Bible


Holy Spirith - The GhostAs anyone familiar with the KJV will notice, when speaking of the Spirit, the translators were not always consistent. The translators translated pneuma as “Spirit,” but translated pneuma hagios as “Holy Ghost.” Here are some examples where the difference can be seen within the same verse:

• Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
• John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
• John 7:39 But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
• Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
• 1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I was tempted to conclude that, for some stylistic reason or due to cultural conventions, the translators preferred to translate pneuma by itself as “Spirit,” but pneuma hagios as “Holy Ghost.” But I have discovered that they did not always translate pneuma hagios (or its Hebrew equivalent) as “Holy Ghost.” Consider these passages:

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Christian apologists have long pointed out that when it comes to textual reliability, the NT is in a league of its own compared to all other ancient texts.  According to NT manuscript expert Daniel Wallace, there are 1000x more copies of the NT than the average ancient Greek text.  If we stacked the NT manuscripts on top of each other, they would reach more than a mile high.  Not only are there more manuscripts for the NT than any other ancient text, but the gap between the original text and our first copies is smaller for the NT than other ancient texts.  There are 3x as many NT manuscripts within 200 years of the original text than the average Greco-Roman text has in 2000 years.

Unfortunately, many of the statistics appearing in apologetics literature are outdated.  Additional manuscripts of both the NT and other ancient texts continue to be discovered.  Clay Jones wrote an article for the Christian Research Institute in 2012 providing the latest stats.  The article was recently posted on the CRI website.  Check it out and see how the NT compares to other ancient Greek texts.

Visual History of KJVWhen the KJV turned 400 years old in 2011, there were a number of books published to celebrate and explore this historic, influential translation. One of those books was A Visual History of the King James Bible: The Dramatic Story of the World’s Best-Known Translation by Donald L. Brake.  I picked it up earlier this year via a scratch and dent special through CBD, and I’m glad I did.  It is chocked-full of interesting (and not-so-interesting) information about the history of the KJV.

Brake covers everything from the impetus for the translation to its modern form.  He begins with a brief overview of the history of the English language and the first English translations of Scripture.  Politics and religious factions caused a tug-of-war when it came to the production and acceptance of new translations.  No English translation gained universal acceptance. While the KJV did not immediately gain the adoration of all English speakers, within 30 years it had supplanted most other prior translations, and only continued to gain more and more market share until it became the standard translation in the English speaking world with no serious challengers until the late 19th century.

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According to Daniel Wallace:

The total number of catalogued Greek New Testament manuscripts now stands at 128 papyri, 322 majuscules, 2926 minuscules, and 2462 lectionaries, bringing the grand total to 5838 manuscripts.

CSNTM has also “discovered” two more minuscule manuscripts in the summer of 2013 on our European expeditions which will most likely receive their Gregory-Aland numbers in due time.

Apologetics DefenseSome Christians think that if we appeal to reason and evidences to demonstrate that the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we are elevating reason and evidence to a place of authority over God’s Word.  I think this conclusion is misguided for several reasons.  First, I don’t think it is legitimate to consider reason an “authority.”  Reason is merely a tool for assessing reality.  It is basic to all human thought.  Indeed, one cannot even understand God’s revelation apart from reasoning.  It would be a mistake, then, to pit reason against revelation as if they are two competing authorities.  As Greg Koukl has argued, using reason to assess whether or not the Bible is God’s revelation to man no more puts reason above the Bible than using grammar to understand God’s revelation puts grammar above the Bible.

Secondly, this confuses the order of being (ontology) with the order of knowing (epistemology). While the Bible is first in terms of authority, it is not first in terms of the order of knowing. Knowledge of the divine origin and revelatory status of the Bible is not innate. We must acquire this knowledge.  Knowledge of a proposition requires three elements: (1) belief that the proposition is true; (2) justification for the belief that the proposition is true; (3) the proposition must actually be true.  Put another way, knowledge is justified true belief.  Given the fact that knowledge requires justification, it cannot be wrong to require justification for believing the Bible is God’s Word.  We could not know the Bible is God’s Word apart from such justification.  As Kelly Clark has pointed out, reason is not autonomous as the standard of truth, but it is the best tool for discovering the truth. 

A proper use of reason is not an exercise of subjecting God’s Word to a higher authority, but an examination of the Bible to determine if it is truly what it claims to be.  We use our God-given reason to discover the truth that the Bible is a product of divine revelation.

Moses writingGenesis 14:14 describes Abram’s rescue of Lot as follows: “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”  

Dan was the name given to a city in the northern-most territory in Canaan, occupied by the descendents of Dan, the son of Jakob.  Given the fact that the descendents of Dan did not occupy this area until after the Conquest of Canaan, this could be pointed to as evidence that Genesis (or at least this periscope within Genesis) was not written until some time after the conquest of Canaan.  Seeing that Moses died before the Israelites entered Canaan, he could not have written this account. 

