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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Extraordinary.

    I'm sure you are aware that the original gospel texts don't exist anymore - the oldest complete manuscripts (in Greek) date from around 350 AD: the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus texts. The surviving canonical gospels, supposedly dating from the late 1st to early 2nd century, vary not only in time, they also vary significantly in content. (For instance, the dictum where Jesus refers to Peter as the rock upon which his church will be built is only present in Matthew - where it is followed by a reference to Peter as Satan -, does not appear in the older text of Mark, nor in the other gospels.)

    I'm sure you are also aware that before bookprinting copying of texts by hand automatically leads to errors being made. (But this apart, the Vaticanus text for example has been altered by at least 3 correctors.)

    Furthermore, the modern text version(s) of the New Testament are actually a composition of Greek manuscripts, old translations and New Testament quotes of the Church Fathers.

    Seeing as the source texts (the original gospel texts, which only after the 2nd century became canonized in any way) are missing, I think the statement that these texts are corrupted is not only an undeniable truth, but common knowledge among modern theologians and church historians alike.

    I'd like to add that since - by your own admission - the apostles were illiterates (I believe you called them simple fishermen and such) it must be clear that from a historiographic point of view even the original texts cannot be viewed as eyewitness accounts and must be viewed very critically indeed - which, by the way, only has been the case in post-medieval times and notably from the 19th century onwards.
     
  2. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    No, it doesn't; it makes errors extremely likely, but doesn't make them inevitable. :mischief:
     
  3. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    You are unaware of the fact that even book printing doesn't exclude errors?
     
  4. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    No, I'm aware of it. I'm just saying that one could copy a manuscript perfectly, and that (in theory, and with a disgustingly low probability) these copies could be sustained in perfect fashion for an infinite number of manuscript copies.
     
  5. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Keep in mind that copying errors (and errors in modern books) tend to be small mistakes that happen at the letter or word level. they are not errors of rewriting sentences and adding text. And IIRC the Dead Sea scrolls confirmed that the old testament has been preserved intact by copying for many centuries. Believers can be sufficiently passionate about their religion that they will die for it. That same passion can translate well into compulsively exact copying.
     
  6. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    I have to agree with Dachs & Birdjaguar on the subject of hand-copying. Hand copying does not necessarily "automatically lead(s) to errors." We've been painstakingly hand-copying the Torah for centuries without any problem.

    I'm not defending the New Testament, just hand-copying. I don't see any way to defend the New Testament.
     
  7. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Once again, I have to contradict. According to wikipedia ":

    The term "Torah" (Hebrew: תּוֹרָה, "learning" or "instruction," sometimes translated as "Law"[1]), or Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch, refers to the entirety of Judaism's founding legal and ethical religious texts.[2][3] When used with an indefinite article, "a Torah" usually refers to a "Sefer Torah" (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, "book of Torah") or Torah scroll, written on parchment in a formal, traditional manner by a specially trained scribe under very strict requirements.
    The Torah is the most holy of the sacred writings in Judaism.[4] It is the first of three sections in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), the founding religious document of Judaism,[5] and is divided into five books, whose names in English are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, in reference to their themes (Their Hebrew names, Bere****, בראשית, Shemot שמות, Vayikra ויקרא, Bamidbar במדבר, and Devarim דברים, are derived from the wording of their initial verses). The Torah contains a variety of literary genres, including allegories, historical narrative, poetry, genealogy, and the exposition of various types of law."

    But: In Islam, the Torah (along with the Christian Gospels) or Tawrat is seen as an authentic revelation from God corrupted with the additions and alterations of men.[11]

    While today the gospel texts, being part of the Holy Bible, are considered sacred, originally they were not, This is, for instance, reflected in the almost completely different genealogies of Jesus given in 2 of the gospel texts and in the sheer fact that the gospels tell more or less the same story in different versions (something which appears in the Torah section only with respect to Genesis and the 10 commandments). It is also clear from the fact that what New Testament texts became canonical was subject to heated debate. (Several gospels were judged apocryphical, hence not canonized by the ruling church. Minorites and dissenting Christian movements and churches often used a different version - as was already hinted at by Plotinus.)

    Moreover, the Aramaic original has been translated into Greek as well as Latin, before finally becoming available in native languages during the Reformation, as is usual today. That means that the original texts (which, as mentioned are lost) have been trasnlated several times. Once again errors, whether by accident or by intention are destined to appear during even one of such procedures. (As s obvious to anyone comparing, say, a Greek-Orthox bible with a Lutheran bible - or even when comparing a modern novel's translation with the original.)

