Monday, December 31, 2018

Church of God Legacy

A Brief History of the Church of God and the New Testament

Ten Commandments Given at
Mount Sinai
I heard a Jewish rabbi say that the Ten Commandments shaped the course of world civilization - AlephBeta [1]. I agree with that statement, but the Jews don’t get much credit for “spreading the word” of the Ten Commandments. Ancient Israel was not an evangelical nation even though they were meant to be a kingdom of priests to the world – Ex 19:6. And to this day, the Jews are not evangelical, “In general, Jews do not try to convert non-Jews to Judaism” [2]. The Hebrew Old Testament was not even translated into any other language for a thousand years [3][11][12], and then only because of the deportation of the Jews to Babylon, where they came to speak Aramaic. So the Jews can’t take much credit for “shaping the course of world civilization”.

That all changed with Jesus. He said “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” - Mt 16:18. And He told His church “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel” - Mark 16:15. Jesus started His Church with 12 disciples and 120 members, and in a few years “turned the world upside down” – Acts 17:6.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

And what about now? We can’t imagine the Western World without a Christian church on almost every corner. There may be pockets of Christianity in places like the Middle East or Asia - Wikipedia(Christianity_by_country) [14], but here in the West, it is part of the fabric of our society . The Book That Made Your World [15] details the many ways the Bible has influenced the world we live in: philosophy, science, literature, education, law, liberty, etc. My goal is not to show all the ways the Bible influenced our world (it takes a whole book), but rather to show that the Church of God was the force behind the scenes. The Church that Jesus started has made a difference to the whole world. There are 2.4 billion Catholics and Protestants, that is, people who profess the name of Jesus Christ - Pew Research Center [16]. 2.4 BILLION – that’s a third of the world’s population, a far cry from 120.

The New Testament itself is intertwined with that world-changing commission to preach the gospel. So let’s ask: Who wrote the New Testament? When? Who canonized it? When? Who translated it? When? Those are the questions I’ll be addressing here.  The history of the New Testament is the history of the Church of God [6], and it is not what I thought, or what one finds in encyclopedias or on Wikipedia. 


Everyone agrees that the Apostles wrote the New Testament, but most sources date the earliest writings decades after Christ’s death. However, the Gospel of Matthew was most likely written by 35 AD, just a few years after His crucifixion. The Book of James, considered to be the first epistle, was most likely written 40-41 AD - When Was the New Testament Written? [17].

Papyrus 46
2 Cor 11:33-12:9
Why a gospel so early? The traditional view is that the Apostles thought Christ’s second coming was imminent, and only after they realized it might be a while, then they wrote it down. Why then do some sources say Matthew wrote his gospel so soon? At first, right after the crucifixion, all new converts were from Jerusalem, and they were eyewitnesses to the events of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion, and everyone there was EXPECTING the Messiah. Convincing them that Jesus was the Messiah they were expecting was (relatively) easy. But as evangelists moved out into the rest of Judea and beyond, they needed an eyewitness record, they needed a written gospel. In Judea outside Jerusalem, they would have heard the OT in synagogue all their lives, but still, this was new. The Apostles devoted themselves to writing it all down VERY early on. It seems that is what is meant in Acts 6:4. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the early church made copies everywhere they went. Granted, not as methodical and as meticulous as the Levites and scribes that maintained the Hebrew Scriptures, but they made lots of copies. Today, there are over 5000 copies of the NT, ranging from small fragments to the complete NT, making it the most represented ancient document in the world [18].


Who canonized the NT? In other words, who selected which books that made up the New Testament? The Catholic Church tries to take credit for canonization near the end of the 4th century - [20][21][22]. 

It is sometimes thought that because the New Testament has come down to us in Greek, that the Gentiles from Greek speaking areas were the ones who had authority to preserve the new canon - CBCG(Who Is Jesus?) [24].

We know the responsibility for the Old Testament canon belonged to the Jews – Rom 3:2, and there is very little controversy over the text [4].


Do you think that Jesus was going to leave the New Testament to the Jews who crucified Him?

Do you think that Jesus was going to leave it to the Catholic Church hundreds of years after the Apostles? Or leave it to non believers?

