"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Eleven OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To ascertain if Paul's instructions concerning the veil were meant to be applied today, or if he was simply admonishing them to abide by what was a social custom of their day 2) To notice the purpose of the Lord's Supper and the manner in which it is to be observed SUMMARY Having spent three chapters discussing the issue of eating things sacrificed to idols, Paul now quickly covers two separate matters in this one chapter. The first pertains to women praying and prophesying with heads uncovered (2-16). In view of what we are able to glean about the society of Corinth, and from comments made by Paul in this chapter and elsewhere, I believe that the problem Paul addresses is one that was occurring out in public and not in the assembly. Beginning in verse 17 and continuing through chapter 14, Paul covers issues affecting their assemblies as a church, the first being the manner in which they abused the observance of the Lord's Supper (17-34). OUTLINE I. WOMEN PRAYING AND PROPHESYING WITH HEADS UNCOVERED (2-16) A. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS (2-5a) 1. Commendation for having kept the apostolic traditions delivered to them (2) 2. A reminder concerning the proper line of authority (3) 3. Concerning praying and prophesying (4-5a) a. Every man who does so with head covered dishonors his head (Christ) b. Every woman who does so with head uncovered dishonors her head (man) B. EXPLANATORY COMMENTS (5b-16) 1. A woman praying or prophesying uncovered would make her appear as one shorn or shaved (5a) a. If a woman is not covered, let her be shorn (6a) b. If to be shorn or shaved is shameful, let her be covered (6b) 2. It is proper for a man not to cover his head (7-9) a. Man is the image and glory of God, while woman is the glory of man (7) b. Man did not come from woman, nor was created for woman (8-9) 3. It is appropriate for a woman to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of angels (10) 4. This is not to say that man is independent of woman (11-12) a. Especially in the Lord (11) b. For as the woman is from the man, so the man is through the woman (12a) c. And all things are from God (12b) 5. Judge this matter for yourselves (13-15) a. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with uncovered head? (13) b. Does not even nature teach you? (14-15) 1) That long hair on a man is a dishonor to him? (14) 2) That long hair on a woman is a glory to her, and provides a covering? (15) 6. But if anyone is contentious about this matter... (16) a. We have no such custom (i.e., this is not an "apostolic tradition") b. Nor do the churches of God II. CONCERNING THE LORD'S SUPPER (17-34) A. THE CONDUCT AT CORINTH IN REGARDS TO THE LORD'S SUPPER (17-22) 1. He cannot praise them for their conduct in their assemblies (17-19) a. Their coming together is not for the better, but for the worse (17) b. He has heard of their divisions, of which the only good thing that could be said is that it does show who is really approved among them (18-19) 2. Especially in regards to the Lord's Supper (20-22) a. Their divisiveness made it impossible to eat properly, and led to severe abuses (20-21) b. They despised the church and shamed the poor, for which Paul could not praise them (22) B. THE INSTITUTION AND PROPER OBSERVANCE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER (23-34) 1. The institution as received by Paul directly from the Lord (23-25) 2. Properly observed, it is a proclamation of the Lord's death (26) 3. Properly observed, it is accompanied by self-examination (27-32) a. Which enables us to observe it without bringing judgment to ourselves (27-29) b. Otherwise, we will be judged and chastened by the Lord, that we might not be condemned with the world (30-32) 4. Concluding instructions (33-34) a. When you come together to eat the Supper, wait for one another (33) b. If you are hungry, eat at home (34a) c. Paul will have more to say when he comes to Corinth (34b) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Women Praying And Prophesying With Head Uncovered (2-16) - Concerning The Lord's Supper (17-34) 2) For what does Paul commend the church in Corinth? (2) - Remembering him and keeping the traditions as he delivered to them 3) What is the proper order of authority? (3) - God, Christ, Man, Woman 4) What evidence is there that Paul is discussing praying and prophesying out in public, and not in the assembly? - His commendation in verse 2 (they were keeping the apostolic traditions delivered to them) - His question in verse 13 (they would have answered "yes" if they were being asked concerning women in a religious assembly in Corinth; see The Expositors' Greek Testament) - His remarks in verses 17-18 (he at this point begins to address abuses in their assemblies) - His commandments in 14:34-37 (concerning women in the assembly) 5) What evidence is there that Paul is encouraging them to act in harmony with the customs of their day? - His comments in verses 5-6 (arguing on the basis of "IF it is shameful...") - His appeal to propriety in verse 13 ("is it proper...?") - His conclusion in verse 16 (this is not an "apostolic" or "church" custom) 6) How did Paul feel about eating common meals in the assemblies? (22, 34) - He did not approve, and strongly condemned those who did 7) What is the purpose of the Lord's Supper? (24-26) - A memorial in which we proclaim the Lord's death 8) How should one observe the Lord's Supper? (27-29) - In a worthy manner - With self-examination - Discerning the Lord's body 9) How can we avoid the judgement of God? (31) - By judging ourselves 10) What is God's purpose in judging His children? (32) - To chasten, that we not be condemned with the world 11) What appears to be an important element in observing the Lord's Supper? (33; Acts 20:7) - That it be done "together"
"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Ten OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To realize the possibility of apostasy 2) To appreciate the help of God in times of temptation 3) To understand the importance of properly applying the principle of expediency SUMMARY In this chapter Paul brings to a conclusion his discussion concerning things offered to idols. Reminding them about the example of Israel's apostasy and the danger of their own, he commands them to "flee idolatry" (1-14). He describes the communal implications of religious feasts and warns against provoking the Lord to jealousy by having fellowship with demons (15-22). This is probably a rebuke to the sort of practice alluded to in chapter 8, verse 10, where some at the church in Corinth thought nothing of eating sacrificial meat even in an idol's temple! He closes by giving specific instructions concerning meat that was later sold in the market place, or offered at the dinner of an unbeliever to which they might be invited; that they not be concerned unless someone specifically associates it with having been offered to an idol, and then to refrain out of consideration for the other's conscience (23-30). An overriding principle? Do all to the glory of God, and provide no occasi on for others to stumble (31-32). In other words, imitate Paul, who sought to save others just as Christ did (33-11:1). OUTLINE I. EXAMPLES OF ISRAEL'S APOSTASY (1-14) A. APOSTASY IN SPITE OF BLESSINGS (1-5) 1. Blessings received in the crossing of the Red Sea (1-2) 2. Blessings received as they sojourned in the wilderness (3-4) 3. Still, with most of them God was not pleased, and they died in the wilderness (5) B. THE EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL SHOULD SERVE TO WARN CHRISTIANS (6-14) 1. Their example of apostasy to warn us (6) a. Not to become idolaters (7) b. Not to commit sexual immorality (8) c. Not to tempt Christ (9) d. Not to murmur (10) 2. Their history recorded to admonish us (11) a. For we can just as easily fall (12) b. Though God is faithful to provide help in dealing with temptation (13) 3. Therefore, flee from idolatry! (14) II. RELIGIOUS FEASTS AND THEIR COMMUNAL IMPLICATIONS (15-22) A. THE EXAMPLE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER AND THE SACRIFICES OF ISRAEL (15-18) 1. Paul speaks as to those capable of making wise judgments (15) 2. Partaking of the Lord's Supper is a communion of the Lord's body and blood (16-17) 3. The priests of Israel who ate the sacrifices were sharing in the services offered on the altar (18) B. APPLIED TO THINGS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS (19-22) 1. Not to say that an idol is anything, nor that which is offered to the idol (19) 2. But those who offer the sacrifices do so to demons, not God; and Paul would not want them to have fellowship with demons (20) 3. They cannot eat and drink at the Lord's table and then do the same at the tables of demons (21) 4. Such would provoke the Lord to jealousy (22) III. CONCLUSION REGARDING THINGS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS (23-11:1) A. SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS (23-30) 1. Seek for those things that are helpful, being considerate of the well-being of others (23-24) 2. Concerning things sold in the market, eat without question (25-26) 3. When you are invited to a dinner with an unbeliever (27-30) a. Eat what is set before you, asking no question for conscience's sake (27) b. But if someone should point out that the food had been offered to an idol, don't eat (28-30) 1) For the sake of the one who pointed it out (28a) 2) For the sake of another's conscience (28b) a) Lest your liberty be judged (condemned?) by the other's conscience (29) b) Lest you be evil spoken of concerning that for which you gave thanks (30) B. GENERAL PRINCIPLES (31-11:1) 1. Whatever you do, do all to the glory to God (31) 2. Give no offense to Jews, Greeks, or the church of God (32) 3. Just as Paul sought to please others rather than himself, that others may be saved (33) 4. Imitate him, as he imitated Christ (11:1) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Examples Of Israel's Apostasy (1-14) - Religious Feasts And Their Communal Implications (15-22) - Conclusion Regarding Things Sacrificed To Idols (23-11:1) 2) What Old Testament account illustrates the possibility of apostasy? (1-11) - The exodus and wilderness wanderings of the Israelites 3) What attitude is most likely to precede one's fall? (12) - Thinking that by standing there is no danger of falling 4) What promises do we have that should encourage us in times of temptation? (13) - That God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear - That He will provide a way of escape to bear it 5) What is the Lord's Supper according to verse 16? - A communion (or sharing) of the body and blood of the Lord 6) What does partaking of the one bread demonstrate? (17) - That we are one body 7) In considering a matter, what must be considered besides its lawfulness? (23-24) - Is it helpful; does it edify one another 8) To whom are we to give no offense (an occasion of stumbling)? (32) - Jews, Greeks, the church of God
The Quran and Throwing Stars
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
In order for a book to demonstrate a divine origin, it must possess the attributes that accompany such a claim. For example, it must refrain from making statements that are outlandish and indicative of an author who was a simply a product of his times, and who shared in the common superstitions, mythology, and misconceptions that afflict humans unaided by supernatural agency.
