The SillyBrit pointed me to another wonderful example of the “yeah, we are biased, we don’t care, its the new journalism” mentality of the modern Left. Here is a BBC article making the rounds, written by Roger Bolton. I would like to think Mr. Bolton was not purposefully trying to be a complete snob toward believing Christians, but his writing makes it hard to conclude otherwise. Let’s look at some of the more notable comments found in this BBC production.
Under the picture provided above a caption is provided, “What is probably the oldest known bible (bible? How about qur’an?) is being digitised (yes, that proves it is a British production), reuniting its scattered parts for the first time since its discovery 160 years ago. It is markedly different from its modern equivalent. What’s left out?”
I am truly left wondering if Mr. Bolton himself has ever studied Codex Sinaiticus? I have more resources on the subject than the time to read them, but when I get a few moments I do enjoy reading works like the one pictured here. If I only worked in NT subjects I’d spend a lot more time on the issue, since I have such a passion for textual critical issues. But I was recently reading through portions of this work on a flight to…somewhere (I lose track), and my, I got odd looks from my fellow passengers. Almost as odd as the looks I get when reading books filled with Arabic quotations. In any case, one of the frustrating things about this article is the obvious assumption on Bolton’s part that believing Christians are a bunch of bumbling fools without the first interest in the history of their own faith. And given Bolton’s main source is…Bart Ehrman (just how important is that debate in January?), I have to note that Ehrman likewise hints broadly that Christians have in essence “hidden” the history of the Bible and, in general, are ignorant thereof. That is partly true, but it is not because those of us who are not ignorant of the truth do not make every attempt to spread that knowledge far and wide. Ehrman even claims to be the first one to write a layman’s level book explaining textual critical matters. I guess he skipped The King James Only Controversy, which did just that long before his own book came out (he was referring to MisQuoting Jesus—I would say there is a lot more discussion of textual variation in my work than in his).
Getting back to the article, is א (Aleph, the designation in textual critical works for Codex Sinaiticus) “markedly different” than modern Bibles? Well, aside from its age, its language, its form, to what is Bolton referring? Two things: a warped, “textual scholar spins stuff for the ignorant media” view of how “different” its text is from the modern Greek textual platform (NA/UBS) together with the “if it was bound together as one volume, that must mean the original creator viewed all the books as canonical” claim. That’s the extent of it. The well-read Christian already knows this, so evidently we are not the folks Bolton is trying to impress.
The article gives a little background and mentions the fact that א is going “on line” (see it here). Then we get this amazingly condescending paragraph:
For those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, there will be some very uncomfortable questions to answer. It shows there have been thousands of alterations to today’s bible.
Oh no! Surely, no one who believes the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered Word of God has ever run into a history of the Bible! None of us have ever poured over Sinaiticus, marveled at such a treasure…oh, wait, even Tischendorf was a Christian who believed the Bible was the Word of God. Well, so sorry, chap (please read that with a British accent). I guess I can’t blame Bolton—Ehrman likewise gives the impression that “born agains” are these ignorant, back-woods folks who don’t know anything about the Bible. He promotes the viewpoint regularly, whether he knows it or not, so possibly Bolton is just following his sources? In any case, the idea that the publication of א is going to present “questions” that we Bible believers have not fully worked through long, long ago only shows how little Mr. Bolton knows his subject.
The Codex, probably the oldest Bible we have, also has books which are missing from the Authorised Version that most Christians are familiar with today – and it does not have crucial verses relating to the Resurrection.