The responsibility for the New Testament canon passed from the Jews to the Apostles, specifically Paul (some say James), Peter, and John (actually still Jews), and preserving that text then passed to the Church. It was John who finalized the canon [25][27]. There is internal evidence in the NT, as well as historical evidence that it was complete by the end of the first century. [17]


Who is responsible for translating the Bible? The Catholic Church again claims credit with the Latin Vulgate, that is Greek New Testament to Latin around 400 AD [7][26]. (Vulgate means language of the people, aka vernacular).  But the Catholic Church was actually playing catch up.
“The Reformers held that the Waldensian Church was formed about 120 A. D., from which date on, they passed down from father to son the teachings they received from the apostles. The Latin Bible, the Italic, was translated from the Greek not later than 157 A. D.” [3].

Why these early translations in Italic (Old Italian)? The early Church evangelists needed a Bible in the vernacular of the people. The Catholic Church actually resisted translating the Bible into the language of the people.

Those of you who have studied church history will recognize the term Waldensian. The Waldensians got their name from their most famous evangelist, Peter Waldo [8]. Some argue that Waldo got his name from the people called Vaudois (people of the valley). But they were known throughout history by many names – Vaudois, Cathari, Toulousians, Albigenses, Transmontani, Lollards, Insabbatti, etc. Insabbatti is an interesting name because it means "without Sabbath" because they didn’t keep the Catholic Sabbath (meaning Sunday), they kept the seventh day Sabbath. The book The Martyr’s Mirror [28] lists over 25 names used for them depending on country and century. Historians have also applied the name Waldensian to groups before and after the Vaudois.

Waldensian symbol
Lux lucet in tenebris
Light glows in the darkness
The Waldensians are usually associated with the Thyatira church of Revelation 2:18-24. They resisted the Church of Rome for centuries. It is difficult to say when the Waldensian era began, but we know it basically ended in martyrdom in 1655, where the French Duke of Savoy tried to eliminate the people and their libraries [29].  The massacre was so brutal it aroused indignation throughout Europe, and in England, where Oliver Cromwell got involved [30]. He sent Samuel Morland to put pressure on the French to end the persecution, and Morland also aided the Waldensians. Morland returned with a copy of the Waldensian New Testament which now lies in the Cambridge University Library [9][10]. After this, the Waldensians were scattered, but not eliminated. Those that remained seemed to lose their way, some of them joined with different branches of the Reformation. However, there are still pockets of Waldenses, even one settlement in North Carolina -  Waldensian Trail of Faith [31].

This Bible in the Cambridge University Library was not the only one to survive, nor the only one to influence translators, and thereby influence the world. In fact, every major translation of the Middle Ages was based on Waldensian Bibles [5][32].

Martin Luther
Luther used the Tepl Bible, named from Tepl, Bohemia. This Tepl manuscript represented a translation of the Waldensian Bible into the German which was spoken before the days of the Reformation. History of the Bible [3]
It is therefore evident that the [KJV] translators of 1611 had before them four Bibles which had come under Waldensian influences: the Diodati in Italian, the Olivetan in French, the Lutheran in German, and the Genevan in English. We have every reason to believe that they had access to at least six Waldensian Bibles written in the old Waldensian vernacular. - Our Authorized Bible Vindicated [7]

The New Testament Scriptures were not entrusted to the Jews or Greeks, nor the Catholic Church, but to the Church of God, who carried that responsibility from the apostles to the printing press and beyond. The Church preserved the text, and the Church translated it into the languages of the people. Nowadays, the texts don’t need the same type of safekeeping, there are simply too many copies of the Greek manuscripts in too many places, and way too many copies of translations in many languages. Today, the attacks on the Bible are of a different nature. The point is that all our Bibles have the mark of the Church of God (especially the Waldensians) on them.


What kind of influence did the Waldensians have on the world? Not only did the Waldensians resist Rome for centuries, evangelize throughout Europe, and influence Bible translation, they directly influenced the early leaders of the Reformation, two of the biggest names, Martin Luther and John Calvin.