With this in mind, examine the the Quran of the Muslim religion. The Quran makes several statements regarding heavenly “lamps” and their relationship to “devils.”
And verily in the heaven We have set mansions of the stars, and We have beautified it for beholders. And We have guarded it from every outcast devil, save him who stealeth the hearing, and them doth a clear flame pursue(Surah 15:16-18, emp. added).Lo! We have adorned the lowest heaven with an ornament, the planets; with security from every forward devil. They cannot listen to the Highest Chiefs forthey are pelted from every side, outcast, and theirs is a perpetual torment; save him who snatcheth a fragment, and there pursueth him a piercing flame (Surah 37:6-10, emp. added).And (the Jinn who had listened to the Quran said): We had sought the heaven but had found it filled with strong warders and meteors. And we used to sit on places (high) therein to listen. But he who listened now findeth a flame in wait for him (Surah 72:8-9, emp. added).And verily We have beautified the world’s heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles for the devils, and for them We have prepared the doom of flame (Surah 67:5, emp. added).
The reader is given the distinct impression that Allah uses shooting stars, or meteors, as missiles to drive evil spirits or demons away from heaven (to prevent them from listening to heavenly conversations) and to torment them. Such language cannot be dismissed as merely figurative, poetic, or phenonmenal. Of course, Muslim apologists recognize the absurdity of the idea of physical objects being hurled at spiritual beings, so they offer an alternative explanation. They claim the verses in question refer to soothsayers and astrologers who seek signs from the stars, but who become frightened by meteorological phenomena (see Pickthall, n.d., pp. 408,417). We leave the reader to judge whether this interpretation accounts adequately for the wording of the quranic text.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Did the Hebrew Writers Borrow from Ancient Near Eastern Mythology?
|by||Dewayne Bryant, M.A.|
For centuries, the bulk of the people in the West regarded the Bible as the Word of God. They saw it as the inerrant and inspired revelation of God to His creation. Beginning in the mid-1800s, some academicians began rejecting the inspiration of the Bible. This came, in part, after the discovery of ancient mythological texts. Upon examining the textual evidence, skeptics highlighted the Bible’s similarities with other literature and claimed it to be only one sacred book among a larger body of myth. After studying the Bible’s differences from ancient mythology, other scholars viewed these discoveries as confirmations of the Bible’s uniqueness.
Perhaps the most dominant viewpoint in biblical studies concerning the biblical text is that the Bible contains significant amounts of mythology borrowed from Israel’s neighbors (although we should quickly add that truth is not determined by majority opinion). This presumption has dominated biblical studies for nearly two centuries. But as additional texts have surfaced, more cautious scholars have backed away from this viewpoint. Indeed, myth was once seen as pure fiction, but now scholars are beginning to realize that this may not necessarily be the case. The belief that myth may contain small nuggets of historical truth is gaining popularity, even if we recognize that tales of the gods were nothing more than the work of inventive scribes. So where does this leave the Bible? The question we must ask is this: is the Bible pure myth, or is it something else?
We must first determine what we mean by “myth.” It is a notoriously difficult term to define, and scholars use it with a variety of nuances (see Kreeft and Tacelli, 1994, pp. 212-213). Some define it as any story including the supernatural. Most separate myth from legend, with the former being stories about the gods, and the latter being stories—with varying degrees of historical truth—about human beings. In modern parlance, some use it to refer to fiction, especially the body of stories about a particular character (e.g., the mythology of Superman or Captain America). But if we look at the term as it bears on the sacred texts of the religions in the ancient Near East, it has a clearly defined usage.
In his book The Bible Among the Myths, Old Testament scholar John Oswalt notes the radical differences between mythological texts and the Hebrew Bible (2009). The Bible and ancient myth came from two fundamentally different worldviews. Although he identifies nearly a dozen different points, we will examine four in particular.
THE MORAL CHARACTER OF DEITY
In the Bible, God’s moral character is identified with holiness and righteousness. To be more accurate, it is His character that defines holiness. His attributes set the standards for behavior. They are ethically and morally pure and upright. Furthermore, since He is perfect and cannot fundamentally change (Malachi 3:6), He can become neither any better nor any worse. His goodness is celebrated throughout the Bible (Psalm 16:2; 31:19; 107:1). He cannot be tempted or tempt another (James 1:17), or look upon evil with any measure of approval (Habakkuk 1:13). Individuals mirror God’s holiness, in part through ethical living (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16).
The gods of the ancient Near East often commit evil acts and frequently give themselves over to debauchery. In Egyptian myth, the chaotic god Seth murders his brother Osiris and dismembers the body. In an Egyptian myth titled “The Contendings of Horus and Seth,” Seth attempts to rape his nephew Horus during a contest over who will take Osiris’ place (Lichtheim, 2006, 2:219). Rape is a common theme in the Greek myths, where women and even goddesses are violated with a frequency that would shock many modern readers. In the Atrahasis Epic, the gods are outraged because humanity is keeping them awake at night. They attempt to silence humanity through various means, including disease and famine, and finally send a flood to destroy humanity for the sake of a good night’s sleep (see Foster, 1997). The gods are not above getting drunk, either. In one Ugaritic text, called “The Myth of El’s Banquet,” the Canaanite god El (or Ilu) becomes inebriated, and on his way home meets an unidentified animal which causes him to soil himself and fall down into his own excrement (see Pardee, 1997). Such inglorious stories are nowhere to be found in the Bible about God. The God of the Bible can in no way be compared to deities of human invention.
