Episode 5: Churches and the Bible. Why?

In this episode we talk about the Bible and common myths. Is it full of errors? Yes. What!? Watch and find out!

 

 

Resources Referenced in the Video:

Dan Wallace vs Bart Ehrman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVlapUsHxhg

James White vs Muslim on Reliability of the New Testament vs the Qur’an: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MThl8qxAc2k

Dan Wallace Shorter video on New Testament Reliability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lEmch2OAhs

Be sure to check out the documentary “The God Who Speaks”. It’s free if you have an Amazon Prime membership!

And check out our website: https://theologybrewers.com. I (Samuel) have done a couple lectures on this topic as well.

Outreach Part 2: More in Depth on The Reliability of the New Testament and also a Christian Theology of “The Problem of Evil”.

This is the second part of the Sunday School class I taught at Christ the King Presbyterian Church. I cover more in depth why we can trust our New Testaments, and then also a Christian Theology of the Problem of Evil.

 

Here are some additional resources that I have posted before but are still incredibly useful and good to go over frequently:

 

 

Also, If you are in the Saint Petersburg Florida area check out my church!

http://www.ctkpcaseminole.com

 

Samuel

Trust the New Testament? By the #’s

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I was re-watching a presentation given by Dan Wallace, the CEO of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, on the reliability of the New Testament.  Every time I look at this topic I am increasingly more amazed by the truth the data presents. (Note: the information in this post comes mostly from the presentation linked below, but some of the numbers have been updated according to the CSNTM website’s most recent information).

Let me drop a few numbers here:

-We have just around 5,900 hand-written Greek Manuscripts (the language the NT was written in) containing the New Testament, either in part or in whole.

-We have over 10,000 Latin Manuscripts, one of the 1st languages the NT was translated into.

-We also have somewhere between 5-10 thousand manuscripts of varies other ancient translations such as Syriac, Coptic, etc. That may seem like a large disparity (between 5 and 10 thousand) but the truth is we just are not sure how many there actually are.  We do know that it is no less than 5,000.

Why is this impressive? Because for the average ancient work, we have no more than 20 manuscripts. That is not a typo- 20, a two and a zero, and this is being generous. Homer is the only exception but even Homer’s 600 is a far cry from the 20,000-25,0000. Oh, and that 20+thousand doesn’t even include the quotations from earlier church fathers. We could reproduce the NT several times over just off of their quotes alone.

Oh, and there is one more thing- time.

The earliest, again being generous, copy of any other ancient work comes from over 500 years after the document was originally written, this time including Homer.

For the New Testament we have a fragment, P52 (pictured above) of John from no later than 150 AD, and some papyrologists have dated it as early as 90 AD. That is a mere several decades after the events described took place! We have quite a few manuscripts from the first several centuries as well, some being entire copies of the NT.

This is an unprecedented amount of textual evidence that is entirely unmatched in historical academia.

There is nothing in all of the ancient world that comes even close to having the historical veracity of the New Testament.  If you believe that Julius Caesar existed, than there is no historical grounds for denying the events of the NT. If you believe anything you learned in history about Egypt, Babylon, Rome, or Greece; than it is intellectually obtuse to disbelieve the accounts in the NT. I am not trying to name-call, I am simply stating that if someone denies that the NT, as we have it today, contains what the original authors wrote; they are either ignorant of the information, or coming at the information with a strong bias.

Remember, because of the way the texts were copied-by anyone who could write, and from all over the place geographically-there was never one group in control of the text to make wholesale edits. If someone would have tried to insert a doctrine, or take a doctrine out, it would have been immediately discovered because it wold be the only one of its kind, and when compared to the rest of the manuscripts, it would stand out like the Pope at a cowboy church (I would love to see the expression on the Pope’s face when he sees them baptizing in a water trough filled from the garden hose attached to the stage).

It has been cleverly said that we have a 10,000 piece puzzle with 10,001 pieces. Nothing has been lost from the original autographs so, even though we do not posses the original manuscripts, we can with the utmost confidence trust that we have the word of God as written by the followers of Christ.

This is just the tip of the iceberg because there are textual variants and differences, but again, we have more information than needed, not less.

All this to say: Christian, trust the Bible; non-Christian, trust the Bible.

It contains the Words of Life. No man comes to the Father except by Him who is declared through out all of its pages, that is Jesus Christ; who died and rose so that we may have eternal life and fellowship with God. Something not possible without Him, for He forged in blood the way for the defiled to commune with the Holy.

The words contained inside the Bible our true and this is what these words are for:

“Now Jesus did many other sign in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Here are some additional resources for those interested in going deeper. As always, feel free to ask questions.

Books: The King James Only Controversy by James White

Videos:

 

Also check out Daniel Wallace’s short videos on iTunes U about textual criticism.

 

The Testimony of Witnesses

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I do not know the who the author of the chart above is, but it conveys fantastic information pertaining to the veracity of the Gospels. As a follow up to my previous post on “Q”, I want to explain why the synoptic gospels are written the way they are, and why a testimony of witnesses does not equal a contradiction.

If you look at the chart, you will see that there is a great deal of similarities and differences between the accounts. Some have claimed that they seem to all come from a single source document and then the authors of the synoptics just added or changed things dependent on what they wanted to teach. Note: this is to say in addition to Jesus’ teachings. I deny this claim. For some reason, when it comes to the Bible, critical scholars like to throw out normal rules and run with a presuppositional agenda when review the information. There is nothing wrong or academically dishonest about harmonizing various testimonies of the same events.

