Posted by: jesusmessiah | August 22, 2008

History of the Bible

I composed this blog post from notes I had taken from a sermon preached by Craig Groeschel from Life Church. If you have not checked into Life Church yet, I STRONGLY suggest you do so. Goto www.lifechurch.tv.

God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 4:12,

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)

And in Psalm 119:16,

“I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (NIV)

The word neglect comes from the Hebrew shakach which means to lay aside, to forget, or to take for granted.

John 1:1-2 tells us,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (NIV)

Sometime between 1400-1500 B.C. God Himself wrote the 10 Commandments on stone in an ancient form of Hebrew. For thousands of years Scripture was recorded on animal skins that were called scrolls. They may have used deer, cows or sheep but never a pig. A pig was considered unclean and that was totally inappropriate for God’s Word. When the entire Pentatauch is found on a scroll it’s called a Torah. When you unroll and entire Torah scroll, it would be over 150 feet in distance. The scroll was so long, it would take an entire herd of sheep to make one Torah scroll.

By approximately 500 B.C., the 39 books we know as the Old Testament were completed and continue to be preserved in Hebrew on scrolls. By the end of the 1st century A.D. the New Testament was completed and preserved in Greek on papyrus, a thin paper like material made from stalks of a reed-like plant.

In 367 A.D. the Bishop of Alexandria, named Athenasius, composed his Easter letter and in it, he listed all the books you read today in the New Testament. Then in 393, the African Senate of Hippo approved all the books we find in the New Testament.

By 500 A.D., the Bible had been translated into over 500 different languages. People from all over were thankful because they could read God’s Word in their own language. But then something very unusual happened, in just the next 100 years, by the year 600 A.D., the Bible is only allowed in one language.

The Catholic Church of Rome at the time was the only recognized church in the land and they issued a decree that no Bible in any other language was allowed. If anyone found a Bible in any other language was found in other than Latin, the person holding that Bible could be executed on the spot.

The reason is because the Catholic Church became corrupt and the priests were the only ones educated in the Latin language so the common person could never read God’s Word. This gave the priests ultimate power. They could teach the parts of the Bible they wanted to. They could even throw in some things that were not in the Bible at all, and that was very common.

In fact, it was common to go and pay for indulgences in a sense that they were paying for forgiveness. If they sinned, they could go pay a certain amount of money and the priest would say that because they paid that price, they are forgiven.

The Catholic Church also taught about a place called Purgatory, a word that’s not found in Scripture. But they said if your relative dies, they go to Purgatory which is a type of holding place, a place that you really don’t want to be. But for a certain amount of money you could purchase the freedom for your relative from Purgatory. In todays world it would kind of be like this, if your grandmother dies, for $99.95 you could buy grandmother a ticket out of Purgatory.

The priests used this forced ignorance, and between the years 400-1400 A.D. they deceived the masses during a 1000 year period which was known as the Dark Ages.

Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. – Psalm 139:12 (NIV)

So how did the church break free of this long period of dark and horrible corruption?

Once the Bible, the truth of God’s Word got into the hands of enough people and the right people, God used His truth trough people to bring about the necessary reformation of the church.

In the year 563 A.D. there was a guy named Columba, sometimes referred to as Columba of Iona. He started a secret Bible society or a Bible school where people could faithfully teach God’s Word. This group of people became the remnant on Earth where God’s Word was taught faithfully for centuries. The students of this group were called the Culdees. The word means certain strangers. They were strangers of this world but for 700 years the Culdees would disciple one another and they faithfully studied God’s Word. In fact, it was out of this group that God raised up the right people to bring about the reformation.

In the late 1300’s, one of these by the name of John Wycliff, was a man that God used to do tremendous things. He was the first person to translate the Bible into the English language. When he did so, all of a sudden all these people who before couldn’t read Scripture were now able to do so. At this time some say it would take about 10 months to translate one Bible into this language. He was faithful in spreading God’s Word, but unfortunately he was called a heretic, and the Pope was so disgusted by this guy that 44 years after his death, the Pope ordered Wycliff’s bones to be dug up, destroyed and then spread across the river. Some people even say that Wycliff was actually the morning star of the reformation. He was the one that God used to start the ball rolling in the very necessary reformation of the church.

