Bible Is Authentic and True

That is to say, once a scribe changes a text—whether accidentally or intentionally—then those changes are permanent in his manuscript (unless, of course, another scribe comes along to correct the mistake). The next scribe who copies that manuscript copies those mistakes (thinking they are what the text said), and he adds mistakes of his own. The next scribe who then copies that manuscript copies the mistakes of both his predecessors and adds mistakes of his own, and so on. The only way mistakes get corrected is when a scribe recognizes that a predecessor has made an error and tries to resolve it. There is no guarantee, however, that a scribe who tries to correct a mistake corrects it correctly. That is, by changing what he thinks is an error, he may in fact change it incorrectly, so now there are three forms of the text: the original, the error, and the incorrect attempt to resolve the error. Mistakes multiply and get repeated; sometimes they get corrected and sometimes they get compounded. And so it goes. For centuries. Misquoting Jesus (p. 57)

Ehrman is correct in his assessment of human error, and that a scribe copying 138,020 words is bound to make many scribal errors. In addition, the next scribe to use this copy as an exemplar, will make his own copying errors, and incorporate the ones from his exemplar. Moreover, a scribe may attempt to correct what he perceives to be an error, which is not, and actually add an error himself. Generally speaking, then, the further removed the manuscript is from the original, the more errors it will contain. However, you may have a manuscript that was copied in the twelfth-century, but the scribe was using a fourth-century manuscript, meaning that this twelfth-century manuscript will have fewer errors than another twelfth-century that was copied from an exemplar that was created from a line of manuscripts through all those intervening centuries.

This is a textually oriented religion whose texts have been changed, surviving only in copies that vary from one another, sometimes in highly significant ways. The task of the textual critic is to try to recover the oldest form of these texts. This is obviously a crucial task, since we can’t interpret the words of the New Testament if we don’t know what the words were. Moreover, as I hope should be clear by now, knowing the words is important not just for those who consider the words divinely inspired. Misquoting Jesus (p. 70).

Again, Ehrman is correct, and it is well appreciated that he uses the adverb “sometimes,” as opposed to “many times.” There are variations within the manuscripts that are “significant” and have a bearing on the text. While the above is correct, it all depends on what a person’s perceived goals are before he considers such concepts. A number of textual scholars are not trying to “recover the oldest form,” but are trying to recover the original. Yes, the task is “crucial.” Why? Because of the reason offered by Ehrman, we “can’t interpret the words of the New Testament if we don’t know what the words were.” However, only on a handful of texts out of 7,956 verses, are we talking about a level of ‘significance’ being enough that they affect the text. I feel that Ehrman is trying to act as though the entire text is in doubt when the only “significant” variants that affect the text are but a handful. Moreover, those few that are “significant” (e.g., Mark 16:9-20; 1 John 5:7; Acts 8:37; John 7:53-8:11; 1 Timothy 3:16)[1], should not be viewed as affecting the Christian message or faith in the least, because the textual evidence is quite certain. Let us just consider our five examples listed above. Our resource tools are respected by textual scholarship. We will be using, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (TCGNT) by Bruce M. Metzger United Bible Societies, 1994 This work is a companion volume to the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (UBS4), published by the German Bible Society on behalf of the United Bible Societies early in 1993. Here are a few words from Metzger on how they indicate the degree of certainty.

In order to indicate the relative degree of certainty in the mind of the Committee for the reading adopted as the text,[2] an identifying letter is included within braces at the beginning of each set of textual variants. The letter {A} signifies that the text is certain, while {B} indicates that the text is almost certain. The letter {C}, however, indicates that the Committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text. The letter {D}, which occurs only rarely, indicates that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision. In fact, among the {D} decisions sometimes none of the variant readings commended itself as original, and therefore the only recourse was to print the least unsatisfactory reading.[3]

We will also be using the New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (NTTTC) by Philip W. Comfort, 2008. We will not go into the textual arguments, but we will consider Metzger’s TCGNT, of how a committee viewed the degree of certainty, as well as the new work by Comfort, NTTTC.

Mark 16:9-20:[4] TCGNT and NTTTC say it is certain that this ending is not original, and neither are the other three endings and that Mark ended abruptly in verse 8.

