merchants? Can you fill his hide with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay a hand on him. You will remember the battle and never repeat it! Any hope of capturing him proves false. Does a person not collapse at the very sight of him? No one is ferocious enough to rouse Leviathan; who then can stand against Me? Who confronted Me, that I should repay him? Everything under heaven belongs to Me. I cannot be silent about his limbs, his power, and his graceful proportions. Who can strip off his outer covering? Who can penetrate his double layer of armor? Who can open his jaws, surrounded by those terrifying teeth? His pride is in his rows of scales, closely sealed together. One scale is so close to another that no air can pass between them. They are joined to one another, so closely connected they cannot be separated. His snorting flashes with light, while his eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flaming torches shoot from his mouth; fiery sparks fly out! Smoke billows from his nostrils as from a boiling pot or burning reeds. His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames pour out of his mouth. Strength resides in his neck, and dismay dances before him. The folds of his flesh are joined together, solid as metal and immovable. His heart is as hard as a rock, as hard as a lower millstone! When Leviathan rises, the mighty are terrified; they withdraw because of his thrashing. The sword that reaches him will have no effect, nor will a spear, dart, or arrow. He regards iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. No arrow can make him flee; slingstones become like stubble to him. A club is regarded as stubble, and he laughs at the sound of a javelin. His undersides are jagged potsherds, spreading the mud like a threshing sledge. He makes the depths seethe like a cauldron; he makes the sea like an ointment jar. He leaves a shining wake behind him; one would think the deep had gray hair! He has no equal on earth—a creature devoid of fear! He surveys everything that is haughty; he is king over all the proud beasts.”
Now, that is a dragon just as much as the sun comes up in the East; and think of this, Job wrote this at the same time the Chinese, Indians, and Greeks were writing about dragons in their countries. Now you might ask me, “Are you saying dragons were real?” To that, I say yes. If you look in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary for the definition of a dragon, you will see, “DRAGON, noun – A genus of animals, the Draco. They have four legs, a cylindrical tail, and membranaceous wings, radiated like the fins of a flying-fish.” Just because something does not exist now, does not mean it did not exist in the past; countless lifeforms become extinct yearly, but that does not mean they never existed. Look in the old stories, tales, books, paintings, and pottery; these are the history books of the past for many civilizations, we have the Bible as our definitive history book.
People say, “Well, the Bible speaks of unicorns!” Of course it does, they existed. However, they were not the pretty little white horses with the flowing mains and shining horn, they were the now extinct giant one-horned rhinoceros (scientific name elasmotherium sibiricum), the Asian One-Horned Rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicornis), and the black rhinoceros (diceros bicornis).
In Deuteronomy 33:17-19, the King James Version says, “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns” in Job 39:10, the King James Version says, “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?” For these verses, I used the King James Version of the Bible because the HCSB changes unicorn(s) to ox(en); HCSB places a footnote on one page to show that the term unicorn has been translated to mean ox, buffalo, or rhinoceros.
In the 1828 Noah Webster dictionary, you find the definition of unicorn: “An animal with one horn, the monoceros. This name is often applied to the rhinoceros.” The Bible speaks of both one and two horn ‘unicorns’; the one and two horn rhinoceros’s. Remember when I said the Bible started out written in Hebrew and Greek, than was translated to Latin? When the Bible was translated to Latin, the Hebrew word used for the unicorn creature was r’em; r’em translated to Latin is unicornis – unus means one, and cornu means horn. When one reviews old dictionaries, one sees that unicornis and rhinoceros were used interchangeably; hence, a unicorn and a rhino were the same creature.
What can we deduce from this micro-study about ‘mythical’ and extinct creatures? Simple, words change and evolve over time. Take the word awful for example; what would happen if I told my wife she was awful? I would be doing some linguistic dancing most likely. However, what if it was 700 years ago and I told her that? I bet I would be getting a kiss. You see, awful meant “inspiring wonder” and was a short version of “full of awe”. This is a reason why the modern translations of the Bible are popular. A well done modern translation that strives to be as close to word-for-word is a blessing; this is why I use the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Here is a description about the HCSB from their website: “The HCSB is a literal translation of the Scriptures utilizing modern English wording and grammar. The HCSB utilizes the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition, the 5th edition of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia for the Old Testament, and the Dead Sea Scrolls in its translation. There are a few places in the New Testament that the translation team and most biblical scholars today believe were not part of the original text; however, these texts were retained (and indicated in large square brackets) because of their undeniable antiquity and their value for tradition and the history of New Testament interpretation in the church.”
