Church of God 7th Day on biblical accuracy


In a past (March-April 2017) edition of its Bible Advocate magazine, CG7-Denver’s David Ross wrote:

A defense

Defending the Christian world – view has biblical basis. First Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” The word defense in this passage is translated from the Greek apologia, which basically means “to give a rational defense of an opinion or belief” — that is, to provide reasons for how one thinks or believes. Christian apologetics , then, is the rational defense of Christianity as an accurate truth claim. Several other scriptures corroborate the biblical mandate to defend Christianity (Acts 17:2; Philippians 1:17; Titus 1:9; Jude 3).

Christianity’s legitimacy depends on the integrity of the Bible — specifically, the New Testament, the record of Jesus Christ’s miraculous birth, life, death, and resurrection. The New Testament assumes the reliability of the Old by referencing it often. In fact, Jesus quoted the Old Testament verbatim. If the New Testament is not historically reliable, our religion — contained in both Testaments — crumbles because Jesus Christ is the central figure of our faith. Therefore, one of the best ways to defend the Christian faith is to defend the reliability of the New Testament.

Manuscript accuracy

The primary lines of evidence supporting the trustworthiness of the New Testament are the accuracy of its surviving manuscripts and the reliability of it authors. To support this evidence, we must assert two facts: 1) The New Testament has earlier, more numerous, and more reliable surviving manuscripts than any other book from antiquity; 2) The people recording the events and teachings in these manu – scripts were reliable. This claim is validated by the number of concurring writers 1 ; the historical and archaeological confirmation of the people, culture, and places listed in the New Testament; and the critical examination of legal experts regarding its acceptability and credibility. …

Manuscript quantity, dating

The number of New Testament manuscripts is overwhelming compared with other books from antiquity, which typically range from ten to twenty copies. By contrast, the New Testament has approximately 5,800 surviving Greek manuscripts. The most for any other ancient book is Homer’s Iliad , with 643, according to Norman L. Geisler in Christian Apologetics 2nd ed. (Baker Academic, 2013).

In addition, the lapse of time between the composition and the earliest copy of a book from the ancient world is roughly a thousand years. Contrast this with the earliest manuscript of a writing from the New Testament, the John Ryland Papyri ( ad 117- 138). This manuscript survived within a generation of the time scholars believe it was written (c. ad 95). Entire books (the Bodmer Papyri) are available from ad 200, only a little over a century after the New Testament was completed. The entire New Testament is actually available in the Codex Vaticanus, which dates from ad 325 to ad 350. Geisler says it was completed within 250 years of the original writing, still much less of a time lapse than any other book from antiquity.

No other book from the ancient world has as small a time gap between composition and earliest manuscript copies as the New Testament.

There are other ways to prove that the Bible has integrity, but the fact that no other ancient manuscript has as much proof is one that Christians should keep in mind when dealing with skeptics.

Let me also add that as far as ‘canonization’ goes, it is the position of the Continuing Church of God that all the books of the New Testament were known to the Apostle John and that he passed that knowledge on to people, like his successor, Polycarp of Smyrna.

Here is some information related to that from our free online book Who Gave the World the Bible? The Canon: Why do we have the books we now do in the Bible? Is the Bible complete?:

While some believe that because the Church of Rome, along with the Eastern Orthodox, held meetings to determine the canon for itself (and that to a major degree the Protestants followed many of the decisions), that they came up with the canon. Yet, the reality is that the Church of God had the books, and thus the canon, from the beginning (meaning once the Book of Revelation was finished). Early Christians would not have considered the canon to be fluid (Kruger, p. 31).

This is confirmed in many sources (some of which have already been cited).

Notice also the following related to the New Testament:

To whom then was the New Testament given for preservation and transmission?

Greeks Preserve New Testament

Romans 1:16 reveals the answer. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ . . . to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’’

God raised up the Apostle Paul to go to the Greeks. They received the New Testament oracles — and became responsible for their preservation and transmission.

