The history of the cannon of scripture makes for a fascinating read if you have doubts as to how God could have possibly kept the 66 books known as The Bible as pure and unadulterated as it is. Even more light is being shed upon it as parts of the 66 are found amidst the dead sea scrolls. Very little has changed, we are told, save the spelling of the names through the centuries. I would recommend the Book edited by F. F. Bruce titled “The Books and the Parchments” as a good starting place to appreciate this. The dead Sea scrolls predate some of the oldest manuscripts in extent before their discovery, but as far as I know there is still no claim that we have any originals. The stone tablets that had the first recording of the 10 commandments have been missing for centuries. The earliest mss (which is the official abbreviation for manuscripts) before the dead sea scrolls were found date back to the 4th Century. It is important that you learn that in the early mss there is no punctuation used. This lets you know that the punctuation that we take for granted in reading today when present in our text are not placed divinely but at the will of the publisher. There are also no chapters and verses so there is no authority to attach to these references except that they help us communicate to each other where in the Word we are.
This 4th century time reference is significant because it was about this time that their preservation was transferred from the Judeans to other cultures such as the Romans, Assyrians and others. This becomes important as the motivations of the keepers come into play as possible reasons for the sore thumb discrepancies that have been noted from this time period between the quotes of the period writers and what we have today. This is the time period that we get the different Creeds established as Rome tried to unify Christians behind their way of Worship. It is amazing to me how much of the religious life style of what had been called pagan Rome is carried on to this day with Christian sounding names attached. “The Two Babylons” by Alexander Hislop and “Babylon Mystery Religion” by Woodrow, (and not his later retraction), are sources for that insight. Actually reading about Roman Mythology and comparing the observances and honoring the different gods to current customs is also instructive. Comparing the twelve days of Christmas to the 12 Days of the Saturnalia as I did as a Latin student in high school was informative. Tracing things as honoring the Yule log, Wreathes, decorating the Christmas tree or to change holidays, Easter bunny, eggs and sunrise services to shout “He is risen indeed.” are also a part of uncovering these errors of practice as these are not practices that are supported by scriptures. Remember details matter.
The tomb was found to be empty and the stone rolled away while “it was yet dark” and that would be a time before sunrise as it becomes light even before sunrise. The shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep not something they do in late December. The climate may always be changing but it has not changed all that much in the last 2000 years. The sheep were let into the fields after the harvest to fertilize the fields and crop the stubble so that the fields would be ready for planting in the spring. Learning to do as the unbelievers do is addressed by God. Practices such as tree decorating are discouraged, see Jeremiah 10 first 5 verses. Hopefully, point made.
More recently we have a theologian, Ethelbert William Bullinger, 1837-1912, who did a very large volume of work that has not yet been supplanted by modern efforts and is still regularly published and sold today and widely recognized as authoritative on so many subjects although none is perfect save Christ. His “Witness of the Stars,” “Numbers in Scripture,” “Lexicon”, “Figures of Speech used in the Bible”, the notes and Appendices as part of “The Companion Bible”, to name just a small sample of the things referenced still and 100 years have passed since his death. (Please note the title Lexicon as just referenced is simplified and shortened.) Truly he did us all a favor to help people appreciate the Scriptures. It is in his work that I found the time line to estimate from Adam and Eve to the Completion of the book of Revelation was about 4100 years. It is in his work that a plausible explanation of how God’s Word is recorded in the Stars is to be found as is ascribed in Psalms 19. This allows researchers in the last fifty years to work with astronomers and posit that the description of the heavens in Revelation 12:1,2 narrows the time of the birth of Jesus to be within a window of 81 minutes on the 11th of September in the year we call 3 BC and non Christians or those wanting to be politically correct call 3 BCE between Sunset and Moonset that night.
And from establishing that date to getting the Acceptable year of the Lord to being from Passover 27 AD to Passover 28 AD. a 13 lunar month year that ended with the first day of Passover, a high Sabbath Day, falling on the 29th of April and the date of the day of Discovery of the resurrection being May 2nd. so that the three nights and days, the 72 hours to make him legally dead under Judean law that Jesus was dead and in the grave were a few hours April 28th, 29th, 30th, and May 1st 28 AD. God raised him up from the dead as the details in the Word indicate exactly 72 hours after he was put in the grave. That is how exact and dependable God’s Word is. God does not always specify details but when he does provide them they are true. His Word is truth.