Do not get me wrong, most translation carry the proper contextual meaning. However, there are ones where man has written them to follow man’s will instead of God’s Will, when this is found, they are called out and exposed. When man starts adding to and changing the meanings of God’s words, God is not happy – take the warning from Revelations 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.” This dire warning is given for the Book of Revelations, but God warns us all throughout the Bible not to corrupt His words or you will suffer His wrath. Think on this one: in the very beginning of the Bible, the very first sin is caused because somebody added to God’s word; as I said earlier in Genesis 3:3, Eve tells Satan, “But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” Eve added to the word of God, and because of that, Satan was able to place doubt into the mind of Adam and Eve; and we now die because of this. You might ask how I can say Eve added to the word of God; for this, look back at Genesis 2:16-17. Genesis 2:16-17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” If Adam had instructed Eve by saying, “do not eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, or we will die”; Adam would have been expelled from the Garden because he would be adding to the word of God – God never warned of touching the fruit, just of eating of it. Because Eve added to the word of God, sin entered into the world and we have all been destined to bodily death; yet we still have the chance for eternal life if we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour.
Is the Bible bigoted, unloving, and hateful? Do ‘hard-line Christians’ misquote the Bible to push their own agenda?
Many people speak of the Bible as pushing hate speech, how it has been ‘mistranslated’ to put sinners in a bad light; however, look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.” Is this a mistranslation? Is this a case where the words of then do not mean what they do today? For this I ask you a question back: Why was Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? They were destroyed because sexual immorality and idolatry was prevalent, the town was pure evil.
God abhors sin, the Bible tells me so. In Colossians 3:5-8, “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” But wait, do not fear that all is lost, because Paul goes on to tell us that Christ saved the believer; Colossians 3 continues (9-12), “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self, with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” This is not hate speech; this is the talk of a loving and caring Saviour who wants to give His obedient children everlasting life. All that the Father asks is that we accept the Son for what He did for us, that we believe that His Son came in the flesh to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, that we are reborn as His children; that we believe this with the faith of a child. The Father offers us eternal adoption into His home. In Romans 8:13-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
When the Bible speaks of adoption, it is not speaking of adoptions as they are today; an adoption in the biblical times was for the adopting family. A biblical adoption consisted of where a wealthy aristocrat went outside of his household to find an heir. The adopted child usually had parents who loved the child, but they knew that the child was much better off being adopted by the new family. For the family performing the adoption, it was just as much for the family as it was for the child; you see, it was the only way to preserve the family by providing an heir. In the adoption, the adoptee received a completely new identity; his old obligations and debts were fully taken care of by his new father, his past became non-existent; he was truly reborn as a new child of the family. From the standpoint of the family, the adoptee became the same person as the adopter; they became the immediate heir of the parents, all wealth was bestowed on the new child immediately without any thoughts to his past. This is one of the meanings of John 3:3 where Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”” To be adopted into the house of the Lord is to be truly born again.
Is the Bible bigoted, unloving, and hateful? As is apparent all throughout the Bible, the answer is an undeniable no.
So, back to the second question, “Is the Bible a living document that needs to conform to the times at hand?”
Remember when I asked you to think on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”; do you remember that? The Bible says that all Scripture is inspired by God. If one truly believes the Bible is the word of God, to say the Bible needs to change for the times at hand is to say God was wrong, that God made a mistake. God does not make mistakes, humans make mistakes; God does not, and never will, make a mistake. To believe only parts of the Bible are meant for today is saying God is wrong; to believe this, you are not a Christian and you will not be one until you truly believe ALL that is written in the Bible. The Bible is not a smorgasbord where one picks and chooses according to ones tastes, to treat it as such is blasphemous and takes you far from the narrow road; and as Jesus told His Disciples in Mathew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” Keep the straight and narrow, repent of your sins, and do not be lukewarm, for the Bible warns of this in Revelations 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.”
On a final note, always remember that religion is man-made, and all man-made things are destined to be flawed; corruption and humanism leach into all things made by man. Christianity is not man-made; Christianity is formed by God through the faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ. To be a Christian one must fully accept the word of God as true; if an idea or teaching goes against what the Bible states, step back and research the Scriptures and you will find the truth. God is Truth, period.