THE VIEW OF MANKIND
The biblical account of mankind’s creation is the most complete and noble of any in ancient Near Eastern literature. Other accounts of man’s creation must be pieced together from various fragments (as in Egypt), or else depict man as little more than an afterthought (as in Mesopotamia). Regardless of the specific tradition, the requirements are clear: man is created to serve the gods, to perform services for them, and, should they fail, incur divine wrath. As Walton observes:
while Israelites viewed man as created to rule, Mesopotamians viewed him as created to serve…. The fact that the Israelites viewed man as the centerpiece of creation afforded him a certain dignity, undergirded by the fact that he was created in the image of God. In contrast, Mesopotamians did not see man as created with dignity. Human beings achieved their dignity by the function they served (1989, p. 29).
He adds that humanity was originally created “in a barbarous state,” with humanity being “an unplanned afterthought, created for the sake of convenience” (p. 30).
The biblical account of Creation is vastly different from its Near Eastern counterparts. Man is the apex of creation. He has dignity because of who he is, not what he does. He is created as a kind of governor or viceroy charged with stewarding God’s creation (Genesis 1:28). Furthermore, this creation was prepared with man in mind (cf. Genesis 1:29-30), for his use and enjoyment. Although he is also created to worship his Creator, it is not a wearisome task. The New Testament further reveals that worship is also meant for the benefit of fellow believers (Acts 2:46-47; Ephesians 5:19), in addition to giving honor to God.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF DEITY
What the gods required of humanity in other cultures could not be known with any accuracy. The most a person could do was to infer the will of the gods based on their circumstances. If all was well and life was going smoothly, then it was apparent that the person was indeed doing the gods’ will. Should they suffer misfortune or tragedy, it must have meant that the person had offended the gods. It became their task to determine which god they might have offended through omens and offer the appropriate sacrifices. This was no easy task, and could be viewed as something of a guessing game. In contrast, God clearly outlined what He expected of mankind with precision through His spokesmen. His will is revealed clearly as a matter of public record, made known through readings to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). The people were warned before punishment, rebuked afterwards, and told specifically what needed to be done to please God.
The biblical authors had a worldview by which history was viewed as linear. The past, present, and future all had great importance. Specifically, the past served as a reminder, which God makes clear is important enough to signify with memorials, such as piles of stones (e.g., Joshua 4:19-24), or the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-39). The future is also important in the biblical worldview, as we see in the prophet Joel’s concern about the coming Day of the Lord (Joel 2:1-11), or Christ’s teaching about His impending return (Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The biblical writers considered all phases of time to be important.
There was virtually no understanding of history in the modern sense among the cultures of the ancient Near East. The Near Eastern view of history was cyclical and assigned little importance to the past or to the future. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (circa 484-425 B.C.) is called the “father of history” for good reason—prior to his time there was little or no recording or analysis of the past for its own sake. Historiography, as we know it, did not exist (an exception may be seen in the Babylonian chronicles, which record the history of Babylon from the eighth century through the third century B.C.). The past had very little importance outside its use as propaganda by monarchs interested in glorifying themselves (see Oswalt, 2009, pp. 111-137).
Mythology is much more than exciting stories filled with fantastic monsters, magic, and imaginative details. It is a way of thinking—a worldview. Careful comparison of the biblical text with myth makes it clear that the Bible and ancient Near Eastern mythology are not merely different from one another—they are radically so. Even a cursory reading is enough to give most people a feeling that the Bible and myth are quite different, even if they immediately may not be able to put their finger on why. Thanks to the discovery and study of ancient texts, the differences are easy to detect. The Bible, unlike Near Eastern mythology, has an air of dispassionate objectivity that puts it in a category by itself. The Bible and ancient mythology are so different from one another that any allegations of wholesale borrowing on the part of the biblical authors must be rejected by those who handle the ancient evidence with care.
Foster, Benjamin R., trans. (1997), “Atra-Hasis” in The Context of Scripture, Vol. 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Leiden: Brill).
Kreeft, Peter and Ronald Tacelli (1994), The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press).
Lichtheim, Miriam (2006), Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume 2: The New Kingdom(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Oswalt, John N. (2009), The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Pardee, Dennis, trans. (1997), “Ilu on a Toot” in The Context of Scripture, Vol. 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger (Leiden: Brill).
Walton, John H. (1989), Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A common misconception among atheists, humanists, and evolutionists is that those who reject evolution in order to hold to a fundamental, literal understanding of the biblical documents are guided by “blind faith.” Robinson articulated this position quite emphatically when he accused Christians of abandoning rationality and evidence in exchange for intellectual dishonesty and ignorance of the truth (1976, pp. 115-124). Many within the scientific community labor under the delusion that their “facts” and “evidence” are supportive of evolution and opposed to a normal, face-value understanding of the biblical text. They scoff at those who disagree with them, as if they alone have a corner on truth.
The fact of the matter is that while most of the religious world deserves the epithets hurled by the “informed” academicians, those who espouse pure, New Testament Christianity do not. New Testament Christians embrace the biblical definition of faith, in contrast to the commonly conceived understanding of faith that is promulgated by the vast majority of people in the denominational world.
The faith spoken of in the Bible is a faith that is preceded by knowledge. One cannot possess biblical faith in God until he or she comes to the knowledge of God. Thus, faith is not accepting what one cannot prove. Faith cannot outrun knowledge—for it is dependent upon knowledge (Romans 10:17). Abraham was said to have had faith only after he came to the knowledge of God’s promises and was fully persuaded (Romans 4:20-21). His faith, therefore, was seen in his trust and submission to what he knew to be the will of God. Biblical faith is attained only after an examination of the evidence, coupled with correct reasoning about the evidence.
The God of the Bible is a God of truth. Throughout biblical history, He has stressed the need for the acceptance of truth—in contrast with error and falsehood. Those who, in fact, fail to seek the truth are considered by God to be wicked (Jeremiah 5:1). The wise man urged: “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23). Paul, himself an accomplished logician, exhorted people to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). He stated the necessity of giving diligence to the task of dealing with the truth properly (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus declared that only by knowing the truth is one made free (John 8:32). Luke ascribed nobility to those who were willing to search for and examine the evidence, rather than being content to simply take someone’s word for the truth (Acts 17:11). Peter admonished Christians to be prepared to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15), which stands in stark contrast to those who, when questioned about proof of God, or the credibility and comprehensibility of the Bible, triumphantly reply, “I don’t know—I accept it by faith!”
Thus, the notion of “blind faith” is completely foreign to the Bible. People are called upon to have faith only after they receive adequate knowledge. In fact, the Bible demands that the thinker be rational in gathering information, examining the evidence, and reasoning properly about the evidence, thereby drawing only warranted conclusions. That, in fact, is the essentiality of what is known in philosophical circles as the basic law of rationality: one should draw only such conclusions as are justified by the evidence. Paul articulated exactly this concept when he wrote: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John echoed the same thought when he said to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). These passages show that the New Testament Christian is one who stands ready to examine the issues. God expects every individual to put to the test various doctrines and beliefs, and then to reach only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Man must not rely upon papal authorities, church traditions, or the claims of science. Rather, all people are obligated to rely upon the properly studied written directives of God (2 Timothy 2:15; John 12:48; 2 Peter 3:16). Biblical religion and modern science clash only because the majority of those within the scientific community have abandoned sound biblical hermeneutics and insist upon drawing unwarranted, erroneous conclusions from the relevant scientific evidence.
The Bible insists that evidence is abundantly available for those who will engage in unprejudiced, rational inquiry. The resurrection claim, for example, was substantiated by “many infallible proofs,” including verification through the observation of more than five hundred persons at once (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Many proofs were made available in order to pave the way for faith (John 20:30-31). Peter offered at least four lines of evidence to those gathered in Jerusalem before he concluded his argument with “therefore…” (Acts 2:14-36). The acquisition of knowledge through empirical evidence was undeniable, for Peter concluded, “as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22, emp. added). John referred to the auditory, visual, and tactile evidences that provided further empirical verification (1 John 1:1-2). Christ offered “works” to corroborate His claims, so that even His enemies did not have to rely merely on His words—if they would but honestly reason to the only logical conclusion (John 10:24-25,38). The proof was of such magnitude that one Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, even admitted: “[W]e know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Nevertheless, there are always those who, for one reason or another, refuse to accept the law of rationality, and who avoid the warranted conclusions—just like those who side-stepped the proof that Christ presented, and attributed it to Satan (Matthew 12:24). Christ countered such an erroneous conclusion by pointing out their faulty reasoning and the false implications of their argument (Matthew 12:25-27). The proof that the apostles presented was equally conclusive, though unacceptable to many (Acts 4:16).
