I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name, Psalm 138:2.
The term, "The Bible" is not in the bible. The idea of having all of scripture encapsulated into one book that has covers, a title and has all of the books of scripture, Old and New Testaments encapsulated within, needed advances in technology before it could exist on earth. In Old Testament times, the word of God was written on scrolls.
We understand from the Apostle Paul's writings and from such historical evidence as exists, that the New Testament was written on parchment, a stiff writing material made from either dried animal skins or sometimes papyrus reeds. If there was ever a complete Old and New Testament put together under one cover in the first few centuries of the New Testament era, it would have been exceedingly rare.
We owe much to the Celtic Monks from the independent Celtic Churches who painstakingly reproduced the Latin manuscripts entrusted to them by the missionary efforts of Columbo and Patrick, as well as innumerable others who preached the word of God to the Celts of Ireland. Of the many surviving Old Latin Manuscripts called the Vetus Latina, many were copied by these Celtic Monks. Unlike the later Roman Catholic Monks who also labored to copy parchments, the Celtic Monks copied the text we use today in our King James Bible. They sought for accuracy. As we will see, accuracy was neither a goal nor necessarily preferred during most of the middle ages.
As the proponents of the New Bibles are quick to tell us, Greek parchments hand copied during the 4th through the 6th century in learning centers and monasteries of the time, reflect the texts used in today's newer bibles. They mostly labored under the burden of copying texts from a language and alphabet foreign to them.
John Burgon in his classic 19th century treatises on the manuscripts used in the Revised Version of the Bible as well as the tsunami of new versions ever since, noted and demonstrated that the scribes behind most of those manuscripts were not able to understand what they copied. It became obvious by the manner of mistakes they made. Their tedious labor performed in dimly lit cells using manuscripts that they could not read nor understand, shows the sloppiness we might expect.
Whole passages are errantly reproduced, whole passages are missing. Key punctuation is mixed up. Often a passage is missing because a later passage on the same page which starts with the same word is mistakenly copied because the copyist merely looked for a given word from which to restart his labor and mistakenly began much further down the page.
These Greek manuscripts are a result of a translating effort made sometime after Jerome reworked the Latin Text. These texts often referred to as the Alexandrian Manuscripts, are undoubtedly a translation into Greek from the Jerome Latin Text. They are not copies of the Apostle's work.
From the time of Jerome (late 4th century till 420AD), there were two competing Latin Texts. The Old Coptic Text (300AD), the Old Gothic Text (400AD), the Syrian Text (180AD) and the Old Latin Text (c100AD) all combine to bear witness to the Greek text of our King James Bible. Sometime after Jerome, his new Latin Text was translated into Greek. From that time on, their were two competing Greek Texts. The new versions as well as all Roman Catholic Versions have thrown in their lot with Jerome's work.
Dr. Wilbur N. Pickering in his exhaustive study of the thousands of New Testament texts and which he published under the title, The Identity of the New Testament Text, calculated the odds that a text which began in the 4th Century would outnumber a text which had begun in the 1st Century. What is meant by that is that he calculated how many texts would have been copied from a manuscript whose starting time had been in Apostolic times and then copied under the circumstances of the time throughout the world, as opposed to how many texts would have been copied from a text which only started in the 4th Century. In other words, one text had a three century head start on the other.
There is a reason that the Greek Text from which our King James Bible sprang is called the Majority Text. The three century head start given the text of the King James Bible put it numerically far ahead of the minority text of the new bibles as both multiplied exponentially.
It must be remembered that the Jerome texts both in Greek and in Latin had the full support of the Universal Church and of the Medieval Kingdoms that supported it. Despite having church/state backing, and despite the horrors poured out upon those who resisted that combination, the Greek Text of the King James Bible was far more numerous than its later rival.
The Majority Text (I am being loose with terminology which is probably driving my critics apoplectic.) is often referred to as the Byzantine Text. The Eastern part of the Roman Empire which was situated in Constantinople in Modern Day Turkey (now know as Istanbul) kept and copied the Majority Text.
The use of the Greek Language never died there as it did in the Western Church. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. John Lacsaris, an eastern Orthodox scholar, fled to Rome for sanctuary and began to teach the Roman Church the use of Greek. Until then, with the exception of England, monks who copied Greek manuscripts were hampered by being given Jerome's work in a language which they could not read. England experienced a revival of the Greek Language a century earlier as the Moorish Kingdoms of Spain fell and the Jews and Anabaptists of those lands fled to the sanctuary offered them by noblemen in sympathy with Wycliffe and in sympathy with the Lollards (an Anabaptist Group independent from Rome).
To understand why Jerome would alter a text and to understand why the many Greek and Latin Texts derived from his work are so variant, we need to understand the mentality of the Medieval scribe. Dr. L. M. Meyers in his 1966 book, The Roots of Modern English, described the copying work of such scribes.
To understand the context of the passage that I will reproduce here, it is speaking of the wide variance in Old English and Middle English Manuscripts. In doing so, Meyers informs us that monks felt no need or obligation to give us a word for word or letter for letter transcription of anything that they copied. More often than not, they gave us a version of how they saw it. If they misread a passage, or if they disagreed with it, they copied it as they saw fit.
"Even in Latin Manuscripts of works whose text was particularly respected, and on which scholars had been busy for centuries, the variations that occur are amazing and sometimes completely bewildering." Page 123.
When Rome sold Ireland to the English in the 12th Century, and the English wiped out the Irish Church, the world lost a gem of scholarship wherein their monks had been far more fastidious in copying the Vetus Latina or Old Latin. The overthrowing of Constantinople further compounded the problem. From that time on, vulgar manuscripts (manuscripts in native tongues such as Walloon, Old German or French) were the main transmitters of the word of God in a purer form.
