Two items appear below:

1 The Bible — a Church Creation

2 The Bible is God's Creation


The Bible – a 'Church Creation'

Bob Potter

"Which is it:  is man one of God's blunders, or is God one of man's blunders?"  Friedrich Nietzsche (1886)   

(Investigator 145, 2012 July)


The notes that follow were provoked by the 'collected writings' of Anonymous, regularly appearing in the pages of the Investigator  and specifically by a comment in "Biblical 'Bloomers' Pruned" (Investigator 143) where he remarks on "the Septuagint's use of the word 'virgin', despite everyone knowing that virgins don't give birth".

Anonymous is incorrect on two counts: firstly, only in relatively modern times have the details of the physiology of reproduction been understood — hence almost all 'saviours' in all the ancient mythologies were believed to have had virgin mothers; belief in 'immaculate conceptions' was universal in almost every cultures. Pliny, Virgil and St Augustine believed mares could be fertilized by the wind – as indeed did Australian aborigines, according to their folklore. When perusing universal legends, one should substitute for impregnation by the 'Holy Ghost', bathing in the sea, rain, sun, moon, eating cherries, a lotus flower, a swallow's egg, almonds, pomegranates, bilberry, a worm; in the case of Rebecca, Jacob's mother, fruit of the mandrake. Plato's father and mother were warned by Apollo in a dream that their child would be virgin-born – as were Joseph and Mary warned in Biblical myth. Having said all that, the second major objection to the 'collected writings' of Anonymous is his implied assumption of the Bible as a 'unit ultimately explainable only as a 'gift' to humankind from the supernatural Creator.

Historically, mankind has adopted new gods as easily as today's generation selects a new car. Romans adopted Etruscan gods and later identified them with Greek gods. All peoples share the same sky, one moon, one sun, one hypothesized 'rain-maker', one 'thunderer'.  All seas taste of salt; raindrops are 'fresh'; every river has a source and every crop requires moisture; all of us are 'born of woman' and must eventually die. It would be amazing if there were not great resemblances between Roman, Greek, Asian, African, American religions (the work of J G Frazer springs to mind). Essentially all peoples desire from what we in the 21st Century do — health, wealth and maybe, in several senses, 'immortality'.

Early Rome was tolerant of outside religions, its public figures often seeking 'divine' from the East or anywhere. A Jew might have his synagogue in Rome and practice Judaism there – many did.  Romans might become Jews or choose, instead, to worship Isis, Mithras, Orpheus or Christ. Many Jews became Romans as did Josephus who went to Rome in 63 AD and became a Roman citizen; best remembered for his Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews. All these differing faiths were tolerated provided they 'rendered unto Caesar that which was Caesar's' and did not flaunt their religion in ways considered detrimental to State and/or society. Rome was as tolerant toward a 'new god' as most today are toward a new pop star.

A 'contra' example of Roman toleration was their attitude toward the Druids. Long-whiskered, white-gowned Druids, as portrayed in our art galleries did not fit in with the Roman occupation of Gaul. Claudius rounded them up for allegedly roasting human beings in wicker cages as part of their religious practice. Human sacrifice was against Roman law. Claudius followed Tiberius in 'persecuting' the Druids, expelling their 'remnant' to Britain. The oldest descriptions of this 'Gaulish faction' are in the writings of Caesar, Cicero, Tacitus and Pliny the Elder (from whom we learn of their 'religious usage' of oak and mistletoe). Officially the Druids were accused of 'stirring up sedition' and obstructing the legitimate business of the Roman governors. The Druids left no records of their own, so we have no evidence 'from their point of view'. The sect disappeared from history in the Second century AD.   

While Claudius was conducting his ethnic cleansing in Gaul, his fourth wife, Agrippina, was grooming her son Nero for the throne! Today, Nero's fame is usually associated with his alleged persecution of the Christians (it is claimed he used members of the sect as human torches to light his garden!) but this remains a disputed area of research and many contemporary historians contradict Christian accounts. Ascending the throne at the age of 17 years, Nero certainly acquired a reputation for excessive violence against perceived opponents, on one occasion organizing the summary execution of 400 slaves. He personally organized the poisoning of his mother (allegedly involved in a plot to remove her son from office) and kicked one of his pregnant wives to death. It is possible the accounts of his persecution of Christians, which sometimes include the executions of Peter and Paul, were embellishments created several centuries after Nero's suicide, in 68 AD.   

