The Writing of the Bible

The Writing of the Bible


This is lesson number two in
the series “Understanding Your Religion-” “The Seven Major Doctrines that Define
Christianity.” The name of this particular lesson is “The Writing of
the Bible”. We’re beginning with the Doctrine of Inspiration. This class is
studying great Bible doctrines. I said last week that we’re going to
discuss seven of these, seven major doctrines that define the Christian
faith. The first doctrine of that group is the Doctrine of Inspiration, the
Doctrine of Inspiration of the Bible itself, of course. But before I get to
that, I want to mention that, in case you were wondering, because I mentioned the seven major doctrines and if you noted, there was no doctrine of the
existence of God. How can you be studying the major doctrines and there
is no doctrine that argues the existence of God?
Of course, people they debate this in various ways, but in the Bible
there’s no body of doctrine or proof, if you wish, or reasons to
believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. Isn’t that unusual? In the Bible
you won’t go to a chapter that’ll say six reasons to believe that God
exists. You won’t find that information in the Bible. The reason
for this is that the Bible assumes from the very beginning that God exists.
It just assumes it. It doesn’t argue it. It doesn’t provide proof for it. It
simply assumes that He exists. It says so from the very first sentence. You open
the Bible, Genesis chapter 1 and what does it say? “In the beginning God…”.
Right away it just assumes the existence of God, from the very beginning. “In the
beginning God created the heavens and” “the earth”, Genesis 1:1. The Bible
states this idea as fact and it doesn’t contain
philosophical or theological arguments to prove it. If
you ask me what chapter in the Bible gives you all the arguments to prove
that God exists, there is no… It starts at the beginning, goes all
the way to the end, assuming that God exists. Now, there are ways and there are
systems of arguments that serve to prove the existence of a higher being, the
existence of an all-powerful God. These systems or these arguments are
called apologetics. Apologetics, to make an apology to make an argument for, but
this is not the focus of our study. That’s not what we’re studying in this
particular class. We are examining the actual doctrines or teachings that are
specifically contained in the Bible. I believe that a thorough knowledge of
these will help us know in more detail the character and the work and the will
of God, but not whether He exists or not. We have to take that
for granted from the very beginning. So in this context, it’s natural to begin
with a basic doctrine that is contained in the Bible and that is its inspiration.
So what does the Bible teach about itself? What is it about the Bible that
makes it unique and separate from all other books and all other religious
books, all other holy books? We believe that the Bible teaches that it
is unique and authoritative because it is directly inspired by God. That’s what
we believe about the Bible. Why do we believe that? Because the Bible teaches
that about itself. You can’t read the Bible without getting the idea that
it it is saying this is God’s Word. That’s a basic doctrine. That’s a basic
teaching of the Bible. Since the Bible is a book, I mean physically it’s a book,
we need to examine the history of writing and book making before we look
at the actual issue of inspiration. This lesson today is a lot
of nuts and bolts. The history of writing so we’ll understand the context of the Doctrine of Inspiration when we get
to it. A lot of people believe for a long time that early man was actually
ignorant and they rejected the idea that ancient civilizations used writing or
writing materials. This was their main argument against the authorship of
Moses or Abraham, who lived thousands of years before Christ. The argument was,
that couldn’t have been Moses that wrote this, couldn’t have been Abraham,
couldn’t have been those two ancient people that wrote in the Bible because
they didn’t have writing in those days. They were ignorant. This was a
classic argument for many, many, many, years ago. However, we have learned
several things about ancient writing and authors since then. For example, Egypt has
inscriptions that date as far back as 3,000 years before Christ. We have King
Sargon the First, twenty three hundred and fifty years before Christ, there are
inscriptions referring to him. The point is, there’s a lot of ancient writing that
has been discovered, that goes back hundreds and thousands of years before
Christ. They have found letters written by Palestinian officials dating back
fifteen hundred years BC. That’s approximately Moses’ time. So as I said
before, a lot of people discounted Moses as being the author of the first five
books of the Bible, for example, because he lived too early for writing to have
existed. That’s an old argument against the inspiration of the Bible. However,
modern findings have confirmed writing in early civilizations and the claim
that the Bible makes that Moses wrote the beginning part of the Bible has now
been justified. In other words, the Bible says that Moses wrote the first five
books of the Bible and now we have archaeological evidence to demonstrate
that writing existed during his time and even before his time. We
shouldn’t be afraid of modern research and we shouldn’t be afraid of archaeology,
because every time they make discoveries the
discoveries that they make simply confirm what the Scriptures already say.
