WHICH SCRIPTURES ARE INSPIRED Raul Enyedi
WHICH SCRIPTURES ARE INSPIRED
Sermon 1 of 5
First part: The relevance of the subject
[Romanian pastor and missionary Raul Enyedi preached this series at his congregation’s annual Winter Conference. He preached as a Romanian using the common Romanian translation of the Holy Bible. I have taken the liberty of changing his quotations into the King James Version which is commonly used among us today in the United States. These sermons were translated by another individual and so some grammatical corrections have been made and clarifications added in brackets. Curtis Pugh].
The Bible is the book with the largest circulation in the history of humanity. It is the most printed and read book in all the history of man. There have been printed more than 3 billion copies, in more than 2,300 languages. At the same time, the Bible is also the most hunted-for book. Throughout history it has been searched for as a subversive, dangerous book and systematically destroyed in various totalitarian regimes (for instance, in the Communist era). Even in the Catholic totalitarianism of the Dark Ages, its reading by laymen was forbidden by law and any translation of it in vernacular languages was banned. But the people continued to love it. Many underground copies would circulate and people would even pay for hearing it being read for few hours.
The Bible is the most loved book on the Planet. Millions of people have preferred to give up their lives rather than their faith in it. Yet, there is no other book that people hate more, misinterpret more and attack more than the Bible. Millions have criticized it, thinking that they would bring its end, but the Bible has continued to stand until today, while hundreds of critical theories against it have fallen into derision and oblivion. We are living in a time when asserting that the Scripture represents the final authority, sufficient for all we believe and do, is considered a puerile, ignorant statement not to be taken seriously. Yet, the authority of the Scripture is the most serious subject for the Christian who truly believes in the God of the Scripture. If God’s enemies could destroy the faith of the people in the Scriptures, then the whole of Christianity would crumble down. God’s enemies who are undercover (and who seem today to be more abundant than ever before) – those wolves in lambskins that the Savior spoke about – claim that we have to be loyal to a person, not to a writing. Some would call us bibliolaters, i.e., worshippers of the Bible. Yet, we answer that loyalty to the Scriptures is the sign of loyalty to the Savior. The Scripture Itself leads us to being loyal to Christ, and there cannot be loyalty to Christ without loyalty to His written Word, which is the way He speaks to us today.
The purpose we have and this conference has is not to defend the Scripture in front of its attackers. The Bible is its own defender. Its fantastic power makes it invincible and indestructible. And we do believe the words of Christ who said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Our purpose is to strengthen our faith in the Bible and in its authority. Knowing the reasons for which the Scripture has authority will strengthen our faith in God and will help us better fulfill His will.
The uniqueness of this Book is due to its power to transform individuals, families, communities and even nations. No other written document has ever contributed so much to the shaping of human history as the Bible has.
The way we look at the Scripture is a mirror of our living with God. George Muller once said: “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” The life of every person that takes the Scripture seriously will change radically. That person will produce a new translation of the Scriptures, not one written on paper, but a living one, composed of words and actions, a translation known and read by all men.
Every family that applies the principles of the Scriptures to their life will be guarded against the family tragedies and traumas that are so spread today. The cause for which there are so many torn-apart families and so many children of Christian parents that go worldly is because families do not find time any more for Bible study and prayer. The renowned W.E. Vine said once: “A family without Scripture reading is like a ship without chart or compass.” Many parents are not able to answer the questions their children and youth have and prefer to delegate this responsibility of spiritual teaching to churches, Sunday schools, youth leaders, etc. Yet, the solution will not come from this, but from the parents assuming their responsibility of teaching the children i.e., to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This means spiritual determination and discipline, and time spent by the whole family around the Scriptures.
Every congregation of Christ which holds fast the Scripture and does not compromise it will be blessed by her Head and will prosper spiritually. The attitude toward the Scriptures determines the direction of a congregation. The congregation was left to be the pillar and the foundation of the truth and has to contend earnestly in order to guard and pass on “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” [Jude 1:3]. Departing from the Scripture, taking away from it or adding to it is the first sign of the apostasy of a congregation.
