The Origin Of The Bible

This article is taken from Thomas Williams' work of the same title and presents selected thoughts and arguments generally in the order they appear in the original. In addition to having skipped over sentences and paragraphs to glean what is presented below, some wording has been left out of some sentences for the sake of brevity and available space. Readers may find the language a little unusual but all the words in this article were penned in 1897 by Bro. Williams. We recommend the original 90 page treatise to readers. It can be found in Selected Works of Thomas Williams.

The facts and figures of Christendom cannot be ignored. Christendom is an open book, upon whose pages figures as well as facts stand out boldly before the eyes of the world, seen of all, known of all and written by all; printed, painted, penciled and chiseled, here, there and everywhere, so that they cannot be ignored or forgotten. This year these figures are for 1897, and they appear upon every letter, newspaper, book and document issued from the pen or the press.

Everything points to one man. The word Christendom and everything it represents point backwards from all directions, centering and focalizing in one Man, who stands out in bold relief before the world without an equal, and that man is known by the terms Jesus and Christ, and his birth and the wonderful work he did and his tragic death marked off one of the centuries of the world's history as a point and pivot around which all others revolve. B. C. and A. D. mean in plain English, Before Christ, and After Christ, and thus this man is the great finger-post of the civilized world and all that is therein.

Now in treating all the natural facts and figures, with which Christendom is full, we are taken to the man, the place and the nations in which the great historic tragedy occurred. We are conveyed through the great highway of history, in which the very stones cry out to witness the fact in question. And when we reach our journey's end, we find the Holy Land a fact; Jerusalem a fact; Calvary a fact - all are facts, and everybody is talking about the tragedy, some cursing the victim, others blessing him; all adding to the irresistible evidence of the fact of Christ's existence, wonderful life and tragic death.

The testimony of enemies: Now we find ourselves in possession of facts, such as, on the one hand, the Bible in existence with thousands of zealous friends; and on the other hand many enemies angrily assaulting it. There must be a motive on both sides of this conflict. The motive which prompts the friends of the Bible can be found only by reading the doctrines and precepts which the book contains, and learning of the hopes which it holds out. It is the aim and object of the enemies of the Bible to tear down and to destroy. If they held out any hope to be realized when their work of destruction is accomplished it would reduce the issue to a question of which hope is the better. As it is, hope is only on one side. Really it is safe to say that an enemy of the Bible is utterly incapable of criticizing it. A man who is color blind cannot judge of colors. With the Bible the strongest argument in its favor comes from an understanding of its deepest teachings, and an experience of living its precepts. It follows, therefore, that the two sides of this controversy are unequal. The friend of the Bible has advantage over the enemy which the latter cannot realize...not that we are fearful of the issue when discussed from a purely intellectual basis. Indeed, the tests to which the Bible has been subjected by the heady and heartless have done much to strengthen the evidence that the book is what it claims to be.

Since the Bible has received so much attention at the hands of such men it will be concluded that it must have been a very popular book; that popular sentiment was in its favor, and relied upon as a truthful book and as being what it claims to be. It will be seen that it was to loosen the tenacious hold which the Bible had upon the people and the people upon the Bible that these popular writers used their great intellectual powers and employed the best art of the critic. The opposition of the early writers goes to establish the fact that Christians existed in those times, that they had the New Testament in their hands as an explanation of their existence, and that the books thereof were then admitted by friend and foe to be genuine. The evidence derived from all the enemies of Christianity in the early days proves that the Christians held as sacred the books of the New Testament as we now have them. What a book it must be! they will exclaim, to have wielded such a power over the people of the most enlightened parts of the world and that too, in the days when men ran to and fro and knowledge increased as it never had before! We must conclude that it was launched out into the world as a wonderful thing, and that its miraculous power enabled it to do what it did - revolutionize the civil and religious world, without its faithful friends firing a shot or drawing a sword from a scabbard.

