Can We Trust Our Bibles? A review and critique of A & E’s documentary, Who Wrote the Bible?
Introduction • In A & E’s documentary, Who Wrote the Bible?, several modern attacks are proposed. • This 2-volume DVD’s main goal seems to be to cast doubt upon the authorship and credibility of the Bible. • Several popular arguments are briefly explained though with little to no documentation and a lot of speculation. • In our review and critique, time does not permit us to consider each and every detail of their argument. • Instead, we will focus on the key concepts they propose as being problems for the credibility of the divine text.
Introduction • The key concepts brought forth in Volume I include… • The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the possibility there are more divine texts. • The Documentary Hypothesis or JEDP Theory concerning the first five books of the Bible often attributed to Moses. • The question of an accurate textual transmission over hundreds and thousands of years. • The key arguments brought forth in Volume II of this DVD include… • The “Q” gospel that Matthew and Luke supposedly used as a source and copied from in their gospels. • The question of legitimate and accurate manuscript evidence for the New Testament text. • The “rejected books” of the Bible that were not included during the “selection process” for the canon. • This includes several Gnostic texts, the Apocrypha and other writings rejected as inspired or canonical. • We cover this point in our review and critique of Banned from the Bible.
Volume I--the Dead Sea Scrolls • One of the key ideas this video tries to push is we may not have an accurate or complete Bible. • Thus, reference is made to the Dead Sea Scrolls to suggest there may be missing texts. • The video states, • “One hundred and twenty seven of the documents [Dead Sea Scrolls] represent canonized texts. … same as modern Bibles, but many of the scrolls contain passages that are new and unfamiliar to scholars” (1; 21:00).
Volume I--the Dead Sea Scrolls • The video goes on to assert The Dead Sea Scrolls show our current Biblical text is not accurate, • “there were in circulation different manuscripts of the same book. The book of Samuel is better than the book we have: longer, more detailed. Jeremiah is shorter and more confused” (1; 22:30). • In addition, it teaches we may be missing certain texts saying, • “The general rule is that the Dead Sea Scrolls have encouraged us to accept the validity of the Hebrew text which we have BUT to acknowledge the fact that there were other texts in circulation” (1; 22:50). • Is this true?
Classifying the Dead Sea Scrolls Sectarian Texts 200 + manuscripts Jewish Literature (Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha) Biblical Books 400 + 200 + manuscripts manuscripts
Contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls The Biblical Manuscripts Psalms Scroll (1Q10-12) Samuel Scroll (1Q7) Biblical manuscripts include whole or fragmentary copies of every book of the Old Testament (except for Esther)
Contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls The Biblical Manuscripts Paleo-Leviticus (11Q1-2) Paleo-Exodus (4Q22) Fragment 2
The Contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls The Biblical Manuscripts Paleo-Exodus (4Q22) fragment 2 Paleo-Leviticus (11Q1-2) 12 Paleo-Hebrew Biblical Scrolls (written in pre-exilic script) The oldest scroll Genesis (4Q12) is in paleo-Hebrew dated to 250-300 B.C.
Every Book Of Old Testament Represented Over 1,000 years older than previous manuscripts!
Dead Sea Scrolls Masoretic Text Over 1000 Years The Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls Aleppo Codex Isaiah Scroll 125 BC AD 1 AD 500 AD 900
Over 1000 Years The Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls Aleppo Codex Isaiah Scroll How Do They Compare? Identical Word-For-Word In More Than 95% Of The Text 5% variation consisted of obvious slips of the pen and spelling
Less Than 25 Years Latest OT Book Written About BC 325 Oldest DSS Written About BC 300 The Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls Less Than A Generation Removed (The Generation Closest To Original)
Isaiah 40 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
Volume I--the Dead Sea Scrolls • The fact other texts were found is no evidence that we are missing inspired texts. • In any person or community’s library we would expect to find both inspired and uninspired literature. • Why should the Essene community in Qumran be any different? • The manuscripts we have found at Qumran do not vary in the actual wording of the text. • Samuel may have additional text, but it does not contradict the Samuel of the Bible. • Jeremiah may have less text, but there is no contradiction of the text at Qumran with the Jeremiah of today’s Bible. • In fact, the manuscript evidence for accurate textual transmission is enhanced by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. • In part 2 we will consider how the Dead Sea Scrolls have also given more evidence in favor of the New Testament.
