By Amos Binney and Daniel Steele
1. NAMES AND DIVISIONS.
The word Bible signifies book. Scripture is a term which in its primary sense includes all writings. THE Bible and THE Scriptures are so called by way of eminence, as the most important of all books and writings.
The Bible consists of two parts, the Old and the New Testaments, that is, Covenants or Agreements. In the New Testament the Term Oracles signifies truths supernaturally revealed, and is another name for the Holy Scriptures. Rom. 3:2. In the Old Testament Oracle signifies the place where Jehovah made known his will-usually the holy of holies. II Sam. 16:23.
The several books of the Old Testament were written by different Inspired men at different times, and were collected into one volume by Ezra, a famous high-priest and scribe. (11. What is the meaning of the word Bible? Scripture? Oracles? Oracle? Testament? Were all the Books of the Old Testament written by one man? At the same time? Who collected them into one volume? What of their order?)
The Order of the collection of both Testaments has less respect to the Period of their writing than to the Subjects on which the several books treat. The books of the Old Testament were written between 1490 B. C., the date of the five books of Moses, and 420 B. C., the date of Malachi, the last of the prophets. The New Testament was written between A. D. 38, the probable date of St. Matthew's Gospel, and A. D. 96, the date of the Revelation, so that it was completed within sixty years after the crucifixion of Christ, The first Gospel seems to have been written within two or three years after that event. The word Canon signifies a straight rod, hence a Rule or Standard. All the books which come up to the standard are called Canonical. Those which fall below are called Apocryphal or spurious. What the Sacred Canon is may be inferred from the points in which the Apocryphal books fail. 1. They do not claim to be inspired. 2. The Jews never acknowledged them as such. 3. They are never quoted by Christ and his apostles. 4. They were universally rejected by the early Christians. 5. They neither agree with themselves nor with the Holy Scriptures. The Apocryphal books of the New Testament were never acknowledged by the Church as inspired, and were early branded as spurious. (12. Date of the Old Testament? Of the New? Meaning of Canon and Canonical? Of Apocryphal? In what points does the Apocrypha fail?)
The Bible was originally written in capital letters, without any division into chapters and verses, without any punctuation or spaces between the words, thus The Book of The Generation. Matt. 1:1. These divisions are the recent invention of uninspired men, for the purpose of facilitating study, though in many instances the editors have not been so judicious as could be desired. Very often the chapter concludes before the narrative, so that we lose the connection if we stop with the chapter. Isa. 8:22; 9:1-7; 10:1-4; Matt. 19:30; 20:1-16; Mark 8: 38; 9:1; Luke 20:45-47; 21:1-4; II Cor. 4:18; 5:1.
The division into verses is equally improper, and should not govern the sense at all, as this is often injured, if not destroyed, by it. I Peter 1:4,5; I Cor. 2:9,10.
The Subscriptions annexed to the epistles of the New Testament are no part of inspiration, but were added by some grossly ignorant or wicked person; for they contradict both chronology and history. (13. Who made the chapters and verses? Show where it is not well done. What of the subscriptions.)
The Summaries at the beginning of the chapters are uninspired. Hence they may contain errors in doctrine.
The Spelling of Names in the New Testament often differs from that of the Old. This is owing to the fact that the latter was first written in the Hebrew, and the former in the Greek.
The apparent Imprecations found in I Cor. 17:22, and II Tim. 4:14, and in many other parts of Scripture, especially the Psalms, are either so many predictions, rather than anathemas, or they are declarations of the divine will made in the interests of order and justice.
The Imperfections related of certain eminent Scripture characters, such as Noah's intoxication, Abraham's dissimulation, Jacob's lying, Aaron's idolatry, David's adultery and murder, Solomon's idolatry and lewdness, are merely stated as facts of history. They are recorded, not for our imitation, but for admonition. The record proves the disinterestedness and impartiality of the writers. (14 Of the summaries? Do you discover a difference between the orthography of the Old Testaments? How do you account for this? Repeat instances of apparent imprecations. What is said of these? What instances of imperfection in Scripture characters do you discover? Why are they recorded?)
The Destruction of the Egyptians, Canaanites, and other nations, are historical facts, recorded to show the perfection of the divine government. They were chastisements, and were no more inconsistent with the attribute of mercy than are pestilence and famine.
The apparent Indelicacies of the Bible disappear when we consider the change in the use of language. Words which we consider immodest were not so formerly.
