Lecture 11: Questions and Answers
Course: Why We Trust Our Bible
Lecture: Questions and Answers
1. Relevance of genealogies to Genesis, and martyrdom of the saints.
There is relevance of the genealogies in the New Testament to Genesis itself. In regards to the martyrdom of the saints, except for the apostle John, the other ten apostles were martyrs for their faith. It is one thing to be a martyr for a cause you believe in, but would you be a martyr for something you knew wasn’t true or deceptive in some way. The reason I don’t put much stock in that as many Christian speakers do, is because for at least some of the apostles, the works those traditions appear in are the same apocryphal documents that we are very reluctant to believe in than most of the other things they tell. I don’t want to be accused of being so bias that I would use maybe spurious documents when it helps my case.
2. Is there any other ancient document for which there is so much evidence and yet scholars are skeptical?
Not to my knowledge, but on the flip side there are documents of Arrian and Plutarch in regards to the life of Alexander and there are lives of various Roman Emperors that could be added in the mix and the lives of the imminent philosophers. There was a writer around the beginning of the 2nd century by the name of Diogenes, who wrote a dozen small biographies of Aristotle, Plato and other ancient Greek philosophers and occasionally, we have one or more texts that such works are based on, oftentimes, centuries later of people they narrate. Usually, the historical core is viewed as trustworthy.
3. Is there any reason for the order of the Gospels?
Well, Matthew was probably put first because he was the most Jewish and by far, he has the largest number of quotations from the Old Testament that ties back in with Hebrews Scriptures and there is a recurring ancient church tradition that he was the first Gospel writer but in Hebrew, not in Greek. Some of those traditions say that what he wrote were the sayings of Jesus, which doesn’t sound like a full-fledged Gospel. So, he may have written something first in Hebrew and later in light of an awareness of what Mark wrote in Greek, created a revised and expanded edition. So there are several possibilities.
4. Matthew’s Genealogy
When you talk about the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, the three segments of fourteen generations, isn’t it true that one of them is only thirteen. You have to count the beginning of one and the ending of the other. It is obvious that Matthew is making sure that it fits his numerology. So there must be something behind it.
5. Scriptures in 1st Corinthians 15 is the Old Testament
The last thing you just put up was Corinthians. You were talking about the Scriptures and I am curious whether you were referring to the Old Testament Scriptures? Anytime a New Testament writer referred to the Scriptures, he is referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.
6. How credible were the scribes?
If you go back to the time of the Hebrew Scriptures, there are some remarkable stories. There was great care taken in copying manuscripts. And then when a manuscript was completed, it would be checked and there are rabbinic traditions of it sometimes being given to the most venerable rabbi in the community so that he could check it against his memories. Now Bart Ethman likes to point out that there are two kinds of ancient documents: there are those written in a careless scrawl like writing a handwritten note and then there are more formal carefully written documents by people that do calligraphy producing beautiful documents by hand. And you can find both of these in the ancient world. So Ethman says, well, it was only after the New Testament was formally canonized in the 4th century that people would have taken the kind of care in copying those documents that they did with Hebrew Scriptures. Except, Greg Evans, an evangelical who speaks a lot on the same topics that Bill Mounce and I do; he has gone out of his way to travel to see the actually originals of the 102 oldest fragments of various parts of the New Testament and there is absolutely no difference in the care which every one of those were copied, not a one of them has the casual or informal scrawl that Ethman claims the original manuscripts might have had. The evidence isn’t in Bart Ethman’s favor. They copied those manuscripts very carefully.
7. Evidence of the Transformed Life?
The transformed life is fabulous, but I live about six-tenths of a mile from the Mormon Temple in the Denver area and some of the most transformed people in all of Denver are in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Does that make their religion the truth religion? If you claim to be a Christian and don’t have a transformed life, I would say that there is something wrong, but there are people around the world such as Gandhi, lead of the Indian revolution against Britain in the forties and fifties; the Dali Lama; incredible transformed lives. Are they Christians? Not to my knowledge. So, I give glory to God when I see a transformed life in an explicitly Christian context; would that we all had the greatest transformation possible, but transformation by itself needs to be supplemented with something else because it might come in a variety of religious circles.
8. The Process of Canonization
There are already hints in the New Testament that some writers were treating other books in an unusual way. The most dramatic being at the end of 2nd Peter when Peter writes that there are those who find parts of Paul hard to understand and twist his words as they do the other Scriptures. Interesting! In the early 2nd century, you start to find Christian writers saying things like, ‘I give you the following instructions,’ but not with the authority that the Apostles had. By the middle of the 2nd century, you get heretical threats from several different fronts to apostolic Christianity so that people start to make lists. There are approximately forty documents that we know of from the 2nd to the 6th century that give lists of books that were treated as uniquely authoritative or canonical. From the earliest list that we have, there is never any evidence to suggest that any Gospel other than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and all four of those were treated as canonical. There were never any dispute of about Acts or the Letters of Paul and they are always there. Where there are questions; these are in the case of seven books: Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, Jude, 2nd John, 3th John, and Revelation. Hebrews because no one was ever sure who wrote it and James, Martin Luther wasn’t the first person to notice that faith without works is dead and how does that fit the Apostle Paul? 2nd Peter was questioned because of the style as it was so different than 1st Peter. For Jude, he quotes non-canonical texts, but seemingly authoritative. Then there were 2nd and 3rd John because they were so short. And finally, Revelation as no one has still figured it out. And you can look at these lists and people like Tritolian and Arenas and Orient and others and you can watch as twenty-one accepted books become twenty-two becomes twenty-three and by the time you come to AD 367, you have Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandrea sending an encyclical like Catholic Bishops do today at Easter saying, here are the twenty-seven universally acknowledged. The Council that formally ratified them came around AD 390 in the North African town of Hippo and Carthage. From that point on, it was fairly much settled.
9. Scanned Libraries of Original Sources
Yes, you can see facsimiles of countless manuscripts. In fact, if you go to Dan Wallace’s center for the study of Christian manuscripts; they have an extensive website and it is his goal to eventually get photographic material for all of the documents, but some are extremely fragmentary and so it takes a while to do this. But you can go see the most common and most complete of the early manuscripts. It is the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.