Monthly Archives: March 2013

Feelings are not God

Piper says it all right here: to us Western thinkers.

Samuel at Gilgal

Finally AliveJohn Piper:

“My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.” (Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again?)

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Categories: Humankind in Distress, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Why are there Missing Verses in the New Testament?

The basis of all certainty is the reception of the Bible as the perfect Word of the only true God. With that as my worldview foundation (and foundation of Interpreting the Cosmos), I’d better be able to reason about what the Bible is, and how it came to us here in the 21st century.

Burn Your NIV

I was brought to repentance and faith in Jesus by reading Psalms of repentance (51, 86, 143), and I had been reading my NIV when it happened. You could imagine my surprise when I found out a few years later that the NIV was missing at least 40 verses! What had happened to Acts 8:37? Why was it stuck down in the footnotes?

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Where’d it go?)

And where was Matthew 17:21 and 18:11 and a fistful of other New Testament Scripture? A conspiracy was afoot!

The local King James Onlyists had gotten a hold of me around late 2005. They gave dire warnings that the Satanic cults of mystery Babylon were alive and well in the modern world, and they had perverted all the Bibles except for the pure, only-holy King James Version (of 1611 of course). I was given a copy of Gail Riplinger’s book New Age Bible Versions, and taught all about how I did not have God’s Word if I didn’t have the King James Version.

Who could argue?

Who could argue?

Not the dreadful New King James Version, oh hell no – gimme that old paths, only-perfect, worthy of the Apostle Paul King James Bible… and burn your NIV. And so I began a journey of over seven years now, seeking to know the truth about the Bible’s “missing verses.” Thank y’all, King James Onlyists.

Don’t Burn Your NIV

There is just not that much more I could add here to the thorough refutations the KJV-Onlyists have suffered in the past 20 years. Scholars who love Christ have dismantled their position over and over, so I will leave off a full treatment of the controversy by pointing you to Dr. James White’s King James Only Controversy or D.A. Carson’s The King James Only Debate. The KJV-Only position is the product of a sectarian, elitist, fearful little group of fundamentalists, usually (unfortunately) known by its rancorous, mocking mouthpieces like Peter Ruckman and Sam Gipp (whom I have had the personal misfortune to debate).

No my friends, don’t burn your NIV, “missing” verses and all…

Let’s look at a single example of a missing verse, and see where we go from there.

Did Luke Write Acts 8:37?

The good doctor Luke was a dear friend and traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. He wrote his gospel and the book of Acts after he had “carefully investigated everything” pertaining to the life of Jesus “from the beginning,” telling his friend and sponsor of the book “I too decided to write an orderly account . . . so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4 NIV). The book of Luke is therefore a careful account of the historical events surrounding the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus; and Acts is the careful account of the beginning of His Church.

Yet when Luke recorded the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, did he write this amazing one verse exchange between them?

37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

What an amazing confession of faith! It would be a tremendous witness to the power of the Scripture that the eunuch had been reading moments before Philip met him if he were ready to confess such a direct, clear belief in Jesus as Christ and Son of God.

Yet the historical record is fairly straightforward: Luke probably did not write that verse. How do we know? From the time the New Testament was written, in order for it to be distributed around the Roman Empire, each manuscript had to be copied by hand onto new parchment. This means that over time as hundreds of copies were made, mistakes were made in the exact transfer of the original spelling, wording, sentence order, and even sometimes whole sentences would be accidentally dropped. The study of all the different types of textual mistakes is known as “lower criticism,” or “textual criticism.” Suffice to say, it is a complex, yet necessary science in the securing of our original Bible.

Naughty Little Scribes Added Stuff

Follow me now. This is important: although most reputable textual critics agree that in the 6,000 (or so) original Greek hand copies of the New Testament manuscripts the total number of copyist errors is as high as 400,000, yet there is absolutely no reason to panic. That 400,000 includes hundreds of thousands of spelling mix-ups and obvious mistakes that cast no doubt on the original wording behind them. As a matter of fact, even the greatest skeptics of the New Testament will admit that over 98% of the entire document is certain as to the original wording.

How so? Think of it this way. Let’s say we have 350 partial and full copies of Acts ranging from the mid-second century up through the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth-century (I’m not sure of the actual number, but work with me).  In a particular verse, of the 350 hand-copies of Acts,  335 show the word “Christ,” 13 have nothing there, and 2 have the misspelling “Crhist.” What was the original? In all likelihood, the 335 that have Christ would be original, right? Not so fast – the 13 that have nothing there are mostly from the second – fifth centuries. All those that have Christ are from later centuries.