The proof in our day is no less conclusive, nor is it any less compelling. While it is not within the purview of this brief article to prove such (see Warren and Flew, 1977; Warren and Matson, 1978), the following tenets are provable: (1) we can know (not merely think, hope, or wish) that God exists (Romans 1:19-20); (2) we can know that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and intended to be comprehended in much the same way that any written human communication is to be understood; (3) we can know that one day we will stand before God in judgment and give account for whether we have studied the Bible, learned what to do to be saved, and obeyed those instructions; and (4) we canknow that we know (1 John 2:3).
By abandoning the Bible as a literal, inerrant, infallible standard by which all human behavior is to be measured, the scientist has effectively rendered biblical religion, biblical faith, and New Testament Christianity sterile—at least as far as his or her own life is concerned. Once the Bible is dismissed as “figurative,” “confusing,” or “incomprehensible,” one has opened wide the doors of subjectivity, in which every man’s view is just as good as another’s. The more sophisticated viewpoint may be more appealing, but it remains just as subjective and self-stylized.
Robinson, Richard (1976), “Religion and Reason,” Critiques of God, ed. Peter A. Angeles (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Wallace I. Matson (1978), The Warren-Matson Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Christ and the Gadarene Demoniac: A Criticism Answered
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
On the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus once encountered a man who was possessed of demons. When the Lord commanded the unclean spirits to leave the gentleman, they requested permission to enter a herd of swine feeding nearby. Christ granted that request. The demons entered the hogs, who, in turn, rushed down an embankment into the sea and drowned. Bible critics have charged Jesus with destroying the property of others. It is alleged that His conduct was reprehensible in connection with this event. There are several things that may be said in response to this baseless accusation.
First, no charge can be made against the Lord unless the event actually happened. Those who criticize Christ must concede, first, that this account represents a factual incident; otherwise, their allegation is baseless. Are they willing to admit that Jesus actually cast out demons? If so, exactly what did that circumstance prove?
Second, if Christ is a Divine Being, then He is sovereign over the entire creation and, in reality, everything belongs to Him (cf. Colossians 1:16). God said: “For every beast of the forest is mine, And the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). Hogs, too! Thus, in the interest of a higher good, the Lord had every right to allow this incident to occur.
Third, swine were unclean according to Old Testament regulations (Leviticus 11). It is entirely possible that the owners of these pigs were Jews, engaged in an unlawful enterprise. If such was the case, the Savior’s economic rebuke certainly would have been warranted.
Fourth, as the scholarly R.C. Foster once observed, Christ “permitted the destruction of the swine knowing that it would awaken the Gergesenes from their indifference and ultimately assist in the salvation of a multitude in the community.” There are things that transcend the material, and hardship can have a benevolent result in the final ordering of one’s affairs.
In view of these factors, no legitimate indictment can be leveled against the Son of God in connection with this episode.
Question and Answer: What is “The Beast”?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Are you aware of the movie that is scheduled for release next summer called The Beast? I heard it was filmed in an effort to convince people that Jesus never lived. Is that true?
According to the movie’s Web site (www.thebeastmovie.com), The Beast is scheduled to be released in theaters worldwide on June 6, 2006 (or 6/6/06—which I can assure you is no accident). And, yes, it does appear that the movie’s main focus will be to persuade audiences of the alleged “fact” that “Jesus Christ never existed.” It is a story about a young person named Danielle whose father mysteriously disappears after stumbling across “a cover-up of Christianity’s best-kept secret: That Jesus Christ never existed.” Brian Flemming, the movie’s director, supposedly dives “into factual territory” that is “well-explored by scholars but largely hidden from the view of the public” (http://www.thebeastmovie.com/about/index.html). Although The Beast is listed as “fictional,” based upon the movie’s Web site, the director’s aim will be to persuade his audiences that Jesus is equally fictional.
While I have not seen the movie (and certainly do not encourage Christians who are simply seeking to be entertained to view and support such an anti-Christian film, which will simply poke more fun at “fundamentalist Christians”), I can only imagine how the many sources that do testify to Jesus’ historicity will be critiqued. The historically reliable (not to mention inspired) New Testament documents likely will be dismissed with the slightest of ease. Even though every one of the New Testament writers testified to the reality of Christ, they must be rejected as liars or lunatics. Similarly, statements about Jesus from such reputable first and early second-century historians as Josephus, Tacitus, and Seutonius will also have to be explained away somehow (if even mentioned at all).
Who knows if this movie will even make it into theaters next summer? (My prayer is that it will not.) But, if it does, Christians do not have to be alarmed about some new piece of evidence that supposedly proves Jesus never lived. When all of the facts are gathered, the honest individual will come to the same conclusion that the French humanist Ernest Renan came to more than 100 years ago: “[A]ll history is incomprehensible without him [Jesus—EL]” (http://www.lexilogos.com/document/renan/life_jesus.htm).
By the way, Apologetics Press is scheduled to release a new book on the historicity and deity of Christ in the spring of 2006—sometime before the release of The Beast.
A Sponge with Fiber Optics
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The last time you picked up a phone to call your business partner about a work project, you might have been using fiber optics. The last time you logged onto the World Wide Web from your home computer, you might have been using fiber optics. We hear much about fiber optics these days, but what, exactly, is meant by the term “fiber optics”? In simple terms, a fiber-optic cable has a core (center) made of very thin glass. Light can travel through the glass and relay light signals that can reproduce sound and other information. Fiber-optic cables stretch thousands of miles all across the world, and can send information quickly and efficiently.
But there are some problems with these cables. First, since they are glass, they can be brittle, which means they can crack and break. Digging up the cables and replacing them is very expensive. Second, in order to produce the cables, factories must use very high heat, which also is very expensive. Fiber optics are amazing, but they could use some improvement.
Interestingly, scientists have found an amazing sponge that has wonderful fiber-optic “cables.” The sponge, called the Venus Flower Basket, lives in the deep waters of the ocean. This sponge produces several fiber-optic cables that grow out of its base. These tiny cables are about as wide as a single human hair, and grow to be anywhere from 2 to 7 inches long.
The fibers produced by the Venus Flower Basket have several advantages over the manmade ones. First, they are produced in cool temperatures. If we humans could learn to copy this, we could save millions of dollars. Second, the fibers from the sponge are very strong and flexible, and do not crack and break like the ones humans produce. In fact, the fibers from the sponge are so flexible they can be tied into a knot. If scientists could learn to make such strong, flexible fibers, we would not have to spend as much time and money repairing our current fiber-optic cables.
Dan Vergano, in an article for USA Today, wrote about the Venus Flower Basket. He quoted several researchers who had been working with the fiber-optic cables of the sponge, or some other facet of biomimetics (the science of copying nature). George Matsumoto, a marine researcher of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California, said: “Nature often provides us with a better way of doing thing [sic].” He went on to comment that sponges have evolved varied traits over more than 400 million years (2003).
It is amazing that many scientists who are working in the field of biomimicry do not acknowledge the implications of their work. It is a self-evident truth that where there is design, there must of necessity, be a designer; where there is a painting, there must be a painter. Those who study biomimicry freely acknowledge design in nature. For example, what seems to be the official Web site on biomimicry offers a course from its home page titled “Biologists at the Design Table.” In the course summary, under the heading of “Workshop Logistics,” the site describes the participants in the course as those who are “biologists and naturalists with a passion for the natural world, an understanding of sustainability and an interest in applying nature’s elegant design strategies to human challenges” (n.d., “Biomimicry,” emp. added).