Historical presentation is largely determined by 'the authority' writing the record. The Israelites were always ready with their promises to Jahweh, their 'war-god': "If Thou wilt deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly save nothing alive that breatheth." (Numbers 21:2) Jericho is 'devoted' and a curse is laid on its site to prevent its being rebuilt. David, his "favourite" smote every male in Edom; and from Rabbah "brought forth the people that were therein and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick kiln, and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon." (2 Samuel 12:31) The brutality of the Israelites, as recorded in these 'scriptures', is ever excessive – one is amazed there are those who would share this 'holy book' with young children, today. In Judges 19:29, one reads: "…he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel". If we found this extract in a Taliban textbook, or in Himmler's speech to SS officers, we would hardly treat this text as 'moral guidance'. Can we sympathize with Saul's behaviour, when he "took a yoke of oxen and hewed them to pieces and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel" (I Samuel 11:7) to call Israel to arms, as fulfilling a 'covenant'? When Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and took thousands of Jews to Rome, there is no record of any Roman displaying such fiendish cruelty as the biblical David.

Paul generally got a square deal from the Roman authorities (he was proud of his 'Roman citizenship'). It was the Jews who were after him, perceiving him as traitor and renegade. In Rome, he was acquitted on his first trial. Christians may have become a persecuted sect in and around  250 AD, but within fifty years they had become the state religion under emperor Constantine (323 – 337) and sixty years after that, succeeded in wringing from the dying Emperor Julian the admission, Vicisti Galilae! (Julian had devoted a lifetime of active support to pagan philosophy and fought hard to rescind the favours Constantine afforded Christians.) This 'victory for the Galilean' clearly demonstrates Christianity was as surely 'an historical product' the Magna Charta!

From the fabled days of Numa (who succeeded Romulus as king of Rome), Rome had her college of priests or pontiffs. Emperor Augustus assumed the role of Chief Priest or Pontifex Maximus, as the popes or papas are still styled. Early in her career, Rome began formally to adopt certain Greek gods – but only after they had been approved by the College of Pontiffs and authorized by the Senate. Because Greek was the 'language of culture' practically all Romans were familiar with Greek mythology and readily accepted Greek gods and mythical anthropomorphic beings – even after the Greeks had relegated some of them to the nursery – and fitted them into their beliefs.

The net result was Rome now had a state religion, its essence being to remove the world in which mankind lives (the world where people were 'at home', exploring life, manipulating objects, hunting, growing grain, fishing) out of their hands and placing it in charge of 'heavenly hands' humans were unable to 'train, control or slap'. The world no longer belonged to humanity — they were relegated to paying homage to those invisible, supernatural 'hands' situated in the heavens above. To these 'invisible hands', magnificent temples needed erection, then 'handed over' to 'priests' or Vestal Virgins for administration. These priests needed food and lodging in addition to which some 'hands' liked the odour of roast pork or beef; occasionally, human blood was neither inappropriate nor offensive. The population acquired a new stance vis-à-vis the unseen 'hands' — fear, 'gratitude', respect, veneration.

Rome's College of Pontiffs became a state institution; the function of its officers as definite as today's government ministries. They attended to business matters, but were neither preachers nor moralists – they belonged to no 'church', had no 'Bible', no credo. They were not trying to make people moral, sober or righteous, or to 'save souls', cure disease or 'wash away' sins. Absolutism in any form of human relationship is unnatural and makes for madness and arguably some Caesars had gone mad. Nero not only persecuted Christians but slew and banished philosophers and made it a crime to philosophize. Domitian (81–96) crucified scribes who copied any work criticizing him. Tiberius 'put down foreign religions', pulled down the temple of Isis, crucified her priests, expelled the Jews and proselytes and drafted young Jews into the army. Anything or anybody with opposing opinions was perceived as threatening the status quo – hence 'treasonous'. Rome might be 'eternal' but the Empire was changing! Two hundred years of 'peace' had gone — with it went rationalism. The old 'philosophy' was being replaced by 'revelation'.

In many respects civilization had reached its 'peak' with pagan Imperial Rome; with Christian Rome it sank into a thousand years' sleep, appropriately now known as the 'Dark Ages'.

