[This article is based on the book, ‘Restoring the Original Bible’ by Dr. Ernest L. Martin, ASK Publications, Portland, Oregon, 1994]
Our Bibles Are Different
You may be not be surprised to learn that the Bibles that the Christians use today (also in the past centuries) are not the same as the original Bible known to the Jewish world and to the early Christians. First, we use translations, not the original tongues (Hebrew and Greek); second, there are minor textual variations; and third, we do not have the original autographs.
What should surprise you (unless you have read on Bible’s origin) is that the total number of books and the arrangement of books in our Bibles are different from those of the original autographs as judged by the earliest preserved copies. Actually we have not lost any Bible text, so don’t think that I am talking about the ‘Lost Books of the Bible’. These so-called lost books are apocryphal in nature and was never part of the Bible. However, a set of books properly called Apocrypha found its way to the Greek translation of the Old Testament and then into the Latin Vulgate and into some English Bibles.
Our Bibles (that do not include the Apocrypha) contain 66 books, distributed as 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. What I am about to reveal is that the Original Bible had contained 22 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. But that is not all. The arrangement of the 39 books in the OT is different from the arrangement in the 22 books, though the total text is the same.
I shall show how important the original arrangement was, and what we miss in our Bibles. I shall also show how and why the original arrangement was changed.
The Original Old Testament
If you have chance to examine a Jewish Old Testament (translations would be sufficient), you will notice that it has only 22 or 24 books. Furthermore, the books after Judges are completely rearranged. There is much evidence for the original OT having only 22 books, but late first or early second century AD two of the books were split to give a total of 24. The reason for this can be guessed (I shall mention it later).
The 22 books of the Original OT are divided into three groups: The Law (Torah), The Prophets, and The (Holy) Writings; this last group is sometimes referred to as the Psalms because the Psalms appear first.
The division of the books are as follows:
I. THE LAW : The Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses)
(Note: These titles are as found in our English Bibles, adapted from the Greek Septuagint (LXX); the Hebrew titles used the first word of each book (actually a Scroll). For example, Genesis would be called Bereshith which means (In)Beginning (of). The Septuagint titles emphasize the subject matter. The Jewish Bibles also use now the subject titles.)
II. THE PROPHETS
Six books are in this group:
- Joshua & Judges
Samuel and Kings (‘Books of the Kingdom’)
The Twelve (Minor Prophets)
We might wonder about the inclusion of the first two and the omission of the book of Daniel. The reason is that these books were written by the prophets who occupied the second highest rank after the Priests. The Law was written by Moses who belonged to the Priestly class. In the organization of Bible books, proper care was given to rank of the authors. Notice that the Kings came third, hence their books are in the third group. The reason Daniel was not included was because he was ‘inferior’ in rank due to his being a eunuch, see Dan. 1:3,7 (eunuchs were prohibited from entering the Temple); and his interpretation of dreams of pagan kings dominated his book. However, we shall not consider Daniel as an unholy person. He led a most holy life and was beloved of God, receiving visions of great importance.
III. THE WRITINGS
This group contained 11 books known also as the ‘Royal’ or ‘Government’ group because the authors are royalty or of royal lineage, or high government officials.
Song of Songs
The Original New Testament
Here the difference is not in the number of books, but in the arrangement of books. After Acts the Original New Testament had three divisions as for the Old Testament:
I. THE ‘PENTATEUCH’ : The Gospels and Acts
What is the reason for the above order of books? Apostolic authority or connection and the eldership principle were followed. Ma thew was a Jew, and his gospel was written under the supervision of James who was the Head of the Church (also the brother of Jesus). Mark was an assistant of Peter who was second to James in rank. Luke was an associate of Paul. John was the beloved apostle, third in rank after James and Peter in the early Church. The reason for his book appearing after Luke is perhaps due to its compilation as the last book of the NT, and also because of its philosophical theme. The first three Gospels are called Synoptic because of similar coverage (of the life of Jesus).
The Book of Acts covers the early history of the Church, and was written by Luke. In terms of content and appeal, the five books may be classified as Jewish, Jewish.Gentile, Gentile, Universal and Universal respectively. Note that Luke wrote his gospel to a Gentile ruler, Theophilus (Acts 1:1).
II THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES
The term ‘Catholic’ means ‘universal’, applicable for general readership. There are seven of them:
These books appear after the Pauline epistles in our New Testaments, but the original New Testament had them following the Book of Acts. Apostolic authority and eldership were the governing rules for this placement. Among the apostles, the ranking followed the placement: James, Peter, John and Jude (last). We read in Galatians 2:9 of the leading Pillars of the church, James, Peter and John, in tha order.
III. THE PAULINE EPISTLES
This group has 14 books including Hebrews which is somewhat linked to Paul (my study has shown that Hebrews was written by Timothy, Paul’s close associate, except for the last paragraph which was written by Paul who endorsed the epistle with his apostolic authority. Timothy was in prison as he was finishing his epistle, but when Paul got the manuscript, he was released). In our Bibles, these books appear before the Catholic epistles.
The 14 books are:
The first nine are addressed to churches; the last four are addressed to ministerial/professional leaders. Romans. Corinthians and Galatians present the ABCs of Doctrine to new believers, while Ephesians, Philippines and Colossians present the XYZs (the advanced doctrine for mature Christians). Thessalonians deal with end times. Hebrews present a millennial theme along with Temple symbolism.
This final book covers future events and completes the story of mankind that started in Genesis.
Significance of Numbers
Biblical numbers are not there by chance. The numbers we have seen associated with the books of the Bible have special significance. Let us first look at the number 22 which denotes the OT books.
The Number 22
The Jewish people attached great importance to this number for the following reasons:
1. Adam, the last of God’s Creation, was the 22nd creation in the Six Day Creation. The number 22 signified completion and perfection.
2. Jacob (Israel) was the 22nd generation from Adam.
3. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters
Some of the OT authors used the acrostic of the 22 letter names. Examples:
Psalm 119 has 22 sections, each with a title of the Hebrew letter in succession;
The first section of 8 verses all start with the first letter, aleph; the second section of 8 verses all start with the second letter beth, and so on.
Proverbs 31: 10-31 describes a virtuous woman. Each verse starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. We may note that the above passages describe a perfect God and a perfect woman!
There are other places also where the acrostic is used. When imperfection is implied, as in Psalms 9 and 10 which describe chaotic conditions, the acrostic is also imperfect.
The Number 7
Throughout the Bible 7 is a sacred number and it also signifies completion. The repetition of 7s in Revelation is very obvious. Multiples of 7 such as 14 are also sacred, and imply completion.
The Number 49
49 is 7 x 7, and signifies ultimate completion and perfection. If the Original Bible arrangement had been kept, we would have 49 books, and the Bible would be easily identified as God’s Book.
The Number 66
6 is man’s number (Adam was created on the 6th day). Multiples of 6 such as 60, 600 and 666 are found in the Bible, all associated with man. The last one, 666, is the Mark of the Beast (Rev. 13).
Our present Bibles have 66 books, and would give the impression it is a human Book, not divine. This is exactly the devil wants the world to believe. The attackers of the Bible are secular humanists!
More about numbers will be given in another article in this section. Suffice it to say that the reorganization of the Bible in the 4th century by Jerome (who translated the Bible into Latin Vulgate) was an unholy step! Later on, the Church tried to rectify this by adding 11 apocryphal books to make the total number 77, but later this number has been reduced to 66 books as we find in present day Bibles that contain the Apocrypha. These added books are not as divinely inspired as the canonized books, hence should not be added to the Bible to make it look divine.
Jesus, the Central Theme of the Bible
If the book order had been preserved, we should get the following array:
In other words, central part of the Bible would be the books covering the life of Jesus Christ and his activity in the early Church. We have lost this obvious marker as a result of the reorganization in our Bibles. The Gospel of Luke which deals with the Incarnation occupies the central position (the 25th book). The five books on Jesus may be called the New Testament Pentateuch!
