25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal.

25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal. March 14, 2017

A popular Christian argument declares that historians have roughly 25,000 manuscripts of New Testament books, far more than any other book from ancient history. Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript from history. Even more poorly represented are the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, and other great figures from history, for which we have more like a dozen manuscripts each.

Do we conclude that our records of Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar or Histories by Tacitus are so unreliable that they can’t inform our understanding of the past? Of course not. But if that’s the case, we must then accept the far-better attested New Testament manuscripts—or so the popular argument goes.

The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That doesn’t mean the original copy was history—just like the original copy of The Wizard of Oz or the Arthurian legends wouldn’t be a record of history.

Consider the claim of 25,000 manuscripts. The originals of every New Testament book were written in Greek, but three-quarters of these manuscripts are translations into other languages. We can avoid the extra layer of interpretation imposed by a translation by focusing on just the 5800 Greek manuscripts.

Now consider when these manuscripts were written.

This chart shows the number of Greek manuscript copies by century. (The data is from Wikipedia, with manuscripts categorized on the cusp of two centuries put into the earlier century.) We have zero manuscripts from the first century and eight from the second. The twelfth century has the most, with 1090 manuscripts. The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century, which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

I recently explored the three most famous additions to the New Testament (the Comma Johanneum, the woman caught in adultery, and the long ending of Mark). The scholarly analysis for whether some of these passages are authentic or not turn on just a few manuscripts, and this chart shows why. The vast majority of the manuscripts, from perhaps the sixth century and after, never enter the conversation.

Our 25,000 manuscripts became 5800 Greek manuscripts, but those have now dwindled to just those few in the first few centuries after the crucifixion.

There are one hundred manuscripts in the first four centuries, and many of these are just tiny scraps. Consider papyrus P52 above—yes, that is considered a “manuscript.” It is a tiny fragment of John just 9 cm long. It is our oldest New Testament manuscript and dates to the first half of the second century, or perhaps later. Three more manuscripts (P90, P98, and P104) are also scraps of a similar size and date to the second half of the second century. (Though it’s probably obvious, I’ll emphasize that these dates are all just approximations, and arguments can be made for different dates.)

Another handful of manuscripts date to around 200 CE. Six of them (P4, P32, P64, P66, P77, and P103) are scraps, but in this group we get our first substantial manuscripts. P46 (part of the Chester Beatty collection) has much of nine epistles. P66 contains most of John. P75 (the Bodmer Papyrus) has a substantial fraction of Luke and John.

The record looks fairly good when you look at the dates of our earliest fragments of the various books in the New Testament—John in the second century, Matthew and Luke around 200, Mark around 250, and so on. But, again, the emphasis should be on the word fragment. Only when you get to the oldest complete (or nearly complete) texts—the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus from the fourth century—do you get all the missing pieces. (I’ve written more about this centuries-long dark age here.)

The “best attested by far!” claim for the New Testament is not only irrelevant, it’s not even true. You can find Egyptian hieroglyphics and Mesopotamian clay tablets that are both older and original. A single version, the original, beats enormous numbers of copies.

It’s not all that surprising that a handful of early documents from a popular religion in a dry climate were preserved until today, and let’s acknowledge that that’s impressive and historically important. But that we have 1090 manuscripts in the original Greek from the twelfth century is not much more helpful in recreating the originals than that we have 100 million new copies printed each year. What matters are the earliest copies—perhaps the hundred from first four centuries. And the hundred dwindle down to just a relevant handful of copies that are larger than scraps.

25,000 New Testament manuscripts? Big deal.

It is error alone which needs the support of government.
Truth can stand by itself.
— Thomas Jefferson

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 11/4/13.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

"I think he is sharing his best arguments with me. Nobody holds back better arguments ..."

Is Life Absurd Without God? A ..."
"I thought catlicks were those little spots that develop at the bottom of my cast ..."

Stalin Was a Mass Murderer (And ..."
"I think he is holding on to them because he knows they won't stand up ..."

Is Life Absurd Without God? A ..."
"Have you got a source for that quote ? Thanks."

Stalin Was a Mass Murderer (And ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tony D’Arcy

    Well I enjoyed The Iliad, whoever wrote it. I can’t say the same about that mean minded and nasty collection of bloodstained stories, collected over several centuries, and now called The Bible. But it is not surprising to me that modern day Christian ‘scholars’ seek to misrepresent history in their favour. Jesus Christ is fast approaching the same status as Robin Hood and King Arthur in my understanding of fictional characters.

    • Kevin K

      And let’s not get started with the “New Testament”. I mean, there are FOUR different retellings of the exact same thing … and NONE of them agrees with one-another. What kind of a book includes FOUR different versions of the same thing? Where’s a good book editor when you need one!

      • Cozmo the Magician

        IKR! Can you imagine the response by the publisher if the 1st 1/4 of Harry Potter (book 1) had him raised as an orphan. In the 2nd 1/4 he was said to have been brought up by a wicked step daddy. In the 3rd 1/4 it was said that he was raised by two gay uncles. And in the final chapter he is described as android created by an evil american company so had no early childhood. I don’t think the book ever wood have made it to print.

        • TheNuszAbides

          but it would have been an underground cult classic … *rimshot*

      • Robert Templeton

        One wonders if the inclusion of FOUR!!! accounts (of the Gospels) was simply a means to inculcate a sense of authority and convergence – a preponderance of positive evidence as it were. Remember that, at the time, only the clergy were included in the reading and understanding of the ‘holy texts’ while the masses were left to their dissertations in Latin only.

        • Kevin K

          According to the historical records, there was a vote on which things were to be included and which weren’t. The NT is quite literally the outcome of the church’s Electoral College.

          Which is why fraudulent letters from Paul made the grade. And no one bothered to actually compare the 4 gospels that made it to see if there were any conflicts. Of course, biblical inerrancy probably wasn’t a “thing” back then.

          Still could have used a good book editor. Boil all the stories down into one coherent thing.

        • Greg G.

          But there are four corners of the earth and four winds. You can’t argue with that logic. If there were five gospels, it would be because you have five fingers per hand and five toes per foot. If there were three gospels, there would be three phases of water, poison ivy grows three leaflets per stem, or something.

        • Kevin K

          Ah yes. Aristotle rears his ugly head again.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Maybe if Irenaeus of Lyons had known about the Trinity there’d be just the three gospels indeed.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Boil all the stories down into one coherent thing.”