Whereas the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the earth to be 7,850 miles (his error was no greater than about fifty miles!) and correctly calculated the tilt of the earth's axis, the advent of Christianity ensured any person arguing in this fashion (hence contradicting the 'Biblical evidence') was liable to death at the stake – for heresy. Likewise, a sufferer from epilepsy in ancient Greece, who sought advice from the 'founder of medicine', Hippocrates (460-370 BC), would be referred to his work On the Sacred Disease, where the opening paragraph reads: "With regard to the disease called Sacred; it appears to me to be nowise more divine nor sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause from which it originates like other affections.  Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder, because it is not like other diseases…." In roughly thirty of today's pages, the author identifies the origin of the problem in the human brain — his text would be readily understood by any trainee doctor today. A follower of Hippocrates, living in the 'Dark Ages', who talked this sort of nonsense before the Church inquisitors would experience the flames of the pyre – the Church was emulating the Lord Jesus by banishing multitudes of devils from afflicted sinners.


All that mankind had learned through thousands of years of toil were now renounced in the name of a Saviour sent to bring, not peace, but a sword, into the world. It is important to note, however, from the moment of its inception, there never was just one 'true' Christian belief – as pointed out earlier, this is the second reason why the 'collected writings' of Anonymous inspired me to compile these notes. Mr A's writings imply 'one Christian belief', 'one Holy inspired book' – the Bible. I need hardly highlight what we know from everyday experience — today, two thousand years after the 'miraculous birth' of Jesus, there are still thousands of differing churches and ecclesia, each claiming exclusive powers and privileges, each claiming to be the only true church. If a proverbial Martian arrived on earth today intent on becoming a 'Christian', how would she go about it, whose word would she accept as authoritative? Every church would say, "ours; our Bible is our authority".

Many articles in the Investigator (not only Mr A!), leave the reader with the impression there is just 'one Bible', 'one Authority'. To the Greek fathers, Ta Biblia meant 'The Books'; but the Latin fathers used the word biblia, not as a neuter plural but as a feminine singular. The Saxons did not use the word Bible for the Scriptures, but Ge-Writ. Myles Coverdale, first to publish a complete Bible in English, calling it Biblia. John Rogers first used the word Bible for the Scriptures in 1537. Whatever it is named, the Bible is a book only because it is printed as a book. The early Christian fathers regarded it neither a unit nor a book, Jerome, for example, in the fourth century, called it Bibliotheca Divina, the Divine Library – which is exactly what it is, a library of books.

Hebrew writings appear relatively late in history – the Moabite Stone (in the Louvre) was erected about 850 BC, as a tribute to the god Chemosh and celebrating victory over revolting Israelites (not quite the way II Kings 3:5 puts it!). This and other monuments bearing Hebrew inscriptions gives hint of Hebrew writing at the time of the 'Kings'. Three centuries before the Christian era, Alexandria had become the intellectual centre of the world; the city had sufficient Jews for there to be a Jewish quarter – they worshipped in an old Egyptian temple remodelled after the Jerusalem temple. They spoke Greek, had their own priests and kept up their Jewish rites but were unable to read their Scriptures until they were translated into Greek during the years 280 – 130 BC. This is known as the Septuagint Version, or simply LXX, because tradition claimed seventy (or seventy two) men did the translating. (When the mythical team of seventy did their translating, not all the OT was yet in existence – Ecclesiastes, for example, was written about 200 BC, Daniel and parts of Zechariah, still later.) This was the only version of the Hebrew Scriptures available, not only in Alexandria but of the entire Mediterranean world. The LXX was the Bible of Jesus, of the early disciples, apostles, gospel writers and the early Christian church – it is still the official 'Old Testament' of the Greek Catholic, the Abyssinian, Egyptian/Coptic and Armenian, Eastern Orthodox churches. For many centuries Jews objected to the many translation inaccuracies of LXX and offered their own 'accurate' (?) translations.  The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has contributed to research regarding these texts. (I have previously touched on doctrinal 'inventions' arising from flaws in the LXX Versions — Thoughts on Fundamentalism in Investigator 137).

There are many 'Christian' Bibles – a fact overlooked by many of our fundamentalist friends, who have their own 'Authorized' Versions of an original 'revealed' manuscript. A Bible is a library of sacred books; if a book is 'sacred' it is canonical – intended by the Almighty. A canon is good only if it is straight; that is what the word means, a straight rod, measurer, determiner. But obviously there must be a human official or 'committee' somewhere, given the authority to pronounce judgement — hence the revealing admission from St Augustine (in 397 AD) that he would "not believe in the Gospel if I had not the authority of the church for so doing".

Unfortunately, God provided no revelation conveying 'authenticity'; today there are at least eleven canonical Bibles. Not all of Israel's early 'books' were canonized – there are references to twenty-five other texts in the extant OT – the early church believed all the books had been lost during the Babylonian captivity until 'divinely inspired' Ezra dictated ninety-four Books to five scribes in forty days; an impressive 'miracle' firmly believed by many of the early fathers — Clement, Tertullian, Jerome et al!)