As a matter of fact, the main textbook, the main resource book for
archaeologists to look for ancient cities is the
Bible, because they’re mentioned in the Bible itself when they are not
mentioned in any other place. Let’s take a look at, very quickly here,
the history of writing materials used to make ancient books. First we begin
with stone, 1500 BC. It was the earliest of writing materials. The Ten
Commandments, 1500 BC, what were they on? They weren’t on paper. They were stone tablets, which matches archaeological
discoveries of the era. Then came clay in Assyria and Babylonia.
This was used as their main writing materials. There are actually large
libraries that have been discovered in modern times and the libraries all
contained clay tablets. In Ezekiel chapter 4:1, Ezekiel is about 600
years before Christ, God tells Ezekiel to write on a brick or a tablet. Again, the
Bible is in sync with the history of writing. Then came wood, wooden
tablets used during this time as well. We read in Isaiah chapter 30:8, Isiah
was writing on a tablet of wood. Some of these things existed at the same time.
It’s not that one period ended and then another period began, but these things
overlapped each other. Just like we have different types of writing
materials today. Leather was an advancement, especially treated animal
skins were marked upon using knives. In 2nd Timothy chapter 4:13,
Paul says to Timothy bring my cloak and bring the parchments. The
parchments he’s talking about are leather parchments, things that
were written on leather. Then there’s papyrus. We probably are all familiar
with papyrus. Many of us probably had to do some sort of project in high school
or grade school using papyrus. Great advances were made as the
Egyptians developed papyrus as a writing surface. You probably know that papyrus
was a plant that grew along the Nile River. Inside the plant was a kind of
a spongy material and this material was removed. It was cut into strips. The
strips were laid side by side to form a sheet. What do they call that? Trestling? One thing on top of another? Huh? Weaving. There we go. They
would weave the strips to create a sheet, laid crosswise on top of it. They
were pressed together, then they were dried and ready for use. Sometimes a
sheet was used alone for a letter or a business receipt and sometimes the
sheets were attached together to form a scroll. So a scroll was about or a roll,
if you wish, was about 30 feet long, about 9 to 10 inches wide, the usual scroll.
Writing was done on one side and a wooden roll pin was inserted for easy
use. We see this in movies, old movies people roll that out.
Those are papyrus. These were the books of the ancient
world, referred to as scrolls. Leather was used very much in the Old Testament. A
lot of the Old Testament records that we have were originally on leather. With
time, papyrus was used during the New Testament time. So a lot of the New
Testament was written originally on papyrus. Then we had something called a
“papyrus codex”. Codex manuscript was used in the 1st and 2nd century
and these were merely single papyrus sheets that were put
together in book form rather than roles. The Codex form… When you see sometimes,
in your Bible, you see a reference to such-and-such codex and you’re wondering
what are they talking about? The codex manuscripts, h codex manuscript whatever, it’s simply, that was the beginning of the
book form, putting these sheets together. Then there was something called vellum
codex. Very interesting. This development was important because most New Testament
manuscripts from the 4th to the 14th century were written on this type of
material, the vellum codex. An interesting development,
necessity is the mother of invention. This is what happened to
develop the vellum codex. In the late first century, a certain king named Eumenes II of Pergamum, which was in Asia Minor, wanted to build a world-class
library. That was fine. He had the money to do it.
One problem, the king of Egypt for some reason tried to prevent this by cutting
off his papyrus supply, because the papyrus came from Egypt.