We saw the principle in Romans 1:16 that God was going to use the Greek-speaking world to preserve and copy the New Testament Canon. The leading Apostles and officials of His New Testament Church WROTE and under divine inspiration were led to COMPILE THE CANON. The Greeks had nothing to do with these two great functions. The apostolic era of the Church of God completed these two great acts.

But the Greeks were given the responsibility to copy and transmit the New Testament Canon.

The truth of Romans 1:16 dovetails with many interesting historical developments that took place in the first century A.D.

Where was the Apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation? He was on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1 :9). Where was this island? In the Greek-speaking world!

Where were the churches to which the Apostle Paul wrote most of his epistles? In Asia Minor-the Greek-speaking world! (I Pet. 1:1). …

The point is that the original copies of the manuscripts were in the Greek-speaking world to begin with. They were NOT in Latin-speaking Italy! They were originally written in Greek. … around 150 A.D. Polycarp of Greek Asia Minor was still preserving the Truth! He was a disciple of the Apostle John. (Kroll, p. 18)

We in the Continuing Church of God assert that the Apostle John, believed to have died in Asia Minor and to have lived past the deaths of the other original twelve apostles, had the entire canon from the time Jesus had him pen the last book of the Bible.

Another reason it is logical to conclude that the Church in Asia Minor would have the entire New Testament is because most of the New Testament was written to or from church leaders in Asia Minor (none were written to or from Alexandria, Egypt).

There are a total of 27 books in the New Testament.  At least 9 books of the New Testament were directly written to the church leaders in Asia Minor. The ones clearly written to those in Asia Minor include Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy (Timothy was in Ephesus), Philemon, 1 Peter, 3 John, and Revelation. According to The Ryrie Study Bible John’s Gospel, 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 John, and possibly Philippians, were written from Ephesus. In addition to these, 2 Peter, and possibly Jude may have also been mainly directed to one or more of the churches in Asia Minor.

The Book of James was written to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Some of them were in Asia Minor. Others according to the historian Josephus were “beyond Euphrates.” It is also likely that some other books were written at least partially from Asia Minor. For example, the Book of Acts mentions “Ephesus” and “Ephesians” a dozen times and “Asia” 15 times (NKJV).

So probably 14 to 20 New Testament books were written to or from Asia Minor. Plus it has been claimed by one or more that all four gospel accounts were as well, though this is less certain (though one or more other than John may have been).

There is only one book written to those in Rome (it never mentions any of the so-called Roman bishops), with 2 to Corinth, 2 to Thessalonica, and 1 to Crete (Titus), – a total of 7 letters neither sent from nor addressed to those in Asia Minor.

What this clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers was the churches in Asia Minor. And interestingly, the last book of the Bible is specifically addressed to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4,11). It was in Asia Minor that the NT canon was originally formed. There is no other place that could have had it earlier. And the Apostle John did have the full canon before his death.

Historical Confirmation from the Didache and Irenaeus

A writing from the late 1st or early 2nd century, called the Didache, contains the following:

Forsake in no way the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom. (Didache, 4)

The above writing supports the view that by the end of the first century, some understood that Christians had a closed canon (cf. Kruger, p. 203).

Furthermore, Irenaeus, a Roman supporter, around 180, wrote:

After this fashion also did a presbyter, a disciple of the apostles, reason with respect to the two testaments, proving that both were truly from one and the same God …

For all the apostles taught that there were indeed two testaments among the two peoples; but that it was one and the same God who appointed both for the advantage of those men (for whose sakes the testaments were given) who were to believe in God. (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 32, Verse 1,2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885)

Hence, Irenaeus is claiming that one or more of the apostles knew the books of the Old and New Testaments. Thus, he seemingly believed that the early church did have the entire canon of the Bible. It may be that the presbyter, a disciple of the apostles, Irenaeus is referring to was Polycarp of Smyrna (whom he claimed to have known) or Melito of Sardis. And if so, this is additional evidence that the church in Asia Minor had the complete biblical canon very early on. Furthermore, Irenaeus’ strong insistence elsewhere that there were four and only four gospels (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter XI, verse 8) points to the view that at least their part of the canon was clearly known by Irenaeus. It should also be noted that in fragments ascribed to Polycarp or perhaps pseudo-Polycarp, each of the four Gospels are correctly named (Polycarp/pseudo-Polycarp. Fragments from Victor of Capua. Translated by Stephen C. Carlson. 2006).