    Unlike the Torah copiists, New Testament copiists were not specially trained scribe(s working) under very strict requirements. Even after the New Testament was considered to be a Holy Scripture different versions have appeared, if only due to differences in interpretation. (Also, medieval - Christian - copiists are known for their errors during copying, as any medieval historian - or even students of medieval history - can attest.) Finally, ancient Egyptian holy scriptures were altered all the time.
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    JEELEN, the evidence you present doesn't support your thesis at all. Remember that your claim was that later Christians substantially altered the text of the gospels in order to support later doctrinal developments. So citing scribal errors in transmission doesn't support that claim. Your comments about translations aren't very relevant either. The gospels were originally written not in Aramaic but in Greek. They were of course later translated into Latin and other languages, but that's no problem, because we have them in the original languages. If we only had (say) the Vulgate then that would be a problem. But we don't. So why bring it up?

    Of course the modern, critical text of the gospels has been established by comparing different manuscripts, rather than simply taking one particular manuscript tradition as definitive. But this is how the texts of all pre-printing writings are established. There's nothing special about the New Testament from that point of view, except of course that there's an unusually large number of manuscripts from an unusually early period, making it even better attested than usual. And of course there are minor variations between the various manuscripts. That's perfectly normal. But these variations are for the most part very minor. They are not the "interpolations" that you refer to, with the exception of the 1 John passage.

    So of course we don't have the original "texts" in the sense of the actual autographs that Matthew and co literally wrote. But that's true not simply of virtually all ancient and medieval texts, but of most modern ones too. We do have the original "texts" in the sense of the words that Matthew and co wrote, in the same way that my copy of A history of western philosophy contains what Bertrand Russell wrote. The various small scribal errors that occur during the transmission of texts are, for the most part, negated by the fact that (just to emphasise this point again) we are not reliant upon a single manuscript tradition. So an error in one MS tradition can be compared against other MS traditions. This is why we are not solely reliant upon very ancient MSS. For example, say you've got a MS from the twelfth century. That might not seem very reliable for establishing the text of something that was written a thousand years earlier. But perhaps you've also got another MS from the twelfth century, from a completely different place. The two MSS are variant, which indicates that one was not simply copied from the other - they are independent witnesses. Now you're in business, because even though those two MSS are not ancient, they are each the product of a different tradition going back to antiquity. You can compare them, and where they agree you know you can be reasonably certain that that is the correct text, and where they disagree you can consider which, if either, is likely to be the correct text, and which one is divergent. If you've got still more MSS then you're doing even better. The existence of different MS traditions is how scholars can be confident about the texts of all ancient writings, the vast majority of which are known from medieval MSS, not ancient ones. But you don't hear people going on about how the text of Cicero, or Plato, or Aristotle, or any other ancient author, is full of "interpolations" and "corruptions"; it seems there's something special about the New Testament, for some reason. But in fact there are far more MSS for the New Testament than there are for other texts - thousands of them, in fact. Have a look here. That list is far, far longer than a comparable list of any other ancient text would be. And that's just the MSS that are available to view online!

    The existence of so many manuscripts is what allows scholars to be so confident that we have the correct text as it was originally circulated. So the fact that we have only two texts - the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus - from the fourth century is not to the point. The point is that we have hundreds of manuscripts from the next couple of centuries, and thousands of them from the Middle Ages. These are independent witnesses to the text. That means that they don't have to be incredibly early to be reliable, because you can establish the text by comparing them all with each other.

    Just read a scholarly edition of any ancient text and you can see how scholars establish these things, and with what degree of reliability. Instead of making vague assertions based upon how you think ancient scribes might have behaved, get hold of a critical edition of the New Testament and look at the actual evidence. That is what experts do, and they do not agree with you about the reliability of the text.

    These vague claims that the text "must" be corrupted, and that this "must" be common knowledge among experts, without any evidence or examples, reminds me of arguments like that discussed on the previous page which purport to show that evolution "cannot" be true, irrespective of how much evidence scientists produce in favour of it. I suppose if people have made up their minds, no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince them.