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • A key argument often proposed to cast doubt upon the Scriptures is the question of textual transmission. • Besides the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Old Testament manuscripts are hundreds of years removed from the originals. • This is to be expected as writing materials crack, wither and fade away. • But, can we expect our Old Testament text to be accurate in this situation? • Did some add, remove and edit parts of the inspired text? • A favorite illustration used by skeptics is how messages change like when playing the game “telephone.” • Let’s notice the careful methods used by the scribes and copyists of the inspired text.
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • According to Josh McDowell, • “In Judaism, a succession of scholars was charged with standardizing and preserving the biblical text, fencing out all possible introduction of error…” • Rabbi Aquiba, from the second century A.D. is credited with saying, • “…the accurate transmission of the text is a fence for the Torah.” • F.F. Bruce, Rylands professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, says, • “…the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible which the Masoretes edited had been handed down to their time with conspicuous fidelity over a period of nearly a thousand years.”
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • Various groups were charged with copying the Hebrew text. • The scribes between the 5th and 3rd centuries B.C. • The Zugoth in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. • The Tannaim until A.D. 200. • The Talmudists (A.D. 100-500). • The Masoretes (A.D. 500-1000) • We want to consider the Talmudists’ disciplines in regard to transcribing the text. • Seeing their habits will help us note their high regard for the sacred text.
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • Samuel Davidson describes the rules, • “A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew. These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals. Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex. The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 or more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters. The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other colour, and be prepared according to a definite recipe. An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate…”
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • He continues… • “…No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him…Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between every new section, the breadth of nine consonants; between every book, three lines. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so. Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.” • When complete, the Talmudists were convinced they had an exact duplicate and gave it equal authority. • This helps explain the lack of earlier copies.
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • Sir Frederic Kenyon in Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts writes, • “The same extreme care which was devoted to the transcription of manuscripts is also at the bottom of the disappearance of the earlier copies. When a manuscript had been copied with the exactitude prescribed by the Talmud, and had been duly verified, it was accepted as authentic and regarded as being of equal value with any other copy. If all were equally correct, age gave no advantage to a manuscript; on the contrary age was a positive disadvantage, since a manuscript was liable to become defaced or damaged in the lapse of time. A damaged or imperfect copy was at once condemned as unfit for use.”
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • Kenyon continues, • “Attached to each synagogue was a “Gheniza” or lumber cupboard, in which defective manuscripts were laid aside; and from these receptacles some of the oldest manuscripts now extant have in modern times been recovered. Thus, far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the most perfect and free from damage. The older copies, once consigned to the “Gheniza” naturally perished, either from neglect or from being deliberately burned when the “Gheniza” became overcrowded.”
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • Kenyon concludes, • “The absence of very old copies of the Hebrew Bible need not, therefore, either surprise or disquiet us. If, to the causes already enumerated, we add the repeated persecutions (involving much destruction of property) to which the Jews have been subject, the disappearance of the ancient manuscripts is adequately accounted for, and those which remain may be accepted as preserving that which alone they profess to preserve—namely, the Masoretic text. • The Masoretes were so careful in their transcription that they… • Counted the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in each book. • Pointed out the middle letter in the Pentateuch. • Pointed out the middle letter of the Hebrew Bible. • Made up mnemonics so the totals could be remembered.
We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them. —Flavius Josephus (Contra Apion, Book I, sec., 8, p. 158) Volume I—The Question of Textual Transmission Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian wrote,
Volume I--Question of Textual Transmission • As mentioned earlier, the Dead Sea Scrolls help confirm we have a sound text. • Gleason Archer says of the Isaiah copies from Qumran (the most significant find), • “…proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations of spelling.” • F.F. Bruce says of the new find, • “The new evidence confirms what we had already good reason to believe—that the Jewish scribes of the early Christian centuries copied and recopied the text of the Hebrew Bible with the utmost fidelity.”
Volume I--The Documentary Hypothesis • Volume I spends several minutes proposing what is popularly known as “The Documentary Hypothesis.” • The basic theory is that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. • Before explaining the hypothesis, we must understand the reasoning behind it. • First, many historians have a worldview that does not believe in the supernatural (as mentioned in the Exodus lesson). • Instead, God or gods are used as a tool to enforce laws in a primitive, evolving culture. • Second, they believe that religion, including Israel’s, evolved over time…they claim we can see such evolution in the Pentateuch.