An anonymous Letter to the Corinthians commonly called 1 Clement,  states:

For you know the Holy Scriptures right well, beloved, and you studied the words (logia) of God. (Chapter 53 as translated in Dehandschutter B. Polycarpiana, Selected Essays. Leuven University Press, 2007, p. 286)

So, the authors claimed that the Corinthians knew the Holy Scriptures.

Furthermore, its 36th chapter quotes Hebrews 1:3-4 whereas its 56th chapter quotes Hebrews 12:6, demonstrating it was written after the Book of Hebrews was. Research suggests that this letter was written in the late first century by the faithful in Rome shortly after the Apostle John was exiled from Rome to Patmos. These people perhaps had at least distant, temporal, contact with John, and thus, likely knew the proper books.

Furthermore, in his Letter to the Philippians, Polycarp quotes Hebrews 12:18; 1 Peter 1:8, 2:11,21,22,24, 3:9, 4:47; and 1 John 4:3. He also refers to 2 Peter 2:1-2, while alluding to passages in James 2:8-9, 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3, 3:15; 1 John 2:15, 4:9; 2 John 6, and 3 John 4 (Thiel, Trinity Journal). …

 Polycarp Was a Disciple of John and Originally Knew the Books

Historians understand that: “A direct link to the apostles themselves can be seen in the work of Polycarp from the early second century A.D. Polycarp was actually a disciple of the Apostle John. Significantly, he wrote his own ‘Epistle to the Philippians,’ where he referenced and cited Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments” (Holden, p. 125).

Furthermore, this author’s published research pointed out that all the New Testament books are quoted from or alluded to in Polycarp’s letter (Thiel B. Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians with New Testament Scriptural Annotations. Trinity Journal of Apologetics and Theology, June 2008).

Polycarp of Smyrna, himself, made it clear that those he wrote to in Philippi had the correct canon, otherwise he would not have written:

For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures. (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885)

One could not be ‘well versed in the Sacred Scriptures’ without knowing what they were. Notice this observation from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, of Smyrna, had been disciples of Apostles; they wrote their epistles in the first decade of the second century (100-110). They employ Matthew, Luke, and John. In St. Ignatius we find the first instance of the consecrated term “it is written” applied to a Gospel (Ad Philad., viii, 2). Both these Fathers show not only a personal acquaintance with “the Gospel” and the thirteen Pauline Epistles, but they suppose that their readers are so familiar with them that it would be superfluous to name them. (Reid, Canon of the New Testament).

Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 170) wrote in his letter to Florinus:

Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures. (Eusebius. The History of the Church. Book V, Chapter XX, verses 5-8, p. 112)

It would be difficult to relate all things in harmony with the Scriptures if Polycarp did not know them.

This may be part of why Ignatius of Antioch wrote:

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans …  For I trust that, through grace, you are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle. (Letter to Polycarp, Chapters 0, 7)

Polycarp was energetic for the truth — God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). Ignatius, himself, quoted sixteen or so New Testament scriptures in the letters we have from him in a manner that suggests that he and those in Asia Minor recognized their scriptural authority (cf. Kruger, pp. 189-193). That Polycarp was “prepared for every good work” also implies that he must have “known the Holy Scriptures” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Now, let’s look at the following written about Polycarp:

And on the following sabbath he said; “Hear ye my exhortation, beloved children of God. I adjured you when the bishops were present, and now again I exhort you all to walk decorously and worthily in the way of the Lord … Watch ye, and again Be ye ready, Let not your hearts be weighed down, the new commandment concerning love one towards another, His advent suddenly manifest as of rapid lightning, the great judgment by fire, the eternal life, His immortal kingdom. And all things whatsoever being taught of God ye know, when ye search the inspired Scriptures, engrave with the pen of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, that the commandments may abide in you indelible.” (Life of Polycarp, Chapter 24. In: J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp. 488-506)

