We are blessed to live in an age with manuscripts, some very fragmentary, that date to the early Second Century or perhaps earlier.
The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St. John’s fragment … is a fragment from a papyrus codex, measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches (8.9 by 6 cm) at its widest; and conserved with the Rylands Papyri at the John Rylands University Library Manchester, UK. The front (recto) contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38. Since 2007, the papyrus has been on permanent display in the library’s Deansgate building.
When the translators of the King James Version did their work, the oldest manuscripts available to them were from the Eleventh Century. In fact, they worked from an edited version of the Greek text assembled by the Catholic scholar Eramus — a contemporary of Luther and Calvin.
Erasmus worked from only seven Greek texts, and most of them were very incomplete.
In fact, he had access to only seven Greek manuscripts, and none of these contained the entire NT. The seven included three copies of the Gospels and Acts, four of the Pauline Epistles, and one incomplete copy (missing the last page) of the book of Revelation. The earliest of any of these is from the 11th century—1000 years later than the original writings.
Today we have over 5,800 manuscripts. Some are only fragments and some are complete New Testaments. Some date back to the Second Century or perhaps even the First Century. Obviously, the knowledge we have of the original autographs has dramatically changed in the last 400 years. Continue reading
Where did my Bible come from and how do I know it’s reliable? We’ll take the first question first.
The best translations available today were made by committees of Bible scholars at the behest of a publishing house. And those scholars translated an agreed Greek text developed by a method called “textual criticism” or “lower criticism.”
Many people confuse textual criticism with higher criticism, which is quite a different thing. Lower or textual critics take the thousands of ancient manuscripts of the Bible and seek to determine which variations are errors the crept in, typically by copyist mistake, and which variations actually reflect the original. Continue reading
It’s not easy to stick God on a poster board and label him Exhibit A. But I can actually do that with the many good people at my church. If I’m going to defend my faith to someone else, I ought to be able to do that with myself.
I ought to be able to say to an unbeliever: If you don’t believe me, come see my brothers and sisters at my home church. This is Exhibit A. This is irrefutable evidence. God is alive, present, and active in their lives. Continue reading
I grew up studying apologetics. Really. Except we called it “Christian evidences” back then.
You see, my dad subscribed to countless magazines covering the creation/evolution controversy, carbon dating, archaeological discoveries, and all sorts of similar things. He read Apologetics Press and John Clayton (who agree about very little), Henry Morris, and many others. And I read all that stuff.
I grew up a “junior scientist” type. I had my mother wake me up early and hold me out of school so I could watch John Glenn’s three-orbit space flight. I watched every Gemini and every Apollo mission until they landed on the moon.
I loved science. My parents foolishly bought me a microscope in the Fourth Grade. I raised mold in my bedroom so I could make slides and look at the slimey stuff close up. Really. (It smelled like a brewery.) Continue reading
And so we need to discuss Jesus some more.
John Howard Yoder, in The Politics of Jesus, points out that, when Jesus is held up as an example in the New Testament, it’s always about the cross.
He’s never held up as an example of how we should pray, or how to live as a single Christian. He is not held up as an example of Christian leadership or as the “Master Teacher.” It’s always about his crucifixion.
Philippians 2 is one very important example. Peter uses Jesus as an example to us of suffering for the sake of the Kingdom — Continue reading
Some readers appear to see no distinction between an individual Christian being like Jesus and a congregation of Christians being like Jesus, but teams of people working in concert can accomplish things that individuals cannot do.
I have a son who wants to program games for a living. He can’t do it by himself despite being highly motivated and talented. I imagine that there are thousands of young men and women in the same posture — unable to develop the gaming software of their dreams because the task is too big for one person — even though there are thousands of talented, motivated people wanting to do just this.
If we see being Christ-like as individuals as the same being Christ-like as the church, then we have very small dreams. Continue reading
When we read in the scriptures that we are to become like Jesus, we tend to interpret “like Jesus” based on our own personalities and religious upbringing.
For example, many take “like Jesus” to mean “sinless,” which is true but largely misses the point.
The Eastern Orthodox define “sin” as “missing the mark,” and they define “the mark” as Jesus. And I think they’re right. Adam and Even were driven from the Garden because they fell from the image of God. When they sinned, they didn’t just break a rule, they acted contrary to the image in which they’d been created, and so the image became broken. Continue reading
Let’s see. We assemble to edify one another.
(1Co 14:4 NIV) Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.
(1Co 14:5 NIV) I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
(1Co 14:17 NIV) You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
“Edify” translates the Greek word from which we get “edifice,” that is, a building. To edify is to “build up,” as the ESV and many other translations say. Continue reading
There’s a pretty good argument from 1 Corinthians 14 that the purpose of the assembly is for us to “edify” one another. Paul also speaks in terms of encouragement, strengthening, and comfort, but edification is the recurring theme that holds the chapter together. Hebrews 10:25 supports the thesis.
“Edify” means to build up, but it tells us nothing about what that means. Is this about building up my self esteem? My courage? My holiness? My humility?
Is the goal for me to leave “spiritually fed” so that I’m nourished to get through another week. Is this a spiritual pit stop?
I would like to suggest a hypothesis. I think the central purpose of the assembly is the spiritual formation of the congregation, that is, so that the congregation will become more and more like Jesus.
I could give you some scriptures, but what fun would that be? Rather, I’ll pose this as a question. What is the central purpose of the assembly — and why?