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • The proponents of this hypothesis believe… • The religion of Israel followed this evolutionary process. • The writings of the Pentateuch can be separated into various documents which prove this—thus Moses was not the author. • There were at least four different writers who compiled the Pentateuch. • E—in Exodus 3:6, God is referred to as “Elohim” a word that represents a polytheistic culture where God is simply Creator. • J—in Exodus 3:2, God is referred to as “Jehovah,” when this word is used it represents God as the covenant God of Israel. • D—the writer of Deuteronomy, this writing shows progress in social organization and an advance in law. • P—all writings dealing with priestly elements were added later as the religion evolved to this point, it was likely edited by a priest/scribe.
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • Their view is stated by William Albright in his Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, • “The entire school of Wellhausen (those who teach the evolution of the Hebrew religion, JRW) has agreed on a refusal to admit Mosaic monotheism, and a conviction that Israelite monotheism was the result of a gradual process, which did not culminate until the eighth century B.C.” • McDowell writes in his chapter on “Documentary Presuppositions,” • “Monotheism was not considered to have been present in the Mosaic age. It was, rather, considered to have been a result of the purifying effects of the Babylonian exile, and not characteristic of Israel until after the sixth century B.C.” • If this theory is true, any statement in the Pentateuch that teaches monotheism could not have been written by Moses.
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • Problems with this theory—a refusal to admit archaeological evidence. • Monotheistic beliefs are evidenced through archaeology in the Mosaic age (1500-1200 B.C.). • Joseph Free writes, • “…an examination of the archaeological inscriptional material shows that a monotheistic type of worship of the god Aton came into Egypt in the period between 1400 and 1350 B.C. Monotheistic tendencies in Babylonia are evidenced in the period 1500-1200 B.C. in a famous Babylonian text which identifies all important Babylonian deities with some aspect of the great god Marduk…there is one great god with various functions. Monotheistic tendencies also appear in Syria and Canaan in this time period of the fourteenth century B.C.” • Archaeology and Liberalism, 334-335.
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • We could look at much more archaeological evidence. • However, we will now look at positive evidence for Mosaic authorship. • The Pentateuch itself credits Moses as its author in several key portions that “scholars” dispute. • Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:4,7). • Renewal of the Covenant (Exodus 34:27). • Deuteronomic Code (Deut. 31:9,24-26). • Itinerary of Israel from Ramses to Moab (Num. 33:2). • Song of Moses (Deut. 32:19-21). • Other Old Testament books credit Moses with writing, not just passing on in oral tradition, the Pentateuch. • Joshua 1:7-8; 8:31,34; 23:6 • 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 23:25 • 2 Chronicles 23:18; 25:4; 30:16; 35:12 • Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 8:1,14; 13:1
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • Moses would have definitely been in a position to write the Pentateuch. • He had… • The education (Acts 7:22) • Resources (he could have received records of pre-Mosaic history from Hebrew and Egyptian sources) • Geographical familiarity (had intimate knowledge of Egypt, Sinai as seen in the Pentateuch) • Motivation (called by God) • Time (40 years in the wilderness is plenty of time)
Volume I—The Documentary Hypothesis • The New Testament also confirms Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. • Mark 12:19, • “Teacher, Moses wrote to us…” • John 1:17, • “For the law was given through Moses…” • Romans 10:5, • “Moses writes…” • John 5:45-47, • “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” • Was Jesus wrong? Denying Moses was the author of the Pentateuch has widespread implications!
Can We Trust Our Bibles? (part 2) A review and critique of A & E’s documentary, Who Wrote the Bible?
Volume II--Is There Significant N.T. Manuscript Evidence? • Volume II of this DVD begins by calling into question the manuscripts of the New Testament. • Two main problems they identify are… • The original authors did not identify themselves. • Only copies of manuscripts exist. • John Dominic Crossan, a liberal scholar, uses the gospel of Mark as an example. • He claims the oldest manuscript we have of Mark is from 225 A.D. so we must have, • “copies and copies and copies and copies and copies” (2; 10:00).