The Canon Readings and Renderings of the Scriptures: Under this heading it will be profitable to consider first the canon of scripture, that is, how the books we have in our Bible came to be accepted as the only sacred and authentic books of revelation. Infidels and skeptics have talked much about the chance-work in councils voting on and receiving the books of the New Testament while rejecting others, claiming that the "selection of some and rejection of others" depended upon the motives and votes of fallible men.

To realize how the authenticity of these books would be determined by those in whose hands they were first placed we must go back to the origin of Christianity and see that they did not originate by an author determining to produce a book on a certain subject to be printed and offered for sale upon its merits. It was not a theory, a science or a religion already out and being discussed that originated these books. The fact that things most remarkable were taking place before the eyes of the people in all the land of Judea was the origin...and the fact that churches existed and were coming into existence in towns and cities and that the apostles established and visited these real churches in real places and spoke and wrote to them about real conditions and persons well known. All the books were produced by the facts, coming out simultaneously with the facts in the most natural way, with no possible hope for the writers and all concerned in the movement of any remuneration except the satisfaction the spiritual results might yield and the hope of future life; and this with persecution, torture and death as the only present prospects. All these things go to exclude any thoughts of design in the production of the books, except what was suggested by the daily developing facts and conditions necessary to the performance of a duty to God and man. All told, those who espoused the cause were but few in number, a little flock, and the very nature of the movement brought them all closely together into personal acquaintance.

If the acceptance of these books had been, as the infidels claim, dependent upon votes of councils in the third and following centuries, the question would still be, Where did they come from? How did they get into the supposed piles of various books from among which they were to be voted as sacred? That the books of the New Testament were in general circulation and from their origin known to be authentic is beyond dispute from the fact that they were so largely and reverently quoted by various writers in those early days. It was never necessary for the Council of Nice nor any other council to vote on them. The reverence for them was not an outgrowth of superstition years after their production, but a direct and immediate result of a knowledge that they came from men who by signs and wonders and by divers miracles had established their credentials beyond the shadow of doubt. Not only do we have proof of the books being received from the beginning, but we have specific catalogues of the inspired and authentic books given by some of the authors writing about them. In these catalogues there is a clear and well defined distinction drawn between the sacred books and those written by friendly but fallible men - fallible in their writings because uninspired.

Diligent men have very carefully and voluminously given the world the results of their research in this branch of Christian evidence, but since Dr. Paley has given us a compendium of the facts brought out we quote from his Evidences, pp. 171-173:

This species of evidence comes later than the rest; as it was not natural that catalogues of any particular class of books should be put forth until Christian writings became numerous; or until some writings showed themselves, claiming titles which did not belong to them, and thereby rendering it necessary to separate books of authority from others. But, when it does appear, it is extremely satisfactory; the catalogues, though numerous and made in countries from a wide distance from one another, differing very little, differing in nothing which is material, and all containing the four gospels. To this last article there is no exception.

  1. In the writings of Origen...there are enumerations of the books of scripture in which the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are distinctly and honorably specified, and in which no books appear beside what are now received. The reader will recollect that the date of Origen's works is A. D. 230.
  2. Athanasius, about a century afterwards, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament in form, containing our scriptures and no others; of which he says, "In these alone the doctrine of religion is taught; let no man add to them, or take anything away from them."
  3. About twenty years after Athanasius, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, set forth a catalogue of the books of scripture publically read at that time in the church of Jerusalem, exactly the same as ours, except that the "Revelation" is omitted.
  4. Fifteen years after Cyril, the Council of Laodicea delivered an authoritative catalogue on canonical scripture, like Cyril's, the same as ours, with the omission of the "Revelation."
  5. Within thirty years after the last date, from the year 363 to near the conclusion of the fourth century, we have catalogues...all, as they are sometimes called, clean catalogues (that is they admit no books into the number beside what we now receive), and all, for every purpose of historic evidence, the same as ours.

Lest the dark pall of superstition and apostasy hide from view the corruption of the third and following centuries, let us turn the search light upon the simultaneous birth and growth of Christianity and its books during the first and second centuries, and then it will be seen that our books needed no votes or councils of men to decide whether they were what they claimed to be, and that their competition with other books was never in question.

Thomas Williams