          No, there should be a condensed but unharmonized Bible. Basically, Don’t repeat passages that are basically the same in multiple books (example: the Gospels) except where relevant and have the passages with conflicting details one after another in Chronological order with citations on which manuscript they originate from. I was told the closest thing to this is The Brick Testament.

        • carbonUnit

          I have to think someone has gone to the effort of playing editor and trying to produce a Bible without the redundancy and conflicts. An interesting exercise…

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Then there would be several “One Real True Word of God”‘s- Oh wait!

        • busterggi

          There are four canonical gospels because, according to those who voted on it, the world has four corners.

          So as long as we live on a flat square Earth the gospels are true.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Were there possibly more synoptic gospels or was this a faux-happy coincidence (since there are not “four corners of the Earth”)?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, there were other gospels but they were so unbelievable that they moved the Overton Window so far that these four looked quite plausible.

      • Jim Jones

        Not just 4. You also have all of the non-canonical gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas.

        • Kevin K

          That’s fan fiction. Like 50 Shades of Gray is to the books where the vampires sparkle.

        • Jim Jones

          All the gospels are fan fiction. And so are most of the epistles.

          John of Patmos almost certainly wrote Revelation. Paul probably wrote 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans and Philemon since they share an author. A couple more could be included since they may have been composed under Paul’s direction. However every other epistle has a different author – these are fakes.

          And all the other books, NT & OT, have no known author or authors, except that Luke and Acts share an author – also unknown. IMO.

        • Kevin K

          I thought the gospels were more plagiarism … at least the Synoptics.

        • Kevin K

          There was a final Jeopardy answer on just the other day with regard to someone in the bible who visited Corinth and Galatia…and though I knew the expected answer, my little brain said “at least one of those examples is a lie.”

        • Pofarmer

          And yet, there’s a non-zero chance that Paul is also a fiction based on someone else. There’s no real other evidence of any Paul other than the letters attributed to that name.

        • Jim Jones

          True. But experience says there is always a promoter of new religions.

        • Pofarmer

          Certainly, but have we ever known less about any group than the ones who were supposedly promoting Christianity?

        • Greg G.

          I think there are a set of the letters that were mostly written by the same person but we don’t know if the real name is Paul. A lot of the content seems to be sincere and demonstrates conflict with other evangelists. I think aMark used some of the letters for material for his gospel.

      • Yep, whenever eyewitness testimony differs in court, it’s all thrown out.

        • Yep, whenever “eyewitness testimony” has the supernatural, it’s all thrown out.

        • You mean like ‘conscience’, which apparently cannot be exhaustively studied by science and thus is not-‘natural’? Or are there ‘natural’ things impermeable to the study of science?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          ‘conscience’ CAN be exhaustively studied, the more so now that we have fMRI…

        • Oh hello Sam Harris!

        • Ficino

          Still waiting for your proof or argument or whatever it is that Christianity is the truth.

        • Please show where I claimed to have “proof or argument”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          how about your method for separating the wheat from the chaff?

        • TheNuszAbides

          deep. hasn’t someone somewhere written a book yet, unpacking that on a practical level?

        • Probably. Deciding you know what is pure good and pure evil before you actually do is perhaps A&E’s sin. I went to a Veritas Forum with Dave Evans and Bill Burnett a few weeks ago; they run a “How to Design Your Life” course at Stanford. One of the really interesting things Evans said, paraphrasing, is “you have to learn when to judge yourself and when not to”.

        • Joe

          Ideally, yes.

        • I wonder how many criminals would go free based on your “Ideally”. Surely some non-criminals would also go free. Do you have any empirical data supporting your “Ideally” in any way?

        • Joe

          I wonder how many criminals would go free based on your “Ideal

          Quite a few do. It’s the price we pay for the fairest justice system we have. Do you have a better solution?

          Do you have any empirical data supporting your “Ideally” in any way?

          Lets see where you move the goalposts this time:

          https://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm

        • Do you have a better solution?

          As usual, that depends precisely what you mean by:

          LB: Yep, whenever eyewitness testimony differs in court, it’s all thrown out.

          J: Ideally, yes.

          For example, some differences between eyewitnesses are rather inconsequential. To discard testimony in those cases seems like a very bad thing. In other cases, one witness is much more reliable and so a contradiction means you simply throw out the less reliable witness’ testimony. One can also be more sophisticated and integrate the two based on variations in reliability.

          Lets see where you move the goalposts this time:

          https://agora.stanford.edu/

          What was I supposed to disagree with? Perhaps: it is not clear to me that human memory has always been so bad. I am told we are using more neurons for some functions and fewer neurons for other functions, in comparison to the past. I surmise that this might affect memory integrity, but I do not know with confidence. Therefore, it seems wisest to keep an open mind, rather than pretending that people 2000 years ago operated just like we do, today.

        • Joe

          For example, some differences between eyewitnesses are rather inconsequential.

          Why would anyone be concerned with inconsequential differences? Except you, of course.

          In other cases, one witness is much more reliable

          How do you know this?

          One can also be more sophisticated and integrate the two based on variations in reliability.

          Why would you do this?

          Therefore, it seems wisest to keep an open mind, rather than pretending that people 2000 years ago operated just like we do, today

          Let’s get this straight: You think its parsimonious to hold that people were different over such a small evolutionary timescale than to assume a broad similarity?

          How does one even reason with something like this?

        • Why would anyone be concerned with inconsequential differences? Except you, of course.

          As Sherlock Holmes demonstrated quite nicely, what one person considers “inconsequential” may not be so. Sadly, not everyone is a Sherlock Holmes, and thus we cannot pretend that everyone has perfect access to true reality with no falsehood mixed in.

          How do you know this?

          It is my understanding that judges and juries can sometimes determine, with sufficient confidence, that of two conflicting witnesses, one is more reliable than the other.

          Why would you do this?

          To obtain a better estimate of what is most likely to be true. As well as the spread of what else might be true, but with less probability.

          Let’s get this straight: You think its parsimonious to hold that people were different over such a small evolutionary timescale than to assume a broad similarity?

          I was unaware that “broad similarity” ⇒ “eyewitness psychology is sufficiently identical to now”. I am also skeptical of this. What I do have good reason to think is that we think about and navigate reality quite differently than people did 2000 years ago. For one, the world you and I inhabit is radically more complex than their world—especially the vast majority of the kinds of folks listed in the NT. For more, I can provide very well-cited scholarly citations, and if more than that is required, I can provide excerpts.

          How does one even reason with something like this?

          Intelligently, with some tolerance for something more than childish simplicity.

        • Joe

          As Sherlock Holmes demonstrated quite nicely

          He’s fictional. Though, that’s never stopped you before I guess….

