How We Got the Bible

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Introduction to How We Got the Bible

Introduction

“How The Bible Came From God To Us”

Revelation - God communicating to man what He wants us to know (Hebrews 1:1)

Inspiration - God superintending human writers to compose and record His revelation to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)

Transmission - The ancient process of accurately copying Hebrew and Greek scriptures for successive generations

Canonicity - God guiding the early church to recognize what books are inspired

Textual Criticism -The modern process of comparing existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to determine what is original

Translation - The process of translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into a modern language

Interpretation - The process of a reader studying to understand what God’s Word means (2 Timothy 2:15)

Illumination - The process of the Holy Spirit helping the reader understand and apply the Bible (John 16:13)

Application - The process of putting into practice what the reader has learned (James 1:22)

The Bible’s Reliability from Revelation by God to Application by Reader

 

 

Definition

Degree of

Certainty

Factors Determining Certainty

Revelation

God communicating to man what He wants us to know (Hebrews 1:1)

Revelation is settled and sure because there is only one Source of revelation.

Revelation rests upon the trustworthy character of God.

Inspiration

God superintending human writers to compose and record His revelation to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)

Inspiration is settled and sure because there is only one process of inspiration, even though there were many writers.

Inspiration rests on God’s total control of the human-divine process.

Transmission

The ancient process of accurately copying Hebrew and Greek scriptures for successive generations

The transmission of the Bible texts was amazingly accurate, but it was many scribes copying

Transmission depended upon scribes using a careful process that God protected.

Canonicity

God guiding the early church to recognize what books are inspired

Canonicity is settled and sure. There is only one final collection of inspired books.

Canonicity depended upon God controlling an otherwise human process of church councils.

Textual Criticism

The modern process of comparing existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to determine what is original

-Very reliable overall

Several different theories exist about which original manuscripts are the most reliable.

The accuracy of existing texts depends on the competence of the scholars involved in textual criticism and upon the texts available.

Translation

The process of translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into a modern language

We have many reliable translations in English and other languages.

Translations depend on the knowledge and accuracy of the translator(s) and, to some degree, upon their interpretive understanding

Interpretation

The process of a reader studying to understand what God’s Word means (2 Timothy 2:15)

The reliability of interpretation varies greatly.

Many interpretations are suggested

Interpretation depends upon the accuracy, the theology and sometimes the honesty of the Bible student, teacher or writer.

Illumination

The process of the Holy Spirit helping the reader understand and apply the Bible (John 16:13)

The Holy Spirit’s illumination is available to all believers, but accuracy will vary greatly

Illumination depends upon the Bible reader’s accuracy, honesty and even spiritual maturity.

Application

The process of putting into practice what the reader has learned (James 1:22)

Applications will vary greatly. Many applications are legitimately possible.

Specific application depends upon the person’s needs and their willingness to obey God.

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Revelation

Revelation Defined: God communicating to man what he would otherwise not know (Hebrews 1:1 – God is the Source of all Revelation)

Two Kinds of Divine Revelation

I. General Revelation – God communicating to man His existence and His character through nature and reasoning, apart from any words or language.

Arguments for the existence of God from general revelation.

A. Cosmological argument – “The world didn’t just happen. Some Uncaused Being must have caused it to be” (Romans 1:20)

B. Teleological argument – “Design in the world points to a Designer” (Psalm 19:1-6).

C. Moral argument – “Our sense of right and wrong points to a moral Law-Giver” (Romans 2:14,15; James 4:12).

D. Ontological argument – “Why would people have a concept of a Perfect Being unless there was one – God Himself” (Acts 17:27; Romans 1:19)?

II. Special Revelation – God communicating to man using words and other supernatural mediums.

A. Special revelation without words

1. Casting the lot (Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:21-26)

2. The Urim and Thummim – Two stones in the high priest’s breastplate that revealed God’s will (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63).

3. Dreams (Genesis 20:3,6; 31:11-13, 24; 40-41, etc.)

4. Miraculous Events (The Exodus, Jesus’ miracles – John 2:11, etc.)

B. Special revelation with words

1. Words were spoken by God to someone (who verbally communicated it to others).

a. Angels (Daniel 9:20,21; Luke 2:10,11; Revelation 1:1)

b. Prophets (2 Samuel 23:2; Zechariah 1:1; Ephesians 3:5; Hebrews 1:1, etc.)

c. Jesus Christ (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2; 2:3)

d. Apostles (2 Peter 3:2)

2. God revealed to men what He wanted to be recorded as Scripture (see the following on “Inspiration).

III. Is There Special Revelation Today?

A. Problems with the view that there is special revelation today

Some Christians believe that the Bible gives general guidance to all believers (which is true), but they also believe that God gives specific individual guidance today by dreams, voices and specifically inspired thoughts.

1. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says the scriptures are “adequate/sufficient” for everything we need to know or do.

2. Many claim “God told me” but there is no way to verify which “voices or impressions” are truly God-given.

3. The cults have all begun with claims of modern “special revelation.”

4. The penalty of falsely claiming “God told me” was death for a prophet (Deut. 18:20-27). To claim “God told me” is to claim the same kind of revelation as a prophet. We must keep clearly separate what are our own thoughts and what God actually revealed.

B. Argument for the view that God does not give new special revelation today.

Certainly God is leading individuals in various ways today, but that leading is not verbal nor on par with special revelation. So how does God lead today?

1. The Bible – God will use scripture to lead us (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Every time we read a specific command that relates to some area of our life today, that is God’s leading. The Holy Spirit within us convicts and teaches us through the Bible (John 16:13). In addition to specific commands, God will use the principles of scripture to lead us into right choices. That is God’s leading as well (see Illumination, below).

2. Prayer – When we pray we talk to God. He does not “talk” to us in the same way (verbally). As we pray we may, however, become more sensitive to what God has already revealed in Scripture. That is not new revelation. As we prayed, we simply became aware and perhaps more willing to follow revelation God has already given in the Bible.

3. Specific Guidance – Often we have specific need for direction (to make good choices about a job, a spouse, a move, a purchase, etc.). We don’t need special revelation (a “voice” or a “sign”).

  • We need an obedient heart. We must be willing to do what God wants (Proverbs 3:5,6).
  • We need to search the scripture for commands and principles relating to family, finances, priorities, etc. (Proverbs 19:21).
  • We need to listen to godly advice (Proverbs 12:15: 13:10; 15:22).
  • We must then make our decisions, trusting in God’s continued guidance and sovereign control (Proverbs 3:5; 19:9).

4. God’s Sovereignty – God has His plan which includes certain specific circumstances. He sovereignly protects, leads and arranges certain people to be in certain places and certain events to occur. As He carries out His sovereign plan, He may utilize our human thoughts to put us where He wants us (for example: A man on a vacation trip finds a Gideon Bible and trusts in Christ.). But these are still human thoughts which God utilizes and are not new authoritative revelation. This is simply God’s sovereignty at work.

5. Answered Prayer – Some Christians may pray for specific help in a troublesome situation (guidance issues, a lost billfold, etc.). God can answer those prayers and use our thoughts. But they are still our thoughts, not authoritative revelation. For example, I lost my checkbook several years ago. I prayed. I had various thoughts, new places to look, stores to call, etc. However none of them produced the checkbook. It was never found. If God had chosen to answer my prayer, one of those thoughts could have led to finding it. But that would not have meant it was inspired or that “God told me.” It would simply mean God used my thoughts in His sovereign answer to my prayer.

True revelation from God is always objective (certain and knowable). But if we don’t know that God revealed it until it turns out right, that’s not true revelation. Every prophet knew it was God speaking. He didn’t have to wait to see if the prophecy “turned out” or if the principle “worked.”

So, it is true that God answers prayer and can use our thought in the process. But they are our thoughts and impressions He uses. They are not His voice nor is it revelation.

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Inspiration

I. Definition: God’s superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error in the words of the original autographs His revelation to man (from Dr. Charles Ryrie).

Theories of Inspiration

A. Natural inspiration – There is no supernatural element. The Bible was written by great men, who often erred.

B. Partial inspiration – The Bible contains God’s words but must be sorted out (“demythologized”) to find them. Other parts are purely human and may be in error.

C. Conceptual inspiration – The thoughts of scripture are inspired but the actual words used are not. There is factual and scientific error.

D. Dictation theory of inspiration – The writers passively recorded God’s words without any participation of their own styles or personalities.

E. Verbal, plenary inspiration – All the actual words of the Bible are inspired and without error (see “verbal, plenary” below). This fits the Bible’s description of inspiration.

II. Inspiration is claimed in the Bible.

A. General claims of inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21).

B. The writers claimed to be inspired.

  • David (2 Samuel 23:2 – “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me”)
  • Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:1-2 – “Thus says the Lord”)
  • Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:1,2 – “commandments…by the authority of the Lord Jesus”)
  • John (Revelation 1:1 – “The revelation of Jesus Christ…to his bondservant John”)

C. Jesus claimed that the scriptures were inspired (Matthew 5:18; Luke 24:44 – “all fulfilled”).

III. Verbal, plenary inspiration is described in the Bible.

A. Key Texts

1. “God-breathed” writings (2 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture is inspired by God”).

  • The word “inspired” literally means “God-breathed.”

2. “Spirit-moved” writers (2 Peter 2:20, 21 – “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”)

3. There was a God, Spirit and Man interaction

  • Zechariah 7:12 – “The words which the Lord of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.”
  • Acts 4:24, 25 – “God…who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father, David… did say.”

B. The meaning of verbal, plenary inspiration

1. “Verbal” inspiration

  • The words themselves are inspired, not just the ideas (“words” – Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalm 19:160; Zechariah7:12; Matthew 4:4,7,10).
  • The precise verb tense is inspired (“I am” – Matthew 22:21,32).
  • The individual letters, in a word, are inspired (“seed” or “seeds” – Galatians 3:16).
  • The smallest part of a Hebrew letter was inspired (Matthew 5:17,18).

2. “Plenary” inspiration

  • All scripture is equally inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) – Genealogical records, historical narratives and salvation verses are equally inspired and true, even though they may not be equally pertinent to our lives.

C. The forms of inspiration

1. God directly revealed parts of scripture to some writers (prophets in particular) who spoke exactly the words God gave them (Moses – Deuteronomy 4:2; Isaiah – Isaiah 59:21; Paul – Galatians 1:12, etc.).

2. God otherwise superintended the writing of men who wrote exactly what God intended. They used their own styles and expressed their thoughts freely knowing what they meant. Yet, through the Holy Spirit, God at the same time determined the content and controlled the accuracy of all they wrote. This is the miraculous mystery of inspiration.

D. The limits of inspiration

1. Inspiration is limited to the writing of scripture; not everything the writer wrote or said (see study of Canonicity).

2. Inspiration is limited to the original manuscripts and not every later copy or translation.

IV. Other evidences for the inspiration of the Bible

The Bible claims to be inspired, but there is even more than evidence than just these self-claims. Below are listed a number of confirming evidences that support the Bible’s claim to truly be God’s revelation.

A. Fulfilled Prophecy in the Bible

The Bible contains many prophecies recorded and then later fulfilled. Here are some examples:

1. Israel’s regathering after being dispersed (A.D. 70) was predicted by the Bible (Isaiah 11:11 – 750 B.C.; Ezekiel 37:1-14 – 600 B.C.). For almost 2,000 years (since A.D. 70) no nation of Israel existed. Then, on May 15, 1948, Israel became a nation. In 1967 (Six-day War) its area was quadrupled.

2. The Destruction of the city of Tyre was predicted in detail by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 26 – 600 B.C.). In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great completed the destruction begun by others. Each detail Ezekiel predicted was fulfilled.

3. Four great successive world kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome) were specifically prophesied and described by Daniel (Daniel 2& 7- 535 B.C.). Each detail was fulfilled as these empires rose and fell.

4. Over 300 prophesies in the Old Testament describe the details of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. The odds of even a few of these coming true in one person are staggering – much less 300 of them.

B. The Unity of the Bible

The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by about 40 authors on three continents in two major languages. The writers included an Egyptian-trained scholar (Moses), a general (Joshua), Kings (David, Solomon), a farmer (Amos), a fisherman (Peter), a tax-collector (Matthew), and a rabbi (Paul), but amazingly they present a consistent viewpoint of life and set of facts.

One cannot imagine 40 different writers today, from such different backgrounds, agreeing on any subject. But in all its 66 books, the Bible is self-consistent on such significant issues as: where we come from (special creation by God), why we’re here (to serve and glorify God), and where we’re going (eternal life or eternal judgment). The principles, the moral viewpoints and the historical details are consistent throughout Scripture. There are no significant discrepancies (See Inerrancy).

C. The Supernatural Dynamic of the Bible

Christianity began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Since then, thousands upon thousands have been converted and their lives radically changed by the Gospel message in the Bible. The many testimonies of Christians to the life-changing effect of scripture is a confirming evidence of the Bible’s inspiration.

D. The Distribution and Indestructibility of the Bible

The Bible is far and away the world’s “best seller.” By 1932 it was computed that

1-3 billion had been published. By the 1960’s it is estimated that over 2 billion were published. Currently, a total of 3-4 billion is reasonable. No other book is even close.

The Bible in its complete form or portions of it is now available in 2,233 languages, according to the 1999 Scripture Language Report issued by the United Bible Societies (biblesociety.org), representing about 90% of the world’s population.

Throughout the centuries, various enemies have tried to destroy the Bible

(Diocletian Edict, circa A.D. 300). Voltaire, the French philosopher and skeptic, predicted in the 18th century that the Bible and Christianity would soon be obsolete. In 1828, fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society was using his press and his house to publish Bibles.

Jesus had predicted, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

E. Archaeology supports the Bible

Numerous archaeological finds have supported the Bible’s accuracy. Otherwise unknown places, events and dates have proven to be historically accurate. Nelson Glueck, a leading Jewish archaeologist said, “It can be categorically stated that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” (Rivers In The Desert, Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy. 1959. p.31). This does not prove inspiration, but it confirms the credibility of writers who also claim that they wrote with God’s authority.

F. A Logical Argument for Inspiration

Charles Wesley proposed the following logical argument: “The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.

1. It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither would or could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” when it was their own invention.

2. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.

3. Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must by given by divine inspiration.”

(Robert W, Burtner and Robert Chiles, A Compend of Wesley’s Theology, Abingdon Press. 1954. p. 20)


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Inerrancy

Introduction

1. “Inerrancy” is a term used to explain that the Bible is completely true and contains no errors in the original autographs. The reason inerrancy is an issue is because some religious “scholars” believe that the scripture contains errors, yet they continue to claim to believe in “inspiration.” Actually, they’re trying to redefine “inspiration” to include possible errors. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss “inerrancy” because it assures that we understand inspiration to mean “without error.”

2. When inerrancy is denied, it begins a “slippery slope” effect. The denial of inerrancy often leads to the denial of other literal truths. Historical facts are taken as myths/stories (It is often claimed for example that the creation of the world and man in Genesis 1-12 wasn’t meant to be taken literally). Biblical viewpoints on issues, such as homosexuality or women’s roles, are easily denied when inerrancy is denied. One otherwise evangelical “errantist” acknowledges that Paul said, “Wives submit to your husbands” but he feels that “Paul was wrong.” It is one thing to interpret what a scripture means, but we don’t have the freedom to claim that a Bible author wrote something that was “wrong” or “in error.”

I. Inerrancy described (from Dr. Norman Geisler, Dallas Seminary class notes, 1983)

A. Definition: The Bible is wholly true (in whole and in part) in all that it affirms.

B. Logical reasoning

1. The Bible is God’s word (Matthew 4:4-11).

2. God is always truthful (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

3. Therefore the Bible is completely true (inerrancy).

C. “What scripture says, God says”

Bible Said

=

God Said

Isaiah 55:3

=

Acts 13:34

Psalm 16:10

=

Acts 13:35

Psalm 102:26

=

Hebrews 1:5-6

Psalm 104:4

=

Hebrews 1:5-6

Etc.

=

Etc.

Throughout the New Testament there are quotes of Old Testament writers that are explicitly attributed to God. The fact that what scripture says is also what God says tells us that God’s truthfulness is bound up in Scripture’s truthfulness. To deny the total truthfulness of the Bible is to deny the total truthfulness of God.

D. Questions

1. Why must there be flawless originals if our copies are not?

Answer: Because God produced the original and He cannot err.

2. Why didn’t God preserve the copies from all error?

Answer: He did preserve it from significant error, but just like God allows other things we don’t understand, we must accept that He had a good reason.

3. How accurate are our copies of the original Hebrew and Greek texts?

Answer: About 99% accurate. We have 100% of the truth we need. The main issues are disagreements about which words were the original ones. We don’t lack any of the original – we just have some disputed extra.

Note: Actually, we have thousands of existing manuscripts – each containing a variety of copying errors. But the fact that we have so many copies actually enables us to decide very closely what the original was.

Example: If you would receive 3 telegrams, each containing an error.

#OU HAVE WON $1,000.

Y#U HAVE WON $1,000.

YO# HAVE WON $1,000.

The truth is clear, even if the telegrams disagree on their errors.

II. Inerrancy defended

Critics of inerrancy are quick to point out that there are supposedly contradictions in the Bible and that some statements in scripture are not literally or scientifically true. Two principles must guide out thinking about inerrancy.

A. Apparent contradictions are not necessarily real contradictions.

1. Some writers do not give all the truth about a certain event, but they do give only the truth. Parallel accounts may give different details. But they are not contradictory – merely complimentary.

How many angels were at Christ’s tomb? Matthew 28:1-7 refers to “an angel; Luke 24:4 speaks of two angels. ANSWER: Two angels were at the tomb. Where there are two angels, there is also one angel.

What was the inscription on the cross (Matthew 27:37 versus John 19:19)? ANSWER: The complete inscription was evidently more words than either verse states. But everything in each verse was really on the inscription.

2. Some errors are errors in copying. These do not discredit inerrancy which simply claims the originals are inerrant.

3. Some apparent contradictions are solved by facts we do not know.

2 Samuel 24:24 says David paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor property. 1 Chronicles 21:25 says 600 shekels. Perhaps the threshing floor was 50 shekels, and with the surrounding property, the total was 600.

2 Samuel 21:19 says Elhanen killed Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:50 says David did. Maybe David had 2 names (like Solomon did – 2 Samuel 12:24;25). Or maybe Elhanen killed Goliath’s brother (“the brother of” was maybe omitted by a copyist). Or maybe there is another legitimate explanation.

Modern example: By Dr. Kenneth Kantzer

“Several years ago the mother of a friend of ours was killed. We first learned of the death through a trusted mutual friend who reported that the woman had been standing on the corner of the street, at a bus intersection, waiting for a bus and had been hit by another bus passing by, and was fatally hurt, dying a few minutes thereafter. Shortly thereafter, we learned from the grandson of the dead woman that she had been involved in a collision, was thrown from the car in which she was riding and was killed instantly. The boy was quite clear; this was all the information he had. His story was not only quite clear and positive, but he had secured his information directly from his mother. No further information was forthcoming from either source. Now which would you believe? We trusted both our friends, but we certainly could not put the data together. Much later, upon further inquiry, we learned that the woman had been waiting for a bus, was hit by another bus and was fatally hurt. She had been picked up by a passing car, dashed to the hospital, but in this haste, the car in which she was being transported to the hospital collided with another, she was thrown from the car and died instantly.”

4. The Bible is innocent of error until proven guilty. Based on the Bible’s self-claim of inerrancy and the mass of evidence for inerrancy, we can assume there are good explanations for apparent contradictions. The burden of proof is on the critic. There are at least plausible explanations for all so-called discrepancies (See Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, pp. 95-104).

B. Inerrancy allows for other forms of truth in human language besides technically literal truth.

1. Approximations – In Acts 7:6, Stephen may be approximating when he says the Egyptians captivity was 400 years while Exodus 12:40 says it was 430 years. Legitimate approximations do not violate inerrancy. If I actually say, “My ancestors came to America 100 years ago,” in context it is a legitimately true statement whether it was actually 110, 101 or 110 years.

2. Figures of speech – Christ is obviously not literally a “door” (John 10:7). He is the “entrance” in eternal life, however. Scriptural truth involves many figures of speech and symbols. But all such truth is still literal in that even figures of speech convey literal truths.

3. Language of appearances – When the Bible says the “sun set,” it merely is using a language of appearances, as we do, to convey the literal truth that the day ended.

4. Popular, not scientific truth – In Matthew 13:32, Jesus referred to the mustard seed as the “smallest” of seeds. Botanists today know of many smaller. But Jesus simply used the proverbial understanding of the mustard seed, which was considered smallest of the seeds, as popularly known in Palestine. This does not violate inerrancy.

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Transmission

Introduction

The term “transmission” describes the ancient process of copying Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to preserve them for future generation and to distribute them for greater use. Since there were no copy machines, the texts had to be copies by hand. In this way they were “transmitted.”

I. Writing Materials

A. The original writings of scripture were done on a variety of materials.

Stone – Exodus 24:12; Deuteronomy 5:22; Joshua 8:31,32

Papyrus (made by pressing and gluing two layers of split papyrus reeds to form a sheet) – perhaps mentioned in 2 John 12 (“paper”) and Revelation 5:1 (“scroll/book”)

Animal skins (vellum – calf or antelope, parchment – sheep or goat, leather – cow or bull) – 2 Timothy 4:13 mentions parchment.

B. To inscribe on these materials a variety of tools were used, including stylus, chisel, pen and ink.

II. The copying process of the Old Testament (originally written in Hebrew)

A. Early copying

At first, during the Old Testament era, the only copies of the scriptures were kept at the temple (At first only the 1st 5 books – the Law). For many years, even the copies of the Law were lost, until they were found during Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22:8-23:3). As the books of history (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, etc.), the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, etc.) and the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) were written and gathered together, scribes began to copy the scriptures for use in various synagogues and for private purchase and study.

B. The Masoretes

The Masoretic scribes (A.D. 500-1000) in charge of the Old Testament manuscript copying used a very meticulous system of transcription and had a deep reverence for the text. God used their almost obsessive respect for the text to preserve the text’s accuracy. They had specific rules on the type of ink and the quality and size of parchment sheets. No individual letter could be written down without having looked back at the copy in front of them. The scribe could not write God’s name with a newly dipped pen (lest it blotch) and even if the king should address him, while writing God’s name, he should take no notice of him. They were so meticulous that they counted all the paragraphs, words and even letters, so they could know by counting, if they had done it perfectly. They knew the middle letter of each book so they could count back and see if they had missed anything.

C. Existing Old Testament manuscripts

1. Masoretic manuscripts

We actually have very few complete or nearly complete Old Testament manuscripts existing today. There are 4 or 5 really significant Masoretic manuscripts that are the basis of the best Hebrew Bible available today. These copies were made between about A.D. 900 and A.D. 1000 by the Masoretes.

2. The Septuagint evidence

The Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language which was made in the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. There are about 300 existing copies of the Septuagint. This was the common Hebrew Bible used and quoted by Jesus and the apostles (who lived in a Greek culture, of course).

Although written in Greek, scholars can generally determine what Hebrew words were being translated in the Septuagint. It provides evidence that the Hebrew Bibles were copied extremely well for all the years between the Septuagint translation (2nd/3rd century B.C.) and our best existing Hebrew copies (A.D. 900-1000).

D. The Dead Sea Scrolls

Since the oldest complete copy of a Hebrew Old Testament in existence is dated about A.D. 1000, that’s a long time after the originals were written (1450-400 B.C.). But there are portions that date back farther. Most significant are the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in caves in 1947 by an Arabian shepherd boy. These well-preserved Hebrew text fragments date back to 100 B.C. They include many Bible portions, including some complete books. Their value to the credibility of our Bible is that amazingly, there is virtual agreement between these Hebrew texts and the ones dated 1,100 years later! This proves how accurately the scribes copies for all those years.

Example of Isaiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Through all the years of copying, the text of Isaiah remained virtually identical.

The evidence shows that our Old Testaments today are extremely accurate reflections of the original manuscripts.

III. The copying process of the New Testament (originally written in Greek)

A. The types of Greek manuscripts

The New Testament books were originally written in papyrus sheets (plant material – see above) or parchment (animal skin – see above). Writing at that time was done all in capital letters with no punctuation or division between words (uncial). So all the copies from the 1st to about the 6th century A.D. were done that way. (This form is sometimes responsible for confusion by Greek textual scholars today who need to determine where one word stops and the next begins.) By the 7th or 8th centuries, Greek manuscripts were put into small letters with punctuation, word, and paragraph divisions (miniscule). Both types of ancient manuscripts exist today.

B. The reliability of Greek manuscripts

The reliability of the New Testament Greek texts is even more certain than the Old Testament texts. The New Testament was written between A.D. 45 – A.D. 90. Some fragments of Greek texts exist that date back to A.D. 120 and A.D. 150. That’s only 35-100 years after the originals that Paul, John, Luke and others wrote! Another big help to Greek textual scholars is the fact that there are 4,000-5,000 New Testament Greek manuscripts (partial or complete) existing. By comparing these many copies, scholars can weed out many possible copying mistakes.

So there are two factors confirming that the Greek texts, available to scholars today, are very accurate reflections of the original writing. 1) We have copies dated closely to the time of the original writing. 2) We have lots of copies.

The following chart compares the New Testament manuscript evidence with other Greek literature (considered accurate by historians) from the same era.

Manuscript

Date of Oldest Manuscript Existing

Copies

Plato

1,200 years later

7

Caesar

900 years later

10

Herodotus

1,300 years later

8

Aristotle

1,400 years later

5

New Testament

Only 35-100 years later

4,000-50000

Once again we see that God has sovereignly preserved His word in virtually accurate form. We can be confident that the Greek texts, used by scholars making modern translations are very accurate.

C. Note on some differences in English translations.

Sometimes as we compare two translations of the New Testament, we find a substantial difference, such as verses or phrases being omitted (John 5:3-4; 7:53-8:11; Mark 16:9-20; 1 John 3:7,8, etc.). Some modern Bibles (NIV) also footnote a lot of smaller details (words, etc.) that differ in some manuscripts.

The debate centers on two theories about which Greek manuscripts are the best. One theory (Critical text view) is that the oldest manuscripts are the most accurate. The theory is that the oldest manuscripts are most significant although they are few. The other theory (Majority text view) is that the type of manuscripts that survived in greatest numbers are the most accurate (even if they are less ancient). Most modern translations are based on the Critical textual theory (NIV, NASV, RSV, etc.). The King James and the New King James Versions are based on the Majority textual theory.

This explains why occasionally a significant disagreement is found in the New Testament between the KJV and Modern Translations (Example: Are Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 really part of the inspired text of the New Testament – see notes in the New International Version for the Critical Text View). This writer prefers the Majority text theory behind the KJV, although most of the modern versions may still be preferred by most English readers for overall accuracy and readability.

Regardless, the discrepancies are usually not major. Scholars and interpreters will continue to debate the theories, but no major doctrines or principles are affected by the discrepancies between Greek text and the resultant English versions of the Bible.

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Canonicity

I. Introduction

How do we know that the 66 books in our Bible are the only inspired books? Who decided which books were truly inspired by God? The Roman Catholic Bible includes books that are not found in other Bibles (called the Apocrypha). How do we know that we as Protestants have the right books? These questions are addressed by a study of canonicity.

“Canon” is a word that comes from Greek and Hebrew words that literally means a measuring rod. So canonicity describes the standard that books had to meet to be recognized as scripture.

On the one hand, deciding which books were inspired seems like a human process. Christians gathered together at church councils in the first several centuries A.D. for the purpose of officially recognizing which books are inspired. But it’s important to remember that these councils did not determine which books were inspired. They simply recognized what God had already determined.

This study discusses the tests of canonicity that were used, the history of canonization and a brief explanation of why certain disputed books are not scripture.

II. Summary: The collection of 66 books were properly recognized by the early church as the complete authoritative scriptures not to be added to or subtracted from.

III. Tests of Canonicity

The early church councils applied several basic standards in recognizing whether a book was inspired.

A. Is it authoritative (“Thus saith the Lord”)?

B. Is it prophetic (“a man of God” 2 Peter 1:20)?

- A book in the Bible must have the authority of a spiritual leader of Israel (O.T. – prophet, king, judge, scribe) or and apostle of the church (N.T. – It must be based on the testimony of an original apostle.).

C. Is it authentic (consistent with other revelation of truth)?

D. Is it dynamic – demonstrating God’s life-changing power (Hebrew 4:12)?

E. Is it received (accepted and used by believers – 1 Thessalonians 2:13)?

(Norman L. Geisler & William Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible. pp. 137-144).

IV. The History of Canonization

A. Old Testament Canon – Recognizing the correct Old Testament books

1. Christ refers to Old Testament books as “scripture” (Matthew 21:42, etc.).

2. The Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90) officially recognized our 39 Old Testament books.

3. Josephus, the Jewish historian (A.D. 95), indicated that the 39 books were recognized as authoritative.

B. New Testament Canon – Recognizing the correct New Testament books

1. The apostles claimed authority for their writings (Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).

2. The apostle’s writings were equated with Old Testament scriptures (2 Peter 3:1, 2, 15, 16).

3. The Council of Athenasius (A.D. 367) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) recognized the 27 books in our New Testament today as inspired.

V. The Disputed but non-canonical books

A. The Apocrypha is not scripture.

The Apocryphal books are 15 books written in the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. They record some of the history of that time period and various other religious stories and teaching. The Catholic Bible (Douay Version) regards these books as scripture. The Apocrypha includes some specific Catholic doctrines, such as purgatory and prayer for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:39-46), and salvation by works (almsgiving – Tobit 12:9). Interestingly, the Catholic Church officially recognized these books as scripture in A.D. 1546, only 29 years after Martin Luther criticized these doctrines as unbiblical.

Below are listed several additional reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha as inspired:

1. The Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as scripture.

2. The Apocrypha never claims to be inspired (“Thus saith the Lord” etc.) – In fact, 1 Maccabees 9:27 denies it.

3. The Apocrypha is never quoted as authoritative in scriptures. (Although Hebrews 11:35-38 alludes to historical events recorded in 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:42).

4. Matthew 23:35 – Jesus implied that the close of Old Testament historical scripture was the death of Zechariah (400 B.C.). This excludes any books written after Malachi and before the New Testament.

B. Other disputed books are also not scripture

1. There were other books that some people claimed to be scripture. Some of them were written in the intertestamental period and called Old Testament psuedopigrapha (or “false writings”). Others were written after the apostolic age (2nd century A.D. and following). These are called New Testament psuedopigrapha.

The writers often ascribed these books to the 1st century apostles (Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, etc.). Evidently, they figured they would be read more widely with an apostle’s name attached. They include some fanciful stories of Jesus’ childhood and some heretical doctrines. No orthodox Christian seriously considered them to be inspired.

2. There were some other more sincerely written books that had devotional value and reveal some of the insights of Christian leaders after the 1st century (Shepherd of Hermas, Didache, etc.). Although they are valuable historically, and even spiritually helpful, they also do not measure up to the standards of canonicity and were not recognized as scripture.

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Translations

Introduction

1. Some people have the mistaken notion that the Bibles we have today are unreliable because of constant retranslation. But the translations we have today are not the end of a long chain of translation. They are translated directly from Hebrew (O.T.) and Greek (N.T.) manuscripts.

2. Actually the translation process has, for the most part, produced improved modern Bibles in several ways.

a) Better original texts from the science of textual criticism: By studying and comparing the many available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, scholars are able to determine the original as accurately as possible. This has given us better Hebrew and Greek originals from which to translate into English.

b) Better understanding: Recent scholarship has helped us to better understand various Bible terms in light of Bible culture.

c) Better Readability: Modern translations put the Bible into a more readable form.

I. Definitions of terms

A. Translation – A translation is a rendering of the Bible in a language different than the one in which it was written. A translation is intended to be as literal as possible and still be easily read.

1. Versions – Versions are the various translations of the Bible within one modern language.

Example: English Versions
King James Version, New International Version, NET Bible etc.

2. Version Revisions – Some modern versions could also be called “revisions” because they are largely based on a previous version which has been updated.

Examples:

American Standard Version

Revised Standard Version

(1901)

(1946/1952 revision)

 

New American Standard Version

 

(1960 revision)

King James Version

New King James Version

(1611)

(1982 revision)

(1612)

 

B. Paraphrase – A paraphrase is a less literal rendering of the Bible – restating the text to give the original sense but not attempting to literally translate each term in the original language.

Examples: Living Bible, Phillips, Today’s English Version (formerly called Good News for Modern Man), The Amplified Bible (verses are greatly expanded to explain each phrase, The Message)

C. Interlinear Bibles – An “interlinear” is a Bible study tool which contains an exactly literal rendering of each Hebrew or Greek term. Interlinears are actually copies of the Hebrew and Greek text with a literal English translation printed below. It follows the word order and grammar of the original language whether or not it is easily readable in the modern language (English for example). Interlinears can be helpful for study purposes (particularly if the reader has some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek), but are not useful as a Bible for regular reading.

D. Children’s Bible Story Books – These are even less literal than paraphrases. No attempt is made to “translate” the Bible text. These books merely selectively “retell” the story portions of the Bible. One good example for the youngest children (3-7) is Kenneth Taylor’s “New Bible In Pictures For Little Eyes.” Bible Story Books are different than most Children’s Bibles which are actually regular translations or paraphrases printed with pictures appropriate to children. (International Children’s Bible, NKJV Explorers Bible for Kids, NIV Adventure Bible, etc.) The chart below compares the various “Bibles” according to how literal they are.

E. Comments

1. Since neither translations nor paraphrases are exactly literal, there will always be a degree of “interpretation” in them. That is, to put the Greek or Hebrew words and phrases into readable English, the translator has to decide to some degree what each term means. Paraphrases have more “interpretation” than translations. That makes paraphrases easier reading because it seems everything is explained. But for that reason, they also will be less reliable, because you only know what the person doing the paraphrase thought a particular verse or phrase means. So it is best to stick with translations for most study and reading. Modern translations are very readable and yet they allow the reader to draw more of his own conclusions when the meaning is vague. Paraphrases are valuable for younger readers and perhaps for reading through large portions at a time for getting the “big picture”.

2. Versions and paraphrases themselves are not “inspired” by God. Some ultra-conservative Christian groups wrongly suggest that the King James Version has special authority as a version over all the others. It is true that the KJV has had the greatest impact of any translation and for the longest time (1611 through the present). But there is no special divine authority attached to it over others.

It is also true that some versions have misleading portions because they were done by a cult (New World Translation – Jehovah’s Witnesses). Other versions have certain renderings that are controversial because they were done by scholars that do not have an evangelical perspective (Revised Standard Version – a more liberal biblical scholarship – endorsed by the National Council or Churches; Douay Version and the New American Bible – Catholic scholars, etc.).

Ultimately, the reliability of a particular version depends not on some special authority from God but upon the accuracy, knowledge, and spiritual integrity of the scholars doing the translation.

II. History of Translations

A. Ancient Translations

1. Septuagint – The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament made in the 2nd or 3rd Century B.C. Its purpose was to provide Greek speaking Jews with Scriptures in the common language. Jesus and the apostles used and quoted the Septuagint. In the 1st-3rd centuries A.D. various revisions were made to the Septuagint to correct and improve it.

2. Early Bibles – As Christianity spread to various areas and language groups (Act 2:9-11) Christians needed Bibles in their languages.

a. Syriac (Aramaic) Translations – Aramaic is a language similar to Hebrew that replaced the older traditional Hebrew. The Jews of Jesus’ time probably spoke Aramaic. So Jews in nearby Syria needed the Aramaic scriptures. As Christianity spread through central Asia, India and even China, the Syriac translation was used.

b. Egyptian (Coptic), Ethiopic, Gothic (Germanic), Armeneah, Georgia (in Russia), Arabic Translations, etc. – As Christianity spread to these areas in the first 500 to 700 years, various translations were made and revised.

c. Comment: At first the Old and New Testaments were not all bound together. It took a while to even gather and recognize which books were accepted as inspired in both Testaments (see Canonization). Eventually, however, complete Bibles were available in the language discussed above.

3. Latin Versions – Greek was the major language in Rome until the third century A.D., but Latin, the “military” language, was emerging as the common language in many areas in the Roman Empire. After some early Latin translation efforts, St. Jerome, in A.D. 382, was commissioned by the bishop of Rome to translate the scriptures. His translations became the unofficial standard text of the Bible throughout the Middle Ages. At the Council of Trent (1546-63), the Roman Catholic officially made it the standard text. Its quality is best in the Old Testament (excluding the Apocrypha which Jerome did not like).

B. English Translations

1. Between A.D. 450 and 1100, several partial translations were made into English.

2. John Wycliffe is called the “Morningstar of the Reformation” for his opposition to the papacy and his commitment to the authority of scripture. He began the first complete translation of the Scriptures into English. The New Testament was published in 1380 and the Old Testament in 1388 (completed by others after his death in 1384).

3. William Tyndale (c.1492-1536) produced the first printed portions of the English Bible. Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) produced the first complete printed English Bible. They used the printing press invented in 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg.

4. King James I of England appointed 54 biblical scholars to produce a new translation of the Bible in 1604. Six groups worked separately and then met together to critique each other’s work. In 1611 the work was complete, giving the English-speaking world the standard Bible used for over 3 centuries.

5. The attached chart describes the revisions of the King James Version and how the various versions developed.

C. Translations for the world

The Bible is still being translated constantly around the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators is a mission agency devoted specifically to that task. New Tribes Mission is also involved in doing much pioneer Bible translation work. A 2003 study by Wycliffe counted 6,809 existing languages in the world. Here are some of their key statistics (www.wycliffe.org):

405

Have complete or adequate Bibles

1034

Have complete or adequate New Testament

883

Have only partial portions translated

1500+

Have translation projects in process by various organizations

3000+

May need translation

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Interpretation, Illumination and Application

Introduction

1. We’ve completed the basic study of “How we got our Bible.” We’ve gone from God’s inspired revelation to the actual Bible translations we read. The following study is a very simplified summary of how the Christian can use the Scripture so that it affects his/her life.

2. Definitions:

a. Interpretation – The process of a reader seeking to understand the meaning of a scripture passage.

b. Illumination – The process of the Holy Spirit helping the reader understand and apply biblical truth.

c. Application – The process of a reader putting into practice the truths and principles he/she has learned in the Bible.

I. Interpretation

There are three basic approaches to Bible interpretation:

A. Different Approaches to Interpretation

1. Used by cults. Cults use the Bible to try to prove views they already have. The real authority of their view is always some single leader who has his or her ideas in writing. The cult considers those writings as equal in authority (actually greater) than the Bible. They then lift some biblical verses out of context to support their views.

2. Misunderstood by liberal scholars. Scholars who don’t accept the authority and inspiration of scripture interpret the Bible in purely human terms. They feel free to call the Bible “wrong” on issues if society’s standard is different. They also take the liberty to water down statements that they deem unacceptable (The seriousness of sin; the need to trust in Christ for salvation, etc.). On other non-doctrinal issues, however, much of their research is correct and very valuable.

3. Taken literally in its historical and grammatical contexts. Conservative Bible scholars who take the Bible at face value consistently arrive at the same interpretations on major issues. Some detailed interpretations will always vary, but the major messages are clear. “Literal” interpretation simply means “take it as it was meant.” A figure of speech is taken that way. A grammatical form is assumed accurate. What a term or phrase meant at that time in history is worth researching and then understood accordingly. This view lets the Bible speak for itself.

B. The Basic Process of Interpretation

To understand a particular portion of Scripture, it is often necessary to have other related information. Here’s a summary of some of the basic steps that help a reader understand scripture.

1. Read widely – There is no substitute for the continual reading of Scripture. By reading widely throughout the Bible a person gets basic knowledge that will help them understand individual passages.

2. Observe carefully – We must learn to read carefully to notice what is actually said. Observation is the crucial skill basic to interpretation (See Howard Hendricks, Living By The Book, Moody Press. 1991, for a more complete description of the process of observation).

3. Know the context – The context of a passage means the scripture that surrounds it. To understand a word or phrase one must read the whole sentence or verse. To understand a verse one must read and understand the paragraph. The paragraph likewise makes sense in the larger context of the chapter or section. And then the entire book or letter and even the Bible as a whole is the larger context yet.

4. Understand the type of literature – A proverb, a parable, a psalm, an epistle (letter), a narrative (story) and prophecy are all different types of literature. God used all of them to teach truth and principles. But they each teach truth differently. For example, a parable is not a literally true story. The reader must understand that and look for the principle Christ was teaching. An epistle of Paul’s, on the other hand, teaches doctrinal truth and applications much more directly.

5. Study the structure of the passage – An outline of a book or passage is very helpful – (Make your own outline, borrowing perhaps from someone else). Outlining shows the logic and the direction of a writer’s thought. In the epistles especially, look for key structural words that indicate purpose (that, in order that), reason (for, because), conclusion/effect (therefore, so, then). These key words help you to outline and thus understand the writer’s thought.

6. Study the significant words and phrases – A concordance helps you find uses of the same word in other parts of scripture. This may help you understand what it means in the passage you’re studying.

7. Study Bible doctrine – By studying the various Bible doctrines topically (God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Angels & Demons, Man & Sin, Salvation, Church, Prophecy) we are better able to understand certain passages or verses that are related. By understanding the doctrinal truth involved, the passage makes more sense and our interpretation won’t stray from doctrinal truth taught elsewhere.

8. Use Bible Background resources – A Bible dictionary is a basic tool that gives background information on every person, place or event mentioned in scripture.

C. Bible Interpretation Recommended Resources

1. A Study Bible – For basic background to each book and helpful explanations on many verses. Many are available today with notes written for specific audiences. Here are several recommended well written study bibles for a wide audience.

  • Ryrie Study Bible (available in KJV, NKJV, NASV, NIV) Moody Press.
  • The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan.
  • Application Study Bible, Tyndale Publishers

2. Concordance – For finding words or topics elsewhere in scripture

  • Young’s or Strong’s (KJV) or NIV or NASV Exhaustive Concordance. Also, any Bible software program contains a basic concordance feature in which you can search for a particular word and it will show all uses of that word in a particular Bible version.

3. Bible Dictionary – For background information on geography, history, culture, etc.

  • New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press.
  • New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale.

4. Bible Doctrine – For topical study of major areas of truth

  • Survey of Bible Doctrine – Charles Ryrie, Moody Press.
  • Basic Theology – Charles Ryrie, (more detail), Victor Books

5. Bible Commentary – Bible commentaries explain (interpret) the Bible verse by verse. Commentaries are available on single books of the Bible (more detail) or on the whole Bible (less detail).

  • Bible Knowledge Commentary (2 Vols.), Walvoord & Zuck, Victor Books.

II. Illumination

Anyone who reads the Scripture can see the words and study the facts like any other literature. But the Bible is unique in that God inspired it to teach us ad change our life (2 Timothy 3:16). God was at work in producing the texts of scripture and He is also at work in the mind of the believer who reads it and desires God to use it to affect his life. The Holy Spirit who indwells all believers (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13) is active in this process which is sometimes called illumination. Illumination is necessary for the Bible to change lives.

A. Definition: The ministry of the Holy Spirit helping the believer to understand and apply the truth of the Bible (Charles Ryrie).

B. Description

1. Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 John 2:27).

2. Illumination is the Holy Spirit’s work in believers (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; Ephesians 1:18) and not in some mystical power of the words of scripture.

3. In illumination, the Holy Spirit will use our study and meditation, not only to help us understand scripture, but to apply it to our lives.

4. The Bible reader’s accuracy, honesty and spiritual life can all affect the Spirit’s ministry of illumination (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

5. The Spirit uses those with the gift of teaching/exhortation to help in the process of illumination (Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 12:7).

So when we read and study scripture, it is important to consciously remember the Holy Spirit’s “illuminating” ministry in our life and to ask God to teach us. Illumination does not guarantee that we will always interpret/understand scripture accurately. God uses our skill, knowledge and integrity as well.

III. Application

It has often been said that “a passage has one interpretation but many applications.” In other words, there is only one true meaning. God doesn’t “speak out the both sides of His mouth” and mean two different things at once (Example: Ephesians 4:25 means “Don’t tell a lie”). But the applications are many (Examples: Tell the truth on tax forms, to your spouse, to your boss, etc.).

A. Key Passages

1. James 1:22-25
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v.22- NIV).

2. Titus 1:1
“…The knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness” (NIV).

B. The Process of Application

1. Meditate on the scripture.

Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1,2 tell us to “meditate” on the word of God “day and night. The process of spiritual growth involves “thinking biblically”. We must reprogram our minds to see our life and choices from God’s perspective. A rushed 3-minute scripture reading or devotional book doesn’t amount to much meditation and reprogramming time. Memorizing scripture is a great way to allow God’s truth to “soak in” (Psalm 119:11)

2. Relate the meaning to myself.

Once we know the biblical principle, we must relate it somehow to our own life. To do that we must understand our own needs and weaknesses (1 Timothy 4:16; Romans 12:3). We must be honest and ask God to “search our heart” (Psalm 139:23,24). It’s easy to apply scripture to sinners around us but harder to explore our own areas of need. Our spouse, children and friends can probably help. How do they think I need to apply this principle?

3. Practice the truth

This is the action step. This is where we actually change our thinking or behavior based on God’s word. God intends for us to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2).

The step of practicing truth requires the Holy Spirit’s power. Once we know what to think or what to do differently, we must consciously ask for God’s help and then step out in obedience depending on the power of the Holy Spirit within us. That’s what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) and “be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

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