Supposedly, then, over a period of billions of years, nature developed “elegant design strategies”—the likes of which even our most educated, brilliant minds have yet to plumb the depths. And yet we are to believe that this “design” somehow originated by a process of blind, evolutionary chance. Such a conclusion steps beyond bounds of logic.
Intelligent scientists have been working on fiber-optic cables for many years, just to get them to work as well as they do now. Yet, the Venus Flower Basket has strong, flexible fibers that are produced in cool temperatures. If there is design, which is even more intricate and efficient than that produced by highly intelligent humans, then the designer of such must have an intellect equal to or greater than the humans themselves. The writer of Hebrews accurately noted: “For every house is built by someone, but he who built all things is God” (3:4). God’s design in the sponge’s fiber-optic “cables” proves that animals like the Venus Flower Basket did not evolve. Design demands a Designer.
“Biomimicry,” (n.d.) [On-line], URL: http://www.biomimicry.org/intro.html.
Vergano, Dan (2003), “Sponge Goes Man-made Fiber Optics One Better,” USA Today, [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2003-08-20-sponge-fibers_x.htm.
America’s Most Pressing Concern
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Many concerns occupy the minds of those who are disturbed by what is happening to the United States: bloated deficits, oppressive taxation, alleged global warming, rampant crime, and the influx of intruders who do not share the values and worldview of Americans. What are the central issues and topics that the average American pinpoints as of greatest concern? What issues stir widespread social and political fervor? For example, in the recent election, what concerns were most important to Americans as they cast their votes? By far, the top issue among all party groups was the economy. Healthcare was #2, followed by the size and power of federal government (“Economy Top Issue...,” 2010). But make no mistake: “The economy in general and the specific economic problem of unemployment or lack of jobs far outpace all other issues when Americans are asked to name the most important problem facing the country” (“Economy, Jobs...,” 2010, emp. added).
Beyond the economy, contemplate for a moment a few of the other issues that occupy the concern of many Americans:
Beyond the economy, contemplate for a moment a few of the other issues that occupy the concern of many Americans:
|War in Iraq/Afghanistan|
Social security and Medicare
Many other issues might be listed, but these are sufficient to make the point: Most Americans are more concerned about physical and financial matters than spiritualmatters. When one contemplates the multitude of pressing concerns, it is easy to feel “scattered” and overwhelmed as to (1) what the real problem is and (2) the antidote.
While these matters certainly merit the attention and due concern of citizens, the fact of the matter is that the Founders of our Republic pinpointed a much more critical, logically prior issue. Consider the forthright remarks of three:
In a letter written to fellow Founder and signer of the federalConstitution, James McHenry, on November 4, 1800, Declarationsigner Charles Carroll of Carrollton declared:
[W]hat motive can be stronger than the belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments (as quoted in Steiner, 1907, p. 475, emp. added).
Consider carefully the admonitions of Founder Noah Webster regarding the indispensable nature of Christianity to the existence of our Republic:
[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correctrepublican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.... [T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and his apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledged in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.... [T]he Christian religion ought to be received, and maintained with firm and cordial support. It is the real source of all genuine republican principles.... The religion of Christ and his apostles, in its primitive simplicity and purity, unencumbered with the trappings of power and the pomp of ceremonies, is the surest basis of a republican government.... [T]hose who destroy the influence and authority of the Christian religion, sap the foundations of public order, of liberty, and of republican government.... (1832, pp. v,247,310-311, emp. added).The United States commenced their existence under circumstances wholly novel and unexampled in the history of nations. They commenced with civilization, with learning, with science, with constitutions of free government, and with that best gift of God to man, the Christian religion (as quoted in Scudder, 1881, p. 242, emp. added).
In his 1780 inaugural address as the governor of his home state of Massachusetts,Declaration signer John Hancock reminded his fellow citizens of the importance of Christianity to the perpetuation of the nation:
Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.... A due observation of the Lord’s Day is not only important to internal religion, but greatly conducive to the order and benefit of civil society.... Manners, by which not only the freedom, but the very existence of the republics, are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion and the good education of youth (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269, emp. added).
There you have it. The Founders repeatedly articulated the #1 concern—the paramount, ultimate, most pressing issue facing the nation. Without this singular, critically important quality—if America does not get this one matter correct—the economy will be the least of our worries. Stated succinctly, that all-consuming, quintessential, premiere concern is: We the citizens, and our leaders, must reinstateacknowledgement of God and His religion (i.e., Christianity), and turn to Him in humble, penitent obedience. According to the Founders themselves, the God of the Bible was solely responsible for the establishment and perpetuation of the Republic. And that national recognition is the only thing that will preserve and sustain us, as it has done for over two centuries. Even if we could snap our fingers and fix all our economic woes instantaneously, without God’s favor we remain in deadly danger. Indeed, rather than fearing terrorists or economic depression, the time has come to reinstate a healthy, sober fear of God (Proverbs 1:7,29-33; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Hebrews 10:31; 12:29—seeMiller, 2003; Miller, 2009).
Unless America can get this one, critical issue sorted out; unless a sizable percentage of Americans will go back to God, Christ, and the Bible, and recognize their foremost need of receiving divine favor; unless citizens can restore moral and sexual sanity to their behavior based on Christian principles, the country is destined to destruction. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). May God bless America.
Unless America can get this one, critical issue sorted out; unless a sizable percentage of Americans will go back to God, Christ, and the Bible, and recognize their foremost need of receiving divine favor; unless citizens can restore moral and sexual sanity to their behavior based on Christian principles, the country is destined to destruction. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). May God bless America.
Brown, Abram (1898), John Hancock: His Book (Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard Publishers).
“Economy, Jobs Easily Top Problems in Americans’ Minds” (2010), Gallup, September 21, http://www.gallup.com/poll/143135/Economy-Jobs-Easily-Top-Problems-Americans-Minds.aspx.’
“Economy Top Issue for Voters; Size of Gov’t. May Be More Pivotal” (2010), Gallup, October 26, http://www.gallup.com/poll/144029/Economy-Top-Issue-Voters-Size-Gov-May-Pivotal.aspx.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Who Believes in Hell Anymore?”http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2258.
Miller, Dave (2009), “God’s Fierce Anger,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2242.
Scudder, Horace (1881), Noah Webster (Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co.).
Steiner, Bernard (1907), The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland, OH: Burrows Brothers).
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Inspired Writers and Competent Copyistsby Eric Lyons, M.Min.
If you were to open your Bible and read Mark 14:16, you would learn that Jesus’ disciples went into Jerusalem to prepare the final Passover meal before His crucifixion. The wording of the verse is as follows: “So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover” (emp. added). The highlighted conjunction “and” (kai in Greek) is found in the Greek manuscripts of Mark. It also appears in most English translations of the Bible. However, in one particular copy of the Bible that I possess, the stem of the “d” in “and” is missing, causing the word to be misspelled: “So His disciples went out, ano came into the city...” (emp. added).
Most people who read Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) learn of the king asking one particular attendee a very specific question: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” (vs. 12, emp. added). A colleague of mine has a reliable translation of the Bible that words Jesus’ question as follows: “Friend, now did you come in here without a wedding garment?” Obviously, the “now” should be “how” (Greekpos). Similar to how the “d” in “and” was skewed so as to look more like an “o”, the “h” in “how” lost its stem, causing it to look more like an “n.” Question: Whose fault is it that “and” has been incorrectly printed as “ano,” and “how” has been copied errantly as “now”?