Thus we find the Scriptures have their difficulties. But these are by no means peculiar to them; all ancient writings are full of them.
These difficulties are generally in proportion to the antiquity of the writing, as the customs, manners, and language of mankind are constantly changing.
A little skill in the original language of the Scriptures, and in the times, occasions, and scope of the several books, as well as the customs of those countries which were the scenes of the transactions recorded, will generally remove all difficulties. (15 What of the destruction of apparent indelicacies? Have the Scriptures any difficulties? Are these peculiar to the Scriptures? To what are these difficulties proportioned? What is calculated to remove them?)
Historical Circumstances are an important help to the correct understanding of the sacred writers. By these we mean the Order, the Title, the Author, the Date, and Place of writing.
Sacred Geography and books of travel in the lands of the Bible are useful to elucidate the Holy Scriptures, and to impart to the mind a sense of reality.
The consideration of the Scope or design of any author will especially facilitate the study of the Bible.
Another important assistance is the consideration of the Context, or the comparison of the preceding and subsequent parts of a discourse.
The comparison of Parallel Passages is another great help for interpreting Scripture.
Whenever a doctrine is manifest, either from the whole tenor of Scripture or from its scope, it must not be weakened or set aside by a few passages. (16 What is meant by historical circumstances? Of what benefit are they? What is meant by the scope of an author? Is a knowledge of this important? What is said of sacred geography? Or the context? What of paralle passages? When a doctrine is manifest from the whole tenor of Scripture?)
As every essential principle of religion is manifest from more than one text, no doctrine should be founded on a single text, or sentence.
When two passages appear to contradict each other, if the sense of one can he clearly ascertained, that may regulate the interpretation of the other.
An obscure, ambiguous, or figurative text must never be interpreted so as to make it contradict a plain one.
Figurative language, which had its rise in the first ages of mankind, was frequently employed by the sacred writers. Some knowledge of this is an important help in ascertaining the sense of Scripture.
The metaphor, of all the figures of speech, is that which is most frequently employed in Scripture, and in every language. See Matt. 5:13, 14.
The allegory, which is a metaphor continued or extended, is another figure of Scripture use. See Psa. 18.
The hyperbole consists in magnifying or diminishing an object beyond its natural bounds. It is of frequent occurrence in the Scripture. See Gen. 13:16; Deut. 1:28; Num. 13:33; John 21: 25. (17 What is said of every essential principle of religion? When two passages appear to contradict? Of texts that are obscure? Figurative language? Metaphor? Instances. Allegory? Instances. Hyperbole?)
An irony is another figure used, in which one thing is spoken and another designed, in order to give the greater force and vehemence to the meaning. I Kings 18:27; 22:15; Job 12:2.
The synecdoche, where the whole is put for a part. As the world for the Roman empire, in Acts 24:5; Rev. 3:10. For the earth, II Pet. 3:6; Rom. 1:8.
Sometimes a part is put for the whole. As the evening and morning for the entire day, Gen. 1:5, 8, etc.; the soul for the entire man, Acts 27:37.
The word hate, when employed in reference to individuals or communities, frequently signifies nothing more than less love. Gen. 29:30-31; Mal. 1:2, 3; Luke 16:26; Rom. 9:13.
Events which will certainly take place are sometimes spoken of as already realized. Isa. 9:6; 60:1, 8; 65:1. (18. Instances. Irony? Instances. Synecdoche? Instances. What of the word hate? Instances. Future events that are certain?)
2. ENGLISH VERSIONS-KING JAMES'.
The translations of the Scriptures into the different languages, both ancient and modern, are very numerous. It is the only world-book that was ever written.
The translations most interesting to us are those which have been executed in our vernacular tongue.
The earliest English translation of the Scriptures known to be extant, was made by an unknown hand, near the close of the thirteenth century. This is still in manuscript.
The first printed edition of any part of the Bible in English was of the New Testament, by William Tindal, in 1526.
The last English version of the entire Bible was executed under the direction of James I., king of England.
He appointed for this purpose fifty-four men of distinguished talents and piety. Only forty-seven of these actually engaged. This was in 1607, and in 1611 it was finished.
Of all modern versions, this, upon the whole, is considered the most accurate and faithful. Use has made it familiar, and time has rendered it sacred. (19. What is said of the different translations of the Scriptures? What of the earliest English translation? Is this printed? When did the first printed copy appear? By whom? By whose direction was the last, or present English version, excuted? How did he effect this? When?)