The study of the discrepancies discussed in the previous paragraphs is necessarily a matter for scholars with expertise in the old languages. More accessible to the general enquirer, are the differing 'versions' within the canonical texts accepted by any specific Christian community. The contradictory accounts of Noah's flood is probably the most commonly discussed with Creationists; perhaps more instructive is the handling of the Ten Commandments. Researching Christian fundamentalism, thirty years ago, I was surprised to learn most 'believers' are unaware there are several incarnations of these commandments.  Those of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are much the same, but the one in Exodus 34 (which purports to be the most recent listing!) spoken to Moses by Jahweh to replace the earlier broken tablets, differs in several ways from the earlier version commonly incorporated into today's Christian services. The reason for ignoring the later (and therefore, logically, preferred listing) is easy to guess – God's 're-write' is too 'Jewish'. Had today's Christ followers been committed to the later version, Christians would be celebrating Jewish festivals, sacrificing their 'first born' animals and forbidden to cook young goats in their mothers' milk. Finally, the later version would have exonerated us all from the fearful dilemma regarding 'taking the Lord's name in vain', whatever that might mean! How many Christians ever think about how the Church authority re-edits the words spoken by Jahweh and decides which of the alternative versions is appropriate for services of worship.

Moving on to the New Testament.

The earliest copy, dating from the fourth century is in the vaults at Vatican City. Interestingly, not one of the six oldest and best manuscripts, all in Greek, and dating from the fourth and fifth centuries was used for translating the King James Version. The establishment of the Canon came after centuries of debate, determining what Christian belief actually was. Once 'determined', the texts automatically became 'inspired'. The NT canon has four Gospels, chosen from dozens. Four, because (said Irenaeus) there are four cardinal points. There were also four influential churches: Jerusalem (Matthew), Rome or Alexandria (Mark), Antioch (Luke), Ephesus (John). In addition to the canonical four Gospels, the Testament includes the Acts of the Apostles, twenty Apostolic letters and the Apocalypse.  


No Gospel was written by an eye-witness of the scenes and events narrated. The two statements of John (19:35 and 21:24) are later additions to the text. With just one exception, no Christian writer quotes any of the Gospels before 150 AD – that exception being Papias, who about 120 AD mentioned the story of Mark and the sayings of Jesus. Mark was written sometime between 60 and 70: Matthew, not before 70 and probably between 80 and 90; Luke between 80 and 100; John about 130; the Apocalypse in 93 AD.  

The first three (so-called synoptic) Gospels do not agree except where they would naturally be expected to differ – in a series of long phrases.  Most scholars agree the authors of Matthew and Luke had a copy of Mark before them as they wrote together with a common additional source.  The last twelve verses of Mark are later additions – one critic appropriately characterized Matthew as a "second edition of Mark, revised and enlarged". The Gospel of John was written neither by John nor a contemporary of the other three. It was the work of a theologian saturated with the theosophy of Philo, a Jew. He probably knew of the other Gospels, but never hesitated to contradict them.

As 'evidence', John is worthless; Luke at best a third-hand witness; Matthew and Mark second-hand – we know nothing of their authority.  Neither Mark nor Luke knew anything of Peter's primacy; the "Thou art Peter" in Matthew was a later interpolation. The three synoptics simply echo words and traditions repeated long after the death of the supposed Messiah and compiled by individuals influenced by Paul's preaching. The alleged happenings are hearsay evidence that would never be accepted in any court of justice today. St Augustine summed it up well (see above) – the authority for authority being the church!

As suggested earlier, Christianity was as surely 'an historical product' as was the Magna Charta. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 ended two centuries of political unrest in the Eastern world and profoundly affected the fate of religion. The Messiah who had been expected to lead a rebellious people to victory was replaced by a Messiah who was crucified, not for rebellion, but as proof of God's infinite mercy to mankind. Congregations that had been organized to hold believers together to await a physical kingdom, now of their own accord grew in strength and conviction of the second coming of the Messiah: the Kingdom of God being 'at hand', this very generation! (Mark 9:1).

