What we call the Bible contains the words of God.
The word bible simply means book which is why the Bible is usually
labeled as The Holy Bible, meaning the pure book, the book from God. The
words of God were written by God's specific influence, spiritual
direction, & sometimes dictation by His followers who were
eye-witnesses of the events they wrote about. The Bible speaks about who
God is and what God has done.
The Bible was originally written
primarily in languages Hebrew, for the Old Testament, and Greek, for the
New Testament. The text of the Bible has been preserved in what we are
called manuscripts. Manuscripts are handwritten copies of a portion of
text written by someone else. There are 5,686 Greek manuscripts for the
New Testament and those manuscripts agree with each other 99.5% of the
time. To put this in perspective, the New Testament was written in the
first century. Shakespeare wrote his works in the 1600s and there is
more variation in the surviving manuscripts of Shakespeare's works than
in the Bible's manuscripts. Even if there were no manuscripts existing
at all of the New Testament all but 11 verses from the entire New
Testament can be reconstructed from material written within 150 to 200
years from the time of Christ. Based on the number of manuscripts, the
date the manuscripts were written, and the agreement between the
manuscripts, the Bible by far is the most reliable ancient text in
existence. God has very much preserved His words through the many
As the Bible spread throughout the world and
new languages began to emerge the Bible has been translated many times
into many languages. There are no perfect translations. Simply because
of the difference between languages it cannot be so but many
translations are largely accurate. Today we have a wealth of information
regarding the languages of Greek and Hebrew to help us get the best
understanding of what the Bible says even with our imperfect
translations. Some translations today are more literal which means they
take one word in the original language and translate it as one word into
English and words are only added to help the English reader comprehend
what has been written. A paraphrase is a translation that takes the
meaning of a text of multiple words and rephrases it for an often
clearer & simpler understanding. The benefit of the more literal
translation is that there is less interpretation occurring from the
translator. The NASB is an example of a more literal translation. The
Message is an example of a paraphrase.
reading an ordinary book it is not necessary to meet the author to
benefit from the book. With the Bible, everything is different. It is
necessary & vital to meet the Author if you are to understand the
Bible. We can’t we expect to know the Bible of God without knowing the
God of the Bible. One can never understand the message and intent of the
Bible, unless you have a redeeming encounter with its Author.
Holy Spirit of God is given to those who receive the free gift of
eternal life that Jesus offers. It is the Holy Spirit of God who
illuminates us to God’s word. By illuminates I mean that illumination
makes the Bible understandable & clear, that the Holy Spirit of God
shines light on the truth for us to see it. Jesus said in John 14:16,
"The Helper, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things, and bring to
your remembrance all that I said to you."
1 Corinthians 2:12-16 explains how the Holy Spirit of God is essential to learning the knowledge of God.
have received the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand the
things freely given to us by God. The man without the Spirit does not
accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are
spiritually discerned. "Who can know what the Lord is thinking?" We can
understand these things because we have the mind of Christ.
In Psalm 43:3, the writer prayed this, “O God, Send out Your light and Your truth, and let them lead me.”
the combination of light and truth in his prayer. It is wise to pray to
the Holy Spirit for His light before you expose yourself to His truth.
It is not enough to have the Bible. Many people take up the Bible and
read—and receive no benefit at all. Why? Because they had the truth, but
had no light to detect it.
More On Manuscript Trustworthiness
Iliad is an ancient Greek writing. It is the second most reliable
ancient text next to the Bible. It said to have been written around 900
B.C. but the oldest manuscript we have of the Iliad is from 400 B.C.
That is 500 years between supposed writing and the oldest existing copy.
Again the New Testament was written in the first century. The oldest
existing manuscript containing a portion of the New Testament is from
125 A.D. a mere 25 years from the first century. The 5,686 manuscripts
of the New Testament agree with each other 99.5% of the time. Homer's
Iliad has 653 manuscripts which only agree with each other 95% of the
time and it is the second best preserved ancient document. The oldest
manuscripts of Plato's writings are from 1200 years after he was said to
Let's say my great grandpa wrote a letter for our
family's future generations. I made a copy of the letter 25 years after
he died to preserve it. Would you say it would be likely that the copy I
made was really of my great grandpa's letter after only 25 years? Now
let us say that in the future people claim I wrote a letter to you but
the oldest know copy of that letter came over 1000 years after I died.
How much less reliable is that letter if it came so long after my death?
More on Literal Translations vs. Paraphrases
If anyone supposes he knows something not yet to know as he ought know (1 Corinthians 8:2, Literal)
If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know (1 Corinthians 8:2, NASB)
The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2, NIV)
If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2, NET)
Sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. (1 Corinthians 8:2, The Message)
how in The Message, which is a paraphrase, meaning is lost and changed
from what the original author intended. It almost even implies that our
proud minds can, at other times, help us more than our humble hearts. So
it is good when reading a paraphrase to have a more literal translation
on hand to look at as well. Still I have come across times where The
Message or the New Living Translation (another paraphrase) gave the
meaning to the original words much more outright than the more literal
NASB and others.