The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Bible Study

 
Origin of the Bible
 
    Many religionists of the English-speaking realm are inclined to think that the Bible as a book originated in a manner purely miraculous. They have a hazy notion that it was written in heaven, in English, of course, divided there into chapters and verses, with cross references and marginal notes, and then sent by an angel to the earth. In reality, Bible started to be put in writing back there in the wilderness by the man Moses, and in the Hebrew tongue.
    All of the books of the Bible, 66 in number, have a common origin. The Bible is of single authorship, yet of composite writer ship. The Bible is of single authorship, yet of composite writer ship. This makes it outstanding among all other books of the world. The Bible is Jehovah's revelation of himself and his purposes. At the beginning of Bible writing He contributed personally to the Scripture canon by recording on two stone tablets the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. (Exodus 24:12; 31:18, King James) “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made the end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God”.

    Human creatures took over the actual work of writing, but they all wrote under God's guidance and dictation, being moved by his spirit. Some were judges and kings. Some were learned, others were lowly laborers, herdsmen, fishermen, etc. They were not professional writers, but men of action, servants and witnesses of Jehovah from all walks of life. They wrote over a long stretch of years. Moses started the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, about 1513 B.C. The apostle John closed the Bible canon sixteen centuries later.

    Nevertheless, this diverse group of more than thirty men widely separated in the stream of time produced a perfectly harmonious literary masterpiece. Not by the abilities of the writers, but by the infinite wisdom and might of the Bible's Originator was it accomplished. The writers themselves are quick to acknowledge this. David said: "The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." Luke declared: "He spake by the mouth of his holy prophets." Peter added to the testimony: "No prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the holy spirit." (Am. Stan. Ver.) Paul left no room for further doubt or exceptions when he sweepingly said: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." Certainly Jehovah God alone is the Bible's Originator.—2 Samuel 23: 2; Acts 1:16; Luke 1: 70; 2 Peter 1: 21; 1 Peter 1:10, 11; 2 Timothy 3 : 16,17.

    Paul demonstrates that when the all-wise God gave commands to Moses and others after him to write He had in mind our perplexing day when mankind so sorely needs true guidance and a sound hope. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) The Creator knew man's frame and feebleness of memory, and knew too the Devil's aim to destroy the divine record and pervert and blot it out of men's minds. Hence God caused a faithful record to be written. Since this was expressly for those in need of vital information at the worst crisis of the nations in the end of the world, Almighty God would safeguard the Scriptures despite efforts to destroy them. What Isaiah said more than 2,600 years ago, and which inspired Peter seconded 1,900 years ago, is still true today: "The word of our God shall stand for ever."—Isaiah 40: 8; 1 Peter 1: 25.

    These words show that the Originator of the Bible is likewise its Preserver. How do we know that this proclamation stands true to our day, when there is not in existence a single original or autographed Bible manuscript, either of the Hebrew Scriptures or of the Greek Scriptures? Although every original manuscript is lost, has vanished or apparently perished, there are a great many ancient copies of the entire Bible, and even more ancient manuscripts of parts of the Bible extant. The number of extant ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures is about 1,700. Then there are scattered through the earth about 4,000 ancient manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures in the original language, and about 9,000 copies of early versions or translations of the Greek Scriptures.

    Let’s see how the Bible was preserved through the ages. Until the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians, the "book of the law" was kept preserved by the side of the Ark of the Covenant. "Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee." (Deuteronomy 31:26) Joshua again at the end of his life lays up his own record before Jehovah. "And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God." (Joshua 24: 26) Samuel did the same: "Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD." (1 Samuel 10:25) These passages testify to the preservation of the Bible canon.

    An important incident bespeaking the preservation of the Scriptures is the discovery of the lost and forgotten ''book of the law" in the temple in the eighteenth year of Josiah, in 641 B.C., when after a period of religious idolatry the true worship of Jehovah was restored. (2 Ki. 22:1-10; 2 Chron. 34:14-18) During the captivity in Babylon the Scriptures were preserved. Daniel writes (9:2) : "In the first year of his [Darius'] reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." After the return from the exile in Babylon Ezra is found reading the law to the people resettled in the Holy Land. Nehemiah 8:1-18. Not all of the Jewish exiles who in 537 B.C. returned from the Babylonian captivity spoke or understood the Biblical Hebrew. The younger generation spoke Aramaic or Syriac, a Semitic language related to Hebrew. When the Levites read the law to them they had to 'read distinctly and give the sense', as recorded at Nehemiah 8:8; that is, they paraphrased the Hebrew text or translated it freely into Aramaic. These paraphrases were called "Targums", which means "interpretations" or "paraphrases". For centuries these Targums were handed down orally from generation to generation. The Jews were averse to translating the Hebrew Scriptures into another language, because they held them so sacred. But several centuries later these paraphrases were gradually committed to writing. Extant today are various written Targums of all the Hebrew Scriptures, except Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah.

