Grace Bible Church

4000 E. Collins Rd.   P.O. Box #3762   Gillette, WY  82717   (307) 686-1516


- Preaching the Living WORD through the Written WORD - 2 Tim 4:2 -







Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming

Pastor Daryl Hilbert




A.    The Bible is an interesting subject and almost everyone has an opinion on it. Some good, some not so good, and some are downright erroneous. Is the Bible the basis for belief and behavior for mankind, or is it a well-preserved folklore?

B.    One such disclaimer is Rev. John Shelby Spong, who says, Can modern men and women continue to pretend that timeless, eternal, and unchanging truth has been captured in the words of a book that achieved its final written form midway into the second century of this common era? (Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism).

C.    How does one determine if the Bible we hold in our hands is really God's Word or not? How were these early writings compiled and on what basis? In addition, how do we know that the Bible we purchase from the shelf of a Christian bookstore is the same as when it was first penned? We will attempt to answer these questions in the following study.

D.    There are three major parts to the subject, "How We Got Our Bible." The first part is Inspiration, the second is Canonization, and the third is Transmission. Inspiration is how God gave His Word to man. Canonization is how man collected God's Word. Transmission is how man transmitted that word to succeeding generations.




A.    Inspiration is the first and most important part of this study. Furthermore, Canonization and Transmission are hinged upon Inspiration. Without Inspiration, not only would it be pointless to go on in our study, but the other two parts would not even exist. Inspiration, simply defined, tells us how God gave us His Word.

B.    The Webster's Dictionary defines inspiration this way concerning sacred revelation, a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation.

C.    A better definition of Inspiration is found in the Scriptures, particularly in 2Ti 3:16, where it says, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.

D.    The word, "inspired," is the Greek word, theopneustos and literally means, "God-breathed" (theos - God & pneustos - spirit or breath). The idea is that the Scriptures have been God-breathed which means they originate from God and comprise His inerrant Word.

E.    Definitions for Inspiration are:

1.     The Bible is God's Word in the sense that it originates with Him and is authorized by Him. (Geisler and Nix, "General Introduction To The Bible", p.28)

2.     Inspiration (God-breathed), emphasizes the exhalation of God, hence, spiration would be more accurate since it emphasizes that Scripture is the product of the breath of God The Scriptures are not something breathed into by God, rather, the Scriptures have been breathed out by God (Moody Handbook of Theology)

3.     Inspiration is God's superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error in the words of the original autographs His revelation to man. (Ryrie, Basic Theology)

4.     We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired Word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and God-breathed ( 2Tim. 3: 16-17; 2 Peter 1:20,21). (GBC Doctrinal Statement)




A.    To what extent are the Scriptures inspired? What books or what parts are inspired? The extent of inspiration reaches to every word of Scripture.          .

B.    Jesus taught us the extent of inspiration in Mat 5:18, For truly 1 say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

C.    The extent of inspiration in Scripture is found in the "smallest letter." The smallest letter would represent the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet (yod or jot). The "smallest stroke" would be the little brush stroke, that resembles a horn (lit.), used to distinguish Hebrew letters.

D.    This verse teaches us that every word of the Bible is inspired and is attributed as God's Word. In fact, even the smallest letter will be fulfilled before heaven and earth disappear.




A.    A question that is always raised is, "How can it be God's Word if men wrote it?"

B.    First of all, God indeed did write down His Word with His own finger. In Ex. 31:18, God inscribed the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone by the "finger of God".

C.    Secondly, God also dictated the Scriptures to Moses when God said, "Write these words down" (Ex. 34:27).

D.    The two examples teach us that the finished product of Scripture is equivalent to God's Word. However, the procedure of inspiration is a little different than the last two examples though the outcome is the same.

E.    Through the process of inspiration, the Scriptures were written by the use of the writer's own personality and circumstances, yet he was guided by the Holy Spirit.

F.     2Pe 1:20-21 teaches us how the Scriptures are God's Word even though He used human agents, But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

G.    Men of God (prophets and apostles) were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak and write (Rom 1:2) God's Word.

H.    The word "moved" (pheromenoi - pres pass part -lit. "being carried along"), was used in regards to ships that were moved and carried by the gusts of wind. In the same way, the "holy men of God" (literally) were mysteriously prompted and moved to write God's Word, while at the same time maintaining their personalities and circumstances. The final result was the inerrant, and infallible Word of God (cp. 2Pe 3:15-16).




