(2-minute read; 350 words)
Getting the Bible was a painstaking process of copying. Long before the printing press of the 15th century not to mention computers, copies of Scripture had to be preserved by painstaking copying, one letter at a time. Some copies were made individually. Others were made in scriptoriums where someone read the text. In these locations, many copies were made at once as several scribes listened and wrote. I often tell people the Bible they hold in their hands is possible because many people faithfully over several centuries copied the text to replace worn out copies. Those copies were not perfect, but the fact we have many manuscripts of these texts allows us to reproduce the text with a high level of certainty. Where we are not sure, we do know what the likely options are. Good Bible translations signal the options to you by having a note int eh margin that reads “or” with the variant noted. We have over 5800 Greek manuscripts. The best ancient texts of other works have 100-200 copies. In most cases we are confident what the text should read. In no case do these differences impact the overall teaching of the faith. What they impact is which verses teach and idea and so how many relate to a specific theme.
This copying process can be tested in terms of its accuracy by the many manuscripts we have. Some of the examples of this are amazing. When the Dead Sea scrolls were found we discovered a manuscript of Isaiah 1000 years older than any other version of Isaiah we possessed. The discovered text was virtually identical to its 1000 year older descendant. Although some issues remain in particular spots, the text we have today is a solid reproduction of what was produced.
(5 min read; 1,228 words)
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.
(9 min read; 2,307 words)
You can find more about and from Jim Wallace at www.coldcasechristianity.com.
In addition to making his own points, Wintery Knight provides several links to Paul Copan on the issue of slavery in the Bible. I had published a post titled 10 Things You Need to Know About the Bible and Slavery by Graham Veale just yesterday on this subject of slavery in the Bible.
(6 min read; 1,448 words)
All slavery is not created equal. Graham Veale lists 10 ways that slavery in biblical times might not be what many of us today think it was.
I only mention this because there are skeptics today who dismiss the Bible as an immoral book because it doesn’t explicitly condemn slavery anywhere and everywhere slavery is found.
(5 min read; 1,160 words)
Jim Wallace answers the skepticism about the son of Zebedee being able to write the Gospel of John.
(4 min read; 904 words)
Cold-case homicide detective Jim Wallace gives a reasonable way of understanding why the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are not identical in every respect.
(4 min read; 894 words)