Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city, Matthew 23:34. The Lord promised to give his people scribes. From approximately 1628 until 1985, this promise was fulfilled in the English speaking world by two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.
We are hard pressed in the Word of God to find the mechanics for the actual transmission of existing scripture. In other words, how did God expect men to keep the transmission of inspired scripture alive? If you are a Neo-Evangelical or the run of the mill Fundamentalist, you don't expect God to protect it. To such people the Bible is nothing more to God than an ostrich egg is to an ostrich.
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding, Job 39:13-17. According to these silly people, God carefully lays the Word of God in the sands of time and then leaves it to the course of nature for protection.
If you are liberal in theology, you think that nature has eroded much of the Word of God. You are not sure of entire passages and even books of the Bible are suspect in your eyes. If you are a smug little Neo-Evangelical twit who can't quite bring yourself to believe that God would perfectly preserve scripture, you loudly proclaim that the Bible is 95% to 99% pure, and that by golly, you're going to trust it! This blog is mostly of interest to those of us who believe that God blessed and conducted the preservation of scripture. We believe that we can lay our hands on a perfectly preserved Bible.
We see a few verses in our Old Testament wherein we see how the Lord intended to preserve his Word. And the families of the scribes which dwelt at Jabez; the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and Suchathites. These are the Kenites that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab, I Chronicles 2:55. It is fascinating to look into just who these scribes were. They were a people not descended from Jacob. They were of Abraham's lineage through Moses's Father in-law. Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh, Judges 4:11. These were a people absorbed into the nation of Israel, but whose origin was not of the twelve tribes. To these people was the transmission of the Word of God entrusted.
Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel, Deuteronomy 17:15-20.
We see from those verses that it was the duty of a king to make his own copy of the scriptures which were in the hands of the Levites. So now we see two separate paths of transmission. We see the scribes who were of Gentile origin and were trained to transmit scripture, and we see that the King himself copying the words of scripture. The Levites then guarded the transmitted text. The history of our English Bible takes just such a turn. One of King James's first acts as the King of England was to order a new translation of scripture. It was an edict of Henry VIII that made Oxford and Cambridge to be authorized scribes for the printing and disseminating of the Word of God (see the four part posts titled Where The Word of a King Is from June 2017). The church then guards that transmitted scripture.
By these two agencies, the King himself authorizing the translation of scripture, and the word of a king authorizing its transmission, that the English speaking world had the promise of Matthew 23:34 literally fulfilled, and was graced with so great a book. In my next post we look at the abdication of the universities responsibility and how we should react.