The Sacred Scrolls of the Scriptures
THE GREEK SCRIPTURES
IN THE interval between the last Hebrew prophet and the advent of
the Messiah Whom they foretold vast changes took place in the apostate nation. The fires
of faith flickered feebly, yet flared up at times especially under the leadership of the
Maccabees. The Persian world empire was conquered by Alexander, who overran the holy land,
taking Jerusalem without a struggle. As a result of his conquests the Greek language was
spread among all nations and became the common medium of communication for the peoples
dwelling near the Mediterranean sea. The constant turmoil in the land of Israel, either
from enemies without or traitors within, led many of the Jews to seek a home in other
lands. Multitudes went to Egypt and dwelt there. Not only the Jews of this dispersion but
those who remained in the land gradually took up the Greek language. Hence, when the
Scriptures were translated into that tongue, the Hebrew text was soon left for the rabbis
in the synagogues. The Greek translation took its place in common use. While some still
retained a small smattering of the language of inspiration, the tongue of Jews became
Greek. Our Lord and His disciples spoke Greek. Only occasionally they used a familiar word
or phrase from the Aramaic, which was probably a corruption of the ancient Hebrew. So
that, even if Paul had never written to those outside the pale of Israel, the Jews
themselves could be reached only by the use of Greek. Only the learned were sufficiently
acquainted with the Hebrew to read the prophets.
it was Gods plan to use this change in language to reach the other nations, as He
afterward did through the apostle Paul. But the use of Greek was quite as necessary to
reach the Jews themselves both in the land and among the dispersion.
Unlike the Hebrew, the headlines of
the Greek text come to us without any authority at all. Some, which are found in our
English Bibles, are positively mischievous, as, for instance, The Revelation of St.
John, the Divine. The true heading is found in the opening sentence: The
Unveiling of Jesus Christnot St. John. Other headings are necessary
conveniences. We can hardly do without them in referring to the particular portions to
which they are attached. For our purpose, however, we will need to consider the opening
lines of each book, for this is the real index of its contents.
The order of the books is not so
uniformly fixed as with the Hebrew, so that the arrangement of our Bibles may be allowed
to stand. One feature of all the MSS is most notable. Pauls epistles are always in
one group in the order with which we are acquainted. However much they may be shifted they
always cling together. Hebrews is sometimes associated with them, doubtless from the
tradition that Paul was its author.
For the first few centuries these
writings were each written on separate sheets or scrolls of papyrus and circulated as
letters and pamphlets.It was not until the fourth century, when vellum volumes began to
appear, that they were gathered together into one book. These usually contained other
writings as well. The Codex Alexandrinus, for example, closed with the Clementine
epistles. In it James, Peter, John and Jude follow immediately after Actsan order
not to be despised. It is not wise, in view of the facts, to lay too much stress, or found
any doctrine upon their present arrangement.
With these facts before us we must not
be too insistent on the order of the Greek Scriptures. The most impressive hint lies in
the practical solidarity of Pauls epistles and their isolation from the rest.
The reason for this is easily
apprehended by the close student. Pauls epistles are complete in themselves and the
other writings are complete in themselves. Let the reader try the following experiment.
Read the entire Greek Scriptures through from Matthew to The Unveiling, omitting
Pauls letters. It will be found a complete and elaborate development of the Hebrew
Scriptures. All the promises and prophecies of the earlier revelation are fulfilled.
The redemption of the earth through
the nation of Israel is traced through their failure and apostasy to its fulfillment. Is
the Hebrew revelation exclusive? So is the Greek, if we except Pauls epistles. All
of the writings of the Circumcisionwhether it be the accounts of Messiahs
ministry and rejection, or the ministry of His twelve apostles and its failure, the letter
to the Hebrews or the epistles of James, Peter, John or Judeall of the writings of
the Circumcision concern the same people, the same land, the same promises, the same hope
which is brought before us in the writings of Moses and the prophets. Blessing can come to
the earth only through them and subordinate to them. They are the royal priesthood through
whom the balance of humanity may approach to Yahweh, and to whom all nations must be
subject. The sphere of all this is terrestrial, however heavenly in character the blessing
may be. All depends upon the nation of Israelit is the only channel of blessing.
Now, if we turn to Paulss
epistles, all this is reversed. Blessing flows from Israels defection and is
confined to the period of their rejection. It is not concerned with the earth. Its
sphere of operation is in the heavens. Its object is their redemption by means of an
election out of both Israel and the nations during the era in which the Jew is set aside.
Its scope is universal: its grace is transcendent: its secrets sublime.
Let the student once see that the
artificial division into Old and New Testament is false, let him
prove to his own satisfaction that Matthew heralds the King foretold by the prophets, and
John the Son of the Psalms, that the kingdom and priesthood of Israel are the controlling
themes of the writings of the Circumcision apostles, and that the Revelation is but the
fulfillment of the promises from Genesis to Jude, and he will marvel at the wisdom of God
in His plans for earths redemption. All will be clear and un-confused. Difficulties
will disappear; doubts will depart; heart and head will bow and worship.
Then, leaving all this to those for
whom it is intended, let us descend into the depths with Paul and taste the grace which
turns to those outside the covenant, to whom no promises were made, whose highest hope was
to find some crumbs at Israels overflowing board, and see them justified and
reconciledgraces far more precious than could be brought to them through
Then we receive a hope above and
beyond the expectation of the earthly people. Grace places us out of reach of the awful
judgments which alone can usher in the era of Israels bliss.
