How did we get the Old Testament? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We saw yesterday a statement that I could not describe as anything less than blasphemous. Today, Johnson is going to tell us some about textual transmission. (Perhaps if you wanted to write about Bible translation this would have been a better place to start.) The link can be found here.
“The Bible was written from 1650 BC to 90 AD” [S4P96]. (These dates include both the Old and New Testaments). As to the Old Testament:
“The Hebrew Scriptures were written by Moses and the prophets and other inspired men to whom God had given prophetic gifts” [S8P7].
The Old Testament text (Hebrew scriptures) were passed down both orally and in the written form. As to the oral tradition, we know the following:
“The original Hebrew manuscripts were not ‘pointed’, that is, the written text was made up of consonants, without the vowel sounds that make words pronounceable. The spoken text was passed down through the centuries by the Hebrew priests, who by their public reading of the Scriptures gave full understanding to the consonantal text” [S15P7].
Okay. Nothing really objectionable so far.
This oral tradition continued until:
“… a Jewish sect known as the Massoretes, concerned that the demise of this oral tradition would make the Hebrew Scriptures incomprehensible, set out to produce a standardized copy of the Hebrew Old Testament complete with vowel sounds” [S15P7].
Thus, the Massoretes standardized the Hebrew Text, giving us the ‘written tradition’.
The Masoretes did a valuable service, but we should not ignore the Dead Sea Scrolls either. Those were people trying to be faithful to the text as well.
In Alfred Levell’s book “The Old Is Better”; we are told how the Old Testament was copied and passed down in written form:
“For the Old Testament, the copying was done with extreme care by the Jewish priesthood in the centuries before Christ … After the time of Christ, copies were made by Jewish scribes, and especially by those from the 6th century onward called the Massoretes, who took extraordinary pains to ensure the correctness of their copies” [S13P17].
I tried to find the scholarly credentials of Levell. I found none. We have a KJV-onlyist quoting another KJV-onlyist.
The extraordinary pains that the Massoretes used included:
“… many complicated safeguards … such as counting the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book” [S8P13].
David Fuller expands on the care which went into copying the Hebrew manuscripts. He says:
“The Jews cherished the highest awe and veneration for their sacred writings which they regarded as the ‘Oracles of God’. They maintained that God had more care of the letters and syllables of the Law than of the stars of heaven, and that upon each tittle of it, mountains of doctrine hung … In the transcription of an authorized synagogue manuscript, rules were enforced of the minutest character. The copyist must write with a particular ink, on a particular parchment. He must write in so many columns, of such a size, and containing just so many lines and words. No word to be written without previously looking at the original. The copy, when completed, must be examined and compared within thirty days; if four errors were found on one parchment; the examination went no farther – the whole was rejected” [S2P112-113]
Fuller is at least a scholar, but he wrote this book back in 1970 and we have learned more sense then. He is also another KJV-onlyist. Still, there is really nothing wrong with this statement.
In his book “God Wrote Only One Bible”, Jasper James Ray also speaks about the carefulness of the scribes:
“In making copies of the original manuscripts, the Jewish scribes exercised the greatest possible care. When they wrote the name of God in any form they were to reverently wipe their pen, and wash their whole body before writing ‘Jehovah’ lest that holy name should be tainted even in writing. The new copy was examined and carefully checked with the original almost immediately, and it is said that if only one incorrect letter was discovered the whole copy was rejected. Each new copy had to be made from an approved manuscript, written with a special kind of ink, upon skins made from a ‘clean’ animal. The writer had to pronounce aloud each word before writing it. In no case was the word to be written from memory. They counted, not only the words, but every letter, and how many times each letter occurred, and compared it to the original” [S4P94-95].
I can find nothing on Ray, but once again, Johnson is only echoing his own side. He has thus far not studied anyone on something as simple as textual transmission except those who agree with him.
Notice: These 2 previous historical accounts differ slightly in a couple of places: namely did 1 or 4 errors cause the rejection of the whole copy; and did the copy get examined almost immediately or within 30 days. Suffice it to say that, even though these 2 quotes differ somewhat, the copies were made with extreme care. And, that is the point.
Therefore, we can have confidence in the Massoretic Old Testament text, because of what we have just learned, as well as:
“… the extreme reverence with which the Jews regarded their Scriptures affords a powerful guarantee against any deliberate corruption of the text” [S2P118].
And the Massoretic Old Testament has also been confirmed through other means, namely the:
“… many secondary witnesses … including translations into other languages, quotations used by friends and enemies of biblical religion, and evidence from early printed texts” [S18P153].
Again, still no problem.
Additionally, David Fuller points out (about the Massoretic Old Testament text):
“The Old Testament, precisely as we have it, was endorsed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God … The Old Testament was our Lord’s only study book …. Five hundred and four times is the Old Testament quoted in the New” [S2P113-114].
In the booklet “God’s Inspired Preserved Bible” the author says (of the Massoretic Text):
“As a summary we may say that 10% of Christ’s words were taken directly from the Old Testament” [S7P7].
Thus, the Massoretic Old Testament Text has been carefully reproduced and has been attested to by Jesus Christ. It is this Massoretic Text, which forms the Old Testament, of our King James Bible.
I have no problem with using the Masoretic text, but I have no desire to throw out the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We shall continue next time with the New Testament.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)