Jude 3-4 “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Note: If the reader would like a condensed version of these final points, the reader can refer to my other blog with the same subject at http://www.pastormahlon.blogspot.com
On Tuesday November 13, 2013 the History Channel aired the first episode of what it claims will be a thorough examination of the Bible in terms of its text and message. Today’s post aims to conclude a 12 point critique of what was said in the episode to inform believers and unbelievers alike and to offer corrections and responses the statements made in the program. Having wrote yesterday the first six points of critique, the material below will continue on beginning with point #7. My prayer is that those reading this post will know how much they can rely upon the scriptures regardless of the outrageous claims made in the documentary.
7. Addressing the claim that Jesus usage of the title “Son of Man” has no significant meaning or significance
The program attempted to discredit Jesus remarks in Mark 2:27-28 which reads – Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The criticism was that the title “son of man” is nothing more than a harmless Aramaic phrase that would had been common in Jesus’ day and would had been a way of referring to a normal person (like how we use the term “dude”). Thus the passage proves nothing about Jesus being the Lord of the Sabbath as the Son of man, and is thus incoherent.
My Response: (I know this first paragraph might get somewhat technical and detailed, but I think it is worth the effort to show how reliable Mark’s text is and who Jesus is. If the reader wants to go to the next paragraph, the basic idea of my response will still be grasped.) The fact that this phrase “son of man” is Aramaic and is used by Jesus is highly significant. Why? For one thing, the title “son of man” (New Testament Greek phrase ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου = ho hoo-ee-os too an-throw-poo = “the son of man”) was used by Jesus to refer to Himself more than any other title – over 80 times in fact (such as Mark 2:27-28. Secondly, the title “Son of Man” was taken from the Aramaic portions of Daniel prophecy and vision of the “Son of Man” (Aramaic would be: כְּבַ֥ר אֱנָ֖שׁ = “cebar ‘enash” = “like the son of man”) in Daniel 7:13. Thirdly, authors such as Mark, writing in the common (Koine) Greek of His day, would had known the Greek Old Testament translation or Septuagint version of Daniel. In Daniel 7:13 of the Greek Septuagint we read the phrase υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (hoo-ee-os too an-throw-poo = “son of man” compare with New Testament Greek phrase above).
The linkage is unmistakable – as long as you take into consideration Jesus statement in light of Daniel 7:13 and how his audience would had understood Him in context. Comparing his usage of the term “son of man” in the eighty or so other places in the four Gospels and its appearance in the various language platforms of the Biblical manuscripts lends overwhelming support to the fact He was making a claim to Deity. Thus He is Lord of the Sabbath, the same Lord who was with the Father and the Spirit when they as One God ordained the Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3.
8. Addressing the claim that the material of the Bible was sifted around by early Christians
The documentary claims that whenever the early church began circulating the Bible books, their use of the early book form called “codices” (plural for codex) would had lent to the leaves of such documents being gradually placed out of order.
My Response: The problem with this claim is that that amazingly, it assumes that the codex existed since the days of the Apostles. The problem with this is that the codex did not come into existence until the 2nd or 3rd century and did not become commonly used by Christians in the copying of the New Testament manuscripts until the early fourth century. Up until that point, the New Testament was copied exclusively on papyrus or parchment scrolls for the first 200 or so years after the apostles, with the codex format not becoming regularly used until the 4th century A.D. In case you are wondering what a codex looks like, the image below depicts one:
We have today over 5600 copies of the Greek New Testament manuscripts dating from the early second century (25 years or less after the death of the Apostle John) through well into the 16th century before the advent of printing. Following the 16th century the amount of handwritten manuscripts leveled off as printed editions of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament became more common in Europe, America and throughout the world. Contrary to the History’s Channel’s claims, we have overwhelming evidence to show not one column, sentence or phrase is missing from what we have today in our Bibles versus what existed in those earliest of copies going all the way back through antiquity. Even if we did not possess one manuscript copy of the New Testament, we could still reproduce the entire New Testament text from beginning to end from the over 80,000 quotations of the church fathers. No material, doctrines or words have been lost in the copying and transmission of the Biblical text that could ever overturn any teaching or fact of scripture.
9. Addressing the issue of the ending of Mark’s Gospel
The History Channel brings forth the different endings of Mark’s Gospel as proof of the unreliability of the Biblical text and question marks over how confident we can be about whether or not we have the same Book of Mark as was written back then.
My Response: Though a more difficult issue to respond to, it is not impossible to explain. It is obvious that in some modern translations notes are given that explain how in some of the earliest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament we don’t have the longer endings, rather Mark ends at Mark 16:8. For those who take Mark to be the first Gospel written, this is a huge problem. However for others (like this blogger) who take more seriously the testimony of church history and Christian scholarship of the first 18 centuries of church history, Matthew would had been the first Gospel, with Peter’s preaching of the life of Jesus taken down by Mark as he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. As Peter preached (according to the records of church history), he would had been reading from a scroll of Matthew and the newly written but unpublished Gospel of Luke. Once Mark would had completed his task, the copying process would had naturally went on from there. Dr. John MacArthur in his sermon on this text takes Mark 16:9-20 to be not part of the original of Mark. Nevertheless he hastens to add that the material of Mark 16:9-20 is undoubtedly biblical and could had derived from a combination of Luke 8:1-3 and John 20:18.
