The Reliability of the New Testament

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mattrose
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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by mattrose » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:59 am

I agree with Jeremiah...

Ehrman and others have used the 'telephone game' analogy. And I observe that this understanding of Scripture is quite popular on the street. Many people believe that Jesus was probably a good ethical teacher, but as the stories about him got passed from person to person (and generation to generation) they became exaggerated and distorted (adding things like miracles and deity and resurrection, etc).

This view isn't scholarly... and it's basically been debunked. But I do agree it's still popular on the street.

CS Lewis is famous for his trilemma: Jesus was either Lunatic, Liar, or Lord. But almost no one argues that Jesus was a lunatic or liar. Habermas, I believe, added the LEGEND option, and rightly so, because for most people today those are the two options (either the Biblical claims about Jesus are legendary or they are true). I'd say most Americans probably choose the legendary option.

This thread, it seems to me, is just pointing out that a common way of ARGUING FOR the legendary option is built on a false-foundation. The original readings of the New Testament have almost certainly been preserved for us in later manuscripts. The only way to argue for the LEGEND option today, it seems to me, is to say the authors were either lying from the beginning or to late-date the Gospels entirely. But evidence for those options is crumbling too.

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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by morbo3000 » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:42 pm

Good morning Jeremiah.
jeremiah wrote: Why are you being coy?
Because you are saying something quite different from Dwight.

You said:
...people who would deny that the Christian scriptures as we have them today can even be trusted to be close to the forms the writings took when they were first written down
and
Surely you're aware of the massive effect the tiny minority of textual scholars questioning the reliability of the NT,


You are correct that it's the vast minority. That's not something Dwight would acknowledge.

He defined skeptics as:

I would assume anyone who doubts the validity of the New Testament as it has been handed down to us.


I've had long discussions with Dwight over inerrancy. Because of his stance on inerrancy, he throws any scholarship that undermines the text under the bus. He makes broad generalizations that aren't supported. I assumed he was doing the same here. I may be wrong.

I was also discriminating between two things. Dwight was talking about textual accuracy. He compared the Bible as a literary document to the Illiad. In that sense, the text of 1Corinthians is as textually trustworthy as the Illiad and Shakespeare. It is also a first-hand witness.

But I believe he was trying to make the case for historical accuracy. I could be wrong. This doesn't follow. The descendants of an officer in the continental army may have treasured letters he wrote while serving during the American Revolution. These letters could have been passed down generations to generations before historians became aware of them. They could use a variety of tools to determine the authenticity of the letters and conclude that yes, these letters came from this corporal. But that does not mean what he said was completely historically accurate. Much of it probably was. Maybe all of it. But legitimacy of the text is not the same as historical reliability. In fact, I was humored by his comparison to the Illiad, because it is a myth.

The real problem, as I see, it is two-fold.

1. The cynicism of media that makes money by manufacturing scandal. You made this point, which I agree with.

most notably Bart Erhman's brand, has had on popular opinion of the NT's veracity. Thanks to his popular works (and no, I don't imagine his popular books are the only reason for this) mistrust does indeed abound regarding the Hebrew and Christian scriptures—among other things.


Book publishers, magazines and TV are the true culprits for the popularization of these opinions. IMO. They take something like the Jesus' wife fragment, or the Gospel of Judas and use it to characterize the untrustworthiness of the Bible. These are either forgeries, or late, late centuries documents that are not historical. The problem with media is they exploit these news stories, and misrepresent both thoughtful Christianity, *and* legit secular research. Erhman knows how to write tabloid scholarship. They eat it up. But he doesn't represent the whole. The same is true of the Newsweek article I posted. He had many of the facts right. But he drew the wrong conclusion. And of course they ran it, because it makes money.

2. The unwillingness of pastors to engage criticism and help believers navigate the challenges. This leaves people susceptible to the skeptical conclusions the media paints. Two legit examples: The story of the adulterous woman in John 7. And the long-ending of Mark. I know first-hand the tizzy these verses caused my mom in her 30's. She was unprepared to learn that the Bible she held in her hand is not 100% accurate. As a result, she fell down a slippery-slope. After some time, she crawled back up, wiser from the experience. The accusation generally leveled against people like my mom who begin to question their faith as a result of research is that their faith is weak and they are being misled by lies. This is a misrepresentation of them. Unless pastors step up to the plate and help people understand research, both in scientific and historical fields, people aren't prepared to contextualize the information and grow in their faith.

I don't think you, Jeremiah, believes these things. But that's how I've understood Dwight from a previous conversation. I may have wrongly followed that conversation into this one.
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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by jeremiah » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:24 pm

Right on man, thanks for the lengthy explanation. I thought I understood what was going on in this thread, but maybe there's another context with you two I hadn't seen in the last few weeks. Wouldn't be the first time I jumped a gun. I guess that's for y'all to work through eventually. Thanks again brother, God bless you both.
Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by morbo3000 » Thu Apr 07, 2016 1:19 am

Reading this right now. It's excellent. It's expensive, but our library had it. It does a great job of explaining the history of the Bible.