          It is my understanding that judges and juries can sometimes determine, with sufficient confidence, that of two conflicting witnesses, one is more reliable than the other.

          How?

          To obtain a better estimate of what is most likely to be true.

          I’m starting to repeat myself, but how? You’re answer beg the question that there is something true to both statements to begin with.

          What I do have good reason to think is that we think about and navigate reality quite differently than people did 2000 years ago.

          What you’re doing, and it’s quite transparent because you’ve tried this trick before on me, is to imply that people of the ancient world were somehow more reliable as a eyewitnesses. This helps prop up the flimsy evidence you have for the events that were supposed to have occurred in the Bible. It’s weak, and relies on a massive logical leap that is not supported in any way.

          Why wouldn’t people have had worse memories in those days? Because they remembered the Bible correctly! How do we know they remembered the Bible correctly? Because it’s correct!

          Give me a break.

        • He’s fictional. Though, that’s never stopped you before I guess….

          Scientific laws are also fictional. They are approximations of reality, but they are fictional. But idol-worshipers don’t know that; perhaps you regularly mistake the map for the territory.

          How?

          Ask any judges or lawyers you know.

          J: Why would you do this?

          LB: To obtain a better estimate of what is most likely to be true. As well as the spread of what else might be true, but with less probability.

          J: I’m starting to repeat myself, but how?

          Did you originally mean to ask “why”, or “how”? See the underlined text.

          You’re answer beg the question that there is something true to both statements to begin with.

          There is not always something true to both statements.

          What you’re doing, and it’s quite transparent because you’ve tried this trick before on me, is to imply that people of the ancient world were somehow more reliable as a eyewitnesses.

          Did I ever claim that? I don’t recall claiming it. I recall saying that we probably don’t have enough reason to rule it out as a plausible scenario, but that’s very different from what you’ve said here. I would appreciate it if you were to not radically distort what I’ve said in the past.

          This helps prop up the flimsy evidence you have for the events that were supposed to have occurred in the Bible.

          This appears to be a non sequitur. Perhaps you are filling in what you do not know about me via direct evidence, with one or more stereotypes you have of Christians. I ask you not to do that. I would like you to acknowledge whether or not you will try to not use any stereotypes.

          Why wouldn’t people have had worse memories in those days?

          Life being less complex would mean fewer disparate things would need to be remembered. Unless # of neurons × # of connections (a rough measure of information storage ability) has been increasing over time, it would seem that they could deploy more neurons to remember every particular thing they needed to remember. It seems reasonable to suppose that “more neurons” ⇒ “more redundancy”. But this could be quite false. I just don’t think you know it is false, and therefore I think it would be unscientific for you to rule it out as a possibility with probably quite unknown.

          Give me a break.

          I will not give you a break from supporting what you say with the appropriate level of reason and evidence.

        • Joe

          OK, since you deflect and obfuscate, I’ll simplify matters:

          How do you determine which of two conflicting statements is correct?

          How does the reliability of a witness affect the truth of what they witnessed?

          A scenario for you to consider:
          You face a charge, of which you knew you were innocent. It carries the death penalty. The prosecution has a witness, so does your defense team. there is no other evidence.

          Would you feel comfortable letting the jury decide between the two witnesses. ?

          Try the thought experiment again with the prosecution witness being a police officer, and your witness/alibi being a drug addict. See how you feel about this. I neither expect nor require an answer on this, just that you honestly give it some thought.

        • TheNuszAbides

          but but but what about the appeals to authority and expertise of which he has neither?!?

  • G.Shelley

    I’ve often wondered why they make the claim. I can think of several possibilities
    1) They are not aware that the vast majority of these are copies of copies of copies from many centuries after the originals
    2) They are aware of this but for some reason don’t think it really weakens their case
    3) They are aware and know it makes their claim essentially useless, but know that the people hearing it probably won’t check so it is a good tool

    • Ficino

      When I was in seminary, one student insisted that the KJV was the most accurate translation because it rested on late Greek manuscripts that preserved a traditional, “received text” with thousands of witnesses. This guy insisted that the mass of late Byzantine manuscripts are the most accurate. Our professors said that fourth-century manuscripts like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were more accurate because they were earlier, and changes in the “received text” were later. This student disagreed and brought in the auxiliary assumption that Bible manuscripts would be so heavily used that they’d wear out, so any early manuscripts that survived must have not have “worn out” because they must have been seen as inaccurate and thus discarded before they wore out. So Sinaiticus or Vaticanus must be inaccurate and that’s why they survived – they weren’t subject to the wear and tear of use.

      No one who works with manuscripts (I do) takes this approach to the text of any author. It’s lovely when an argument rests on gratuitous, auxiliary assumptions. The assumptions behind the standard valuation of the manuscripts, on the other hand, have stood up over the whole range of textual traditions of authors before the age of printing.

      • G.Shelley

        “These early manuscripts are late, which proves they are accurate” is an argument that didn’t even occur to me as a possibility.

        • Ficino

          The seminary student wasn’t arguing that the *early* manuscripts are late. He said the early manuscripts are inaccurate. But he would have agreed about the Byzantine later copies that “these manuscripts are late, which proves they are accurate.”

          He had gotten this idea out of some book with a green cover that he was pushing on everyone. I can’t bear to try to find out its title and author. It was defending the KJV.

        • G.Shelley

          So, they wouldn’t use the “there are lots of early manuscripts argument” but had a reason (though I don’t think one is really needed) for why there are few really early ones, and why we should trust those less than the later ones?

        • Ficino

          Precisely.

          The famous codex Vaticanus gr. 1029 of the earlier fourth century is on fine parchment and thus expensive. It seems unlikely that it would be “thrown out” or that it would have been copied so inaccurately as this student believed, given the obvious care and cost that had gone into its production. T.C. Skeat thought it may have been one of a set of manuscripts that Constantine ordered produced; I haven’t checked up on how this hypothesis has fared.

        • Greg G.

          T.C. Skeat thought it may have been one of a set of manuscripts that Constantine ordered produced;

          That would be interesting.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Didn’t he order 50 afaicr….

          In 331, Constantine I commissioned Eusebius to deliver fifty Bibles for the Church of Constantinople. Athanasius (Apol. Const. 4) recorded Alexandrian scribes around 340 preparing Bibles for Constans. Little else is known, though there is plenty of speculation. For example, it is speculated that this may have provided motivation for canon lists, and that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus may be examples of these Bibles. Together with the Peshitta and Codex Alexandrinus, these are the earliest extant Christian Bibles. McDonald, LM; Sanders, JA, eds. (2002), The Canon Debate, Hendrickson.

