Saturday, September 17, 2011

Believers claim that the source of the Bible is prophecy, inspired by God, but as soon as the words are given to human beings — with God's agreement, and at His initiative — the holiness of the biblical text remains, even if minor errors are made when the text is passed on...

While this phrase is from a Jewish Bible scholar, it frames the tension between the holiness and reliability of the Biblical text and the process of human transmission and translation.  There are those Christians who think that it is the job of the Church to argue against every critic of the Biblical text.  It would be an endless job.  In the end, the infallibility of the text flows not from the sanctity of the process of its transmission or translation -- though these are not incidental -- but the God who breathed its words and whose voice still speaks and acts through them.

Christians have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of when it comes to the transmission or translation of the Biblical text -- yet the issue at stake here is more than this.  Does God's Word do what it says and keep its promises or it merely an antique, factual record of the past?  It seems to me that as much as we rightfully proclaim that God's Word is trustworthy and true, we ought to proclaim even louder still that His Word is efficacious and fulfills its promise to us, delivering to us the very things of which it speaks.

While I tire of the endless media attention every time some small error or change in the text is brought to light through scholarship or archeology, I tire even more of the Christians who allow this to well up fear in their hearts that, just maybe, we might have gotten it all wrong.  It is amazing to me how people can sit in Church and Bible study and remain so ignorant or impervious to what is said and taught there.  I have had countless people raise up to me the issues of lost books of the Bible, the various Gnostic gospels, the two endings of Mark, the fearful claims of the DaVinci Code, etc. as if all of a sudden their whole foundation of faith lay in ruins for what they read in the newspaper or new magazine or heard on the news.  Surely we must hold the media accountable for the way it hypes this old news as if it were new or exaggerates its importance to the Biblical text.  But just as surely we must hold our people accountable for being guided by their fears instead of knowing the truth that sets you free and living within its welcome and certain authority.

We are skeptical people living in a skeptical time and it seems there is no limit to the damage one well placed news story or so-called scholarly claim can do... Whose fault is it that we are so easily fooled?  A well taught laity and one which pays attention to the teaching of the Church will not fall victim to such scams.  The blame goes both ways....


Anonymous said...

If folks are so skeptical, why aren't they more skeptical of the fringers with their fabricated da Vinci codes and obscure fragments instead of the text which has withstood endless assaults by all manner of critics and skeptics over the millennia?

Sage said...

It wasn't until I was faced with defending the gospel against modern-day Judaizers of the worst sort that I became familiar with apologetics and that has been monumental in shoring up the backbone of my faith.

I think we take our faith with a nod and go on about our business not prepared for the eventual "bombshell" of some sort. Once you've grounded yourself in the scriptures and the church fathers and history, you know the playing field well enough to deflect those pesky flies. It's convincing the people to do that kind of learning, which takes time and effort. It's much easier to be wafted about on the whims of "new finds" designed to shake our faith.

Anonymous said...

"A Jewish Bible Scholar" is a real
contradiction in terms when you
realize that Scriptures were written
so that you may believe that Jesus
is the Christ, the Son of God, and
that by believing you may have life
in His name. Once you lose that
ultimate purpose of the Bible is to
make men wise unto salvation, then
everything else is up for grabs.
Christ told us the Word is truth and
that He is the Truth.

Segfault Reloaded said...

Great post, Pastor Peters. We used it in our adult Bible class this AM.

John McDermott
Annandale, Virginia