    Further evidence of God's preserving his Word during the five centuries from Ezra to Christ are versions or translations into other languages. The oldest of these is the Samaritan Pentateuch. It was produced by that mixed population of religious hybrids that was settled in Samaria by the Assyrians, after they had led away captive the ten tribes of Israel, in 740 B.C. That copy was made about 450 years before Christ (the extant manuscript, however, is of a far later date).

    About 280 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures began to be translated in Egypt into the Greek language. This Greek version is called the Septvagint. A great number of copies of that translation were made and distributed throughout the ancient world. It played its part in the preservation of God's Word by becoming the basis for translations into other languages.

    As to the Christian Greek Scriptures, their genuine text has been preserved not only in the Sinaitic and Vatican 1209 MSS. but in about 4,000 more Greek-language MSS., in addition to nearly 9,000 other-language MSS. of ancient version s. Almost the entire text of the Greek Scriptures could be compiled from these quotations.

    No other book in the world has ever received such a reverent and fastidiously careful treatment throughout centuries as has the Bible. It has been copied by scribes who regarded mistakes with holy terror. In order to make the Word of God known its copyists and translators often added to their painstaking labor the sacrifice of their lives. The written Hebrew consisted until centuries after Christ only of consonants, and the omission or addition of a single letter would often have changed a word into another. If they detected the slightest error, the miswriting of a single letter, that entire section of the roll was rejected as unfit for synagogue use. Thereupon that section was cut out and replaced by a new and faultless one. They read aloud each word before writing; to write even a single word from memory was regarded as gross sin. It is said that religious scribes prayerfully wiped their pen before writing the word Elohim (God) or Adonay (Lord), and that they religiously washed their whole body before writing the sacred name "Jehovah". The accuracy of those professional Hebrew scribes was passed on to a good degree to the non-professional copyists of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    But notwithstanding all the painstaking accuracy of the copyists and all the scholarship of the proofreaders, quite a number of mere scribal errors got into the text bespeaking the imperfection of humans. For this reason the earlier the manuscript the more likely it is to be correct. The preservation of the Holy Scriptures is a divine miracle; not only their preservation as a book (since no other book and its students, copyists, translators and publishers have been so relentlessly persecuted with prison, fire and sword), but also the preservation of the textual integrity in spite of human shortcomings. The numerous scribal errors are, on the whole, of little importance. Their bearing upon the integrity of the Bible is negligible. Those errors have been detected and corrected by careful and scholastic comparison and collection of the multitude of extant manuscripts and versions. The result of such careful, critical revisions is the reliable Bible texts.

    Now along comes the Roman Catholic Hierarchy with its presumptuous claim that she is the preserver of the Scriptures. Her brazen assertion is easily debunked. The Vatican MS. has been in her possession only since the fifteenth century, and not one of the old manuscripts was discovered in the territories under Hierarchy domination. For nearly five centuries the Vatican made their priceless MS. inaccessible to scholastic examination. But with the discovery and publication of another fourth-century manuscript, the Codex Sinaiticus, the selfish Vatican was compelled to publish facsimile copies of Vatican MS. 1209, to prevent it from being eclipsed. A survey of history proves that the Eoman Catholic Hierarchy is the deadly foe of the Bible; that it endeavored to conceal Bible truth from the people by letting it lie hid under the shroud of dead languages ; that it hunted down and murdered the translators and distributors of the Bible; that it burned countless thousands of copies of the Holy Scriptures; that only when it failed to snuff out the Bible light for the common people did it allow for the translation of the Bible in the people's vernacular, such Catholic translations being brought out to compete with previous popular translations. The Hierarchy is not the preserver of the Bible, but the Bible is preserved even unto our day in spite of the Hierarchy's desperate efforts to destroy it.

    Hail Jehovah as the Preserver of his inspired Word. Manifestly God directed not only the writers of the Bible but also the faithful copyists of the text and the assemblers of the canon, just as he is now guiding his earthly witnesses as they study its pages and proclaim its truths. The preservation of the Bible is by a miracle of the Almighty.