By Vlad Kedrovsky
In March 1995, a Baptist pastor informed his congregation that on a Sunday night soon, he would have an "Ask the Pastor" night. Questions were to be submitted in advance, in writing. The following were submitted by a member of the congregation [edited for publication]:
During the course of sermons and conversations, I believe I have picked up some contradictions in your position on the matter of the inspiration of scripture. Since you asked for questions...
I believe it is your position that only the "original autographs" were inspired. Let's begin there. I think we can agree that the original autographs, back when they existed, would have been classified as "scripture." But, as you said Sunday night, those manuscripts no longer exist. Probably haven't for 1700 years or so. But the Bible still uses the word "scripture(s)." In particular, II Timothy 3:16 says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and ..." You have well defined what "inspiration" is and what it isn't. But I ask again, WHAT IS SCRIPTURE, that I might know exactly what it is that is "inspired."
If I take your statement that only the original autographs were inspired, then I must conclude that "all scripture" refers to the original autographs. Even if it did, how could something which did not exist at the time Paul wrote those words be profitable to anyone for any purpose? Back up one verse. Timothy knew "the scriptures." Did Timothy know the original autographs? Did he have them in his possession? Did he see them somewhere and learn them?
Let's check out a few other places. Try Luke 4:21 "And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Did this synagogue in Nazareth have the original autograph of Isaiah? Check out John 5:39 "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." Jesus told the Jews who had challenged Him to "Search the scriptures..." Was Jesus telling these people to search the original autographs? How would anyone know if the "scripture" were fulfilled if they (original autographs) had crumbled into dust centuries earlier? John 19:36 "For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken."
In the eighth chapter of Acts, Philip was sent to meet up with the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip found him, he was reading something called "scripture": Acts 8:32 "The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:" How on earth did this dude from Ethiopia get his hands on the original autograph of the book of Isaiah?? And why did that synagogue in Nazareth ever give it to him??? Or how 'bout those Berean guys? Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." The fact that the synagogue in Nazareth got their hands on the original autograph of Isaiah blows my mind! And then they gave it to this eunuch!! Unless he stole it from them (as Tischendorf stole Sinaiticus from those monks down at St. Catherine's...). In any event, now we learn that these Bereans had all of the original autographs of the OT!!!!!! WOW!! Now, if they had them all, what did the eunuch have?
If "scripture(s)" refers to "original autographs," then Jesus was playing a cruel hoax on those to whom He spoke. Check out, for example, among others, Mt.21:42; 22:29; Mk.12:10,24; Lk.24:27; Jn.2:22; 7:38,42; 19:37; 20:9. How could these people check out or know the scriptures, if they had crumbled into dust centuries earlier?
When we get to Luke 24, we get a different twist on things: 24:32 "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" Did Jesus have the original autographs with Him? In fact, did he have ANY book with him?? Or did he simply speak? In v.45, Jesus opened their understanding so they could understand the scriptures. What scriptures? The original autographs? And once these Emmaus guys understood these original autographs, did they mail them up to the Bereans? (Relative to Luke 24:32, see, also, Job 32:8.)
In John 10:35, we learn that the scripture cannot be broken. But if "scripture(s)" refers to original autographs, Jesus was mistaken. For every original autograph that was ever written has been broken into dust. Do you see the problem we have here? If II Timothy 3:16 says the original autographs were inspired, then how do you explain all these other places where that word "scripture(s)" appears, when they cannot possibly refer to the original autographs?? I ask again: WHAT IS SCRIPTURE?
You stated quite flatly Sunday night that there were no contradictions in the Bible. Yet only a month ago or so, you sat across from me at lunch and stated that the King James Bible had contradictions in it. If memory serves, you pointed me to John 19:36 and I Corinthians 11:24. Now if I take both of those statements as true, then I must conclude that the King James 1611 Authorized Version is not "The Bible." Hence, my question.
So, if the AV is not "The Bible," Then what is? The NASV? The NIV? The RSV? The NKJV? The NRSV? The LB? The NEB? The ASV? The RV? Any of the 100+ English translations that have appeared on the market (!) in the last 100 years? Or is it Nestle's 23rd? 26th? Westcott and Hort's text? The UBS, 1st Edition? 2nd Edition? 3rd Edition? 4th Edition? Beza's text? Stephanus' text? Erasmus' text? The Old Latin? Jerome's Vulgate? The Douhay-Rheims? The Jerusalem Bible? The New Jerusalem Bible? The Message? The Oxford Politically Correct Bible? WHAT IS "THE BIBLE"?
