This is the first in a series about the Bible, covering issues of how well it has been preserved, and how and why there are different versions, so start thinking about why you choose the version you choose. I’m going to be upfront here, I’m not a King James only advocate, but I do consider some versions more reliable than others. My choices over what Bibles to use aren’t subjective, and I wouldn’t recommend only one. Start thinking now about what version you prefer, and why, this will be an important issue in future posts.
The first question, which invariably comes up is, “was the Bible edited?” The short answer here is yes. In the basic sense of the word, the Bible is a selection of texts, selection is an aspect of editing. Likewise, the texts have been ordered, Job is believed by some to be the oldest book of the Bible, and at least older than Exodus and the subsequent Mosaic books. The prophets are arranged after the poetry and wisdom but most chronologically fall during the period of the kingdoms. Ordering is also part of the editing process. The division of Samuel; the Kings and Ezra/Nehemiah into two books each was the work of the translators of the Septuagint. So any denial of editing is simply a lack of understanding of what editing involves. Obviously, the question is generally intended to mean, “has the Bible been changed?”
The selection of the Old Testament happened over a period of time. For example, from the post exilic writings of the scribe Ezra (not the Ezra in the book of Ezra, but the author of it and Nehemiah, and possibly the Chronicles) an awareness of the importance of the Mosaic works; Job; a large portion of the Psalter; the books of the Kingdoms (Samuel and the Kings) as well as Ruth and the Proverbs. The Hebrew scriptures at the time of Christ where contained in the Masoretic text. The Septuagint contained extra books. Christ dealt with Hebrews in His ministry, and never challenged their scriptures as deficient in any way. He altered parts of the covenant relationship, but never stated that anything was missing, or that there was extra. Jerome’s Vulgate contained the extra books from the Septuagint, but he marked them as apocryphal on the grounds that they never formed a part in the scriptures Jesus didn’t challenge. The decision was controversial even back then, since most of the world was using the Septuagint, Greek being a lingua franca, and Hebrew being a dead language. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in the 16th century, that Jerome’s decision was officially renounced by the Roman Catholic church, and seven extra books, and additions to Daniel and Esther, became official scripture in the Roman Catholic Church. This challenges Christ as he never made any move to correct scripture, and is considered by Christians to be God, so he would have known. Thus, the Councils decision shows a certain level of inconsistency in their faith in Christ. They were also inconsistent in that they didn’t include all the apocryphal books.
The discovery of the Dead sea scrolls in the 20th century indicated that the books of the Old Testament, by showing that apart from minor transcription differences, had indeed remained unchanged for over 2000 years. The extra Psalm and the extra parts of Daniel and Esther, were not part of the texts found. So the consistency of the Old Testament, at least since the Essenes produced their texts, is evident.
In the next article, I will examine the New Testament. If you have any questions regarding editing the Bible or regarding the different versions, please leave a comment, if I can’t give a short answer, I’ll answer it in a full post. Transcription errors are an issue that need a post of their own, so I will do a post on that at a later date.