|Brother Paul Burbidge|
The Doctrine of Biblical Preservation
The Essentiality of Preservation
The Vindication of Preservation
God Keeps the Book
Many today claim to believe that the Scriptures were verbally inspired (every word God-breathed), that all the Scriptures are fully and equally inspired (plenary inspiration), and that the Scriptures were inspired without error in fact or instruction (inerrant and Infallible) in the Original Manuscripts. This would be commonly referred to as the "fundamental" position on Biblical Inspiration. Now, this all sounds great, but it is actually a cop-out. It is a worthless stand because of the four words, "in the Original Manuscripts." Those four words nullify the position. We do not have any Original Manuscripts of the Bible remaining! The "Original Manuscripts" are the papers or skins upon which the prophets and apostles actually wrote. The Originals of the Old Testament were long gone before the incarnation of Christ or the New Testament scriptures were written, and the New Testament originals had vanished within 100-years after the Apostle John died (c. 100 AD). Maintaining a position that the Scriptures are inspired in the Original Manuscripts is completely worthless because there are no originals. It is farcical to base your convictions and faith upon that which does not exist. If you are questioning the validity of the above statement please continue, and I will explain further.
One of the great battlegrounds of contending for the faith in the new millennium is the war for the PURE Word of God! Each Christian and each church must deal with three massive questions; by ignoring these issues you choose your position by default. The questions are: (1) what is the nature and extent of the inspiration of the Bible? We dealt with this question in the previous article, God Wrote the Book. (2) Do we have the Word of God today in the original LANGUAGE (Hebrew & Greek, do not confuse this with the Original Manuscripts) and, if so, to what extent? (3) Do we have the Word of God in the English language? Or, is the inspiration of the original LANGUAGES translate-able to another language? (Please click here for the answer to No. 3, and more on the first two questions.) It is the answer to the second question that we want to occupy the following lines.
The first major point that one must be clear on is the inspiration of the Scriptures. As delineated in the previous article the inspiration of the Scriptures has five aspects to it: confluent inspiration, verbal inspiration, plenary inspiration, inerrant inspiration, and infallible inspiration. If you are not clear on these points than you need to go back and grab hold of those truths.
What does it mean to preserve? Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th Edition) gives the following for the word preserve: "to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction; protect; to keep alive, intact, or free from decay; maintain." Preserve and preservation are verbs, action words. We must note that the preservation of the Scriptures is an action executed by someone. That someone is God.
(Psa 12:6, 7 KJV) "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
Now we are yet to go through the Bible's teaching on Biblical Preservation, but in preparation for that, we must realize that GOD is the one doing the preserving of His Word. He has taken the responsibility and He is able.
(Mk 10:27 KJV) "And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
We shall see as we go through the Scriptures that the attributes of God's preservation of the Scriptures are the same as those of the inspiration, namely, verbal, plenary, inerrant, infallible, and confluent. First, let us see the Bible's teaching regarding verbal preservation.
(Exo 4:28 KJV) "And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him."
(Exo 19:6 KJV) "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."
(Exo 20:1KJV) "And God spake all these words, saying,"
(Deut 6:4-7 KJV) "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
(Josh 3:9 KJV) "And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God."
(Josh 8:34 KJV) "And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law."
(1st Sam15:1 KJV) "Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD."
(Psa 119:57 KJV) "CHETH. Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words." Also verses 103, 130, and 139.
(Jer 11:2, 3 KJV) "Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,"
(Mat 24:35 KJV) "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Also, see Mark 8:38; 10:24; Luke 1:20; Luke 3:4; John 3:34; 5:47; 1 Cor. 2:13, etc. If you take your Strong's Concordance and look up "words" you will find many more of these references.
You can see from the above sampling of verses that each individual word that God speaks is important. Each word is made up of individual letters. Each letter in a given word is important for each letter that is left out or added where it is not supposed to be causes the word to change or simply makes the word unintelligible. Human communication requires letters, arranged just so, so as to make particular words. The words are arranged in particular order to make a sentence, which expresses the message of the speaker/writer. Those sentences are arranged in paragraphs, and so on. For accurate communication to take place the letters, words, sentences, etc. must be arranged in proper order. If one of the letters, words, or sentences is out of place it changes the meaning of what the speaker/writer is trying to express. For example:
John 3:7 says, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."
If we switch the order of just two words, Ye and must, we get…
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Must ye be born again.
Think on that slight change. Right, that is very serious. Now let’s see what happens when you simply remove one word--not.
"Marvel that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."
This should serve to demonstrate how dangerous the loss of even one word of the Bible would be. Jesus said, very clearly, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." That is one massive promise! The Words of God are more secure than heaven and earth. Therefore, it should be clear that one aspect of the preservation of the Scriptures is Verbal Preservation. The Bible was verbally inspired and has been and is being verbally preserved by the infinite power and sovereignty of God.
Plenary (the whole, completely and equally preserved) preservation is the second of five attributes of Biblical preservation that we need to look at. Verbal preservation tells us that every single word of the Scriptures has been kept perfectly by the Almighty God. If every single part is preserved than the whole is preserved also. The fact is, that, "for ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psa 119:89).
(Psa 33:11 KJV) "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations."
(Psa 105:8 KJV) "He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations."
(Psa 119:160 KJV) "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever."
(John 10:35 KJV) "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;"
The next two aspects of Bible preservation are inerrancy and infallibility. The facts that the Word of God was inspired without error and perfect in its teaching and that the Words of God have been preserved down through the centuries tells us that we have the inerrant and infallible Word of God today. This is good, for it is the Word of God whereby we are saved and set apart to God.
The final aspect of preservation is confluent inspiration. Under the doctrine of Bible inspiration we see that the Holy Ghost moved specific men to record the words of the Lord. It has been by human copyists that the Word of God has been preserved. In fact it is in the massive spreading of the written Word of God that it has been preserved.
(Psa 68:11 KJV) "The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it."
There are over 5,300 Greek (New Testament) manuscripts in existence today. (Note: There are some 10,000 Latin manuscripts extant. These were translated from the Greek and also form a great witness to God's preservation.) Some are complete but most are portions. When you put these all together 95% of them agree with each other. What does this mean? It means that by the exercise of collating these manuscripts you can determine the true and preserved Greek New Testament text. That was done over a period of almost one hundred years by a number of men, starting with Erasmus in the 1500's and ending with the King James Bible translators in 1611. You will notice that there is hardly ever anything said about the Old Testament. The reason is because the Old Testament has been established since about 400 BC, about 500 years before the New Testament was completed. It seems that Satan and apostate scholars have left the OT alone, at least for a time. Mind you, the Hebrew text used by most, if not all of the modern perversions of the Bible, have their origin in Nazi Germany. So maybe it is just a silent battleground.
When we started this discussion I said that claiming to believe in the verbal, plenary, inerrant, and infallible inspiration of the Bible in the ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS was a cop-out, a non-stand, a worthless position to take. Now, I hope that you see why and that there is no need for you to base your life on something that does not exist--the original pieces of paper, papyri, or vellium that the Prophets and Apostles themselves wrote on.
At the assurance of the Bible, on the promise of the Almighty Loving God, will you not throw off your unbelief and cleave to the eternal counsel of God? --"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." (Psa 12:6, 7 KJV)
By Paul Burbidge, B.Th.