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Bible - How it came to be

A detailed look at how the Bible was preserved


FROM THE BOOK "HOW WE GOT THEBIBLE"  by  Neil R. Lightfoot.
Pertinent facts you should know for the strengthening of your
Christian faith, compiled by Keith Hunt.

When I entered the Church of God back in the winter of 1961/62
some of the first books I obtained was on HOW we got our present
day King James Bible. A few of the books were LARGE and somewhat
technical. I particularly enjoyed and was appreciative of a
smaller book, of about 126 pages. It is from this book by Neil
Lightfoot that the following pertinent information is re-produced
for your edification. 



FROM THE FOREWORD:

     This study seeks to be a factual and honest account of how
the Bible has been preserved and handed down to our generation.
The subject is vast and at times complex. It has been my constant
aim, therefore, to simplify the material and to state it, as far
as possible, in a non-technical manner..........Although this
edition is designed for the average reader, it is hoped that it
will be useful for the general Bible class as well......Two
current books(that was back in 1962 when the author wrote these
words - Keith Hunt) which are especially recommended are OUR
BIBLE AND THE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS, by Sir Frederic Kenyon
(revised by A.W. Adams), and THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS, by
F.F. Bruce........... 


FROM CHAPTER ONE: The Making of Ancient Books

     How the Bible has come down to us is a story of adventure
and devotion.......the Bible did not just happen nor has it been
preserved through the years by mere CHANCE. The Bible is a MARVEL
all its own......
     The starting-point of our Bible is preceded and determined
by another story, the history of ancient books and writing...Thus
the whole history of the Bible is conditioned upon (1) the
history of writing, and (2) the history of the materials used in
the making of ancient books. Our Bible is a very old book, but it
is by no means the OLDEST book in the world. Discoveries made
within the last century show that writing was a well-established
art in many countries long before the beginning of the Hebrew
nation in the land of Palestine. The earliest known examples of
writing carry us into the ancient land of Egypt.......In
Babylonia inscriptions are extent of king Sargon 1 who lived
about 3750 B.C., and the writings of the Sumerians of this area
date back even earlier. In Palestine itself letters written by
governors of cities date as early as 1500 B.C........

     1. STONE. In almost every region the earliest material on
which writing has been found is stone.......

     2. CLAY. In the countries of Assyria and Babylonia the
predominant writing material was clay.......

     3.  WOOD.  Wooden tablets were used quite generally by the
ancients for writing purposes.......

     4.  LEATHER. For hundreds of years leather of animal skins
played an important role in the history of the Bible. Leather is
not specified in the OT, but it was unquestionably the principal
material employed for literary purposes by the Hebrews........

     5.  PAPYRUS. The significant role of leather for the OT is
played  by papyrus in the NT. Indeed, papyrus was the most
important writing material which could be found in the ancient
world and was so widely used that it is practically certain that
the original NT letters were penned on papyrus sheets......About
the time of the first or second century A.D., however, the
papyrus ROLL began to give way to what is known as the papyrus
CODEX. A codex manuscript is simply what we know today as a
book.......

     6.  VELLUM or PARCHMENT. Vellum came into prominence as a
writing material due to the efforts of King Eumenes 2 (197-158
B.C.) of Pergamum in Asia Minor........by perfecting an improved
process in the treatment of skins. The result of this improvement
is known as VELLUM or PARCHMENT.......Vellum manuscripts are
beautiful in appearance.......the most important feature about
vellum is its DURABILITY. Papyrus by nature is fragile and
subject to decay.......so from the fourth century through the
Middle Ages the principal receptacle for the written Word of God
was vellum.

     7.  PAPER. Paper also reaches back to the ancient
world......the Chinese people as early as the second century
B.C., but it was not until much later before the secret of
paper-making became known to the rest of the world. This came
about in the middle of the eighth century A.D. when Arabs
captured some Chinese prisoners who were skilled in the making of
paper.......

     8.  OTHER writing materials.  Other kinds of materials such
as wax, lead, linen, pieces of pottery, etc. were used for
writing by the ancients.......


