EXPELLED! No Intelligence Allowed!

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Just learned about this. Late again, as usual 😦 .

Anyway, it’s still in Feb ’08.

A provocative movie, about the alleged suppression of Intelligent Design in the scientific and academic world.

According to the movie, scientists and professors who dare question Darwinism, or who openly admit the possibility of ID are ostracized, pressured, and sometimes even have their reputations smeared among their peers:

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Here’s a longer (9 mins) trailer:

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Looks like love month Feb ’08 would be a provocative month 😉 . One more movie to watch for!

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Related post:

Expelled Victims
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Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?

(continued from Was Jesus Christ a Real Person?)

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The Bible, specifically that portion called the New Testament, is the main source of information about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

For someone honestly seeking to study the life of Christ, then, the question arises: “Are these documents reliable?”

They are supposed to be considered as eyewitness accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. That means they were supposed to have been written more than 2000 years ago. But scholars agree that there are no extant samples of the original documents, or what are called autographs. The bases for all of the different versions of the Bible in different languages that are available now are what are called manuscripts, or copies of the autographs. How do we know that these manuscripts are faithful transmissions, through 20 centuries, of the original autographs?

[The following discussion is largely based on the excellent books Surprised by Faith by Dr. Don Bierle, and God Said That? So What? by Dr. Harold Sala. The book Surprised by Faith is available from FaithSearch International, while God Said That? So What? has been published in the Philippines and is available in this country through OMF Literature. I have also referred to the website Y-Jesus, which basically uses the same arguments.]

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Three Important Questions

Scholars involved in the study of ancient manuscripts ask three important questions in ascertaining the integrity of the manuscripts:
1) how many manuscripts have been found?
2) how different are these manuscripts from one another?
3) how early are these manuscripts?

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How Many?
There is an English saying, “The more the merrier”. In the case of ancient manuscripts, the more the better. This is because the greater the number of manuscripts found, the more samples there will be to compare for variations in content. Also, as Don Bierle says, “Even if there are variant readings, a large number of copies allows comparison and correlation in order to better restore the original text. Furthermore, a large number of manuscripts over the centuries minimizes the possibility that a little band of people created the documents ‘behind closed doors’, so to speak. A large number of copies means broader public exposure and greater accountability to integrity”*.

So, how many New Testament manuscripts have been found? Only about 24,000**.

Compare this with 643 extant manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad, ten of Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, seven for Plato’s Tetralogies, and twenty of Livy’s History of Rome ***.

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(This chart is copyrighted by FaithSearch International. Used with permission.)

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The bar for the number of New Testament documents (24,000) cannot fit in the chart. The height of the bar would be 34 times the height of the chart shown!

Let me cite the words of Dr. Don Bierle, who used to be an atheist in his college years:

As a youth I knew virtually nothing about manuscript studies. My first exposure, though quite limited, came during college. In my skepticism, I remember thinking that it was probably certain that the New Testament evidence would be quite inferior to that of the writings of the great classical writers such as Plato, Homer, or Aristotle. Later in graduate school I discovered, to my surprise, that the New Testament is vastly superior. Additional study over the years has enhanced my understanding of this academic discipline. …

[After presenting the data, Bierle continues:] British scholar F.F. Bruce concludes from the data, “There is no book of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.” …

The comparison is not even close. So much for my reasonable certainty that the New Testament would not fare well under scrutiny! When my reading during graduate school exposed me to these facts, I realized that I had been dishonest. I never questioned, or even examined, the accuracy of the ancient texts of other works that I read. But I somehow knew that the New Testament text could not be trusted, and feigned intellectual reasons for my distrust. … Later in my reading, when reading Sir Frederic Kenyon, eminent scholar of textual criticism, I found out that I had not been alone in holding to this double standard:

Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principal Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us, of Sophocles, of Thucydides, of Cicero, of Virgil, yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of manuscripts, whereas the manuscripts of the New Testament are counted by hundreds, and even thousands.

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So—how do these thousands of manuscripts compare with one another? That is the subject of the second important question.
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To be continued…

Related Posts:

Was Jesus Christ a Real Person?

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? What About the Differences in the Manuscripts?
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* Surprised by Faith, pp. 29-30.
** Ibid., p. 30. The 24,000 includes 5,664 manuscripts in the original Greek language, plus about 18,000 Syriac, Armenian, Latin, etc., plus New Testament text found in ancient lectionaries and hymn books.
*** Ibid.
****Ibid., pp. 30-31.
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Was Jesus Christ a Real Person?

My very first post asked the question “Who do you say Jesus Christ is?”

Who IS he? Prophet? Teacher? God, as we Christians believe? Or just a legend, not even an actual historical person at all?

The last possibility has fascinated mankind through the centuries. Is it possible that this man, formally professed as God by about 1.9 billion people or almost a third of the world’s population, did not even actually exist at all, except in the imaginations of his followers?

After all, if he was an actual important figure in history, why has there been no mention of him in the accounts of many historians who have written about the times in which he was supposed to have lived? As The Dissident Voice says, how come such writers as Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Quintillian, Plutarch, etc., who all lived during or very close to the time in which the man Jesus was supposed to have lived, taught, performed miracles, and been crucified, had nothing at all to say about him?

