Inerrancy: An Essay
[This is a really long post. I’d normally post this about 1,000 to 1,500 words at a time, and it would take six or so posts spread over two or three weeks to do so. But, of course, that means there’d be a lot of conversation about inerrancy without the benefit of all the material I wish to bring to the readers’ attention. Therefore, I’m posting this in full, all 9,000 words at once.]
Over the years that I’ve posted at this blog I’ve often begun work on a post on the inerrancy question, but I’ve never found a way to express my thoughts properly in a single post and never had the will to write a series — because, until now, the only reason I’ve ever studied inerrancy is because of the false accusation so frequently made that my views are built on denying inerrancy. Continue reading
I’ve been reading evolutionist and creationist materials since junior high school. Back then, people had very strong opinions, of course, but it was considered a difficult, unsettled question. No one damned anyone else over their opinion about how old the earth might be.
Batsell Barrett Baxter, the head of Lipscomb’s Bible department and the face of “The Herald of Truth” TV program sponsored by countless Churches of Christ, argued for an ancient earth in his book I Believe Because… A Study of the Evidence Supporting Christian Faith. And the book was well received in the Churches of Christ. My Bible class at church studied it in high school. Continue reading
There are lots of books available on textual criticism, many extremely technical.
My favorite is Neil R. Lightfoot’s How We Got the Bible. My copy bears a 1962 copyright date, and it was a textbook in a Bible class at my church when I was a teenager. It was part of the old The Living Word Bible class series from Sweet.
Fortunately, it’s not just still in print, it’s been updated as of 2003. Readable, expanded to 225 pages. You should own this book. Continue reading
The manuscript history of the Old Testament is quite different from the New Testament. The Jews considered it disrespectful to the scriptures to keep an old, tattered copy around. And so they buried their old scrolls when a new scroll was acquired. As a result, until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts available dated only to the Ninth Century, with the oldest complete Old Testament dated to the Tenth Century. Continue reading
Modern translations exclude or place in brackets the last few verses of Mark 16, at the end of Mark’s Gospel. This leaves the Gospel with an abrupt ending, leaving many to question the translators’ decisions.
In my view, the arguments for the ending of Mark to be authentic are much weaker than for the authenticity of the women taken in adultery.
The NET Bible translators explain (and I again add paragraphing to make reading easier),
The Gospel of Mark ends at this point in some witnesses (א B 304 sys sams armmss Eus Eusmss Hiermss), including two of the most respected MSS (א B). Continue reading
Back in the 1970s, many Christians were shocked when they bought one of the modern translations just released to find that the translations omitted the account of the woman taken in adultery and a large portion of the last chapter of Mark.
Many a preacher cried “liberalism!” and all sorts of other accusations were made, but the translators probably made the correct decision.
Regarding the woman taken in adultery, the NET Bible translators explain (I add paragraphing to facilitate reading on the Internet),
This entire section, Joh 7:53-8:11, traditionally known as the pericope adulterae, is not contained in the earliest and best MSS and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the Gospel. Continue reading
When manuscripts disagree regarding the reading of a text, how do we decide which is right?
Textual critics often try to lay out certain rules for how we decide, but it’s not an entirely objective process. Rather, it requires thoughtful reading of the history of the text, the translations, and such. Nonetheless, certain principles should be considered every time.
Let’s take some examples before we try to lay out abstract principles. Consider James 5:7b. Continue reading
I probably should have begun with this.
There are several reasons why it’s helpful for Christians to learn about the origins of the Bible.
1. For teachers, preachers, and any other dedicated student of the Bible, it’s important to understand about codices and uncials and such in order to understand commentaries and even the footnotes in most modern translations. If a question comes up about the last few verses of Mark or the woman taken in adultery, it’s hard to explain to most Christians why these passages were in the KJV and not in a modern translation. Continue reading
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