Notice the assumption that “inclusion between leather covers = inclusion in the canon.” He clearly has no idea that this is a disputed claim, and is simply following Ehrman, who, sadly, often forgets to provide “the other side” to the ever-hungry media. Yes, א contains non-canonical books, specifically, the Shepherd of Hermes and the Epistle of Barnabas. Both were, at some point in time, viewed as canonical by small groups of believers, often by those from the area where the books were actually produced. But it is a long leap from this historical observation (one known to any first year church history student in Bible college) to the uncritically promoted conclusion that this means the original copyists/producers of א believed these books to be Scripture. It is just as likely, and in fact, more likely, that they did not. Why? Because א was produced around the time of the Council of Nicea, and the fortunes of both of those books had fallen off considerably by that time. They were considered by many to be good books to be read for edification, but not part of canonical Scripture (to borrow the conclusion of Athanasius writing just a few decades later). Having them copied and included no more made them canonical than including John MacArthur’s study notes makes them canonical. It was easier to have such a major project as that represented by א done in one fell swoop rather than having lots of smaller projects, and the result was a very, very large book. But one book is easier to transport/carry than multiples, and evidently, that is what happened in this case. But the specifics aside, I can only shake my head at the condescending attitude of the media today that would assume that if you believe in inerrancy you must be an IQ-challenged dolt without the first clue as to the history of your own faith. And I hope the reader finds Bolton’s quotation of the words of Barnabas at least somewhat revealing: how dare Barnabas contain such words…except…that they come from the New Testament (Matthew 27:25).
At this point Ehrman comes into view, and of course, what I found interesting was Ehrman’s repetition of his “the Bible can’t be inspired because it was not copied perfectly in every single instance” argument: the very essence of our debate in January. Listen to this paragraph:
And although many of the other alterations and differences are minor, these may take some explaining for those who believe every word comes from God.
Sadly, the answers given…for centuries…often by leading Christian scholars in the United Kingdom seem to be utter news to this writer. This level of ignorance is truly amazing. Later he opines,
Fundamentalists, who believe every word in the Bible is true, may find these differences unsettling.
Yeah, us fundies have never heard of Sinaiticus alright. Amazing, just amazing. Can Bolton really believe Sinaiticus is news? We move on,
Mr Ehrman was a born again Bible-believing Evangelical until he read the original Greek texts and noticed some discrepancies.
The Bible we now use can’t be the inerrant word of God, he says, since what we have are the sometimes mistaken words copied by fallible scribes.
Someone needs to get this story straight, and I think Dr. Ehrman should be on the front lines correcting all these misapprehensions…unless it is his own story that has caused them. Ehrman has directly, clearly said that it was not the textual issue that caused him to lose his faith, it was theodicy, the problem of evil. Yet, he does not seem overly intent upon correcting this kind of false assertion. Sadly, MisQuoting Jesus sold a lot better than God’s Problem did, so, when you are depending upon your role as the “reverse Paul,” maybe it is acceptable to allow the readers to think you converted for reasons you say you did not, as long as it “helps the cause.”
This may not sound like a heavy-weight argument, but I intend, early on in our debate, to ask a basic question of Dr. Ehrman: “Why?” Yes, “why?” Why do you believe God could not have inspired His Word in writing (outside of chiseling it in a mountain side) until Gutenberg, at the earliest, and probably, not until computerized technology came about? Can you give us something more than “Well, I just don’t think He would use imperfect human beings to transmit His Word over time…or, he’d remove their humanity from them long enough to over-ride any possible copyist errors anyway”? I hope my question will be answered in the opening statements, honestly, but if it isn’t, I will be asking that one pretty early on.
Four variants are noted in the article. Note that Bolton never gives the references. He leaves it nebulous so that it looks a lot more nefarious than the reality. Regular readers of this blog will have to chuckle just a little bit at this one:
Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
Who was it who did an entire hour on the textual variant at Luke 23:34 just recently on their webcast? Oh, that was me and Alan K.! Yes indeed. And did we not discuss the two readings of Sinaiticus? In fact, I posted graphics from the manuscript to aid those listening to the webcast (found here). And yet somehow, I still believe in the inerrancy of Scripture! How can this be?
Isn’t it odd that we conservative, Bible-believing Christians produce hour long webcasts going in-depth into the text of א but all the BBC can do is give vague references without even providing the citations of the relevant texts? And why even raise well-known textual issues like John 7:53-8:11, unless you are either writing this solely for shock value, or, you really have no idea what you are talking about?
Once again, this is all we can expect out of the leftist media today, almost anywhere. There is no counter-balancing in sources, no checking of facts. Just throw it out there, assume anyone who is not a good secular humanist is an ignorant and gullible person fresh off the farm, and think you have practiced true journalism. My, how far the BBC has fallen!