Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Preservation of the Bible by the People of the Book

The written word of God is reverenced for its vital importance to the welfare of the Church of Jesus Christ, but it was never intended as a means of eternal salvation. Jesus said, "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." - John 5: 39. Jesus Christ is the Living Word, and our salvation is wholly and completely in Him.

The Law was revealed by God through an intermediary. The Angel of Jehovah delivered it to Moses who delivered the Law to Israel. God revealed His will through an intermediary to the prophets in the Holy Spirit. All revelation stands on the basis that it must be compared in relation to the Law and the Testimony. If a prophet does not speak according to the Law and the Testimony there is no light in him (Isa. 8:20). Thus the revelation of the NT must stand in relation to the Law and the Prophecy of the OT and must be interpretative of the OT, not contradictory to it. In the same way the Qur’an to be inspired must be interpretative of the Bible canon and not contradictory to it.

The Old Testament Books

The Old Testament "oracles of God" were providentially committed to the Jewish, or Hebrew people (Romans 3: 1,2). The ancient Massoretes (students of Moses' law) devoted their lives to perfection in preserving and copying the Old Testament books. The story of their work is a marvelous testimony to God's preservation of His word to all generations. There is very little controversy regarding the Hebrew text. (History of the Bible Robert L. Webb)

The New Testament Books

About 5,000 copies of the Greek text of the New Testament exist in safekeeping around the world. The great majority of these are identical or almost identical to the "received text" (also called "majority text, "textus receptus," or "Byzantine text"). This text was used by the Waldenses, and was preserved by the true church through the ages. The King James Version in the English language was translated from this text. Currently published copies of the Greek "textus receptus" are readily available to be purchased by the inquiring student

The Roman Catholic Inquisition was one of the greatest disasters ever to befall mankind. In the name of Jesus Christ, Catholic priests mounted an enormous effort to kill all "heretics" in Europe and Britain. Heretics are defined whichever way Rome wanted it defined.

There was a period in history when the Christian church did not permit the laity to have access to the Bible. Only the clergy had this privilege. Translation of the Bible into modern languages was expressly forbidden by the Catholic Church. During the early thirteenth century, copies of the Bible in the German language were burned by the order of Pop Innocent III. Several owners of the foreign Bible were imprisoned, whipped and sent to the galleys by the Roman Catholic Inquisition.

Preservation of the Bible by the Waldenses; they lived and died for their faith.

Located in the valleys of the Alps lived a people who set themselves apart from the world, living out their faith according to the Bible. They were beloved of God but hated by the world. These men and women have since passed but their heroic faith will live on forever.

The Spirit of Christ is also the spirit of missionary work, so it was with the Waldensians. They couldn’t just keep the truth they had learned for themselves, but they felt compelled to share it with others. And when the Bible was forbidden they copied it and taught their youth the true teachings from “The School of Barba”, in Pra del Torno. In the Dark Ages the Bible was reserved for the Catholic priests and was forbidden to copy it. Despite risking their lives they rebelled against these prohibitions, and they copied and smuggled out the Bible.

“The mountains that girded their lowly valleys were a constant witness to God's creative power, and a never-failing assurance of His protecting care. Those pilgrims learned to love the silent symbols of Jehovah's presence. They indulged no repining because of the hardships of their lot; they were never lonely amid the mountain solitudes. They thanked God that He had provided for them an asylum from the wrath and cruelty of men. They rejoiced in their freedom to worship before Him. Often when pursued by their enemies, the strength of the hills proved a sure defense. From many a lofty cliff they chanted the praise of God, and the armies of Rome could not silence their songs of thanksgiving.” (Great Controversy”, Ellen G. White, p.66, 1911.)

Waldenses are traced back to the time of the apostles. The name Waldenses means "men of the valleys". Known as "people of the Book," scripture is what embodied the faith of the Waldensians — they lived by it and died for it. They were tortured, exiled and martyred, and still the faith that drove them from the Alpine Valleys of Italy to the foothills of North Carolina survived. The Trail of Faith is their story — each exhibit bearing witness to the journey that led them, from the time of the apostles, one continent to another in search of religious freedom and a future for their families.

The Waldenses believed the Bible was open to interpretation by everyone and they took seriously the commission to share the message into the entire world. For centuries, they sought to serve God, sharing his love and spreading his Word. A peaceful people, they often found themselves at war as they sought to be true to their faith. They worshiped in secrecy for fear of being captured and killed, memorizing Scripture in preparation of their Bibles being burned. More than once, rulers thought them eradicated, but time after time, there arose a remnant to carry on.

