Samuel Gipp’s “Understandable History of the Bible” is a 557 page must-read for the serious Christian who is just embarking on the journey of learning more about where their Bible came from.
Where did our Bible today come from?
Most existing manuscripts of the Bible are divided into two “manuscript families”. These two “families” disagree with each other in many areas. Every English Bible today proceeds, more or less, from one of these two groups. In general, these families are represented by the cities of Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch, Syria. Alexandrian manuscripts, or Antiochian manuscripts.
When you come to the issue of Bible translations, without any preconceived notions, just an honest desire for God to direct your paths by the light of His word, what should logically stand out based on the names of these regions?
For me, the city of Antioch grabbed my attention. In scripture, we recognize it as the birthplace of the first Christian church. All of its mentions are in a positive light…I will soon list them here for your personal study. One thing that I also recommend you do, is a scripture hunt for all the mentions of Syria in the Bible, it’s good stuff, mon!
Biblical references to Antioch, Syria
Acts 6:3,4,5–“Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:” One of the first deacons, Nicolas, was from Antioch! He is the only deacon whose home town is listed…why is that, I wonder?
Acts 11:19-21, “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that rose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” The first great Gentile awakening occured in Antioch!
Acts 11:22-24, “Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” and much people was added unto the Lord.”
Acts 11:25,26, “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” So Barnabas seeks the young convert Saul…remember that Barnabas defended Paul’s conversion to the doubting disciples in Acts 9:26, 27. He finds Saul, but does he bring him back to Jerusalem? He returns with him to Antioch, the spiritual capital of the New Testament church. And in Acts 11:26, we find that born again believers were called “Christians” for the first time at Antioch.
Acts 11:27, 28, “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Jerusalem is spiritually abandoned…in Acts 11:29, 30 we see that the saints who God is blessing in Antioch, must send monetary aid to the saints who God is not blessing in Jerusalem.
Acts 13:1-3, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabus, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” First missionary journey originates in Antioch!
Acts 14:25-28, “And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down unto Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.”
Acts 15:23-27: “And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.” In Samuel Gipp’s The Answer Book, he says after this scripture, that after completing this mission, Judas returned to Jerusalem and oblivion, while Silas elects to stay in Antioch, and it is Silas who we find gaining a prominent place in Scripture as Paul’s missionary partner on his second missionary journey. This second missionary journey originated in Antioch, as Acts 15:40 illustrates.
“What was it that was so attractive to God that He chose it as the center of New Testament Christianity?
It might be noted that, Antioch although it was a cultural center, had not abandoned itself to pagan religion, pagan education and pagan philosophy as had such prominent sites as Rome, Athens, and Alexandria.
It might also be weighed that Antioch, unlike the above mentioned cities, or even Jerusalem, was located almost exactly in the middle of the known world, and was built at the crossing of the East-West trade routes. It even boasted a sea port, via the Orontes River. These are all important attributes for the capital of Christianity, which is known for its mobility.
It may be that many of the original autographs of Paul’s epistles were penned in Antioch.” S. Gipp, The Answers Book, pgs 43-44
Also, history records that by the end of the first century, there were over 100,000 Christians living in Antioch.
Okay, so that was the scoreboard for Antioch, which as we saw above, sybolizes the Christian’s new life apart from the paganism of the Gentiles’ religions and the ritualism of Judaism. Now, let’s see what God says about Alexandria, Egypt. He actually says a lot about Egypt…in the Bible, Egypt is a type of “this world”, and “the old life“. But He also brings up Alexandria. First a few of the more well known references to Egypt…for more you better buy Gipp’s book, he spends 18 pages (Chapter 5,” The Localities”) on this subject in his Understandable History of the Bible!
Biblical references to Alexandria and Egypt
- God called His Son out of Egypt, Matthew 2.
- God called Jacob out of Egypt, Genesis 49.
- God called Israel out of Egypt, Exodus 15.
- God called Joseph’s bones out of Egypt, Exodus 13.