Polycarp advanced greatly in the faith that is in Christ and that pursues a virtuous life. And in his untiring diligence, he from his Eastern stock bore (if one may so say) blossom as a token of good fruit hereafter to come. For the men who dwell in the East are distinguished before all others for their love of learning and their attachment to the divine Scriptures … Thus reflecting on this with a godly delight he offered himself day and night wholly and entirely as a consecrated sacrifice to God, exercising himself in the oracles contained in the divine Scriptures and in continual services of prayer and in devotion to all those who needed either attention or relief and in contentment of living. (Ibid, Chapter 6)

Such was his behaviour towards those from whom no benefit could be got. But bad men he avoided as mad dogs or wild beasts or venomous serpents; for he remembered the Scripture. (Ibid, Chapter 7)

… proving this from all the Scriptures. (Ibid, Chapter 13)

For he would extend his discourse to great length on diverse subjects, and from the actual Scripture which was read he would furnish edification with all demonstration and conviction. (Ibid, Chapter 18)

So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them. (Ibid, Chapter 19)

The wealth of the grace given by Christ to Polycarp has led us on, while recording his course of life, to explain in turn the character of his teaching likewise. How he used to interpret the Scriptures, we will defer relating till another time, setting it forth in order and showing our successors also how to minister correct instruction in the holy and inspired Scriptures. (Ibid, Chapter 19)

And all things whatsoever being taught of God ye know, when ye search the inspired Scriptures, engrave with the pen of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, that the commandments may abide in you indelible.’ Thus speaking in this way from time to time, and being persistent in his teaching, he edified and saved both himself and his hearers. (Ibid, Chapters 24-25)

Polycarp is clearly communicating with people he felt were familiar with the true canon when he said they knew all things taught by God through searching the inspired scriptures. The original writer of the Life of Polycarp understood that Polycarp had all the scriptures.

Polycarp, himself, seems to quote directly from a Byzantium (like now part of the Textus Receptus) manuscript of the Bible, when, for example, he was quoting from Matthew’s gospel.

Related to Matthew 26:41, he wrote (c. 135) in his Letter to the Philippians (7:2):

το μεν πνύεμα προθυμον η δε ϲαρξ αϲθενηϲ

The Textus Receptus has:

το μεν πνύεμα προθυμον η δε ϲαρξ αϲθενηϲ

Yet, the Alexandrian Codex Sinaiticus has:

το μεν πνα προθυμον η δε ϲαρξ αϲθενηϲ

While the meaning of all three is basically the same, the wording that Polycarp used was identical to the Byzantine text as Polycarp used the same Greek word for spirit (πνύεμα), which differed from the Alexandrian text (πνα) — which may have been an abbreviation.

Other quotations that Polycarp made, that this author checked, also were identical or essentially identical to the Textus Receptus (by ‘essentially identical’ meaning that the Greek words were the same, but that their endings may have varied for grammatical reasons — yet it should be pointed out that often the quote is also the same as in the Codex Sinaiticus).

Polycarp was quoting from a Greek source and not from a Hebrew version of Matthew (some have claimed that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew).

Also, a similar situation occurs with Ignatius of Antioch who knew Polycarp. When he quotes part of Matthew 19:31 in chapter 6 of his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, the Greek he used is essentially identical to the Textus Receptus, but differs a bit from of the Alexandrian Codex Sinaiticus.

Polycarp received the texts from the apostles, like John. Consider the following from Irenaeus:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna … always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time. (Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4)

Polycarp was appointed by the apostles and taught what was received (“handed down”). He respected and highly quoted scripture.

Furthermore, it also should be mentioned that there is an ancient historical document known as the Harris Fragments (ca. 2nd or 3rd century) that also discusses Polycarp. The University of Notre Dame Press states that it is “an important, if little known, text on Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and martyr, and his association with the apostle John.”