        • Michael Neville

          The King James Onlyites are a very strange group. They’re essentially a cult, condemning other Christians to Hell for using other translations.

        • Greg G.

          There are some who specify that only the 1611 KJV is correct.

        • adam

          Hey is English was good enough for Jesus….

        • Greg G.

          I think it is funny to hear grown-ups pray in King James English, like they think that is what God understands.

        • epicurus

          Or when someone says God or the Holy Spirit spoke to them and when they tell you what was said, it’s thee’s and thou’s and comest and goest. The pastor at the church I went to did that on more than one occasion. God still feels the need to speak in Elizabethan English.

        • Robert Templeton

          Shakespeare. That is all that I have to sayetheth….

        • Kevin K

          Somewhere, at sometime, somebody made the point that the language used in the KJV was archaic at the time. That the translators used that language on purpose to give it a sense of greater age.

          I am WAAAAY too lazy to re-look that bit of esoterica up.

        • Greg G.

          I can attest to that, also, but my wife wants me to take her somewhere, which is fortunate because I’m also too lazy.

          PS: As I recall, it was to make it sound more familiar to those who had read the previous century’s translations.

        • Kevin K

          We’ll just have to take it as a given, then. 🙂

          Which is how unevidenced statements turn into “true facts”.

        • Pofarmer

          Meh.

        • epicurus

          It’s on my list of things to research further, but I have read that the KJV is heavily influenced in both language and style and content by Tyndale’s work which was around a hundred years or so earlier, so maybe, that plays a part in KJV’s language being archaic even for it’s own time. Heck, I know some things I’ve read from the 1920’s or teens sound wierd to my 21st century mind

        • Kevin K

          …and which got his head separate from his neck…yes? (Checks) No, actually he was strangled and then burned at the stake. Perhaps the originator of the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished”.

        • Greg G.

          A hot stake is better than a cold chop. –Curly Howard

          Here’s a good article on the early English Bible translations:

          https://bible.org/seriespage/1-wycliffe-king-james-period-challenge

        • adam

          Thanks for the link.

        • Kevin K

          I remember doing that as a kid.

        • Kevin K

          There are a bazillion “KJV believing” churches in my neck of the bible belt. They’re all about 50-people strong; tiny little places that are packed to the gills every Sunday. And each one hates the other one with a white-hot passion that is only exceeded by their hatred of churches that don’t use the KJV.

          Cults. Not just one. Many, many cults.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          My church’s view wasn’t so much hatred as it was “those new versions push an agenda” and “Unlike most churches with their traditions, we just want to follow what The Bible says.” So many a headscratch.

        • Pofarmer

          That didn’t used to be here, but it’s happening now. And I don’t get it.

        • Kevin K

          You’ll find that most of them are little clans of family-plus. They split off into teeny little splinters because of some disagreement over whether mac-and-cheese should be baked with or without bread crumbs. And off they go.

        • Pofarmer

          I suppose that makes sense. Like Westboro Baptist, the smaller groups have an easier time enforcing “orthodoxy” within the group. The larger groups have to “water down” their message to try to stay meaningful to a larger group of people. Now days a small group just says “screw it” and splits off.

        • Kevin K

          Yeah. Westboro is a great example, because it’s a family business.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I was in one. When I confronted the pastor about my doubts about other Bibles being about “pushing an agenda” it resulted in an interesting excuse-filled conversation during a church potluck (the pastor’s familiy and guests at the table were likely watching like, “What the hell?!!?”), and then the pastor gave me a book about the KJV that explicitly stated it did not support King James Bible Onlyism (very interesting read).

        • The Eh’theist
        • Ficino

          Yes, Fuller must be the guy.

          A little googling brought up this critical review, by a Baptist. He accuses Fuller of obscuring the fact that one of the influences upon Fuller was a certain Benjamin G. Wilkinson. Wilkinson was Seventh Day Adventist. The Baptist guy does not talk about how to do textual criticism. Instead, he insists that Fuller’s obscurity was evil, because the SDAs are a cult.

          http://www.kjvonly.org/doug/kutilek_great_which_bible.htm

          I love it when the cultists are accusing each other of being cultists.

          Editors of journals like “Revue d’histoire des textes” need to realize that if a scholar can prove that Satan is behind his opponents’ theories, that’s good reason to publish the dude’s scholarship as truth.

    • AG

      In my experience, all those objections are usually discounted by saying god protected the continuity of his word by the extraordinary care and accuracy of the copiers. Fundamentalists also say most changes are small and insignificant, like spelling and grammar errors. They say other changes do not significantly affect the message. Interpolations are rarely, if ever, mentioned to the lay members. They do not believe their case is weak.

      “The variant readings in the manuscripts are not of such a nature that they threaten to overthrow our faith.” – Neil Lighfoot in How We Got The Bible.

      • ephemerol

        “The variant readings in the manuscripts are not of such a nature that they threaten to overthrow our faith.” – Neil Lighfoot in How We Got The Bible.

        But then, there isn’t anything of such a nature that their faith is threatened to be overthrown by it.

        Listening to WLC explain how “the witness of the holy spirit in his heart” will overcome any possible future thing that could ever threaten to overthrow his faith is instructive for revealing just how pointless it is to debate christians.

        https://youtu.be/2C3T17aKPCI

        • AG

          Not every christian is like WLC. However, i do think textual criticism is not a particularly effective debate topic. Historical criticism of the bible stories and events is much more effective. It’s what convinced me.

        • ephemerol

          It’s true, not every christian is like WLC. However, those christians who aren’t like WLC are christians who you will probably never find trying to convince you that christianity really is true because of universally shitty reasons.

          I, for example, was never like WLC despite the fact I was raised in a fundy sect and was devout into my thirties, because I viewed christianity as a hypothesis in a roughly scientific way for which I was giving the benefit of the doubt until such time as I found the confirming evidence I was looking for. It wasn’t all that different than the LIGO team entertaining the benefit of the doubt and asking the question, “What if Einstein was right about gravity waves?” until such time as either they found the confirming evidence they were looking for, or else decided to pull the plug, figuring that if gravity waves were real, they would have been found by now.

          However, since I did not have the evidence I was waiting for on hand, I knew I didn’t have the evidence I would need to present, and so did not think that debating people as though I had already found that evidence was an appropriate or responsible thing to do. It would be like the LIGO team writing in the literature in advance of finding the evidence as though they already had found that evidence. They would get shredded in peer review, and rightly so, the truth value of gravity waves notwithstanding. Because, of course, the question for the purpose of debate ought not be what we might eventually know to be true, but only what we can already say that we know is true.