Can I get one? Can I hold one in my own hands? If not, can I see one in a museum someplace? Is there a seminary or a monastery someplace where I could go to see one? Has anyone ever seen one? Was the book you held up Sunday night "The Bible"? I believe that was a King James Bible. Is THAT BOOK you held up "The Bible"? If it is, then what are those brown books in the pew racks?? If your book is "The Bible," then those NIVs can't be. They are different from the book you held up. Unless, of course, we can believe that things different are, in fact, the same.
On Sunday night you stated clearly, and absolutely correctly, that when one finds passages in "The Bible" that are not inspired, then one becomes his own authority. At the risk of putting words into your mouth (and you're perfectly free to spit them out!), I would think that any errors or contradictions one finds in "The Bible" could not be inspired by God. I'm not talking about difficulties or passages that appear to be contradictory at first reading, without proper study. So, if one were to find an error or a contradiction, would not such a one be his own final authority?
Let me push it just a bit further and cover all the bases. If one were to find errors, contradictions, poor translations, unfortunate renderings, or things lost in translation, would not such a one be his own final authority? Now you admonished us, quite rightly, to believe "The Bible" in the face of all detractors or critics. But, if my AV has mistakes, contradictions, poor translations, faulty renderings, and the like, then it cannot be "The Bible." Yet, you told us to believe "The Bible," period. You said that we are not our own authority. "The Bible" is, and you raised a physical book as you said it. I saw it. So, I ask these two questions again, because they are inseparable: WHAT IS "THE BIBLE"? WHAT IS YOUR FINAL AUTHORITY?
Because if it is, then about 40 verses in the New Testament are not inspired, since they, even in the original autographs, were Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament. How do you reconcile the "verbal inspiration" of the NT, and yet allow for 40 uninspired verses?
Is Exodus 5-11 inspired? All those conversations that took place between Moses and Pharaoh were in Egyptian. Yet, when Moses wrote the book of Exodus, all those conversations appeared in Hebrew. They were all "translations." Or we could go back to Joseph in Egypt. He spoke Egyptian to hide his identity from his brothers. Yet, when Moses wrote it down, he wrote it in Hebrew, a translation.
What about the decrees of Artexerxes and Darius and Nebuchadnezzar?? Those guys didn't speak Hebrew, yet what they said appears in Hebrew in Daniel and Esther. Translations. Not inspired?
All that tongues stuff in Acts 2 were translations, for each man heard what Peter was saying in his own language. Not inspired? What about the sign that was nailed on the cross? That consisted of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. At least 2 of those had to be translations. Not inspired?
Or how 'bout Matthew 27:46? Jesus cried out in Aramaic, and in the very same verse, even in the original autographs, there was given the translation. I guess "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" is inspired, but "Theemou, Theemou, inati me egkatelipes" is not, being a translation.
Are you sure NO TRANSLATION CAN BE INSPIRED? Now, of course, in the context of our usual discussions, we are talking about English translations of "The Bible" (whatever that is). But the above material must dispell the notion that no translation can ever be inspired. So, setting aside for the present the 100+ particular English translations available today, WHAT SAYS THAT NO TRANSLATION EVER COULD BE INSPIRED?
Was it not you, yourself, who said, "Let God be God"? Won't you even allow Him to inspire a translation if He really wants to? Never mind whether He did. You won't even allow Him to do it!! WHY NOT? What prohibits God from giving the world an inspired English translation to be used during the 400 years or so before His Son's second coming, in a world whose universal language is English? I say again, never mind whether He did or not. What PREVENTS or PROHIBITS Him from even considering such a project?
If we deny a deistic approach to the preservation of scripture(s) (whatever they are), then God must be involved in something beyond the original autographs. What is this involvement? To what does this divine involvement extend? If God was not involved in the making of copies or translations, then how does one advancing the theory that ONLY the original autographs were inspired, and man took it from there, avoid the charge of deism?
Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to Ask the Pastor. If I think of any more questions, I'll be sure to send them on to you!
[It took the pastor over six months even to admit that he received the questions. As of June 1996, he had not offered one word of one answer to one question. But during this time, he has repeated his illogical, contradictory "stand" on the "Scriptures" (whatever they are...!). Repeated requests for clarification of his illogical statements has resulted only in their repetition.]
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