Actually, I can think of one possible reason. Speaking (or writing) as a native of the so-called “Third World”, I know the truth of the saying “The one who rules is the one who writes (or re-writes) history“. The Jews were just one of the many peoples conquered and ruled by the mighty Romans. It does not surprise me that events which the subjugated Jews would consider important would not even merit a footnote in the official records of the empire. We Filipinos have been treated the same way by our conquerors (and those of an older generation have been educated using textbooks which depict, minimize, emphasize or completely ignore events and people in a way that’s different from the way some Filipino historians would later depict them).

If there was one group of people who would be advantaged by proving that Jesus Christ did not actually exist—if in fact he did not—it would be the Jews, I think. Yet the Jewish Encyclopedia, in their article “Jesus of Nazareth“, says that Jesus was “Founder of Christianity; born at Nazareth about 2 B.C. (according to Luke iii. 23); executed at Jerusalem 14th of Nisan, 3789 (March or April, 29 C.E.). His life, though indirectly of so critical a character, had very little direct influence on the course of Jewish history or thought“.

In the above citation, the Jewish Encyclopedia referred to “Luke iii.23”. Luke is one of the so-called “Gospels” or accounts of the good news (the good news being Jesus Christ himself). These Gospels are our primary sources of information about the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ.

But is it reasonable to suppose that these Gospels are historical accounts and not mere stories or legends?

Coming Up: Are the Gospel accounts reliable?

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Related Posts:

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? What About the Differences in the Manuscripts?

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So You Say You’re an Atheist?

Time for a challenge. This one’s courtesy of Rev. Charles Blair, who has granted me permission to post this.

So you say you’re an atheist?
By Charles Blair

Well, I don’t believe you.

No, I’m not angry with you, and I don’t want to debate all the classical arguments for the existence of God; you’ve probably considered them all already and rejected them because of your own personal thoughts.

And no, I’m not going to use the familiar line “God doesn’t believe in atheists” as a premise here.

It’s just that you, as an educated person, should know the virtual impossibility of proving a negative, especially a universal negative. To claim to do so implies omniscience, and frankly, neither of us have that. We haven’t been everywhere in the material universe, nor have we explored the entire world of thought.

It’s as if one were to say, “There is no such thing as a leprechaun, or a unicorn.” To be sure, none of us have seen such creatures, but one documented sighting by an otherwise credible person would be enough to disprove such a sweeping universal negative. And one documented encounter with Deity from an otherwise credible person is sufficient to disprove the universal negative “There is no God.”

But there have been far more than one such encounter; millions of otherwise credible people, many of them the best people in their community in terms of human relations, the founders of hospitals, schools, mercy missions by the hundreds, the kind of good neighbors all of us love to have, all have claimed such “close encounters of the main kind.” Now, a claim to have seen a unicorn from someone on heavy narcotics wouldn’t impress me a great deal, and the fact that the Authorized Version of the Bible uses the word isn’t final evidence; checking the Hebrew results in another term (“wild ox” in some versions, though I still like the song where God tells Noah, “And don’t forget My unicorn.”) And an Irishman heavy into his celebration of St. Pat’s with the “drinkin’ of the green” might not be the most credible witness concerning the “little people.” But when you have multiplied thousands of witnesses, many of whom would be clinchers on the stand in any court case, over all 7 continents, over thousands of years, all with the same testimony, there is surely a presumption in favor of their words.

Which, of course, leads to the relatively small number of self-professed atheists, agnostics, and skeptics (a recent national “Atheist’s Convention” drew some 500, according to the news). More cautious thinkers prefer the terms “free-thinker” or “agnostic” and simply state, “I haven’t been able to find God,” and with Confucius may say, “We do not yet understand man; how then can we understand God? We do not yet understand this life; how then can we understand another?” Interestingly enough, this is precisely what at least three writers of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures also said.

Isaiah, in the last portion of that book (55:8-9) quotes God as saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” The writer of Psalm 139 states (in v. 6) “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.” And Paul, in Romans 11:33, concludes an in-depth discussion of God’s character with the doxology, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” Evidently these Bible writers believed that for man to search out God on his own was not to be expected, and that God to be known must choose to reveal Himself.

Thus the agnostic is correct in stating that he has not found God, but the real question may be, are we willing to be found by Him? As Augustine once said, as if it were God speaking: “Fear not, for thou would not seek Me if I had not found thee.”

My reason for writing this brief discussion is not to seek an argument, or to try to win a debate; it is intended to help honest doubters think their way through the most serious issue of life. If God exists, then all else is insignificant in comparison to that truth. If there is no God, then nothing else really matters; life is ultimately, in the poet’s words, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” One thinker wrote that he could not have the atheist’s humility, to consider life insignificant. As a believer in the One Creator and Sustainer of the universe, it is my prayer for you that this brief essay will help create in your mind a desire to enjoy that sense of meaning in life that can come in knowing the One Who is beyond knowledge. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about these matters.

R. Charles Blair
pr.eprayer@ethixs.com

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