LESSON ONE: A Biblical Starting Point

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)

Why do we believe salvation is by the grace of God apart for our own efforts and works? Is it because of the way we feel, or because of what God says about salvation in the Bible? As Christians, we believe that there was a world-wide flood which destroyed the whole world with the exception of Noah and his family. Why? Is it because some claim to have found the ark on Ararat or because the Bible claims the flood as fact? Bible-believing Christians believe in special creation and not the theory of evolution to explain the origin of man. Why so? Is it because we have had scientific creationists prove the point, or because the Bible has something to say on this issue?

The Bible-believing Christian begins his or her search for the truth with the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). By faith, we accept what God has said and then allow Him to prove it correct. It would seem strange indeed for us to expect any less when it comes to the issues of textual criticism, translational accuracy, and the preservation of scripture. Unfortunately most Christians fail to take the time to see if God has anything to say concerning these vital issues. However, like all truly important things in life, He does.

To begin with, God does not place much faith in the credibility of man with regard to His Holy Word. In Romans 3:4 we are reminded,

Let God be true, but every man a liar.

This being the final divine word on the subject, we must conclude that every scholar, every professor, every teacher, and every doctor is defined by God as a liar. This includes the good and godly scholar, as it does the fair and careless one. This covers every man, woman and child. This also includes me. None of our words are final, becausewe are defined by God as liars. The only one who is true is God.

God proclaims that His words are true (John 17:17) and without error (Psalm 119:140). He declares that His words are infallible proofs of truth (Acts 1:3). He claims to have given us the scriptures by holy and divine inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). And the Lord of Hosts states that He will keep and preserve His words longer then the existence of either heaven or earth (Psalm 12:6-7; Matt. 5:18; 24:35). In fact, God says they are incorruptible (1 Pet. 1:23).

Man was not given the job of correcting God's word. He is told not to add to or take from the words of the Lord (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18). The keeping of God's word is God's job, not man's. Concerning the words of the Lord, the inspired writer reminds us that,

Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.(Psalm 12:7).

Man can not be trusted with this job. He will think the can do a better job than God and add to them. Or else, he will think that a passage would read better if he takes something away. Man does so because he is a liar.

Further, God does not permit us to view His word as simply a good translation or the best available text to-date. The scriptures are not to be seen as the work of men, but instead as the word of God. Paul writes:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thess. 2:13).

All of this provides the Bible-believing Christian with a different starting point than the one which has influenced the thinking of modern Christendom. He starts with the firm belief that God has inspired and given His word free from all human error, and that this same God has kept and preserved His words. The Bible-believing Christian begins with Scripture and ends with full assurance that God was able to do what He proclaimed He would do.

Where do the modern scholars and translators begin? What is their view concerning the giving and keeping of God's words and what is their final conclusion? Note the following.

In his book, Dr. Alexander Souter defines the study of textual criticism in this manner.

Textual criticism seeks, by the exercise of knowledge and trained judgment, to restore the very words of some original document which has perished, and survives only in copies complete or incomplete, accurate or inaccurate, ancient or modern. If we possessed the twenty-seven documents now composing our New Testament exactly in the form in which they were dictated or written by their original authors, there would be no textual criticism of the New Testament. The original documents, however, have long perished, and we have to make the best of the copies which have survived, by howsoever many removes they may be distant from their ultimate originals. (The Text and Canon of the New Testament, 1917; p. 3. Dr. Souter was Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis in Mansfield College, Oxford).

From a human viewpoint, this definition seems logical. Dr. Souter, nevertheless, does not look to Divine intervention for the preservation and keeping of the Holy Script, but to knowledge and trained judgment. Therefore, the preservation of the word of God, according to Souter, rests in the hands of learned men.

Dr. Donald A. Carson carries the thought of copyist error to its earliest point, making the writings which Paul had just finished subject to human errors.

Paul might write a letter to the church in Colossae while sitting under house arrest in Rome. . .but that letter was soon copied by several within the church, and by a few more in the sister church at nearby Laodicea. Perhaps one of the members on a business trip to Macedonia took a copy with him; and while in Philippi he copied out the Letter to the Phillippians at the same time someone in the church at Philippi copied out the Letter to the Colossians. Of course any error that the Colossian businessman inadvertently introduced into his own copy of Paul's letter to the Colossians would get picked up by the Philippians copier. (D.A. Carson; The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, 1979; p. 16)

Drs. Geisler and Nix also depend upon the science of textual criticism to solve various errata that have crept into the process of transmission.

Since the Scriptures have undergone some two thousand years of transmission, it is only natural to ask: How much has the Bible suffered in the process? Or, to put it more precisely: Is the twentieth century English Bible an accurate reproduction of the first century Greek Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament? The answer to this question comes from the science of textual criticism, (Norman Geisler and William Nix in their book, A General Introduction to the Bible; 1968; p. 211)

In his attempt to address the KJV Only movement, James R. White compares the issues of textual criticism with errors in sports.