Margret Deanesly's 1920 book, The Lollard Bible goes into great detail identifying those various manuscripts and their transmission. She makes it clear that with extremely few exceptions, these were not complete bibles. These were usually handwritten, locally translated portions of scripture that were clandestinely carried from house to house for bible study and evangelization.
We know more about them from the records of the inquisition as the bearers of those texts were tried and burnt at the stake than we do from recovered manuscripts. Deanesly eventually concluded that the transmission of those bibles had little if not anything to do with the King James Bible. Her student and assistant, Swedish scholar Sven Fristedt uncovered and exposed the error of that conclusion. In a lifelong study of the Wycliffe Bible, its antecedents and its transmission, he exposed the fraud of the bible currently being paraded on the internet and universities as the Wycliffe Bible.
His three main books on the subject, The Wycliffe Bible, Part I The Principal Problems with Forshall and Madden's Edition (the faux Wycliffe Bible being sold today) 1953, Part II The Origin of the First Revision as Presented in De Salutaribus Documentis, 1969, and Part III Relationships of Trevisa and the Spanish Medieval Bibles, 1973, demonstrate the undeniable link between the vulgar bibles of medieval Europe, the Wycliffe Bible and the King James Bible.
These books were published in Stockholm, Sweden and when they impacted English readers, it was through upper level English courses in secular universities. Unfortunately, they were unknown to Bible based universities and colleges. As a result, the lie from 1854 in the form of a false reconstruction of the 180 extant manuscripts of the Wycliffe Bible into a Jerome Text stayed unchallenged even by defenders of the majority text.
For the first century of the Wycliffe Bible, it was a handwritten manuscript and more often than not, just a portion of scripture. The scribes who copied it being Medieval scribes felt under no compulsion to copy word for word. As a result, no two of the 180 manuscripts read the same. Various castles freely copied and edited the work as they saw fit and conformed to whichever Latin Bible they had. Throughout that time, the influence of refugee Spanish scholars began to impact those changes. Those conforming to a Jerome Text were in the minority and had no claim to being the actual text. Nevertheless, the mid 1800s in England was not a time friendly to the traditional Text and so in 1854 Forshall and Madden jury-rigged the current abomination that is being passed for the Wycliffe Bible.
The inventions associated with the printing press and interchangeable type are responsible for giving us the concept of what we know of today as a bible. Since the Gutenberg Press (about 1450), the ability to print entire bibles on a reliable and duplicatable scale was available to transmit the entire text of the bible. Thus began the search to print a perfect bible in many of the several tongues of Europe as well as to print the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Texts.
Our King James Bible is the culmination of six previous English Bibles of varying skillfulness and accuracy. It marks the culmination of over three centuries of the smartest and brightest students of England being immersed in the ancient languages of the bible itself, and of the many vulgar tongues in which it had been previously translated. Just as a nuclear scientist today is educated in the culmination of 350 years of research from the time of Sir Isaac Newton through Madame Currie, Albert Einstein until today, the King James Translators were the culmination of three centuries of unbroken scholarship perfecting the understanding of these tongues and the manuscripts wherein those tongues spoke.
There is no equivalent to those men today. These are men who would start their classes at 3:00 AM and expect their students to stand and listen. These are men who were fluent in many languages including Greek and Hebrew before they were twelve years old. These are men who could converse in up to thirty different languages. These are men who watched their teachers burn at the stake for the word of God.
These are men who had personally collated hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts while reading them in whichever language they had received them. These are the men criticized today by little pipsqueaks with a few years of Greek or Hebrew and who have read a few commentaries. A preacher today criticizing them or their work is like a student who has taken four years of high school French criticizing the sentence construction used by Victor Hugo.
From 1611 until the Revised Version of the Bible was published, and when the English Parliament accepted the Revised Version, the common man, the English lecturer, the author of English literature, the poet, the agnostic, the atheist, the housewife, the schoolboy, the plowboy, the parliamentarian, or whosoever made reference to scripture, merely called it "the bible". The covers of the many bibles were labeled Holy Bible and it was indeed holy, but when you read accounts of that time, or you read the speeches of Englishmen, or hear quotes of people from that time, they merely said, "the bible".
We have lost that today. When the bible is mentioned, it is more than likely that someone will think of it in a generic sense with no particular bible in mind. When pressed, such a person wouldn't be sure of which bible. Even among King James Bible believers, there is some ambiguity as to which King James Bible. It is becoming common to believe that we use a 1769 Blayney Bible. That bible which was a good job of editing by Benjamin Blayney hasn't been printed in many years.
The American Bible Society quit printing it in 1850. Oxford hasn't printed it since 1893 and Cambridge hasn't printed it since WWI. The legend that Benjamin Blayney retranslated the King James Bible is a misreading of his short statement to the Clarendon Press upon the completion of his seven year work of collating existing King James Bibles. His work (which is no longer printed) is one of seven purifications of the King James Text bringing its orthography (spelling and punctuation) up to modern standards, and to purge the decades of printing errors that kept creeping into the text.
The apex of all bibles ever printed on earth is represented today by the Cambridge Text of the King James Bible as it stood between c1920 and 1985. It has few places that publish it. When I say, "the bible", it is that that book to which I refer. A person ordering one of the Cambridge Text Bibles from www.churchbiblepublishers.com can get a copy of a book that God the Father would call perfect in language, spelling, punctuation, chapter and verse division, subscripts and chapter headings. It is the word of God. There is simply no attribute of scripture to which it cannot lay claim. It is the bible.