    The fact that the different gospels contain different material, such as the saying about Peter which is present in Matthew but not the others, is completely irrelevant to questions about the transmission of the text. The obvious way to explain the presence of certain material in Matthew but not the others is that Matthew had access to material that the others didn't, or that he simply made it up. If you think the former, that might lead you to conclude that Matthew is more reliable, as a source for Jesus, than the others. If you think the latter, that you might lead you to conclude that he is less reliable. But again, this has no bearing whatsoever on the question how reliably his text was transmitted by later copyists. The same is true of the fact that the first disciples were illiterate peasants and so on. That may be relevant to the question whether the material that the gospels contain provides reliable information about Jesus. But that is completely distinct from the question whether that material has been copied accurately. You seem to run these two utterly distinct issues together. But surely it is obvious that they are different. We can doubt whether J.K. Rowling accurately reports real history, but we can still be confident that the text of Harry Potter is as she wrote it.

    Similarly, things like the different genealogies and birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are completely irrelevant. All that shows is that Matthew and Luke didn't agree with each other. Indeed, this is evidence against your claim. If later Christians were busy rewriting the gospel texts to support their own views, don't you think they'd have rewritten them to make them agree with each other as well? The fact that the gospel texts were preserved even with all their contradictions intact indicates that Christians did not, as a rule, tamper with the text.

    Incidentally, I don't think there was "heated debate" about the text of the canon in the early church. In fact there was surprisingly little debate at all. There was certainly disagreement, until the end of the fourth century, but this was mostly (a) very unheated, and (b) concerning peripheral texts such as 1 Clement, Hebrews, and Revelation. In the case of the gospels, the vast majority of Christians used either the four that are now canonical, or the Diatessaron, which was an amalgamation of those four. The only people who differed about this were the Marcionites, who used only Luke, and various gnostic groups who used many more. The gnostic gospels are of course much later in date than the canonical ones and are of no value as sources for the historical Jesus.

    I'd also point out that manuscripts of the New Testament itself are not the only source for our knowledge of the text. Early Christian theologians quote these texts constantly, to such a degree that if we didn't have the text, we could probably reconstruct it pretty reliably just from quotations. They tend to quote from memory and therefore somewhat loosely, so we probably couldn't establish the exact text. But they tend not to misquote in a way that is designed to support later doctrinal developments.

    So in conclusion, no, it is not "common knowledge" among experts that these texts have been corrupted. If it were, you'd be able to cite some of these experts and theologians who think this. Experts do not base such strong claims upon "evidence" as shaky as the assumption that ancient copyists weren't very good. Experts rely upon actual evidence, namely variant readings that you can actually point to and know exist. Anything else is pure speculation.
     
  9. bigfatron

    bigfatron Chieftain

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    Thanks Plotinus - I think you've hit the nail on the head that my knowledge of Christian concepts is more biased toward the doctrine of the Catholic Church & the Augustinian view. I appreciate you taking the time to clarify the wider view - really interesting...
    All the best
    BFR
     
  10. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

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    A bunch of random questions I've been meaning to ask.

    You've repeatedly said you prefer the RSV or NRSV for study purposes. What's your take on the differences between the two, how different are they, and which do you prefer?

    Which of the epistles in the New Testament were written pseudonymously? I'm aware that this is a bone of contention, I'm just interested in your view.

    As far as the twelve apostles go, were they literary constructs, to match up with the twelve tribes, or were they all or mostly real people? Obviously Simon Peter was a big figure in the early church and obviously a real person, but what about the more obscure ones?

    What can you tell me about Eusebius and Irenaeus?

    And just because the mention of Irenaeus triggered a memory, is there any weight to claims that the the number 666, (or 616) was a cypher for emperor Nero?

    I seem to recall that in the previous thread, you made a scornful passing remark on the idea that in a theological debate, the burden of proof would be on the theist to prove the existence of God. Why is that a bad idea? Apologies if I took the statement out of context.
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As far as I know there's very little difference between them. I think the main one is that the NRSV uses inclusive language, which is more in line with current scholarly convention.

    Of the Pauline letters, most scholars agree that 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Ephesians are pseudonymous, and I think they're right. Colossians and 2 Thessalonians are disputed. In my non-expert opinion I think Colossians is probably pseudonymous and I don't really have an opinion about 2 Thessalonians, although its warning to beware of pseudonymous writings seems a bit suspicious. The other Pauline letters are probably genuine.

