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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Words of the Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Is It Important to Discover What the Bible Originally Said?

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Why Is It Important to Discover What the Bible Originally Said?

The Words of the Bible – Question 1

Is it really that important that we know exactly what the biblical authors actually wrote? Do we need to recover their exact words? The answer is an unqualified, “Yes.” There are a number of reasons as to why this is so. They include the following:

1. The Bible Claims to Be God’s Sole Word to Humanity

To begin with, the Bible claims to be God’s Word to the human race. It alone tells us who God is, what He is like and what He expects from His creation. In addition, it also tells us who we are, why we are here on the earth and what will happen to us when we die. It is the only authoritative writing anywhere that does this.

If the Bible is what it claims to be, then it is crucial to know as best as we possibly can the exact words of Scripture as they were first written and sent out. Therefore, because of the nature of the Bible, God’s only revelation of Himself to humanity, we should attempt to discover the original words that He has given us.

2. All the Words of Scripture Were Written for a Definite Purpose

We also find that the words of Scripture were given for a specific purpose. The Lord Himself emphasized this. He said:

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 NRSV)

His Words, whether spoken or written, are given out for a specific purpose.

Paul told Timothy that the Scripture makes us wise for salvation. He put it this way:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 HCSB)

Since the words of Scripture have been written with a purpose in mind and that through them we can find how we can be saved from our sins, we should do all that we can to find out exactly what these words are. Therefore, we must recover the original text of Scripture.

3. We Must Know Exactly What It Is We Are Interpreting

In addition, before one can interpret the Scripture, or do any type of Bible study, a person must know exactly what it is that they are interpreting. We have to have a clear idea what God said and what He did not say. Therefore, the issue of discovering the original text of Scripture must be settled before any interpretation can begin.

4. We Need to Know from What Sources We Can Form Bible Doctrine

Bible doctrine can be defined as the teaching that is revealed in Scripture. We cannot formulate any system of belief about God, His universe or ourselves without knowing the original words of Scripture. This makes it vital for scholars to recover the text as it was first written.

5. We Cannot Understand God’s Plan Unless We Know What It Is

Before we can understand the plan of God for humanity as a whole, or for ourselves as individuals, we need to know what He originally said to us. Unless we clearly understand what He has said, we cannot know His plan or begin to follow it. We would just be guessing as to what He wants for each of us.

6. There Are No Mistakes in the Originals: There Are Only Mistakes in Copies

There is more. The original writings of the sixty-six biblical books were accomplished supernaturally by God the Holy Spirit working through the human author.

Paul emphasized that all Scripture was God-breathed. He wrote the following to Timothy emphasizing the divine nature of God’s written Word:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16 TNIV)

The psalmist wrote about the purity of God’s words. He said:

And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. (Psalm 12:6 NIV)

This is true whether the words are spoken or written.

The New English Translation reads:

The Lord’s words are absolutely reliable. They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground, where it is thoroughly refined. (Psalm 12:6 NET)

God divinely inspired each human author to write exactly what He wanted to say. In doing so, the result was error-free. However, since we do not have the error-free originals any longer we are dependent upon copies to reconstruct the text.

These copies are not-error free. Human mistakes have crept into the various manuscripts as a result of repeated copying. Therefore, it is important that we use all available means to discover what the error-free originals actually said.

Summary – Question 1
Why Is It Important to Discover What the Bible Originally Said?

It is absolutely vital that we know how the text of the Bible originally read. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so. To begin with, the Bible claims to be the Word of God—God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. If it is what it claims to be, then it is absolutely crucial that we know exactly what it says.

The Bible also tells us that the words of God were given to accomplish a specific purpose. We must know the precise content of His words so that we can understand His purpose.

Furthermore, before any interpretation can begin, we must know precisely what we are interpreting.

In addition, before we can formulate any Bible doctrines we need to know what sources we can use. We cannot speak confidently about God until we are certain what He has said to us.

We also want to know who God is, who we are and what, if anything, God requires of us. We cannot do this unless we know what the text of Scripture originally said. It is necessary to know the exact words of Scripture to better know Him and His plan for us. We cannot follow His plan unless we know what it is.

Finally, we come to the matter of the originals and the copies. The originals of each biblical book were error-free. The copies that have been made of these books are not. Therefore, we should strive to discover, as best we can, what the error-free originals said.

Therefore, since we do not have the original manuscripts of the books of Scripture, it is vital that we use all available means to determine the exact wording of the text. Consequently, seeking to discover what God has revealed to us is an extremely important task.

How Do We Find Out What the Bible Said When First Written? ← Prior Section
What Is Textual Criticism? Why Is the Textual Criticism of the Bible Necessary? Next Section →
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