Bibliology – A Study of the Doctrine of Scripture

Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation

Bibliology – A study of God’s revelation of Himself in the inspired Scriptures.

 

Introduction

The source of Systematic Theology is ‘revelation’.

‘Revelation’ can be defined as, “An act of God by which He has made known what was otherwise unknowable.”

Greek: αποκαλυπσις – apokalupsis – (from which we get the word Apocalypse) means “to unveil, to uncover”.

 

I. According to the Bible, God has revealed Himself to all Mankind.

  1. Through ‘General Revelation’ (to all people everywhere).

“because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” – Romans 1:19-20

‘General Revelation’ can be defined as, “God’s witness of His own existence through Creation, history, and the nature and conscience of Man.”

A) Means of General Revelation:

  • Creation (Psa. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-20).
  • History (Judges; Ruth; Acts 17:22-31, esp. vs. 26).
  • Mankind (Gen. 1:26-27; Rom. 2:14-15).
  • Conscience (Rom. 2:1-8).

B) Purpose of General Revelation:

  • Reveals the existence of God (Rom. 1:20; Acts 14:17).
  • Reveals the grandeur of God (Rom. 1:20).
  • Reveals Man’s accountability to God (Rom. 1:20; 2:1)
  • Not Salvific – God’s plan of salvation cannot be known through General Revelation (Rom. 10:13-15).
  • God’s character and personality cannot be known through General Revelation (Acts 9:5; 17:23).
  1. Through ‘Special Revelation’ (to God’s people in particular).

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;” – Hebrews 1:1-2

‘Special Revelation’ can be defined as, “God’s disclosure of Himself in Salvation History through Theophanies, prophets, the inspired words of Scripture, and through the incarnation, person and work of His Son Jesus Christ.”

A) Means of Special Revelation:

  • History (Micah 6:5).
  • Theophanies (Gen. 12:7).
  • Angels (Luke 2:10,13).
  • Dreams (Gen. 40-50; Joel 2:28).
  • Casting Lots (Acts 1:23-26).
  • Prophets (Jer. 1:2; et al).
  • Jesus Christ – the Living Word of God (John 1:1-18; Heb. 1:1-4).
  • Scripture – the written Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 2:20-21).

B) Purpose of Special Revelation:

  • To reveal the plan of God to Mankind (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:15)
  • To bring sinners to salvation and into a personal relationship with God (Rom. 10:13-15).
  • To reveal Mankind’s moral responsibility toward God (Gen. 3:8-19).
  • To reveal God’s character, personality and attributes to His people (Heb. 1:1-2).

 

II. The inspiration of Scripture.

  1. Definition of ‘inspiration’:

A) Greek: θεόπνευστος “theopneustos” – literally, “God-breathed”, or, “breathed out by God”.

B) The Doctrine of Inspiration of the Scriptures is usually stated as, “God’s superintending of human authors so that, using their own personalities, they composed and recorded God’s revelation to man without error in the words of the original manuscripts.”

2. Secular/Liberal versus Biblical/Conservative theories of ‘inspiration’:

A) Secular/ Liberal views:

  • Natural – the writers were geniuses, but not inspired by God.
  • Mystical – the writers had a supernatural encounter and wrote in a trance-like state.
  • Partial – only some parts of Scripture are inspired, while others are not.
  • Concept – only the authors’ concepts and ideas were inspired, but not their words.
  • Neo-orthodox – the writers were spiritually enlightened, but not directly influenced by God.
  • Mechanical – God dictated the words while the writers recorded without expressing their own personalities in what they wrote.

B) Biblical/Conservative view:

  • Verbal Plenary – The full text (plenary) of Scripture, including the words (verbal) are inspired.
  1. The ‘Source’ of inspiration is God:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

  1. The ‘means’ of inspiration is Man:

“knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were *moved by the Holy Spirit.” – 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV)

*“moved”, or, “carried along” like the wind moves a boat (Acts 27:15).