I showed earlier that Luther used the Tepl Bible when doing his translation. Here’s the rest of the quote.

We have, therefore, an indication of how much the Reformation under Luther as well as Luther's Bible owed to the Waldenses. [3]

John Calvin

Many Christian Protestant denominations trace their roots to John Calvin and the Reformation movement, including The United Methodist Church. Calvin was influenced by four different Waldensian Bible translations – Greek, Romaunt (the common language of the Vaudois),  French, and Italic (old Italian) [32][33]. And Calvin was a cousin of the Vaudois pastor Pierre Robert, also known as Oliv├ętan, who translated the Bible into French in 1535 - Olivetan [35].


We can see that the truth was passed from father to son for centuries, with the Waldensians being the most well known “torch-bearers”. The legacy of the Church of God is in preserving, translating, and teaching the Scriptures right from the time of the Apostles. The major Bible translations of the Middle Ages, even today, owe a debt to the Church of God. The Reformation owes its origin to the Church of God, though it did not go far enough in “reforming” the Catholic Church. They got some things wrong, but they got many things right too. Many want to claim the Waldensians in their church lineage, without actually living by the Scriptures the way the Waldensians did. The church of God is the rightful inheritor of that legacy.  While we may not be physical descendants of the Waldensians, we are their spiritual descendants. Think of the impact the Church of God has already had on the world in this age – our spiritual ancestors have shaped the course of civilization. And more to come in the next age.

Additional reading on the Waldensians.

Several authors quote from Jean Leger's book  "General History of the Vaudois Churches", but I have been unable to find it online. The Landmark Independent Baptist Church claims to have added Leger's book to their library.

The History Of The Waldenses By J. A. Wylie (1808-1890)

Authentic Details Of The Valdenses: Milner's Church History Of The Valdenses, In Piemont An  Other Countries. With Abridged Translations Of "L'Histoire Des Vaudois" by J. Bresse

A History Of The Vaudois Church From Its Origin, and Of The Vaudois Of Piedmont To The Present Day by Monastier, Antoine

Israel of the Alps by Alexis Muston



[The Revelation of Mount Sinai]  defines our destiny, and shaped the course of world civilization. Without that event, where would we be? Rabbi David Fohrman



This URL appears to be a compilation of three documents by Robert L. Webb, "History of the Bible", "True Bible and True Church Inseparable", and "Preservation of the Bible by the Waldenses". The last of these is a lengthy excerpt from "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated" by Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Ph. D. so quotes from the third part will be listed under "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated".

History of the Bible by Elder Robert L. Webb

It is worthy of consideration that the Old Testament books were not translated into other languages until very near the time of the Christian age.

[4] ibid. The Old Testament "oracles of God" were providentially committed to the Jewish, or Hebrew people (Romans 3: 1,2). The ancient Massoretes (students of Moses' law) devoted their lives to perfection in preserving and copying the Old Testament books. The story of their work is a marvelous testimony to God's preservation of His word to all generations. There is very little controversy regarding the Hebrew text.

[5] ibid. The Scriptures were translated into Latin, French, Dutch, German, and other languages where the Church of Jesus Christ existed through the centuries. 

[6] ibid. True Bible and True Church Inseparable, see [3]

A careful study of the history of the ancient Waldenses, and of Bible texts and translations, clearly reveals how inseparable the true Bible is from the true Church.

[7]  Preservation of the Bible by the Waldenses, excerpt from "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated", 1930, pp. 31-42 by Benjamin G. Wilkinson. see [3].

It is not true, as the Roman Church claims, that she gave the Bible to the world. What she gave was an impure text, a text with thousands of verses so changed as to make way for her unscriptural doctrines. 

[8] ibid.  There are modern writers who attempt to fix the beginning of the Waldenses from Peter Waldo, who began his work about 1175. This is a mistake. The historical name of this people, as properly derived from the valleys where they lived, is Vaudois. Nevertheless the history of the Waldenses, or Vaudois, begins centuries before the days of Waldo.

