The allegation is often made by Bible critics that Christians don’t tell the whole story about the Bible. That there is a big cover up involved when it comes to the Bible. You can read the related article I wrote in response to Dan Brown’s FICTIONAL work, The Da Vinci Codes. Don’t Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story which is attached as a related post to this Nugget.
The claim is that Christians, or the Catholic Church made the choice as to what books were included in the Canon , arbitrarily leaving out all the good stuff – the books of the Pseudepigrapha. It is not true. The Church Fathers from West to East had already made the decision the books of the Pseudepigrapha were not on the same standard as those included in the Canon of the Bible. The early church universal had a standard they applied to the books available from the 2nd Century. The books we know as the Protestant Bible were to be read in church and could be read at home. The extra books of the Catholic Bible, the Apocrypha, were not to be read in church but could be read at home. The books of the Pseudepigrapha were not to be read in church nor at home. It is not that the books of the Bible received authority because they were included in the Canon. Rather the books were recognised to have authority by all who read them. The Canon of Scripture formed around them when the early Church Fathers were dealing with the issue of falsity from the Second Century onward. The books of the New Testament became the benchmark by which to measure all other books – that is what lies behind the meaning of the word canon– a measuring stick. As Everett Harrison (one of world authorities on the Canon and the Apocrypha) said “just read the books of the Apocrypha for yourself and you will see they don’t have the same ring of truth as the books of the Protestant Bible.” The difference is even more pronounced when it comes to comparing the books of the Pseudepigrapha with the books of the Bible. There is just no comparison.
Another allegation made is that Christianity has buried the fact that there are multiple variant readings of the biblical text in existence. Therefore no one can be sure of the true nature of the text of the Bible. There are just too many variations. That claim is just not true. The variants only bring into question a very small percentage of the text of the Bible, and none of the verses in question seriously challenge any major theme or teaching of the Scriptures. The variants are minor.
My late Greek Professor, Dr Basil Brown, used the following illustration to explain variant readings to the class. He asked, “If you were attending university or technical institute or teacher’s college and you missed a particular lecture, what’s the best way to get the notes?” We answered, “Get a friend’s notes.”
He then said, “Is there a better way? Is there a better way than getting your friend’s notes?”
“Get your notes Prof!”
To which he replied, “No, you can’t have my notes. My notes would not necessarily give you everything that was said in class. What would be the best thing to do? You’re not allowed to use audio or video tapes. There wasn’t any possibility of recordings in the New Testament period! What would be the best thing to do?”
Prof’s Answer: “To secure not only one or two friend’s notes but the notes of everybody in the class. Get everybody’s notes in the class and I will guarantee you, you could work from those notes using the processes of the textual experts to get back to the very words that the lecturer said. Because what you need to do is work your way through the documents to see where you find verbatim statements recorded. Where this document and that document and that document agree exactly word for word, you’ve got the words that I said. And the more you work with that the more you can build back behind the scenes to exactly what was said. That is the process that lies behind the New Testament. It’s perfectly valid and very, very strong.“
He went on to explain that if we were given his notes for the lecture we would not necessarily be assured that we gained everything that was said in that lecture that we missed. Even the lecturer makes variation to the content of the lecture he gives year by year. That is certainly true of me in presenting material in God’s Awesome Book or in Deeper Bible. There are times when I don’t stick to the script so to speak. Times when I will insert a different example or expand on an example more fully than I have done in the past because I have more time available. Getting the lecturer’s notes won’t necessarily ensure that you pick up on the lecturer’s additions and changes. That is exactly the situation we have for the transmission of the text of the New Testament.
When I first developed the God’s Awesome Book seminar I stated that at that time there were 13,000 plus documents of the New Testament text in existence which we could use to compare. That was a figure I got from Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I am looking at the book on my shelves as I type. I told you two Nugget’s ago in The Value of the Bible Documents that there are 30,000+ documents behind the text of the New Testament now. That figure comes from the work of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, which comes under The Center for the Research of Early Christian Documents (CRECD) headed by Daniel B Wallace. Since the time I pulled the research together for God’s Awesome Book at the end of the 1990’s almost 20,000 more documents have been added between the year 2,000 and now which authenticate or allow further research into the transmission of the text down through the ages.
Returning to Prof Brown’s illustration, not only can we get back to the words the professor used in any one lecture but we can also track the changing nature of his class content year by year by simply gathering all related documents in the intervening years – including each student’s notes – which are a parallel of the copies made of the manuscripts of the New Testament generation to generation. Christian scholars have thrown away nothing. All documents have been kept. That is not the case for other faiths – just saying. The text of the Bible stands on rock solid textual evidence.