Myths multiplied, congregations grew, but still the Kingdom of God failed to appear. Eventually, from the mass of apocalyptic material available, Faith created a Kingdom yet to come. Mankind's major tasks on earth during these 'final years' were to serve their God, obey his commandments (and those of His Holy church – as St Augustine explained: "…for any man who does not hold the unity of the Catholic Church , neither baptism, nor alms however profuse, nor death met for the name of Christ, can be of benefit for his salvation") and so save one's 'soul' – nothing else mattered; poverty is glorious, material life valueless, compared to the salvation yet to come. Faith justifies all, anything – no matter how foolish, vile, cruel, savage, insane, unjust all for the 'glory of God' and the welfare of one's soul. Bishops assassinated one another along with salutations to the Children's Crusade, the murder of Manicheans, Albigenses and Huguenots; thousands of witches and heretics hanged and burned at the stake. The slaughters have been moderated in today's Western world, but even there, Greek, Catholic, Lutheran and Protestant priests and sects urge nations to slaughter one another with modern diabolic scientific devices (today, pilot-less 'drones' et al), all accompanied by the war-cries of patriotism, all 'doing the Lord's work'. (Readers will recall, a decade ago, each day, George W Bush received his 'war despatches' from Iraq, headed with a Biblical verse substantiating he was fulfilling God's personal revelation to him, to "go get those weapons of mass destruction!")

Christ conquered Rome as its ancient world Empire was in decline. One can but wonder if the 'discovery and recovery of religion' in the USA during the last half is likewise a symptom of the 'decline' of the modern 'American era'?

 




THE BIBLE is GOD'S CREATION

(Investigator 146, 2012 September)

Anonymous


INTRODUCTION

In The Bible A Church Creation (#145) Dr Bob Potter aims to refute the notion that "the Bible as a unit [is] ultimately explainable only as a gift to humankind from the supernatural Creator." His attack ranges across doctrine, ethics, history, and apologetics.
 

VIRGIN BIRTH

Dr Potter began by disapproving of my comment: "The Septuagint's use of the word 'virgin', despite everyone knowing that virgins don't give birth, shows that the translators recognized, two centuries before Jesus came, that the prophecy referred to someone special i.e. Messiah." (#143)

Potter refers us to people (including Australian Aborigines) who didn't recognize sex as necessary for pregnancy: "only in relatively modern times have the details of the physiology of reproduction been understood…"

My comment "despite everyone knowing" referred to the translators of the Septuagint and Israelites generally. They knew from the Old Testament (OT) that sex precedes pregnancy. Jesus' mother knew this too, evidenced by her words: "How can this [pregnancy] be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke1:34)

That sex is ordinarily necessary for pregnancy is a point the Bible got right but many others got wrong!



ETHICS

Potter says "The brutality of the Israelites, as recorded in these scriptures, is ever excessive" and he's amazed that people "share this 'holy book' with young children." Potter cites the Book of Judges where a priest's concubine was raped until she died. Potter says "we would hardly treat this text as moral guidance."
In newspapers I've read of acid thrown into people's faces, girls tortured by rapists, and mothers exploiting schoolgirl daughters as prostitutes. Newspapers don't report such behaviour as "moral guidance" for imitation but imply its illegality. The theme of Judges is the importance of having a central law-enforcing authority and what happens without it: "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes." (21:25; 17:6)

Without law-enforcement everyone invents his own rules, producing a might-makes-right society of idolatry and atrocities. Children in church recognize Judges as history and understand that slave raids and killing are not for imitation. Although even the heroes in Judges were imperfect they trusted God, desired peace and hated oppression and those sentiments we can adopt. But for ethical guidance and rules there are other Bible chapters.

Potter says: "When Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD…there is no record of any Roman displaying such fiendish cruelty as the biblical David." Potter is wrong and should read Josephus' Wars of the Jews. Also, what "fiendish cruelty" of David did Amalakites, Philistines and others not institute first? David lived amidst a mix of plundering and kidnapping-for-slavery tribes regularly destroying Israelite villages. On one occasion Amalekites kidnapped all the wives and children of David and his men and we read: "Then David and the people with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep." (I Samuel 30:4) This pattern of war and terrorism had gone on for centuries and to stop it required destroying the perpetrators. We know from history that evil regimes don't stop their evil until defeated by someone stronger. The Judges-and-David environment should make us consider the Nazis in Russia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Uganda under Idi Amin, and ask ourselves, "What would I do in such circumstances?"

The Bible teaches peace and mentions it or synonymous ideas over 600 times — from the Garden of Eden, to "nation shall not lift up sword against nation" (Isaiah 2), to "death and pain will be no more". (Revelation 21) Israelites were commanded to "love" their neighbours including foreigners (Leviticus 19:18, 34) and Christians to "do good to one another and to all". (I Thessalonians 5:15)


HISTORY

Potter implies that Christianity's early history is wrong e.g. "Christians may have become a persecuted sect in and around 250 AD".

