Sunday, April 09, 2006

My Response to Today's Philadelphia Inquirer Article "Good News form the other Christians"

Here is Chris Satullo's article. And this is what I was responding to:
Ehrman, a biblical scholar, used to believe the Bible was perfect and literally true. But his scholarship taught him how flawed were the translations on which churches have built superstructures of doctrine and practice.

What's more, even in the ancient Greek, the originals had been lost beneath generations of fiddles by scribes, who acted either out of sloppiness or theological agenda.

Ehrman obsessed over this: "If one wants to insist that God inspired the very words of Scripture, what would be the point if we don't have the very words of Scripture?"

Believers with an emotional stake in inerrancy may be troubled by Ehrman's book. Those more troubled by reductive readings that enlist Scripture in right-wing politics may find it exhilarating.

This is my response, let's hope they publish it (but that's what blogs are for):
Chris Satullo's article and its reliance on Bart
Ehrman's reasoning is a good example of the maxim "a
little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

There are thousands of New Testament manuscripts
copied under no one controlling authority from various
locations across the ancient world. Unless God strikes
scribes who make errors dead, there will be variations
derived from this process.

If there was one controlling authoriy responsible for
copying texts, the text itself would not be the
ultimate authority for a Christian. Instead, it would
be the controlling authority. Plus, Da Vinci
Code-types would be able to reasonably claim the
authority manipulated the texts. The textual tradition
we have prevent this charge from having any validity,
so we can have more confidence in the validity of the
New Testament texts.

The numerous texts from different regions and from
different ages allow us to get back to the original
manuscrips via the process of textual criticism. Since
scribes made errors, they didn't all make the same
errors. Spelling errors and word order problems are
easy for scholars to spot and disregard. In some
cases, marginal notes became incorporated to the text
itself. But we realized this because not all
manuscripts, especially the earliest ones, contain the
marginal notes. In the small amount of variations
where we are unsure which variation is the original
reading (note I did not say we don't have the original
reading), no basis of any Christian doctrine is

For the sake of argument, let's assume that the New
Testament is not inspired by God. We still are left
with a highly reliable document which accurately
represent the intentions of their authors.
Furthermore, the early church fathers who knew the
apostles further authenticate the content of the New
Testament by quoting it in their writings.

The apostles gave their lives for the message
contained in the New Testament. Those who knew the
apostles gave their lives for that same message as
well. The problem isn't that taking the New Testament
seriously and literally does not accord with the
textual and historic evidence. The problem is that the
New Testament calls us to have faith in God through
Jesus and to abandon our sin, and that is something we
are loathe to do. We will latch onto any reason to
abandon the text which threatens to change our lives.

Geoff Robinson

I would fully encourage those who are truly interested in the topic of textual variations to visit Dr. James R. White's ministry. He does a web broadcast Tuesday 11am MST and Thursday 4pm MST (Arizona doesn't do the timezone thing). Feel free to call him and pose your question.

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