See that? What becomes obvious is that some naughty little scribe probably added the word somewhere in the sixth or seventh centuries, and his addition was carried forward by all who copied him. It’s pretty clear that the word Christ was not there originally – not a big issue to solve. Furthermore, even if it was there originally, then somehow dropped out for a few centuries only to be added back in, it doesn’t change the meaning of the text either way.

That’s the story of almost all the differences between the manuscripts of the New Testament. Usually it is crystal clear to spot the stuff naughty little scribes added to the text. Why did they add stuff sometimes? Who knows – could be an honest attempt to smooth out a rough sentence, or perhaps there were two different manuscripts to choose from, and rather than risk losing a word from the original, he goes with copying the one that has the additional word… or perhaps it could have been done maliciously at some point by a person or two… but the point is that no one scribe ever has had the power to permanently alter the text of the New Testament. All the other copies that agree against the new reading testify against it, and help us today to make very clear choices about what the original really looked like.

The original New Testament is fully contained within the body of manuscripts preserved from the past 1,900 years of textual transmission.

Back to Acts 8:37

So did Philip ask the Ethiopian Eunuch to make a clear profession of faith before he was baptized? He might have – but Luke probably didn’t write that verse. It’s one of those that shows up in most of the manuscripts of Acts, but not the oldest ones.

This is a very simplistic explanation of the situation, but basically age of manuscripts usually outshines the number of them. 1,000 manuscripts from the tenth century may say Jesus ate strawberry jam, but if three manuscripts from the second century say no such thing (and if those three are from different geographical regions especially), then we know with a high, high degree of certainty that Jesus wasn’t having crumpets and jam on His way home to see Mom.

And so it is with Acts 8:37 – it’s earliest manuscript witnesses are sixth-century and newer, a full 500+ years after Luke wrote. Ask yourself how likely it is that over that 500 year period, the “true” text of Acts 8 was out there somewhere, but lost, and someone finally found it again and *forehead slap* – everyone had been copying Acts without verse 37! Not likely. Easily solved… as with so many New Testament textual variants.

King James and His Kids

The truth about the differences between modern Bibles is that they weren’t all translated from the same ancient manuscripts. The King James Bible, along with the New King James (and a few other minor versions) were translated from Greek copies of the New Testament dating back only to the middle medieval period. At the time when the King James Bible was created (early 1600’s), the manuscripts that were available for comparison were much fewer, and much younger than those we have available today.

No doubt the KJV is a fine Bible, and if you like a literary challenge, it can be comforting to read, but it is not a pristine version of the Scriptures. When you read the KJV, you are getting a translation of a set of manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries, on average.

We’ve done better than that in the past 400 years, now having found manuscripts that date to within decades of the writings of the Apostles… in other words, the manuscripts used to translate your NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, and many others are much more ancient, reliable, and reflective of the original words written by Jesus’ companions.

HOWEVER – the remarkable thing about it is that whether you read a KJV, NKJV, or one of the Bibles with a better manuscript foundation like an ESV, the differences between them is miniscule, and basically, without any major change to an ounce of theology. The Bible has been handed down to us with some bumps and scrapes, yet in virtually perfect shape. Take it to the bank, my friends.

Sorry to be so Simple!

That was the most elementary explanation of these things you may ever read from someone who is not King James Onlyist. I am only trying to give you a brief overview of the issues at hand, and to help you to know that our Bible, as it is today, is trustworthy as a near-perfect reflection of the original autographs of the writers.

Please leave a question or comment if anything here is foggy, or if I left out some salient point. You can also use the Questions and Comments page at the top right of the blog to correspond with me privately if you would prefer.

I hope that helped someone, and I will attempt more such posts with perhaps some technical lingo in the future.

Here are some links to the experts on the subject:

Daniel Wallace, textual critical scholar of top quality

James White’s Alpha and Omega website

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

To the Christian Looking for Purpose: One Breath of Advice

From time to time I post a “One Breath” thingamajig – something that could be spoken in… well, one breath. Here’s one just now.

Looking for that Purpose that God Gave You?

Maybe it’s time to stop playing the mystic, looking for a way to be the next “world-changer” with “purpose-driven faith” – and love that wife of yours, hug those kids, and embrace the “little” things in life that hold the world together.

Just maybe?

