...where I'm likely to ramble on most anything.
My goal: To persuade or be persuaded.
I just checked out Vinny's blog and spent all of 30-60 seconds before deciding he didn't know much of what he was talking about. Especially his assertion that “As I noted in my last post, 85% of the manuscript evidence for the New Testament comes from the eleventh century or later.”His ignorance in this area is enough to tell me he doesn't know much at all.
No doubt I disagree with him as well, Ms. Green. I disagree with most everything by the folks listed on the "Left Ones" column. Your example is one that is a matter of who one chooses to believe. I've read that which conflicts with his statement as well. I have been debating on some of his older posts, pretty much mano a mano, in conjunction with a particular point made in a post or two previous to this one. He debates in a gentlemanly manner and sticks to the point. That's refreshing.
Ms. Green,Did you read the following sentence in which I cited the source for that information? If you disagree, do you have a source for a different figure?
Vinny, your implication by these statements, is that we can’t trust the Bible we have today to be the original writings of the authors of the New Testament because “85% of the manuscript evidence for the New Testament comes from the eleventh century or later”. That assumption is incorrect.The truth is, if we simply take the quotes from the church leaders of the first 2 or 3 centuries we can reconstruct the largest majority of the New Testament, which is the same one we have today. (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr , Polycarp, Ignatius , and Clement for example.)The Mutorian Canon (170 AD) lists the same New Testament that we have today.The following is copied and pasted from a post I did on my blog some time back:I have heard people say that we didn’t determine what books belonged in the Bible until hundreds of years after Jesus died on the cross, but that just isn’t true. Although the FINAL confirmation of the 27 books took place at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD, there was only minor debate before that time and the books were basically agreed upon in the first and second centuries. This council was mostly an “official” confirmation of the already accepted books of Scripture for the New Testament. They simply endorsed the general consensus of the churches of the west and of the greater part of the east.Polycarp(AD 110) (the disciple of John mentioned above) included in his list all of the books from Matthew through I Timothy and also included 1 Peter and 1 & 2 John. These books are all cited in his writings – we don’t know for sure that he rejected the other books – they just weren’t cited in his writings.Several years before, Clement of Rome (AD 90), who knew Peter personally, had also listed Titus, Hebrews, James, and 2 Peter.Ignatius (AD 110), who was a follower of John, cited Philemon as Scriptural in his writingsIrenaeus (AD 130??), who was a disciple of Polycarp, included 2 Timothy, Jude and RevelationThe Mutorian Canon, which gives us the earliest (AD 170) existing list of New Testament books included the one remaining book from the above – 3rd John.In addition, the writings of personal disciples of Peter and John verified all but one of the 27 books – that one that was not included was 3rd John. However, 3rd John was often grouped together with 1st and 2nd John and may not have been cited because of that.The New Testament books that were originally at one point doubted, but later fully accepted as Scripture were Hebrews, James, 2nd & 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation. The very fact that the early church fathers were so cautious because of their concern that no uninspired book be brought into the cannon should affirm the authenticity and God-breathed inspiration of the 66 books of the Bible we have today.References:Volume 1, Theology 201, The Doctrine of the Bible, Faith Bible Institute, John Thomas YatesThe Cannon of Scripture - F. F. BruceBy the way, Vinny, have you ever read "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" for yourself? It's really a very interesting reference for anyone, skeptic or otherwise. I read it as an agnostic. Of course, I'm not one now - but I've been there.I like your name. Makes me think of "Vinny boombah" *grin*
Ms. Green,We can certainly disagree about the implications of the fact that “85% of the manuscript evidence for the New Testament comes from the eleventh century or later.” However, it is hard for me to believe that it is possible to have a constructive intelligent discussion with someone who decides that I don’t know what I am talking about in sixty seconds or less simply because I cite a fact that doesn’t support her interpretation of the Bible. I have read Evidence that Demands a Verdict, but it was back in 1975. For a couple of years in my late teens, I embraced evangelical Christianity and it was one of the first books I read. Even though I wanted to believe that there was a rational basis for my faith, I was profoundly disappointed by McDowell’s arguments.
I’m just guessing as to Ms. Green’s (love the moniker!) motivations – but it could be that she’s heard the arguments before, has, knocked around, considered from every angle, chewed and digested the arguments, maybe even “back in her teens”, has heard nothing new, and therefore can come to a conclusion in 60 seconds or less. There’s something to be said for efficiency!I’m not trying to be snarky, Vinny; I appreciate and applaud anyone who questions. Just don’t take it too personal when another may dismiss a “cherished” view.And I, for one plan to visit your site – at least for a little while.
Blamin',It is possible that she had heard the arguments before but I doubt it. The post that she dismissed so quickly concerned the writings of Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius. The comments that Ms. Green made here about those writers were far from accurate. When I compare her comments to the ones that a seminary student made on my blog, I think they indicate that she has not looked at the question very closely.
