The Apple Of God's Eye

April 18, 2009

Textual Criticism: The Folly Of Biblical Scholars

God Breathed?  

God Breathed?

The Bible—more than any other religious writings of similar age—has drawn intense examination. Critics write off this text as the uninspired writings of an unlearned people. They claim the Bible is full of contradiction and historical inaccuracies. Some go so far as to say that this book is a carefully contrived sham to keep tight-fisted control over mindless people. Others say the Bible is a work of fiction. What is truly appalling is that many theologians agree. Understand that there is nothing new here. The scriptures have been under violent attack for centuries—by scholars, philosophers, cynics and the religious.

A particularly noteworthy passage is the long ending of Mark 16:9-20, among many others which are attacked. Skeptics and critics alike have found grist for their mill in the assertion that Mark presents an inconsistency, and poses a problem in not properly fitting in after the eighth verse. However, leaving out the last verses poses the significant problemof the book not coming to an orderly conclusion, as does EVERY other book in the Bible. Human writings are filled with error, but the Bible is COMPLETE, INSPIRED and WHOLLY PRESERVED through the power of God. These verses are an INSPIRED PART of the Word of God. 

Proof of legitimacy

The longer ending to Mark’s gospel is quoted extremely early in church history. Mark 16:19 is quoted as part of Mark’s account by Irenaeus in “Against Heresies” (Bk. iii, 10, 6) between A.D. 182 and 188. It says:

“Also, towards the conclusion of his gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven and sits on the right hand of God.”

Not only did Irenaeus accept it as a part of Mark’s gospel when arguing with “heretics,” but, says Hastings: “No writer before Eusebius is known to have rejected them, and their presence in all later MSS [manuscripts] shows that the successors of Eusebius, in spite of his great authority, did not follow his judgment in the matter.” (Eusebius was the court favorite and the church historian in the days of Emperor Constantine.) These facts point plainly to the great antiquity of the longer ending as preserved in the common English versions. 

There are allusions to these disputed  verses in even earlier writings, although not as true quotations. Some have traced various versions of Mark’s ending back to the earliest extant manuscripts. 

The rise of textual criticism

Hostility toward the Bible has a cause. It begins with modern Bible criticism, referred to as biblical scholarship. This sounds harmless enough, because it makes their occupation appear more acceptable.Yet it is noteworthy that the literature of other religions is not subject to scholarly scrutiny. Now why would that be? The answer is simple. The Bible claims to be the express Word of God, a claim no other religion makes. So if one could prove that the Bible is not the Word of God, then there would be no need to read or follow it. Isn’t that the real reason Bible scholars have worked so hard at uncovering any flaw which could be proof that it is not the literal Word of God? Critics will deny this assertion, but it’s the truth. (Philadelphia Trumpet, June 2005)

“The decline of reformed scholarship started with  B. B. Warfield’s adoption of the Westcott and Hort textual critical theory and his redefinition of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to make it apply only to autographs. Warfield’s concept of Sola Autographa unfortunately caught on, and became the new paradigm in the textual critical exercise of reconstructing (or rather deconstructing) the inspired text. 

A textual critic engaged upon his business is like a dog hunting for fleas. That’s because determining authenticity on the basis of style omits the fact that at least a 10,000 word sample is required to make stylistic determinations. Verses 9-20 of Mark 16 fall about 9900 words short of this, making the argument an exercise in despair.

Still, this does nothing to prevent critics from concluding that textual variations call the Christian traditions of inspiration and inerrancy into serious question. Their expectation is that God would prevent such variations as the scriptures are reproduced. And since variations do, in fact, occur they say, we must be mistaken about the meaning of the scriptures and ultimately the very character of God. 

Such misguided statements should be laughed off. As editors of current critical texts — textual critics are simply modernists who couldn’t make spirit-guided decisions if their life depended on it. They are no better than their texts — carnal men producing a non-spiritual text. They forget the admonition that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). To affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the original writings while casting doubt on the authority of the Bible is just plain silly”  (fepbc.edu.sg).

A unique book

The Bible is radically different than all other so-called sacred literature. This book of books asserts that it is the divinely inspired writings of a supreme Deity. No other sacred literature makes such a claim. The Bible is a book full of personal quotes from a very active, living God:

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

The God of the Bible declares the supremacy of His own power. There is none like Him. He is capable of initiating and carrying out a purpose on Earth. A real understanding of God’s purpose shows that there are stupendous and wonderful things ahead for all mankind. (Philadelphia Trumpet, June 2005)

Look at the issue in context. “Of the 20,000 lines of Scripture in the New Testament only about 40 lines read differently between the accepted manuscripts. That means that only 0.2% of the New Testament is disputed. None of these affect any major doctrines and most are stylistic or spelling differences. Translation of the Bible also takes into account quotations from early church fathers who were close to the original manuscripts. There are around 86,489 New Testament citations by church fathers in the 2nd and 3rd century. These quotes cover the entire New Testament except for about 11 verses (churchhopping.com).

And given the absurdly small amount of text not quoted, does it seem believable that ALL scripture must be quoted to be counted trustworthy? Is there not enough information in a New Testament which far surpasses any other ancient document when it comes to consistency and accuracy of translation?

Yes the Bible comprises the full, word-for-word, truthful, inspired, inerrant Word of God, which is the supreme and final authority in doctrine and life. It is God-breathed, factual, free from error, pure, uncorrupted, eternal, and powerful. It stands out from all other books as THE preeminent book. It is not simply about God … but is FROM God; it is His message to us. We can trust that message because Jesus prayed:

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17. That is why Jesus spoke of the jot-and-tittle infallibility (or verbal inerrancy) of the Scriptures in Matthew 5:18.

The Apostle Paul also spoke of the divinely inspired Scriptures in saying they were “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17). In other words, they were to be trusted in all things because they are for all true Christians, of all ages.

If we do not have an infallible and an inerrant Scripture, then our supreme and final authority of faith and practice is all a myth. It then also makes God out to be a liar. I for one will trust in the one who makes the grand claim of inerrancy, as both I and the critics face this mighty Being one day at the judgment. We don’t want to find out we’re wrong at that time, do we?

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