A WORD ABOUT THE WORD
by Glen Penton
Since beginning to serve the Lord on the Internet, I have been surprised to
find a number of Messianics who haven't yet clearly understood that the Bible
is really God's Word to us, and that its message is both true and authoritative, because God is true, and because He is Lord. This is a matter that needs to be resolved as a part of every believer's basic discipleship: that the Bible is God's Word. It is not up for our judgments about whether or not it is right. It is right. We are wrong.
The "Original" Language of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures
This is an important issue that the Messianic Community needs to address unitedly, decisively, and as soon as possible.
It is probable that much of the dialogue and teaching reported in the
Gospels may have been carried on in Hebrew or Aramaic.
It is likely that much of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures were originally thought out in Hebrew or Aramaic in the minds of the human authors, then penned in the Jewish dialect of Greek, called Koine.
It is not unlikely that much of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures were originally composed using notes or other documents in Hebrew and/or Aramaic. These earlier documents may have (on a human level) originated with the inspired authors or with others. These earlier documents may have been translated, either literally or freely (I should mention here that the whole issue of ancient translation methods is very complex and interesting. Suffice it to say that "literal" and "idiomatic" were not the only two approaches some of them seemed to recognize.) into Koine Greek, or simply drawn upon for information, inspiration, etc., without any activity that we would call translation today. Whatever earlier documents, in whatever languages, the writers of the Renewed Covenant may have used, these earlier documents were not the Renewed Covenant. They were something else. Jude used the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. There are texts where the writer of Hebrews used IV Maccabees and Luke used the Testament of the 12. No doubt some of the writers wrote partly from their earlier notes. The Gospels are written in excellent Greek overall, but the quotations from Yeshua are in poor, stilted Greek. It may be that the Gospel writers were translating Him very literally from Hebrew or Aramaic, so that a knowledgeable reader would know precisely what He said. As good as any of these sources may have been, their use in writing Scripture did not turn them into Scripture. It would be interesting and useful to have more of these earlier documents, if more exist. When we have access to such documents, we can judge their accuracy by comparing them to Scripture. But it would be an insult on God's character to consider "correcting" God's Bible by recourse to them.
What we know for sure is that the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit gave us are the Scriptures we have. By God's Providence, they are in the languages they are in. The Scriptures of the First Covenant are written mostly in Hebrew, but some texts are in Aramaic. So we often refer to that part of the Bible as the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians traditionally refer to it as the Old Testament. Only the New Testament is the New Testament. It was written in Greek, not in some other language. Our faith is based on these two texts which God's Spirit wrote for us through some of His human servants. The two texts are commonly called the Old Testament and the New Testament. Their truthfulness should not be a matter for debate within the Messianic Community. Those of us who fall for the pseudo-intellectual sophistry of slandering God's Word on the basis of some presumed earlier document should be lovingly, gently, respectfully, but very decisively, corrected.
Likewise, it would be entirely out of line for any of us to undertake to criticize the Holy Spirit for the language in which He chose to write the New Testament. We know that Israeli Jews of that time could and did speak and write in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and other languages. It is not anti-Semitic to believe that a Jew could speak or write other languages besides Hebrew. (I can hardly believe that it is actually necessary to remind educated Jews of such basic facts, but we humans get confused easily, don't we?) Most contemporary scholars believe that the Koine Greek word "Evra-ithi" may refer to either Hebrew or Aramaic. Whether or not they are right, it is wrong and slanderous to accuse them of anti-Semitism. It is certainly not unusual for two languages so similar to be considered two dialects of the same language.
We have plenty of issues of translation, interpretation, application and
apologetics that we may need to debate, to clarify the facts and issues
involved. But let's stand together on the inspiration and authority of God's
Watch out for the Charlatans
For Messianics, the Bible is the entire basis of our faith and unity. If it is not reliable, then we know absolutely nothing about Yeshua and not much about God or the universe around us, and certainly no good reason to be Messianic or Jewish. Yet some Messianics are being attracted to teachers who deny the reliability of the Bible because it does not confirm their preconceptions.
He has preserved His Book for you.
For the most glaring current example, Bivin, Blizzard, and the rest of the so-called "Jerusalem School" claim some kind of deep, scholarly knowledge of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures based on their "insight" into rabbinics. They are frauds, not reputable scholars. Nor are they Bible-believers. They claim to be both, so that they can get the Christians' $$$$. The seek to "correct" God's Word to make it square with their own opinions. But we need to see through that kind of scam and not be taken in. Likewise, some of the extremists of the "Holy Name" persuasion criticize Scripture for not supporting some of their opinions.
Sometimes ignorant or dishonest people raise pseudo-issues to persuade you to
doubt God's Word. Let's briefly consider four of them:
"The Bible has mistakes."
No it doesn't. People make mistakes in how we copy, translate, interpret or
apply Scripture. But the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible through well-prepared
human instruments. In doing so He gave us God's message accurately. He did
not always undertake to keep His writers and copyists from non-standard grammatical usages and non-standard spellings of words. That sort of thing was far less important to the ancients than it is to educated Westerners today.
Having conceded that, I suspect that when it's all said and done, we may find
that many of the phrases that look like poor grammar to 20th century
scholars, will turn out to be idioms.
"The manuscripts disagree with each other."
Yes, but the differences are nearly all small and technical, mostly involving
the spelling of some Greek or Hebrew word. Besides, God has seen to the preservation of thousands of very old copies of the Bible, many times more copies than for any other documents written before the invention of the printing press. So in the very few places where there is a more significant disagreement (such as some manuscripts lacking a particular sentence or paragraph), it is not too difficult for intellectually honest scholars to compare the manuscripts and retrieve all of God's Message for us.
"We don't have the original copy."
If it ever existed, who needs it? The Bible that the Holy Spirit has preserved for us is the Bible God has given us to believe and follow. In practical terms, that's the Massoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures, which our rabbis have always used, and the so-called Byzantine/Majority Text of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures, which the Greek-speaking Christians have been reading and memorizing in their churches every week since the end of the first century.
"The Bible is not all of God's Word."
Certainly not! God has been around a very long time, and has said very many
things. He has let people hear some of them. The Bible is just the part of His Message that He wanted to preserve for all people of every generation and every place. Nothing He has ever said or ever will say disagrees with it. Every other purported revelation may be judged by the standard of Scripture. Nothing true will ever be in disagreement with it. When people put extra books into His Bible during the dark ages, the extra books were soon shown up for what they were: good literature, perhaps messages from God, but not a part of His Bible.
Hasatan wants you to ignore and disbelieve it.
God wants you to read, study, believe and obey it.
It will protect you from hasatan's lies.
Trust God. Trust His Bible.
summary of biblical history
a word study
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