Yet the translation in some points is defective and greatly needs revision. There are wrong meanings given to some words in the original, while peculiar idioms have been overlooked; verbs are translated in the wrong tenses; some numbers are translated too large; different English words are used to translate one word, and one English word stands for several different ones; some of the words and expressions are obsolete in the sense intended by the translators furnishing objections which are urged by skeptics; some words have been left untranslated, as halleluia, hosanna, etc.
3. THE VALUE OF THE BIBLE.
Even as a literary composition, the sacred Scriptures form the most remarkable book the world has ever seen. They are of all writings the most ancient, and contain a record of the deepest interest. The history of their influence is the history of civilization and progress. Scarcely can we fix our eyes upon a single passage in this wonderful book which has not afforded instruction or comfort to thousands. On this ground alone the Bible has strong claims upon our attentive and reverential regard. (20. How is this version regarded? Show the value of the Bible?)
Each Testament enhances the value of the other. As an evidence of the close connection of the two dispensations, and of the sanction given in the New Testament to the Old, the former has two hundred and sixty DIRECT QUOTATIONS from the allusions are even more numerous, being upwards of three hundred and fifty.
The two Testaments contain but one scheme of religion; neither part can be understood without the other. It has but one subject from the beginning to the end; but our view grows clearer by progressive revelation. The truths of God are, in themselves, incapable of progress, but not the revelation; the progress is not in the truth, but in the clearness and impressiveness with which the Scriptures unfold it.
There may be passages in them the full meaning of which is not discovered, and which are perhaps reserved to extinguish some future heresy, or some yet unformed doubt, or to prove, by fresh fulfillment of prophecy, that the Bible came from God. Scripture is like the deep sea, beautifully clear, but unfathomably profound. It seems to say to its millions of students, "My treasures shall never be exhausted; put me not to the rack, but question me incessantly." (21. Of the two textaments. What is the use of dark passages?)
The richest treasures of God's Word will not be discovered unless the Holy Spirit himself become the revealer. Ps. 119:18; Luke 24:45; John 16:13; I Cor. 2:9-16. The last reference. contains, in the original, the words, "which the Holy Ghost teacheth, explaining spiritual things to spiritual men." It is by his light that we become sure of the truth of the Bible or of the true meaning of particular passages. John 7:17; I Cor. 2:13. The Interpreter, in whose house Bunyan's Pilgrim saw so many wonders, is the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Scripture interprets Scripture. There is not an obscure passage, containing any important truth, which is not elsewhere explained.
The harmony and perfection of the Holy Scriptures are rendered more peculiarly evident by the constant reference of all their writers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take him out of the Sacred Oracles and they become a jargon of unintelligible and discordant voices. Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:45; Acts 3:20-24; 10:43; 13:23-37; 17:23. (22. Who is the indispensable Interpreter? To whom do all the Scripturespoint?)
The Holy Scriptures, indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known and all events foreknown, are adapted to profit mankind in every way and for all time. Rom. 15: 4; I Cor. 10:11; II Tim. 3:15-17. They will always lead human progress. The fairest productions of wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands and lose their fragrance; but these undying flowers of Divine truth become still more beautiful beneath our gaze, daily emitting fresh odors and yielding new sweets, which he who tastes will desire to taste again, and he who tastes oftenest will relish the most. Ps. 1:2; 11911, 97; Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16. In this respect the Scriptures resemble the garden of Eden, in which is found every tree that is pleasant to the sight or good for spiritual food, including the Tree of Life, given for the healing of the nations. Prov. 3:13-18; Rev. 22:2.
Little do those who neglect their Bibles think what refined delights they lose by this turning away their eyes from the most sublime and entrancing object of contemplation that the whole universe affords. (23. Show the durability of the Bible. How is its study illustrated?)
In a museum in Dresden, among many other gems and treasures, may be seen a silver egg, which, when you touch a spring, opens and reveals a golden yolk. Within this is hid a chicken, whose wing being pressed, it also flies open, disclosing a splendid golden crown studded with jewels. Nor is this all; another secret spring being touched, hidden in the center is found a magnificent diamond ring. So it is with every truth and promise of God's word-a treasure within a treasure. The more we examine it the richer it becomes. But how few, comparatively, care to touch the springs as did the Psalmist. Ps. 119:96-100