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The first instance of God delivering his Word to mankind was in the Garden of Eden to the first man Adam. The Lord commanded the man that he could freely eat of every tree of the Garden. But he could NOT eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest he surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). The Lord had not yet put Adam to sleep, removed one of his ribs and made the woman.
The first Word of God was a spoken word, not a written word. It did not become a written word until Moses embarked upon the writing of Genesis. But it was every bit as binding as if God had carved it in stone. After the Lord created Eve, Adam shared that Word with her, as evidenced in the response of Eve to the Serpent's query: Yea, hath God said? (3:1-3). She quoted verbatim what Adam had delivered to her, which is what God had delivered to Adam. Before sin ever entered the world, we have an example of the Word of God being transmitted from one human to another in the exact same form as God originally delivered it. The word Eve received from Adam was essentially a 'verbal copy' of God's original command. It was as authentic as if God had spoken it to her...and she was fully accountable for disobeying it. We're not trying to build a doctrine here, but simply illustrating that a copy of the original word, if transmitted faithfully, is every bit as inspired as the original text.
Fast forward to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Law of God. While the Lord delivered the bulk of his Law to Moses in verbal form laws he would later commit to writing he did in fact write the Ten Commandment in tablets of stone with the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). They were the work of God, the writing of God, graven upon the tables (32:15-16). When Moses came down from the Mount, and saw the wickedness of Israel, he cast those tables of stone and broke them as they crashed beneath the Mount (Exodus 32:19). Moses later returned to the Mount, brought with him tables of stone that HE had made. Moses then wrote on those tablets, according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the Lord spake unto him (Deuteronomy 10:4). Once again we find a written copy of the original text being faithfully transmitted to Israel by the hand of Moses. Those second tables of stone, or man-made copies, were every bit as authentic as the first original tables God wrote with his own finger. We can also state with confidence that the written copy of the whole Law, which the Lord first gave to Moses in verbal form on the Mount, possessed all the qualities of inspired authenticity.
In every generation from Adam and Eve to the present, Satan has had his mouthpieces to keep raising the question: Yea, had God said? Doubt is the precursor to disobedience. Satan first introduced the element of doubt. Doubt entertained became disobedience enacted. If an alleged 'biblical scholar' can cause God's people to question God's veracity (i.e., his ability to preserve what he inspired), those doubts will lead to spiritual disaster. One of the foremost Satanic mouthpieces in the world today is Dr. Bart D. Erhman, distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He's a practitioner of NT Textual Criticism, who also disavows Evangelical Christianity. Although he was an Evangelical Christian at one time, he changed his mind.
His rationale for becoming a vociferous opponent of Evangelical Christianity is the absence of any 'inspired' biblical text, especially NT text, that has been preserved for us. He reasons that if God did indeed INSPIRE his Word, but was unable or unwilling to PRESERVE it, then how is it possible for us to know which copies of copies of copies are representative of inspired text, and which are copying errors, purposeful or otherwise, passed down through the ages by less-than-adept transcribers? His Yea, hath God said? approach to textual criticism has led Erhman to write books like Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher. In the latter book, he espouses the ancient heresy that Jesus neither thought of himself as God nor claimed to be God. He contends the NT writers later attributed those qualities to him through textual embellishments. Since we do not have the preserved inspired text, we can never know for sure whether Jesus is what biblical writers say he is. This skeptical view of Jesus can lead to only one destination the Lake of Fire.
One can find a series of debate videos featuring Dr. Bart Erhman (Evangelical Christianity Antagonist) vs. Dr. James White (Apologist for Evangelical Christianity) on YouTube. If you'll take some time to view these debates, you'll see that James White destroys Erhman's theories. Space does not allow us to capture in this document all the arguments made by either man. But the average Evangelical Christian will see that (1) the Byzantine and Alexandrian families of manuscripts agree on about ninety-five percent of extant text, (2) disparities between them affect NO major doctrine, and (3) the text of the scriptures is better attested to than ANY of the classics. In one video, White points out that having so many copies of copies of copies guarantees that the original inspired text is there. It's like having 1,025 pieces to a 1,000-piece puzzle. The challenge then is to ferret out the least-attested-to readings, or variants.
