Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Obstacle 4

Can we know what was written? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Madison gets to his fourth obstacle which is certainly a doozy! We don’t have any original manuscripts!

Which I don’t think any ancient historian gets in a panic about concerning the ancient documents that we have, to which I don’t know a single original manuscript that we have. But hey, in fundamentalist atheist land, that doesn’t matter. We can know what those other documents said even though we have far fewer copies and those copies are a greater chronological distance from the original.

This isn’t my opinion alone either. Here’s what one New Testament scholar had to say on that one.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Also in a book he has on the New Testament he wrote:

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

So who was this guy? Bruce Metzger? Dan Wallace? Some evangelical scholar?

Nope. Bart Ehrman.

This is the first reference: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco.

This is the second:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481

In this brief part, Madison cites no scholarship. He points to the story of the woman caught in adultery and the long woman in Mark. He is unaware that this is not new information as even the early church knew about these. The fact that we know that these are not part of the original manuscripts is actually evidence about the reliability of the manuscripts that we have.

He also says something about the sloppy copying process, but there is no data for this and nothing to indicate that even though many scribes in early Christianity were not professionals, that we have a significant loss. There is nothing about the number of manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about the dating of the manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about references in the early church fathers.

And this is the kind of material that internet atheists look at and consider to be powerful arguments. These are arguments that sadly Madison wrote in a book because he thought that they were something worth paying attention to. All he has done is just demonstrated his ignorance of the subject matter.

We’ll move on to the next section next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


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