Biblical sources help promote authenticity
The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:
An honest answer is both no and yes: It depends on what one understands as the source of any sacred Scripture. For example, if one thinks Scripture is a written record of the revelation of the Holy - this is what God said - then an honest evaluation of the text would suggest no. The Bible, the sacred text that I am most familiar with, makes several scientific and historical claims that are inaccurate. There are statements that do not reflect the will of a good and gracious God (see Psalm 137:9). Moreover, our translations are based on handwritten copies of other, earlier handwritten copies. We do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible. Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman this year's Theologian in Residence in Lawrence, has pointed out that there are more text variants in the Christian New Testament than actual words. Thus, we do not have a literal, error-free text of God's spoken word.
For many believers, however, the sacred texts reflect the longing of human beings who wrestled with the deep questions of human life: Who is God? What is the meaning of life? What should I do with my life? Their contemporaries found wisdom and strength in these accounts and collected them for their reflection on the mystery of the Holy. In our journey of faith, we too, are nurtured, comforted and challenged by these writings, and drawn closer to the presence of the Holy in our lives and in our world. The God who still speaks continues to address our hearts, minds and souls through these sacred texts. They are indeed trustworthy for our faith and practice.
- Send e-mail to Kent Winters-Hazelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today's Bible is almost the exact same thing
Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:
A brief article in the newspaper can't begin to unravel all of the evidence for the authenticity of the Scriptures, so for those who are truly interested in this question, let me recommend a book by Norman Geisler and William Nix titled, "From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible." This is one of the most concise explanations of how the Scriptures came to be in their present form that I have read, and I highly recommend it. I would also recommend a chapter in a book titled, "Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe," edited by Geisler and Paul Hoffman. Chapter nine of that book, "Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable," is quite helpful and readable.
Scholars tell us that we don't actually have any of the original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible - we have handwritten copies of copies of copies, etc. Common sense would suggest that if one wanted to have a version closest to the original, one would seek the oldest copy one could find, on the assumption that an earlier manuscript would be less likely to have errors introduced by a scribe than a later manuscript. Consider this fact: We believe that we have essentially accurate texts of the seven plays of Sophocles, but the earliest manuscript we have of any of these was written 1400 years after his death. For the New Testament alone, there are some 12,000 manuscripts (of at least portions), some of which were written within 100 to 200 years of the death of Christ.
Modern English translations are based on the best (oldest) of these. I believe the Bible we have today is essentially identical to what was originally written, based on many years of exacting biblical archaeology. I would also recommend that you read it.
- Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at email@example.com.