  1. Writers retained their personal characteristics:
  • Moses wrote as a statesman.
  • OT Prophets express different characteristics and personalities.
  • Matthew, a tax collector, talks a lot about money.
  • Luke, Paul’s companion, records more about Paul than the other apostles.
  • Paul writes as a trained rhetorician.
  • John, a fisherman, writes with simplicity.
  • James, a pastor, writes pastorally.
  1. Infallibility and Inerrancy of the Scriptures.

A) If the doctrine of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is believed and accepted as truth – the logical consequence is that the Scriptures must also be infallible and inerrant because God cannot fail nor err.

B) The Doctrines stated:

  • “’Infallibility of the Bible’ means having the quality of neither misleading nor being misled, which safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable guide in all matters of faith and practice.”
  • “’Inerrancy of the Bible’ means the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake, which safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.” (Matthew 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17.)

 

III. Principles of interpretation.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

  1. ‘Interpretation’ can be defined as, “The process of determining the biblical author’s intended meaning.”

A) General principles of interpreting any literature:

  • Literal Plenary (Interpret plainly, i.e., in the normal sense of understanding any writing).
  • Literary (Recognizing Genre).
  • Historical (Time and culture).
  • Grammatical (Grammar and Syntax).
  • Authorial Intent (Seeks to find the intent of the original author to his original audience).
  1. ‘Illumination’ can be defined as, “The work of the Holy Spirit, which assists the reader in responding to God’s written revelation, i.e. enlightenment.”
  • The Holy Spirit will illuminate our understanding when we combine study with prayer and humility (John 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
  1. ‘Application’ can be defined as, “The process of determining the current relevance of Scripture and then actively responding.”
  • We should be willing to apply the truths we learn to our lives (James 1:19-27).

 

IV. Canonicity – why only the 66 books of the Bible?

  1. The extent of what is ‘Scripture’ according to Scripture:
  • Entire Old Testament (Luke 24:45; John 10:35).
  • Parts of New Testament (1 Tim. 5:18; Luke 10:7).
  • Writings of Paul (2 Pet. 3:16).
  • The New Testament affirms the Old Testament (John 11:51).
  • Paul affirms Luke (1 Tim. 5:18; Luke 10:7).
  • Peter affirms Paul (2 Peter 3:16).
  1. Tests of Canonicity – to be included in the Bible, a book had to pass the following tests:
  • Must have apostolic origin or endorsement.
  • Must be doctrinally sound; not contradicting previously accepted books.
  • Must have been received and accepted by the early 1st century Church.
  1. The 2nd to 5th century Church and its Councils continued to affirm our present Canon of sacred Scripture:
  • Early Church Fathers affirm the New Testament (e.g., Athanasius 367).
  • Councils of Carthage, A.D. 397, and Hippo, A.D. 419 officially affirm the New Testament.
  1. The result:
  • 66 Books; 39 in Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

 

V. Why do Protestant and Evangelical churches reject the Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books?

  1. The Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books were written during the Intertestamental period, a 400 year period between the writing of the book of Malachi and the birth of Jesus, often called the “four hundred years of silence” during which God did not communicate with His people.
  • All Catholics, both Eastern and Western, hold these books to be inspired and include them in all their English translations, such as, the Douay–Rheims version, the New American Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition.
  • Some Protestants involved in the World Council of Churches or the Ecumenical Movement also place these books between the Old and New Testaments. An example is The New Revised Standard Version.
  • Some modern English translations include these books either in the Old Testament or between the Old and New Testaments. Although not held to be inspired Scripture by Jews and Protestant Christians, some of these books have historical value because they record events that took place during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments.
  1. The Apocrypha was included in the original publication of the Authorized King James Version of A.D. 1611, but were later removed by the Puritans.

A) The Puritans removed these books for the following reasons:

  • Although the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (285-247 B.C.) contained the Apocrypha, even Hellenized Jews that read that version did not accept the Apocrypha as inspired Scripture.
  • Not Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers quote from the Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books.

B) The Traditional Order of OT Canonical Books according to the Jewish Talmud are as follows:

  • The Law – Chronological (from the creation of the world to Moses’ death): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
  • The Prophets – Narrative books (from the entry into the Promised Land to the Babylonian exile): Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings. Oracular books (in descending order of size): Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, The Book of the Twelve (The twelve ‘Minor Prophets’).
  • The Writings – Lyrical/wisdom books (in descending order of size): Psalms (with Ruth prefixed), Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations. Narrative books (from the period of exile to the return): Daniel, Esther, Ezra–Nehemiah, Chronicles.