So this forced the King to develop newer forms of writing materials. There’s where
the necessities the mother of invention idea comes through. He did this by
improving the process of treating animal skins, which had been used for hundreds
of years. In other words, he took an old technology, the vellum, the
skins and he improved that old technology in order to build his
library. What he did was, he dried and he processed by rubbing with smooth stones
calf skin. That’s why it’s called vellum, veal or antelope skin, better
skin. The main value of this new process, aside from beauty, because some of these
were dyed purple and they were written on with gold lettering, one of the main
purpose or one of the main advantages is that they lasted much longer,
longer shelf life, if you wish. Papyrus was easy to use, it
was thin, but it was dry and it would deteriorate
quickly. So two of the most valuable copies of the New Testament manuscripts
that still exist today were written on vellum for the skin and Codex book form
to this day. So that’s another form of writing material. Now, we’re really
getting into… Sorry. Anyways, the next one is paper, of course. Paper was invented in
the Orient in the 13th and 14th century AD, spread westward from there. The
printing press, movable type and the printing press, invented in 1448 by
Gutenberg. The first book printed on the printing press, of course,
was the Bible, Latin Vulgate actually. That original Bible still
exists. The first one, it’s in a museum in Gutenberg, in Frankfurt excuse me, in
Frankfurt in Germany. A little anecdote, little factoid. Interesting, when I was
doing research on this was that Gutenberg, he was a businessman and
he printed the Bible. He was in the business of printing. He
was a goldsmith originally. The bank seized his printing presses for lack of
payment and they threw him into debtors jail. He died in jail. The
old story, no good deed goes unpunished. Here’s the guy who prints
the very first Bible to launch the modern era of printing and
his reward? That he spends the rest of his days in a debtors prison
because he couldn’t pay for the press is a very, very sad story. I’m sure
that he’s gone on to his reward. Then of course, we get to the
communication age. Printing remained the main communication technique for centuries
but with time, of course, electronic communication became predominant
beginning with Telegraph. We forget about the Telegraph. We think it’s such an old
thing but it’s fascinating how modern Telegraph was developed.
Marconi, if you read the story of Marconi, that guy was like a rock-star
in his age, very rich and very powerful and a genius. So it starts with the Telegraph and it goes on with the
telephone, radio, TV, Internet. Now we have voice recognition. Could you
imagine? You couldn’t even imagine such a thing. Now there are… Microsoft’s
developing a type of voice recognition software where you not only talk, now we
have that on our phones for texting. Hi mom. How are you? I’ll
be at your house at nine o’clock. You look at it and it’s, Hi John. I’ll be at your house with a pineapple. Voice
recognition, they’re improving it all the time. Now
they’re working on voice recognition software that not only recognizes your
voice and puts it into print but recognizes your voice and translates it
into any language that you want and it translates it not only into any language
that you want but it translates it using your voice. So you’re speaking in English
and you have a pen pal or a friend that lives in Germany. You speak
in English and it translates it into German using your voice and the person
at the other end receives it hearing your voice in their language. What does
that sound like? What biblical idea comes to mind? Pentecost. We are almost
at the point of reproducing the miracle, because it was a miracle at
Pentecost. They’re almost at the point of reproducing that miracle now using
today’s technology. I’m digressing a little bit, but can you imagine using
this technology to preach the gospel? Can you imagine what we will be able
to do and how, with this, the spread that we’ll able to have. I know
Hal and I are following this very closely. Imagine
if BibleTalk with 1300 pieces of information, videos and so and
so forth, if we could translate all of that into any language that we wanted.
Right now Lise is translating one of my books,
Colossians for beginners, and it takes her weeks, months to translate it. Then Merle Gatewood, Hal’s mom, who’s a professor of literature and French, she
goes over and it takes these two women months to do one. This will
be done in a couple of hours. So a great technology. It
can be used for great things. We’re very excited about it. So
communication age is moving forward. So in our study of writing and ancient
writing materials, we need to realize that when it comes to the Bible, God did
not always communicate with man through the written word. In other words, God’s
communication with man predates writing. In the beginning God communicated
with man orally, spoke to Adam for example in Genesis 1:28, spoke to Noah.
There was no written communication. He spoke directly to Noah, Genesis 6:13. He
spoke to Abraham, Genesis 17. Only later did God instruct man, meaning Moses, to
begin recording His instructions, say what I’m saying. So at the beginning God
speaks to man and then when we get to the time of Moses, God now begins to
instruct man to write down what He says so that what He says to man can now be
disseminated to other men. The story of the recording of the Bible as a
written record is the story of God’s communication to man. The origin of
the Bible, the word “Bible” comes from a Greek word “biblia,” which means simply,
books. The complete Bible or books number 66. 39 in the Old Testament.