“The Waldenses are remembered for their great faith, doctrine, and way of living. The Waldensian way of life was simple. Secluded from the influence of the world they could focus on living for God and devote much time to study and missionary work. One great feat of the Waldenses was their ability to memorize the entire New Testament and part of the Old Testament. Not only did they memorize the New Testament but they were instructed in Latin, Romane and Italian. Perhaps learning God’s Word by heart and memory is what gave them their great courage and ability to live under the persecutions they endured. They understood 2 Timothy 2:15 and took it to heart. Without the influences of the world all they had was God and His Word”. (p. 3 Israel of the Alps)

There were many persecutions against the Waldenses throughout the dark ages. On one account Pope Innocent III formed a crusaded against the Waldenses in France in the year 1209. He was able to get thousands in his crusade by promising forgiveness of sins. The crusade went on for twenty years in which hundreds of thousands were brutally murdered and tortured. They were thrown from cliffs, hanged, burned at the stake, disemboweled, pierced through, drowned, torn by dogs, and crucified. In one particular case 400 mothers with their babies took to the mountains and hid in a cave. When the Catholic crusaders discovered them they set a large fire outside the cave which suffocated all the refugees inside. (p.130-131 History of the Churches)

No matter what the persecution the Waldenses displayed great courage and faith in their Lord even unto death. One man by the name Geoffrey Varaille whose father led a crusade and himself had become a convert said this when his death sentence was announced to him, "Be assured, messeigneurs, you will sooner want wood wherewith to burn us, than ministers ready to burn in seal of their faith: from day to day they multiply; and the word of God endureth forever." He was then burned on March 29th 1558. (p.46-48 Israel of the Alps)

The Waldenses were hunted and killed for several years during the Dark Ages. Religious suppression was their daily toil for those who chose not to follow Catholicism. The Church was responsible for deaths of more so-called ‘heretics’ than even the Roman Empire.

One example in France was when approximately 70,000 Protestants were killed during a two month long massacre arranged by the Catholic Church and King Ludwig XIV.

The massacre started on, ‘The Night of St. Bartholomew’s’ signaled by the sounding of church bells. Protestants were slaughtered in their bed, while the priesthood in Rome were jubilant.

The Waldenses of northern Italy were foremost among the primitive Christians of Europe in their resistance to the Papacy. They not only sustained the weight of Rome's oppression but they were successful in retaining the torch of truth until the Reformation took it from their hands and held it aloft to the world. Veritably they fulfilled the prophecy of Revelation concerning the church which fled into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God. Revelations 12: 6, 14. They rejected the mysterious doctrines, the hierarchal priesthood and the worldly titles of Rome, while they clung to the simplicity of the Bible.

It is interesting to trace back the Waldensian Bible which Luther had before him when he translated the New Testament. Luther used the Tepl Bible, named from Tepl, Bohemia. This Tepl manuscript represented a translation of the Waldensian Bible into the German which was spoken before the days of the Reformation. (Comba, Waldenses of Italy, p. 191.) Of this remarkable manuscript, Comba says:

When the manuscript of Tepl appeared, the attention of the learned was aroused by the fact that the text it presents corresponds word for word with that of the first three editions of the ancient German Bible. Then Louis Keller, an original writer, with the decided opinions of a layman and versed in the history of the sects of the Middle Ages, declared the Tepl manuscript to be Waldensian. Another writer, Hermann Haupt, who belongs to the old Catholic party, supported his opinion vigorously. (Comba, p. 190.)

From Comba we also learn that the Tepl manuscript has an origin different from the version adopted by the Church of Rome; that it seems to agree rather with the Latin versions anterior to Jerome, the author of the Vulgate; and that Luther followed it in his translation, which is probably the reason why the Catholic church reproved Luther for following the Waldenses. (Comba, p. 192.) Another peculiarity is its small size, which seems to single it out as one of those little books which the Waldensian evangelists carried with them hidden under their rough cloaks. (Comba, p. 191, Note 679.) We have, therefore, an indication of how much the Reformation under Luther as well as Luther's Bible owed to the Waldenses.

“. . . down through the centuries there were only two streams of manuscripts. The first stream which carried the Received Text in Hebrew and Greek, began with the Apostolic churches, and reappearing at intervals down the Christian Era among enlightened believers, was protected by the wisdom and scholarship of the pure church in her different phases; by such as the church at Pella in Palestine where the Christians fled, when in 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; by the Syrian Church of Antioch which produced eminent scholarship; by the Italic Church in northern Italy; and also at the same time by the Gallic Church in southern France and by the Celtic Church in Great Britain; by the pre-Waldensian, the Waldensian, and the churches of the Reformation. This first stream appears, with very little change, in the Protestant Bibles of many languages, and in English, in that Bible known as the King James Version, the one which has been in use for three hundred years in the English speaking world.