C) This Canon of the Old Testament is confirmed by Jesus:

  • Luke 24:44 – “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’”
  1. Modern day conservative Evangelical Christians continue to reject the Canonicity of the Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical books for the same reasons.

 

VI. Issues in Bible Translation.

  1. The key issues:
  • Choosing a reliable textual basis.
  • Choosing sound principles of translation.
  • Avoiding the influence of philosophical and theological bias.
  1. The choice of text.

Like most classical literature, we do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible. We only have copies of copies with minor variations and omissions due to copying errors and geographical circulation. We establish the reliability of the biblical text as it has come down to us by comparison to the readings of the oldest surviving manuscripts, as well as to the readings of the majority of surviving manuscripts. There are over 2,400 surviving manuscript copies, portions, fragments and quotations of the New Testament dating from about A.D. 125 to 850.

A) The oldest surviving manuscripts recently discovered:

B) OT Textual Traditions:

  • The Masoretic Text.
  • The Septuagint Text.
  • The Samaritan Text.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls or, Qumran Text.

C) Greek NT Manuscript Traditions:

  • The Alexandrian Family.
  • The Byzantine Family.
  • The Western Family.
  • The Caesarean Family.
  1. Modern reconstructed NT Greek Texts based on the variant readings of the Manuscript Traditions:

A) The Received Text. The text of the New Testament, often called the “Textum Receptum”, Latin for “Received Text” (and often misspelled and mispronounced as “Textus Receptus”), was compiled by Erasmus and reflects the readings in the NT as they have been handed down by tradition to the Church through scribes. This text-type, based primarily on the Western Family of manuscripts, but with comparison to the Byzantine Family, was the basis of the King James Version, Luther’s German Bible and William Tyndale’s English New Testament.

B) The Majority Text. The text of the New Testament based on the Byzantine Family and the readings of the “majority” of surviving manuscripts. (The New King James Version and the New American Standard Version are based on this text type.)

C) The Critical Text. The text of the New Testament based on the Alexandrian Family of manuscripts because of their antiquity. 19th and 20th century scholars applied modern methods of literary Textual Criticism hoping to produce a purer form of the Greek NT text than the supposedly edited traditional text. (Most modern English versions since 1881 have been based on this Text-type, including the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version. Unfortunately, the English Standard Version, which is a Conservative translation of the Bible, also follows a “Critical” text-type.)

As a result, the following passages are disputed because they are not found in the earliest manuscripts:

  • The ending of Mark 16.
  • Jesus sweating blood in Luke 22:43-44.
  • The woman taken in adultery in John 8.
  • The Trinitarian rendering of 1 John 5:7.
  • The longer ending to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13.
  • Reference to the angel stirring the water in John 5:4.
  1. Translation methods:
  • Complete Equivalence. This is the traditional and historical method of translation used by the translators of the Latin Vulgate, Luther’s German translation, the Geneva Bible and, of course, the King James Version. Modern translation that continue to follow this method are the New American Standard Version and the New King James Version.
  • Essentially Literal. Translations that use this method are the Revised Standard Version (as well as the New Revised Standard Version) and others, which take liberties to translate certain verses with non-traditional words, simply because it is a “possible” rendering of the original. For example, the word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is often rendered “young maiden”. The English Standard Version also follows this method, but keeps “traditional” renderings and places “alternative” in the margin.
  • Dynamic Equivalence. This translation method was pioneered by the translators of the New International Version. (It is based on the presumption that not the words, but the “idea” behind a passage of Scripture is inspired.)
  • Paraphrase. The “paraphrase” was made popular by the Living Bible and Good News Bible, but has been around since the Middle Ages in order to simplify God’s Word for the uneducated.
  1. Influence of philosophical and theological bias on modern Bible translations.

Negative influences on translations based on the educational training of the translators:

Positive influences on translations based on the theological convictions of the translators:

 

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