Surely no one would blame such errors in a modern English copy of the Bible on God or His inspired penmen (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Almost everyone recognizes that publishing companies are responsible for such minute mistakes. Although the accurate reproduction of books nearly has been perfected during the past few centuries (thanks in large part to the invention of the printing press), still, for various reasons, slight errors can creep onto the printed page. God did not intervene and miraculously keep the aforementioned errors from appearing in copies of His Word. Instead, He gave humankind the ability and resources to understand that such errors can be resolved rationally without assuming the inspired writers erred. We know that “ano” should be “and” in Mark 14:16 and “now” should be “how” in Matthew 22:12 partly because millions of other copies of the Bible (in both English and Greek) have the correct words “and” (kai) and “how” (pos), and also because we easily can see how a printing press might occasionally leave off the stems of certain letters.
COMMON SENSE AND COPYISTS’ ERRORS
One of the most popular books of the 21st century has been Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. Since 2003, some 50 million copies of this book have been sold worldwide (“The Official...,” n.d.). Imagine for a moment the potential differences in the millions of copies of The Da Vinci Code if, instead of being printed on a press, they all were reproduced by hand. No doubt, many copyists’ errors would have been made. Occasionally, names would have been misspelled, numbers would have been inverted, and there would have been the occasional duplication or omission of words or entire lines. However, if several million copies of The Da Vinci Code were retrieved from all over the world, and then compared, contrasted, and critiqued by hundreds of scholars over several decades in an effort to recover the precise wording of Dan Brown’s original manuscript, the text, in effect, would be restored to its original condition. Most copyists’ errors would be weeded out. Through textual criticism, the text of The Da Vinci Code eventually would be restored.
Whether one is referring to secular works or the Bible, prior to the invention of the printing press, copies of books were made by hand, and thus were susceptible to errors. In the 19th century, respected Christian scholar J.W. McGarvey noted: “There is not a writing of antiquity which has come down to our age without many such changes” (1886, 1:7-8). In fact, “[a] large part of the labor of the editors of Greek and Latin classics consists in correcting as best they can the erroneous readings thus introduced into these works” (McGarvey, 1:8). Take, for instance, the comedies of Terence (c. 190-158 B.C.). Seventeenth-century English scholar Richard Bentley noted how Terence’s works were some of the better preserved classical texts, yet Bentley testified that he had witnessed “twenty thousand various lections [readings—EL] in that little author, not near so big as the whole New Testament” (as quoted in “The Text...,” 1822, 15(37):476; see also McGarvey, 1886, 1:8). Consider also the writings of Tacitus. They are known to contain at least one numerical error that Tacitean and classical scholars have acknowledged as a copyist’s mistake (Holding, 2001). Scholars recognize that, at some point in history, a copyist accidentally changed a number (from CXXV to XXV). Although such copyists’ errors are known to exist, historians around the world cite such ancient works as Herodotus, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, etc., and consider them trustworthy, educational, and worthy of study.
If scholars defend the integrity of ancient authors partly by acknowledging that many of the mistakes contained within their writings are the result of copyists’ errors, it is only reasonable for these same scholars (whether atheists, agnostics, skeptics, or Christians) to recognize that alleged problems within the biblical text may be the result of scribal errors rather than mistakes on the part of one or more of the original Bible writers. Just as those who copied secular historical documents sometimes made mistakes (e.g., misspelling names, omitting words, etc.), scribes who copied the Bible from earlier texts also had the opportunity to err. As Gleason Archer observed: “Even the earliest and best manuscripts that we possess are not totally free of transmissional errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of proper names is occasionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that appear in other ancient documents as well” (1982, p. 27).
Norman Geisler and William Nix have mentioned several ways that a scribe might accidentally change the biblical text, including: (1) omissions or repetitions of letters, words, or lines; (2) reversals (transpositions) of letters or words; (3) divisions of words in the wrong places (since words in the early manuscripts were not divided by spaces); (4) errors of hearing (such as when scribes copied the Scriptures by listening to someone read them); (5) trusting in memory instead of relying on exactly what the text says; (6) errors of judgment (possibly caused by insufficient lighting or poor eyesight); (7) poor penmanship; etc. (1986, pp. 469-475). Recently, I wrote a note asking an assistant to send a package to a Mrs. Ward. Unfortunately, the package got mislabeled “Mrs. Word,” either because my handwriting was too poor to distinguish adequately between an “a” and an “o,” or the assistant simply misread the name. This example shows how easily copyists’ mistakes can occur, even in modern times.
How many Bible students have memorized passages of Scripture and quoted them for months or even years without realizing that at some point in time they mistakenly changed, added, or omitted a word from the text. I once memorized 2 Peter 3:9 (“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness...,” emp. added), only to find, several years later, that at some point I had incorrectly made “promise” plural, and had quoted it that way for months. One of the occasional mistakes copyists made was to trust too much in their own memory. Instead of carefully noting every letter in every word on every line, some copyists might have memorized too much at a time without looking back at the text. Keep in mind that scribes did not have computer keys that made the same letters every time, or that allowed them to copy and paste a paragraph of text with the push of a few buttons. Copying the Bible in ancient times was a painstaking, tedious job that required constant attention and care even in the best of circumstances.
CAINAN, SON OF ARPHAXAD: A CASE STUDY IN COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Luke 3:36 is the only verse in the Bible where one can read of the patriarch Arphaxad having a son named Cainan. Although another Cainan (the son of Enosh) is mentioned seven times in Scripture (Genesis 5:9-10,12-14; 1 Chronicles 1:2; Luke 3:37), outside of Luke 3:36, Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, never is mentioned. He is omitted in the genealogies of Genesis 10 and 11, as well as in the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1:1-28. When the son of Arphaxad is listed in these genealogies, the name always given is Salah (or Shelah), not Cainan.
One important thing we learn from the various genealogies in Scripture is that sometimes they contain minor gaps—gaps that are both intentional and legitimate (see Matthew 1:1; see also Thompson, 1989, 9:17-18). Thus, just because Luke 3 contains a name that is not recorded in Genesis 10 or 11, or in 1 Chronicles 1, does not have to mean that someone made a mistake. The fact is, terms such as “begot,” “the son of,” and “father”—often found in genealogies—occasionally have a much wider connotation in the Bible than might be implied when such words are used in modern-day English (cf. Genesis 32:9; John 8:39). Simply because one genealogy has more (or fewer) names than another genealogy, does not mean that the two genealogies are in disagreement.
Still, the insertion of the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 most likely has a far different explanation—one that may be more plausible, yet at the same time is more complicated to explain, and thus less popular. It is very likely that the “Cainan problem” is the result of a scribal error made when copying Luke’s gospel account.
Realizing that the New Testament originally was written in Greek without punctuation or spaces between words, the insertion of the name Cainan easily could have crept into Luke’s genealogy. Notice in the following chart, what the original text (in agreement with Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and 1 Chronicles 1:18,24) might have said:
If a scribe happened to glance at the end of the third line at toukainan, he easily could have written it on the first line as well as the third. Hence, instead of reading only one Cainan, what we read today is two Cainans:
As you can see, it would be easy for a weary scribe to copy “Cainan” inadvertently from Luke 3:37 as he was copying 3:36 (see Sarfati, 1998, 12:39-40; Morris, 1976, p. 282).
Although some apologists reject the idea that the insertion of Cainan in Luke 3:36 is a copyist’s error, the following facts seem to add much credence to this proposed explanation.
- As stated earlier, this part of Luke’s genealogy also is recorded in Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and in 1 Chronicles 1:18,24. All of these Old Testament passages, however, omit the Cainan of Luke 3:36. In fact, Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament.
- Cainan is omitted from all of the following ancient versions of the Old Testament: the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, the Targum (Aramaic translations of the Old Testament), and the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible completed between A.D. 382 and 405) (see Hasel, 1980, 7(1):23-37).
