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The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Chunk » Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:09 pm

The Bible can be reconstructed accurately up to 99%?

Christian apologists argue that :

1)The Bible has been accurately preserved through the years such that we can reconstruct the original texts that left the authors hand by up to 99%.

And

2)That 1% remaining does not affect key Christian doctrine.

Both of these statements are false. If the original texts could be reconstructed with such high fidelity, then why hasn't it been done? Christians cannot even decide which of the books of the Bible belong in the Bible (Catholic vs Protestant) let alone the textual variants within these books. They cannot agree which of these variants were the original and which were added/removed. And the 1% does not affect key Christian doctrine? The inclusion of the longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:9-20] affects the doctrine of the snake-handling churches of Appalachia (many have died from being bitten). The Johannine Comma are the only verses in the Bible that explicitly affirm the doctrine of the Trinity but it was probably added by a scribe during transmission of the text.
Chunk
 

Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Hazel » Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:18 pm

Atheist here! I'm going to defend the typical apologist line on this one, because I think this is an area where they are quite right.

> If the original texts could be reconstructed with such high fidelity, then why hasn't it been done?

It has. Most modern Bibles will have footnotes on the most questionable verses. Heck, just marking the "long ending of Mark" and the story of the woman taken in adultery would be sufficient to nail down "99%" in my opinion.

> Christians cannot even decide which of the books of the Bible belong in the Bible (Catholic vs Protestant) let alone the textual variants within these books.

That's a question of canonization, not textual reconstruction.

> And the 1% does not affect key Christian doctrine? The inclusion of the longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:9-20] affects the doctrine of the snake-handling churches of Appalachia (many have died from being bitten).

Most Christians wouldn't consider that to be a core Christian doctrine.

> The Johannine Comma are the only verses in the Bible that explicitly affirm the doctrine of the Trinity but it was probably added by a scribe during transmission of the text.

This all sounds very "Bart Ehrman-y" (not that that's a bad thing). Most Christians believe that the Trinity is so evidenced by other verses that the missing Johannine Comma is inconsequential.

That's my two cents!
Hazel
 

Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:18 pm

> If the original texts could be reconstructed with such high fidelity, then why hasn't it been done?

I agree with Hazel. It has been done. There are over 5000 manuscripts and fragments. With such a profuse quantity, we pretty well know which readings are stronger, which are poorly attested, and the parts that don't belong at all (Mk. 16.9-20; Jn. 8.1-11, and a few verses scattered about).

> Christians cannot even decide which of the books of the Bible belong in the Bible (Catholic vs Protestant) let alone the textual variants within these books.

Again, I agree with Hazel. This is an issue of canonization, not textual variants. By the way, the extra books were not added by the Catholic Church until after the Reformation in the 1500s. That says something right there.

> And the 1% does not affect key Christian doctrine?

Right. Nowhere. Mark 16.9-20 isn't original and doesn't belong. And snake-handling isn't a doctrine.

> The Johannine Comma

These are well-known variants that have been adequately dealt with.

So you're just incorrect about your assessment. These statements (your 1 & 2) are NOT false. I'd love to talk more about it, though, if you want.
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Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Chunk » Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:14 am

Thanks for your input, I was more interested in getting responses from a Christian perspective. You would agree that the long/short ending of Mark + JComma etc. are later additions or alterations? So you would have no problem if a new version of the Bible came out that excluded these verses altogether or restored them to their original state? My guess is that many Christians will have a problem with this. If you have no issue with this, my next question is "why hasn't it been done?".

> Right. Nowhere. Mark 16.9-20 isn't original and doesn't belong.

Okay you do not consider those examples I have given to be part of the 1%. Which variants do you consider to be part of the 1% then?
Chunk
 

Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:58 am

> I was more interested in getting responses from a Christian perspective.

I am a Christian. That's why I jumped into the conversation.

> The long ending of Mark

Definitely a later addition. The earliest Greek manuscripts and the Church Fathers support the conclusion that Mark ended his Gospel at 16.8. The extra verses are not in Vaticanus (about AD 350), Sinaiticus (AD 375ish), the Old Latin manuscript *k*, The Sinaitic Syriac, and on and on. Eusebius writes that Mark ended at 16.8, and Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian, and Cyril of Jerusalem don't seem to have any knowledge of it. We can reliably conclude it was added much much later and is not authentic.