27 books in the New. To study Bible origin we must begin with the Old
Testament or a better word to use or a better term as the Old Covenant. This
term is very useful because it helps us understand what the Bible actually is.
What is it? Yes, we believe it’s inspired but what is it?
What is it? It’s the detail of two covenants or agreements between God
and man, the old one and the new one which replaces the old. A little bit like
a lease. You have a lease for a house, it has certain conditions, the rent, no pets,
whatever and then the lease is up. We sign a new lease and there are
changes made in the lease. There’s the old covenant and then there’s
the new covenant, Old Testament, New Testaments, same idea. So we begin
with the Old Testament. The origin of the Old Testament, our study of the Bible
requires us to understand several features of the Old Testament. It was
written in the Hebrew language which is still in use today in Israel. The first
man charged with actually recording events and communication from God was
Moses, 1500 BC. In Exodus 24 he receives the words of the Covenant on Sinai,
Exodus 34, the Ten Commandments. Moses is credited with writing and organizing the
first five books of the Bible called the Pentateuch. The four,
aside from Genesis, the other four books, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, Deuteronomy. Those books, we know Moses because he mentions himself. He
mentions the time that he lives, so we know. Genesis, he writes
through the oral histories and the written histories that come down through
the patriarchs. He puts those together. He’s the assembler, if you wish,
or the editor of the book of Genesis. This is mentioned in Joshua chapter 8:31 and also Jesus confirms this in John 7:19 when Jesus says, did
not Moses give you the law? So Jesus confirms that Moses is the one
that gave the written law, the written material to the Jews.
Once God began to use human beings to record His words this system continued
after Moses. Who is after Moses? Joshua is the next writer after Moses. We
read about this in Joshua 24. Then the prophets record their history and
their prophecies after Joshua. You read about that in Nehemiah chapter 8:18. In this way, over a period of 1500 years, approximately twenty-eight writers
completed 39 books of what we call the Old Testament. Malachi was the last
prophet to record in 516 BC. No other prophets, no other inspired writings
until we get to John the Baptist. I’m not saying that John the Baptist had any
writings, but until his time, until John the Baptist comes on to the scene.
All these books in the Old Testament were collected and assembled together
into one volume by 400 BC. That means that the Jews had a complete Bible
because they considered their work the Bible. They had a complete Bible by 300
years before Christ. So what we’re reading in our Old Testament,
the Jews had this material, exact material, 300 years before Jesus. An
interesting thing is how the Jews organized it a little different than
what we do. They had the same material as we do but they organized it differently.
For example, they divided it into three main sections. There was the Law, which
included the Pentateuch, the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy.
This was of highest importance to them. The Sadducees, for example, only
accepted the first five books. That’s all they went with. They
discounted the prophets and all that. They didn’t believe
in that. Whereas the Pharisees, they believed the Law but
they also accepted the prophets. That was the debate
between the two. Anyways, you had the Law first five books. You had the prophets. So
you had the former prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, each had their own
volume. Then you had the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Lamentations, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets, all of those were in one
volume. That’s how they divided. The Law,the prophets former and latter,
and then the holy writings, the poetry, and the history, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Esther
to Nehemiah, Daniel so on and so forth. That’s how they broke it down. They
organize these into twenty-four books instead of our usual 39 books. So
you had the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy, five books, the prophets
former and latter, 4 former 4 latter. Remember, when you’re talking about
the latter prophets, for the Jewish Old Testament, you’re talking about, they
consider the twelve minor prophets, that was one book. That was one book.
