[These were the original postings that CONTAINED the 'starter question.' The reponses to the 'process points' are included in the listing of the points as R1, R2, etc.]


David...thanks for your response...

2. If your reading of the Hebrew is correct, then I submit that the translation rendered in the KJV is bogus. (And I submit that a God who orchestrated the lives of the original scribes/authors could and should have taken equal care with the later translators, n'est-ce pas?)

The KJV issue must be deferred til I get back to San Jose, as I mentioned earlier...but as for the question in parenthesis...

FANTASTIC QUESTION! I have never in 20+ years of intellectually working through this 'stuff' run across anyone who asked this question! Good thinking!...

I personally have been working through/pondering/muddling about in this whole area...mostly in the context of Christian epistemology...revelation and ambiguity...worldviews and over-precision...natural language as a vehicle of communication between God and man...clarity of scripture...etc...the issues are manifold, and quite natually flow out of the view that "God spoke in/through people and events in history" to communicate to man clearly (yet without 'volitional violence') a message of truth and love and acceptance and reconciliation etc...I have NOT so far put my thoughts down in some coherent order, but will try to do so in the next week or so (I am camping some next week in Big Basin, so it may be a week or so)...later on this one...

One quick point from history...it is extremely bizarre how the scripture has been perserved/transmitted over the centuries/millenia...the continuing archeological data (e.g. dead sea scrolls, Ebla tablets, NT papyri) refines our understanding of the text somewhat, but serves a much greater purpose in documenting the actual text. In other words, it is very, very WEIRD how much data about the bible has been anchored in history. Consider the following data on the NT manuscripts...(from another piece I am writing)...

This question [is the NT historically reliable] is actually preceded by another question--do we even HAVE the original new testament? This issue can only be settled by using bibliographical tests for reliability, similar to what would be used to judge the Iliad or Caesar's writings. The NT was completely written in the 1st century ad. We have at least 24, 633 manuscripts of the NT, the earliest of which are dated within 100 years or so of its actual composition. Compare this to other great works:


Author Written Earliest Copy Time Span MSS Caesar 100-44bc 900 ad 1,000 yrs 10 Plato 427-347bc 900 ad 1,200 yrs 7 Thucydides 460-400bc 900 ad 1,300 yrs 8 Tacitus 100 ad 1100 ad 1,000 yrs 20 Suetonius 75-160 ad 950 ad 800 yrs 8 Homer(Iliad) 900 BC 400 BC 500 yrs 643 New Test. 40-100ad 125 ad 25-50 yrs over 24k!
So, by the tightest standards scholars can muster (without eliminating all the other classical works), the NT we have is a trustworthy copy of the original.

Now to me this is serious 'oddness'. If I interpret this to mean that God somehow 'made sure' we had this text, but didn't make sure we understood it(!), I run into the 'could and should' issue of your question...I will get back to this when I get to the above question, but I did want to point out that the historical record does argue for some 'special handling' to have occurred (i.e. in textual preservation), but not the area we might first expect (i.e. understanding and/or translation).

3. Okay, why should we believe that God has devoted this extra-special attention to these specific pages, and none to any of the other writings produced by human civilizations?

A couple of points here..most simple and one that will undoubtedly sound really strange and paranoid. .
1. If He were trying to get a message to us in history, all He would need to devote special attention to would be His message...

2. We don't know but that He might have given "special attention"--in varying degrees--to certain other documents, but "special attention" is a spectrum phrase...the Bible claims to be a message from God at least 1,000 times(!)--this might need more 'management attention' than say a prayer of some first century Church leader that might inspire commitment 2,000 years later in my life...We don't know but that God might have 'unfettered' the genius of the Shakespeares and the Michaelangelo's of the world to produce such works of robust beauty...He really loves truth and beauty and diversity and growth...why might not he grow individuals that manifest these characteristics in science and art and human endeavor?...(I think he grows wildflowers where no one will ever see them, because he just loves beauty...he didn't have to create a universe of color, and music, and sunsets, and flowers, etc...it could have all been gray and only 6 species and only xxxx...anyway, I've 'gone to preaching'...sorry...back to the subject)