Men make mistakes, even when they are trying really hard. The greatest baseball player still strikes out. The greatest basketball player will miss the clutch free-throw and lose a game once in a while. The best archer will sometimes fire an arrow wide of the target. To err is human. . .there is not a single handwritten manuscript of the Bible, in Greek or Hebrew, that does not contain, somewhere, an error, an oversight, a mistake. To err is human. (The King James Only Controversy; 1995, p. 36)

The conclusion of this, as set forth by modern scholarship, can be seen in the first line of the closing paragraph in the preface to the New International Version.

Like all translations of the Bible, made as they are by imperfect man, this one undoubtedly falls short of its goals.

Thus, the judgments and insights of scholars, their desire to excel in the discipline of textual criticism, will only provide imperfection that falls short.

As one can see, modern scholarship begins with the knowledge of men and the science of textual criticism. Their final conclusion is not certainty, but ambiguity. They are certain that they are right, but they are uncertain as to the final product.

There is a three-fold process in the giving of Scripture. 1). Inspiration. 2). Canonicity. 3). Transmission. The topic of inspiration is prone to objection by scholarship in what is called higher criticism. This asks the question as to what is meant by inspiration, and does this include inerrancy? The Bible-believing Christian embraces the Scriptures as both inspired and inerrant. The reason for doing so is because the Bible claims to be both. The canon of Scripture differs among Protestants and Catholics as to what books are to be considered part of the Holy Writ. Again, Bible-believing Christians accept the sixty-six books which consists of our Old and New Testaments, and reject apocrypha books as inspired. The issue of transmission is called lower criticism or textual criticism. This covers both textual and translational issues concerning the Scriptures. Not, is it inspired, but was it copied correctly and/or translated correctly.

Here something needs to be stated about the words inerrant and infallible. In his book, The Battle For The Bible, Dr. Harold Lindsell states these two words are interchangeable and basically teach the Bible is without error (Lindsell, p. 27). There is, however, a slight difference to which the student of manuscript evidence should be aware of. While they are synonyms for each other, there is a variance. The word inerrant means without error. That is to say the Bible has no error; it is truth without any mixture of error. This is the fundamental belief among evangelical Christians, as pointed to by Lindsell, and applies to the original autographs, the writers being inspired by the Holy Ghost. Infallible carries the meaning further. Webster defines it as, "incapable of error." Therefore, infallibility would mean the Scriptures were not only given without error, but are incapable of becoming errant. That is to say, they are incorruptible (1 Pet.1:23). And, if they are truly infallible (incorruptible), then the Church of God has always had these inerrant words and still possesses them today; without the fallibility of human error interjected into their content.

It seems rather amazing, from a Scriptural point of view, that God was able to give His words without error and provide us with the knowledge as to which books were His words, only to lose them in the process of transmission. Yet, this is what modern scholarship expects us to believe as demonstrated by the earlier quotations. Thus, according to those listed above, the Bible (all sixty-six books) was given by inspiration of God, but must depend upon the integrity and intelligence of scholarship to provide for us the best and most accurate copy of what was initially given.

At this point, the Bible-believing Christian must insist that God did not profess to give us His words and allow them to be lost or tainted. The references given at the beginning of this lesson show that our Lord has stated otherwise (Ps. 12:6-7; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23). He gave us His words (inspiration and canonicity) and He has kept His words (transmission and preservation). They are both inerrant and infallible.

The final authority rests with God, not with scholarship (Heb. 4:12-13). However, man likes to assert this role. When the claim is made that two or more translations or texts are the final authority, and they differ in subject or content; then an additional authority must be introduced to resolve the conflict. Scholarship has reserved for itself this role. It judges which translation or text is the correct one. In so doing, it has made itself the final authority.

In his explanation of preservation, James R. White notes the differences in various translations and texts and states,

You see, if readings could just disappear without a trace, we would have to face the fact that the original reading may have fallen through the cracks as well. But the tenacity of the New Testament text, while forcing us to deal with textual variants, also provides us with the assurance that our work is not in vain. One of those variant readings is indeed the original. We are called to invest our energies in discovering which one it is. (The King James Only Controversy; p. 48).

However, scholarship DOES claim that some readings have disappeared. For example, Dr. Charles Ryrie states in his Study Bible concerning the reading of 1 Sam. 13:1,

The original numbers in this verse have apparently been lost in transmission. (Ryrie Study Bible, p. 432).

White, himself, does not believe the ending of Mark 16:9-20 to be the proper ending of that gospel, but was added at some later date. Have we lost the real ending to Mark's gospel? If not, where is it? As one can see, redefining preservation leaves us on shaky ground. The Scriptures remind us that

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (Ps. 118:8);

and,

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him. (2 Sam. 22:31).

We can not trust man, for he will lie (Rom. 3:4). The arm of flesh will fail us (2 Chron. 32:8). But we can be assured that God is quite able and has kept and preserved His words without error and that we still have these preserved words today.

