Tuesday 20 March 2012

Christianity's seminal documents still missing

We come at last to the final section of Dembski & Licona's Evidence for God, which is entitled The Question of the Bible. But I have to ask, why did the editors consider the question of the Bible to be the final thing worth addressing after the foregoing sections on Jesus, on Science and on Philosophy? Much of the book has already quoted copiously from the Bible, and yet only now are we to consider if the Bible is ... what? Reliable? True?

Of course it's possible Dembski and Licona take the truth of the Bible as self-evident, and only included this section as an afterthought. Unlikely? Perhaps, but nevertheless I feel that The Question of the Bible should at least have come before The Question of Jesus.

Now that we are addressing the biblical question, what does Andreas J. Köstenberger have to say in his chapter, "Is the Bible Today What Was Originally Written?" Two things: the Bible was transmitted accurately, and it has been translated accurately. The latter can be — and is — continually debated. Translation from one language to another is never set in stone as long as the original language text is available to be re-translated by anyone who feels, for whatever reason, that another translation is necessary.

But the availability of the original language text remains problematic, for one very simple reason: we do not have any original autographs. All we have are copies, and no matter how much comparison of different copies is done in an effort to recreate the original, we can never be sure that it is actually the original that we are recreating. What all the careful comparisons might be achieving is a reasonably faithful re-creation of an early — but erroneous — copy. It's impossible to tell. All the arguments about the number of copies — and how similar or different they are — cannot get us reliably closer to the actual originals, because we have no way of knowing for sure if the re-creation is accurate.

Köstenberger, however, appears unfazed by this towering uncertainty:
Today, when someone opens any English Bible (NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, TNIV, HCSB), he or she may know that generations of faithful scholarship have managed to preserve and protect that Bible as it was originally given.
He may devoutly desire that to be the case, but merely asserting it doesn't make it so.