Church is not ‘custodian of God’s Bible’
Published 2:37 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011
To the Editor:
In response to “Seek truth, do not distort history” (TDB, Dec. 15, 2010, p. 19), Ann Marie Rowe made a surprising statement that the church came before the Bible. The church came before the Bible? Wow! First we need to understand the history we don’t want to distort!
From 1513BC down to about 440BC the “Old Testament” part of our present Bible was written and compiled. With His Holy Spirit, God inspired some 32 men to write the 39 books on various media, such as rolls of parchment (Jeremiah 36:3). These men wrote their books by hand, and down through the years, men who held the esteemed occupation of “copyist” (Ezra 7:6; Jeremiah 36:10) diligently reproduced handwritten copies as needed.
Those 39 books comprised the complete Bible for centuries, because they hadn’t come to the Christian era yet. We remember in 1947 they discovered the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” containing the book of Isaiah, which are handwritten copies on rolls of parchment dating to about 200BC. And according to the custom of reading from the Bible on the Sabbath day, Luke 4:16,17 tells us that Jesus regularly took his turn reading from the scroll of a copy of the Bible that had been in existence for some four centuries.
During the first century AD, Jesus and the apostles were busy establishing the new Christian religion, and again with the Holy Spirit, God inspired eight men to write the 27 books and letters of the “New Testament” part of our present Bible, which recorded the instructions, activities and prophecies of the new religion down to the last writings of the Apostle John, about the year 98AD. These too were written by hand.
By approximately 170AD, the Muratorian Fragment, along with four other historical writings into the early third century, tell us the final selection of the 27 books of the New Testament had been made in the second century. Thus the complete Bible as we have it today was handwritten by some 40 men under the inspiration of God, from 1513BC to 98AD, and compiled into its correct list of 66 books by 170AD.
The next development was the introduction of the codex, a book with pages rather than a scroll. The first century Christians were among the first people to use the codex format, using it for their Bibles.
At 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul asked Timothy to bring books, both in the form of scrolls and in the form of parchments, showing some use of the codex had already begun.
Granted, the copies and fragments researchers have discovered might be regarded as crude by standards since the invention of the printing press, but those first and second century codices were much more effective than using scrolls. They were compact, having writing on front and back of each page, and were easier to use, turning pages rather than unwinding a scroll.
So you see, the first and second century Christians had Bibles and used them in their ministry. Acts 17:2,3 says, “So according to Paul’s custom he went inside to them, and for three Sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer… etc.”
I can see that some people very much want to believe that the church is the custodian of God’s Bible, but that just isn’t so. God is the custodian of His written Word, and He does it His way.
— Ken Roberts