A.    One passage that is very important when discussing the authorship of Inspiration is, 1Th 2:13. This verse calls Scripture the "word of God," For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

B.    There are three interesting points in this verse. First of all, the Thessalonians were receptive to Paul's message from the Scriptures as the Word of God. Some people do not receive the Bible as God's Word; they view the Bible as any other ordinary book with contradictions and errors.

C.    Secondly, the Thessalonians did not accept the Scriptures as the "word of men." In other words, even though it was written by men, they believed God watched over the writing of His Word. The finished product was not man's thoughts, but rather God's thoughts and very words. Paul confirmed that in reality (alethos - truthfully), it actually is the Word of God.

D.    Thirdly, Paul says that it is God's Word that is, "at work in you who believe." The Word of God alone is "living and active" (Heb 4:12; Eph 6:17b; Joh 15:7). Certainly some of the writings of men inspire us, but it is only God's Word that is inspired (God-breathed). In addition, it is only God's Word that changes our lives completely, giving us life through the message of Christ's death on the cross (In 5:24; 6:68; Rom 10:17).




A.    Since inspiration is the most important part to the subject, "How We Got Our Bible", we must have an undeniable faith that the Bible is God's Word. Not only is it imperative for this study, but it is preeminently paramount for the Christian Faith.

B.    Take away inspiration out of the Bible and you are only a small step away from denying Christ's death for sinful man. Take away Christ's death for sinful man, and you take away the only name under heaven given to men by which he must be saved.




Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming

Pastor Daryl Hilbert




A.    Once inspiration is determined as a foundational tenet, then we can begin to look at canonization. Simply put, canonization is how man collected the inspired Word. Inspiration has to do with the Bible’s authority, while canonization has to do with the Bible’s acceptance. In other words, canonization is concerned with the recognition and collection of inspired Scriptures.

B.    What exactly does canon mean?  “Canon” comes from the Greek word kanw,n kanon, and literally means a rod or bar, straight or measuring.

1.     It was used for staves to preserve the shape of the shield. It was also used as a rule or straight-edge by shipbuilders and carpenters.

a)    [It is used] in shipbuilding and house-building, and many other branches of wood-working. For the artisan uses a rule (kanon), I imagine, a lathe, compass, a chalk-line. (Plato Philebus 56b)

2.     This Greek word very possibly came from the Hebrew word hn<q' qaneh, which means reed. In Ezek 40:3 it is used as a “measuring rod.”

3.     Later, the word took on the metaphorical meaning rule as a “standard or norm”. The apostle Paul used this word in Galatians 6:16 to represent a “rule” or “standard” by which to walk.

a)    Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule (kanon), even to the Israel of God.

4.     From there, the word’s meaning was extended in the early Christian era when it was applied to “authoritative Scriptures”. The first clear statement where kanon was used for the authoritative Scriptures appears as early as A.D. 350 by Athanasius.

a)    ...it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as Divine...[in the same letter, Athanasius pronounced all 27 books of the New Testament as canon in A.D 367]

C.    After that time, the word “canon” was emphatically applied to the authoritative and inspired Scriptures. The use of “canon” was expanded to other meanings such as the “registrar of Roman Catholic saints” and also “church teaching”. However, the real impact of this word upon history and religion surrounds its meaning concerning which writings are recognized as inspired and those which are not.

D.    Canon then means the standard by which the Church regards books of the Bible as authoritative and divine.




A.    Before going any further, we must grasp one very important concept. That being the fact that God was the “determiner” of canon, while man is simply the “discoverer”. What exactly is meant by that? A book is determined canonical not because the church or any man deems it so, rather it is canonical because God inspired it.

B.    Determining which books are inspired was God’s responsibility. God either inspired a particular book or he did not. It is not as though the church or any man came along and said, “Oh I like this one, it shall be called inspired (canon)”, or “This book inspired me, so let’s call it inspired (canon)”.

C.    Thus, it could be said that the church is:

1.     not the “determiner” of canon, but the “discoverer” of canon;

2.     not the “mother” of canon, but the “child” of canon;

3.     not the “regulator” of canon, but the “recognizer” of canon;

4.     not the “judge” of canon, but the “witness” of canon.

D.    The authority of the Scriptures is not founded, then, on the authority of the Church: It is the Church that is founded on the authority of the Scriptures. (Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia, p. 137.)




A.    The next question is, “What standard(s) did the church or men use to discover canon?” While a list of standards was never found from the early church Fathers, we can deduce certain principles used by them. There are at least five questions: Is the book…?