There are at least two possible rebuttals.  One would be to suggest that the identification of this area as “Dan” was due to a later updating of the text.  On this view, Moses wrote this periscope and used the name of the city/region as it was called in his day.  Later scribes, however, updated the text to reflect the modern names of the cities and regions Moses spoke of since modern readers would not be familiar with the ancient names.  

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Barna Research Group reports that the number of American adults who view the Bible as “just…a book of stories and teachings written by men” has increased from 10% in 2011 to 17% in 2013.  That’s a significant increase in just two years.

Read the entire report here.

Dan Wallace reports on the release of a new New Testament.  A band off 19 liberal Christian and Jewish scholars got together for a “council” and decided to add 13 new books (two are prayers, and one is a song) to the New Testament.

Given some of those on this council (Karen King, John Dominic Crossan), it’s no surprise that they are Gnostic in character.  Both the “council” and the new testament they produced is a farce.

queen-james-gay-bibleIf the title itself doesn’t give it away, the Queen James Bible is a new “gay Bible” based on the King James Version, complete with a rainbow-styled cross on the cover.  It was named “Queen James Bible” because King James I of England, who authorized the creation of the Bible that bears his name, was rumored to be bisexual.

According to the unnamed editors[1] of this version, “The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality.[2] … We edited the Bible to prevent homophobic interpretations.”[3]  It is a near-identical reproduction of the KJV, but with gay-friendly edits made to eight verses that have been traditionally been interpreted as speaking negatively against homosex.  What follows is a comparison of the KJV to the QJV (changes in bold), followed by my comments on their changes:

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Michael KrugerEarlier this year Michael Kruger blogged his way through the 10 most common misconceptions about the NT canon.

Check them out to see which misconceptions you are guilty of, and then confess your intellectual sins in the comments section.

This story continues to fascinate me.  It’s like CSI Miami for Biblical nerds!  And new insights and arguments continue to be offered for and against the authenticity of the GosJesWife.

Christian Askeland has a nice 10 minute video demonstrating some of the peculiarities of the writing on the GosJesWife which cause scholars to doubt its authenticity.

Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu discuss the problems around dating the GosJesWife and evidence that a paintbrush was used for the writing.

Timo Paananen disputes James Watson’s methodology for concluding that the GosJesWife is a patchwork of the Coptic GTh.

Peter Head examines some of the reasons King et al concluded that the writing was authentic, including the lack of ink in a hole created by an insect, the lack of ink where fibers have gone missing from the papyrus, ink on the frayed edges, and the faded ink on the recto and finds them wanting.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife’” highlighted.

The web continues to be abuzz with The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.  So much is being written that it’s hard to keep up!  Here are the latest and most important developments.

James Watson has written two more papers (here and here) further developing his original thesis that The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a collage of various words and phrases culled from the Gospel of Thomas to form a new composition that is supposed to appear like a new gospel.  Andrew Bernhard has also tested Watson’s thesis in two papers (here and here), and agrees that “a modern author could have created the text of GJW simply by using short excerpts culled exclusively from Coptic GTh.”[1]  Both of Bernhard’s papers present an excellent visual and summary of the extensive semantic borrowing of the GosJesWife from the Coptic GTh.  He notes that only 14 out of 139 legible letters on the recto of the GosJesWife do not correspond to the Coptic GTh.  Eight of these 14 letters make up the phrase “my wife.”  Of the other 6 letter differences, they are either due to gender shifts in the pronoun or uninterpretable because they are single letters that come at the beginning or end of the line and lack sufficient context for reconstruction.

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Karen King, professor of divinity at Harvard and specialist in Gnostic Christianity, recently announced the existence of a small (3” x 1.5”), late-4th century[1] fragment in which Jesus speaks of his wife. Written in Sahidic Coptic with black ink[2] on papyrus, the fragment contains eight lines of text on the recto and six lines of text on the verso, with all margins missing.[3]  The extant text on the recto side reads:

1  Not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe
2  The disciples said to Jesus
3  deny. Mary is worthy of it.[4]
4  Jesus said to them, “My wife
5  she will be able to be my disciple
6  Let wicked people swell up
7  As for me, I dwell with her in order to
8  an image[5]

Although the text bears some striking resemblance to known Gnostic texts (particularly the Gospel of Thomas[6], and to a lesser degree the Gospel of Philip), it does not match any known apocryphal or Gnostic gospel.  This may be an independent Gospel of unknown character (Gnostic, apocryphal, etc.) or, as Francis Watson has argued, it may be a modern forgery created using key words from the Coptic version of the Gospel of Thomas (more will be said concerning this momentarily).

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I’ve been reading through the book of Proverbs with my wife.  I’ve noticed something in the text that clues me into the history of the book, and poses interesting questions for the doctrine of Biblical inspiration.  