[9] ibid. More importantly, Oliver Cromwell dispatched diplomat Samuel Morland to force the House of Savoy to lay off the persecution; in fact, he threatened to disrupt high statecraft between England and France unless the French twisted arms on behalf of the Waldensians. ] 

[10] ibid.. Sir Samuel Morland, under the protection of Oliver Cromwell, received from Leger the Waldensian New Testament which now lies in the Cambridge University Library. After the devastating massacre of the Waldenses in 1655, Leger felt that he should collect and give into the hands of Sir Samuel Morland as many pieces of the ancient Waldensian literature as were available.


It is estimated that the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE. 


Some of the first translations of the Torah began during the Babylonian exile, when Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Jews.


The Bible is the most translated book in the world. The United Bible Societies announced that as of 31 December 2007 the complete Bible was available in 438 languages. 



From a review:
These things we now take for granted, but they ALL had their taproots in the Bible, not with Greek philosophers, nor with Englightenment rationalists as we have been misled to believe.



When Was the New Testament Written? - Fred R Coulter
"The evidence is overwhelming that the apostle James used the Gospel of Matthew as a basis for much of his Epistle. Thus, it can be concluded that Matthew was completed (perhaps with some later edits) and was in general use well before 40-41 AD. But it is also possible that Matthew had completed his Gospel as early as 33-35 AD. This theory would fully harmonize with the fact that the apostles gave themselves to “the ministry of the Word” in the first year after the crucifixion. As a Levite, Matthew undoubtedly was in charge of writing and compiling the teachings of Jesus, as described in Acts 6:4. That is why the Gospel of Matthew was the first Gospel account to be completed and why it is the first book of the New Testament."
The evidence is overwhelming that the apostle James used the Gospel of Matthew as a basis for much of his Epistle. Thus, it can be concluded that Matthew was completed (perhaps with some later edits) and was in general use well before 40-41 AD. But it is also possible that Matthew had completed his Gospel as early as 33-35 AD. This theory would fully harmonize with the fact that the apostles gave themselves to “the ministry of the Word” in the first year after the crucifixion. As a Levite, Matthew undoubtedly was in charge of writing and compiling the teachings of Jesus, as described in Acts 6:4. That is why the Gospel of Matthew was the first Gospel account to be completed and why it is the first book of the New Testament.
(A Faithful Version)









The New Testament, as canonized by the Apostle John, contained 27 books. Jerome's late fourth century A.D. Latin Vulgate version, however, which became the standard for the Catholic Church, contained a total number of 41. This added set are known collectively as the Apocrypha, a set of books found in various translations such as the NAB and RSV.


Jerome's Vulgate Latin translation dates to between AD 382 and 420.


The authority to perform such a task was essentially given to three apostles who had been with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration: Peter and the Sons of Zebedee (James and John).

We will see shortly that it was actually the apostle John who had the commission from Christ to finalize and to complete the full canon of the New Testament.

It was recognized that John was the actual one in charge of authorizing the final scriptural books. This is why Peter emphasized the experience that he and John had witnessed on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ (2 Peter 1:16–19).

[28] The Martyr’s Mirror by Thieleman J. Van Braght - epub or PDF download. - online HTML.
See for a full list of names that people called the Waldensians.


On 24 April 1655, an estimated 1,700 Waldensians were slaughtered; the massacre was so brutal it aroused indignation throughout Europe. ]


Oliver Cromwell became the ruler of England—the Lord Protector—in 1653, after the English Civil Wars. In 1655, when news came to England of the massacre of Waldensians by French troops, Cromwell, and all England, were gripped with horror and indignation at the reports of the brutal treatment of “those of like precious faith.” Accounts of the kidnapping, rape, and gruesome torture of women and children especially fueled the English fury. 


[32]  General History of the Vaudois Churches, p. 165. Leger

One must confess it was by means of the Vaudois of the Valleys that France today has the Bible in her own language.

[33] ibid. Four Bibles produced under Waldensian influence touched the history of Calvin: namely, a Greek, a Waldensian vernacular, a French, and an Italian. Calvin himself was led to his great work by Olivetan, a Waldensian. Thus was the Reformation brought to Calvin.

[34] ibid Olivetan, one of the most illustrious pastors of the Waldensian Valleys, a relative of Calvin.


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