    Of the catholic epistles, Jude and 2 Peter are surely pseudonymous and 1 Peter very probably is. James might be genuine or not - there is no real way to tell. The other letters (Hebrews and the Johannine letters) are anonymous so the question doesn't arise.

    I think it's likely that Jesus really did refer to his inner group as "the Twelve", presumably for symbolic reasons, but that it doesn't necessarily follow that there were literally twelve of them. That would explain the divergent lists of names in the different gospels. So as far as I know, there's no particular reason to doubt that the various disciples who are named were real people.

    Quite a bit, but what in particular do you want to know? And which Eusebius do you mean?

    I think it's very likely. There are several coded references to Nero in Revelation.

    Well, first, it depends on the context. If it is in the context of a debate about whether God exists or not, then I'd say the burden of proof is on anyone who is making an assertion either way. Someone who asserts that God doesn't exist is making a claim just as much as someone who asserts that God does exist. Why should the burden of proof be on the latter and not on the former?

    Of course this doesn't apply in all situations. If, for example, we're arguing about the existence of fairies, it seems that the burden of proof is on the person who asserts their existence, not their non-existence. But why is that? It's because it seems obvious that fairies don't exist - the claim that they do seems to be absurd, because it conflicts with so much of our experience and what we know about the world. To put it another way, the arguments in support of the claim that fairies don't exist are so obvious and so good that they barely even need stating. This is why the burden of proof is on the believer in this case - there is already so much proof on the side of the denier that the believer has a hefty task just to "catch up" and make the issue uncertain.

    Conversely, if we're arguing about the existence of Obama, it seems that the burden of proof is on the person who denies that Obama exists, not on the person who asserts that he does. The reason is exactly the same: to deny that he exists is obviously absurd, flying in the face of all the evidence. The person who believes in Obama doesn't need to state why, because it is so obvious; if challenged, he can produce masses of evidence and arguments so impressive that the Obama-denier will have a very hard time overcoming them, let alone presenting his own positive arguments for denying Obama's existence. So in this case, the burden of proof is on the denier, not the believer.

    If this is so, then it seems that when we consider whether something exists or not, there are some cases where the burden of proof is on the person who says it does exist, and other cases where the burden of proof is on the person who says it doesn't. The common element is that the burden of proof is on the person who, on the face of it, is arguing for the less plausible position. That simply means that the other person has very good, or very obvious, arguments from the start. They have, as it were, an epistemological head start. The other person has to produce very good arguments just to catch up and make the issue uncertain, let alone to overtake and swing the argument in their own favour.

    So we can apply that to the question of God. Is God like fairies - apparently obviously non-existent, so that the denier has all the cards and the believer must struggle to present a case at all? Or is God like Obama - apparently obviously existent, so that the believer seems obviously in the right and the denier must struggle to present a case? Those who insist that the burden of proof is on the believer in God clearly think that he is more like fairies than he is like Obama. But it doesn't seem clear to me that he is. In fact it doesn't seem to me that that is true at all. I don't think there are "obvious" arguments or evidence on either side, something which is perhaps indicated by the fact that there are people on both sides who think that there are "obvious" arguments or evidence on their own side. If there really were, there wouldn't be such disagreement. It seems to me that God is, epistemologically speaking, about halfway between fairies and Obama. Neither his existence nor his non-existence seems clearly more likely than the alternative, on the face of it; there are no knock-down arguments in favour of either position which put the defenders of the opposite view on the back foot from the start. It therefore seems to me that the most rational position on the subject - assuming that the rational position is to adopt whatever the argument and the evidence indicate (which is not necessarily the case, but let's grant it for now) - is to suspend judgement, in which case those who assert God's existence and those who assert his non-existence share an equal burden of proof.

    This is roughly what Antony Flew meant by his "presumption of atheism" - but he confusingly used "atheism" to mean "not believing in theism" rather than "believing theism to be false", which I think is the usual meaning.
     
  12. bigfatron

    bigfatron Chieftain

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    I think this rather depends on your definition of 'God.

    If your definition is generous and adaptable (i.e. the exsitence of some greater being not bounded by space or time as we understand it) then I could accept that there is sufficient uncertainty in our knowledge and understanding that the 'odds' are relatively even, or at least unquantifiable.