- Cainan’s name is absent from Flavius Josephus’ patriarchal listing in his historical work, Antiquities of the Jews (see 6:1:4-5).
- The third-century Christian historian, Julius Africanus, also omitted Cainan’s name from his chronology of the patriarchs, and yet he had copies of the gospels of both Luke and Matthew (1971, 6:125-140).
- The earliest known copy of Luke (a papyrus codex of the Bodmer Collection dated between A.D. 175 and 225) does not contain this Cainan (see Sarfati, n.d.).
This manuscript of a portion of Matthew dates to about A.D. 350.
|Credit: The Schøyen Collection MS 2650|
Some are quick to point out that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) mentions the name Cainan, and thus verifies that he was the son of Arphaxad, just as Luke 3:36 indicates. The problem with this line of defense is that the oldest Septuagint manuscripts do not include this reference to Cainan (Sarfati, 1998, 12:40). Patrick Fairbairn indicated in his Bible encyclopedia that this Cainan does “not appear to have been in the copies of the Septuagint used by Theophilus of Antioch in the second century, by Africanus in the third, or by Eusebius in the fourth” (1957, 2:351). He further stated that this Cainan also was left out of the Vatican copy of the Septuagint (2:351). That “Cainan” was a later addition to the Septuagint (and not a part of it originally) also is evident from the fact that neither Josephus nor Africanus mentioned him, and yet all indications are that they both used the Septuagint in their writings. They repeat too many of the same numbers of the Septuagint not to have used it. Thus, Larry Pierce stated: “It appears that at the time of Josephus, the extra generation of Cainan was not in the LXX [Septuagint—EL] text or the document that Josephus used, otherwise Josephus would have included it!” (1999, 13:76). As Henry Morris concluded in his commentary on Genesis: “[I]t is altogether possible that later copiers of the Septuagint (who were not as meticulous as those who copied the Hebrew text) inserted Cainan into their manuscripts on the basis of certain copies of Luke’s Gospel to which they then had access” (1976, p. 282, parenthetical comment in orig.). Although it is possible that “Cainan” in Luke 3:36 merely supplements the Old Testament genealogies, when all of the evidence is gathered, a better explanation is that the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 is the result of a copyist’s error.
MORE EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Jehoiachin’s Age When He Began to Reign
In 2 Kings 24:8, we read that Jehoiachin succeeded his father as the 19th king of Judah at the age of eighteen. However, 2 Chronicles 36:9 informs us that he was “eight years old when he became king.” Fortunately, there is enough additional information in the biblical text to prove the correct age of Jehoiachin when he began his reign over Judah.
There is little doubt that Jehoiachin began his reign at eighteen, not eight years of age. This conclusion is established by Ezekiel 19:5-9, where Jehoiachin is described as going up and down among the lions, catching the prey, devouring men, and knowing the widows of the men he devoured and the cities he wasted. As Keil and Delitzsch observed when commenting on this passage: “The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a young man of eighteen” (1996). Furthermore, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old child would be described as one having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:9).
The simple answer to this “problem” is that a copyist, not an inspired writer, made a mistake. A scribe simply omitted a ten (the Hebrew numeral letter ח [yod], which made Jehoiachin eight (Hebrew י) [heth]) instead of eighteen (Hebrew יח). This does not mean the inspired penmen erred. Rather, it indicates that minor scribal errors have slipped into some copies of the Bible. Indeed, if you ever have seen the Hebrew alphabet, you doubtless recognize that the Hebrew letters (which also were used for numbers) could be confused quite easily.
The Spelling of Hadadezer
Should the king’s name be spelled with a “d” (2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 11:23) or an “r” (2 Samuel 10:16; 1 Chronicles 18:3; KJV and ASV)? It would appear that the difference in spelling came about through the mistake of a scribe. Most likely Hadadezer (with a “d”) is the true form since, “Hadad was the chief idol, or sun-god, of the Syrians” (Barnes, 1997; cf. Benhadad and Hadad of 1 Kings 15:18; 11:14; etc.). As William Arndt stated, “D and R may be distinct enough in appearance in English, but in Hebrew they are vexingly similar to each other” (1955, p. xv). The Hebrew daleth = ד, while resh = ר. There should be little doubt in our minds that Hadarezer simply is a corrupted form of Hadadezer. One can see how easily a copyist could have made this mistake.
When Did Absalom Commit Treason?
When David’s son Absalom finally returned after killing his half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 15:7 indicates that “afterforty years” passed, Absalom left home again and committed treason. Anyone who knows much Israelite history quickly realizes that Absalom most certainly did not spend 40 years at home during this time, for David’s entire reign was only 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4). The number given in 2 Samuel 15:7 likely should be four years, which is more in keeping with the lifetime of Absalom, who was born in Hebron after David’s reign as king began (2 Samuel 3:3). The number “four” also agrees with such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate. There is little question that the number “forty” represents a copyist error.
Although scribes are mentioned in the Bible as far back as 1000 B.C. (e.g., Samuel 8:17), history records three general periods of Jewish scribal tradition: (1) the period of Sopherim (from Ezra until c. A.D. 200); (2) the Talmudic period (A.D. 100–c. 500); and (3) the period of the Massoretes (c. 500–c. 950) (Geisler and Nix, 1986, p. 502). Jewish copyists were aware of the importance of their work and took it very seriously. They were not flawless in their transcription work (as noted above), but the evidence shows that they were very conscientious. Infinitely more important than students copying spelling words, cooks copying recipes, or secretaries copying a boss’s memo, scribes understood that they were copying the Word of God. Even the important work of medical transcriptionists cannot compare with the copyists of old. McGarvey noted how copyists in the Talmudic period “adopted for themselves very minute regulations to preserve the purity of the sacred text” (1886, 1:9). Later, the Massoretes took even more stringent steps to insure top-quality manuscripts. With a deep reverence for the Scriptures, they went above and beyond the “call of duty,” laboring under ultra-strict rules in order to make the most accurate copies possible. In his Introduction to the Old Testament, Professor R.K. Harrison addressed the approach of the Massoretes to the Scriptures and their professionalism, saying:
They concerned themselves with the transmission of the consonantal text as they had received it [Hebrew has no vowels—EL], as well as with its pronunciation, on the basis that the text itself was inviolable and every consonant sacred.
The detailed statistical work that the Massoretes undertook on each book included the counting of verses, words, and letters, establishing the middle of the book (a procedure which was useful in the case of bifid, or two-part, compositions) noting peculiarities of style, and other similar matters (1969, pp. 212-213, parenthetical item in orig.).
By taking such precautions in the copying of letters, words, and verses (by sections and books), it could be known if a word or letter had been omitted or added. Indeed, as Eddie Hendrix affirmed: “Such minute checks contributed to a high degree of copying accuracy” (1976, 93:5). No other group of ancient copyists is more renowned than those of the Old Testament.
Although much less is known about New Testament copyists, according to Philip Comfort, who wrote The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament, paleographic evidence has revealed that “several of the early manuscripts were copied carefully with precision and acumen...,” no doubt “by educated and professional scribes” (1992, p. 51,50). New Testament copyists also had grave motivation to copy the Scriptures with care. Although not typically quoted with copyists in mind, consider the words of Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
In the second century A.D., Irenaeus applied this condemnation to copyists who knowingly contribute to the initiation and perpetuation of textual errors (5:30:1). Undoubtedly, due to the grace of God and the conscientiousness of copyists, “[t]he New Testament...has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in purer form than any other great book” (Geisler and Nix, p. 475).
NO AUTOGRAPHS? NO PROBLEM.
Some may wonder how Christians can be confident that we have God’s Word today, when the original manuscripts (called autographs) are no longer available for our viewing. How can one know the Truth, if the Truth comes from copies of copies of copies...of the autographs, many of which contain various minute transcriptional errors? Should we simply give up and declare that attempts at finding the Truth are futile?