Standard history books mention serious local persecutions by Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96), Trajan (98-117) and Marcus Aurelius (161-180), and the first Empire-wide persecution in 250AD. Historians also accept the New Testament as reliable at least in outline. Michael Grant (A History of Rome, 1978) for example says: "One of those who received John's baptism was Jesus — an unquestionably historical happening, since the early church would have dearly liked to omit it (seeing that Jesus was supposed to be sinless) but could not because of its authenticity." (p. 260)


Pliny (62-113), governor in Asia Minor, wrote to Emperor Trajan in 112AD on how to treat Christians. Trajan answered that Christians should not be hunted down, but if someone is accused of being Christian he has to prove his innocence or be executed. (Bettensen 1967)


CHURCH CONDUCT

Potter mentions Hippocrates' medical explanation for epilepsy and claims that "Dark Ages…Church inquisitors" would have burned people who gave such scientific explanations.

Church policy often differs to the Bible. Jesus declared "Woe to you when all speak well of you" (Luke 6:26) implying that the Church would become popular but would then not properly represent God. Church failure, however, does not excuse individuals since they still have the Bible and the example of Jesus and Paul (I Peter 2:21) — just as the presence of corrupt officials in government doesn't excuse lawbreaking by civilians. The Bible teaches that each individual will be judged by his own conduct. (II Corinthians 5:10)

Potter next states erroneously: "All that mankind had learned through thousands of years of toil were now renounced in the name of a Saviour sent to bring, not peace, but a sword, into the world."

Actually, much of what the Greeks discovered the Church did not renounce but accepted and preserved. The Church merely added little to it. When the Roman Empire ended war followed almost everywhere, and invasions criss-crossed Europe for 600 years. But as stability returned it was in Church-dominated areas that universities (Naskins 1965) and modern science began.

Jesus' statement that he came "not to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34) is not, as Potter suggests, a sanction for violence but refers to intra-family conflict when some family members accept Jesus and others oppose. Verses 37-37 make that plain — "one's foes will be members of one's own household." Jesus rejected the literal use of swords (John 18:10-11) and taught: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)


ONE INSPIRED BOOK?

Dr Potter objects to "one Holy inspired…Bible" because "thousands of differing churches" claim to be "the only true church."

We actually have similar divisiveness in science, politics and society. The frontiers of every scientific discipline are full of dispute. Do we therefore reject computers, medicines, skyscrapers, clothing, cars and dentistry while we wait for perfection and full agreement? If not how do we choose? People make decisions based on information they have. If any decisions are bad such as buying a dud computer most people prepare better next time.

The Bible includes difficult prophecies (Daniel 12:5) and difficult doctrines (II Peter 3:16), besides being a "living" book which interacts with people individually (Hebrews 4:12), and also attracts "deceivers" who misrepresent it for profit or power. (Jude 4, 7-13) These circumstances preclude full agreement.

Potter next argued "the Bible is a book only because it is printed as a book… God provided no revelation conveying 'authenticity'; today there are at least eleven canonical Bibles. Not all of Israel's early 'books' were canonized – there are references to twenty-five other texts in the extant OT…"

Reference in the Old Testament to "twenty-five other texts" does not mean those texts were wrongly excluded. How many books does the Encyclopaedia Britannica refer to without those books forming part of the Britannica? Does every book quoted have to be reprinted in full in the publication that quotes it? No.

In #127 I investigated the "New Testament Canon" because Dr Potter (in #126) listed 23 "gospels" that never made it in. I presented criteria by which people today can test whether the correct books are included in today's Bibles. The criteria are:
1 Written by apostles and/or "eyewitnesses". (Acts 2:21-22; II Peter 1:16; I John 1:3; Luke 1:1-3; Jude 3-4) 

2 Circulated among 1st century Christian congregations and accepted as authoritative. Most of Paul's letters were accepted as the "word of God" (I Thessalonians 2:4, 13) and as "the Scriptures" by 60AD. (II Peter 3:15-16).

