In this series of posts on how I got interested in textual criticism, I’ve had a number of people indicate that they don’t see how the problems posed by our manuscripts did not absolutely destroy my evangelical faith. By implication, I think, they are wondering why evangelicals broadly, to a person, don’t see these problems and realize that they don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to their belief in the Bible.
The logic these commenters are applying is one that I discuss in my book Misquoting Jesus. If the evangelical belief is rooted in the sense that the Bible contains the very words that God inspired, and if a study of our manuscripts reveals that there are thousands – hundreds of thousands – of places where these words were changed, so that there are some places where we cannot know what the authors actually wrote, then isn’t that an insurmountable problem? Why would God inspire the words of Scripture (that would take a mighty miracle!) if he did not make sure these words were never changed (that too would take a mighty miracle! But this second miracle would be no greater than the miracle of inspiration). The fact is – as is evident to anyone with any knowledge of the manuscripts at all – the copyists of the Bible changed its words, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And we don’t have the divinely inspired originals themselves. If God didn’t make sure his people got his words, why should we think he inspired the words in the first place? Doesn’t textual criticism destroy the foundation of evangelical faith?
That’s the logic, and I understand it full well (since, as I said, I’ve spelled it out for years!). It is the logic that helped me move away from evangelical faith. But in itself, with nothing else to back it up, I don’t think it would have had that powerful an effect on me. For years as an evangelical, I simply didn’t find it an overwhelmingly persuasive argument.
It is funny (as in “strange,” not as in “humorous”) how different people see the force of logical argumentation differently. But they do. People simply see things differently.
This semester I am …
To See the Rest of this Post you NEED TO BE A MEMBER! If you don’t belong yet, JOIN! You’ll get lots of stuff, for very little cost, and every dime goes to charity. SO GET WITH THE PROGRAM!!!