Let me now turn to the small correction. The Companion Bible was first published as a unit in 1922 AD by Zondervan. In appendix 164, the Subject of “the others crucified with Christ” is addressed. I do not know if this was the first time the differences in the details about the time and events of this crucial event from the four Gospels were brought to the churches attention or not, but the correction to the gospel of John or the general representation of the crucifixion was not affected. Much is made of the importance of the King James Version (KJV), to Bible Students perhaps the biggest advantage that the KJV has is that it has been around long enough (over 400 years now) to allow the research tools (that allow individuals seeking to know the scriptures, the ability to check for errors) to be developed and are available to use without much specialized training (you basically need to read the preface or perhaps an appendix and apply what is there). I do not have to be a Greek language expert to check the meaning of a particular word. Using the Concordances and Lexicons available to me I can see the way that those that have had the privilege to become fluent in the language that the mss are written in, have translated that word or phrase, and thus I am able to build my understanding of the scriptures without having to duplicate all that effort. This should allow laymen to be confident that they have access to the accuracy and integrity of the scriptures and move forward confidently building their knowledge of the truth.
Instead although this small error was introduced by the KJV translators, it goes uncorrected and appears in later translations. The tools to easily check the accuracy of the new translations have not been developed and indeed may never be developed and the error is allowed to stand. This allows skeptics to point to apparent flaws in the text. Accusations that the layman does not know how to refute, causing some to believe that you cannot depend on the truth to be accurate.
True the Bible is written for believers and not for the unbelievers but when the believing community at large is not aware that an error is present and yet it has been pointed out to the serious students, why not correct the error or at least note it. Also true you cannot change a translation and call it the same version as the old. If someone corrected the text you cannot continue to call what you produce the version. But to allow newer translations to not perpetuate the error, Please put in a footnote of the error and let your readers see the perfection of the Word. So what is it that I am talking about here? The small correction is that the word “one” does not belong in JN 19 : 18. Check the Greek Interlinears, the word one is not translated from any Greek word. The truth and the reality of this verse is there were two on either side not one. This is a small correction but one that allows the Gospels to agree between themselves and allows an apparent contradiction to disappear. The image of three crosses could be made correct to reflect five. The upraised hand with fingers stretched apart could be a reminder of the scene of Jesus in the midst of the four others recorded to have been crucified with him that day. Two thieves and two malefactors one of each on either side. The two malefactors from Mt 27 : 44 and Mk 15 : 32 are in many ways different from the two thieves in Lk 23 : 39. But if you don’t correct Jn 19 : 18 the Bible (to maintain its accuracy) would have you try to say the differences do not matter but remember the details matter.
I did not check every new version of the text to see if any of them corrected this over sight(at best) of sloppy translators, but I checked enough to know that as a rule even though this error has been pointed out for over 100 years, people would prefer to misrepresent the Word than correct small errors that introduce inconsistencies that could be a stumbling stone for some.
The four Gospels are not consistent in including all the same details for every event described. How ever that is not their purpose, other wise there would just be one. The four each have a different purpose and presentation and every detail is not necessary for their respective purposes. However since they do describe what happened truthfully, you use the information in each and if the situation is the same you add any differences together to get a fuller picture of what is being described. With the gospels if one says this and another does not but it is the same event you do not say one writer was wrongly inspired and did not record the truth. There are many investigational shows on tv these days where the criminal is caught by the discrepancies in the stories told by the different observers or at different times. The lies are the what solve the case. If you always tell the truth you don’t have to worry but if you start weaving a web of lies watch out because that which is not true eventually sticks out like a sore thumb to the investigator. The gospels are all inspired of God. All of the accounts are thus true. So watch for differences of time and place and you avoid the pit fall of assuming it is describing the same identical thing when in actuality there are differences because it is just similar. Again Bullinger illustrates my point in his appendix 163 in the Companion Bible concerning the inscription placed over Jesus head. While revising what you post today is a lot easier than it was back then, men still did it. They revised and posted three different signs or accusations over his head in the 6 hours Jesus hung on the tree, The first at Pilots direction, the second after the chief priests objected and a third after the crowd had time to respond to the second.
This explanation for the differences is not readily apparent to the casual reader but by paying attention to when the sign was posted it becomes evident that it is not the same sign from one true description to the next. From Matthew to Luke the time of when the thieves were added to the 2 malefactors is one of the major clues that two very different people are being talked about. One of the malefactors will be in the resurrection of the just, none of the other three crucified will be. Paradise is not around to go to that day (this is an example of bad punctuation by the publisher.) We do not go to paradise on the day we die, we go to the grave. See Ecclesiastes 9 : 5ff
I am not trying to start a new tradition, but perhaps looking at your hand with fingers outstretched, before you set your hand to a task, to remember that Jesus was in the midst is perhaps not such a bad idea. He is after all still in the midst if you let him be a part of your life. Till next time.