Misquoting Jesus

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The author of Misquoting Jesus was on The Colbert Report, and it was mostly misleading.

He several times trotted out the notion that there are "hundreds of thousands" of differences in our copies of the New Testament. There are, indeed, somewhere around 200,000 differences, but that it is out of 24,000 copies, and -- for example -- when the same misspelling shows up in 2,000 of those copies, that is counted as 2,000 differences.

They add up quickly that way, and the number itself is not interesting in this context, as it has little-if-any bearing on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. Overwhelmingly, most of the differences are easily accounted for as transcription errors, and none of the remaining differences have any theological significance.

As to the "hundreds of years" between original writing and copies, we have a few copies within a hundred years, and many within 200 years. Our earliest complete copies are within 300 years. This might seem like a long time, but in textual criticism it is not, especially when you realize that most, if not all, of the originals existed at the time these copies did, and any glaring errors would have been easily exposed; further, the wide spread of the copies and high degree of unanimity between those disparate copies is further testament to their trustworthiness (indeed, even if we had none of the several thousand Greek manuscripts at all, we could come up with a nearly perfect reproduction of the oldest texts merely by piecing them together from private correspondence and the thousands of manuscripts available in other languages).

He also brought up the story of the woman to be stoned, and Jesus' words that "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." He said this is not in our earliest copies of John, and probably therefore was not in the original copies.

He is correct in this, as every modern translation will attest in the footnotes, but his implication that this has significance for the trustworthiness of the rest of the New Testament is not accurate, as he otherwise implies by giving a nod to the earlier manuscripts (surely, Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) that do not include that part of the text. That is: if the story is not to be trusted because it was not in these earlier texts, then how does that impugn these earlier texts, which are primarily what our current copies of the Bible are based on, including the Greek New Testament that most scholars use?

So fine, throw that story out. Now tell me why I should throw out Codex Vaticanus or Codex Sinaiticus.

Oh, cat got your tongue?

NAILED. slashdot.org

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

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