1 John 5:7: TCGNT and NTTTC say it is certain that John never penned the addition “for there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

Acts 8:37: TCGNT and NTTTC say it is certain that this verse should be omitted, “Philip said to him: ‘If you believe with all your heart, it is permissible.’ In reply, he said: ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”

John 7:53-8:11: TCGNT and NTTTC say it is certain that the woman caught in adultery should be omitted.

1 Timothy 3:16: TCGNT and NTTTC say it is certain that this verse should read, “who was manifested.”

If you were to delve into these resources, you would discover that while these are “significant” to the text, they create no real problem, because, in every case, we are certain about the original reading. The doctrinal positions that can be established from the New Testament are not affected by these being omitted. No doctrine stands on one verse.

The Meaning of the Text is at Stake’?

It would be wrong, however, to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case. In some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake, depending on how one resolves a textual problem: Misquoting Jesus (pp. 207-208)

In short, determining the original text is neither simple nor straightforward! It requires a lot of thought and careful sifting of the evidence, and different scholars invariably come to different conclusions—not only about minor matters that have no bearing on the meaning of a passage (such as the spelling of a word or a change of word order in Greek that can’t even be replicated in English translation), but also about matters of major importance, matters that affect the interpretation of an entire book of the New Testament. Misquoting Jesus (p. 132)

If Ehrman would have stayed with “in some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake,” he would have remained in the realm of realistic, but he had to exaggerate to the “matters that affect the interpretation of an entire book of the New Testament.” Certainly, if one removes an interpolation of twelve verses, as was done with the long ending of Mark, the interpretation of the text is affected, because it is no longer there. However, to say that the removal of an interpolation affects a whole Bible book is a bit incredulous, to say the least. We will take one of Ehrman’s illustrations, and see if this is truly the case.

The textual problem of Mark 1:41 occur in the story of Jesus healing a man with a skin disease. The surviving manuscripts preserve verse 41 in two different forms; Misquoting Jesus (p. 133)

Mark 1:41 (TR[5] WH[6] NU KJV NKJV ASV RSV NRSV ESV NASB NIV NJB NAB NLT GCSB NET); (א A B C L W f1,13 33 565 700 syr cop Diatessaron)

41Moved with pity [splanchnon], he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

Mark 1:41 (TNIV NEB REB); (D a, d, ff2)

41Moved with anger [orgistheis], he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

The reason that this text is considered difficult is because of one having to go against the grain of textual principles: Which reading is it that the other reading(s) most likely came from? Well, it is certainly easy to see how “moved with anger” would have been changed to “move with pity.” In that case, the scribe would have been softening the reading. It is very difficult to see why a scribe would be tempted to go from “moved with pity” to “moved with anger.” On the other hand, the textual evidence for “moved with pity” is very weighty, while the textual evidence “moved with anger” has no real weight at all. However, the irony is that most persons who define textual criticism say, ‘it is an art and a science.’ What they mean is that it is a science in that there are rules and principles, like the one above, and it is an art, because one needs to be balanced in the application of those rules and principles. The irony comes in when we come to the actual act of being balanced, as this text is no real struggle. The textual rule above is not to be rigidly applied; there are times that it does not apply, this being one of them.

First, the Western text D, which gives us the reading of “moved with anger,” is notorious for making “significant” changes to the text. Comfort and Metzger, as well as others,  offer a very real reason as to why the scribe may have chosen to do so. “He may have decided to make Jesus angry with the leper for wanting a miracle–in keeping with the tone of voice Jesus used in 1:43 when he sternly warned the leper.” (P. W. Comfort 2008, 98) However, as Comfort goes on to point out, this would have been a misunderstanding on the part of the scribe, because Jesus was not warning him about seeking a miracle, it was rather “a warning about keeping the miracle a secret.” Another motive for the scribe to alter the text to the harder reading is because he felt the man was slow to believe that Jesus was serious about healing him (v. 40) In addition, why would the scribes soften the text here from “move with anger” to “moved with pity,” but not do the same at Mark 3:12 and 10:14?