          The question eventually becomes, “How long is it reasonable to wait?” How the christian community subverts people like me, and makes its hypothesis unfalsifiable, is that it demonizes us for daring to realize that if there were a reasonable god who wanted to be known, who wanted to be found, as christians love to say, then after a couple of decades of searching and not finding anything, it’s reasonable to stop, take stock of your situation, and weigh whether it’s worth continuing the project, because, since the evidence for a reasonable god hasn’t turned up so far, what are the chances that it’s because we haven’t waited long enough, versus, the chances that it’s because the hypothesis is wrong? The scientific community does not demonize people for realizing that the evidence is stacking up against a hypothesis, and deciding to jettison it.

          So, christians like WLC will probably also never deconvert. It’s christians like me, who, despite my initial bias for christianity, are much more likely to wind up evaluating the evidence, taking stock of our position, and eventually pulling the plug. And, certainly in my case, it wasn’t just a single topic that convinced me, but the combined weight of possibly as many as hundreds of topics that stacked up, eventually breaking that proverbial camel’s back.

      • Jim Jones

        “Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

        As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost.

        Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place.

        Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.”

        Misquoting Jesus – Bart Ehrman

  • Ficino

    A problem for dating most of the papyrus manuscripts, i.e. fragments of papyrus manuscripts, is that they are not dated by the copyist. They can only be dated by the style of handwriting and other criteria. (I don’t know whether C-14 is accurate enough to pinpoint centuries.) But many NT papyri dated to the second century are dated to that time because their handwriting is like that on some other NT papyrus fragment itself dated to second century. But then, that one is dated by similarity to some other fragment dated second century … and so on. The result, according to papyrologist Roger Bagnall, is that we have too many fragments dated second century for the likely number of Christians in the empire by that time. Bagnall says many of them could just as easily be fourth century.

    NT papyrologist Brent Nongbri has done into this problem, too.

    Bagnall discusses the dating problem in chapter 1 of his Early Christian Books in Egypt (Princeton 2009), which I can’t link here.

    You can get some of Nongbri’s stuff by poking around. Here is Larry Hurtado’s summary of his work:

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/the-date-of-p66-p-bodmer-ii-nongbris-new-argument/

    • Joe

      I read elsewhere that C14 dating has a margin of error of 25-50 years. Not bad, but enough to move a supposed late-first-century document into another century entirely.

      • Ficino

        There’s also the reluctance of libraries to destroy part of a papyrus fragment by submitting it to C 14 dating. To say nothing of a small fragment that would totally be destroyed.

        • Joe

          Of course.

          Then you also have the very serious problem of documents written on old parchment in new ink!

          If people didn’t take this so deadly seriously, we would all accept these limitations. Religion is the only subject I know which is treated differently in terms of archaeological and historical analysis.

        • RichardSRussell

          Indeed, reusing old parchment by scraping the original writing off of it was so common a practice that the recycled parchment had its own name: palimpsest .

        • Jim Jones

          Palimpsests are one thing that really pisses me off. No wonder we wound up with the dark ages.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep. The only way we know some of what was lost is because scientists learned to read at least some of what was copied over. Mathematical and Astronomical texts? We don’t need THOSE!

        • The new ink cannot be C14-dated?

        • Joe

          Not without destroying the text itself. Surely even you realize they take a scrap from the corner or other inconspicuous part of the document and not out of the bloody center of the parchment?

          You also realize that the ink could be up to 50 years later and still date to the same time frame? Do you realize that?

          This is poor thinking Luke. Seriously poor. Try and do better next time.

        • Not without destroying the text itself. Surely even you realize they take a scrap from the corner or other inconspicuous part of the document and not out of the bloody center of the parchment?

          Nice false dichotomy. I’m sure there are sometimes extraneous bits of ink. The question is: how many molecules of ink are required to do C14?

          You also realize that the ink could be up to 50 years later and still date to the same time frame? Do you realize that?

          Sure. It can also be 50 years earlier and still date to the same time frame.

          This is poor thinking Luke. Seriously poor. Try and do better next time.

          Let’s see if the quantity of ink required supports your hypothesis. 😀

        • Joe

          I’m sure there are sometimes extraneous bits of ink.

          I’m sure there are.

          Sure. It can also be 50 yearsi> earlier and still date to the same time frame.

          Obviously. Not sure how that helps clarify matters?

          Let’s see if the quantity of ink required supports your hypothesis. 😀

          What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

        • At this point, the following seems completely unjustified:

          J: This is poor thinking Luke. Seriously poor. Try and do better next time.

          Perhaps you made a bunch of assumptions to get there?

        • Joe

          Why?

          You never showed how forgery was impossible.

        • And why would I need to do that? What goal am I attempting to accomplish here, now, with you, which would require such a thing?

        • Joe

          What goal am I attempting to accomplish here, now, with you,

          One can only guess, such is your obtuse nature.

        • Then why is it relevant that “[I] never showed how forgery was impossible.”? That seemed like quite the non sequitur.

    • RichardSRussell

      A problem for dating most of the papyrus manuscripts … is that they are not dated by the copyist.

      Didja hear about the gullible numismatist who sprang for big bux for an old Roman coin dated 53 BC?

    • Interesting. I’ve heard that problem raised about the famous P52, dated by some to the first half of the 2nd century.

      Style is a pretty vague trait to pin a date on. An important teacher might have many students who continue his writing style long after it is fashionable, like the English style used in the King James Bible, already out of date by the time of James. Worse: the Book of Mormon, which used the same style.

      • Ficino

        Hi Bob, by “style of handwriting” I meant in a palaeographical sense – the letter forms, how they sit on or hang from the line (if there is a line), abbreviations, etc. Since there are many documentary papyri that are dated by the copyist, it’s possible to establish canons for pegging a certain kind of script within sometimes at least a half century. The same is true when we get to the age of parchment manuscripts and then paper ones.

        And the issue to be solved by palaeographical dating is, when was the document or manuscript copied. That’s different from dating the literary work, or text of the document, itself. Yes, it would be much harder to date a literary composition from its style of writing. It’s easier to establish that a work is a later, archaizing imitation or even forgery than it is to establish from the style of the composition that it is authentic. That was an issue with Morton Smith’s notorious “Secret Gospel.”

        If the above is all obvious, please forgive my going over it.

    • Greg G.

      (I don’t know whether C-14 is accurate enough to pinpoint centuries.)