In textual criticism (the science that studies the composition, transmission, copying and scribal tendencies of ancient manuscripts), whenever we can explain how certain traits exist in given texts, we can conclude that we possess certainty of the knowledge of the original text. For the New Testament that certainty lies in the realm of 99.5%, which for all intents and purposes means that every word revealed by the Holy Ghost in the original autographs has been preserved and exists throughout the more than 5600 Greek Manuscript copies. The documentary’s claim that the longer ending arose because the early Christians were dissatisfied with how Mark 16:8 ended has no historical basis and is nothing but conjecture. In short, the shorter or longer ending of Mark, though difficult, does not undermine the fact that we have the Gospel of Mark today as it would had left the hand of Mark writing it under Divine inspiration.
10. Addressing the claim that John 7:53-8:11 was inserted by the church and other conspiracies of the church trying suppress the truth
The documentary switches gears from being about focusing on the text of the Bible itself to showing the church to be untrustworthy and cites examples of how the church suppressed those translating the Bible. Thus the conclusion is made that being that the church is untrustworthy, the Bible is untrustworthy.
My response: This was probably the weakest part of the entire episode in that they committed one of the most common errors in public debates: the attacking of your opponent’s character or the ad hominem. In short, if I can cast doubt on my opponent’s character, background or life, then the assumption must be that what he or she is saying has no credibility. The problem is of course it has nothing to do with the whole point of the program – namely showing the supposed history of the text itself. Certainly in church history there were examples of the church persecuting those who attempted to translate the Bible into the common vernacular of the people. However the short-sightedness of the Catholic church of the Middle Ages did nothing to corrupt or ruin the text of the Old or New Testaments. If anything, the history of the text and its translation demonstrates that such persecutions actually caused scholars to pay closer attention to making sure the Bible was transmitted accurately. Furthermore, the one statement of the 1611 KJV translators inserting the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 into John’s Gospel is proof of the History Channel’s shoddy scholarship and (ironically) suppression of the truth.
In just scanning through a critical edition of the Greek New Testament (Nestle Aland 28th Edition), evidence reveals John 7:53-8:11 existing in manuscripts of John over 1,000 years before the 1611 KJV. My question is: now who is suppressing the truth? Answer: the liberal critics! We do know one thing for certain about John 7:53-8:11, that the text undoubtedly is the words of the Savior delivering a woman from a lifestyle of sin, and that its inclusion in John’s Gospel fits quite well into the context of John 7:52-8:12.
11. Addressing the claim that various Christian groups today with different interpretations of the Bible prove the Bible to be untrustworthy and corrupted
The program cites examples of groups coming out of the 16th century Reformation that began preaching and efforts of Bible translating. Furthermore, the program then lumps in other groups such as the Mormons and individuals like Thomas Jefferson who wrote other religious books or took the Bible and altered it.
My Response: This is an example of another fallacy in argumentation called a red herring (i.e a wild goose chase). In short, the program is citing the efforts of other groups who wrote other books or people who mutilated a copy of the Bible as proof that we really don’t have a reliable copy of the scriptures. The problem with this argument is that whatever the Mormon founder Joseph Smith did in writing his books (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price) or whatever the Thomas Jefferson did in mutilating his Bible has no bearing whatsoever on the history of the transmission of the Biblical text.
12. Addressing the notion that Constantine and a group of scholars composed the New Testament at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D
This last point of critique deals with statements made in the program that cited Constantine gathering together a group of men to come up with the New Testament that would fit his political agenda in the overtaking of the Roman empire.
My response: The one time the documentary chooses to appeal directly to church history ends up failing out of the gate. For one thing, the manuscript history of the New Testament stretches back to the early second century, pre-dating Constantine by some nearly 250 years. Secondly, the Council of Nicaea convened by Constantine dealt with the issue of Christ’s deity, not the scriptures.
Thirdly, what is commonly confused in this typical liberal argument is what Constantine actually did say about the New Testament. It was not that he had a bunch of guys invent the New Testament to promote his political agenda, but rather he had one scholar by the name of Eusebius oversee the distribution of copies of the already existing New Testament manuscripts and disperse it throughout the empire. Constantine had the already existing New Testament manuscripts of that day copied, not invented and written by the church of his time. Despite what may be said about Constantine, one thing is for sure: the Bible and its preaching is responsible for the existence of the church, not the other way around. In other words, history tells a completely different story than the radical scholars in the History channel documentary.
Everything that the History Channel’s panel of experts are saying is more myth than fact. Fourthly, what the History channel is presenting is nothing new, but is an argument that we have heard before in pop culture (for example Dan Brown’s novel the DaVinci Code in 2006) and something like it throughout the world of liberal New Testament Scholarship for the past two centuries. Sadly, the overwhelming bias of the contributors guides the conclusion of this first episode of the series.
Concluding thought: As we have witnessed in today’s points as well as yesterday’s, there is nothing to fear when it comes to the inspiration, reliability and accuracy of the Bible in the Old and New Testaments.