Brian Shilhavy’s personal Bible and notebook.

by Brian Shilhavy

The Bible is the world’s best-selling book, with no serious competitors. Josh McDowell, in his book The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers 1999) wrote:

It’s not unusual to hear about books that have hit the bestseller list, selling a few hundred thousand copies. It’s much rarer to come across books that have sold more than a million copies, and rarer still to find books that have passed the ten-million mark in sales.

It staggers the mind, then, to discover that the number of Bibles sold reaches into the billions. That’s right, billions! More copies have been produced of its entirety as well as selected portions than any other book in history.

According to the United Bible Societies’ 1998 Scripture Distribution Report, in that year alone member organizations were responsible for distributing 20.8 million complete Bibles and another 20.1 testaments.

When portions of Scripture (i.e., complete books of the Bible) and selections (short extracts on particular themes) are also included, the total distribution of copies of the Bible or portions thereof in 1998 reaches a staggering 585 million – and these numbers only include Bibles distributed by the United Bible Societies!

There are currently over 6 billion Bibles in print.

What is the Bible?

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by 40 or more different authors over a period of about 2,000 years. Yet it is also one book (also referred to as the Scriptures), with two main divisions: The Old Testament (before Christ), and the New Testament (after Christ.)

The Old Testament includes the writings of Moses in the first 5 books of the Bible, as well as the writings of prophets and Jewish Kings such as King David and his son King Solomon.

The Old Testament is written mostly in Hebrew, with a few small sections written in Aramaic, which is the language that evolved after the Jews were transported out of the land of Israel and lived in the land that was ruled by several kingdoms that eventually became the Persian Empire (modern day Iran).

The Bible includes several genres of literature, including poetry and historical records. The authors claimed they were inspired by God to write down the things he was revealing to them.

Peter, a Jew and one of the original disciples (students) of Jesus wrote:

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20)

Paul, a member of the ruling Jewish class (forerunners of today’s “Illuminati”) who hated Jesus and who originally killed and imprisoned Jews who believed that Jesus Christ was the Messiah but later also became one of Jesus’ disciples after a dramatic conversion experience, wrote:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The New Testament includes the four historical accounts of the life of Jesus, called the “Gospels,” and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the “epistles” which were letters written to local assemblies of believers.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, which was the language of the common people, as opposed to Classical Greek, the language of academia and “the learned.” It was the trade language of Rome (lingua franca), which occupied Israel during the days of Christ.

Jesus and his disciples were believed to be tri-lingual, speaking the common trade-language of Koine Greek, but amongst themselves probably speaking Aramaic. They probably also knew some Hebrew which by this time was probably mainly a written language, especially being known as the language that the Old Testament was written in and the language of their forefathers.

The last book of the New Testament is the prophecy of John, called the Book of Revelation.

Is the Bible Accurate and Reliable?

This is a subject that should take a lot of research to answer. I will only briefly discuss some of the issues here.

During the days of Jesus and his disciples, they accepted the Old Testament collection of 39 books to be accurate and authoritative. It is not known if any of the original manuscripts from any of the Old Testament writings existed during that time. The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, for example, were kept in the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Temple, but where they are today is the subject of speculation and Hollywood films such as the Indiana Jones series.

The texts that did exist were primarily the “Masoretic text” derived from Hebrew manuscripts, and the “Septuagint text,” written in Greek by Jews and also derived from Hebrew manuscripts, which is actually the older of the two, and the one that was used the most during the days Jesus walked the earth, as it was written in the common language of the day.

Since the words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament books of the Bible are written in Greek, it is easy for scholars to compare quotes Jesus made from the Old Testament to the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament. Sometimes the quotes follow the Septuagint, and sometimes they are slightly different, suggesting they were translating directly from the Hebrew and the Masoretic text.

But Jesus clearly accepted the Old Testament available during his time as authentic and authoritative, quoting at least 24 of the 39 books.

There is even one account of Satan himself quoting the Old Testament as well, with his physical encounter with Jesus. (See Matthew Chapter 4.)

The New Testament writings are the most copied writings of any body of literature in the history of the human race. And while we do not have any of the original manuscripts available, there are over 5,800 known Greek manuscripts, with the oldest copies dating back to the second century.

No other writing from this time period even comes close to this many manuscripts available. In comparison, the Iliad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive. The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the 13th century.

For further reading on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts, see F.F. Bruce’s book, THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS: Are they Reliable? which is available as a free .pdf here.

F.F. Bruce also wrote a book on The Canon of Scripture which explains how it was determined which early writings were included in the Bible while others were not. The copyright may be expired and you may be able to find a .pdf version online. (The ones I found required some kind of registration, so I am not including them here.)

Has the Bible Been Corrupted?

We know that Jesus accepted the authority and reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts of his day, and the New Testament manuscripts were copied so often over a such a wide geographical area, that it is nearly impossible to corrupt the original language manuscripts.

There are errors in some of the manuscripts which become apparent when comparing the thousands of various manuscripts of the New Testament, which would have been common as copying errors, primarily before the invention of the printing press.