1.     Authoritative - did it come with the authority of God, i.e. “thus saith the Lord”?

2.     Prophetic - was it written by a man of God, i.e. God’s mouthpiece?

3.     Authentic - did it teach the truth about God, i.e. His character and will?

4.     Dynamic - did it have life-changing power, i.e. “living and active”?

5.     Received - was it accepted by God’s people, i.e. true believers?


B.    The characteristics sought by these questions were the earmarks of inspired books. If they were apparent, the book was accepted. If they were absent, the book was rejected. If they were not apparent, the book was doubted until it was fully tested. (Geisler and Nix, General Intro to the Bible, 138)

C.    The five questions discussed in detail for discovering canon are:


1.     Authoritative


a)    The first question is, “Was it authoritative?” This is perhaps the most important and fundamental question of them all. If a writing is not authoritative, it does not mean that the book is useless, but it dogmatically is not the Word of God!

b)    Some of the characteristic phrases that qualify a writing as authoritative were:

(1)   “thus saith the Lord” (KJV; 415 times in OT; Exo 4:22 cp. 5:1; Jdg 6:8; Isa 7:7; Ez 2:4...122 times)

(2)   “And the word of the Lord came to...” (103 time in OT; Isa 38:4; Jer 1:2)

(3)   “God spoke...” (Ex 3:14; Jonah 4:9)

c)     When dealing with the canonicity of some of the prophets, where these phrases were used, it hardly became necessary to look for other characteristics of canonicity. On the other hand, some books were rejected by all, on the basis that they had no such authoritative phrases, such as the Pseudepigrapha (non-canonical writings with falsely accredited authors).

d)    It was with this same principle that some doubted the book of Esther. For there is no mention whatsoever of the name of “God” in the book of Esther, let alone the phrase, “thus saith the Lord”. However, after much scrutiny the early church Fathers were convinced that Esther was canon based upon the other standards, and thus its authority was accepted.

(1)   In a brief defense of Esther, even though God’s name is not used, His hand and providence were manifested on behalf of the Jewish people.

(2)   Secondly, some claim that the reason God’s name was left out was because being exiled, the covenant name of God was not associated with the Jews anymore.

(3)   Others claim that God’s name was not mentioned to protect it from pagan plagiarism by the substitution of a heathen god.

(4)   An interesting note by W.G. Scroggie claims that the name Yahweh (YHWH) is found acrostically in the book in such a way that it is beyond probability that it was a coincidence.)

(5)   The book of Esther has brought both comfort and conviction to the people of God, and has been accepted as a divinely inspired book.

e)     The bottom line is, however, that the cautiousness of the early church Fathers, actually confirmed that these men included no book that God wanted excluded from canon, and included only those which they were sure were authoritative.


2.     Prophetic


a)    The next question for the standard for canon was, “Was it written by a man of God?”

b)    This is a vitally crucial basis in discovering who actually penned the words of God. As already mentioned from 2 Peter 1:20-21, prophets, were men of God, who were “carried along” and moved by the Holy Spirit to write God’s Word. These words did not originate (they were not from the prophet’s own” interpretation” or lit. “unraveling or disclosure”) from these men, but these men were specially called by God to be the vehicle of them.

c)     This explains the many instances in the Old Testament where the phrase is used, “and the word of the Lord came to....” There were only certain men chosen by God to whom His actual word came to.

d)    However, to give credence and infallibility to God’s Word, God proclaimed a prophetic test. This test would sort out the true from the false prophets. The test was that everything this prophet said must absolutely come to pass. If it did not, the false prophet was stoned because he did not carry God’s infallible Word.

(1)   NAU Deu 18:20 'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' 21 "You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' 22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

e)     This test accomplished two things. One it assured the people which was God’s word and which was not. (The original concept of canonization began with God!). And two, it gave the people confidence to obey God’s Word. In fact, once the people knew it was God speaking through the prophet, they were accountable to obey, because they were in every sense, obeying God.

(1)   NAU Deu 18:19 'It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.

f)     This same principle was recurrent in the New Testament with the apostles. They were to be the spokesmen of God’s infallible Word. They, like the prophets, had God’s exclusive truth. Bearing this in mind, what a powerful statement it was for Peter to make about Paul’s writings.

(1)   NAU 2Pe 3:16 as also in all his [Paul’s] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

g)     So, according to Peter, Paul’s writings were equivalent to divinely inspired Scriptures. But this was not only true for Paul, but also for Peter, John, Matthew, James and Jude. It would also include Mark and Luke, who, although not apostles, were under the tutelage of the apostles and chosen by God to be a vehicle for His inspired Word.


3.     Authentic


a)    The next standard of canon is authenticity. The question that the Early Church Fathers asked was, “Does this book tell the truth about God, Christ, man, salvation etc?” If the book did not completely agree with other revealed truths from God’s Word, it was rejected.

b)    This close scrutiny was passed on from the apostles themselves, who were always defending the truth. John gives clear instructions to “test the spirits” in light of their present day false prophets.