The second stream is a small one of a very few MSS. These last manuscripts are represented: (a) In Greek:--The Vatican MS., or Codex B, in the library at Rome; and the Sinaitic, or Codex Aleph, its brother (in the Russian Museum in Moscow). (b) In Latin:--The Vulgate or Latin Bible of Jerome. (c) In English:-- The Jesuit Bible of 1582, which later with vast changes is seen in the Douay, or Catholic Bible. (d) In English again:--In many modern Bibles which introduce practically all the Catholic readings of the Latin Vulgate which were rejected by the Protestants of the Reformation; among these, prominently, are the Revised Versions.”  (Our Authorized Version Vindicated, 1930, Benjamin G. Wilkinson --p. 12, 13)

But let us see what the Waldenses believed, according to their own historian, Jean Leger. Wilkinson, page 32, says:

“This noble scholar of Waldensian blood was the apostle of his people in the terrible massacres of 1655, and labored intelligently to preserve their ancient records. His book, the General History of the Evangelical Churches of the Piedmontese Valleys, published in French in 1669, and called "scarce" in 1825, is the prized object of scholarly searchers. It is my good fortune to have that very book before me. Leger, when he calls (Robert) Olivetan's French Bible of 1535 "entire and pure," says: "I say 'pure' because all the ancient exemplars, which formerly were found among the Papists, were full of falsifications, which caused Beza to say in his book on Illustrious Men, in the chapter on the Vaudois, that one must confess it was by means of the Vaudois of the Valleys that France today has the Bible in her own language. This godly man, Olivetan, in the preface of his Bible, recognizes with thanks to God, that since the time of the apostles, or their immediate successors, the torch of the gospel has been lit among the Vaudois (or the dwellers in the Valleys of the Alps, two terms which mean the same), and has never since been extinguished." --Leger, General History of the Vaudois Churches, p. 165.

Wilkinson also shows (pp. 42-43) that Erasmus recognized two parallel streams of Bibles:


Apostles (Original)
Apostates (Corrupted Originals)
Received Text (Greek)
Sinaiticus and Vaticanus Bible (Greek)
Waldensian Bible (Italic)
Vulgate (Latin). Church of Rome's Bible.
Erasmus (Received Text Restored)
Vaticanus (Greek).
Luther's Bible, Dutch, French, Italian, etc.,(from Received Text).
French, Spanish, and Italian (from Vulgate).
Tyndale (English) 1535 (from Received Text).
Rheims (English) from Vulgate (Jesuit Bibleof 1582).
King James, 1611 (from Received Text)
Oxford Movement. Westcott & Hort (B and Aleph). American Revised 1901.

This should be sufficient to persuade the reader not to regard these two streams of Bibles as equally pure or good.

Jesus said let your light so shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify God (Matt. 5:16). But the world, mainly the Catholics hated the light (John 3:19). The Roman Catholics made many false accusations against the Waldenses and attempted to destroy them all. At the hands of the Roman Catholic crusades many Waldenses died a martyr’s death. Jesus said I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. By looking at the aggressive spread of Roman Catholicism and its heresies it would appear that the gates of hell did prevail against the church. The Roman Catholics tried to extinguish the light that was shining from the Alps. But God has kept His promise. He did not say there would be large numbers (Matt. 7:13-14). The Waldenses of that time are gone from this world but their light has not been put out, it still shines today.

Throughout the history there were honest people called “the People of the Book” who saved the Word of God. They were tortured, exiled and martyred, but still they kept their faith that they lived by it and died for it. In 18th century we read about another honest people who lived and dedicated their life for the truth of God. The Seventh - day Adventist:

“…Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “We can do nothing more,” the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.”  (White, Ellen G., “Special Testimonies,” Series B, No. 2, p. 57.)

“The past fifty years have not dimmed one jot or principle of our faith as we received the great and wonderful evidences that were made certain to us in 1844, after the passing of the time….Not a word is changed or denied. That which the Holy Spirit testified to as truth after the passing of the time, in our great disappointment, is the solid foundation of truth. Pillars of truth were revealed, and we accepted the foundation principles that have made us what we are--Seventh-day Adventists, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus.”  {NYI, February 7, 1906 par. 4}

Even if the great majority of the Christians went astray a portion of them stand for the right; they rehearse the Signs of God all night long, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, they are in the ranks of the righteous. The People of the Book are on duty every time everywhere to protect the words of God.

1 comment:

  1. Here is the words of church father, Origen (3rd century CE):
    “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” Origen, early church father in “Commentary on Matthew.”

    Greek gospel were written after the Jew-Roman war 66AD. Prior to the war, the followers of Jesus (pbuh) were the Jewish Nasoraen. NOT Greek Romans. Interesting isnt it. Did the Nasoreans who rejected Paul even use Greek gospel? Do the contents of Greek Gospel support Paul's doctrine or not? Its easy to figure these things out.