One additional note by Mr. White concerning the issue of preservation. On page 47 of his book, The King James Only Controversy, he states:

KJV Only advocates are quick to assert that those who do not join them in making the KJV the final authority in all things do not believe in the preservation of the Scriptures. Almost all KJV Only books will contain a section on how God has promised to preserve His words, and they will, of course, assume that these words are found in the KJV. At this point they believe themselves to be holding the high ground in the debate, fighting for a belief that all Christians would naturally defend: the idea that God has revealed himself, and has done so in such a way that we can continue to know that revelation perfectly today.

I quote from Bro. White for this reason: I have not stated in the above lesson which translation, if any, is the preserved word of God. Only that we are forced to believe that God has kept and preserved His words without error, if we are to believe the Scriptures. God simply said He would keep and preserve His words, now and forever. I have not insisted that you believe that this preserved word of God is the King James Bible (although I do and will give reason as to why in later lessons). I have insisted that God said He would preserve His words, and that modern scholarship ultimately denies Biblical preservation and replaces it with human uncertainty. Our Biblical starting point is the assurance that God gave us His words and has preserved them, "from this generation for ever."

For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. (Ps. 119:89).

PROBLEM PASSAGES:

The question was asked: "When Jesus confronted Peter and thrice asked, 'Do you love me?' he used two different words in Greek, why wasn't this captured in the English translation? Of the two occurrences which do use the same word, does the voice change or is it constant."

The passage is found in John 21:15-17 which reads as follows.

15: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16: He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17: He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

There are two different Greek words translated as love in this passage. One is agape and the other is phileo. According to the Greek text (and this is true of all Greek texts) the first two times Jesus uses the word love He uses the Greek word agape. Both of these times Peter responds with phileo. On the third time, when Jesus speaks the word love, the word phileo is used by Christ. To this, Peter responds with phileo. Some suggest that the Greek word agape means a deeper love, while the Greek word phileo means friendship or affection.

The King James Bible is not alone in translating both words the same way. The standard Spanish translation is the Valera. What the KJV is to the English-speaking world, the Valera is to the Spanish- speaking world. Each time the Lord asks, "me amas?" to which Peter replies, "Si, Senor; tu sabes que te amo." In every case, the Spanish word for love is used, not two different words.

The standard French Bible is the Louis Segond. All three times the Lord uses the word, "m'aimes-tu," and Peter replies with "t'aime." It is the same French word for love.

The Italian Bible is the Giovanni Diodati. In the gospel according to Giovanni (John), the Italian word "amo" is used throughout the passage.

And, of course, Luther's German Bible uses the German word for love, which is, "lieber."

Even the NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV, TEV, and NEB translated both Greek words as love in this passage. So the KJV is not at all alone in its translation. Leaving the Greek to use two different words.

Or, is it? Most scholars teach the two different Greek words agape and phileo, mean two different things, or at the very least, two different types of love (such as, I love my wife and I love pizza). However, this does not bear itself out in the Greek New Testament. The simple fact is that these two words are used interchangeably, both meaning love. If phileo means friendship and not godly love, then why does Christ use it in Revelation 3:19? "As many as I love, I rebuke."

Read John 20:2. Is it agape or phileo? How about John 16:27? Is this agape or phileo? How about John 5:20 or 11:3,36? Reading the context of these passages and being told that agape means godly love one might think this is the Greek word used in these passages. However, the word phileo is used in all. Both words mean love and are used interchangeably.

There is also another dimension of this argument which most scholars and Bible teachers ignore. We do not know that this passage was originally spoken in Greek. It may have been spoken in Hebrew or Aramaic. And, for that matter, we do not know what the original Greek manuscript had. We only know how the copies read.

Finally, the real issues here was not the change of Greek words. Peter was not grieved because Christ had changed Greek words. He was grieved because he asked three times. It was not the change in words or tense that disturbed Peter. It was, "because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?" Does not this passage in John 21 prove the point that agape and phileo are interchangeable? Jesus asks, "lovest (agape) thou me" (vs. 15), "lovest (agape) thou me" (vs. 16), and "lovest (phileo) thou me" (vs. 17). When Christ asks this last time, the texts states, "He saith unto him THE THIRD TIME" (vs.17). This is true only if these two words are interchangeable. If they are not interchangeable and carry different meanings, the text is in error, for it was not the third time. If the two words carry the same meaning, the text would be correct as it stands in the Greek manuscripts.

Students are free to respond to the above lesson and problem passage. The next lesson will be sent after the discussion of this one. I hope this has been a blessing to you, even as it has been to me in preparing it. Until later, God bless as you labor for Him.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Dr. Thomas D. Holland, Th. D.

Psalm 118:8


To participate in Dr. Holland's class, click on Dr. Holland's e-mail address, which is:

logos1611@aol.com

and tell Dr. Holland that you would like to participate in the class.

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Holy Spirit is now occupied in performing, is that of directing sinners to Jesus, and inclining and enabling them to come to Him, that they may be saved; and since this is the case, I am a fellow worker with God the Holy Spirit only in so far as I tell anxious sinners TO LOOK TO JESUS ONLY, and have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins," as their first and great business; and "this one, thing I do."