Where Was the Word of God?
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever, Psalm 12:6,7.
Bible believers are frequently asked, "Where was the word of God before the King James Bible?". Often that is asked by contentious people who hope to throw up a road block to faith. They don't want an answer. It's kind of like the Sadducees asking Jesus Christ about whose wife a widow would be after she had been married to seven brothers. It was never meant to be answered. It was meant to stump the hearer and to impress the hearer with the cleverness of the questioner.
Nevertheless, there are those who ask that question who legitimately want to know. It is a stumbling block to them and they need an answer. Using the English people as an example, has there always been a perfect bible for them? Does the promise of preservation of the scriptures insure that there has always been a perfect English Bible? No there has not always been a perfect English Bible.
Prior to the 14th century and well into the 15th century, few people could have read English if had been written. If a person was literate during the great bulk of the Middle Ages (and very few were), they read Latin. For almost 1500 years, the word of God was far more likely to be preached and transmitted through Latin. A complete bible was rare and represented so many hours of labor that only the most wealthy of persons or institutions could have ever had one.
The Greek Bible was used in the Eastern Church by the Greek Orthodox followers but I have yet to find evidence of any enlightened or evangelical group using that bible. It was used in the monotony of liturgy, not in the sense of earnest inquiry for truth. In fact, I think that it can be rightly said that a reliance upon the Greek Text is always a sign of a backward unenlightened people.
Bibles in the vernacular languages (vulgar tongues) were very rare in Europe and when found were almost always only small portions of a gospel carried from home to home clandestinely.
In 1611, the King James translators probably could not have put there hands on one single manuscript anywhere that was perfect. It took great discernment by the translators not only to translate, but to know what to translate. To be a King James Bible believer is to believe that the decisions they made bear all of the marks of inspiration. They bear the marks of God being in those men and having given their spirits understanding. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding, Job 32:8.
Is there any bible principal or example to uphold such a view? Is there any place in the scriptures where God allowed his people to carry an imperfect text and then graciously used men who were not the authors of the text to sort through the text and purify it? Yes there is.
These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out, Proverbs 25:1. Think about that. Hezekiah was hundreds of years after Solomon. The Book of Proverbs had been preserved intact from Proverbs chapter 1 through chapter 24. After that, the last 7 chapters were mingled in with Solomon's 3000 proverbs. And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five, 1st Kings 4:32.
It was during the reign of Hezekiah that Isaiah prophesied. Hezekiah would have heard him say, As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever, Isaiah 59:21.
Hezekiah took such a promise to heart and gave his men the task of sorting out the proverbs of Solomon. For over 200 years the Jews had only incomplete copies of scripture. A godly king who believed the promises of God acted. His men sorted out the proverbs of Solomon and copied out those that were inspired scripture. Look at the first verse of the restored Proverbs that he put into your bible after he identified his work in Proverbs 25:1. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter, Proverbs 25:2.
Is it any surprise that among the nations of Europe there was a famine of the word of God? Is it any surprise that God would stir the spirit of a King to establish the word of God in his tongue? It was kings who were commanded to keep the bible. 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, Deuteronomy 17:18.
I am glad that King James obeyed that verse. I am glad that I have a bible given by a king whose men copied out the word of God from among the diverse manuscripts and rendered it in his tongue. I am glad that God magnified that nation upon this earth and I am glad that people from every kindred and tribe on this earth have been gathered together in nations like The United States or Canada or Australia and have been raised as English speaking people and have that bible as their heritage.