Archive for the ‘reliability of Scripture’ Category

Wycliffe on Scripture

April 19, 2014

Holy Scripture is the faultless, most true, most perfect, and most holy law of God, which it is the duty of all men to learn to know, to defend, and to observe, inasmuch as they are bound to serve the Lord in accordance with it, under the promise of an eternal reward.

John Wycliffe, Of the Truth of Holy Scripture


Ehrman’s Misunderstanding of the doctrine of inerrancy

October 9, 2011

I began seeing the New Testament AS A VERY HUMAN BOOK. The N.T. as we actually have it, I knew, was the product of human hands, the hands of the scribes who transmitted it. Then I began to see that not just the scribal text BUT THE ORIGINAL TEXT ITSELF was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As I realized already in graduate school, even IF God had inspired the original words, WE DON’T HAVE THE ORIGINAL WORDS. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense IRREVELANT to the Bible as we have it, since the words God REPUTEDLY INSPIRED had been changed, and in some cases, LOST. Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCE THAT HE DIDN’T PRESERVE THE WORDS, THE CONCLUSION SEEMED INESCAPABLE TO ME THAT HE HADN’T GONE THROUGH THE TROUBLE OF INSPIRING THEM.

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, (New York:HarperCollins, 2005)

A couple of comments. It is a shame that when Ehrman was at Moody or Wheaton he was not taught (or did not pick up) that inerrancy and recognising the human authorship of the Bible are compatible. Also, Ehrman demands that God ‘preserve’ the text of the Bible without any textual variants. Since no document of antiquity exists without variants he is demanding that Scripture be unique and not at all a human product. Again, Scripture is the inerrant Word of God but it is the words of inspired men also. In the transmission and copying of the text scribes made errors. However, the origianl text can be ascertained by comparing text with text. This is textual criticism – Ehrman’s area of expertise.

And how does he know certain words have been ‘lost’?

Ehrman had a wrong view of inerrancy early on but he never allowed this view to be corrected or matured to consider the kind of sophisticated statement of inerrancy that allows for variants, the loss of the autographs and the human process that God oversaw in preserving the text we have that is by far the best attested in all antiquity.

James White comments:

How would God accomplish this feat that Ehrman demands. If a scribe was about to misspell a word, would he burst into flames? Disappear in a flash of light? Would God take him over, put him in a trance, and override his humanity so as to “fix” the problem? Would an angel appear and shout “Stop! Spell that word with two nu’s!” All such scenarios seem utterly absurd because, again, the operating assumption itself is flawed.

The King James Only Controversy, James R. White, Bethany, 2009 2nd ed., pp.304-305

the copying of early Christian texts was by and large a “conservative” process

September 13, 2011

It is probably safe to say that the copying of early Christian texts was by and large a “conservative” process. The scribes—whether nonprofessional scribes in the early centuries or professional scribes of the Middle Ages—were intent on “conserving” the textual tradition they were passing on. Their ultimate concern was not to modify the tradition, but to preserve it for themselves and for those who would follow them. Most scribes, no doubt, tried to do a faithful job in making sure that the text they reproduced was the same text they inherited.

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, (New York:HarperCollins, 2005), 177.

Quite an admission from a man who says we can’t be certain what the NT writers actually wrote.

How the purity of New Testament came about

September 13, 2011

By having the text of the New Testament in particular “explode” across the known world, ending up in the far-flung corners of the Roman Empire in a relatively short period of time, God protected that text from the one thing that we could never detect: the wholesale change of doctrine or theology by one particular man or group who had full control over the text at any one point in its history. You see, because the New Testament books were written at various times, and were quickly copied and distributed as soon as they were written, there was never a time when any one man, or any group of men, could gather up all the manuscripts and make extensive changes in the text itself, such as cutting out the deity of Christ, or inserting some foreign doctrine or concept. No one could gather up the texts and try to make them all say the same thing by “harmonizing” them, either. If someone had indeed done such a thing, we could never know for certain what the apostles had written, and what the truth actually is. But such a thing did not, and could not, happen. Indeed, by the time anyone did obtain great ecclesiastical power in the name of Christianity, texts like p66 or p75 were already long buried in the sands of Egypt, out of the reach of anyone who would try to alter them. The fact that their text is nearly identical to even the most “Byzantine” manuscript of 1,000 years later is testimony to the overall purity of the New Testament text.

The King James Only Controversy, James R. White, Bethany, 2009 2nd ed., p.77

The Reliability of the Greek New Testament

August 17, 2010

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians.

Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar’s Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 BC) there are several extant MSS [manuscripts], but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day. Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy (59 BC – AD 17) only thirty-five survive, these are known to us from not more than twenty MSS of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the Histories of Tacitus (c. AD 100) only four and a half survive; of the sixteen books of his Annals_, ten survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of his two great historical works depend entirely on two MSS, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh. The extant MSS of his minor works (_Dialogus de Oratoribus, Agricola, Germania) all descend from a codex of the tenth century. The History of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) is known to us from eight MSS, the earliest belonging to C. AD 900, and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era. The same is true of the History of Herodotus (c. 480-425 BC). Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals .

FF Bruce, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? (1960, 15-17)

At last count there are about 5,800 Greek MSS for the New Testament. The figure is rising as new discoveries are made.

Reliability of the Old Testament

August 17, 2010

As regards the consonantal text (i.e. of the Hebrew Bible), there has been little change or variation in it since it was fixed in the time of Rabbi Aqiba, early in the second century A.D. This is borne out by the Biblical quotations in the Mishna (c. A.D. 200) and the Gemaras of Palestine (c. A.D. 350) and Babylonia (c. A.D. 500), as also by the character of the text paraphrased or translated in the Aramaic Targums and in the Greek version of Aquila.

FF Bruce, Recent Discoveries in Biblical Manuscripts

About A.D. 200 Jerome translated the Old Testament into Latin directly from Hebrew. His translation, together with references made to the original text of Old Testament passages in some of his other writings, is thus a witness to the character of the Hebrew text 500 years before the Masoretes had concluded their work. Still earlier in the Christian era is the Syriac version of the Old Testament…And from the last three centuries B.C. we have the…Septuagint…

Yet another witness, so far as the Pentateuch is concerned, is the Samaritan Bible…the variations between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the  Masoretic edition of these books are quite insignificant by comparison with the area of agreement.

FF Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, p.119