Categories: Humankind in Distress, One Breath, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Night America Sat Up in the Morgue Freezer: Thank you Rand Paul

The national body was  being slid into the morgue freezer: the President, following in the steps of his predecessor, had been declaring the Constitution null and void: this Administration may need to, and is allowed to target Americans on American soil for execution; no arrest, no trial by a jury of peers, no judge – just your President making a secret decision that you might be dangerous. Screw the Bill of Rights, the globe is our war-zone.

The President might need to decide to kill you by a flying robot with a missile.

1984 on steroids. The American people yawned, looking for another television fix.

And then there was Rand Paul.Rand Paul  The national body sat bolt upright just before being slid into the morgue freezer. Eyes wide open. Big breath of air. A gasp.

No, Mr. President. You may not break the law with impunity. We will not sit idly by and watch you shred the last of our Constitution. We will be heard.

Nearly 13 hours of filibustering on the Senate floor, and I remembered. I remembered what America was supposed to be. I remembered that although we’ve been a very dark nation in many ways (Native Americans and Africans, etc), our founding ideals were always higher. We may never have lived up to them, but many of our ancestors have tried.

The spirit of America has fought and struggled to break through the bounds of human limitation and mediocrity. We have been, many times, a shining beacon of hope for many poor and oppressed people. Imperfect, but still the best country in the world.

And an imperfect man stood last night on the Senate floor and reminded me of these things. He reminded me that not every person in Washington D.C. is a sold-out con artist. He reminded me that although our country has been lost to her enemies, that we will not go quietly into the night (pardon the cliched tone, I’m not ashamed of it right now).

Thank you, Rand Paul. I supported your Senate campaign, and have worried from time to time that your soul was being stolen in D.C. You made me proud to be an American. A Constitutionalist. Thank you, Senators who stood with Rand. I hope you have the courage to stand with him in the days to come, because many of us will stand with you on the right side of history, in the face of overwhelming evil.

I’m grateful to be an American. God has been very patient and kind to our nation.

I’ll leave us with some quotes from the historic filibuster of Rand Paul March 6, 2013.

Taking a stand: “I have allowed the president to pick his political appointees…But I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution.”

On Obama: “He was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn’t get to decide who we execute.”

On Obama’s civil liberties flip-flop: “I think its also safe to say that Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me arguing against this drone-strike program if he were in the Senate.”

On the Senate: “If there were an ounce of courage in this body I would be joined by other senators… saying they will not tolerate this.”

On the Constitution and the law: “I’m not saying that anyone is Hitler, don’t misunderstand me. But what I am saying that is…when a democracy gets it wrong, you want the law to be in place.”

On making a point: “This will be a blip in his nomination process. But I hope people will see it as an argument for how important our rights are.”

On White House “kill list”: “The people on the list might be me.”

At around 8:09 p.m. ET, Paul asked Americans,

“Are you so afraid that you are willing to trade your freedom for security?”

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. Hey Christians, please pray for our President, and our leaders in Washington.

Quotes taken from theblaze.com

Categories: Humankind in Distress, Personal Stuff, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quotes from Charles Spurgeon on Affections and Idols

Charles SpurgeonPastor Spurgeon had a gift for clarity – he wielded the surgeon’s knife of biblical conviction, and yet gently healed the souls of those wounded by sin and Satan. Here Spurgeon addresses people like you and me: materialistic, tending to accumulate clutter and expensive stuff. What do you say, brother Charles, to the idea of having lots and lots of stuff in our lives?

Well, brother, well, sister, remember that where your treasure is your heart will go,
and if that treasure be taken away your heart must ache.

Right, and what else?

The more objects you set your heart upon, the more thorns there are to tear your
peace of mind to shreds.

So then eBay is a graveyard for Christian affections?

Those things which we allow to take the chief place in our bosoms have the most
power to give us grief.

Yes. What is the remedy?

We cannot too often turn our thoughts heavenward, for this is one of the great cures
for worldliness. The way to liberate our souls from the bonds that tie us to earth is to
strengthen the cords that bind us to heaven. You will think less of this poor little
globe when you think more of the world to come.

And how then does our Lord Jesus think of our affections being tied up with all these things?

The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer.
Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not
buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your
own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not
stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he
stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his
face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honour and glory, and he
cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world.

His love is…
strong as death towards you, and therefore will be cruel as the grave. He will be as a
cruel one towards you if you do not love him with a perfect heart. He will take away
that husband; he will smite that child; he will bring you from riches to poverty, from
health to sickness, even to the gates of the grave, because he loves you so much that
he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and him. Be
careful, Christians, you that are married to Christ; remember, you are married to a
jealous husband…

Strong medicine for a Monday morning.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Categories: Dead Guys, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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