Keepers of the Scriptures

In the introduction to his book Who Wrote the Bible? Bible critic Richard Elliott Friedman declared,

People have been reading the Bible for nearly two thousand years. They have taken it literally, figuratively, or symbolically. They have regarded it as divinely dictated, revealed or inspired, or as a human creation. They have acquired more copies of it than of any other book….It is at the heart of Christianity and Judaism. Ministers, priests, and rabbis preach it. Scholars spend their lives studying and teaching it in universities and seminaries. People read it, study it, admire it, disdain it, write about it, argue about it, and love it. People have lived by it and died for it. And we do not know who wrote it.1

We don’t? The apostle Paul seems to have made the authorship quite clear when he said, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:1–2). God entrusted His entire revelation to the Jewish people. Consequently, through Israel, the world received a great gift.

Jewish People Penned the Bible
“For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). These consecrated men did not decide to sit down and write an attractive religious document. Rather, God’s Spirit “moved” them to speak and record His Word. Consequently, the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible has been called the Book of books. It stands alone, wrote Dyson Hague, “unapproachable in grandeur; solitary in splendor; mysterious in ascendancy; as high above all other books as heaven above earth, as the Son of God above the sons of men.”2

Forty divinely inspired men from all walks of life wrote over a span of 1,600 years. Moses wrote the first five books, called the Law or Torah: “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord” (Ex. 24:4; cf. 17:14; 34:27; Num. 33:1 2; Dt. 31:9, 24). The final book, Revelation, was written by John, a Jewish disciple of Jesus: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19).

Some like to argue that the New Testament is a creation of pagan Roman authors. However, all the writers, with the possible exception of Luke, were Jewish. God chose these individuals from different regions of the ancient world. Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 1894) once said of them, “Written in the East, these characters live for ever [sic] in the West; written in one province, they pervade the world; penned in rude times, they are prized more and more as civilization advances.”3

The Bible tells a single story from Genesis to Revelation. It is God’s disclosure of truth. If it were not for the Jewish people, there would be no Bible. Thank God for the Jewish pen!

Jewish People Preserved the Bible
An old rabbinical treatise called Soferim (“Scribes”) is a detailed how-to book that lists the many rules the Jewish scribes—Bible copyists—had to follow painstakingly.

For example, they had to use a special mixture of black ink. The transcription had to be done on the parchment of a clean animal. The exact number of words and letters on each line had to match the original.

Every word and letter was counted. Each column had to have no fewer than 48 and no more than 60 lines. Scribes were not allowed to copy from memory. Nor could they copy sentence for sentence or even word for word. Scripture had to be copied letter for letter.

The work was inspected by at least three senior specialist scribes. If there was an omission or if two letters touched, the entire script was rejected.

Other particulars involved width and height; exact spaces between letters, words, and pages and between numbers of columns and lines to the column; and much more. The process was scrupulously strict. Such was the standard to maintain the integrity of the copied work.

The first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (1886 1973), observed, “We have preserved the Book, and the Book has preserved us.”4

Even the New Testament was meticulously copied following rigid rules. Thank God for Jewish scribes who preserved the Bible.

Jewish People Prove the Bible
“The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it” (Ps. 68:11).

Israel’s history and that of the Bible are linked. Both are eternal. Wrote Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910),

The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter nor torture could destroy; he whom neither fire nor sword, nor inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth; he who was the first to produce the oracles of God; he who has been for so long a time the guardian of prophecy, and who has transmitted it to the rest of the world—his nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as eternity itself.5

As many have sought to destroy the Jewish people, so, too, have many wanted to destroy the Bible. The infamous American atheist/agnostic Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) once boasted, “I am going to put the Bible out of business.”6 Ingersoll faded away like grass; yet the Bible he attacked remains. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8; cf. 1 Pet. 1:24 25).

Consider the vain declaration of Voltaire (1694-1778): “Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth!”7

How ridiculous he now looks in light of Jesus’ words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mt. 24:35; cf. Ps. 119:89).

The existence of the Jewish people and the Bible prove the existence of God and the eternal influence of His Word.

Under God’s guidance, Jewish people penned, preserved, and proved the Bible. The result is the infallible (1 Ki. 8:56), inexhaustible (Dt. 17:19), and indispensable (Mt. 4:4) Word of God that we call the Bible. Thank you, Israel!

ENDNOTES
  1. Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York, NY: Summit Books, 1987), 15.
  2. Dyson Hague, “The Wonder of the Book,” The Bible Stands <thebiblestands.org/articles/wonder.html>.
  3. Joseph L. Baron ed., A Treasury of Jewish Quotations (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1956), 29.
  4. Ibid., 34.
  5. Cited in James and Marti Hefley, Where in the World Are the Jews Today? (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1974), 30.
  6. “Bible Quotes” <tentmaker.org/Quotes/biblequotes.htm>.
  7. Ibid.

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