Wednesday, October 04, 2006


One of my sticking points, in regards to the Bible, is the assertion that it is "God's word." True, some Christians say that it is not supposed to be a literal translation of God's word, but only inspired. But, still, regardless of what the claim, I end up at the same question: If the Bible is God's word (either literally or in inspiration only), then does it not behoove Christians, or serious theologians, to make sure that they are following the most accurate translation of God's word that they can? In fact, wouldn't it be a serious Christians responsibility to make sure that the Bible they read was without error?

I hate to use jokes as an example, but...what if Allah truly promised Muslims seventy-one Virginians?

I've been doing some research of my own: mainly in response to the Christian claims that the Bible is the literal translations of God's message to the apostles. Modern-day, evangelical Christians claim that they can trace the origins of the New Testament back to scribes sitting in hushed monasteries,...writing meticulously by candlelight. They often set the tone as comparable to a child learning cursive at the knee of a ruler-wielding nun. "Any mistakes were immediately caught and corrected", one Christian said to me. "An accurate and word for word translation of the gospels was paramount!" So, I decided to do a little digging.

Thus far, even Christian scholars can only place the origins of the gospels sometime around the third or fourth century AD. And, even then, they are only referring to the discovery of papyri. I think they might be minimally justified in assuming that translations from that point forward were minimally accurate. For the purposes of this argument, I'm going to give them that. BUT, let's go backward from 300AD and those papyri. How did those papyri come to be? Even if we play along and assume those were meticulously copied by people with a vested interest in making sure the words were accurate and the message was continuous (a claim challenged repeatedly, with good reason)... who made those papyri? The backward progression shows us that the New Testament was a combination of letters...letters that were copied by many, many people...many, many times. And, since most of the population was illiterate, how do we know those copies are accurate? WE DON'T!


Martin Wagner said...

A problem I've always had with the "inspired word of God" dodge is that it seems God, being rather a stickler for the rules (as the OT strongly indicates), would want to be certain no mistakes were made in the very text that was intended to deliver His Word to sinful mankind. In a sense, Christians who aren't Biblical literalists have just as tough, if not tougher, a position to defend as those who are, because if they start interpreting a passage of scripture all over the place, you can say, "Hold on, why all the hermeneutical juggling? Why didn't God just say that outright if that's what he meant?" Biblical literalists may have the more transparently absurd position, but at least they're consistent.

Anonymous said...

Biblical literalists may have the more transparently absurd position, but at least they're consistent.

I see your point, but I think consistency is a stretch. As long as they're all using the same Bible and the same interpretation, then "yes", they are consistent. However, I know of at least six, fundamental, Bible literalists who use six different versions of the Bible, respectively. I've also noticed that their consistency varies by convenience. They choose the interpretation that suits their political or moral agenda.

I just fail to see how they can say that the Bible on their nightstand is the inspired word of God if history and science (archaeology and forensics) show that the words in their bible do not match the words on ancient papyri...nor is their any evidence to bolster their claim of an unbroken, unchanged, unedited translation. Forget interpretation.... the science and evidence doesn't even back it up.

Anonymous said...

Read Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus for a good discussion of the origins of the New Testament. My favorite quote has to do with the fact that there are more differences between our early manuscripts of the gospels than there are words in the gospels.

AmberKatt said...

Re: the "seventy virgins".... It came out recently (I think when I was listening to a show on Air America Radio, but I'm sure it can be googled, too) that the correct phrase might actually be "white raisins," not "virgins."

Seems white raisins were a delicacy back in the day, and the word in whatever-language-it-was for "white raisin" is either the same or very similar to the word for "virgin."

Imagine you blew yourself up with a bomb for the sake of Allah and Islam, and when you get to Paradise, they say "Great! Here's your handful of white raisins!"