William Tyndale was the first individual to ever translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek. Instead of receiving a great reward for his valiant efforts, he suffered a cruel fate. He was convicted of heresy, strangled, and burned by the governing authorities. History tells that as the executioner wrapped a rope around the man’s throat, Tyndale yelled, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” Amazingly, within four years of the man’s death, King Henry VIII had commissioned the translation of four different English Bibles. The historical incident is a blazing testimony to the indestructible nature of God’s Word. Theologians refer to this concept as “the preservation of Scripture.” with the indestructible book — the Bible.
Promise of Preservation
Voltaire, the French philosopher, once proclaimed, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” The 18th century atheist ended up on the wrong side of history. After his death, his own homestead, “Les Délices,” was actually used by the Evangelical Society of Geneva for distributing the Bible throughout the world. Voltaire was undoubtedly unaware of a Bible promise concerning the preservation of Scripture. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promised, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Considering the supernatural way in which God has kept His Word from all defilement, it seems logical that we should place a high value on it.
Bible Witness of Copying
Scripture bears witness to the way in which the Lord preserved the Bible for us. Scripture details how the Lord gave Moses written copies of the Law (Exodus 31:18 and 34:1-3). Deuteronomy speaks of the way in which the ancient Hebrews made copies of God’s Word, crafting different types of writing to be used as accessories in their wardrobes (6:8), and to be used as interior decorations in their homes (6:9). Such records reveal that the Old Testament saints were faithful to safeguard Scripture. In the New Testament, Paul made explicit mention of his labor in dictating Holy Writ (Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; and 2 Thessalonians 3:17). He also encouraged churches to publicly distribute his writings (Colossians 4:16). Over the years, God prompted people to view Scripture as sacred and to keep it preserved for our consumption. Today, we are blessed to hold Bibles in our hands that are the offspring of a heavenly promise to preserve God’s Word forever!
The copying methods of Hebrews
are a remarkable evidence of the Lord’s providence in preserving Scripture for us. From the time of their initial writing, up until the invention of the printing press, the Jewish people took special care to keep Scripture safe. They followed a strict regimen of rules to ensure that no errors were made. If even the slightest smudge of an error was made, the copy had to be destroyed. Customs and regulations concerning the copying of Scripture were recorded in “The Tractate of the Scribes,” a twenty-one chapter book within the Talmud! Praise God that He has graciously and lovingly worked to keep the Bible safe for us!
Dr. Patrick Latham