“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
Scripture Survived Persecution
Some people will object to the credibility of Scripture due to a passage in the book of 1 Maccabees (1:57-58), which talks about all the book of the Hebrew Scripture being destroyed. The passage in question, however, actually confirms and upholds the reliability of the Scriptures. Those who object to Scripture ask, “If Antiochus ordered all the copies of the Hebrew Scriptures to be burned, then where did the copies we now have come from?” Let me answer that question with a question: “What workshop could produce ‘new’ Scriptures so quickly?” It is an indisputable fact that copies of Scripture were among the Jewish people at the end of Antiochus’ persecution. These copies were also acknowledged by all the educated Jews to be legitimate. Although people criticized the Jews for various reasons, no one ever criticized them for introducing false Scriptures to support their faith. Whatever they thought of the Jewish religion, the critics of the Jews at least acknowledged that Moses was the founder.
Rather than merely refuting error, let us know look at how the Lord preserved His holy word. Again all hope, the Lord rescued His word from one of the cruelest tyrants of all time. The value of God’s word inspired pious priests to risk their lives to preserve the holy word. You have to acknowledge that it was a sign of God’s miraculous work that the Hebrew Scriptures returned to prominent—even more prominent—status as soon as Antiochus’ persecution ended. Furthermore, the Greek translation (the Septuagint) spread across the whole world. God rescued His the Laws of His covenant from Antiochus even as the Jewish people were persecuted, crushed, and almost entirely eradicated. Except for use among the Jews, the Hebrew language was not in use, or even widely known in the world. If God did not preserve His word and the religion of the Jews, then it would have perished from the world. It is obvious from the prophetic writings how much knowledge even the Jews had lost of their native language. It is important to understand that point because it demonstrates how old the Law and the Prophets are. Ironically, who did God choose to preserve the message of salvation found in the Law and the Prophets? The Jews! Those who were the bitterest enemies of Jesus. Thus, Augustine rightly calls them the librarians of the church because they supplied us with our holy books!