The number of youth raised in Christian families who cease attending Christian congregations is continually growing, as the number of the persons converted from the world is decreasing. Moreover, the spiritual level of the people in the congregations is less than pitiful. People are praying for revivals, but many believe that the youth can be brought back, those without converted and those within revived by contemporary music, shows, entertainment or miracles, more or less counterfeited. Spurgeon declared: “If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons!” It is not music that will bring people to Christ, but the proclaiming of the Gospel and the solid teaching that would make the Bible relevant! “…Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). Every nation will be blessed by God if it respects the Scripture, but His hand will judge sternly every society that turns against the Bible. Where the Scripture is respected, there will be mature, responsible ethics and civil conduct. Freedom will blossom and corruption will be strongly diminished, for the principles of the Scriptures are not contrary to any wise and just laws. True Christians are the best citizens of each normal society. But where the Bible is neglected or condemned, we will see a desperate society, an oppressive leadership and corruption triumphing at all levels.
Thus, the purpose of this conference is to strengthen our faith in the authority of the Scriptures. The return to the Scriptures along with the recognition of their authority is the answer to the challenges of the world we live in and for the questions we meet. This is what is able to change our life in all its aspects, at personal and family level, at congregational and even societal level.
Second part: A Few “technical” data about this amazing Book we call
“The Scripture” or “The Bible”
Firstly, what does the name of the book mean? We call it the Holy Scripture or the Holy Writ or the Bible. The word “Scripture” means “writing” and the word Bible comes from the Greek biblia, meaning “books.” The Holy Bible means “The Holy Books.” It has two major divisions which we call “The Old and the New Testament.” The first who used the expression “The Old Testament” is the apostle Paul, in II Corinthians 3:14. And the first who used the expression “The New Testament” was Tertullian, at the beginning of the 3rd century. The books of the Bible were written over a period of 1,500 years, in various places, spreading from Babylon to Rome. The authors come from various social levels: kings, archivists, physicians, poets, philosophers, prophets and fishermen. The variety of the literary styles comprised within its covering is equally large: narratives, lyrical poems, speeches, drama, maxims and letters. Despite this great diversity, we find in the Scripture an amazing unity of thought and purpose, as if it had but one author and not forty. It has no internal contradictions and logical fractures. As something new was being written, it did not annulled, nor contradicted anything that had already been written, but only completed it. The statements and prophecies from the beginning contain in themselves the germs of all those that will succeed them, which gives the Book its progressive character. Moreover, in all this vast and various collection of writings there is but one central character: the Messiah. The [Holy Spirit through the] hopeful expectation of Him has brought about what we call the Old Testament, while His coming and short stay on Earth has brought about what we call the New Testament.
About the Old Testament
The Old Testament comprises 39 books, arranged in several configurations: for example, in some arrangements, Nehemiah was put together with Ezra, Judges was together with Ruth. The ancient Hebrews recognized only these [39 books] as God’s written Word. What we call “The Old Testament” was named by them the Law (Torah) and the Prophets (the rest of the books) or the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms (the poetic writings that began with the Psalms). This is the way the writings were grouped together. The famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote in the first century A.D.: “For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, (as the Greeks have,) but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses… the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.” (Against Apion, 1:37-43).
Due to this conviction regarding the origin and the significance of these books, the Hebrews developed a special class of intelligentsia within their culture made up of scribes, teachers of the Law and masorets, whose principal duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with virtually perfect fidelity, we are told by professor Bernard Ramm. No other ancient manuscript has been preserved with such a great care as the books of the Old Testament. This fidelity to each letter and stroke of a pen was due to the fact that they believed that these books were God’s written Word. In the 3rd century B.C., during the rule of king Ptolemaeus II of Egypt (285-247), a great number of Hebrew scholars gathered in Alexandria in order to translate the Torah, i.e., the Law, into Greek. In time, the Prophets were also translated and then other thirteen further writings, known as the Apocrypha. This translation is known as the Septuagint, that is, the translation of the 70 elders. As Christianity spread mostly in the Greek-speaking world, when quoting the Old Testament, the authors of the books that make up the New Testament utilized mostly this version. It is estimated that from all the Old Testament quotations that appear in the New Testament, 60 up to 70% are taken from the Septuagint.
