二○二○年五月二十三日／五月二十四日 Click here for English version
The Loss of Bible Manuscripts and What Follows
Rev Aaron Chan
Scholars generally believe that the loss of the manuscripts of the Bible in the original languages happened around or before the third century AD (Simon Wong, The Fundamentals of the Bible Advanced Level). The Scriptures in the original languages we have today are a compilation of the copies of the original manuscripts in circulation. They are then translated into different modern languages. In fact, God did not leave us any "relics" (such as Noah's ark or the ark of the covenant), nor the manuscripts by Moses or Paul. Instead, He had given us the copied manuscripts and the Bible which are translations of them.
It is also incorrect to say that God has only given us the copied manuscripts and the Bible based on them. God has given us the Holy Spirit to abide with us forever according to His promise in John 14:16-17 as well as the church community, who consider the Scriptures as the "word of life," who assiduously copied the manuscripts for preservation, and who listen to God's word earnestly and live out His teachings soberly. In learning and living out the word of God with the Holy Spirit and the church community, we are not alone.
The Lord Jesus has said: "…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth" (John 4: 21-24). So, even in the midst of the pandemic when we attend worship services online, the Holy Spirit is with the church community in ministering God’s word to believers. Some small groups which meet online would review sermon messages in their meetings. They may start with what God has done in their lives (how God is good, how He loves and disciplines, etc) before proceeding to response and directions for practice.
Besides ministering God's word in sermons and letting the Holy Spirit deepen the sermon messages among the congregation, the church has also adopted Lectio Divina in the Bible reading for prayer meetings. This method includes observation, understanding, integration and application to enhance the internalization of the word of God in our lives. Perhaps God will also give you direction and motivation for the future through it!
If you do need to work from home (which means you use your home as your office and not your office as your home), then you can probably save the time dressing up and commuting. Why not spend more time on the Scriptures and related books and apply the teaching to online groups and Bible study in fellowships? That may give us a solid foundation for personal reflection and exchange with others at a time when the pandemic seems to be receding but peace in society has not yet been restored. All this may also become essential resource for the church community's way forward.
With the fact of the loss of the Bible manuscripts in the original languages before us, we know that God has not given us "relics" to divert our attention. Rather, He has given us the Holy Spirit and the church community through which we can receive His word in preparation for the potential challenges ahead.