3 The writers had to be examples of right conduct, not sexually immoral "intruders". (Jude 7-16)

4 Jewish/Israelite writer. (Romans 3:2) Luke, who wrote Luke and Acts, seems the sole exception to this criterion since Colossians 4:10-14 excludes Luke from those "of the circumcision". This still, however, allows for a Jewish parent or grandparents. Luke's borderline qualification is seen in him not being an eyewitness "from the beginning" (Luke 1:1-3) but an eyewitness from about 50AD. (Acts 16:10)

5 Consistency/harmony. Scripture has to agree with other Scripture and with themes or unifying ideas of the entire Bible. The Koran, for example, denies the crucifixion of Jesus, and much else, therefore cannot be counted as Biblical Scripture.
The consistency criterion involves complex logic. Critics, for example, claim Jesus misinterpreted the OT four times in one sentence — in Mark 2:26. Analysis, however, showed Jesus correct and the critics wrong. (#113 and #114) Similarly, critics declare the four resurrection narratives irreconcilable. Several Internet sites fail to reconcile them despite using 10,000 words. In #144, however, I presented a simple harmony in 1400 words.

The early Church would likewise have been unable to reconcile difficult problems in logic. The fact that many "discrepancies" have now been solved corroborates which "Scriptures" belong together.

Potter claims:

"No Gospel was written by an eye-witness of the scenes and events narrated… John 19:35 and 21:24 are later additions to the text. With just one exception, no Christian writer quotes any of the Gospels before 150 AD… As 'evidence', John is worthless; Luke at best a third-hand witness; Matthew and Mark second-hand – we know nothing of their authority.  Neither Mark nor Luke knew anything of Peter's primacy; the "Thou art Peter" in Matthew was a later interpolation..."

To check whether John 19:35 and 21:24 are later additions we go to the textual critics, the specialists who compare the ancient manuscripts and list all variations. A list of "Various Readings" is in the Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament which shows that John 19:35 and 21:24 are not later additions except possibly for several words which I've underlined:
He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth. (John 19:35)

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)
The added words do not affect the "eye-witness" claim which is also stated in I John 1:1-4. Christ's appointment of Peter (Matthew 16:18) is likewise not a "later interpolation".

Quotes from the New Testament appear in writings of the "Church Fathers" from the early 2nd century onwards and are quoted by them as final authority. Therefore criteria like the five above must already have operated. Ignatius (35-107), Bishop of Antioch, authored seven letters quoting 19 of the NT's 27 books. Polycarp (69-166), Bishop of Smyrna alluded to the NT 40 times. The Muratorian fragment, which dates from the late 2nd century, lists 23 NT books.

To answer conspiracy theorists who claim everything is 4th-century fraud — i.e. the NT, Christian history, 2nd century Church writings, and corroborating archaeology, was all planted — we have manuscripts from before the 4th century including:

•    The Chester Beatty papyri which are 3rd century manuscripts of eight OT books, the four Gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, Hebrews, and Revelation.
•    The Bodmer papyri which include an almost complete manuscript of John from about 200AD and 80% of a 3rd century copy of Luke.
•    P52 — a John Rylands papyrus dated 120-150AD, which has words from John 18.

Portions of the Jewish Talmud originally written in the 2nd century refer to Jesus, his disciples, his healing miracles, his crucifixion and the Christian belief in a virgin birth. (Hoffman 1984)


PROOF OF THE BIBLE

Potter calls the Bible "hearsay evidence that would never be accepted in any court of law".  Let's ask a lawyer.

Salmon P Chase (1808-1873) was a founding member of the Republican Party, governor of Ohio, promoter of equal rights for Blacks, US Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, prime organizer of the national banking and modern bank-note system, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, whose annotated volumes on the Statutes of Ohio became the authoritative reference for Ohio's judicial system. Chase examined the Bible as he would a court case:

"It was a long, serious, and profound study: and using the same principles of evidence in this religious matter as I always do in secular matters, I have come to the decision that the Bible is a supernatural book, that it has come from God." (Goldman 1948)
We can even "cross-examine" the witnesses (i.e. the Bible-writers) by testing whatever biblical statements are still testable — which is what I've done for years in Investigator Magazine. Hundreds of statements are confirmed in such disciplines as geography, history, ethics, archaeology, psychology, zoology, entomology, astronomy, oceanography, futurology, genetics, ornithology, logic, medicine, anthropology, hygiene, and child rearing.


CONDUCT

Yet another Potter objection is: "Faith justifies all, anything – no matter how foolish, vile, cruel, savage, insane…"

The Bible has the specific doctrine that many pretenders would exploit Christ's name for evil purposes — the "vile, cruel, savage" therefore don't reflect Christ.
Atheistic Communism, however, lacks an equivalent doctrine. Therefore its killing of 100 million victims in the 20th century suggests the ideology itself, atheism, tends to make people "vile, cruel and savage".

