Sluice Box Adventures

Believing Bible Study in the 21st century


The real bibliolater is a person who, in mindless desperation, blindly submits to the "authority" of an imaginary set of hypothetical "originals", and fails to see that God's quick, powerful, inspired word, the Holy Bible, the scripture of truth, was near enough to touch all the time.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."


Cowden International © 2013 John Cowden

The Word Is Nigh Thee

John CowdenWe have deduced, both logically and from an examination of Bible references, that at the time of its writing, any original autograph of Scripture would have to be considered inspired of God. If the Lord has indeed preserved his purified words as he promised, despite Satan's incessant campaign to corrupt them, are we limited to the conclusion that the "original manuscripts" must still be available somewhere on earth?

Well think about this for a moment: Can we be sure there ever really was what could be considered an original autograph of 1 Chronicles? What became of the "original" of Jeremiah after Jehudi and Jehoiakim finished with it? Were the "many like words" added at the mouth of Jeremiah (36:32) as authentic as those of Baruch's original roll? Are the last seven chapters of Proverbs as "inspired" as the first twenty-four? Are vv 6, 12 and 25 of 2 Corinthians 7 as "inspired" as v 10? How about 2 Corinthians 8:8?

If we are to consider both epistles to the Corinthians to be equally inspired, word for word in their entirety, would the Holy Ghost compel Paul and Sosthenes and Timothy to differentiate between things written by "commandment" and things written by ''permission "? Would Paul go so far as to indicate that certain statements were written by himself, "not the Lord"?

In case you haven't figured out where all of this is intended to lead by now, let's reduce the problem to the following: At what point in time and/or eternity (recognizing that unlike time, eternity is non-linear and has no ''points'') did the Spirit of God Inspire any particular passage of Scripture? If we refer such a question to the King James Bible, the obvious answer is found in 2Tim 3:16, He inspired it when he Gave it. All scripture is given by inspiration of God. So we could safely assume that when any portion of Scripture was first set forth, it must have carried with it the seal of God's inspiration. Granted that the original writing of any Scripture text required God's impulse. But can the quality of inspiration be ascribed only to the words as they were first received by a human instrument, or recorded in manuscript form? When a Christian adopts the position that only the "originals" are inspired (as did Benjamin Warfield), he walls himself into a logic-tight compartment constructed something like this:

(1) Christians require final authority for matters of faith and practice.
(2) Only Scripture can be considered authoritative.
(3) To qualify as Scripture, a text must be inspired by God.
(4) Copies, translations, etc. can never be considered "inspired".
(5) But alas, the "verbally inspired originals" haven't surfaced for 1900 years.

Conclusion: The only conclusion a man could draw from these premises is that his final authority is a book he's never seen, and can never hope to see on earth!

When faced with a contradiction or an untenable conclusion, one should always check his premises. Logically, contradictions do not exist because a contradiction is a lie – and lies, like mirages, are not reality. Only Truth actually persists. Therefore when confronted with a contradiction, an honest person retraces his own logic to find the error. On the other hand, an arrogant fool simply sidesteps the untenable conclusion in order to avoid the unsavory task of dissecting and correcting an erroneous premise which might reveal his own dishonesty. In the process described above, is it not contradictory for God to require the Christian to submit to the authority of the scriptures, and then deny him access to them? Yet when faced with this dilemma, nearly all so-called Bible students cling tenaciously to those same five premises and choose to ignore the obvious conclusion. They attempt to climb into the fold another way by transferring the authority of the scriptures (mandated by their own premise) to "Christian scholarship". The circuitous reasoning employed to arrive at such an absurd position goes something like this: "Given enough time, and based upon the possibility of archaeological discovery of older and better manuscripts, good, Godly men will certainly someday be able to scientifically reconstruct the “Original Text”. Therefore until this is accomplished we must trust their superior judgment to . . ." Isn't this type of reasoning starting to sound a bit Darwinian to you? If so let's check their premises to see why they arrived at that contradictory conclusion. To begin with, let's reconsider our previous question: Is inspiration a quality which can be ascribed ONLY to the words as they were first uttered or recorded?

Remember that most of Paul's epistles were penned by hands other than his own. Also, most of the written versions of the Old Testament Prophets are distillations of prophetic utterances given orally, in many instances over long periods of time (e.g. Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Jeremiah, etc.). In a few cases we have no idea whatever who the scribe may have been that first recorded the oral message of a given prophet (cf 1Kings 13:2-3; 22:15-28). So if we assume that The Spirit of God inspired Elijah's sermon on Mount Carmel, can the same be true of its paraphrase found in I Kings 18? If we concede, for the sake of argument, that both are equally inspired, do we have any concrete evidence as to when and by whom Elijah's words were first recorded? With the Holy Ghost in charge, What difference would it make anyway???