    But if we are speaking about a very specific god with very specific attributes such as the Biblical 'God', i.e. a god who is creator of the universe and world, Father of Jesus, author and inspiration of the bible, who intervenes in our daily world and seeks a particular outcome from each and every one of us - a personal God in fact - then this is inherently unlikely to be correct from a purely logical perspective.

    There are two reasons which appear obvious to me to state this:
    First, there are numerous specific forms of God worshipped at a detailed level, and they cannot all be simultaneously correct. Three possibilities exist:
    - there is one creator confirming to a single specific, the other specifics being erroneous;
    - there is one creator not conforming to any of the specifics, for whom all specifics have been erroneously constructed, or
    - there is no creator.
    Since in all three solution states the great majority of specifics must be wrong, by definition those individual specifics are - individually - unlikely to be correct, even accepting that the existence or non-existence of a creator is unknowable and unquantifiable.

    Second, given that the specifics of a God such as Jehovah refer not just to existence but to cause and effect, there is a preponderance on the claimant to provide proof. For example, a religion may claim that the saints intercede in response to prayers - this is no longer a case of claiming that something unknowable exists, but that it acts and therefore can be perceived to be acting. If saints do, in truth, intercede then that has importance to those prayed for and those praying, as well as those not prayed for and not praying. The claimed action affects other people, people who do not believe as well as those who do, and therefore we are entitled - in fact IMHO obliged - to require some standard of evidence and proof before accepting it as a legitimate potential explanation of how the world works.

    All the best
    BFR
     
  13. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    You're right that I'm assuming one meaning of "God". In fact there are basically two meanings of the word, and philosophers of religion do disagree over how it should be used. The first meaning is a definition: "God" means a being who satisfies certain criteria, usually maximal perfection or something similar. This is sometimes known as the "Anselmian" view of God, since Anselm of Canterbury defined God as "that than which no greater can be conceived", and restricted himself to considering whether a being answering that description exists. (Whether he defined God in those terms, or merely thought that God has that property, is a moot point, but one that needn't detain us.) The other meaning is that of a proper name. On this view, "God" denotes an individual being, just as "Peter" does. When theologians speak of "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" they seem to have this meaning in mind - a particular entity with a particular history.

    So on the first view, when we argue about whether God exists, we are arguing about whether a being with certain properties exists. On the second, we are arguing about whether a certain individual, perhaps with a particular history of actions, exists. I would agree with you that, on the second view, there would be more burden of proof on the believer. That may also be the case with the first view, if the definition of God that is given is very narrow. I would assume that, unless otherwise stated, "God" in these sorts of discussions means a perfect being, one that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect, and which is the creator of all other things. That is certainly the definition that philosophers of religion usually use, and the one that is assumed in the absence of any indication to the contrary. I think that what I said in the previous post about the burden of proof would apply to that definition.

    The only part of your post I'd take issue with is the claim that -

    That only works if you take a purely statistical approach to probability. If there are ten possible hypotheses, precisely one of which is true, then it may seem that each one has a 0.1 probability of being true, but of course it could be the case that one of them is very probably true and the other nine are extremely improbable. In science, any hypothesis has an infinite number of competitors (since any finite set of phenemona can be explained, in theory, by an infinite number of hypotheses), but it doesn't follow from this that every hypothesis has only an infinitesimal probability, because some have far more intrinsic plausibility than others (eg, the inverse square law of gravitation is more probably true than any number of wildly elaborate alternative hypotheses). So in the case at hand, the fact that there are a large number of beliefs about the divine does not in itself make every one of them unlikely to be true.
     
  14. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

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    Sorry for being vague. I meant why were they important, and how much influence did they have over Christian thought down the road. And by Eusebius, I meant Eusebius of Caesarea. And I must say, after a quick search of wikipedia, I'm surprised by the sheer number of early Christian bishops and theologians. There's over a dozen of them!

    Oh?
     
  15. bigfatron

    bigfatron Chieftain

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    And I agree with most of what you have said but struggle with this statement for the following reason:
    If we confront a situation where there are multiple answers which are all mutually exclusive, along with an alternative that none of the answers is meaningful, then we have to ask whether there is a reason that multiple answers exist.

    I.e. the fact that we know multiple false answers have been generated implies that there is something happening which inherently gives rise to the generation of false positives.