> the Johannine Comma

None of the ancient manuscripts have the longer reading found in the KJV, and therefore the shorter reading is the accurate one. The longer reading doesn't even show up until the 9th century. The conclusion is obvious.

> You would agree that the long/short ending of Mark + JComma etc. are later additions or alterations?

Correct.

> So you would have no problem if a new version of the Bible came out that excluded these verses altogether or restored them to their original state?

Correct.

> If you have no issue with this, my next question is "why hasn't it been done?".

It has been done. My NIV Bible says, at Mark 16.9: "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16.9-20." But then they put it there so people can see it.

At John 8.1-11, my NIV Bible says, "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7.53 - 8.11."

At 1 John 5.7-8, my NIV reads: "For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement." There is a footnote about the Vulgate having a longer version, and they write in the footnote what that longer version is.

My NASB Bible has Mark 16.9-20 bracketed and footnoted with a notation that the oldest manuscripts omit vv. 9-20. So also at John 8. At 1 Jn. 5.7-8 it reads: "For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."

One more: the brand new CSV (Christian Standard Version), just came out. Same thing. Mark 16.9-20 with a line and a notation that early mss don't include it. John 8, same notation. 1 John 5.7-8, the shorter version.

In my King James Bible, there is a footnote at Mark 16.9 saying that vv. 9-20 "are not found in the most ancient manuscripts." So also at John 8. In 1 John 5.7-8, it has a footnote about the discrepancy but includes the longer version.

> Which variants do you consider to be part of the 1% then?

There are many variant readings, but only a few that are really questionable. I presume you want me to point out some of those.

- Mt. 1.18. There's an almost equal balance of manuscripts that read either "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus." Translators aren't quite sure which way to go on it. Some even just have "Christ." Ooh.
- Mt. 2.18. Again, almost an equal balance. Some read "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping"; others "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and mourning." Again, not exactly earth-shaking.

Let me look for a worse one...

Oh, here's one. Mt. 5.11. Some manuscripts say "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Others totally omit the "falsely" so that it reads, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me." The manuscript evidence isn't clear at all on this one. It's a toss of the coin.

So, does that give you the idea?
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Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Chunk » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:57 pm

> It has been done. My NIV Bible says, at Mark 16.9: "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16.9-20." But then they put it there so people can see it.

They include a disclaimer in the footnotes, this is not the same as omission. If they are not part of the original, then mentioning that some early manuscripts differ is not the same as removing them altogether. I am not accusing Bible publishers of hiding the facts about these variants, what I am saying is that they are unwilling to remove these variants as some believe them to be part of the original and some do not, like yourself.
Chunk
 

Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:57 pm

I would correct your perspective with this: No one believes them to "part of the original." We all know they weren't. The discussion is in whether they should still be regarded as authoritative or not, even if they were later additions. We all know they were later addictions. That's why she are unwilling to remove these variants.
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Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Cicero » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:55 pm

> The manuscript evidence isn't clear at all on this one. It's a toss of the coin.

Though you're understating your own case, IMO. A close examination of the manuscript variants for Mt 5:11 strongly indicates the omission is secondary. Point being, even in doubtful cases, textual critics tend to find a reasonable solution so the 1% isn't beyond hope or anything.

Also wanted to say, it's good to agree with you for once :)
Cicero
 

Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:56 pm

> Also wanted to say, it's good to agree with you for once :)

So miracles ARE possible????? ;)
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Re: The Bible is accurate up to 99%?

Postby Shazzam » Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:01 pm

>Mark 16.9-20 isn't original and doesn't belong.

So why is it still there then? I appreciate that in some Bibles there is a footnote explaining that the verses are not found in early manuscripts but I think if you asked your average Joe Christian they wouldn't have a clue that Mark 16 9-20 was simply added in at a later date, like other various verses in the Bible.

Your average Joe Christian thinks the bible is the word of God, do you not therefore think it is highly disingenuous to continue to include things that clearly aren't?
Shazzam
 

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