Basically, the Harris Fragments stress Polycarp’s connection with the Apostle John, teach he was appointed bishop of Smyrna by John, and that he died a martyr’s death at age 104. Here are some translated quotes from the Harris Fragments ([ ] in source):

There remained [—]ter him a disciple[e —] name was Polycar[p and] he made him bishop over Smyrna … He was … old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age. He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle. (Weidman, Frederick W. Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43-44)

By mentioning the term “canons” the Harris Fragments could possibly be suggesting that John passed the knowledge of the proper books of the Bible to Polycarp — and that would seem to be the case. But even if canon(s) meant only the measure of the right way to be a Christian that early, that strongly supports the view that the Apostle John would have passed on his knowledge of the books of the Bible to Polycarp—plus he likely would have passed on the parchments of the actual New Testament books. The canon was known by the Church of God in Asia Minor in the 2nd century. All should realize that to be faithful to apostolic Christianity that one should imitate Polycarp and John as they themselves did Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).

There was a chain of custody of the New Testament scriptures from the apostles to Polycarp and others in the 2nd century.

The true Church of God has had confidence in the New Testament scriptures as soon as they were available.

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Who Gave the World the Bible? The Canon: Why do we have the books we now do in the Bible? Is the Bible complete? Are there lost gospels? What about the Apocrypha? Is the Septuagint better than the Masoretic text? What about the Textus Receptus vs. Nestle Alland? Was the New Testament written in Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew? Which translations are based upon the best ancient text? Did the true Church of God have the canon from the beginning? Here are links to related sermons: Let’s Talk About the Bible, The Books of the Old Testament, The Septuagint and its Apocrypha, Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, and Lost Books of the Bible, and Let’s Talk About the New Testament, The New Testament Canon From the Beginning, English Versions of the Bible and How Did We Get Them?, What was the Original Language of the New Testament?, Original Order of the Books of the Bible, and Who Gave the World the Bible? Who Had the Chain of Custody?
Read the Bible Christians should read and study the Bible. This article gives some rationale for regular bible reading. Here is a link in Mandarin Chinese: 读圣经 Here is a link in the Spanish language: Lea la Biblia.
CG7.ORG This is a website for those interested in the Sabbath and churches that observe the seventh day Sabbath.
CG7-D: Church of God, (Seventh Day): History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace part of their history through some affiliation with this group. Loren Stacy is the president of the largest CG7 USA group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
CG7-S: Church of God 7th Day, Salem (West Virginia) This group formed by A.N. Dugger in 1933 when he split from the CG7 group he was once president of.
The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses some early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, CG7-Salem, Jerusalem 7DCG, and COG-7th Day-Denver. Here are links to two historical sermons: Sardis Church Era: Beginnings, Doctrines, and Leaders and Sardis: SDBs, SDAs, & CG7s.
Bible: Superstition or Authority? Should you rely on the Bible? Is it reliable? Herbert W. Armstrong wrote this as a booklet on this important subject.
How to Study the Bible David Jon Hill wrote this initially and Dr. Thiel added scriptures, tips, and suggestions to it. A 2015 sermon is available and is also titled How to Study the Bible.
The Old Testament Canon This article shows from Catholic accepted writings, that the Old Testament used by non-Roman Catholics and non-Orthodox churches is the correct version.
The New Testament Canon – From the Bible and History This article, shows from the Bible and supporting historical sources, why the early Church knew which books were part of the Bible and which ones were not.
Is Matthew 28:19 in the Bible? Some have claimed that Matthew 28:19 has added words as part of a trinitarian plot. Is that true?
What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation? Should the Bible be literally understood? What do the writings of the Bible, Origen, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Augustine show?
Bible and Historical Resources on the Internet Electronic bibles, Two Babylons, early Christian literature, photos, and even links to old Herbert W. Armstrong materials.
Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter Polycarp was the successor of the Apostle John and a major leader in Asia Minor. Do you know much about what he taught? A YouTube video or related interesy may be: Polycarp of Smyrna: Why Christians should know more about him.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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