Volume II--Is There Significant N.T. Manuscript Evidence? • Josh McDowell writes in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, • “The bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and extant (currently existing) copies?” (p.33,34). • Thankfully, the New Testament text rests on a multitude of manuscript evidence.
Volume II--Is There Significant Manuscript Evidence? • Consider the wealth of extant manuscripts of the N.T. that were copied by hand from the 2nd through 15th centuries. • 5,656 Greek copies alone • Over 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts • 9,300 other early versions (Ethiopic, Slavic, Armenian, etc.) • We have nearly 24,970 manuscripts of portions of the New Testament in existence today. • Compare that to only 643 existing manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad.
Volume II--Is There Significant Manuscript Evidence? • The number of manuscript copies is important. • It makes it possible to reconstruct the original with a very high accuracy. • John Warwick Montgomery states, • “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” • F.J.A. Hort adds, • “in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands alone among ancient prose writings.”
Volume II--Is There Significant Manuscript Evidence? • A common criticism of the New Testament is that it is full of errors. • Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, who was the director and principal librarian of the British Museum, says, • “…besides number, the manuscripts of the New Testament differ from those of classical authors…in no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century; the earliest extant manuscripts are of the fourth century—say from 250 to 300 years later. This may sound like a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earliest manuscripts. We believe that we have in all essentials an accurate test of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it is based was written more than 1400 years after the poet’s death.”
Volume II—Is There Significant Manuscript Evidence? • Dockery, Mathews, and Sloan write, • “It must be said that the amount of time between the original composition and the next surviving manuscript is far less for the New Testament than for any other work in Greek literature…Although there are certainly differences in many of the New Testament manuscripts, not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading.” • Edward Glenny reports, • “No one questions the authenticity of the historical books of antiquity because we do not possess the original copies. Yet we have far fewer manuscripts of these works than we possess of the New Testament.”
Volume II--Is the Earliest Mark Manuscript from 225 A.D.? • This video alleges that Matthew and Luke copied quite a bit from Mark. • Yet, they also claim that the text of Mark could be greatly corrupted. • One scholar asserts that our earliest manuscript evidence of Mark’s gospel is from 225 A.D. • This is yet another area where the Dead Sea Scrolls have helped in critical research. • Several finds among the Dead Sea Scrolls have made this claim obsolete.
7Q5 Mark 6:52-53 Cave 7 Greek fragments (7Q3-18) The Dead Sea Scrolls Earliest New Testament Text Exodus Jeremiah Cave 7’s roof and sides have eroded away.
Cave 7 Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls Earliest New Testament Text Cave 7’s roof and sides have eroded away. (7Q5)
Volume II--Is the Earliest Mark Manuscript from 225 A.D.? • This fragment contains the words from Mark 6:52-53, • “For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there.”
Mark 13 (Mark can now be dated to AD 50) 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” Destruction of Jerusalem occurred in AD 70
Volume II--Analyzing the “Q” Source Document • This video surmises that Matthew and Luke, since they wrote their gospels later, copied from Mark. • For the material that differs, they propose that Matthew and Luke (who were not the authors) used a different source. • They call this source “Q.” • This is from the German word “Quelle” meaning “source.” • The video claims, • “No material evidence for the existence of a hypothetical Q Gospel has ever been found, yet its influence is unmistakable” (2; 15:00). • Can you say “hypocrites”? • Earlier, they doubted the authenticity of Scriptures because we do not have the originals. • Now, they are claiming Matthew and Luke used another source even though they have no proof of the original!
Volume II--Analyzing the “Q” Source Document • Concerning this attack, consider… • It is reasonable that these accounts be similar since they record the same events. • Luke himself mentions that he witnessed and received information about Jesus from witnesses (Luke 1:1-3). • Many of the early church fathers, those close to the time period, give credit to Matthew and Luke as authors. • Eusebius credits Mark with the gospel of Mark. • Papias credits Matthew with writing his gospel. • Irenaeus gives credit to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the authors of the gospels that bear their name. • The writers often claim to be primary sources (Luke 1:1-3).
Volume II--Analyzing the “Q” Source Document • F.F. Bruce writes in The New Testament Documents, • “…it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened. And it was not only friendly eyewitnesses that the early preachers had to reckon with; there were others less well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so…Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.”