(1)   NAU 1Jo 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

c)     This discernment for God’s revealed truth was naturally handed down to the early church. A clear example of this is with the Bereans who respectfully “examined” Paul’s teaching to ensure that he was an apostle with God’s truth.

(1)   NAU Act 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

d)    Without a doubt, the seed was planted for the Early Church Fathers to be on guard when it came to accepting anything as God’s truth. Their motto was kind of “If in doubt, throw it out”, a policy that we would be wise for using in today’s church. Not for determining canon, that has been done for us, but rather for discerning truth from false doctrine.


4.     Dynamic


a)    Yet another standard was applied to ascertaining canon from non-canon writings. This standard was a question of dynamics. The question that could have been asked was, “Does this book come with the power of God?” In other words, God’s Word is dynamic; it is “living and active”.

b)    That means God changes lives through His Word by the power of His Spirit. If that could not happen, then a book was rejected. This was recognized by Paul when he wrote to Timothy:

(1)   NAU 2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

(a)   An interesting note is that the Greek word for “able” here in this passage is dunamai which means ability or power. We get our English word “dynamite” from this word.

(b)   The Scriptures have dynamic power because they are inspired by God and it is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit (Eph 6:17; Ps 19:7) to change the lives of believers. And as Paul shares with Timothy, the Scriptures enable man to know God’s plan for salvation.

c)     A book cannot have the power to change lives or convert the soul if the book contains errors. Many passages in the Bible are written in a “cause and effect” formula. Only a Sovereign God has the ability to bring about such effects. Man often attempts to diagnose life, but unless he is using God’s Word as a guideline, he is shooting in the dark.

d)    But only heaven will reveal the untold number of martyrs and of troubled believers that have been comforted, solaced, and encouraged through the Scriptures. Geisler and Nix state it well:

(1)   A message of God would certainly be backed by the might of God.


5.     Received


a)    The capstone of all these standards would be in the reality of whether or not a book has been received by the people of God. The question that could have been asked was, “Has this book been accepted generally by the people of God?”

b)    First of all, when speaking of the people of God, what is meant, is the true believing church. We certainly would not include heretical groups or unbelievers, such as Marcion the Gnostic, (100-160)who rejected the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament (a revised Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles, but not the Pastorals). And as already sited,  Peter, writes of unbelievers who reject the Scriptures (2 Pet 3:15).

c)     Secondly, all non-canonical books were more or less rejected by this standard. If a book did not stand the test of time and acceptance, it was eventually rejected. Initially, the books were accepted by the recipients, such as in the case of the Thessalonians.

(1)   And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

d)    As these books were cherished and collected, they were also copied and passed on to succeeding generations. Over a period of time, some of these books, were universally accepted.

(1)   Most of the canon was well known and in use nearly two centuries before Constantine, a time when the early church had already dismissed the many apocryphal gospels that arose later in the second century. The rejected gospels, far from containing the real truth about Jesus, were all distortions derived from the first-century canonical Gospels and laced with fanciful aberrations. (liberal scholar John A. T. Robinson)

(2)   …some [early church] Fathers and canons recognized almost all of the books before the end of the second century, and the church universal was in agreement before the end of the fourth century. (Geisler & Nix, General Intro to the Bible; pg. 291).

(3)   Irenaeus (c. A.D. 170), [was] the first early [church] Father who himself quoted almost every book of the New Testament. (ibid. pg. 292).

(4)   Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 200) has almost an identical list, with the exception of his omission of 2 Timothy and 2 John. (ibid. pg. 292).

e)     Some books were so unanimously accepted that when men like Marcion opposed them, they were met with fierce and instantaneous opposition.

(1)   In like manner, too, he dismembered the Epistles of Paul...and also those passages from the prophetical writings which the apostle quotes... (Iraneus, Early Church Fathers, Vol 1, p 726)

(2)   At least as early as A.D. 140 the heretical Marcion accepted only limited sections of the full New Testament canon. Marcion’s heretical canon, consisting of only Luke’s gospel and ten of Paul’s epistles, pointed up clearly the need to collect a complete canon of New Testament Scriptures. (Geisler & Nix, General Intro to the Bible; pg. 278)

f)     These standards then, were the earmarks for the early church with which to recognize the books God had inspired and those which He had not. When discovered, they were added as the authoritative, prophetic, dynamic, authentic and accepted canon, namely the Word of God.











Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming

Pastor Daryl Hilbert




A.    From the original autograph to the modern Bible extends an important link in the overall chain from “God to us” known as transmission. (Geisler & Nix, General Introduction To the Bible)

B.    It provides a credible answer to the question: Do Bible scholars today possess an accurate copy of the autographs? (ibid)

C.    In support of the integrity of the transmission, an overwhelming number of ancient documents must be presented. (ibid)

D.    There are not only countless manuscripts to support the integrity of the Bible (including the Old Testament since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls), but a study of the procedures of preparation and preservation of the biblical manuscript copies reveals the fidelity of the transmission process itself. (ibid)

E.    For the New Testament, beginning with the second century ancient versions and manuscript fragments and continuing with abundant quotations of the Fathers and thousands of manuscript copies from that time to the modern versions of the Bible, there is virtually an unbroken line of testimony. (ibid)

F.    In fact, it may be concluded that no major document from antiquity comes into the modern world with such evidence of its integrity as does the Bible. (ibid)




A.    “Original autographs” are the very originals that were penned by the prophets and apostles or their amanuenses (i.e. scribal secretary - Jer 36:27; Rom 16:22; Gal 6:11). These are the writings that were under the divine process of inspiration. When the autographs went from the originals to copies, the process is not called, “inspiration,” but “transmission.” Therefore, the divine process of inspiration only applies to the original autographs.

B.    It is almost universal among evangelical orthodox individuals and churches to make such distinction in their position and doctrinal statements.

1.     We do not assert that the common text, but only that the original autographic text, was inspired. (Archibald A. Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, Inspiration, pg. 42)

2.     The original autographs of the Scriptures were infallibly correct. (John R. Rice, Our God-Breathed Book -- The Bible, pg. 88)

3.     We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired Word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and God-breathed. (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20,21). (Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming)

4.     “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim.3:16), by which we understand that holy men of God "were moved by the Holy Spirit" to write the very words of Scripture (2 Pet.1:21). This divine inspiration extends equally and fully to all parts of the sixty-six books of the Bible as it appeared without error in the original manuscripts (Jn.10:35; Mt.5:18). (Faith Bible Church, Spring, Texas)

5.     Thus, the orthodox doctrine that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God in its original manuscripts has maintained itself from the first century to the present. (Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. (1996, c1986). A General Introduction To The Bible, pg. 156).

C.    The copies that we possess cannot be technically said to be inspired. However, because we possess copies of the inspired original that are 98-99.9% pure, our copies can be considered “virtually” inspired.

1.     The Bible obviously did not come to us in its present form. Rather, as God inspired its human authors His words were written down in scrolls. These original manuscripts (or autographs as they are sometimes called) contained no errors, presenting perfectly the Word of God. However, there are no known originals left. What we possess today are thousands of copies of the original manuscripts (this includes fragments, which in some cases may contain only a verse or two). The problem is that while the manuscripts we study today agree to an incredible extent there do exist differences.  (Rev. Gary Gilley, Southern View Chapel)

2.     It is comforting to note, however, that scholars estimate that the text we have before us is between 98 and 99.9% pure — exactly as originally written. Only about 50 readings of any significance is in doubt, and none of these affect any basic doctrine. So we can have complete confidence in our text. (Rev. Gary Gilley, Southern View Chapel)

3.     Strictly speaking, only the "Autographs" (the original documents penned by the biblical authors) are inspired. (Copies of the original documents are VIRTUALLY inspired to the extent that they accurately reflect the original documents--and the evidence indicates that they DO accurately reflect the original documents to a very high degree.) (Ron Rhodes, The Complete Book of Bible Answers)

4.     No one manuscript or translation is inspired, only the original. However, for all intents and purposes, they are virtually inspired since, with today's great number of manuscripts available for scrutiny, the science of textual criticism can render us an adequate representation. Therefore, we can be assured that when we read the Bible we are reading the inspired Word of God. (Josh McDowell, Don Stewart, Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity)




A.    The Old Testament manuscripts fall into two general periods of evidence.

1.     The Talmudic Period (c. 300 B.C.–A.D. 500)

a)    By the time of the Maccabean revolt (168 B.C.), the Syrians had destroyed many of the existing manuscripts of the Old Testament.

b)    The Talmudic period produced many manuscripts which were preserved in synagogues and by private owners.

c)     In addition, The Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 167 B.C.–A.D. 133) have made an immense contribution to Old Testament critical study.