      As I understand it, C14 dating is calibrated by tree ring data going back thousands of years, so it is pretty accurate for plant and animal products that got their carbon from the atmosphere. It’s not as accurate as tree ring dating but it does take into account some variations in the ratio of carbon isotopes.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    One of the stupidest things I heard in the last year was a claim by a neighbor that he knew the bible was all 100% fact because the vatican had the death order document for jesus’ crucifixion . I heard this and was like WTF, if the vatican had such a document, it would be BIG time news and the church would pull it out every easter to support their story. Being a totes skeptic I asked him where he heard this tale, he just said ‘everybody knows this’. Uh huh. So off to google land. And what I found was bizare. There was a french novel that referenced a novel in the novel that had such a document. Somehow this little bit of fictional fluff made it from an obscure french novel to my neighbors head. No idea how. I pointed this out to my neighbor and his response was well, if even an obscure french novelist knows about it, that means it must be true. FFS. And besides even if such a document existed and was verified as historically accurate all it would prove is that some guy named Jesus was nailed to a cross. Would say nothing about the rest of the story. There are real life guys named Bruce Wayne, that does not lead one to believe Batman is real. Ditto Clark Kent and Superman.

    • Pofarmer

      But I really want Batman to be real……..

      • adam

        It’s Spiderman for me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i was inclined that way until Hollywood (then cable) repeatedly threw way more budget at Batman.

    • epicurus

      Find some lame “evidence” for the Koran or Book of Mormon then tell your neighbor you know it’s fact and ‘everbody’ knows it. I’m sure his critical thinking skills will then suddenly kick in as he tells you that you’re wrong.

      • Kevin K

        The “seer stone”…ooo…or the magic hat.

    • Jim Jones

      Someone told me that. I told him that if it existed, a copy of it would be in every church entryway, engraved in brass or marble.

      • Joe

        People would also commemorate the exact date every year, instead of simply ‘celebrating’ at Easter.

    • busterggi

      Clark Kent/Superman is real. I found a pair of glasses on the ground and, having to waer glasses myself, know these are important to anyone who actually needs them. As these were unclaimed they must have been dropped by someone who didn’t really need them and that narrows it down to Clark Kent/Superman.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Your logic is dizzying (;

        • Greg G.

          My cola is fizzying.

    • That’s like the story of the Angel of Mons (more here), which went from short story written after WW1 to history (in some minds) quite quickly.

      Also: the oldest (and presumably most reliable) account of the Shroud of Turin is of a priest/bishop noting that it was a fake.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2014/04/shroud-of-turin-easter-miracle-or-hoax-debunked/

      • Cozmo the Magician

        I love when people talk about ‘THE‘ Shroud of Turin… since there have been several.

        • I hadn’t heard that. I know there were many shroud claims, but not that there were multiple ones from Turin.

  • Robert Templeton

    I’m going to overly generalize here but one reason that there are sooo many of these ‘manuscripts’ remaining for the New Testament is that the early church did a right good job of destroying competition in a rather thorough manner (ref.: the murder of Hypatia and the burning of the Library of Alexandria by CHRISTIANS!). One would think that had not such a wiping of history (read: scrolls and manuscripts) been done by the early church that we would have millions of original and derivative documents from other sources. Succinctly, having more in this case doesn’t necessarily mean being more correct or historical.

  • Sophia Sadek

    The extra-canonical literature is far more valuable than the canonical literature because it sheds light on how orthodoxy developed and proceeded to oppress heterodox traditions. It also contains valuable fragments of heterodox concepts, however twisted they may be in the hands of the orthodox.

  • Herald Newman

    Do we conclude that our records of Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar or Histories by Tacitus are so unreliable that they can’t inform our understanding of the past? Of course not. But if that’s the case, we must then accept the far-better attested New Testament manuscripts — or so the popular argument goes

    No historian accepts supernatural explanations! If Caesar told us he crossed the Rubicon by levitating his army using his mind, I doubt there would be many historians who accept that claim.

    In the same way, even if we had pristine, original, copies of the New Testament, we still wouldn’t accept the extraordinary claims there in. Our understanding of the present is that miracles do not happen, and we have no justification that miracles have happened in the past.

    • Actually, the historian Suetonius, often cited by Christians, said that a spirit appeared at the Rubicon as Julius pondered whether to make the big move or not.

      Unsurprisingly, historians record the claim but give it no credibility as a historical event.

      • Herald Newman

        Yeah. Modern historians discount miraculous claims. I’m sure 20 centuries ago there was more than enough superstition to go around… 🙂

    • Kevin K

      Of course miracles happen. The Miracle of Incomplete Devastation happens every day.

      Thank God my pickemup truck was totaled, but I only got a concussion and three broked-up ribs. God is good!!

      There’s also this favorite type of miracle:

      God cured Aunt Sally of her cancer. After three surgeries, 5 years of chemo, and a bone marrow transplant. It’s a miracle!!”

  • RichardSRussell

    Speaking of original manuscripts, back when I was a history major, I was privileged to see a draft copy of the 10 Commandments, with pencilled notations in God’s own handwriting in the margins. Seems the Big Guy was undecided until the very last moment whether to go with “Thou shalt treat women and dark-skinned people as equals.” but finally decided to devote that particular slot to the vexatious and insidious problem of graven images.

    • busterggi

      God has always had an ego problem.

      I think that’s where Luke B. gets his from.

    • finally decided to devote that particular slot to the vexatious and insidious problem of graven images.

      Oh, is that the one that got put in instead. I thought it was the one about coveting. Cuz coveting is pretty bad.

    • Kevin K

      Didn’t he leave those to the states to decide?

      • TheNuszAbides

        oh, if there hasn’t been sketch comedy yet about the “tribes’ rights” Israelite secessionists, there should be.

  • A popular Christian argument declares that historians have roughly 25,000 manuscripts of New Testament books, far more than any other book from ancient history. Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript from history. Even more poorly represented are the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, and other great figures from history, for which we have more like a dozen manuscripts each.

    This chart shows the number of Greek manuscript copies by century.

    Where’s the chart which compares this to the others you mention? Let’s do an apples to apples comparison, shall we?

    • adam

      “Let’s do an apples to apples comparison, shall we?”

      Who’s stopping you?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8a9c445af45e953d4208e553c51ae97b60263f4724d6c9ebf19ff30ec8cbcde1.jpg

    • Compare the two dozen best NT manuscripts against our best copies of Julius Caesar, etc.? Go for it. What of interest do you discover?

      • That’s not what I asked for. What I asked for is rather clear.