It is highly unreasonable to think that truths can be learned only from autographs. Learning and forming beliefs based on reliable copies of various written documents, objects, etc. is a way of life. To conclude that a driver in a particular state could not learn to drive adequately without having in hand the original driving manual produced by the state years earlier is absurd. To assert that no one could measure the length of one yard without having the standard yard in hand from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is ridiculous. Even if the standard yard was lost, the millions of copies of the yard in existence today would be sufficient in finding (or measuring) exactly what a yard is. Consider also McGarvey’s example of an autograph, which eventually was destroyed.
A gentleman left a large estate entailed to his descendants of the third generation, and it was not to be divided until a majority of them should be of age. During the interval many copies of the will were circulated among parties interested, many of these being copies of copies. In the meantime the office of record in which the original was filed was burned with all its contents. When the time for division drew near, a prying attorney gave out among the heirs the report that no two existing copies were alike. This alarmed them all and set them busily at work to ascertain the truth of the report. On comparing copy with copy they found the report true, but on close inspection it was discovered that the differences consisted in errors in spelling or grammatical construction; some mistakes in figures corrected by the written numbers; and some other differences not easily accounted for; but that in none of the copies did these mistakes affect the rights of the heirs. In the essential matters for which the will was written the representations of all the copies were precisely the same. The result was that they divided the estate with perfect satisfaction to all, and they were more certain that they had executed the will of their grandfather than if the original copy had been alone preserved; for it might have been tampered with in the interest of a single heir; but the copies, defective though they were, could not have been (1:17).
Everyday, all around the world, individuals, groups, businesses, schools, etc. operate with the conviction that autographs are unnecessary to learn the truths within them. Copies of wills, articles, books, etc., can be gathered, inspected, and scrutinized until new copies are published that virtually are identical to the original. “[A]ccurate communication is possible despite technical mistakes in copying” (Archer, 1982, p. 29). So it is with the Bible. Even though copyists were imperfect in their transcription work, more than enough copies of the Scriptures have survived so that, as Sir Fredric Kenyon remarked, “it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world!” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 204).
EVIDENCE OF RELIABLE BIBLE TRANSMISSION
The Old Testament
The Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found by accident in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others often are grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable and pertinent group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls except the book of Esther.
One of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
The Dead Sea Scrolls serve as strong evidence for the integrity of the Old Testament text. Prior to 1947, the earliest known Old Testament manuscripts went back only to aboutA.D. 1000. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have been able to compare the present day text with the text from more than 2,000 years ago. Textual critics have found that these ancient copies of Old Testament books are amazingly similar to the Massoretic text. Indeed, they serve as proof that the Old Testament text has been transmitted faithfully through the centuries. As Rene Paché concluded: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the Old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191). What’s more, if copies of the Old Testament in the first century were sufficiently accurate for Jesus and the apostles to quote them and teach from them, and we possess Old Testament manuscripts that date back to (or before) the time of Christ, then Christians should feel extremely confident about the condition of the Old Testament in the 21st century—at least as confident as was Jesus (cf. Matthew 22:31).
The New Testament
How confident can Christians be that the text of the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Could it be that one of the central tenets of Christianity (e.g., Jesus’ deity) is the result of a person’s manipulation of the New Testament text centuries ago, as is alleged in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code(2003, pp. 233-234)? Did someone come along in the Middle Ages and drastically change the text of the New Testament? Just what evidence do we have for the reliability of the New Testament?
Twenty-first-century Christians can be confident that the New Testament has been transmitted faithfully through the centuries in large part because of the vast amount of manuscript evidence in existence today, some of which goes back to the early second century A.D. When F.F. Bruce published the sixth edition of his classic book TheNew Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? in 1981, he noted that “there are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part” (p. 10). Nearly 25 years later, Michael Welte of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Munster, Germany, indicated that the number of Greek manuscripts stood at 5,748 (2005). This number represents a far greater body of manuscripts than is known to exist for any other ancient volume (cf. Westcott and Hort, 1964, p. 565; Ewert, 1983, p. 139; Kenyon, 1951, p. 5). For example, The Histories of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and the Annals of Tacitus, three well-known and oft’-quoted ancient historical works, are backed by a combined total of 38 manuscripts (Geisler and Nix, p. 408). The most documented book of antiquity next to the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad. Some 643 manuscripts of the Iliad are in existence today (p. 475), which is still 5,000 less than the number of extant copies of the New Testament.
Old, worn page of a papyrus document
Equally impressive as the number of manuscripts of the New Testament in existence is the age of the manuscripts. Whereas the extant copies of Plato, Thucydides, Herodotus, Tacitus, and many others are separated from the time these men wrote by 1,000 years, manuscript evidence for the New Testament reaches as far back as the early second century, and possibly earlier. In The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, a 700-page volume edited by Philip Comfort and David Barrett, more than 60 of the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts are transcribed (2001). Many photographs of these early manuscripts (the originals of which are housed in museums throughout the world) also are contained in the book. In the introduction, Comfort and Barrett state: “All of the manuscripts [contained in the book—EL] are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300)” (p. 17). In fact, “[s]everal of the most significant papyri date from the middle of the second century” and thus “provide the earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs” (p. 18). They even suggest that “it is possible that some of the manuscripts thought to be of the early second century are actually manuscripts of the late first” (p. 23). Thus, we can have great confidence in the transmission of the New Testament, not only because of the great number of extant copies, but because of how closely these manuscripts date to the time when the autographs were written.
But, that’s not all. To the manuscript evidence, one also can add the ancient versions of the New Testament (e.g., Old Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, etc.), as well as the “more than 36,000 patristic citations containing almost every verse of the New Testament” (Geisler and Nix, p. 467). Non-inspired Christian writings from the first few centuries (by men such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and many others) are saturated with quotations from the New Testament apostles and prophets. “Indeed, so extensive are these citations,” wrote the eminent New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, “that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86). These witnesses, along with the ancient versions, speak voluminously on behalf of the integrity of the Bible’s transmission.
Is there ample evidence from surviving manuscripts, versions, and early quotations of the New Testament documents that indicates the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Most certainly. The former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon, summed up the matter: “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 126).
Considering the potential over the past 1,900 years for the text of the Bible to be grossly corrupted, and the fact that such did not occur, Christians can be confident that God, though not inspiring the copyists in their transmission of His Word, used them in His providential preservation of it. Isaiah assured his listeners 2,700 years ago of the permanence of God’s Word, saying, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6). Then, after more than seven centuries of transmission, the apostle Peter echoed Isaiah’s sentiments, describing the Word of God as “incorruptible,” and that which “lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
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Fairbairn, Patrick (1957 reprint), “Genealogies,” Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
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Hasel, Gerhard F. (1980), “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronologies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins, 7:23-37, [On-line], URL: http://www.ldolphin.org/haselgeneal.html.
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“The Official Website of #1 National Bestselling Author Dan Brown” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.danbrown.com/meet_dan/index.html.
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Pierce, Larry (1999), “Cainan in Luke 3:36: Insight from Josephus,” CEN Technical Journal, 13:75-76.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (1998), “Cainan of Luke 3:36,” CEN Technical Journal, 12:39-40.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (no date), “How do You Explain the Difference between Luke 3:36 and Genesis 11:12?” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3748.asp.
“The Text of the New Testament” (1822), The North American Review, 15(37):460-487, October, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ncps:@field(DOCID+@lit (ABQ7578-0015-27)).
Thompson, Bert (1989), “Are the Genealogies of the Bible Useful Chronologies?” Reason and Revelation, 9:17-18, May.
Welte, Michael (2005), personal e-mail to Dave Miller, Institute for New Testament Textual Research (Munster, Germany), [On-line], URL: http://www.uni-muenster.de/NTTextforschung/.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: MacMillan).