Now, we are about to see Ehrman agree with the above textual information but go into his misleading the reader mode. He writes,

As we have already seen, we are never completely safe in saying that when the vast majority of manuscripts have one reading and only a couple have another, the majority are right. Sometimes a few manuscripts appear to be right even when all the others disagree. In part, this is because the vast majority of our manuscripts were produced hundreds and hundreds of years after the originals, and they themselves were copied not from the originals but from other, much later copies. Once a change made its way into the manuscript tradition, it could be perpetuated until it became more commonly transmitted than the original wording. In this case, both readings we are considering appear to be very ancient. Which one is original?  Misquoting Jesus (p. 134)

Ehrman has stated the textual principle correctly, well almost anyway. The principle is, ‘count evidence, not manuscripts.’ In other words, the majority of manuscripts mean nothing; it is the weight of the manuscript evidence that counts. What Ehrman is leaving out of his declaration is why that rule is a valuable principle to the textual scholar. The corrupt Byzantine text became the standard text from the sixth century forward, and is the largest cache of manuscripts that we have, numbering in the thousands. The Alexandrian text is few in number but is “considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original.”[7] You see 2-3 of the right Alexandrian texts (say P75, B and א) could be the weightier evidence against hundreds of Byzantine texts. The minute textual evidence for “moved by anger” comes from the Western text, which is known for its “fondness for paraphrase.” As “words, clauses, and even whole sentences are freely changed, omitted, or inserted.”[8]

Thus, he is choosing a principle that is generally used in reference to the Alexandrian text [“moved with pity”] (which is few in number but rated best), over against the Western [“moved with anger”] and Byzantine texts (which are far more numerous and corrupt). The rule of ‘count the manuscript evidence, not the number of manuscripts’ is used, because the manuscripts that are few are more weightier than the many, and are more trustworthy. Well, that just is not the case here as Ehrman is using the textual principle; the Western manuscripts are far less trustworthy than the Alexandrian manuscripts. Therefore, he is invoking a rule in a misleading way. If it were the case that these few Western texts that support “moved with anger” were rated as the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original, and the more numerous Alexandrian that supports “moved with pity” were rated untrustworthy; then, he would have a point. However, it is just the opposite. (Wegner, A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History Methods & Results 2006, 240-1)

Another Argument that is no Real Argument at All

There is even better evidence than this speculative question of which reading the scribes were more likely to invent. As it turns out, we don’t have any Greek manuscripts of Mark that contain this passage until the end of the fourth century, nearly three hundred years after the book was produced. But we do have two authors who copied this story within twenty years of its first production. Misquoting Jesus (p. 135)

We have asked this question already, but I am certain that Ehrman cannot read any other classical literature that is based on one or a handful of manuscripts at best, which are upwards of a thousand years removed from the time of writing. Anyway, we do have a manuscript, P75 (dating to 175 C.E.), that is, in essence, the same as the Vaticanus 1209 codex of 350 C.E., the latter here containing the Gospel of Mark. We have already discussed what it means that these two are virtually identical, but we will take a moment to touch on that once more. What this shows is the Vaticanus text is a text that existed in the second century C.E. While Vaticanus may have been copied in the middle of the fourth-century, it has a text from the second-century.

In fact, Hort’s view of Vaticanus is that it preserves a “very pure line of very ancient text” (Westcott and A., The New Testament in the Original Greek, Vol. 2: Introduction, Appendix 1882, 251), as well as the belief that Vaticanus, with the exception of a few minor points, is essentially the original text. How do other textual scholars feel about the Vaticanus 1209 Codex? Bruce M. Metzger “is one of the great scholars of modern times,” according to Ehrman, wrote the following about Vaticanus, “one of the most valuable of all manuscripts of the Greek Bible.” (B. M. Metzger 1964, 1968, 1992, 47) Kurt Aland, a scholar on the same par as Metzger, wrote, “is by far the most significant of the uncials.”[9] (K. a. Aland 1987, 109),  Harold Greenlee, another scholar on par with Metzger, has written this about Vaticanus, “it is probably the best single MS of the NT.” (Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism 1995, 30)

Now, when Ehrman gives you, the reader, the dreadful news that “we don’t have any Greek manuscripts of Mark that contain this passage until the end of the fourth century, nearly three hundred years after the book was produced.” What sense is he trying to instill in you? How do you feel when he does not inform you that, one of those manuscripts that he refers to as ‘not being until the late fourth century’ is actually containing a second-century text, and is rated the best manuscript out of the 5,750 we have? Is it not just as deceptive to withhold pertinent information that you need to make a balanced judgment?

Mark was the First Gospel?