This is why I believe the Textus Receptus, or Received Text, used by translators of the 1611 King James Version of scripture is the best manuscript we have today. The spiritual caliber of the men tasked with producing a faithful English copy of the scriptures has not been replicated. These men painstakingly, and with great reverence, examined the plethora of extant Greek manuscripts, resulting in a Majority Text, a final text consisting of the best attested-to readings. From this Majority Text they crafted the King James translation of scripture.
Erhman's argument that God was either unable or unwilling to preserve what he inspired is totally baseless. While it's true that we do not have the originals today, it's also true that the King James translators did not have them, Paul and Timothy did not have them, the Apostles did not have them and Jesus himself did not have the originals. Yet Jesus often mentioned the scriptures (Matthew 21:42; 22:29; 26:56; Mark 12:24; John 5:39) when speaking of the texts Israel possessed. Although they were copies, copies of copies, and copies of copies of copies, Jesus assumed the faithful transmission of the Word of God even as Adam transmitted it to Eve and Moses transmitted it to Israel.
Luke 24 records the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to two of his disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Luke tells us Jesus expounded from the scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) all things concerning himself (24:27), opening their understanding that they might understand the scriptures (24:45). They said one to another: Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (24:32). Now, it really matters not whether Jesus' use of scripture was verbal or whether he had a copy in his hand. The point is he had NO originals, but nonetheless had the scriptures! Nor did the two disciples have the originals. They were familiar with copies at some level of transmission. Yet they knew they had the scriptures and that what they heard from Jesus was scripture.
The apostle Paul reasoned in the synagogues using the scriptures (Acts 17:2). The Bereans searched the scriptures daily to validate Paul's assertions (17:11). Apollos was a man mighty in the scriptures and using the scriptures convinced the lost that Jesus was Christ (18:24, 28). Paul's preaching of the Gospel to the Corinthians was according to the [OT] scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Paul reminded Timothy that he had known the scriptures from his youth (2 Timothy 3:15). In the very next verse, he affirmed that ALL scripture (a reference to what Timothy had known from his youth) had been "given by inspiration of God" (3:16). Did Timothy have the inspired originals? No, he had access to copies, copies of copies, and copies of copies of copies, preserved through the ages via faithful transmission. In Paul's mind, a faithfully transmitted copy was as inspired as the original. In order for you and I to have in hand the Word of God, we need not have the originals. We simply need a faithfully transmitted copy. That's what Paul had, what Apollos had, what Israel had and what Jesus himself had.
In our final reference to the scriptures, we find Peter writing these words in 66 A.D. concerning the writings of Paul: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The words other scriptures is key. It confirms that by 66 A.D., the year before Paul was beheaded in Rome, his epistles were considered scripture by Peter and the early Church, on a par with every preserved copy of OT text. The word wrest is the Greek strebloo, to twist, torture, pervert language in a false sense. Do you remember Braveheart's William Wallace being 'racked' as part of his torture? That's the picture of this word. Peter said the same unstable and unlearned men were guilty of twisting the words of scripture the OT and Paul's writings. Men like Bart Erhman are unlearned and unstable, enemies of scriptural truth. Having the letters 'Ph.D.' following one's name, like Dr. Bart Erhman and fellow skeptics, does not preclude one from being a spiritual ignoramus. The sad reality is destruction lies ahead for all who buy into Erhman's skepticism.
Finally, let's allow the scriptures to speak for themselves: 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). One of Erhman's main contentions is that God did not preserve the scriptures. The scriptures declare that he would and did. Purified and preserved; two attributes the scripture claims for itself. When I reach for my copy of the 1611 KJV on my lamp table, I often pray OVER the Word of God, asking the Lord to enlighten me. But I have never once prayed ABOUT the text, asking God to show me which words are the truth and which ones are extraneous filler. I have the scriptures! How about you?