3. (A conspiratorial view) I know this will sound really bizarre, but it is something I do have to factor in (even though I don't understand this very well at all)...
IF we understand the bible to teach that there are super-human intelligences in the universe (i.e. angels), AND IF we understand that one of the brightest of these is a malificent, maleviolent, malignant intelligence, AND IF we understand that somehow, someway these intelligences are able to interface and influence the world of mankind, THEN I would predict that the maleviolent intelligences would do everything within their abilites to destroy/distort/discredit this book with its message of God's love for mankind...
Ergo...this book might NEED special protection in history by God to insure that the information got across and stayed available (to be sure, there are other ways that God COULD/DID get his message across (e.g. dreams, visions), but these He only seemed to use sparingly (I'll give my opinion of why, when I address the top question)

For starters, I would point to Paine's "Age of Reason" which persuades me that Moses, for instance, could not be the author of the Pentateuch as used to be commonly claimed; segue from there into "The Book of J" for apparently informed speculation about who DID write some of it, and when. Then pop over to a nice book on the history of the Bible which I read about 3 months ago, which points out that three of the epistles which begin with greetings from Paul cannot possibly be reconciled with the information we have (from Acts and other epistles) about his life, associates, and activities and so are not likely to have been authored by him.

In a case like this, Dave, we will need to resort to actual arguments/data. Your sources above (which I would like to get publication data on, by the way) would have convinced you by arguments (some strong, some weak). I have a similar set of books that argue the converse with arguments (some strong, some weak)...The way to really proceed here is for you to bring the strongest arguments to the conference, so we can interact over them...especally the Paul one...I have not studied the Pauline authorship issues within the last 10 years, but was under the studied impression in the mid-80's that the prevailing view of scholarship then was that of general acceptance of Pauline authorship. Most views held that there were attempts at fraudulency, but that the obviously pseudo-epigraphic and/or pseudo-nonymous writings (e.g. in which someone wrote under another's name) were excluded early from the church...there were more than enough eyewitnesses and more than enough emphasis on truth, to create an infertile environment for fraudulent writings...we actually have a group of such books that were detected and excluded by the early church...this shows that the practice was NOT accepted and that the biblical admonitions to 'test everything; hold on to that which is good' (biblical skepticism, I call it!)--I Thess 5.22--was being adhered to...

Later..glenn


His response to the above, plus my reply


To David...

Just getting back to a couple of open items...I leave for camping in the morning so I must be brief...

2. If your reading of the Hebrew is correct, then I submit that the translation rendered in the KJV is bogus.

The KJV only had the benefit of biblical, archeological, and linguistic scholarship up to that point (1611 ad)...it is a bit off the mark in several places, but is at least 51% accurate...what we have learned in the 300+ years since then is...
1. The phrase 'you shall surely die" is not from one verb, but two verb forms put together (an infinitive and an imperfect tense, indicative mood form--from the same root of 'death'). This phrase has been shown to be an 'execution formula' (i.e. you will be condemned to death) in the other early Hebrew writings (gen 20.7; cf. Exod 31.14; Lev 24.16)...This would make the verse read "when you eat it, you will be condemned to death"...

2. The word for 'day' (Hebrew Yom) is now known to have a wider range of meaning than the simple 24 hour day ...it usually means 'day' but is also translated by words like: today, time, when, annals, years, always (!), life, times, lifetime, period, annual, age, etc....in the translation I feel most comfortable with intellectually (the NIV - New International Version), the phrase is translated "when you eat..."

3. A broader issue, actually, is the biblical notion of death...death is a very specific core concept (i.e. separation) that can range over a number of relationships...(Outside of the bible, we talk of interpersonal relationships as having 'died' when separation has occurred)...So in a very real sense, Adam/Eve died in their relationship with God on that day they chose to violate his trust and to consider Him dishonest...(fortunately for us all, there is an equivalent Judeo-Christian theme of resurrection--even of relationships with other persons and Persons.)
(And I submit that a God who orchestrated the lives of the original scribes/authors could and should have taken equal care with the later translators, n'est-ce pas?)

I have outlined my thoughts on this, but have not had time to type them in...should be able to do it by next weekend...