The science of “textual criticism” allows us to identify those errors and correct them, since so many manuscripts exist.

However, once we move on from the ancient manuscripts written in the original language of the original authors, to translations of the those manuscripts into other languages, then yes, corruption is certainly possible and even inevitable.

The King James Version Debate

When we discuss the English translations of the Bible, it is impossible to avoid the “King James Version” (KJV) debate.

There are many who believe this is the only “authorized version” of English Bible translations.

The “authorization,” of course, came from James Charles Stuart, the King of England in 1611.

The “debate” stems from the fact that when we look at the volume of manuscripts available of the original New Testament writings, they can be divided into specific geographical areas.

The one that the KJV version is based on is referred to as “the Byzantine text” or the “textus receptus” because it contained the most copies of manuscripts at the time.

Since that time however, archaeology has uncovered some older texts, and a newer manuscript incorporating these older manuscripts was developed, usually referred to as the “eclectic text” or the Westcott/Hort text named after the primary scholars who put the text together.

However, the differences between both Greek texts are so minor, that no major facts or doctrines are in dispute. For further reading on this topic, see the book: The King James Version Debate, by D.A. Carson.

Some believe the KJV version is superior simply based on the character and religious beliefs of these two men who developed the eclectic text, which of course is an ad hominem fallacy of logic, as the text should be evaluated on its merit alone.

For example, if you needed a rare surgery that could potentially save your life, and there were only two surgeons available who knew how to do that specific surgery, one who had a 100% success rate over many surgeries, but the other who only had a 50% success rate over the same amount of surgeries, but the one with the 100% rate was a “pagan” who never went to church and the one with the 50% success rate was a “good Christian” who always went to church, which one would you choose?

One decision would be based on scientific reasoning (choosing the one with a 100% success rate), while the other one would be based on a religious belief independent of the facts.

That is how I see many who insist on “KJV Only.”

D.A. Carson, and many others, deal with the whole field of “textual criticism” which is the field of studying ancient manuscripts, identifying the differences, and then determining which variant is the most viable.

For a layman’s explanation of textual criticism go here, and for a bit more scholarly explanation go here.

Besides the underlying manuscripts from which an English translation is written, there are other considerations that translators must decide.

The original KJV, for example, uses very archaic English, which is harder to understand in today’s modern English. So how much liberty should a translator give to modernizing the English language to make it more understandable to the reader, rather than sticking to a more literal translation that is closer to the original text?

This is where politics come in, unfortunately.

The KJV translation, for example, seems to have chosen certain words to maintain the authority of the Church of England over the people, as did the Catholic Church based out Rome, which at the time was primarily using the Latin Vulgate version, which only the clergy could primarily read and interpret to the masses.

One of those words is the English word “church.”

The English word “church” is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia. But ekklesia means “assembly,” or “congregation.”

The English word “church,” if you study its etymology (history of use) comes originally from the Greek word “kurios” which means “Lord.”

It is an improper word to use in translation of “ekklesia.” In the Roman world of New Testament times, ekklesia was used for general assemblies, and not necessarily religious assemblies.

It is the word used in Acts 19:32, 39, 41 where it is translated “assembly” because there is no “church” here. It was an assembly, an unruly mob actually, gathered together to try and kill Paul.

Wycliff is credited with first using the word “church” as a translation not of the Greek text, but from the Latin Vulgate used in the Catholic Church.

Another translator who did translate into English from the Greek and Hebrew texts, was William Tyndale in the early 1500s.

He rejected the word “church” for ekklesia and used “congregation” instead because:

Of grievous concern to Tyndale was the misuse of ill-gotten wealth by clergy, monks, and prelates (whom Tyndale often called the ‘spirituality,’ as here):

“What good conscience can there be among our spirituality to gather so great treasure together, and with hypocrisy of their false learning to rob almost every man of house and lands … seeking in Christ nothing but lucre?”

Tyndale said the monks and clergy crept into people’s consciences, robbed them of the faith of Christ, and caused them to give their money to build new churches and cloisters through a false faith in such works, by which all suffered:

“… the building of [churches and steeples] and such like, through the false faith that we have in them, is the decay of all the havens in England, and of all the cities, towns, highways, and shortly, of the whole commonwealth.

For since these false monsters crept up into our consciences, and robbed us of the knowledge of our Saviour Christ, making us believe in such pope-holy works, and to think that there was none other way unto heaven, we have not ceased to build them abbeys, cloisters, colleges, chauntries, and cathedral churches with high steeples, striving and envying one another, who should do most.”

Therefore, by using ‘congregation’ in his New Testament, Tyndale was both being faithful to the Greek and avoiding a usage that would contribute to the continuing exploitation or deception of the people.

Indeed this, Tyndale’s translation, together with his books and writings, have led some to credit him with “breaking the spell attached to the word church,” and “breaking the suffocating power of the medieval church.” (Source.)

However, just to make a point, Tyndale did use the word “church” to translate ekklesia in one place: Acts 19 and the mob assembly. Everywhere else he used “congregation” which of course references the people, the true believers, and not an institution or corporation.

