Archive for April, 2016

This past weekend I had the honor of attending a fundraising banquet for The Center for20160423_185827 the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).  CSNTM was formed in 2002 by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace.  It was started to preserve and study Greek New Testament manuscripts.  It has collaborated with more than 40 institutions on 4 continents to produce more than 350,000 images of the New Testament manuscripts.  Remarkably, in this endeavor, they have discovered more than 90 New Testament manuscripts.

logoCSNTM’s goal is to photograph digitally all the existing Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.  In short, Dr. Wallace travels the world to take pictures of the New Testament manuscripts in order for them to be preserved and available for scholars across the world.

Manuscripts – There are no original documents (called “autographs”) of any book of the New Testament.  In order to reproduce what was in the original you have to compare and contrast the varied manuscripts (handwritten copies).  The more manuscripts you have the better you can reproduce the original autograph.

This video introduces Dr. Wallace as a Greek scholar and the work he is doing with CSNTM:

 

This video is a news report from ABC news local affiliate WFAA about CSNTM:

 

Here is Dr. Wallace (on the left) preparing a manuscript for photographing and (on the right) his team taking photographs of a manuscript:

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It is arduous work.  Photographing is at times in confined spaces such as a basement and the pressure of not damaging these rare artifacts adds the the stress.  Their most recent expedition has been to the National Library of Greece which contains one third of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts (mss).  This process is important because of the nature of textual critical studies of the New Testament.  Since we do not have the autographs (i.e. original documents), scholars have to compare mss. to reproduce the original.  This might sound disconcerting, but we don’t have the autographs of any ancient document such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, etc.  All ancient documents are in the same boat.  So, the more you have, the more you can compare and the New Testament is doing rather well in their mss. count: 5,800+.  This far outstrips any other ancient document in mss. count.  Homer’s Iliad has the second best mss. count with only 1,757.

The reason I put the number of NT mss. as 5,800+ is because Dr. Wallace and his team keeping finding new mss.  At the National Library of Greece this past year alone they found 20 new mss. that are not catalogued by the University of Munster (which keeps the official count of NT mss).

Here is a quick example of how we compare and contrast mss. to reproduce the original:

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You can obviously reconstruct the original wording from the mss. that were copied: “Jesus Christ” (the # represents a tear, hole, or damage to the manuscript).  In fact, there is no doubt in the original wording.  The same principle applies to the NT.  Dr. Wallace in Reinventing Jesus states that “The vast majority of NT scholars would say that there are absolutely no places where conjecture is necessary. Again, this is because the manuscripts are so plentiful and so early that in every instance the original NT can be reconstructed from the available evidence.”

 

 

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Of the one hundred thirty-eight thousand words of the original text, only one or two might have no manuscript support. There is virtually no need for conjecture, as we already have pointed out. And even if there were, this would not mean that we would have no idea what the original text said. Instead, precisely because almost all the possible variants are already to be found in the manuscripts, there is a rather limited number of options that scholars have to contend with.” (Daniel Wallace, Reinventing Jesus)

“The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” (Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus)

“In contrast with these figures [of other ancient works], the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by a wealth of material. Furthermore, the work of many ancient authors has been preserved only in manuscripts that date from the Middle Ages (sometimes the late Middle Ages), far removed from the time at which they lived and wrote. On the contrary, the time between the composition of the books of the New Testament and the earliest extant copies is relatively brief. Instead of a lapse of a millennium or more, as is the case of not a few classical authors, several papyrus manuscripts of portions of the New Testament are extant that were copied within a century or so after the composition of the original document.” (Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed.)

Books/Articles/Etc.:

“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then” by Daniel Wallace Bible.org

“‘Misquoting’ Jesus? Answering Bart Erhman” Greg Koukl in Solid Ground (pdf)

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. Craig L. Blomberg (IVP Academic, 2007)

Can We Trust the Gospels? Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Mark D. Roberts (Crossway, 2007)

Reinventing Jesus, Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace (Kregel, 2006)

“The Bibliographical Test Updated,” Clay Jones in Christian Research Journal volume 35, number 03 (2012)

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Reflections

Blaise Pascal

Did you know that the first digital calculator was invented by a seventeenth-century French mathematician? In his brief time on Earth, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) wore many hats and left an imprint on both modern science and Christian philosophy that lingers to this day. Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Blaise Pascal—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Blaise Pascal?

Blaise Pascal lived during the scientific revolution and worked as a mathematician, physicist, inventor, polemicist, and writer. His invention of the calculator was one of the major achievements of the early scientific revolution and the precursor to the modern computer.

Pascal grew up as a nominal Catholic, but as an adult he had a dramatic religious experience that led him to commit his life to Christ and to put his remarkable mind to work for Christ’s kingdom. As a Christian philosopher, theologian, and apologist, Pascal provided…

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Israel ostraca literacyWho would have thought that a shopping list on some pottery fragments would reveal when the Old Testament was possibly written.

Here is the issue: Some skeptics state that low literacy rates in ancient Israel  would prohibit the Old Testament from being written prior to the Babylonian captivity and that it was invented during the Jewish exile to solidify their Jewish identity, indicating that the events  never really occurred but were fabricated or legendarily developed.

Significance: This discovery and new research is challenging the scholars wanting to push the early Old Testament composition to after the Babylonian captivity.  Skeptics have attributed the writing of several biblical texts such as Joshua, 1 and 2 Kings, and the early Old Testament to after the siege of Jerusalem.  This theory “holds that the biblical texts were written as a result of the exile to Babylon, when the composers began to think about their past and put their history to parchment.”  This discovery begins to poke holes into the idea that major portions of the Hebrew scripture were written during or after the exile to Babylon, but actually written during the late 7th century BC.

