“Authentic”, according to Chambers Dictionary means, “real: genuine, as opposed to counterfeit, apocryphal: original: true: entitled to acceptance, of established credibility: (of writing) trustworthy, as setting forth real facts (genuine, if we have it as it left its author’s hands—an authentic history: a genuine text).”
Do we have the authentic Scriptures in our hands today? To answer this question, we have William Whitaker, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge from 1579 to 1595, who presented an excellent treatise on the doctrine of Scripture which greatly influenced the Reformed theologians who penned Chapter One of the Westminster Confession of Faith. His treatise, Disputations on Holy Scripture, published in 1588 has been reprinted by Soli Deo Publications in 2005. The total infallibility and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures is once again under fierce attack by a false Christianity today. Whitaker’s exposition of the perfect inspiration and preservation of the Holy Scriptures is most helpful for our defence of the good old Faith and God-given Word (Jer 6:16, Prov 22:28).
False preachers and teachers present themselves openly bearing the name of Christ but are subtly undermining that very name and all His claims. They do this by great cunning and malice. They not only attack the perfection of the Scriptures, they also attack those who teach it. Calling white black, they label as “heretics” those who believe and teach the twin doctrines of Verbal Plenary Inspiration (VPI) and Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP).
Against such attackers of the Scriptures and false accusers of the saints, Whitaker wrote, “Mark well, I beseech you, with what solicitude, vigilance, and cunning, these men [false Christs and false prophets] maintain their own kingdom! They prevent their people from reading our books, and forbid them to have any intercourse with us, that so they may provide against the influence of that contagion which they fear. Surely this is wisely done. Who can deny it? For if we be heretics, as they, though falsely exclaim, it is but a just consequence of that opinion of us to denounce us as persons to be carefully avoided by all who are under their control.… Hence unskilful persons are easily deceived;… We avoid the acquaintance of no one;… This is all well, if your aim and desire be to reclaim them from their errors, and if you are able to do this, and see that there is any hope of them remaining. Those who are perverse and desperate should be left to themselves; you can do them no service, and they may do you much damage.”
Whitaker encouraged all Bible-believing Christians to be faithful and courageous in Christ and His Word, which be our only shield and defence against the false teachings and accusations of their persecutors. “Such are the reasonings of the [false pastors and teachers] themselves; who, although they seem to spin their threads with greater skill and artfulness, yet fabricate nothing but such cobwebs as may easily be broken by any vigorous effort. Be ye, therefore, of good cheer. We have a cause, believe me, good, firm, invincible. We fight against men, and we have Christ on our side; nor can we possibly be vanquished, unless we are the most slothful and dastardly of all cowards. Once wrest from [false pastors and teachers] what they adduce beside the scripture, and you will presently see them wavering, turning pale, and unable to keep their ground. Yet I do not ascribe to myself all those gifts of genius, judgment, memory and knowledge, which are demanded by such a laborious and busy undertaking. I know well and acknowledge how slightly I am furnished with such endowments; nor can any think so meanly of me as myself. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me;” relying upon whose assistance I enter upon the combat. They come against us with sword, and shield, and armour: we go against them in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, of the armies of Israel, whom they have defied.”
Here are Whitaker’s courageous and encouraging affirmations of the truth of the canon and text of Scripture, and it would be wise for all Bible-believing Christians to take heed to his teachings and warnings, “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Cor 13:8)
On the Canon of Scripture
As Bible-believing Christians, we affirm a fixed canon, ie the 66 books of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures comprising 66 divinely inspired books form our God-given canon, the sole, supreme, and final authority of all our faith and practice, and we are sure of it. Whitaker said, “To have a certain canon of Scripture is most necessary to faith and religion.… books properly canonical, which have been always received by the church.
“The books of Scripture are called canonical, because they contain the standard and rule of our faith and morals. For the Scripture is in the church what the law is in a state, which Aristotle in his Politics calls a canon or rule. As all citizens are bound to live and behave agreeably to the public laws, so Christians should square their faith and conduct by the rule and law of Scripture. Hence it plainly appears why the Scriptures are called canonical;—because they prescribe to us what we must believe, and how we ought to live: so that we should refer to this test our whole faith and life, as the mason or architect squares his work by the line and plummet. Hence, too, we may perceive that the Scripture is perfect, since otherwise the title of canon or rule could hardly be applied to it.”
On the Preservation of Scripture
Did God allow the inspired words of the canonical Scriptures to be lost or corrupted? According to Whitaker, this can never happen, “If God had permitted the Scripture to perish in the Hebrew and Greek originals, in which it was first published by men divinely inspired, he would not have provided sufficiently for his church and for our faith. From the prophetic and apostolic Scripture the church takes its origin, and the faith derives its source.”
“That Scripture which was authentic for the Old Testament before Christ, and for both Old and New six hundred years after Christ, should now also be deemed authentic by us. Now the Hebrew edition of the Old, and the Greek of the New Testament, was always held the authentic Scripture of God in the Christian churches for six hundred years after Christ. This, therefore, ought to be received by us also as authentic Scripture. If they doubt the major, we must ask them, Whether the church hath changed its authentic Scripture, or hath not rather preserved, and commended to all succeeding generations, that which was in truth authentic from the very first? If it lost that which was published by the prophets and apostles, who can defend that negligence, who excuse so enormous a sacrilege? If it lost it not, then let it deliver to us the writings of the prophets and apostles, and approve them by its testimony as the authentic Word of God.”
“I suppose that no one doubts the authenticity of the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament in Christ’s time. But now it may be demonstrated by many testimonies of the fathers, that the Hebrew edition of the Old, and the Greek of the New Testament, was held authentic in the church for many ages after Christ.”
On the Translations of Scripture
How about the translations or versions of the Bible? Can they be considered authentic as well? “Now in this sense no translation ever was, or could be, authentic. For translations of Scripture are always to be brought back to the originals of Scripture, received if they agree with those originals, and corrected if they do not. That Scripture only, which the prophets, apostles, and evangelists wrote by inspiration of God, is in every way credible on its own account and authentic…. The authentic originals of the Scripture of the Old Testament are extant in Hebrew, of the New in Greek…. [T]he Church would act wisely in not permitting every one to publish a new version at his own caprice, and taking care that all versions should be as pure and faithful as possible.” Translations or versions owe their authenticity to the original language Scriptures which are absolutely inspired and preserved by God, and hence totally infallible and inerrant. A translation can be regarded as the Word of God only if it has rendered faithfully and accurately the original language Scriptures. The Authorised or King James Version (AV/KJV) is a most faithful and accurate translation of the authentic Scriptures, and that is why we use it.
We affirm the truth that is stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), “The Old Testament in Hebrew,… and the New Testament in Greek,… being immediately inspired by God [ie VPI], and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages [ie VPP], are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto and interest in the scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, may have hope.” (1.8).
The Westminster divines and Reformation saints believed and received the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Greek Textus Receptus of the New Testament as the authentic Scriptures on the basis of VPI/VPP. These are the very Scriptures behind the AV/KJV which we have in our hands today. To God be the glory, great things He has done. JK
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