The King of England presiding over the Church of England and the Pope presiding over the Catholic Church were not amused.

Tyndale was considered a heretic and eventually was burned at the stake.

So yes, corruption and politics play a role in English translations, and that was true of the King James version as well, and I am just giving one example here.

How Does One Study the Bible?

Nobody is being burned at the stake today for their English translations of the Bible, but many of the same principles still apply.

The largest consumers of Bibles are churches and their clergy. In another article I deal with the term “Pastor” as not being true to the original Greek manuscripts as well. It promotes a centralized leadership authority in the institutional churches that was never taught by Jesus or his disciples.

So how does one study the Bible if there is corruption in the English translations?

Obviously learning the original languages and studying them that way is the best option, but few have the time to do that.

Fortunately, we live in the digital age that allows access to many Bible study tools where we can do our own analysis of specific passages and words.

First, I prefer to read to read the Bible using a “parallel” Bible which has multiple translations. The one I use every day is the one published by Zondervan in the picture at the beginning of this article, which gives me the King James Version, the New International Version (1984), the New Living Translation, and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

I have used it for over 20 years, so I am not even sure it is still in print. Mine is held together by packaging tape over the front and back cover.

This parallel Bible helps me identify potential conflicts in translation which will spur me to dig deeper. I am “old school” in my daily devotions and like to just have a hard copy Bible like this, along with a notebook to jot down the key verse the Lord is pointing out to me, and any other thoughts that come to mind under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

But for more serious study, electronic Bibles are far superior. The one I use is called E-Sword, and it is free for the basic modules, which includes many Bible translations, dictionaries, lexicons, concordances, commentaries, and more. Some translations and other study tools are available at nominal prices.

On E-Sword I have 22 different Bible translations, some based off of the Byzantine text, some off of the eclectic text.

Two of them, the King James Version (Byzantine Text) and the NASB (eclectic) have numbers in the text next to words that link directly into the Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

The other nice feature of linking the English words to the Greek dictionaries, is that it allows you to search the Bible for all other uses of that Greek (or Hebrew) word, so that you can see how the translators translated it in other places, by simply left mouse clicking on it (desktop version).

I have used E-Sword for years, but there are very many other electronic Bible software programs as well. Olive Tree is another popular one and has a very nice mobile interface.

For the really serious Bible student, the best dictionaries of Koine Greek words used in the Bible are:

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ten-volume set) by Gerhard Kittel, publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1964)

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 or 4 volume set) by Colin Brown, publisher: Zondervan

I own both, and both are top notch works by German scholars. They trace the etymology of each word in Classical Greek usage, how that word is used in the Old Testament Septuagint Greek translation, and how it is used in the New Testament documents.

The Truth of God’s Eternal Word to Combat Propaganda and Brainwashing

Reading and studying the Bible has literally changed my life. I would not be here today writing what I am writing, on ANY topic on the Health Impact News network, if it were not for my constant studying of the Scriptures.

All of us have been conditioned by our culture, through education, media, entertainment, etc. And that conditioning is controlled at the top primarily by Satan and his Kingdom of Darkness. It is sometimes called “brainwashing,” and we are all victims of it.

God’s eternal word as recorded in the Scriptures helps us break through the madness and lunacy that results from the propaganda that bombards us every day. It presents truth to expose the lies in our culture. It shines light into the darkness, exposing the evil deeds done in that darkness.

I start out each day with my devotions, where I read a portion of the Bible, write down the key verse or verses God is showing me for that day, and then pray.

It is a daily habit I learned early on in my life, and it has brought me to where I am today.

But just studying the Bible in and of itself is not enough. In itself, it only makes you smart, but not necessarily wise, and there is a difference.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, even Satan is recorded in Scripture as quoting the Bible. No doubt he has it memorized, maybe even all the different translations.

James, the half brother of Jesus wrote:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

And Jesus himself said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

We need to know Jesus on a personal level where we are communicating with him through the Holy Spirit, and not just simply knowing about Jesus through our minds.

The Holy Spirit, which is God’s seal upon us once we go through the rebirth process, will reveal what we need to know and do with the truth revealed in the Bible. Otherwise, it is just head knowledge, where more often than not it just puffs us up with arrogance.

We need Spiritual discernment, and not simply human knowledge. If you feel you do not now have this Spiritual discernment, ask God for it.

Spiritual discernment, and knowledge of the Bible, for example, taught me many years ago that the pharmaceutical industry was Satanic, and that in the Bible the Greek word pharmakeia, from which we get the modern day word “pharmaceutical,” is translated by words such as “witchcraft,” and “sorcery.”

I learned early on that I did not have to fear sickness or disease, and I chose not to participate in the medical system, guided by my knowledge of the Bible and God’s Spirit of discernment.

When I look at the American culture today, I can’t help but think that not many know the Bible (in spite of the fact that there are over 6 billion in print!!), and not many are being led by God’s Spirit, because Satan and his Kingdom of Darkness is winning the day through deception, big time.

Paul talks about this Spiritual discernment in his letter to the Corinthian believers recorded in the Bible, and so I will close with that passage:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

However, as it is written:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?

In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)