Scholars have long recognized that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, and that both Matthew and Luke used Mark’s account as a source for their own stories about Jesus. It is possible, then, to examine Matthew and Luke to see how they changed Mark, wherever they tell the same story but in a (more or less) different way. When we do this, we find that Matthew and Luke have both taken over this story from Mark, their common source. It is striking that Matthew and Luke are almost word for word the same as Mark in the leper’s request and in Jesus’s response in verses 40–41. Which word, then, do they use to describe Jesus’s reaction? Does he become compassionate or angry? Oddly enough, Matthew and Luke both omit the word altogether. Misquoting Jesus (p. 135)

This is just not the case. His whole argument is based on more higher criticism, liberal scholarship, and historical criticism. I penned chapter five of this book to give you a taste of the subject matter. Thus, if you have not read that chapter, please go back and do so. It takes a whole book to deal with the subject matter of what is known as the Synoptic Problem. However, while I have merely introduced you to the subject in chapter five, I have also offered you some the best books that deal with that subject matter at the end of chapter 5, in the Recommended Reading.

Literary Dependency Revisited

It is striking that Matthew and Luke are almost word for word the same as Mark in the leper’s request and in Jesus’s response in verses 40–41. Which word, then, do they use to describe Jesus’s reaction? Does he become compassionate or angry? Oddly enough, Matthew and Luke both omit the word altogether.

If the text of Mark available to Matthew and Luke had described Jesus as feeling compassion, why would each of them have omitted the word? Both Matthew and Luke describe Jesus as compassionate elsewhere, and whenever Mark has a story in which Jesus’s compassion is explicitly mentioned, one or the other of them retains this description in his own account.

What about the other option? What if both Matthew and Luke read in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus became angry? Would they have been inclined to eliminate that emotion? There are, in fact, other occasions on which Jesus becomes angry in Mark. In each instance, Matthew and Luke have modified the accounts. In Mark 3:5 Jesus looks around “with anger” at those in the synagogue who are watching to see if he will heal the man with the withered hand. Luke has the verse almost the same as Mark, but he removes the reference to Jesus’s anger. Matthew completely rewrites this section of the story and says nothing of Jesus’s wrath. Similarly, in Mark 10:14 Jesus is aggravated at his disciples (a different Greek word is used) for not allowing people to bring their children to be blessed. Both Matthew and Luke have the story, often verbally the same, but both delete the reference to Jesus’s anger (Matt. 19:14; Luke 18:16). Ehrman, Bart D. (2009-01-23). Misquoting Jesus (pp. 135-136). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Again, going back to the evidence of the Church Fathers, we find none of them addressed literary dependence, even when the opportunity to do so was before them. The in-depth answer is found in a publication by Eta Linnemann, Is There a Synoptic Problem? In short, she found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that either “Matthew or Luke were literary dependent on Mark.” At the end of this investigation, there is nothing found that can negate the fact that they were composed independently of one another.  She is joined by many prominent scholars, who have viewed the evidence, and find independence to be the preferred option: Louis Berkhof, Henry C. Thiessen, Robert G. Gromacki, Merrill C. Tenney, Jacob Von Bruggen, John M. Rist, John Wenham, and Bo Reicke. While listing the world renowned scholars do not in and of itself prove anything, it does lend some credence to the Independent View. Moreover, the evidence that Matthew was penned first, followed by Luke, and then Mark is almost certain. Therefore, it is almost certain that Matthew and Luke did not have Mark to “copy” from. In addition, the evidence does not demonstrate literary dependence regardless. Even still, let us concede that Mark was available at the time Matthew and Luke penned their gospels.

In the English New Testament, the Greek word orge is generally translated “wrath,” while thymos is usually rendered “anger.” Anger may be justified or unjustified. Jesus divine anger does not come from a quick impulse, to be later regretted. He sees all the issues involved in a matter and has complete, entire knowledge of a situation. He reads the inner person; he notes the amount of ignorance, negligence, or willfulness; and he acts with impartiality. Anger for Jesus is righteous indignation, displeasure with someone or something.

