HAPPY NEW YEAR

[A Bible argument on New Year's Eve about the King James Bible]


        B Stett

        (Investigator 119, 2008 March)



New Year’s Eve, amidst milling crowds and carnival noise, is not ideal for religious argument.

 I was at Semaphore, an Adelaide seaside suburb, at 11.30pm, December 31, when waylaid on the foreshore by a subscriber to Investigator.

"Paul" – the name he used in #61 – complained that Investigator rarely used the "pure" and "correct" Bible inspired by God, the King James Version.

I reminded "Paul" that numerous manuscripts older than the King James Bible exist, and there was once a debate about this in Investigator. [#96 – #98]  Ancient manuscripts are the answer to critics who claim the original writings ["autographs"] of the Bible were changed during recopying.

"Paul" quoted, "The word is near you; it is in your own mouth and in your heart." (Romans 10:8) "Paul" said this means the correct "word" was preserved by what Christians spoke and this became the King James Bible.

I said we have no proof that first-century Christians spoke the King James Bible – they certainly did not speak English. And critics who deny that the written Scriptures stayed unaltered would be even more skeptical about spoken text. "Paul" would need to supply audiotapes of ancient Christians citing the Scriptures so scholars could compare what different ancient Christians spoke!

Furthermore, for "Paul" to quote "The word is…in your own mouth" as fact, before he's proved the King James Bible correct, is circular reasoning. The Book of Mormon and The Koran also declare themselves true and inspired – but such self-recommendation is, by itself, unconvincing!

The difference is, claimed "Paul", that the Bible really is true. Jesus witnessed to its truth and his testimony is confirmed because he rose from the dead and 500 witnesses saw him.

The 500-witnesses-claim too is in the Bible, I replied, and is therefore again circular reasoning. For the 500-assertion to be accepted we need their 500 names and their 500 reports about what they saw.

"We've got all that," said "Paul", "And it’s all true."

Signed testimonies from 500 witnesses who saw Jesus would be a sensational archaeological discovery! But "Paul", I suspect, simply made it up! And if "Paul" can make up false claims in the 21st century with our widespread literacy and communications, it would have been even easier in the illiterate 1st century!

Even if we had those 500 names it can't prove the King James Version authentic because it came 1500 years later.

 I told "Paul" that to avoid circular reasoning we need to test the Bible with tests and observations that can be done now.

"Paul" and I moved over to some steel railing. I said, "This steel is too hard to push a finger through." I demonstrated and said, "You can confirm by testing with your finger." I added, "This is how the Bible has to be tested – with repeatable tests and observations that people can do today."

"That's been done," insisted "Paul". "In the 1930s Morrison wrote Who Moved the Stone? Morrison proved there were enough eye-witnesses to satisfy any court of law."

 I asked, "Does Morrison prove there actually was a stone? Or does he assume it?"

 [To assume something is true is not proof. A student might assume 8+8=20 and write that in his exam but the teacher will mark it wrong!]

Furthermore, are Morrison's "witnesses" the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? If so then Morrison made the same error as "Paul" – he assumed the Bible stories true, which is circular reasoning."

Midnight came. Thousands cheered, hugged or kissed, and wished each other "Happy New Year"; and fireworks on the nearby jetty lit the sky.

"Paul" got back to the ancient manuscripts and discussed Tischendorf who in the 19th century discovered 300 pages of the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century copy of the Bible.

"Paul" criticized Tischendorf’s motives in searching for the manuscript – but the celebrations were now too noisy for me to hear.

[However Tischendorf’s motives do not effect the scientific value of Codex Sinaiticus. Consider another science – arithmetic. Suppose someone has a bad motive for using arithmetic. His motive is that it’s 2pm and it will take him 3 hours to get ready to rob the bank which closes at 5pm. So he calculates whether he has enough time with 2 +3 = 5. Because his motive is evil should everyone now discard arithmetic and never again use the numerals 2, 3 and 5? Just as bad motive does not change the value of arithmetic, it also does not change the value of ancient documents!]

With the fireworks over "Paul" referred to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

He had earlier rejected the use of ancient manuscripts but the Dead Sea Scrolls were different, he said, because, "The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah agrees 100%, with the King James Bible."

Lacking reference books and with passers-by interjecting "Happy New Year!" we got no further.

Later, on the Internet, I found:
Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known [the Massoretic text] (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. (Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p 25)

The Old Testament of the King James was based on the Massoretic Text. If the Internet quote is correct the agreement with the Dead Sea Scrolls is 95% – not 100%.


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