The final verses of 1 Chronicles refer to the writings of three faithful prophets of God, Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, as authoritative historical sources concerning David and his kingdom. (For the moment let's forget about the written prophecies of Ahijah the Shilonite, Iddo the Seer, and Jehu the son of Hanani.) Is it possible that these men wrote the books of Samuel and First Chronicles? Since 1Sam 25 begins with a record of Samuel's death, it's safe to assume that he couldn't have written more than the first 24 chapters. Did Nathan and Gad complete the writings? Probably. If so, did Joshua write Deuteronomy 34 which records Moses' death? Then who wrote Joshua 24 which does the same for Joshua? Actually several events and place names found in the books of Moses and Joshua date from long after the deaths of both men. For example the accession of Laish (Leshem) by the Danites recorded in Joshua 19 actually took place during the times of the Judges, and undoubtedly after Samson's death.

It is not my purpose to pose questions which cast doubt on the authenticity of any portion of the scriptures, disparage true verbal inspiration, or lend support to the blasphemy of “higher criticism”. To the contrary, my intent is to break through the aura of magic which scholarship has woven around the "plenarily inspired original autographs". We can safely conclude that the Holy Spirit sometimes appears to have built certain texts of scripture upon an editorial supplement from some unnamed scribe. You'd probably find that hard to accept if you didn't know the Lord as well as you do; wouldn’t you?

When it comes to using foolish things, weak things, base things, things that are not, etc., to confound the mighty (1Cor 1:27-28), the Lord surely walks away with the prize. After all, the real Author (Heb 5:9; 12:2) of the Scriptures was born in a stable; remember? He did manual labor all his life, and stayed home to look after his parents until he was thirty years old. When he set out on foot to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, he spent most of his nights sleeping under the stars. He surrounded himself with some pretty high-class company, too; publicans, ex-prostitutes, commercial fishermen – the real upper crust of society.

When it came time for him to die, he took his place with the worst criminals around; thieves and murderers – like you and me. Perhaps that was because he came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance. In order to do that, he had to live as a man among dying men. As the sinless Son of God, his righteous soul was tempted in all points like the sinners who brushed his coat sleeves daily. He suffered hunger, thirst, deprivation and pain. He was despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He wept at the bereavement of his friends, and over his rejection by Jerusalem. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. He healed sick folks, cleansed lepers, saved harlots, cast out devils, and railed on pompous hypocrites. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet he opened not his mouth. When he hung on that cross as a worm, not a man, he drained the cup of God's indignation against the depravity of mankind. Yea, he bore upon his own shoulders the entire burden of Sin for Adam's fallen race. Yet he had not one sin of his own. He was a lamb without spot or blemish. And the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

The Word was nigh us; we were close enough to touch the hem of his garment. He looked like an ordinary son of man. In fact when we saw him there was no beauty that we should desire him. The Sanhedrin wouldn't tolerate him. He wasn't welcome in their rabbinical school. He didn't even have a degree from their university. He was uneducated. How could this man know letters having never learned?

They forgot how he confounded the doctors of the law with his wisdom at the age of twelve. He wasn't even allowed a fair trial. His mock arraignment was the greatest travesty of justice ever recorded in human history. Thrice declared innocent by his Roman judge, he was taken from prison and from judgment: Away with him! Crucify him! Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD ... So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Every portion of the written word of God had been penned by the end of the first century AD. There is no indication from history that a single scrap of original writing from the hand of Peter, Luke, Silas, James, Paul, John, Timothy or any other New Testament writer survived for more than fifty years. To be quite frank, it would be impossible to prove from history that any of the autographs survived for more than fifteen minutes! Does this in some way suggest that perhaps the Word had already accomplished that which the Lord pleased, fulfilled its mission on earth, and returned to the God that sent it, before 200 AD?? Based on the way some folk feel about the importance of the "original manuscripts" it certainly would seem that way.

Just for diversion, let's do a little hypothesizing. Let's pretend that you happen to be the most noted and proficient scholar of biblical Hebrew and koine Greek the world has ever known. Now suppose that the Almighty in his providence had kept the "divinely inspired original autographs" laid up in a napkin somewhere. And for the first time in history, he had an angel deliver them – all together at once – to you (remember that Elihu's original of Job pre-dated John's autograph of Revelation by probably 1700+ years). Wouldn't that make you the sole repository of Written Truth in the entire world, maybe even the universe? In the first place, as the world's most renowned scholar, you would be the uncontested choice of every fundamental faculty to exposit and interpret the Scriptures. And secondly, as the divinely ordained possessor of the only thing they consider by definition to qualify as "The Scriptures", you alone would be proclaimed worthy and able to dispense what the Bible "teaches". Such a distinction would undoubtedly place you somewhere between the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 5:9) and the pope (Rev 13:4). Sound absurd? Not if you understand what conservative fundamentalists really mean when they speak of "divine verbal inspiration of the scriptures."

Since the Lord, praise his holy Name, has seen fit to allow the "originals" to lie forever buried beneath the dust of time, are we forced to conclude that the living words of Heb 4:12, Gal 3:8 and John 6:63 have been denied the human race for nearly two millennia?

The only thing the average Greek scholar will allow the ignorant masses (you and me) to refer to as the Bible in English is a motley array of 200 or so conjectural versions, each representing the envious attempt by some conclave of self-acclaimed "restorers of original purity" to supplant the noblest, most extraordinary Book the world has ever known. In order to ascertain which, if any, of this morass of variant redactions is most "reliable" regarding a particular passage, we are required to accept the academic preferences of accredited, conservative, neo-platonic Alexandrians. The final authority we are expected to blindly trust becomes the whimsical, egocentric mutterings of a flock of cloistered professional students who possess neither the fortitude nor the intelligence to function beyond the sheltered confines of some moss-encrusted institution of pedantic pedagoggery. This is the same bunch, incidentally, that fought Wycliffe and later Tyndale in their efforts to place the Bible in the vernacular at the disposal of the English people.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, was and is attentive to the faintest cry of a broken and contrite heart. He was near enough to stretch forth his hands and rescue a sinking Peter. He heard me the moment I cried out, and plucked my sinful soul from hell like a brand from the burning. And since he's not willing that any should perish, he's always available to instantly lift any repentant sinner from an horrible pit and set his feet on a solid rock, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom 10:13).

Yes, the Lord Jesus, the Living Word is nigh thee. What kind of Saviour, what kind of God would distance himself from his creatures and turn a deaf ear to their anguished pleas for mercy? Perhaps the kind Elijah withstood on Mount Carmel; an idolater's god. If the true and living Incarnate Word of God is always nigh at hand, why would it be thought a thing incredible to you that his living written word should be likewise? Yet if you believe that you can actually hold in your hands and read with your eyes the pure, inerrant; inspired words of God, you can expect to be branded as a fool by conservative fundamentalists, and accused of something they call "bibliolatry".

Supposedly bibliolatry is a form of idolatry in which one worships a book. Since idolatry in any form is, by definition, worshiping or revering something false or nonexistent, let's examine briefly the charge of bibliolatry. Paul declares in 1Cor 8:4 that an idol is nothing in the world, and Psalm 115 describes idols as lifeless, inanimate and unresponsive. The fruits of idolatry were demonstrated by the prophets of Baal when faced with Elijah's challenge. After they spent all morning in a "holiness prayer-meeting", their god was as inaccessible and unresponsive as a stone. On the other hand, the LORD's reply to Elijah's two line prayer was a thermonuclear blast. This was a most graphic demonstration of the distinction between true worship and idolatry. No one has difficulty identifying the idolaters on Mount Carmel. However, if you adhere unquestioningly to the King James Bible, which has for centuries demonstrated itself to be nothing less than the pure, living words of God, most fundamentalists (who otherwise have no trouble distinguishing between God and Baal) would call you a bibliolater. Yet these same men, having rejected the inerrancy and power of that Book, have supplanted it with one they not only have never seen, and could never hope to reproduce in this world; but have no proof of its existence in the next. The real bibliolater is a person who, in mindless desperation, blindly submits to the "authority" of an imaginary set of hypothetical "originals", and fails to see that God's quick, powerful, inspired word, the Holy Bible, the scripture of truth, was near enough to touch all the time.

1. Where Were God's Words In The Past?
2. Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away . . .
3. Unto the Pure All Things Are Pure
4. The Word Is Nigh Thee
5. Sevenfold Purification Requires Blood
6. Seven Times Through A Furnace of Earth
7. Pure Silver

Next: 5. Sevenfold Purification Requires Blood

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