        • “What you asked for” wasn’t at all clear to me. I did my best to express it. You’ll have to dumb it down for me. Or maybe you don’t care to do so, which would also be fine.

        • You don’t know what a “chart” is, even though you used the word? Hint: there’s exactly one of them in your blog post.

        • A puzzle! With hints! What fun!

          I’ll have to do your puzzle one of these days.

        • al kimeea

          don’t bother, there’s plenty of pieces missing

        • TheNuszAbides

          if he already has a “gotcha” in mind for this, i’m perversely curious. but afaik he’s never rewarded any other effort. and most of his gotchas seem to be either semantic bogs, petty pedantry or warmed-over “but you can’t prove it’s not _____” anyway.

    • Greg G.

      LB: Where’s the chart which compares this to the others you mention? Let’s do an apples to apples comparison, shall we?

      Here’s why we don’t find graphs for non-Greek manuscripts. From https://bible.org/article/number-textual-variants-evangelical-miscalculation :

      Now, textual variants are also counted among the non-Greek manuscripts—the Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, Ethiopic and other early translations. There are somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 such versional manuscripts of the New Testament. We don’t really know the exact amount because the work in cataloging them has been a lower priority than that of the Greek manuscripts.

  • Without Malice

    Except for the letters of Paul (the authentic six or seven, not the forgeries which make up half of the NT collection) we have virtually no Christian writings from the 1st century. I think it is ridiculous to think that the four gospels, which were never mentioned by anyone until about 100 years after the death of Jesus, were written any earlier than the turn of the century. As far as I know no one even mentioned either Luke or John until the second half of the second century, and to think they were in existence for seventy or ninety years before anyone made mention of them is too much to believe. The first person outside the gospels to mention even one fact from the life of Jesus is a phony letter from Ignatius of Antioch in which it is mentioned – for the first time in history outside the gospels – that Jesus was from a town called Nazareth and that his mother’s name was Mary. The history of 1st century Christianity is as threadbare as my old pair of jeans that I no longer wear in public.

    • The NT is full of pseudepigraphy and the provenance of none of them is secure, and yet modern Christian scholars proceed unhindered by this uncomfortable truth. That’s what religion does to you.

      • busterggi

        Even the so-called genuine Pauline letters are patchworks, none are in their original form and their original content is a best guess.

    • Herald Newman

      You seem to be making an argument from silence here.

      • Kevin K

        After 2000 years of waiting, absence of evidence has to be considered evidence of absence. Don’t you think?

        • Herald Newman

          Well, specifically I was talking about how claiming that because there were no first century mentions of the gospels implies that a later dating of those books is better. Such a claim is a textbook argument from silence.

          We don’t actually know when the gospels that we have were written, but it’s pretty likely they were written after about 70CE, and can’t be later than about mid second century. One thing I will grant is that it’s possible that Mark was actually written earlier, and the passages that give a later dating were later additions to the text. Without originals, it’s almost impossible to say.

          As for the “2000 years of waiting”, I assume you’re talking about Jesus’s return? If that’s the case, I agree it’s a serious problem for Christianity!

        • Kevin K

          I think it’s a guarantee that the verses about temple building and tearing down were definitely written after the Jewish Wars. But whether those verses are original or just one more interpolatation of may be impossible to adjudicate.

          But as far as the 2000 years thing, it’s worse than that. We’re 2000 years out and still no authoritative, definitive source manuscripts detailing the most-important event in the history of ever. Also, no authoritative, definitive eyewitness corroboration of the events declared in those other manuscripts (of uncertain age and provenance). I’m not holding my breath for a guy to come down from the sky with a flaming sword coming out of his mouth; I’d settle for far more prosaic evidence than that. As it is, you can’t even begin to have a discussion that doesn’t end with “and Hercules visited Hades, too.”

        • Greg G.

          Many of the miracles of Jesus in gMark, appear to be allusions and exaggerations of miracles performed by Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, and Moses from the OT, plus some from the magical beings in the Odyssey and the Iliad. But the spit miracles don’t align with those sources. Instead, it is like Vespasian’s miracles at Alexandria.

          It is said that Vespasian used propaganda, though there are not many descriptions from the first decade of his rule as Caesar. But as Suetonius explains, Vitellius had been defeated in battle and killed in Rome after the Year of Four Emperors, the title fell to Vespasian, but since he came from humble beginnings, he needed something like divine majesty to justify him. His healings at the Serapis Temple would have been excellent propaganda for that.

          The Markan sandwich where Jesus gets mad at a fig tree, then gets mad at the Temple, then the fig tree is seen to have withered creates a syllogism where the reader should remember that Jerusalem withered.

          Since aMark used Latinisms and Aramaicisms, explaining the Aramaic but not the Latin, we expect gMark was written for Romans, who had heard of Vespasian’s spit miracle. So I suspect gMark was written when the propaganda of the destruction of Jerusalem and the miracles in Alexandria was still fresh in the public mind, probably in the 70s AD.

        • Ficino

          Hi Greg, in “creates a syllogism,” do you mean, “creates a simile”? Or metaphor?

        • Greg G.

          Thanks for pointing that out. That means I have been using “syllogism” incorrectly for a while. The proper word would be “analogy”, as in “A is to B as C is to ___.”

          I edited my post to show this correction.

    • robert lulek

      Soon-to-be-published first-century manuscript of Mark Google it

      • Ignorant Amos

        Nope….it has been a “soon-to-be-published first-century” fragment of a manuscript and it has been soon-to-be-published for over five years now.

        But we won’t be getting too hung up on the claim until real experts verify these claims….

        No one saw the text then, and no one has seen it now; though it has been mentioned repeatedly by a select group of people who evidently have been given access to it, its planned date of publication has been consistently pushed back, from an original plan of 2013 to 2015 and now, just this week, all the way to 2017.

        No need to Google it, here’s a link.

        http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/21/living/gospel-mummy-mask/index.html

        Edit to add: The linked article is from 2015.

      • Ignorant Amos
      • robert lulek

        Oh well it’s like pissing in the wind talking to an atheist no brilliance no intellect could ever convince a soul that will not hear God’s word as faith comes from hearing and only from God we don’t make that choice God makes the choice for us to hear it is not that I am wiser it is that God allowed me to hear I don’t understand why God allows some to hear and others not to hear but the fact is I’m very Almanac is based upon the life of this man do you realize 2017 we acknowledged as the lifespan of Christ does not the Roman Colosseum still stand to this day and yet it was built only forty years after the life of a man named Jesus Christ is there irrefutable proof that this man did not live that his miracles are false that he did not raise from the grave they have never found the body no will they ever

        • Ignorant Amos

          Didn’t you learn how to write in school?