2.     The Masoretic Period (A.D. 500-1000)

a)    Masoretes are Jewish textual scribes of the fifth through ninth centuries A.D. who standardized the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, which is therefore called the Masoretic Text.

b)    The Masoretes understood the significance of God’s revelation to man in the form of the Scriptures. Because of such understanding, they were meticulous in copying the Scriptures. In fact, they had incorporated rules to guarantee that there were no errors in the transmission process. Samuel Davidson, in “The Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, p. 89, writes of these rules:

 [1] A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals,

[2] prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew.

[3] These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals.

[4] Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.

[5] The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 nor more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters.

[6] The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words should be written without a line, it is worthless.

[7] The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other colour, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.

[8] An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.

[9] No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him. . . .

[10] Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene;

[11] between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants;

[12] between every book, three lines.

[13] The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.

[14] Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress,

[15] wash his whole body,

[16] not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, [17] and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.

B.    The New Testament manuscripts fall into four general periods of evidence.

1.     1st-3rd Cent.

a)    The first three centuries witnessed a composite testimony as to the integrity of the New Testament Scriptures. Because of the illegal position of Christianity, it cannot be expected that many, if any, complete manuscripts from that period are to be found. (Geisler, N. L., & Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible).

b)    Therefore, textual critics must be content to examine whatever evidence has survived, that is, nonbiblical papyri, biblical papyri, ostraca, inscriptions, and lectionaries that bear witness to the manuscripts of the New Testament . (ibid.)

2.     4th-5th Cent.

a)    The fourth and fifth centuries brought a legalization of Christianity and a multiplication of manuscripts of the New Testament. (ibid.)

b)    These manuscripts, on vellum and parchment generally, were copies of earlier papyri and bear witness to this dependence. (ibid.)

3.     6th-10th Cent.

a)    From the sixth century onward, monks collected, copied, and cared for New Testament manuscripts in the monasteries. (ibid.)

b)    This was a period of rather uncritical production, and it brought about an increase in manuscript quantity, but with a corresponding decrease in quality. (ibid.)

4.     11th Cent on

a)    After the tenth century, uncials (“inch high” formally printed large letters) gave way to miniscules (small cursive letters), and copies of manuscripts multiplied rapidly. (ibid.)

C.    Comparison to Classical Greek Manuscripts

a)    The classical writings of Greece and Rome illustrate the character of biblical manuscript preservation in a candid fashion. In contrast to the total number of the more than 5,300 partial and complete New Testament manuscripts known today, the Iliad of Homer has only 643, The Peloponnesian War of Thucydides only eight, while Tacitus’s works rely on but two manuscripts. (Geisler, N. L., & Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible)

b)    The abundance of biblical evidence would lead one to conclude with Sir Frederic Kenyon that “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.” (ibid.)

c)     Or, as he goes on to say, The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world. (ibid.)





Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming

Pastor Daryl Hilbert




A.    Four Main Branches Of Manuscript Traditions


1.     As the church became more established, certain definable New Testament manuscript traditions tended to become the standards within more or less defined areas. (Gilley, The Bible Translation Debate)

2.     These became known as "text-types" and there were four of them (ibid.).


a)    The Byzantine text: Preserved by the Byzantine Empire, there are far more manuscripts of this tradition than in the other three combined, but most of them are of relatively late date (ibid.).


b)    The Western text: Sprang from fairly undisciplined scribal activity, and therefore, considered the most unreliable of the "text-types” (ibid.).


c)     The Alexandrian text: Prepared by trained scribes, most likely in Alexandria and its regions. This text has excellent credentials (ibid.).


d)    The Caesarean text: Probably originated in Egypt and was a mixture of the Western and Alexandrian texts (ibid.).


B.    Two Major Texts of Controversy (Textus Receptus vs. Wescott and Hort)


1.     Textus Receptus (KJV)


a)    In 1516, Erasmus, a Roman Catholic Priest and humanist, was pressured into to finishing a Greek text in order to be the first Greek text published.

b)    Erasmus was only able to acquire about six Byzantine manuscripts (out of thousands and none of which was written before the sixteenth century) from which to groom a reliable Greek text.

c)     After its first publishing, Erasmus and others would end up revising the text many times.

d)    In 1611, The KJV was translated from one of Erasmus’ revisions.

e)     In 1633, another revision was published by Erasmus, which contained the words, “Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immuta tum aut corruptum damus.” (“The reader has the text which is now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.”  cf. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p. 106.) Thereafter, this newest revision of the Greek NT was coined, the "received text," or the "Textus Receptus."

(1)   Note that it was not “received” in the sense that God was putting his stamp of approval upon this Greek revision alone.

(2)   It was received in that it was considered the standard text of that time.

f)     Two points of interest

(1)   Erasmus had no Greek manuscripts for the last six verses of Revelation, so he back-translated from Latin to Greek.