Potter's problem with President Bush and "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq is dubious since Saddam may have transferred his weapons programs to Syria. In 2007 Israel destroyed a nuclear bomb plant in Syria, and Syria also possesses an extensive chemical arsenal.

Another reason for the Iraq invasion was Saddam's mass killing of Iraqi people — up to 4 million. James Rose, reviewing the book The Responsibility to Protect (2011), writes: "The UN … has struggled to come to grips with the fundamental flaw in international diplomacy: state sovereignty. Dating back to the 17th century, the notion that national borders, no matter how artificial or porous, are sacrosanct, and that national interest, no matter how narrowly defined, trumps global collectivism, has undermined virtually every effort to unite the world in common international polity…"

The 20th century saw countless political victims in many countries scream for help and not get it. Had Saddam not been deposed, Potter would now be arguing, "Faith justifies anything, even letting dictators kill millions."


DARK AGES and RECOVERY

Potter also blames the "Dark Ages" on Christianity. The Dark Ages, however, were Rome's legacy — Rome had the power to prevent them.

Why Rome fell is still debated. One factor, however, was the Coliseum and 70 other amphitheatres. The cost to keep these going, including capture of animals and shipping, totalled 5% of the Empire's resources. If the modern world spent 5% of GDP solely to destroy people, animals and the environment it would self-destruct too. The Christian Church stopped the slaughter in the 4th century but it was too late to save the Empire:

Consider Britain. Young (2010) says the departure of the Roman legions produced "apocalypse", "meltdown", "unmitigated disaster". In 400AD the British had central government, theatres, baths, writing, travel, trade and schools. Twenty years later Britain had split into warring tribes and "Cities emptied when the food stopped getting through." Central government vanished; roads, aqueducts and defensive structures broke down; barter replaced money. And into this chaos came the raiders — Picts, Irish, Saxons and Vikings.

Most of Europe experienced similar upheaval from Goths, Vandals, Huns, etc. Not total "meltdown", but almost continual war and massacres. Christians suffered too — in Jerusalem, for example, Persians massacred 4500 in 614AD.

William Boyd (1950) writes: "It was inevitable that culture should languish and decline in such troubled times. In the parts most exposed to invasion, indeed, it died out altogether. In Ireland…the ancient schools almost wholly disappeared." (p. 126)

A basis for recovery was established by the social/educational/legal reforms of Charles the Great, Otto the Great, and Alfred the Great. Even in the worst centuries: "There always remained monasteries and cathedrals where learning was cherished…"

Boyd writes: "The explanation of this remarkable recovery is to be found in the essential strength of the civilization built up by the joint efforts of Church and State from the ruins of the Roman Empire. Not a little of the credit must be assigned to the constitutional and educational reforms by which Charles brought a partial unity of purpose to European life." (Boyd p.126)


Later came modern science the "fathers" of which were Christian (Hooykaas 1974), and countless social reforms and ministries for the public good. For example:
Dr Mangalwadi in The Book That Made Your World (2011) shows that: "the Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium".


CONCLUSION


The Bible is "The Word of God". This is proved by science and by the Bible's positive impact: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars..." (Daniel 12:3)


REFERENCES:

Barrymore, K. The Advertiser, July 6, 2012, p. 5

Bettensen, H. 1967 Documents of the Christian Church, Second edition, Oxford, pp 3-4

Boyd, W. 1950 The History of Western Education, Fifth edition, Adam & Charles Black

Bruce, F.F. 1960 The New Testament Documents, Inter-Varsity

Genser, J. & Cotler, I. 2011 The Promise of Stopping Mass Atrocities in Our Time, Oxford

Goldman, S. 1948 The Book of Books An Introduction, Jewish Publication Society, p. 194

Grant, M. History of Rome, Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Hoffman, R.J. 1984 Jesus Outside the Gospels, Prometheus

Hooykaas, R. 1974 (Second printing) Religion And The Rise Of Modern Science, Eerdmans

Mangalwadi,V. 2011 The Book That Made Your World, Thomas Nelson

Mirzoeff, N. History Today, Volume 42, July 1992, pp 19-25

Naskins, C.H. 1965 (Seventh printing) The Rise of Universities, Cornell

Rose, J. The Weekend Australian Magazine, April 21-22, 2012, p. 22

Young, S. BBC History Magazine, March 2010, pp 44-48.


Atheists and Skeptics versus defenders of the Bible on this website:

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/