Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Bible Uncorrupted

The following is the writing of Katherine Bushnell, 19th Century Hebrew Scholar, on the reliability of the Word of God despite the efforts of some to manipulate it to their own ends:

2. Our argument assumes that the Bible is all that it claims for itself.

It is (1) Inspired, 2 Timothy 3:16;[1] (2) Infallible, Isaiah 40:8; and (3) Inviolable, John 10:35.

Indeed, no other basis of procedure is available for us. However freely certain... scholars of the present day manipulate the text... But a manipulation of the text is unnecessary, even if we thought it lawful under any circumstances.

3. The assumption that the text needs amending, to any great extent, is very erroneous. A candid acceptance of the testimony as to its history proves that the original text has been preserved in manuscripts with scarcely an important change. It is known that the Scribes wrote out their copy with immense care, as to the Hebrew Old Testament. They copied even supposed errors, calling attention to seeming irregularities by slight marks, but not venturing to correct. They have left records to show that when copying they counted each consonant and vowel-letter in each line, and kept records of the same, in order to verify their finished work. Superstition alone was enough to cause the Jews to preserve their Scripture text inviolable, they prized the letter beyond the spirit of the Word.

The Apostle Paul speaks in direct testimony of their faithful preservation of the Hebrew text, since had it been otherwise, the Jews would have been less in favor with God, Romans 3:1-2. Jesus Christ strongly denounced the misinterpretation of the Scriptures by the "traditions" of the Jews, Mark 7:9-13, etc., but He never accused the Jews of corrupting the text of their Scriptures.

4. The Lord Jesus said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The "jot" (letter j), is nearly like our single quotation mark ( ‘ ), in form and size; the "tittle" is not a letter, but the distinguishing point of difference between one Hebrew letter and another much like it.

For instance, the Jewish rabbis, who taught also the infallibility of the text, in a treatise called Vayikra Rabba (s.19) declare:

1. "Should anyone, in Deut. 6:4, change (d) to (r) he would ruin the world."
2. "Should anyone, in Ex. 34:14, change (r) to (d) he would ruin the world."
3. "Should anyone, in Lev. 22:32, change (ch) to (h) he would ruin the world."
4. "Should anyone, in Psa. 150:6, change (h) to (ch) he would ruin the world."
5. "Should anyone, in Jer. 5:12, change (b) to (k) he would ruin the world."
6. "Should anyone, in 1 Sam. 2:2, change (k) to (b) he would ruin the world."

Because these passages would then mean respectively,
1. "Hear, O Israel; the Lord is a false Lord."
2. "Thou shalt not worship the one true God."
3. "Neither shall ye praise [for "profane"] My Holy name."
4. "Let everything that hath breath profane [for "praise"] the Lord."
5. "They have lied like [for "belied"] the Lord."
6. "There is no holiness in [for "none holy as"] the Lord."

5. But when we speak of the Bible as inspired, infallible and inviolable, we do not refer to our English version, or any mere version, but to the original text. Prof. Deissmann has well said, "All translation implies some, if only a slight, alteration of the sense of the original." Now we must explain more precisely what "the original text" really implies, and how much it includes.

The original Hebrew of the Old Testament was written without any spaces between words in totally different looking letters from those we call "Hebrew” at the present time; and the language as first written contained no vowels, as though the English of Genesis 1:1 were written:
NTHBGNNGGDCRTDTHHVNSNDTHRTH

No distinction existed between small and capital letters, and doubled letters were often written only once, as we have indicated in the word, "beginning." 6. Hebrew ceased to be spoken by the common people during the Babylonian captivity. It was practically a "dead language" as early as B.C. 250. In the absence of
expressed vowels, its pronunciation was likely to become lost. So the Scribes took four consonants, "a h w and j," and inserted them into the text to indicate the vowel sounds.

While this device helped to some extent, in the end it led to confusion, often raising the question: "Is this letter a consonant, belonging to the original, or is it a vowel letter, added by the Scribes?" Moreover the insertion of these vowel-letters did not prove sufficient; then, as late as 600-800 A.D., a whole system of vowel-signs was added, most elaborately indicating the vowels of each word as tradition had preserved it. These vowel-signs were interlinear, and therefore did not confuse the text, as did the vowel-letters. With vowel-signs we might indicate the pronunciation of Genesis 1:1, as given above, something like this (separating the words): _N TH B!GNNG GD CR TD TH HVNS ND TH RTH.[2]

7. We understand, now that the Hebrew text may have mistakes which we are free (with due respect for the scholarship which has given to it its present form, and due reverence for God's Word), to amend, so far as the vowel-letters and the vowel-signs are concerned, for no one claims that the Scribes who made these additions to the text in comparatively recent times did "inspired" work, as did the original authors....