(2)   Erasmus, included in later revisions, the phrase written by a scribe in the margin of 1Jo 5:7-8, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

(a)   A.T. Robertson comments:

(i)    The last clause belongs to verse 8. The fact and the doctrine of the Trinity do not depend on this spurious addition. (in loc. Word Pictures)

(ii)   Some Latin scribe caught up Cyprian's exegesis and wrote it on the margin of his text, and so it got into the Vulgate and finally into the Textus Receptus by the stupidity of Erasmus (ibid.).

(b)   John MacArthur Jr. comments:

(i)    These words are a direct reference to the Trinity and what they say is accurate. External manuscript evidence, however, is against them being in the original epistle. They do not appear in any Gr. mss. dated before ca. tenth century a.d. Only 8 very late Gr. mss. contain the reading, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate. Furthermore, 4 of those 8 mss. contain the passage as a variant reading written in the margin as a later addition to the manuscript.

(ii)   No Greek or Latin Father, even those involved in Trinitarian controversies, quote them; no ancient version except the Latin records them (not the Old Latin in its early form or the Vulgate). Internal evidence also militates against their presence, since they disrupt the sense of the writer’s thoughts. Most likely, the words were added much later to the text. There is no verse in Scripture which so explicitly states the obvious reality of the Trinity, although many passages imply it strongly.


2.     Wescott and Hort (Most modern translations)


a)    In 1881, after about thirty years of labor, B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort published a famous Greek New Testament.

b)    Westcott and Hort, liberal scholars, argued that the later manuscripts (Byzantine) were inferior to the older manuscripts (Alexandrian).

(1)   In their work, the scholars used manuscripts that dated back to the second century, some 600 years earlier than anything used by Erasmus. As a basis they used two manuscripts — the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus. These works are believed by many to be the finest and most complete NT manuscripts known to exist. (Gilley, The Bible Translation Debate).

c)     While neither text is without flaw, most modern translators have chosen Westcott and Hort because of the careful scholarship in light of recent discoveries. In all fairness to Erasmus, a large amount of manuscripts were unavailable to him because they had not been discovered. Had they been available to Erasmus, there is little doubt that he would have scrutinized and evaluated them all as did Westcott and Hort.

d)    When the actual variations between the Textus Receptus, Westcott and Hort, and the 26th edition of the Nestles-Aland Greek texts, the vast majority of variations are so minor that they are not even translatable, (the most common is the moveable “nu”, which is akin to the difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom’).

(1)   Dan Wallace comments:

(a)   When one compares the number of variations that are found in the various MSS with the actual variations between the Textus Receptus and the best Greek witnesses, it is found that these two are remarkably similar. There are over 400,000 textual variants among NT MSS.

(b)   But the differences between the Textus Receptus and texts based on the best Greek witnesses number about 5000—and most of these are untranslatable differences! In other words, over 98% of the time, the Textus Receptus and the standard critical editions agree.

3.     Conspiracy Theories


a)    There are legitimate questions as to which Greek text is the most reliable.

b)    However, the question must be answered by legitimate and careful scholarship in view of all the evidence. Not by sharp disagreements based on emotions and over-biased preferences that lead to conspiracy theories.

(1)   Honest disagreement still remain concerning which Greek NT is superior. However, among those who love God’s Word there is no conspiracy or attempt to corrupt the Word of God. I believe that all manuscripts can be used and studied, and as was stated earlier, we can have complete confidence in the Bible that is in our hands. (Gilley, The Bible Translation Debate)

(2)   Those who vilify the modern translations and the Greek texts behind them have evidently never really investigated the data. Their appeals are based largely on emotion, not evidence. As such, they do an injustice to historic Christianity as well as to the men who stood behind the King James Bible. These scholars, who admitted that their work was provisional and not final (as can be seen by their preface and by their more than 8000 marginal notes indicating alternate renderings), would wholeheartedly welcome the great finds in MSS that have occurred in the past one hundred and fifty years. (Dan Wallace)




A.    Historical View of  Bible Translation


1.     Up until the twentieth century, there has been only one identifiable philosophy of Bible translation, namely a literal translation of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

2.     Around the middle of the twentieth century, a new philosophy emerged. This philosophy attempted to reproduce not the words of the original text but the thoughts and ideas. The leading proponents behind this philosophy were Kenneth Pike and Eugene Nida.


B.    Philosophies of Bible Translations


1.     The name of the historical philosophy of translation is called, “Formal Equivalence” which seeks to carefully translate word-for-word. It is also known, as “Literal Translation.”

