April 23, 2011

Inerrancy = Perfect Preservation of the Bible? Part 3

Part 3 and conclusion of our discussion - it's long, but hopefully instructive. For context see Part 1 and Part 2

Friend #1 Reply 
I can tell you I study the Bible cover to cover... Why though? Because I have a command to do it in ...2 Timothy 2:15 ... In the modern versions there is no command to study. The English language has "evolved" into "Do your best.." or some other "interpretation" as you call it..

Now I believe the Bible was given by inspiration and we have the perfect translation in the KJV.  The modern translators do not believe we have a perfect word of God in English.

You say we have an abundance of textual data, much more than in the 17th century. Which is true. However, in my opinion this only solidifies the KJV, in that approximately 99% of the newest discovered manuscripts agree with the KJV. The remaining 1% is the difference between modern translations & the KJV.

Now I didn't say we have less information or a less complete text than they did in 1611.. I said there hasn't been anything discovered that need be added to the Bible.

The fact is that over 5000 manuscripts exist of the Greek new testament & for the most part, these manuscripts along with KJV & modern translations agree. When they do not agree, modern translators refer to about 5 manuscripts because they are the oldest, which disagree with the majority manuscripts & the KJV, as opposed to the rest of the 4,995+...

Now I'm no Greek or Hebrew expert, but I can read English, & I know when somethin ain't right..
I'll give you an example..
Take your NIV & turn to Matthew 5:22, "anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement...anyone who says 'you fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell" Why, Jesus Christ was angry when he overthrew the tables in the temple in Mark 11 & he called the Pharisees fools in Matthew 23:17. You believe he is in danger of the lake of fire? Well - why not? The "oldest & most reliable" texts along with the NIV & others say that. But wait, the verse left something out.  I'm sure you know, but if you don't know, you can check your KJV to see what it is (note: KJV has "angry without cause"). This "best text" you speak of OMITS a very important piece of scripture & forces Mark 11 & Matthew 23:17 to CONTRADICT Hebrews 4:15.  Get out a Bible and check it out.. & I can give many more examples, this is just the one that popped in my head

I absolutely "presume" to have a perfect uncorrupted text, that's why I believe it! If you've got a corrupt bible with errors, what are you doin believing it? How do you know what's corrupted & what's not? I'm no Bible corrector, but it seems as though the modern translators thought it fit to correct the Bible & thus effectively trick you & other millions into thinking that God can't & didn't promise to preserve his word. 

Psalm 12: 6-7 "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."

Now read those verses in your NIV (NIV - “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.” (Psalms 12:6–7 NIV)). What a convenient verse to change the meaning of! I'm no Greek or Hebrew expert, but I'm not too blind to see when someone is trying to fool around with the WORDS of God.

My Response

This will be my last post - unless there are clarification questions - I am not in to this whole debate thing for debate's sake.

To Friend #2 - the only reason I commented on this post is that I thought that it would be instructive. I hope it has been.

To Friend #1 - the KJV was never meant to be the end all translation. If it is truly the "perfect" transmitted text does that mean that God's word was only preserved perfectly in the King's English? What about the people who lived before the English translation of the Bible? Was there a progression of perfect texts - or was the perfect only given in 1611? What about German, French, Spanish (and the rest of the other languages) speaking peoples do they just get the proverbial "shaft" with regards to God's continued perfect revelation? Do you see how asinine and arbitrary that is? Broaden your horizons - the world did not begin nor will it likely end with the English language.

Not sure where you are getting your facts about textual criticism - but you are dead wrong on a number of issues.

First of all you dumb down the discipline - it's not nearly as simple as you make it out to be. Manuscripts are classified by families of texts (Byzantium, Alexandrium, etc.) - an error or alternate text is usually copied and continued from the "parent" text down through the rest of the family. If you feel so strongly on the issue - learn Greek, learn Hebrew, start studying textual criticism. I am amazed that you are so confident because you "know English... and known when something aint right." Those are hardly qualifiers for speaking truth about textual criticism and the doctrines of inerrancy and inspiration. Quite honestly, I am shocked that you would not at least listen to what I have to say (I do know Hebrew and Greek and have a M.A. in the Hebrew Bible - so it's not like I don't have exposure in this field) - I am not trying to debate you for debate's sake. Common sense and theological fortitude are great traits - but stubbornness and blindness to the reality of easily recognizable truths are extremely unhelpful attributes. So please - I beg you - listen to what I have to say. This is not a light issue - this issue deals with how you approach the word of God - his revelation to you.

Second 1% (and the number is higher than that) of a document as large as the Greek NT is a large number of variance. More importantly - what you say about 5,000 texts = 4,995 vs. 5 makes absolutely no sense at all for a number or reasons. Most importantly - it's simply not true - the differences in texts don't decrease over time - they multiply. The Bible did not come with some "deleted scenes" that need be placed back into their original locale. If there are differences in later texts that's because they crept in through errors of transmission over time. Logically speaking - how in the world do later texts have more "complete texts"? How do they have more verses or explanations? If the text was not there in any of the earliest manuscripts - how could it be in the later texts?

Third - your so-called "examples" are randomly picked prooftexts with no contextual relationship to one another - they ultimately say nothing about the original text or the legitimacy of one translation over another. If you were to study these verses in any translation including the KJV - you would understand that there is no contradiction at all - in Matt. 5:22 Jesus is talking in the context of "murder" (Matt. 5:21) - he is saying - having murderous hatred that leads you to call someone a fool is a sin worthy of hell's flames - not anger itself. This point is abundantly obvious based on the context and Jesus' form of discourse throughout the Sermon on the Mount. There is no voodoo attached to the word "fool" or "raca" - Jesus is giving outward examples of inward feelings - those outward examples need not always be expressions of those inward feelings - the tone is clear. If you have more examples along these lines - I have no desire to hear them - I can find my own prooftexts and apparent contradictions. The Bible is not some mathbook that you can prove 2+2=4 - it's language with nuance, emphasis and different contexts. If you make it out to be math - it will contradict itself throughout - regardless of translation.

