Monday, March 24, 2014

How We Got the Bible: "My Words Will Not Pass Away"

Chapter 18 ends the book with Lightfoot reflecting on two claims Jesus makes in Mark 13:31:  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

My Words

First, Christ claimed His words were divine. Lighfoot notes that the Bible also makes this claim about itself as a whole. This is seen in passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 1 Peter 1:19-21. Here it is seen that Paul and Peter understood that the Old Testament was divinely inspired. This same understanding is associated with the New Testament as well. Jesus compared His teachings to those of Moses and implied that His authority was greater (Matthew 5:27-48). He stated that whatever H is apostles required on earth would be required in heaven (Matthew 16:19, 18:18, and John 20:23) and it is evident that this delegated authority was recognized by the church in passages like 1 Corinthians 14:37 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13. In summation of the inspiration claims of the Bible Lightfoot writes the following:

Much of the uniqueness of the Bible rests on its unique claims. Permitting it to speak for itself, the Bible claims to be from God. This claim comes from honest, straight-thinking men and deserves consideration. The claim does not authenticate the truthfulness of the claim, but the contents of the Bible, with its theme of salvation and its strong moral fiber, support it. Jesus’ ethical principles, for example, are either human or divine. The Bible says that they are divine. The claims of the Bible plus the contents of the Bible equal a convincing case for the Bible as the inspired Word of God.

Will Not Pass Away

Second, Christ claimed that His words would stand for eternity. Lightfoot presents two evidences that God is preserving His Word. They are below:

1. The amount of textual documents available on the Bible text is staggering when compared to other ancient works.1 Lightfoot writes:

Many of the great classical writings are transmitted to the present day by no more than a handful of manuscripts. This being true, and since no one really questions the textual foundations of the classics, why should a mist of doubt prevail over the Bible text? If any book from ancient times has descended to us without substantial loss or alteration, it is the Bible.

2. The quality of the textual documents available on the Bible text is, again, remarkable when compared to other works of antiquity. Lightfoot writes:

The fact is that the vast majority of writings from ancient times have been preserved on late-date manuscripts. By contrast, our New Testament text rests on manuscripts that are very near to the date of their original composition. The text of the New Testament, as compared with other ancient books, hold a unique and enviable rank.

Lightfoot finishes the book with the following thoughts:

We now bring to a close our study of how we got the Bible. It is a remarkable story, far reaching in scope, extending to both Old and New Testaments, to the manuscripts that lie behind them, and to the translations that have been made from them.

Ours is the privilege to study this remarkable story. It is the history of the most important book in the world. For those who have passed it on from generation to generation, for the legacy of their undying devotion, we owe an incalculable debt. “Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” is important (cf. Matt. 4:4). This is why we study about it, and why this book is written.

In the end, it is comforting and reassuring to know that Jesus’ words will not pass away. This promise has been tested by centuries and has not failed. “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

If you have been following along as I read through this book and posted highlights I appreciate your devotion and I hope it has been enjoyable and helpful. And if it has made you consider reading the book I encourage that consideration.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Footnotes:

1. Lightfoot provides a number of around 5,300 New Testament manuscripts. An updated number is 5,795 manuscripts according to this article. Updated numbers for other ancient works are found within this article as well. Lightfoot provides a number around14,700 for the Old Testament manuscripts as a conservative estimate. CARM puts the number over 10,000.

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