- God never wanted His people to return to Egypt, Deuteronomy 17:16.
This one gives me chills. In Revelation 11:8, the context is God denouncing Jerusalem, and He compares it to Sodom and Egypt:“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
Now for the four specific scriptures referencing Alexandria:
It’s first mention is in Acts 6:9, “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Crenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” Okay, so Jews from Alexandria were partly responsible for the stoning of Stephen. Gipp points out that the blood of the first martyr was shed by people from Alexandria. We’re not off to a good start here.
Now we’re introduced to Apollos, from Alexandria. Acts 18:24, “And and certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.” Gipp says of Apollos,
“Here we find that an unsaved Jew from Alexandria named Apollos was fervent in spirit but was misinformed concerning the Gospel. Not knowing the true Gospel of salvation by faith through death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ he went to Ephesus and preached instead the baptism of Jon the Baptist as the way to salvation, (Acts 18:25). In Acts 19:3, we find some of his ‘baptized believers’ who were no more saved than he was. Apollos was not saved and neither were his converts.
Later in the passage we see that Apollos is intercepted by Aquila and Priscilla (verse 26) and led to Christ. How do we know he got saved? Look at the radical change in the message he preached. In Acts 18:25, Apollos is preaching “salvation” through the baptism of John. In Acts 18:26 he gets saved. And in Acts 18:28 we find that his message had changed from preaching John’s baptism to ‘preaching Christ.’
But we must take note that in its second mention we find that Alexandria is synonymous with bad Bible teaching.”
Paul is arrested in Acts 21, and he is sent to Rome and eventually his death, on a ship from Alexandria! Acts 27:6, “And there the Centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.” We know the story, Paul’s ship is sunk by a tempest. Paul spends 3 months on the island of Melita. He is then sent on his way to eventual death on another ship. Guess where this second ship is from? Acts 28:11, “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.” Okay, so no positive mentions of Alexandria, Egypt here either.
Above we gave you a little glimpse into Antioch and what it was like back then. Now it’s Alexandria’s turn.
“It must also be noted here that Alexandria was a center of education and philosophy. (Col 2:8). It received these terrible twins from Athens about 100 BC. (Acts 17:16). There was also a school of the Scriptures founded there by one Philo, who was an unsaved philosopher. Philo did not believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God. He interpreted Scripture both philosophically and allegorically. That is to say that philosophically he believed truth to be relative, not absolute. He did not believe that the Bible was infallible. By looking at the Bible allegorically he believed that men such as Adam, Noah, Moses, and David existed only in Jewish poetry and were not true historical characters…
He was succeeded as head of the school by Clement of Alexandria and later by Origen–men who shared his skepticism. These men carried manuscript corruption to new heights–or new depths, depending on how you view biblical infallibility.
It was Origen, deceived by the dual intoxicants of education and philosophy, who upon receipt of pure copies of Scripture altered them to parallel his twisted thinking.”
Origen, the first Bible critic, is responsible for the physical manuscripts which delete such verses as Luke 24:40, Acts 8:37, and 1 John 5:7, as well as the Alexandrian mentality that the Bible is full of mistakes and mistranslations. In other words, “the Bible is not perfect and can be improved upon.”
Samuel Gipp sums this topic up as follows:
“It is to be noted that the five uncial manuscripts which today’s scholars have used to supplant the Received Text of the Authorized Version all come from Alexandria. So here you have well over five thousand witnesses, the vast majority of which testify to the authenticity of the King James Bible, and just a literal handful of opposing witnesses and yet scholarship, deluded by their infatuation with Alexandria turns a blind eye to them and scuttles off to Egypt to bow their knees to a tiny gathering that God refuses to acknowledge.”
The big question is, can we afford to ignore the Bible on this issue? In 1 Kings 11:7, Solomon ignored the Bible’s directives concerning Egypt and ended up sacrificing his children to Molech. Where are we going to end up if we do the same?
Part 2, Where, historically, do the Alexandrian and Antiochian manuscripts go from here? Stay tuned.