The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration
http://www.amazon.com/The-Text-New-Test ... 1_1&sr=8-1
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by Chip » Fri Apr 15, 2016 8:53 pm

Except a minority's of people and scholars do Christians actually read the bible? If they do have they ever read it entirely. My point is what difference does it make.

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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by Chip » Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:34 pm

We but so much on reading the bible but for the first 1500 years very few people had a bible let alone the perfect bible. If they did they couldn't read for most of the world couldn't read. Most was handed down by mouth Kandahar they were quite good at it. I wonder if they thought ( I wonder if they remember it right). But once again it's my experience most church goers don't actually read the bible don't no Greek. They hear from preachers pick there favorite scriptures and live off them. I thing the bible know is full of errors because man has become involved and have there own agenda.

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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by morbo3000 » Mon Apr 18, 2016 2:12 pm

Hi Chip.

It is true the Bible we have in our hands has errors. But those problems aren't cumulative to the degree they undermine the fidelity of what we have in our hands compared to what the early church used. For example, the King James Version relies on something called Textus Receptus, that contained the vast majority of errors that occurred from the 3rd century through the modern era. With the discovery of older manuscripts, such as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, we've been able to get much closer to what the early church used. So while, as you said, there are human errors from the centuries, those errors have largely been corrected. Our modern Bibles do have some bias in their translations from the Greek and Hebrew, but comparing one translation against another and a little study can highlight the differences so that you can be your own judge.

As far as knowing Greek or Hebrew is concerned, a good study bible such as the New Oxford Annotated, and Complete Word Study Bible can get you close enough to the originals, except in really nit picky places. The NRSV from the New Oxford Annotated and the NASB of the CWSB both represent high pedigree greek and hebrew texts. The NRSV has some liberal bias. The NASB has some conservative bias. ESV is good as well.

There certainly are studies that affirm what you said about the average believer's biblical literacy. And pastors do preach from favorite texts, rather than the whole bible.

What bible do you read? How do you go about trying to understand it as best you can?

Blessings
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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by Chip » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:41 pm

I read the nasb in the morning with the wife because we have two of them. I read the esv a lot . In the bible school I went to we read the rsv plain no comments what so ever we ended up reading the bible 5 times in a year. We had to read the whole book or letter at one time and do horizontal an vertical charts and much more. So for me, I read from a very historical view or original reader or listers point of view. It's hard for me not to. If I read I still read the whole book at once. My problem is how can there be such drastically different doctrines and different point of views. The people in my church read "by his stripes you are healed" your physical healing is a promise from God. I read and see it as a spiritual healing big difference.

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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by morbo3000 » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:09 pm

Chip wrote: We had to read the whole book or letter at one time and do horizontal an vertical charts and much more. So for me, I read from a very historical view or original reader or listers point of view. It's hard for me not to. If I read I still read the whole book at once.
Hi Chip.

Good stuff! My new rule of thumb is (not new to me)

1. What did it say. What are the words. And the context inside the individual book. Or in the instance of the gospels, in the context of the other gospels.Or in the instance of Paul, in the context of what he wrote in other letters.
2. What did it mean? What did it mean to the original hearers. What was the cultural context.
3. What does it mean to us? How do we live in our context, what it meant in that author's context.

If you want to add another way of reading it, trying reading a book backwards. Take the gospel of Mark for example. Try to put everything you know about the message, life, and good news of Jesus on a shelf. Then read backwards through Mark and look at what the elements were that made up that telling of Jesus's story. You will be shocked by what *is* and *isn't* in there. This is a really helpful way to see this texts afresh. Not discounting the other books, and their inter-relationship. But evidence of what we bring to our reading, and often times find things that aren't actually there.
My problem is how can there be such drastically different doctrines and different point of views. The people in my church read "by his stripes you are healed" your physical healing is a promise from God. I read and see it as a spiritual healing big difference.
Another rule of thumb. The bible will faithfully reflect back to you the biases you bring to it. So be very careful what those biases are. Paidon pointed out verses regarding slavery. Slave owners could go to the bible and justify their biases. But sometimes you can get a verse right, while getting the overall story wrong.

That's what is going on in that verse you mention.. "by stripes you are healed." The text is not talking about physical healing. But a person who is looking for verses that support their theology will read that verse and say "there it is!"

Following the three points of studying scripture I mentioned above, you can see why there can be such different doctrines. In my opinion, that is a testimony that we should hold those doctrines much more loosely. The problem isn't that the bible is complex, with many different ideas represented. It is that different movements have latched onto specific doctrines, and then made those doctrines authoritative.

1Corinthians 1:12, 13 speaks to this.
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul

Today, some are of "Wesley, or Calvin, or MacArthur, or Darby, or John Piper." That's the problem you are describing. The answer: follow Christ.
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Re: The Reliability of the New Testament

Post by Chip » Tue Apr 19, 2016 7:28 pm

There is this guy I read sometimes his name is Robert Capan He said it's like a house with a porch the house is faith and the porch is doctrine if we're not care we will sped all or time making a better porch and spend all are time their and not enough time in the house. I have decided to spend more time loving God and loving others instead trying to figure it all out.despite how much fun that is.

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