FROM CHAPTER TWO: The Birth of the Bible

     It is not possible for us to fix with EXACT precision the
circumstances of the Bible's origin. We cannot go to a specific
time and place and say that here the Bible had its birth.....from
century to century the many books of the Bible were coming into
being separately and under varying conditions.......it is a
treasure-house of sacred books which has grown through the
centuries......And it is the firm belief of the Christian that
the Bible is honored today because in the past it grew under the
favorable and directing influence of Him who is the Author of all
things.

                 THE EARLY FORM OF OUR BIBLE

     .........At first and for a long time God's communication to
man was oral........But the time came when it was necessary for
the divine will to be put in a more permanent form, and that a
record of God's revelations be made for succeeding
generations.....The first person in the Bible as mentioned as
writing anything is Moses.......In the early books of the Bible
there are SIX distinct things attributed to his hand: (1) the
memorial concerning Amalek (Ex.17:14);  (2) the words of the
covenant made at Sinai (Ex.24:4);  (3) the Ten Commandments
(Ex.34:27,28);  (4) the journeys of the children of Israel in the
wilderness (Num.33:2);  (5) the Book of the Law which was to be
kept with the Ark of the Covenant (Deut.31:9,24);  (6) the Song
found in Deuteronomy 32:1-43 (Deut.31:22).  In addition, Moses is
held by strict Jewish tradition as being the author of the first
five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Other writers of
the Bible and the Lord Himself gave unvarying support to this
view (cf. Josh.8:31; Judg.3:4; Mal.4:4; Luke 24:44; John 7:19).
     When once divine revelation was put in writing, it was
natural for other revelations and events to be recorded. So the
successor of Moses, Joshua, also wrote words "in the
book of the law of the Lord" (Josh. 24:26).  This in turn become
the practice of other men of God who wrote both history and
prophecy. In the book of 1 Samuel it is said that the venerable
Samuel recorded certain events of his day in a book.  We read:
"Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the
kingship; and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the
Lord" (1 Sam.10:25).
     Prophets in later times are also engaged in writing books.
God speaks to Jeremiah and says: "Take a scroll and write on it
all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah
and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days
of Josiah until today" (Jer.36:2)........So the books of Moses'
law came first, then came the prophets.  In this way the OT
Scriptures grew gradually and finally came to be assembled
into an accepted collection about the time of Ezra (c.44 B.C.). 
The Jewish authority, Josephus, writing in the time of the first
century, said that no book was added to the Hebrew Scriptures
after the time of Malachi (Josephus, Against Apion I. 8.
Actually, Josephus marks off the interval of the OT canon as
being from Moses to the Persian king Artaxerxes. The time of
Artaxerxes was the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi).

     The NT came into being gradually also, although the books
themselves were written in a comparatively short period of time
(50-100 A.D.).  These books were simply letters penned by
inspired men and addressed to different churches and individuals.

From the first, however, they were looked upon as DISTINCTIVELY
AUTHORITATIVE writings; and thus were received with respect...
Soon afterward came the INTERCHANGE of extant letters among the
churches (cf.Col.4:16), the individual churches in this way
profiting from an exchange of apostolic instructions.  The next
step was the embodiment in writing of the central events of the
life of Jesus........in fulfilment of this demand Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John sent out their witness to Jesus (cf.Luke 1:1-4;
John 20:30-33).  The logical outgrowth of the four Gospels was
the book of Acts.......and as a kind of climax to the whole came
Revelation with its prospect of a triumphant Christ.  The result
of it all was that a new community of people, just like the
people of the Old Covenant, had as a cherished treasure their own
writings as "Scripture."

     ( Let me interject here that one of the very best new books
to come on the scene of the Christian world as of late is a book
called THE ORIGINAL BIBLE RESTORED by Ernest L. Martin, yes the
Ernest Martin that was a part of the WCG for many years. There
are many areas of Theology where I would be in total opposition
to Martin, but this is not one of those areas. One of the most
important teachings this book shows and proclaims is the fact
that the canonization of the NT was done during the first century
by the apostles and the first century Church of God, not by later
generations of the Roman Catholic church.  A book well worth
having in your home or church library - Keith Hunt).

                       To be continued

All emphasis in this series of articles will be both from the
authors themselves and from myself - Keith Hunt - who is
reproducing them for your edification.


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