That’s how you get the number. So you’ve got the former and the latter and then
you’ve got the writings, poetry and history, eleven books. Five plus four plus
four plus eleven, twenty four books. Today we have exactly the same books but
we divide them differently. Today we have the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy,
five books. We have history, Joshua to Esther, twelve books. We have poetry, Job
to Song of Solomon, five books. We have the major prophets, Isaiah to Daniel, five
books. We call them major prophets because their books are long, that’s all. It’s not
because they’re more important. They just have longer books. Then we have the
Minor Prophets, Hosea to Malachi, 12 books. So 5 plus 12 plus 5 plus 5
plus 12, 39 books. In addition to these inspired books
the Jews wrote and circulated other books that were about the Bible but were
not inspired by God. So more books were produced that were not inspired, but
were about the Bible. For example, you had the Talmud and of course, we always
confused the Talmud and the Torah, not to be confused with the Torah. The
Torah means, the Law. So when you’re talking about the Torah you’re talking
about the Law of God. When you’re talking about the Talmud, the Talmud was a body
of Jewish writing that interpreted the Old Testament. In other words, it was a
commentary. It contained more than one commentary. It contains several
commentaries on the Old Testament called the Mishnah and the Midrash. Gets a little confusing. So you have the Talmud and within the Talmud you have
two commentaries, the Mishnah and the Midrash as well as many legal and social
writings about Jewish life and social practices at the time.
The Talmud has a lot of different things. I remember taking a class at
University in Montreal that was taught by a rabbi on the Old Testament. One of his opening statements were, if I was stuck on a
desert island somewhere and I could only bring one book, the only book
that I would bring… I thought for sure it would be the Bible, it
would be at least the Jewish Bible, the Jewish Scriptures. He said no, no.
He said what do you think it would be? He said no,
I bring the Talmud with me. That’s the only book I’d bring. He’s a Jew. He’s a modern Jew on top of that. So the Talmud contained a lot of
various information about Jewish life and how to apply the Scriptures in daily
life. Then there are the apocryphal books. Apocrypha, hidden meaning, hidden books.
These were non inspired religious books. A lot of the endtime ideas that people
have, these ideas about what will happen at the end of the world, a lot of it
comes from these books. Today we call them science fiction. Kind
of like science fiction. The book of Esdras, the book of
Judith or the book of Maccabees, for example, the Maccabean period,
about a hundred years or so before Christ. The revolt of the Maccabees when
Greek life was overtaking Jewish life, when Greek philosophy and language was
overtaking Jewish and Hebrew language and culture. The Maccabees stood up and
said they defended the land when the Syrian King
Epiphanes tried to disallow circumcision and worship in order to control Judea.
The Maccabees, that’s a family, they rose up. They were rebels. They were fighters
and they fought against the hold that the northern country of Syria
and the King had over the land. They were heroes. So you have the writings
of that time, the Maccabean period and the book of Maccabees. They’re
not inspired writings but there’s so much information in there about what
went on between Malachi and John the Baptist, those years in between. The only
reference that we have are these books that were written. So they’re not
inspired but they’re contemporary. We have an idea of what’s going on during
at four century period. Then we have Josephus. Flavius Josephus, he was a
Pharisee and he was a historian and he wrote the history. He was writing about
contemporary history during the time of Jesus. As a Pharisee he was not a
Christian. He was not converted. He writes about Jesus. He writes about
Christianity. He writes about the early church as a phenomenon taking place
within Jewish society, but he’s writing as a non-believer. He’s writing as a Jew.
It’s from Josephus that we find out that James, James the author
of the Epistle James, it’s from Josephus that we find out that James was
killed by being thrown off the wall. The Jews took him and they threw him down
from the wall around the city. It’s from Josephus we find out that he wasn’t
dead yet when he hit the ground. I don’t know how… 100 feet up. So
they went down and they finished him off by stoning him. The Bible doesn’t
contain that information but Josephus contains that information. So we have
a lot of information about early Christianity from Josephus. When we
read the Old Testament we’re reading the same books that the Jews read at the
time. We’re reading the exact same books that Jesus and the Apostles read and
taught from. Fascinating stuff. There’s our little
introduction, if you wish, to the books. There’s the introduction to
a history of writing. Next week I’ll show you how to divide the
entire Old Testament into ten periods and we’re going to look at the New
Testament books, how they were put together. What criterion was used to
decide which books were supposed to fit into the New Testament Canon. How did
they decide which books were inspired which weren’t,
which were not inspired. There was a decision made. There was a criteria used.
That’s it for this time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *