What Baptist Believe About The Bible
The Bible Is Our Authority
Without authority, there is chaos and confusion. For Baptists, the final authority in all things is the Word of God. The ideas of men change. Church traditions change. The Bible is the unchanging authority for doctrine and life principles.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Baptists believe that all of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, are inspired in all of their parts. This means that they are actually breathed into by the God of Heaven. Since God is omniscient, meaning He knows everything, what He has recorded in His Word is absolutely infallible. There can be no mistakes or contradictions it His Word. When we consider that the Scriptures were given over a period of 1,200 to 1,500 years, and given through about 40 different human penmen, this is a monumental task.
The Baptist believes that all of the Word of God is necessary to have the complete mind of God in all things. Jesus told Satan that man is to live by more than just bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
Notice that it says “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This means all of the scriptures. Our text says that all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God, not just part of it. We can’t pick and choose which parts we are to obey.
Listen to what Jesus said when He gave us the Great Commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
This commission from our Lord has three parts. The third part is extremely important, and is often neglected today. It says that the church is to teach Christians to observe ALL things that He has commanded us. Again, we can’t pick and choose, we must teach all of the precepts of God.
You can sum up what Baptists believe about the Bible in this statement, “If it is Baptist, it is in the Bible, if it is in the Bible, it is Baptist.” All other denominations have their church traditions or their leaders ideas as their final authority. If you doubt this, just compare their teachings with what the Bible says on baptism and the security of the believer.
The Bible’s Preservation
Another issue with the infallibility of the Scriptures is the process by which we have received them. For most of the time they have existed, that is, since Moses first wrote down the first five books of the Bible, until the invention of the printing press, they had to be copied by hand by fallible men. This opened the door for errors to creep in during the copying process. To keep this from happening to the Jewish Scriptures there were certain practices put in place by the Jewish scribes.
One of the things they did when copying the Scriptures was to count every letter, and every word, on the page. When the copy was finished, every letter and word on the new page was counted. If there was any discrepancy, that is if there was one to many, or one to few, words or letters, the page was destroyed and the process started over again. They did not try to find the error and fix it, they just started over again. For the sake of time and space, I will not go into other things they did, but this shows the care with which the Jewish Scriptures were copied.
It seems that God chose another method of preserving the New Testament Scriptures. The Jews had one place to keep their Scriptures, but Christians were scattered across the world, and were often being chased and persecuted by their enemies. To have a central place where the New Testament could be preserved was not possible.
The New Testament Scriptures were preserved by the volume of manuscripts that have come down through time to us. When we examine the manuscripts, we do find errors by the copyists. We also find deliberate changes made by those who did not like what the originals said, Men like Origen, who did not believe in the deity of Christ did not hesitate to make changes in wording or to leave out passages that did not fit their doctrine.
Since the originals no longer exist, how do we determine what they really said? It really is not as difficult as one would think. There are well over 5,000 manuscripts and portions of manuscripts of the New Testament in the original language. There are also thousands of writings of early Christians which quote passages from the New Testament. When all of these are examined and compared, more than 95% of them are in agreement. This means that less than 5% of the existing manuscripts disagree with the “Received Text” from which our King James Bible was translated. Those manuscripts that disagree with the Received Text, often disagree with each other thousands of times, and often show signs of deliberate changes. Many of them have so many errors in them as to be considered useless.
Although the methods of preserving the Scriptures use fallible men, the process was overseen by God, Himself. If this is not true, then God was unable to keep His promises. Here are some Scripture passages the show God’s promise to keep His Word pure:
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. (Psalms 12:6-7)
This passage tells us that God’s words are as pure as the purest silver, silver that has been purified seven times. It also tells us that God will keep them, and preserve them, from the generation in which they are first recorded forever. While God uses men, it is God who ensures their purity, not men. If there ever was a time when the Word of God did not exist in purity, God is either a liar or incapable of keeping his promises.
For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. (Psalms 119:89-90)
This passage tells us the God’s Word is forever settled in Heaven. There are those who say that it is pure in Heaven, but has been corrupted on earth. The second part of this passage says that God’s faithfulness is to all generations. If the previous passage is true, and if the His Word is not preserved on earth, again, God is either a liar or incapable of doing what He says He will do. His faithfulness is unto all generations, not just the generation where the Scriptures were first given. It is to all generations, even to ours.
Again, since I am limited on time, I will not give the many other passages that support the preservation of God’s Word in its purity for every generation, including our own. If you really believe the Bible, just one verse should be enough.
Where Do We Find The Pure Word Of God Today?
I don’t know how many different versions of the Bible are available in English today, but I do know that there are more than one hundred of them. They all say different things, and they can’t all be right.
Let me start by giving the definition of the word “version.” This word means “a particular form of something differing in certain respects from an earlier form or other forms of the same type of thing.” From this we learn that to be a version, there must be differences between the version and the original.
How much must a work be changed to receive a copyright? The law says the changes must be substantial and creative, something more than just editorial changes or minor changes. For instance, simply making spelling corrections throughout a work or updating the words does not warrant a new copyright, but adding an additional material, or removing substantial material, would.
Can you imagine how many changes must be made for more than one hundred versions to receive copyrights? One thing that should be obvious to everyone is, things that are different are not the same.
This leads us to an important Question, which of these “versions” is the right one to use as our authority? As with determining which original language text is the correct one, determining which Bible is the right one is not as difficult as it may seem. Since we have a reliable original language text, we must first compare what the “version” says with this text. Since only two of the modern Bibles are translated from the Received Text, and since the Critical Text is constantly being updated by new discoveries which bring it into more conformity with the Received Text, we really only have two choices. To determine which of the two English Bibles that are translated from the Received Text, the text used by faithful Christians trough the ages is correct, we only have to check their conformity to the uncorrupted Greek text.
These two Bible are the King James Bible, and the New King James. Let’s look at some of the differences between these two Bibles. Since I really don’t have the time to go into much detail on the differences, so I will just look at a couple of them.
One of the biggest complaints about the King James is that words like thee, thou, ye, and others make it harder to read. This argument is faulty because these words are really understood by the modern English speaker when they are used in poetry.
There is another important reason why this argument is faulty. Changing them to our modern way of speaking makes understanding the Scriptures more difficult because these words have meanings. Those pronouns that start with a t, thee, thou, thine, etc., are singular, while those that start with a y, you, ye, etc., are plural. Let me give you one verse that clearly illustrates the importance of this.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:7 KJV)
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 NKJV)
In the King James, Jesus said unto “thee,” that is, unto Nicodemus alone. He then says “Ye must be born again.” The “ye” indicates that He is now talking about or to more than one person. This distinction is not seen in the NKJV.
The KJV says tells Nicodemus the everyone must be born again, while the NKJV only tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. I think this is an important difference in meaning.
The second reason we are told that we need the new versions is, the KJV is too hard for modern English readers to read. Let me start by saying, my wife is French and did not learn English until she was in her twenties. She did not learn it from a text book, she learned it by using it in everyday life. She has absolutely no trouble reading and understanding the KJV. Why is it that those whose native language is English, and who have been educated in English, can’t understand it? This is something that is hard for me to understand.
Now let’s look at the facts on this issue. To begin with, the lost cannot understand the things of God.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV)
Although they can read and understand the words of the Bible, they cannot understand the spiritual truths contained in them. Maybe the reason so many who claim to be Christians can’t understand the KJV is, they are not truly born again. That may seem harsh, but when I look at the sloppy way people are “led to Christ” and the worldliness so of many “Christians” today, I can but wonder.
Let’s look at some of the things that are supposed to be more accurate and easier to understand.
The NKJV translates the Greek word “hades” as “hades” instead of “hell.” They claim that it is more correct. In fact, it is not. First of all, every dictionary that I looked at said that hell was a synonym for hades. If the words are synonymous, how can the NKJV be more correct than the KJV. This is but a smoke screen.
The truth of the matter on this issue of hades or hell is that hades clouds the meaning. The KJV translates “hades” as “hell” because it is speaking of a place of punishment. In modern English hades is simply the place where the dead go. There is no connotation of punishment or torment in the modern usage. The word Hades simply means the abode of the dead. To the modern English speaker there is no understanding of it being a place of punishment or torment. On the other hand, Hell brings both of these to mind when it is used. Let’s look at one passage where it is used to see what the Bible is talking about.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell (hades in the Greek) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. (Luke 16:22-24 KJV)
The horror of the rich man’s destiny is not seen by the modern English speaker when hades is used, but it is seen when Hell is used.
As far as the words being easier to understand, here is a list of some words that are translated differently in the two Bibles:
NKJV (easy?) KJV (hard?)
Terebinth tree Oak
Ascent of Heres The sun was up
The abyss The deep
Syrtis sands Quick sands
I must ask, how many of these words used in the KJV are more difficult to understand than those used in the NKJV. Anyone who is honest will say that the words in the KJV are easier to understand. These are just examples, there are many more places where the KJV is the easier to understand. If we must pick up a dictionary to learn what the words mean in the modern Bibles, why can’t we do the same when we find a word we don’t understand in the KJV?
Another principle that shows the superiority of the KJV is who still uses it. For the most part, the more one follows the fundamental precepts of the Bible, the more likely he is to use the KJV. This is the same principle that determined which books were considered inspired and were included in the cannon of Scripture. The faithful Christians, who had the Holy Spirit, knew which books were really from God. It is no different today.
The final principle is, all of the great revivals in the English speaking world were based upon the King James Bible. The more we have gotten away from it, the more worldly Christians have become.
First of all, Baptists believe that the Bible, all of the Bible, is the inspired Word of God, and that it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. It is our final authority in all things.
Secondly, Baptists believe that God has kept His Word pure through the ages, just as He promised He would. We have just as pure a Bible English today as the day each book was written. We believe that this word is preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic text, and the Greek Received Text. The King James Translation is a perfectly reliable translation of these two texts. I have been defending the KJV for more than forty years, and to this day, no one has been able to show me an error when compared with the texts underlying the KJV, and when the context was considered, and believe me, they have tried.
Let me give you an example of a supposed error in the KJV.
And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:3-4)
First, they say that Easter comes from Ishtar, a pagan goddess. This is not true, it is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning the rising in the east. It is used to mean the resurrection of Christ.
The second reason they say it is incorrect is, the Greek word is pascha, which is translated passover in every one of the 28 other times it is used in the New Testament. The context tells us that why Easter is used instead of passover in this passage. It is during the “days of unleavened bread.” The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts the day after Passover, so Passover was only a few days before. This means that if Herod was going to wait until after Passover, he was going to wait a whole year, which is not likely.
The only language where we have this problem is in English, because we call the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ Easter. In other languages it is called something like the French Pâques, which comes from the Greek word pascha. In French, German, and Spanish, Passover is like the French “Pâques Juive.” Notice that they use the same word, “ Pâques,” they just add Jewish to it. In the first century they already had the Jewish Passover and the Christian Passover. Easter is the English word for the Christian Passover. The KJV is actually more accurate on this subject than those translations which translate the Greek word passover in this passage.