The book opens with the words, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (Proverbs 1:1, ESV).  These words read like the words of an editor, not Solomon himself.  They were added by the individual(s) who compiled Solomon’s proverbs and edited them into the form and order we see in our Bibles.  There is reason to believe, however, that this collection of Solomonic proverbs consisted only of the first nine chapters.  Proverbs 10:1 reads, “The proverbs of Solomon.”  If the introduction to the book of Proverbs tells us these are the proverbs of Solomon, why mention this again unless (1) there had been a shift in authors from Solomon to someone else somewhere between chapter one and chapter nine, or (2) if the proverbs beginning with chapter 10 were not part of the original collection of proverbs.  There is no indication of a change in authorship between chapter one and chapter nine, so it follows that chapter 10 begins a new collection of Solomonic proverbs that was not part of the original collection.  How long did the first collection circulate before this second collection was added?  We do not know, but clearly enough time elapsed that when the new collection was added to the first, it was important to preface the collection by noting that these, too, were the proverbs of Solomon.  

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Daniel Wallace is a prominent evangelical NT textual critic.  He has written about the field in various places, but never in much detail, and never in a book dedicated to the topic.  So I was very excited when I heard he was editing a collection of essays on the topic.  

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament is not a general book on the topic of NT textual criticism, but a collection of essays criticizing the analysis and methodology of Bart Ehrman.  Indeed, if you have heard any of Wallace and Ehrman’s three debates, you will already be familiar with much of the material Wallace presents in his chapter.  But it is nice to have that wealth of information put to print and to have access to all of the details Wallace provides in the footnotes.  Here are a few facts about the NT manuscripts that are of note:  (more…)

The English name “Jesus” is an English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name of our savior, YeshuaYeshua is an updated form of the old Hebrew name, Yehoshua, transliterated into English as “Joshua.”  That’s right, Jesus’ and Joshua had the same name, and thus Jesus’ name could rightly be pronounced “Joshua” in English!  This is made clear in the Greek New Testament in which the name of Joshua the son of Nun and the name of Jesus of Nazareth are both “Iesous.” 

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David (Acts 7:44-45, KJV) 

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. (Heb 4:8, KJV)

Most translations other than the KJV translate Iesous as “Joshua” in these verses since they are clearly referring to Joshua the son of Nun who succeeded Moses and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  I used to use these verses as examples of poor translation on the part of the KJV translators since it was clearly Joshua and not Jesus who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, but truth be told the KJV translators were not only accurately translating the Greek, they were doing so in a more consistent manner than most modern translators since they translated every occurrence of Iesous as “Jesus” even when it referred to someone other than our savior. 

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Daniel Wallace revealed some additional details regarding some early NT papyri manuscripts in a video interview with Michael Licona, one of which is the highly touted first century fragment of Mark. 

In a nutshell:

  • Number: There are 7 papyri manuscripts of the gospels and Paul’s letters
  • Size: All manuscripts are less than 1 leaf
  • Dates: 1 is probably 1st century, 4 from the 2nd century, and 2 that are probably 2nd century but could be dated to the 3rd century
  • NT Books represented:
    • 1 = Matthew
    • 1 = Mark (possibly 1st century)
    • 1 = Luke
    • 1 = Romans
    • 1 = First Corinthians
    • 2 = Hebrews

I can’t wait to find out more about the collection in 2013!

It’s long been the conclusion of scholars that Esther and Nehemiah are the only books of the OT not represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), however, reports that Norwegian scholar, Torleif Elgvin of the Evangelical Lutheran University College in Oslo, Norway, and Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University are publishing a collection of two dozen previously unknown DSS fragments from Cave 4, the Bar-Kokhba caves, and Wadi ed-Daliyeh in a book titled Gleanings from the Caves (T&T Clark publishers).  If this checks out, then Esther would remain the only book not found in the DSS.  Of course, if Nehemiah and Esther were written on the same scroll as most scholars believe, then while we may not have an extant copy of Esther from the DSS, there is good reason to believe the text was present in the community as part of the Nehemiah scroll.

In the early 20th century German theologian Walter Bauer proposed that Christian orthodoxy is a historical fiction.  Heretics were not those who departed from the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles, but those on the losing side of a political battle for dominance by one group of Christians over another.  Orthodoxy represents the side who won, not the side of those who remained faithful to Jesus’ teachings.  There is no such thing as Christianity per se, but rather a collage of various Christianities.

While Bauer’s proposal was severely critiqued by other scholars and joined the ash-heap of theological history, as is the case with most bad ideas, someone comes along later, picks up the idea, brushes off the ashes, repackages it, and tries to sell it again.  Such is the case with the Bauer thesis.  Today it is being peddled by people such as Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels.  Speaking to a postmodern generation that prizes diversity, detests absolute truth claims, and thinks truth claims are an attempt to gain power and exert control, they have found a receptive audience for their pluralistic view of Christian origins and history.  For them, the only true heresy is orthodoxy itself: the claim that there is one enduring truth, and one Christian faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

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