Archive for December, 2007

Whilst I do not agree with everything that G Craige Lewis says, he had an interesting interview with Karl Reid (pictured below) formerly of the gospel group, Commissioned.

Karl Reid

To me, Commissioned were it back in the day and this was reflected in their scripture based lyrics.

To listen to the interview, click HERE

Taken from Stand to Reason

The argument against the reliability of the New Testament texts can be stated very simply. How can we know that the documents we have in our possession accurately reflect originals destroyed almost two millennia ago? Communication is never perfect; people make mistakes. Errors are compounded with each successive generation, just like the message in the telephone game. By the time 2000 years pass, it’s anyone’s guess what the original said.

It’s easy to state the problem, and some may think merely raising the objection makes the argument itself compelling. Yet offering evidence on its behalf is a bit more difficult.

Usually the complaint is raised by people who have little understanding of the real issues. In cases like this, an appeal to common knowledge is more often than not an appeal to common ignorance. Like many questions about Christianity, this objection is voiced by people who haven’t been given reliable information.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

The question of authenticity is not really a religious concern at all; it’s an academic one. It can be answered in an academic way totally unrelated to spiritual convictions by a simple appeal to facts, an apologetic technique I call “Just the Facts, Ma’am.”

The objection at first glance is compelling. When we try to conceptualize how to reconstruct an original after 2000 years of copying, translating, and copying some more, the task appears impossible. The skepticism, though, is based on two misconceptions about the transmission of ancient documents like the New Testament.

The first assumption is that the transmission is more or less linear, as in the telephone example–one person communicating to a second who communicates with a third, etc. In a linear paradigm people are left with one message and many generations between it and the original. Second, the telephone game example depends on oral transmission which is more easily distorted and misconstrued than something written.

Neither assumption applies to the written text of the New Testament. First, the transmission was not linear but geometric–e.g., one letter birthed five copies which became 25 which became 200 and so on. Secondly, the transmission in question was done in writing, and written manuscripts can be tested in a way that oral communications cannot be.

Reconstructing Aunt Sally’s Letter

Let me illustrate how such a test can be made. It will help you to see how scholars can confidently reconstruct the text from existing manuscript copies even though the copies themselves have differences and are much older than the autograph (i.e., the original).

Pretend your Aunt Sally has a dream in which she learns the recipe for an elixir that would continuously maintain her youth. When she wakes up, she scribbles the directions on a scrap of paper, then runs into the kitchen to make up her first glass. In a few days her appearance is transformed. Sally is a picture of radiant youth because of her daily dose of what comes to be known as “Aunt Sally’s Secret Sauce.”

Sally is so excited she sends hand-written instructions to her three bridge partners (Aunt Sally is still in the technological dark ages–no photocopier) giving detailed instructions on how to make the sauce. They, in turn, make copies which each sends to ten of her own friends.

All is going well until one day Aunt Sally’s pet schnauzer eats the original copy of the recipe. Sally is beside herself. In a panic she contacts her three friends who have mysteriously suffered similar mishaps. Their copies are gone, too, so the alarm goes out to their friends in attempt to recover the original wording.

They finally round up all the surviving hand-written copies, twenty-six in all. When they spread them out on the kitchen table, they immediately notice some differences. Twenty-three of the copies are exactly the same. One has a misspelled word, though, one has two phrases inverted (“mix then chop” instead of “chop then mix”) and one includes an ingredient that none of the others has on its list.

Here is the critical question: Do you think Aunt Sally can accurately reconstruct her original recipe? Of course she could. The misspelled words can easily be corrected, the single inverted phrase can be repaired, and the extra ingredient can be ignored.

Even with more numerous or more diverse variations, the original can still be reconstructed with a high level of confidence given the right textual evidence. The misspellings would be obvious errors, the inversions would stand out and easily be restored, and the conclusion drawn that it’s more plausible that one word or sentence be accidentally added to a single copy than omitted from many.

This, in simplified form, is how the science of textual criticism works. Textual critics are academics who reconstruct a missing original from existing manuscripts that are generations removed from the autograph. According to New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce, “Its object [is] to determine as exactly as possible from the available evidence the original words of the documents in question.”

The science of textual criticism is used to test all documents of antiquity–not just religious texts–including historical and literary writings. It’s not a theological enterprise based on haphazard hopes and guesses; it’s a linguistic exercise that follows a set of established rules. Textual criticism allows an alert critic to determine the extent of possible corruption of any work.

To get an idea of the significance of the New Testament manuscript evidence, note for a moment the record for non-biblical texts. These are secular texts from antiquity that have been reconstructed with a high degree of certainty based on the available textual evidence.

The important First Century document The Jewish War, by Jewish aristocrat and historian Josephus, survives in only nine complete manuscripts dating from the 5th Century–four centuries after they were written. Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome is one of the chief historical sources for the Roman world of New Testament times, yet, surprisingly, it survives in partial form in only two manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages. Thucydides’ History survives in eight copies. There are 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus’ History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original. Homer’s Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.