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Your statistics clearly suggest some mechanism in the preservation/destruction of ancient writings besides random chance, I have to agree that far. But the common historical view is that in Europe the so-called "Dark Ages"

(Do you mean the old-term Dark Ages (i.e. the entire Middle Ages -- from disintegration of the Western Roman Empire in the 4th-5th centuries til the Renaissance) or the newer-term Dark Ages (i.e. the Early Middle Ages c.450-750)? Increasingly the "Dark" adjective has come to refer to the absence of information about the period as opposed to any supposedly intellectual darkness...)

were an extremely hostile environment for writings of any sort, with the partial exception of the Bible; none of the other writings had a committed, powerful, and LITERATE organization copying and distributing it.

As to this point, I don't know whether to agree with you and say that it proves my original point (of extraordinary actions by God--even to the point of using such a questionable group as the early medieval church-- to preserve his text, which would have otherwise been destroyed), or to disagree with the point as being somewhat overstated..so I will probably just iterate over the two and bring up some hopefully relevant points...
1. BEFORE this 450-750 period, there was a radical and abnormal decrease in the number of bible manuscripts...On Feb. 23, 303 ad., at Nicomedia, the Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict enjoining the demolition of Christian churches and the burning of all Christian books in the empire. Half a million Christians were killed in the process. (There were 9 previous official persecutions of Christians in the empire, but this was the first one that prescribed destruction of the sacred texts.) That ANY texts survived is barely believable...that we have SO MANY surviving mss. borders on the incredible! So, even going into an alleged 'period of protection', the church was starting with a huge deficit...I am not sure whether or not a 300 year lull in persecution (in the midst of general church decline) would be enough to make up for the quantities lost (remember, the church leaders were hit the hardest by the roman executioners--those who made copies were typically eliminated)...

2. Even BEFORE this period, we don't have an organization committed to transmitting the other classical works--except the monarchy...and you still have an semi-educated leadership in the 'barbarians' who cratered the west. And if the ravages of the incessant West vs. Invaders was what took out the mss (but I am not convinced of that yet), the church was only slightly better off (due to its political and cultural power)...

3. We actually do have the Church (but not the church of the West) transmitting and teaching at least classical Greek philosophy as late as 525 ad...the great Christian, statesman, and philosopher Boethius (ranked among the founders of the Middle Ages because of his contribution to education and thought) was translating aristotle and plato into Latin before being executed by the emperor Theodoric...he had studied the classics in Athens and North Africa...

4. In the late 6th century, we start to see a backlash from Celtic Christians...they start 'evangelizing' the new Europe...Celtic Christianity had a strong intellectual element from its inception, and produced in history the scholar known as the Venerable Bede (675-725)...he made significant contributions to anglo-saxon education and culture, which spilled over into Europe during the rise of the Carolingians...

5. By the time we get to the end of the Dark Ages with the advent of Charlemagne, we have massive papal and clergy reform occurring. Scholars such as anglo-saxon trained Alcuin performed cultural functions in the court of Charlemagne (he was the head tutor in the court at Toors)...

6. Then around 850-950 we get the real 'darkness'...Charlemagne's legacy crumbles, clergy lose their imperial protection, invaders sack churches without regard...we have no idea how many mss. we lost during this phase of the middle ages...we certainly lost a lot of classical works...

7. When we finally make it through this, we get to the founding of the universities (Paris/oxford in 1150, Notre Dame in 1100), funded by the church (who is in turn, funded and protected by the independent German monarchy--esp. Otto the Great)...
Where this seems to net out for me, is that there were plenty of setbacks and probably enough to offset any preferential treatment the church would have gotten/extorted...with the commensurate implications for mss. survival...it still seems statistically bizarre...and now, even stranger from the process detail...

It doesn't seem to me necessary to posit that God orchestrated that process;

"Orchestrated" is probably too strong a word for what I am suggesting...I see Him involving his quiet direction in micro-currents within the larger context--just enough to see to it that His message is preserved adequately for you and I...

I wouldn't expect it of a lover of beauty who subsequently inspired the Renaissance.

I also don't want to give him credit for all of that!--especially not the time when there were three rival Popes, living in three different cities(!) or for the rise and behavior of the Italian despots...or for the well-know debauchery of the clergyt of the time...My remarks were related to individual genius (which, I might add, was NOT the cause of the Ren.!)...

It's 2.45am...I hafta crash...Father's day for me is in a couple of hours!...

more later...glenn