But more than all, let us soar with
the apostle in his Ephesian letter, into the celestial realms and the spiritual blessings
which are ours in Christ. On earth we have no rightsthey belong to Israel. But in
the heavens we attain the transcendent station reserved by grace for those alone who have
descended into the depths, who have no deserts, for in no other way can grace be
From this exalted pinnacle of bliss we
can look down upon the blessings of the Circumcision and see each one transmuted into
celestial splendor for our sakes. Are they pardoned, or forgiven? We are justified, or
vindicated! Have they access into the temple courts? We approach the Father Himself
without the intervention of a priest. Do they look for Christ to come and reign over all
the earth? We shall sit with Him on the throne of the universe!
We are unutterably selfish. We want
everything for ourselves. Like the dog in the fable, we leave our own for the shadow of
anothers food. If we but understood Pauls ministry nothing else would tempt
us, for it is so immeasurably above the ministries of the other apostles.
Why do we not consider others as well
as ourselves? Is God no longer God outside of our sphere of blessing? After the church
which is Christs body has joined Him in the celestial regions Yahweh takes up His
own people Israel once again and for a thousand years he fills earth with blessing through
their blessedness. Before that time He visits the earth with sore judgments and His people
with untold trials. To what part of the Scriptures will they turn in their tribulation?
Should they do as we do, and take what does not belong to themshould they turn to
Pauls epistles they would be woefully misled. They would be looking for the Lord to
come to the air to save them from the tribulation when He had already come. He would seem
to fail them in their extremity. Paul speaks of peace and conciliation as Gods
attitude; but it will be the time of Gods raging wrath. Paul heralds a heavenly
destiny, whereas they would find theirs on the earth. The nations would look for a place
of equality with the chosen people but they would be forced to acknowledge their inferior
How disastrous to deport Pauls
ministry into the day of the Lord! While seeming to be Gods word it would fail at
all points, and bring Him and His revelation into utter disrepute.
No less disastrous is it to displace
the epistles of the Circumcision. It is the prime cause of the cloudy, unsatisfactory
apprehension of Gods revelation which so distresses Gods saints in these
declining days of the dispensation. Almost all of the errors which have wrought havoc in
the church have been due to deflecting to Peter where we should have appealed to Paul.
The popular delusion of walking
in His steps is based upon this misapprehension. Paul never saw our Lord until
after His resurrection and glorification. He never makes the earthly life of our Lord the
pattern for the believer. We are not only risen but ascended. We are concerned with the
celestial, not the terrestrial.
Not so with Peter. He walked with His
Lord and followed in His steps while He was still in His humiliation. He followed Him up to
the glory, but no further. His whole ministry takes character from this fact just as
Pauls is characterized by the opposite fact.
It is the same with John. He begins
his epistle by introducing the One Whom our hands handle (1 John 1:1).
Paul comes to a crisis when he no longer knew Christ according to flesh
What is the reason for these totally
different atmospheres, these divergent presentations of our Lord? Is it not that they are
intended, in Gods wisdom, for meeting entirely different circumstances, for
effecting distinct objects, for illuminating the varied glories of our God?
The two grand spheres of Gods
operations are presented to us at the very threshold of revelation. Created by the
Elohim were the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1). But, since He is
Love, He must not only create but bless what He has made. Excepting Pauls epistles,
the entire scope of the Scriptures is occupied with His purposes regarding the earth, and
more especially with the channel through which He will bring it aboutthe nation of
Israel. Pauls letters deal with the heavens, and more particularly with the channel
through which God purposes to bring His blessings to the celestial spheresthe church
which is Christs body.
Having spheres so different and
functions so diverse, why should we expect to find uniformity of method or identity of
truth? Does not the apostle himself insist that a different glory, indeed, is that
of the celestial, yet a different that of the terrestrial? (1 Cor.15:40).
But let us found all on fact. To whom
were Peters and Johns and James letters written? We know that they were
of the Circumcision, that Peter and John were the pillars to whom the gospel of the
Circumcision was committed, yet we ought to be able to gather from the address on their
letters for whom they were intended.
If it is true that they were of the
Circumcision and wrote for them, then we must find uniform evidence to show that each one
addressed his letters to the Circumcision. Peters ministry was distinct from
Johns and both differ from James, but they should have this in
commonthey should all be addressed to those who are bound together by the physical
bond of Circumcision.
From our exalted vantage we can not
only apprehend our own supernal blessing, but are in a position to appreciate
Yahwehs ways with His own terrestrial people Israel. Having so rich a treasure
ourselves we do not feel the need of filching theirs from them. We rejoice in the
manifestation of His mercy in the mission of Christ, even though we are constrained to
acknowledge that He was a Servant of the Circumcision for the truth of God
(Rom.15:8). We marvel at the forbearance shown in lingering over the apostate nation which
had rejected and crucified their Messiah and which seals its doom by despising the
repeated message of pardon as recorded in the book of Acts. We recognize that the epistle
to the Hebrews fits the need of the faithful who did not apostatize in that day. We know
that they will yet be grafted back into their own olive tree and received back into favor
(Rom.11:12,24), and that, after we are gathered together unto Him, they will need the help
and comfort which James (who writes to the twelve tribes) and Peter (who writes to the
dispersion) and John and Jude are especially adapted to give them. Apply these
epistles today and they are a misfit. In that day they will be an imperative necessity,
and we wonder at the wisdom with which they are written.
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