By comparison with secular texts, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is stunning. The most recent count (1980) shows 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts represented by early fragments, uncial codices (manuscripts in capital Greek letters bound together in book form), and minuscules (small Greek letters in cursive style)!

Among the nearly 3,000 minuscule fragments are 34 complete New Testaments dating from the 9th to the 15th Centuries

The Verdict

What can we conclude from this evidence? New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side by side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure

This issue is no longer contested by non-Christian scholars, and for good reason. Simply put, if we reject the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds we’d have to reject every ancient work of antiquity and declare null and void every piece of historical information from written sources prior to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.

Has the New Testament been altered? Critical, academic analysis says it has not.

To read the whole article, click HERE

Related post:

Free Bible stuff

I do like this video. Enjoy.

Related post:

Free Bible stuff

Do you love Christian music more than doctrine?

Ok, so Christmas is now over. We have gained a few pounds, opened our presents, some of us have spent time with our families, argued with them etc. Now in the UK at least, all attention is towards the Boxing Day sales and we will soon see be bombarded with advertising for Valentines Day.

Jesus said that as long as he was in the world, he was the light of the world (John 9:5). He has now delegated that responsibility to us where we are now the light (Matthew 5:14). We are to reflect the light of Jesus in everything we do, whether it be word or deed (Colossions 3:17). Shine for your family, your work colleagues, your school colleagues, the man at the bus stop. Shine everywhere

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

In the minds of many, Christ is now yesterday’s memory (if he was there at all). They forget that ‘in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). Even though the world may have forgotten about Christ, let us continually remind the world about him and the salvation that can only be found in and through Him. Christmas may have come and gone but let us not allow Christ to come and go in the mind of the unregenerate.

Selah

Related Post:

Thought for the Day – There’s no Christmas without Christ

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

There will be no Christmas without Christ.

Without Christ, there will be no Saviour.

Without a Saviour, you are yet dead in your sins.

If you are yet dead in your sins, then you will have to be punished for your sins.

If you are punished for your sins, then the sentence will be an eternity in hell.

Its a sobering thought isn’t it?

But there is good news. Click HERE to read it after which you could truly have a Merry Christmas

Selah (pause and think about it)

Related Posts:

The bad news about Christmas – the bit of information we often miss out

What is the Good News of the gospel?

A message to non-Christians

You would have thought that this was obvious to the Christian however, lately I am seeing more ‘reputable’ teachers denying this foundational truth. Here are a few examples

Billy Graham (yes you heard me right) could not say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God on the Larry King Show

And again on The Hour of Power with Robert Schuller

Neither could Joel Osteen a few years ago

Listen to Bishop Melvin Talbert towards the end of this clip

In May this year on National Public Radio (NPR), T D Jakes was asked by a muslim if only Christians could hope to enter heaven. Here is the transcript of that part of the conversation

CALLER: I’m a Muslim here in Portland. I’m part of a Shiite community. And we had a wonderful interface dialogue last weekend with a local Unitarian church. And I’d like to ask you please to speak about concrete experiences you’ve had as far as interfaith dialogue goes. And also would like to ask you, do you feel that only Christians could hope to enter Heaven?

JAKES: Very great question. When it comes to interfaith experiences, I’m currently serving by the appointment of former President Bush and President Clinton, as co-chair of an interfaith advisory committee to help people get back up on their feet.

And we do have on the board Muslims, Catholics, a Jewish Rabbi, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals across the board. And we’re working together very effectively because we all care about common goals. We have our distinct theologies and our own ideologies but there are common grounds that we can work together very effectively in many, many cases.

When it comes to Heaven, I try to leave that up to God. I certainly believe that Christianity is right, but when it comes down to the final test–who goes and who doesn’t go–Jesus said, Other sheep have I who are not of this fold. Them also must I bring. I’ll let Him identify who those sheep are and I stay out of the conversation.

To listen to it for yourself, click HERE. The question can be heard 25 mins and 10 secs into the interview

This teaching is heretical because it teaches that there is more than one way to receive salvation. It is heretical in that it basically says that it doesnt really matter who you follow. It is dangerous because it gives people a false hope which will ultimately lead to their damnation.

Scripture is very clear about this:

Jesus said that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life (NOT A way, A truth and A life), no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6)

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36 and 1 John 5:12)

If you are a non christian and you are reading this, please know that as stated above, salvation cannot be found in anyone else apart from Jesus Christ. Click HERE to read how you can receive salvation

Remember to pray for these teachers

To be continued……

Related posts:

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 1 – A Form of godliness

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 2 – Scripture Twisting

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 3 – The abuse of biblical numerlogy

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 4 – Man Centered Theology

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 5 – The Prosperity Gospel

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers (Interlude) – My reason for doing this

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 7 – Signs and Wonders

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 8 – Deconstruction

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 9 – Giving False Hope

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 10 – The misuse of old testament scriptures

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers Part 11 – The Gospel of Inclusion

The marks of false ‘christian’ teaching and teachers  – The Conclusion

Selah!