Wycliff also had disciple or another student by the name of John Huss. Huss was equally passionate about getting God’s Word in the hands of as many people as possible. Unfortunately, Huss too was called a heretic and he was burned at the stake. But get this, what do you think they used to start the fire around Huss as they burned him at the stake? They used his teacher, Wycliff’s Bibles. They spread Bibles all around him and lit the Bibles on fire to burn Huss at the stake. But it was Huss’ final words that became known as a prophecy that helped direct the future of the church. At the stake before he was burned, the last words of John Huss were these. He said, “In the next 100 years, God will raise up a man whose call for reform cannot be suppressed.” And that’s exactly what God did.

In the year 1517, God raised up the man named Martin Luther who was so fed up with all of the corruption in the church, he actually believed that God was calling him to help reform the church. In fact, it was on All Hallow’s Eve that Martin Luther took what became know as his 95 Theses, a document with 95 claims of heresy, and he went and he nailed it to the door of the Wittenburg Church. People now describe that event as “the knock that was heard around the world.” God used those accusations of heresy to spark what’s become known as the reformation of the protestant church. God also used Martin Luther to take the Bible and translate it into the German language. He then took the recent invention called the printing press, the invention of Gutenburg, and he leveraged it to now the Bible into the hands of the masses. Of course Luther was called a heretic, people wanted to kill him and he had to spend much of his life on the run. But God used him to spark major changes in the church and to get the Word of God into the hands of the masses.

About that same time there was another man, and Oxford professor, his name was John Colet and he translated the Bible into English for his Oxford students. He also taught the Bible in the English language at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London where believe it or not, over 20,000 people would pack themselves into this cathedral simply to hear the Word of God in a language that they understand. Not only were there 20,000 people in the building but it’s said there would be just as many people outside the building waiting for their turn to get in. Why? Because they were hungry, they were desperate, they would do anything to simply hear the Word of God. What’s sad is that beautiful cathedral still exists today, but instead of 20,000 people a weekend, they minister to about 200 people a weekend and most of these are simply tourists.

Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. -Psalm 119:89 (NIV)

In the year 1526, there was a man named William Tyndale who befriended Martin Luther and God used William Tyndale to print the very first English Bible. That’s the good news, the bad news is that anyone caught with this illegal bible would be executed immediately. You could imagine what demand there was for people who read English and wanted to read God’s Word in a language they could understand, they would do almost anything to get God’s Word into their hands. These people, they were incredibly creative and would often smuggle into England using all sorts of different means. Occasionaly, they’d put Bibles in bails of cotton to smuggle them in or sometimes they’d put Bibles into bags full of flour. Ironically, the biggest buyers of Tyndale’s Bibles, were actually the king’s men. That’s right, the king’s men would buy up as many English Bibles as they could not because they wanted to read them, but instead they wanted to burn and destroy all of Tyndale’s Bibles. Well, Tyndale was a good business man and he would simply take the profits of all the Bibles the king’s men would buy and he would use the money to print even more Bibles to get the Word of God out. Unfortunately, since what he was doing was considered illegal, Tyndale was on the run for 11 years of his life.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:10 (NIV)

Imagine waking up every single morning knowing that people were hunting you down wanting to kill you simply because you want to help other people experience the Word of God. That’s what Tyndale experienced day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he was running for his life as people wanted to execute him. Sadly, they eventually caught up to him and incarcerated him for about 500 days before they finally decided in the year 1536 to burn him at the stake. His last words though were a prayer to God which people will remember forever. He prayed, “Oh, Lord! Open the eyes of the King of England.” And 3 years later in 1539 God answered that prayer. Not only did the King of England allow the printing of the Bible in the English language, but he actually helped to fund it, setting the Word of God free.

Think about this. Remember all the people who died, gave their lives fighting with everything in them to help God’s living and active Word be available to you and sadly so many people today, they “shakach”, neglect God’s living word

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

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