Luke 5:12-16 (ESV) Mark 1:40-45 (ESV) Matt 8:2-4 (ESV)
12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

 

 

 

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

 

 

2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there really literary dependence in the above texts about the account of Jesus healing a leper. (Luke 5:12-16; Mark 1:40-45; Matthew 8:2-4) No, there is no literary dependence. Luke used 98 Greek words to inform his readers of the account, while, Mark used 99 words, with Matthew using only 52 words. Here we might lean toward the close amount of words between Luke and Mark, but as we move on, we will see that this is where the similarity ends. Therefore, we will focus our initial interest in Luke and Mark. However, first, of all the accounts of Jesus’ life Mark’s is the most graphic, the most vivid, fast-moving as well as the richest in interesting details.

For example, in telling about Jesus’ curing the man with the withered hand, Mark records not only that Jesus looked around at the Pharisees watching what Jesus would do, but that he did so “with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” (Mark 3:5, ESV) And in reporting Jesus’ cleansing of the literal temple in Jerusalem, Mark alone informs us that Jesus “would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” (Mark 11:16, ESV) When the people began bringing him young children for him to touch these, the disciples were holding the children back from getting to Jesus; Mark alone writes, “Jesus saw it; he was indignant.” What Ehrman is discounting is the style of the writer. Mark’s own style is also obvious in a stronger wording of the rebukes Jesus directed to his own disciples. Compare Matthew 8:26 and 16:8 with Mark 4:40 and 8:17.

Luke starts the account with: “While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’”

Mark begins the account with: “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

[Luke 5:12; Mark 1:40] Notice that (1) Luke mentions being in one of the cities, while Mark does not. (2) Notice that Luke, a physician says a man came to Jesus, who was “full of leprosy.” Luke felt the need to inform his readers that the man’s disease was in an advanced stage. For Mark, it was enough to mention leprosy. (3) In the Greek, Luke says the man “fell on his face,” while Mark uses a different Greek expression, informing us the man was “falling on his knees.” (4) Luke in the Greek says the man “begged,” while Mark uses a differed Greek word, saying the man “entreated” him. In just the first verse, we find points of difference in content and style.

[Luke 5:13; Mark 1:41-42] (5) Notice that Mark says that Jesus was “moved with pity,” while Luke did not. (6) Notice too that Mark reiterates the cleanness with the parting comment, “he was made clean,” while Like does not. In the first part of the account, we kept noticing differences where Luke stood out as different from Mark, and here we see Mark is different from Luke. In essence, they are really just different from one another, because it is two people retelling what they saw and heard, so personality and style will creep into each person’s account.

[Luke 5:14; Mark 1:43-44] (7) Notice that Mark informs his readers that “Jesus” addressed the man, but Luke uses a pronoun. (8) Notice too that Mark says that Jesus “sternly” charged the man to tell no one, but look does not comment on Jesus’ demeanor. (9) In addition, note that Mark informs the reader of the added detail that Jesus “sent him away at once,” which Luke did not include this observation.

MISREPRESENTING JESUS_Third Edition

[Luke 5:15-16; Mark 1:45] (10) Notice that Luke says the “report about him went abroad;” not mentioning how this came about, but Mark says “he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news.” (11) Not too that Mark informs his readers of the result of the leper’s actions, “so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town,” but Luke address a different aspect of the result, “and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Both Mark and Luke would inform their readers that Jesus had to withdraw to a desolate place, (12) but Luke adds to pray. (13) Mark goes on to conclude with “and people were coming to him from every quarter.”

We can see that there is no literary dependency between Mark and Luke at all. There are thirteen major differences in just a five verse account of Jesus healing of a leper. What we have here are two different observations of the same account. The differences come by way of the author’s different styles, as well as what they wished to convey to their prospective audiences. Like any eyewitness testimony, there will be differences, but the gist of the story will be the same. Some differences arise when we have two or more accounts of the same incident.

[1] Only a few are listed, this is not to suggest that these five texts are the only significant variants.

[2] It will be noted that this system is similar in principle but different in application from that followed by Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734).

[3] Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xxviii.

[4] There are actually four endings of the Gospel according to Mark, which are current in the manuscripts. The above verses 9-20 are the traditional ending.

[5] TR stands for the Textus Receptus (“received text”). This is the name given to the succession of printed Greek texts of the New Testament, which was the foundation for all English translations up until the 19th century.

[6] WH stands for the Westcott and Hort text of the New Testament published in 1881.

[7] Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), xix.

[8] IBID., xx.

[9] An uncial is a letter of the kind used in Greek manuscripts written between the 2nd and 11th centuries that resembles a modern capital letter but is more rounded, numbering at 274.