The Seven Wonders of the Word (Part 2 of 3)

(3) The Bible’s Wonderful Canonization

“Canonize” means “to include in the Biblical canon” (The American Heritage College Dictionary). The sixty-six books of the Bible had to be accepted for what they were and collated into one universally recognized and authoritative volume (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; Hebrews 1:1).

This is a relatively simple matter, as far as the Old Testament books are concerned.

The Jews, the divinely appointed caretakers of the Old Testament Scriptures (Romans 3:2), settled on the thirty-nine books which are in the Old Testament. Jewish New Testament figures, such as Jesus, repeatedly quoted from, and endorsed, the validity and authenticity of the Old Testament books (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:15). In fact, the New Testament looks to, and depends upon, the Old Testament as proof of its divine authenticity (e.g., John 5:46).

Though the canonization of the New Testament books may be more complex, there never was substantial, widespread debate about the books which rightly belong among them. All of the books of the New Testament were written by the end of the first century AD over a sixty-year period (35-95 AD), or less. This fact is important since apostles, prophets, or other inspired men would have been alive to vouchsafe for the authenticity of New Testament documents (1 Corinthians 14:29; cf. 12:10).

Paul, and other writers of the New Testament, had means of ensuring that their writings were identifiable as such, thus protecting against counterfeits (2 Thessalonians 2:2). They could write or sign the documents in their own hand (1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 1:19). Paul sent his writings by the hands of trusted companions, who would be able to vouch for their authenticity (cf. Ephesians 6:21; Philippians 2:25; Colossians 4:7). The authors of practically every letter of the New Testament afterward did visit, or could have visited, with the churches who received their letters and verified that they wrote their letters.

(4) The Bible’s Wonderful Preservation

Preservation (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:22-25) refers to the fact that all parts of the Bible were preserved from loss or corruption. The Lord attached great importance to the preservation of His word without deletion or addition (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19), for, otherwise, how could people trust the Bible as a faithful source of information about the will of God?

Yet, there have been those, such as the Muslims or Mormons, who have claimed that the Bible’s text has been corrupted. First, there is no proof of this, for there are no conflicting versions of the Bible with different books or messages. Second, this claim is defamatory of God, who supposedly could not be trusted to maintain His word in an uncorrupted state. Finally, this claim backfires on them, for if God could not have preserved the Bible in an uncorrupted state, despite it being His word, then what is there to say that the Koran and the Book of Mormon could not also be corrupted?

Although there are relatively minor variant readings among Biblical manuscripts, not a single Biblical doctrine is affected by them. The Bible is the best attested book of antiquity, as far as its text is concerned. This is so true that, if the text of the Bible cannot be trusted, no ancient documents can be. The earliest New Testament fragment (John Rylands) goes back to 117-38 AD, and there are more-or-less complete copies of the New Testament from the fourth or fifth century.

(5) The Bible’s Wonderful Translation

“Translation” is the process or result of rendering the ideas of words in one language in another language by using words of equivalent, or closely approximate, meaning in the latter. It is proper for the message of the Bible to be presented in different languages (1 Corinthians 14:22; Mark 16:17). The Bible, particularly the New Testament, was to be circulated world-wide (cf. Mark 16:15), and, to expedite this process, it has been necessary to translate it into other languages. In fact, the gospel was first preached in a variety of languages (Acts 2:1-11).

The writers of the New Testament quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. New Testament writers sometimes translated for the benefit of their readers (Matthew 27:33; Mark 3:17; John 20:16; Acts 1:19; 4:36; 13:8). “The Bible has been translated into over one thousand languages representing more than ninety percent of the world’s population” (A General Introduction to the Bible, pg. 196). This shows the Bible’s importance and influence is universally and immediately recognized.

–Gary Eubanks