          Some punctuation would go a long way to make that burbling screed a bit more coherent.

        • epeeist

          Obviously produced by a poor variant of the New Age Bullshit Generator.

        • robert lulek

          Just like the worldly atheist so intellectual so intellectual you are your own God you will not listen as it says in Scripture they will not believe the prophets they will not believe one who has been risen from the grave your choice my friend one day you shall kneel before Jesus Christ and declare him Lord whether you like it or not I am using voice recognition that’s why my grammar is not so intellectual as yours sorry about that

        • Ignorant Amos

          Your grammar is none existent.

          If your idea of discourse is making your interlocutor struggle to read and understand your bullshit, then probably best you take your nonsense elsewhere. It is hard enough to understand woo woo even with punctuation.

          Your comments subsequent to your initial claim that there is going to be a ground breaking announcement soon vis a vis a “newly” discovered mss of Mark, are a load of non sequitur so pah!

        • adam

          “Just like the worldly theist so unintellectual so unintellectual you are your own God ”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c4e3bbea2d1e4d81dbd3798980be2ee8b39f893fee5d1d2b81b76b5e7ba184e1.jpg

        • Greg G.

          no brilliance no intellect could ever convince a soul that will not hear God’s word

          An omnipotent being would be able to come up with the right words to convince everybody, if it want to. Apparently, the omnipotence is only capable of getting the low-hanging fruit of gullibility.

          I would expect the omnipotence to be able to teach punctuation to its messengers, too. Yet more evidence of the non-existence of an omnipotence.

        • DrewTwoFish

          Seriously, huh? Some periods, PLEASE!

        • Greg G.

          If he left out the spaces between words, it would be like the language of the original New Testament.

        • adam

          “is there irrefutable proof that this man did not live that his miracles
          are false that he did not raise from the grave they have never found the
          body no will they ever”

          You mean the same proof that Invisible Pink Unicorns create miracles by farting glitter?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0ded0c20f62b9d1996f93afe9c98e20dc6bf1035eaa16eb5acf23323c3cb09f.jpg

  • Pofarmer

    So, I know this is way off topic, but I’m just going to leave this here.

    yesterday, Gov. Eric Greitens in MO mad this post on facebook.

    https://www.facebook.com/EricGreitens/photos/a.10150235686764747.367675.253153019746/10155103656734747/?type=3&theater

    Today, a Planned Parenthood in Columbia was hit, with, presumably pepper spray or tear gas.

    And now, Kevin Sorbo is going to be in another Evangelical movie. The charachter has apparently written a book titled “Aborting God.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/singod/2017/03/kevin-sorbo-anti-atheist-propaganda/?ref_widget=trending&ref_blog=dispatches&ref_post=trump-now-trying-broaden-wiretap-nonsense

    I’m actually afraid and concerned here. I’m afraid that these religious nutjobs are going to incite violence against people who don’t agree with them. I’m afraid that they are going to incite violence against atheists. What the hell has happened to my country?

    • Kevin K

      It was lost a long time ago. Sorry. Sucks.

      • Pofarmer

        So, how can we retake the narrative? I mean, countries ostensibly much more religious than the U.S. agitate for reproductive rights and it has effect. Thinking about Poland and Ireland, specifically.

        • Kevin K

          I have become increasingly nihilistic lately.

          Unless and until the average Joe Sixpack voter gets it through his MAGA-hat-wearing skull that the Republican Party is playing him for a fool, and has been for decades … there’s not much to be done.

          The country is getting the government it deserves. That’s a horrible government, bigoted and mean-spirited. But that’s just an honest reflection of the will of the people who put Republicans in office.

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s going to get us attacked, bigly.

        • Kevin K

          Which will make things even worse. It’s a death spiral. Good times while it lasted.

          I hear Canada’s nice, if you like the cold.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, unfortunately you’re right about that, too. They are going to see literally everything as confirmation.

  • Herald Newman

    One question I’m hoping somebody can shed some light onto. In the graph, that Bob presents, we see that the number of manuscripts increases substantially at around the 9th century mark, and peaks at the 12th century.

    Does anyone know why we have more manuscripts from the 12th century, and then fewer in the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th? I get that the 15th and 16th century were influenced by the invention of the printing press, but I can’t really explain the 13th and 14th century.

    • I’ve wondered that myself.

      Keep in mind that the chart is simply of the manuscripts that we have, not the ones that were created. It’s possible that after the Bible was (relatively) cheap in printed form, the recent manuscripts weren’t that valuable, but the older ones were. If this is right, it’d just be a matter of preservation. That 50-year-old manuscript doesn’t look so great next to a nice printed book, but the 300-yo manuscript is still preserved because it’s history.

      That’s just a guess.

    • GreyGeek77

      More than likely the increase on manuscripts was due to increases in conversions to Christianity, which required more scribes to make more copies. When the printing press was invented it began turning out many more printed copies and more economically, so the number of manually copied manuscripts declined and scribes had to find other work.

      Today, about 100 million copies of the Bible are printed each year, more than any other book.

  • Greg G.

    When a scrap of parchment with writing on it is discovered, it is compared with the Bible text we have to see if it is part of the Bible. If it doesn’t match up, what happens to it? How do they know it isn’t part of the original text that was deleted from other manuscripts?

    • Agreed. We’ve pieced the Bible together with the oldest manuscripts available, but they’re still roughly 200 years older than the original. Who’s to say that an unrecognizable scrap is not part of the original Mark or Galatians?

      • Greg G.

        We’ve pieced the Bible together with the oldest manuscripts available, but they’re still roughly 200 years older than the original.

        We’ve pieced the Bible together with the oldest manuscripts available, but they’re still roughly 200 years older younger than the original.

        • Second correction made, thanks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Here’s a prime example of Disqus playing up.

          Your comment in reply here to Bob’s comment is time stamped 9 hours ago. I’ve been email notified, but not for the older comment to which you are replying, time stamped 11 hours ago.

          Disqus is all over the place like a mad woman’s shite.

        • Greg G.

          I got the email notification for “Second correction made, thanks” last night not long after I offered the correction. I saw Bob’s reply for the first nit-pick in Recent Comments this morning but I still have not got an email about it.

          I got the email notification for this post of yours in near real time.

          It is now September 17, 2018 in case you get this in the distant future.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Real time for that too…along with a comment Sample1 aka Mike, put up on OtS yesterday…go figure.