What the Success of Bibliotheca Tells Us About the Future of Publishing (Michael Hyatt talks about the new Bible designed for reading and that comes in four volumes – three for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament.)
The questioner in this video demonstrates a common but seldom-admitted skepticism about the New Testament documents – a skepticism that is abandoned when it comes to practically all other ancient literature.
The questioner leads me to imagine a court case where a man is convicted of murder based on ample evidence, to which his defense attorney replies, “Yes, but do you have any other evidence?” – thus implying that all the existing evidence is tainted but without offering any reasonable argument as to why we should consider it tainted.
Such people think that we believe the story of Jesus because we believe the New Testament to be the word of God. No. We believe the story of Jesus because we treat the New Testament documents the same way we treat all other documents from antiquity. Only after we are convinced of the reality of Jesus – what he said and did – do we need to come to a conviction about the New Testament being the word of God.
At about the 4:50 mark, Craig notes that the earliest biographies we have of Alexander the Great come from Plutarch and Arrian about 400 years after the fact. This compares with the four Gospels which give us Jesus’ life within a generation or two at the most. The questioner is employing a double standard, regarding the New Testament documents with a far greater skepticism than is applied toward other documents from that time period.
In this post, Craig Keener looks at three different historical periods covered by the Bible – the times of Abraham, Israel’s Kings, and Jesus – and explains how our historical knowledge of each period differs. In providing this nuance, Keener helps us to see how unwarranted skepticism about the historical reliability of the Bible really is.
(16 min read; 3,897 words)
This video is from Scott Sullivan.
On July 12, 2014, Nick Peters interviewed Mike Licona about research on Plutarch’s Lives (links below).
Some data points mentioned by Licona beginning about the 30:00 mark:
– Licona wanted to research ancient biographies written 150-200 years either side of Christ for comparison purposes.
– He made a list of these, identifying about 80-90 of them.
– Of these, Plutarch wrote about 60 of them, 50 of which are extant.
– Of these 50, Licona has identified 9 that involve contemporaries which would give rise to multiple accounts of the same events.
– In these, Licona has identified 42 stories that appear 2 or more times in these 9 biographies.
– Of these 42 stories, he has studied 32 of them so far. He’s found lots of differences in the stories and has been able to see 5 distinct types of differences, leading him to conclude that there are “compositional devices” that account for the differences.
– In the Gospels, Licona has identified 50 pages of differences between them which he now sees as perhaps being explained to a signficant degree by these very compositional devices.
– Here are the 5 literary devices used by Plutarch, as identified by Licona. First, he gives an example of how Plutarch uses each device and then he gives at least one example of how he sees the device being used in the Gospels.
— Compression (about 56:00)
— Displacement (about 1:07:00)
— Spotlighting (1:15:30) – most frequent of the five
— Transferral (1:26:50)
— Simplification (1:32:30)
– Licona has spent the last six years working on this project. He plans to spend the rest of this year completing his analysis of the remaining 10 stories (33 to 42). Then the next year writing a book on the subject, which he expects to be published in November 2016.
– Licona refers to ancient Greco-Roman biographies as writings intended to illuminate the character of the subject. (I think he was quoting Plutarch on this point.). History is for reporting events, but biography is selective regarding events in order to convey the character of the subject.
Here are some miscellaneous notes I made on the recording:
– Michael Licona is 53 years old and is Nick Peter’s father-in-law. Mike has been a Christian since age 10.
– Licona covers the difference between Acts 9, 22, and 26 accounts of Paul’s conversion in his big book on the resurrection of Christ.
– In the 1st Century, a single scroll had a maximum limit of 25,000 words. Luke’s is the longest Gospel and comes in just below that at about 24,000 words. Is this why the Luke 24 account of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances is compressed when compared to what Luke wrote about them in Acts 1?
– Licona has spent the last three years reading the Gospels (especially the synoptics) almost exclusively in Greek.
– Licona has ADD and an average IQ. He has worked extra hard to achieve his academic status.
Jim Wallace explains to Bobby Conway (for our sake, of course) why scribal errors do not prevent us from understanding what the New Testament writers originally wrote.
I hasten to add that scribal errors are simply a fact of life for all pre-printing press literature. This is because, of course, all copies were written by hand. To toss out the Bible because of scribal errors would mean tossing out all literature written before the invention of the printing press. This would be ridiculous. To single out the Bible for this sort of skepticism is simply a case of applying a double standard (Double Standards in Reception of Ancient Documents and Their Authors).
(4 min read; 1,093 words)
(6 min read; 1,455 words)
[T]he notion of word-for-word agreement is a relatively recent historical development. In times of antiquity it was not the practice to give a verbatim repetition every time something was written out. To be sure, I don’t believe that one passage of Scripture ever directly contradicts other passages. Yet, when someone asks, “Does everything in Scripture and in the biblical manuscripts agree word-for-word?” that person is asking the wrong question. The answer to that question will always be a resounding “no.”
(7 min read; 1,647 words)