How did we get the Bible?
Why are there so many different translations of Scripture?
Are the copies of ancient biblical texts reliable?
These are only a few of the questions that Christians and non-Christians alike have asked about the Bible over the last 2,000 years. In their new book, Scribes & Scripture: The Amazing Story of How We Got the Bible, distinguished Phoenix Seminary professors Drs. Peter Gurry and John Meade provide well-researched answers to some of the biggest questions surrounding God’s Word and the story behind our modern-day English versions.
Gurry is an associate professor of New Testament. His other published works include co-authorship of Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism (IVP Academic, 2019). He has also worked with the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., to publish New Testament manuscripts in digital format.
Meade is a professor of Old Testament. He also co-authored The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis (Oxford, 2017).
Scribes & Scripture, which is scheduled for release on Oct. 18 through Crossway, covers three main topics: the text, canonization and translation of Scripture. The book is the result of years of academic scholarship at the highest level in text criticism and canon studies.
“It is no exaggeration to say that John Meade and Peter Gurry are both at the top of their fields,” Phoenix Seminary President Dr. Brian Arnold said. “For the first time, to my knowledge, we have one of the best textual scholars of each testament explaining how the whole Bible came together. Meade and Gurry have proven themselves in biblical scholarship at the highest levels, and now they have taken that scholarship and made it accessible to everyone.”
Gurry’s interest in the topic started when he received his first printed Greek New Testament.
“I was fascinated by learning what was behind my English text,” he said. “Later, when I got to Bible college, I learned that there were thousands of manuscripts that had to be studied and sorted to make my printed Greek New Testament. In seminary, I was able to go on several trips with The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts to digitize New Testament manuscripts, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Meade followed a similar path leading to the publishing of this book.
“My interest in this topic came from my Bible college and seminary days when I learned textual criticism and something of the history of the canon of Scripture,” he said. “I’ve always loved history and knowing where things and ideas came from and how they developed over time.”
According to the authors, the book is for both unbelieving skeptic and for Christians who want to grow in their faith.
“Many Christians have thought about the history that the Bible contains, but I think it’s fair to say that most Christians haven’t thought about the history of the Book itself,” Meade said. “Scribes & Scripture attempts to bridge that gap for them. An honest seeker should be able to pick up Scribes & Scripture and get the lay of the land for history of the Bible. The book doesn’t have a serious axe to grind, so we hope seekers will give it an honest read.”
The authors have presented their research in various contexts for pastors and laypeople interested in understanding how we got the Bible. The process of making the topic accessible for the general public — not just for “the ivory tower,” as Meade says — was one of the greatest challenges of writing, but also one of the most rewarding.
“The hardest part was making the book accessible to a wide audience while still being both interesting and faithful to the subject,” Gurry said. “This is a topic that includes some very technical subjects and it’s easy to get it wrong. John and I revised the book all the way through several times in our effort hit our target of accurate accessibility.”
The authors are hoping Scribes & Scripture sparks a greater appreciation in readers of what it took to bring God’s Word into its present-day form.
“After wrestling with the Bible’s history, the people and means it took to get the Book to us, I would hope readers walk away with a more profound gratitude for the Bible’s scribes and curators over time,” Meade says. “And in turn, I hope this knowledge and gratitude causes more people to want to read the Bible more, or even for the first time.”
Phoenix Seminary’s faculty sees the book as an exciting new gift to the greater church.
“I think this book will answer many questions that the church ponders, but might not have felt comfortable asking,” said Dr. Michael Thigpen, Phoenix’s provost and professor of Old Testament. “It’s grounded in the very best research from two of the foremost scholars in the field, but it’s written for the church by two men who are deeply engaged in local church ministry and who have spent their careers fielding questions from and training both new and seasoned pastors.
"I think this work will give the church a greater confidence in the reliability of our English translations and a greater appreciation for the way in which God has preserved his word through the work of an innumerable group of scribes who faithfully transmitted the text from antiquity to the modern era.”
This article was written by Joshua Cooley.