    To create an analogy, if we have 50 children asked to state the solution to an equation, we will get 50 answers. If we get 50 different answers it strongly implies that there is a common underlying reason for the fact that they are different - perhaps that the question is simply too hard for this ability range or age group. In this case it is very likely that none of the answers are correct - in fact it is very possible that the equation does not admit of a solution - and we can deduce this directly from the disparity of the proposed solutions.

    In a similar way, the sheer variety and differentiation of specific deities, as well as the fact that all of those that are susceptible to disproof (e.g. we can go and look on Mt Olympus for Zeus) have been disproved, leads to a logical supposition that inventing 'gods' (with a lower case 'g') is a natural human activity and has an underlying natural cause, within human society or psyche, even if we are not 100% sure what that cause is.

    In that case the logical deduction is that each specific 'God' is extremely unlikely to be correctly defined, with the default assumption being that God either does not exist or exists in a form not represented by any specific religion.

    All the best
    BFR
     
  16. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    And the apostles were Greeks?

    Once again: common knowledge. (And we'll assume then than that these "variations" are minor, because you say so.)

    Very odd. You've just explained yourself that it is: there's an innumerable amount of NT citations even in premedieval times; with modern critical text assessment it's possible to arrive at a more or less accurate source text. But the only reason for this is that this "source text" has become corrupted (and in fact is non-existent).

    Instead of explaining how absolutely wrong I am, it would behoove you to simply say "Yes, these texts have become corrupted, but..." (etc. A minor difference perhaps, but nevertheless an essential one.)
     
  17. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

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    Jeelen, the variations among the manuscripts really are minor. The only difference between a crtical edition of a sacred text and that of a secular one is the number of manuscripts they draw from. Souter's New Testament lists hundreds, Burnet's Symposium has half a dozen. Yet the % of footnote space, to make a crude estimate of discrepancies, is roughly equal. To claim the new testament is corrupt is to posit a very large 2nd century conspiracy.

    At this point, I'll inject an anecdote, lest it be lost to history. I heard this from the son of a man who worked on the Revised Standard Version (he was old, I was young, for those who think the dates are a stretch).

    One of the Greek scholars argued that "give us this day our daily bread" would be better rendered as "give us tomorrow's bread today". The nascent heresy was quashed on the spot.
     
  18. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

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    Just stepping in here. The apostles were, for the most part, heavily Hellenized Jews. As the literate elite of the the age, they used Greek as their lingua franca. An Aramic letter would have been of little use outside of Palestine, even when writing to majority Jewish communities. Obviously some people are better writers with better Greek than others. The Gospel of Mark for example, has relatively unrefined Greek, while the author of 2 Peter has a beautiful command of the language and it's literary traditions. This is part of why it's near universally agreed to have been written pseudonymously.
     
  19. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Sorry to pop in, but maybe as an outsider I can clear one misunderstanding there seems to be... Jeelen, you can say "text has been corrupted" in two ways: 1. someone has with purpose distorted the text, and 2. It has altered by accident when copied.

    You said (for example) :
    that is: the texts have been altered on purpose, and Plotinus wants you to provide evidence for it. It's fair to say that it isn't common knowledge (if not in the group of the most vocal atheists).

    You have tried to prove that the texts have changed by accident, so you two aren't arguing about the same thing. Also Plotinus has argument in that case too (if I've understood correctly): There's so much early copies of christian texts, that the errors can be (mostly) backtracked and eliminated. If you read critical editions of ancient texts, you'll notice that the texts aren't presented as such, but the editors have done considerable work to investigate what the original text might have been. Some times they reach very reliable results. So even if some older texts are corrupted it is possible to say that the new one isn't.

    Plotinus, some new questions: You said
    Elsewhere you have said that there's no dount about Peter being historical person. Are there other apostles whose historicity is fairly sure? Are the early popes historical?

    When do christians think Jesus came to being? I mean: do they think that God thought that the world needs him, created him and sent to earth, or did God foresee this and create Jesus like centuries or millennia before he went to earth? If so, when? When he created the universe? After the fall of Adam? How did Jesus come to being? Was he created by God, or did he separate him from God, or has he always been? If he has always been, why is he presented inferior to God?

    (I mean these questions from christian point of view, that is: I'm not asking why historically Jesus is presented as inferior to God, but how do christians explain this. Also I think the phrases like "only son" &c are preseenting him inferior, otherwise he could be for example called the brother of God).
     
  20. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I think most Christians think he has always existed (in some form) alongside God, though the exact nature of their relationship and how it came to be is debated.
     
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