2.     The name of the more modern philosophy is called, “Dynamic Equivalence.” This philosophy seeks to capture the thoughts, meanings, and ideas of the original texts. “Dynamic Equivalence” was the impetus for translation on the mission fields and was carried over to the retranslation of the English Bible.

3.     Another philosophy of translation is called, “Paraphrase” which is simply a restatement of a text in another form or other words, often to clarify meaning.

4.     Still another philosophy is called, “Free Translation” which seeks to combine word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations (i.e. NET Bible).





C.    Pros and Cons of Formal Equivalence (FE)


1.     Pros

a)    FE assures the reader that the translation is as close to the original as is allowable in translating from one language into another.

b)    FE allows the reader to interpret the meaning of the original text and not the translators for him.

c)     FE assures theological precision in preserving theological concepts through theological vocabulary.

d)    FE eliminates the need for translation correction in teaching and preaching.

e)     FE assures the original author’s scholarship and literary style (i.e. play on words)

2.     Cons

a)    Sometimes translating word-for-word can create greater ambiguity with idioms and colloquialisms.

b)    If the translation is too difficult because it is literally translated, then there will be less interest to read it.

c)     Unless an individual is a bible student, he may have difficulty interpreting Scripture accurately.


D.    Pros and Cons of Dynamic Equivalence (DE)


1.     Pros

a)    DE changes words that are deemed old-fashioned or difficult into more contemporary and colloquial language.

b)    DE simplifies difficult metaphors into direct statements for the reader’s understandability.

c)     DE turns long choppy sentences into shorter comprehensible sentences.

d)    DE reduces the level of vocabulary to a level suitable to the ability of today’s readers

2.     Cons

a)    If original writers would have wanted their text simplified, they could have written it differently.

b)    If God would have wanted the original writers to write differently, they he would have moved them to write differently.

c)     Not all scholars agree on the meanings of words so there can be multiple translations and interpretations.



E.    Problem Examples


1.     Rom 1:5

a)    Through him and for his names sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith (NIV).

b)    Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith (CEV).

c)     Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name (NLT).

d)    Rom 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, (NASB)

2.     John 6:27

a)    . . . for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal (NASB)

b)    . . . . because God the Father has set His seal on Him (NKJV).

c)     For on him God the Father has set his seal (ESV).

d)    On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval (NIV, TNIV)

e)     . . . . for on him God the Father has set the seal of his authority (REB). . . . because God the Father has given him the right to do so (CEV).

f)     For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose (NLT).

g)     He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last (The Message).

3.     Ps 1:1

a)    …nor standeth in the way of sinners (KJV, NIV, ESV, RSV, ASV, DBY)

b)    Nor stand in the path of sinners (NASB, NKJ,

c)     stand in the pathway with sinners (NET)

d)    take the path that sinners tread (NRS)

e)     stand around with sinners (NLT)


F.     Conclusion


1.     Based on the Scriptures own teaching, it would support word-for word translations

a)    If “every word of God” is tested and tried, then translations should reflect the equivalent of every word (Pr 30:15).

b)    If Jesus declared that every jot and tittle would be fulfilled, then translations must make sure that every word is translated word-for-word (Mat 5:18).

c)     Man lives by every word of God (Mat 4:4).

d)    The Bible’s words are spirit words and words of life (Joh 6:63; Deut 32:46-47).

e)     Man is not to add to the Scriptures (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Pr 30:6; Rev 22:18-19)

2.     Expositional teaching and preaching would support word-for word translations.

3.     We must also realize that no translation is a 100% word-for-word translation. It simply would be unreadable.

4.     There are times when all versions must adjust to idioms.

5.     It may be helpful at times for the Bible Student to read various translations to know about different views on a particular passage.

6.     Furthermore, we must be careful that we do not blow the Bible version debate way out of proportion and neglect the great duty to read the Scriptures daily.


G.    Addendum: Identification of Philosophies of Translation in English Versions


1.     Formal Equivalence (Essentially word-for-word)


a)    NASB—New American Standard Bible

b)    ESV—English Standard Bible

c)     KJV—King James Version

d)    NKJV—New King James Version

e)     RSV—Revised Standard Version

f)     NRSV—New Revised Standard Version


2.     Dynamic Equivalence


a)    NIV—New International Version

b)    TNIV—Today’s New International Version

c)     NLT—New Living Translation

d)    CEV—Contemporary English Version

e)     GNB—Good News Bible


3.     Paraphrase


a)    NTME—The NT in Modern English (Phillips)

b)    TLB—The Living Bible

c)     TM—The Message

d)    TSB—The Street Bible




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