Fourth - to answer your question - "how do you know what's corrupted and what's not?" Answer - textual criticism. The Greek NT is in a class all by itself - for all of the major ancient texts like Josephus, Philo, Homer - we have a handful of copies. For the Greek NT we have thousands of manuscripts - that is amazing! It's a witness to the Word of God's life-changing, history-altering power - the fact that men for two millenia have rigorously and as accurately as possible copied this text of texts speaks to its immeasurable impact upon human history and divine interaction. The doctrine of inerrancy does not need to be updated to fit 21st cent. fears. Quite simply you have no theological reason to presume or believe that God's Word has been preserved perfectly - you base your entire belief of perfected continuity of text on fear. Fear that if we don't have the perfect autograph copy than we don't have a good text. Well I have earth-shattering news for you - never ever, ever in God's Word does it say anything about the preservation of the biblical record in either an imperfected or perfected state.

By contrast - we have an example in the Bible where God's Word was lost! Perish the thought. In the time of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8) the "Law of the Lord" was found by people working in the temple. That means that for at least a generation or two the people of Israel, God's chosen, were without the Bible! In the intervening time since then -say around 1610 did God change the way he does business and say? - "Do you see my servant James? The English have the Tyndale Bible but it's not up to snuff - no longer will my children lose my perfect word -next year I am going to make sure that that old wizenheimer, King James, gets my perfect word that way 21st cent. American Christians can still speak colloquial English - after all when they write 'speak' - they should have written 'spake.'" In this debate - the only "tricking" going on is by those who would have the church believe that King James' translators were on par with apostolic authority (you realize that this was the same King James that caused the Mayflower? Not exactly the epitome of Christian virtue).

Lastly - Ps. 12 - the text that you quote as God's promise to preserve his word. This text has nothing to do with the continued perfection of the text of the Bible and everything to do with God's promise to keep the words that he speaks. Meaning that if God says that he has chosen Israel he will fulfill his vows - if he has promised that he will save those who trust in him - then he will sovereignly and judicially save them. Again - the context is so clear and obvious that you would have to be blind to say that it's talking about God's preservation of his written word. Actually this verse acts as a perfect metaphor for textual criticism. "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times." Every ancient manuscript of the Greek NT acts as a refinement of our view of the actual text - the slag (waste) of time and error of transmission is melted away through each refinement. Because of this, based on the overwhelming evidence of ancient manuscripts - I will state again - boldly and confidently - the English translations that we possess today are extremely close to the Greek NT and Hebrew OT. This reality is only from a gracious gift from God to the world and his universal church - not a promise that he explicitly promised or implicitly implied to fulfill.

In conclusion I have two imperatives that I hope you listen to -1. use any translation you like, if it's the KJV - fine, it contains God's word and was amazingly accurate for its time, if it's the accursed NIV or it's devil-sister the ESV, study all the more. 2. Friend #1, self-proclaimed skeptic, don't place your hope in a theology that is outside of the bible - the bible is God's revelation to man, that is, it is the means by which we come to know him. Don't make it an end in itself. If you base your hope on a theological truth alien to scripture - how sound is that hope? Christ's saving sacrificial work is the only hope that we have - the only remedy to the maladies of doubt and skepticism. Don't place your hope in King James' translators. Or you might end up like this guy...

(HT: Craig Dunning)

Friend #1 Response 

I think this is something we will just have to disagree on. Regardless, you seem like a well-meaning, respectable, well-educated Christian, and I admire your credentials.

I just urge you to reconsider the fact that the Bible you read every day is corrupted and imperfect. Don't you think that having a reliable and infallible book is essential to our faith? I know Greek & Hebrew as well, I'm no expert, but If God came down from heaven & gave me the original autographs, I'd still read my KJV. Greek is a dead language & useless to winning the lost & Hebrew is spoken by less that 1% of the world. He's magnified HIS WORD above all His precious name.  If you believe He hasn't preserved his word down through the generations forever, I encourage you to look at psalm 12:7 again, in Hebrew.

I have answers to your other questions such as where was the perfect Bible before 1611, the accusation that I took Matthew 5:22 out of context, & so forth. But I do not want to be argumentative. Those answers I'm sure you are capable of finding if you want them.

I've studied the Alexandrium, the Sinaiticus & the Vaticanus.. You can call your Bible corrupt, but leave mine out of it please.

The Bible said that there will be a famine in the last days of hearing His words.. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways... So when you have two bibles telling you two different things in the same verse, (many examples IN CONTEXT) well simply put, 2+2=4

This is my last post as well, Chris, nice talking with you. I saw your pictures, I hope to make it over to Jerusalem someday in the near future. I'm sure that was a great experience! I've listened to everything you've said, keep looking into this issue, as I will do the same.
We're obviously not going to convince each other, there is no need to continue this "debate". You read over 100 translations and believe them all... I read over 100 translations and believe 1.

One thing we do know is that His Word is settled in Heaven, & I'll be glad one day when I can ask Him face to face instead of having to deal with all this mess down here! Until then we'll just have to keep looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ!
My Final Response

Friend #1 - I enjoyed the discussion. I completely disagree with you - but that does not mean that we are not brothers in Christ - have a great Easter!

Friend #1 Final Response
I completely disagree with you too & hope to meet you someday, maybe we could find some things we agree on. 

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