For example: You, me, and a friend of ours become part of the presidents personal entourage and travel with him everywhere for 3 years. Later in life, we decided to write about our experiences. If one were to read these accounts they would be able to substitute our names into the chart above. We are all going to tell the story of our 3 years from different perspectives and with different details, but as a whole, the accounts will be the same.

Now, let’s take a specific example from the Bible that Muslims apologists have to used:

In Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 we have 2 accounts of Jesus and the faith of the centurion. The short version is: the centurion came to ask Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus marvels at the faith of the centurion, and heals his servant. However, the dispute arrises as to whether like in Luke, Jesus went with the centurion, or like in Matthew it would seem to indicated that He did not go, but just declared the paralyzed servant healed.

Here are the keys:

1.Jesus never actually goes to the centurions house in both accounts but proclaims the paralyzed servant healed before ever getting there.

2.Can anyone say that my summary of the account is in error or contradictory to the one in Matthew and Luke? No,  it is just summarized.

3.Same with Matthew. Matthew did not seem to consider it relevant for his purposes to communicate that specific of details. Matthew does not specifically say “Jesus didn’t go”.

4.Luke is a physician who also writes like a historian. It is no surprise he was more detailed in his account.

They both tell them same story from different perspectives. This is not a contradiction. When reading the Bible, it is ok to harmonize. We need to realize that yes, the Bible is the word of God, but it was inspired not dictated.

This highlights in essential difference between Muslim belief and Christian in regards to Holy Scriptures. To a Muslim, the Qur’an is the exact, verbatim word of God (in arabic), Muhammed just wrote it down. To the Christian, the Bible is also the word of God but He used men to write it. Men who wrote through the lens of their experiences; men who wrote through their personalities; men who wrote according to their gifts; and men who wrote according to how the Spirit lead.

All this to say, you can trust the Bible. There is no contradiction with having different witnesses tell the same story from different perspectives. Some may have more detail, some may have less but I say again, THAT IS OK! We do not have 4 different gospels as the Muslim may suggest, nor do we have contradictions like the secularist claims. There is one gospel: Humanity is dead in it’s sin, it needs a savior, Jesus is that loving savior, believe and have eternal life.

Q Who?

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Aside from being a beloved — well, a reoccurring character in the Star Trek franchise, there is also in our world a mysterious entity known as “Q.” Or rather, there isn’t.  Time and time again in my conversations with people who are somewhat up-to-date on Biblical textual criticism, “Q” comes up. But what is Q?

Unlike the seemingly undefeatable Borg, who are first introduced in the episode titled “Q Who,” the “Q” document/manuscript that is reported to exist and threaten all that Christendom holds dear in the inspiration of scripture is not actually very threatening. Primarily because… it doesn’t exist.

It is dangerous to make absolute claims of this type, especially in regards to manuscripts, because, as more and more searching is being done, more and more manuscripts are being found. Currently, modern scholarship has access to over 5,800 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Many of these are only fragments, but what also is important is how early we can date some of these manuscripts. There are manuscripts in our possession that we can date to at least as early as 125 AD, if not earlier. This is absolutely incredible! There is no other work for which we have anywhere even close to this kind of attestation. For the Bible, we have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, and some of these are incredibly close to the original writings.

Why does this matter?  Well, in modern, unbelieving scholarship, there is a desire to undermine the Bible’s claims. It is that simple. One of the ways these scholars attempt to undermine the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is to claim that they come from this single source, “Q”. This would deny the independent attestations these gospels’ claim to be of the life and teachings of Jesus. This theory promotes the idea that whoever wrote these gospels simply modified this source document to fit whatever they were trying to preach or sell.

If this were true, it would mean that the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke really are not independent witnesses of the same events, but the writings of men with independent agendas based off some single document. Since this would prove there was a lot of tampering with the text, it would deny these books a place as scripture or as reliable attestations of the events they record. “Q” is said to be that ultimate source from which the other synoptic gospels are derived.

As in Star Trek, “Q” is this pesky idea that keeps floating around and has been generally accepted in the academic community.  Muslim apologists in particular love the idea of “Q” and will quote Bart Erhman till the sea runs dry. There is only one tiny problem. Actually, it is barely a problem at all, so it’s really not worth mentioning but… “Q” doesn’t exist!

“Q” is a theory – a theory derived from a presupposition that the Bible cannot be the Word of God so, despite the textual evidence, there needs to be an explanation that would bring the conclusion that is being sought. This is bad science. Q doesn’t exist (have I mentioned that before?).

Again, I understand the dangers of making such an absolute statement because I cannot know everything that is buried where, but I think it is an incredibly safe conclusion to make based off the hard, tangible data. For those who worship science and empiricism, this is for you. As mentioned before, we have over 5,800 Greek manuscripts. This does not include other translations or other ancient works where scripture is quoted (the early church fathers, for example). Plain and simple, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke were derived from a single source document, “Q”, we would have found it already.

So as not to be accused of distorting the facts, I want to reiterate that not all 5,800+ manuscripts are complete, nor do all of them have Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This also doesn’t matter. The Bible was mass-copied all throughout history, so the likelihood of “Q” not being copied itself to a point where we would have at least found a fragment is so improbable it defies reasonable belief.

If one believes the the Roman Empire existed, that Hannibal crossed the mountains with elephants, and that “Et tu Brute?” was uttered in a final gasp, then disbelief in the veracity of the Bible is not only silly, but intellectually dishonest. To deny the Bible to be the independent attestations that it claims to be, and that we have ample evidence with which to back up that claim, is the same as if someone looked at the colosseum in Rome, touched it with their hands, then stuck their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes, and just kept yelling, “It’s actually a Ferris wheel!  It’s actually a Ferris wheel!” But the ruling elites have issued their edict: “You will be assimilated.”