About the New Testament
The appearance of the long waited-for Messiah, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, has produced what we call “The New Testament.” Jesus Himself did not write any book, but His life, death and resurrection have occasioned the writing of the 27 books that make up the New Testament. Eight (possibly nine) authors have written these books grouped in three categories: (1) Biographies of the Lord Jesus: 4 books, i.e., the Gospels; (2) The history of the early development of the congregations: 1 book, The Book of Acts; (3) doctrinal and practical books, being addressed to congregations or individual members of congregations (the rest of 21 books); 4. A prophetic book, written in the style of the Old Testament prophets, addressed to seven congregations, The Revelation. The epistles are the first books written, chronologically speaking. All these books were written by the apostles (eye-witnesses of Jesus’ ministry) or people from their company (Mark, Luke), before A.D. 80. These books enjoyed great favor among the congregations. Many copies of them have been written down and they would be sent from congregation to congregation. “The writings of the New Testament were read in the congregations (I Thess. 5:27), were sent from one congregation to another (Col. 4:16; II Pet. 3:15, 16) and were used as warnings against false teachings (II Thess. 2:2)” says Harold Rawlings.
In A.D. 112, Pliny the Younger, the governor of Bythinia, wrote to Emperor Trajan about the Christians: “They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day,” which was unusual, weird and suspicious for those times. But what did these Christians do when they got together? Justin the Martyr would answer what they used to do around A.D. 150: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits” (Apologia I, 67). So, in addition to the memoirs of the Apostles (what we call the New Testament), the writings of the Prophets (the Old Testament) were also read, then there were instructions and exhortations, the Supper would be celebrated and the gathering would end with a collection of money. Why would the Christians gather regularly? In order to study the Scripture: this would occupy the central place in the congregation.
How can we be sure that what we read today is according to the original texts?
Today, there exist none of the original manuscripts. Due to their absence and to our dependency on copies of the original manuscripts (which, after all, are imperfect), many try to cast doubt on the text we have today, saying or implying that one cannot certainly know what was written then, and that the text we have today is a corrupt, unreliable one. By doing this, they try to push down the faith of the people in the Scripture and in the existence of a final authority for belief and conduct.
Yet, what does the evidence say? Despite the fact that we do not have the originals, we do have sufficient material to “reconstruct” them by comparing the three available sources: 1. The ancient Greek manuscripts; 2. The early translations in Syrian, Egyptian, etc; 3. Quotations from the early Christian authors (the “Church Fathers”). The great number of Greek manuscripts makes the New Testament the most copied book of antiquity, outnumbering by far the rest of the books written in that age. The New Testament can be reconstructed accurately even from the quotations of the Christian authors of the first three centuries (with the exception of 11 verses). Today we have about 5,000 manuscripts that mostly agree with one another (95%). There are some differences among the manuscripts, but most of them are insignificant. “Only 400 or so of the 150,000 variants materially affect the sense, and of these, perhaps fifty are of real significance. But no essential teaching of the New Testament is greatly affected by them,” says Allen Paul Wikgren, expert on text. Seven eighths from the compiled text are identical. One eighth represents mostly changes of the order of the words and such small procedures. It is just a thousandth part from the text that represents substantial differences. No doctrine from the Scripture would be affected if there would be taken into account all the texts where the words vary or if all the words disputed would be omitted. W.E. Vine says “Though the autographs themselves do not exist, yet the evidence goes to show that the resulting text arrived at by the collation of the best manuscripts practically represents the originals.” Harold Rawlings declares that “Each of the manuscripts discovered so far proves thoroughly the reliability of the Scripture in its present form.”And Sir Frederick G. Kenyon, former Chief Librarian at British Museum, assures us that “…each Christian believer can keep the Bible in his hands and can say without fear or doubt that he holds God’s true Word, transmitted along the centuries from generation to generation without fundamental textual errors.” Therefore, we can be certain that what we read today is what was written in the old times. But in which way and why are these 66 books, and them only, considered as authoritative for us today? These are the questions we will try to answer in the following messages.