More on the OT Books: The Temple Analogy
There is a remarkable parallel between the OT books and the division and items in the Jewish Temple (see drawing below).
|3 divisions||3 divisions|
|– The Law||– Holy of Holies|
|– The Prophets||– The Holy Place|
|– The Writings||– The Outer Court|
The Law (Pentateuch) reveals the holy God and his Commandments; the Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant which had the books of the Law. The Holy of Holies was the earthly abode of God. The five items in this room were: Manna, Aaron’s rod, the Tablets of stone, the two Cherubim and the Mercy Seat; these could be connected to the five books of Moses:
|Manna, the ‘hidden’ food||Genesis (God was ‘hidden’)|
|Aaron’s rod that budded||Exodus, the creation of Israel|
|Tablets of Stone||Leviticus and the Laws|
|Two Cherubim||Numbers (describes the Ark)|
|Mercy Seat, cover of the Ark||Deuteronomy, final book|
The three divisions of the Temple also signified Three Heavens:
|Outer Court||First heaven (atmosphere, air)|
|Holy Place||Second heaven (outer space with heavenly bodies)|
|Most Holy Place||Third heaven (God’s abode)|
It is significant to note that on the floor of the Holy Place had imprinted on it a Zodiac circle with the twelve signs (representing the 12 tribes). The seven lamps of the menorah represented also the seven planets. All these fitted with the symbolism of the Holy Place with the Second Heaven.
I must point out that the Temple layout and its contents have a Messianic message because Jesus Christ is symbolized everywhere – as our sacrifice, atonement, and High Priest who has made it possible for all believers to approach God the Holy Father. The reader can find books on this topic to get more understanding.
The Prophets and the Holy Place
There were six pieces of furniture in the Holy Place. These are placed in relation to the six books of the Prophets group:
|Golden altar of incense
(Holy of Holies and the Holy Place)
|Joshua & Judges
(connecting link to the Law and the Prophets
|The Menorah (7-branched Lamp)||The Kingdom Books
(describing the kings: of Judea: Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah and Jehoachin)
|The Laver (wash basin)||Isaiah (who called for cleansing the sins.)|
|Altar of burnt offerings||Jeremiah (Judgement scenes)|
|The Slaughter place||Ezekiel (foresaw massive slaughter)|
|Table of Shewbread with 12 loaves of bread||The 12 Minor prophets|
Of course, the Temple furniture have more profound meanings attached to them, especially in relation to the Messiah which we shall not cover here.
The Outer Court was for the public, and had sections for men and women. The Writings were considered less holy than the other two groups, and some of these books (actually scrolls) were not kept in the Temple, e.g. Ezra/Nehemiah, Chronicles because of the public records they contained.
Reasons for Changing the Original Bible
The following reasons can be given for the arrangement of books in our Bibles.
1. Pagan influence in the Greek Translation: It was a King of Egypt of the Ptolemy period that ordered the translation known as the Septuagint. In the third century B.C. The Greek mind preferred subject-wise division and therefore abandoned the divine order.
2. The Influence of Rome: by the fourth century AD, Rome had become the center of Christianity; it was also the emperor’s capital city. The Jewish epistles took a second place, and the gentile epistles (written by Paul) took the first place; the Book of Romans was the first of these Pauline epistles. Is it any wonder why the book of Romans appear after the Book of Acts? Jerome who knew the Original Bible boldly changed the order of NT books. Our present day Bible publishers do not want to change the order because they find no support from the Church for it. The Church does not want to return to the biblical order of ‘Jew first, Gentile second’.
3. This change is in relation to the change from 22 books to 24 books by Jewish editors.
Why would they want to change the ‘perfect’ number 22 to 24? The only answer is that when the Christians added the 27 NT books, the total was 49 books, and claimed the complete Bible should have both the OT and NT books. The Jews who did not accept Jesus and Messiah did not like that, so by increasing the number to 24 books, the divine ’49’ would vanish, at the expense of making the OT less than perfect.
It should now be obvious to the reader that our present Bible is the result of deliberate alteration by people with special interests. As a result of the changes they made, we have lost the divine message transmitted through the order and number of books in the Original Bible. It is unlikely that Bible publishers will go back to the original format because such a change could be quite confusing to most Bible readers.
UPDATE: December 7, 2005: The Original New Testament now available
The Original New Testament in English was published a year ago by York Publishing Company in California. This is a monumental work undertaken by Fred R. Coulter, a Bible scholar, who faithfully translated the Stephanus 1550 Greek New Testament, but in the original order of the 27 books as explained in my article. In addition to the 352 page text in full size paper, a voluminous 528 page commentary section is included. At this time there is no word on the Original Old Testament under preparation. The book is available from Amazon.com under the title, ‘The New Testament In Its Original Order’. The cover page is shown at right.
UPDATE: The Complete Bible Available
In 2007 York Publishing Company published the Holy Bible In Its Original Order. Read more on it in the Update section on the Home Page.