 

Here is a link to another video on this subject.

If you want to explore the issue in more depth here are some articles:

“Discovery: Ancient Inscriptions Suggest Hebrew Bible Older Than Many Believed” | The Stream – This excerpt is the best single article to get the facts as well as the significance of this discovery as it relates to biblical reliability:

Israeli mathematicians and archaeologists say they have found evidence to suggest that key biblical texts may have been composed earlier than what some scholars think.

Using handwriting analysis technology similar to that employed by intelligence agencies and banks to analyze signatures, a Tel Aviv University team determined that a famous hoard of ancient Hebrew inscriptions, dated to around 600 BC, were written by at least six different authors. Although the inscriptions are not from the Bible, their discovery suggests there was widespread literacy in ancient Judah at the time that would support the composition of biblical works.

“Handwriting Dating to the Seventh Century B.C. Analyzed” | Archaeology – a quick summary from Archaeology:

The analysis suggests that at least six different people, ranging in rank from the commander of the fort down to the deputy quartermaster, had written these texts. All of the writers used proper spelling and syntax. Similar ostracons have been found at other border forts, suggesting that writing was widespread, at least within the Judahite army. Israel Finkelstein [of Tel Aviv University] thinks the ancient kingdom of Judah may have had an educational system, since literacy was not limited to the elite. “This is really quite amazing, that in a remote place like this, there was more than one person, several people, who could write,” he told Live Science. Finkelstein also claims that if literacy were widespread at the time, it would support the idea that portions of the Bible could have been compiled before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

New Evidence on When Bible Was Written: Ancient Shopping Lists” | The New York Times – Essentially scholars analyzed a shopping list, but has impact on possible biblical composition dates:

The requests for wine, flour and oil read like mundane, if ancient, shopping lists. But a new analysis of the handwriting suggests that literacy may have been far more widespread than previously known in the Holy Land around 600 B.C., toward the end of the First Temple period. The findings, according to the researchers from Tel Aviv University, could have some bearing on a century-old debate about when the main body of biblical texts was composed.

Algorithmic Handwriting Analysis of Judah’s Military Correspondence Sheds Light on Composition of Biblical Texts – Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – A portion of the abstract:

By using novel image processing and machine learning algorithms we deduce the presence of at least six authors in this corpus. This indicates a high degree of literacy in the Judahite administrative apparatus and provides a possible stage setting for compilation of biblical texts. After the kingdom’s demise, a similar literacy level reemerges only ca. 200 BCE.

“The Bible Is Really Old, Handwriting Analysis Reveals” | Live Science -A quick selection of this article:

The shards, found at a frontier fort dating to around 600 B.C., were written by at least six different people, suggesting that literacy was widespread in the ancient kingdom of Judah, said study co-author Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist and biblical scholar at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

“We’re dealing with really low-level soldiers in a remote place who can write,” Finkelstein told Live Science. “So there must have been some sort of educational system in Judah at that time.”

The writing shows that the kingdom had the intellectual resources to write and compile large chunks of the Old Testament during this period, he added.

“Parts of Bible may have been written earlier than expected, archaeologist say” | The Guardian:

Israeli mathematicians and archaeologists say they have found evidence to suggest that key biblical texts may have been composed earlier than some scholars think.

Using handwriting analysis technology similar to that employed by intelligence agencies and banks to analyze signatures, a Tel Aviv University team determined that a famous hoard of ancient Hebrew inscriptions, dated to around 600 BCE, were written by at least six different authors. Although the inscriptions are not from the Hebrew Bible, their discovery suggests there was widespread literacy in ancient Judah at the time that would support the composition of biblical works.

So, never look down on your shopping list again.  It just might turn up centuries later to tell us something about you.

Resources: Some books on the reliability of the Old Testament.

On The Reliability of the Old Testaement by K. A Kitchen –  Kitchen is professor of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool.  He concludes this monumental study with “What can be said of historical reliability? Here our answer – on the evidence available – is more positive.  The periods most in the glare of contemporary documents – the divided monarchy and the exile and return – show a very high level of direct correlation (where adequate data exist) and of reliability.  . . . In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all.” (499-500)

The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. –  The amazon.com description: “In this thought-provoking book Walter C. Kaiser Jr. makes the case that the Old Testament documents are both historically reliable and personally and socially relevant. He begins by looking at the origins of the Old Testament books and how well their texts were preserved. Next he explores Old Testament history, giving close attention to the book of Genesis, the patriarchal narratives, and the chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel. He then surveys the larger questions of the trustworthiness and authority of the various Old Testament genres: historical narrative, wisdom and prophecy. Lastly, Kaiser probes the relevance of the Old Testament for Christian faith today.”

 

 

 

 

Reflections

cs-lewis

In the last decade a slew of Narnia movies were released in theaters and, though C. S. Lewis has been gone more than 50 years, his books are still as popular as ever. He’s the famous atheist-turned-Christian, but what exactly did he believe and what did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of C. S. Lewis—and why he still matters today.

Who Was C. S. Lewis?

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) was an Irish-born Anglican thinker and author who taught English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Lewis served in the English Army during World War I and converted from atheism to Christianity when he was in his early 30s. During World War II, Lewis presented talks on the BBC radio station titled “The Case for Christianity.” Lewis was a member of the famous Inklings literary discussion group at Oxford University that also…

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