“…who decides that I don’t know what I am talking about in sixty seconds or less simply because I cite a fact that doesn’t support her interpretation of the Bible.”It’s not interpretation – even Christians can disagree in interpretation of some passages. My disagreement is with the tired, disclaimed argument that Christianity has somehow “evolved” into what it is today – that the basic doctrines of the Christian faith were decided on centuries after Christ. This is just no so – that is not my belief or interpretation. It is a fact proven by documentation from the first and second centuries.Being “disappointed” in McDowell’s book is an interesting choice of words. It was by no means a “fluff” book. It was heavily documented and referenced, so that leads me to believe either that you went in to it with a preconceived conclusion or that you were too young at the time to comprehend the full impact of the book. I would also like to suggest reading anything by Ravi Zacharias, most especially his “Jesus among other Gods” book.However, if you have already made up your mind that there is no God, or that if there is, He’s not the Christian God, and you are not interested in hearing evidence to the contrary, then it is silly for me or anyone else to suggest additional reading. That’s your call. Scripture says that no man seeks God on his own unless God is drawing him – maybe God is not drawing you at the moment.In all fairness to you, to give you a better understanding of who I am – I was an agnostic for over 40 years and was almost as adamant about that as I am now about my faith (albeit “almost”). So I’ve heard pretty much everything and every argument on your side of the fence – in fact I used most of them myself to try to “prove” my assertion that no one could know for sure if there was a God or not – or if there was one, which religion He favored if any. Thus the “sixty second” response.God dealt with me though – especially in the areas of my unbelief and pride. There is a Scripture in the book of Romans that fit me well.“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22
At the time I read Evidence that Demands a Verdict, I truly wanted to believe that there was a rational basis for my faith. I had already accepted Christ as my personal savior for what I think were primarily emotional reasons, but I wanted to be able to witness based on the evidence as well. I was disappointed because I did not find McDowell's arguments persuasive and I thought that my skeptical friends and family members would not find them very persuasive either.I haven't reached any definite conclusions about the existence of God, however, I have concluded that an understanding of God that depends on a literal interpretation of the Bible does not make sense. However, I am always open to reading different ideas. My local library has a couple of books by Zacharias, so I will try to swing by this evening.On the other hand, your ideas of what constitutes a “proven fact” strike me as somewhat silly. The documentation of Christian beliefs that survives from the first one hundred and fifty years after Jesus death shows that there were a variety of beliefs about the meaning of Jesus’ life and death including gnosticism, Marcionism, and many other beliefs that were eventually rejected as heretical.
"The documentation of Christian beliefs that survives from the first one hundred and fifty years after Jesus death shows that there were a variety of beliefs about the meaning of Jesus’ life and death..."That's no different from today, though, is it? Many are indeed heretical based on Scripture, and if Scripture is not used, upon what can they base their beliefs? You also counter Ms. Green with an anecdote regarding a seminarian, possibly assuming Ms. Green cannot be as well informed, or even better informed without some professor to tell her what to believe. It's likely that she has read many of the same things as is found in seminary training. I don't think you'd disagree that there are many preachers who differ from each other in the details of what they believe about the faith, so formal training only goes so far as a necessary factor of expertise and scholarship. My point is that we can go toe to toe comparing "experts" and it will still come down to faith or belief in the testimony of our favorite experts.
The question is not what I assume. It is a matter of the kind of comments the seminary student made. After I had made a comment about 1 Clement on his blog, the seminary student went out and read it for himself and the comments he made on my blog reflected that. On the other hand, Ms. Green’s comments about Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp all sounded like they came from some popular apologist like McDowell. If she had actually read my blog rather than jumping to the conclusion that I did not know what I was talking about, I think she might have realized that she was all that well informed on the subject.
That last sentence should have read:If she had actually read my blog rather than jumping to the conclusion that I did not know what I was talking about, I think she might have realized that she not all that well informed on the subject.
Why would that be exactly? Because her views contradict the seminarians or yours?
Vinny,2 things. #1. I would not bring this up if it were not for what you said, because I don't like it when people "flaunt" their education - I have met many people educated beyond their intelligence, and I've also met many people who were extremely wise and knowledgeable even though they had very little formal education.Having said that, the fact is,for what it's worth, I am a graduate of a 3 year Bible College and have three additional years at a secular college. I am an avid reader and I also think for myself. As I pointed out, I was an agnostic for many many years and did not come to my faith overnite or without much questioning, investigating and arguing.#2 Since I have been in the blog world, I have been attacked repeatedly both on my blog and through email by atheists and agnostics whose only beef with me is that I am an outspoken Christian. I have been called hateful, mean, narrow minded, stupid, idiot, homophobe, and a few words that I don't use in conversation so I won't write them here. I suppose that has made me cynical, and I think I was too quick to make a comment about your blog and admittedly I made a snide remark about ignorance that I should not have made. I apologize for that. The last thing I want to do is to act like those who hate me for my faith. I would like to "start over" if I may. I hope that you will accept my apology.
I would like to "start over" if I may. I hope that you will accept my apology.That is more than fair and I appreciate your graciousness. I too have run across some unpleasant characters in the blogosphere and I have, on more than one occasion, let my irritation at one blogger spill over into a comment I made to someone else.
Why would that be exactly? Because her views contradict the seminarians or yours?No. It is because she does not seem to have an accurate picture of the letters that Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp wrote. Clement doesn’t list any New Testament books in his letter. He frequently cites Old Testament writings as scripture, but he doesn’t refer to any New Testament writings that way. He uses phrases that are found in some of the epistles indicating that he was familiar with them but he does not identify his sources or even acknowledge that he is using sources.Ignatius also uses phrases from both epistles and gospels but, like Clement, he does not identify his sources. Polycarp also demonstrates familiarity with various epistles and gospels, but he also does not identify them or provide any lists.The writings of the Church Fathers prior to about 150 A.D. provide evidence for the existence of many New Testament books, but they don’t seem to reflect the formation of a canon. Clement mentions Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in his letter to the Corinthians and Polycarp’s letter to the Phillipians mentions Paul’s letter to that church. Other than that, New Testament books are not identified or discussed. None of these letters indicate that their authors were making lists of writings that they considered scripture.Beginning around 180 A.D. with Irenaeous, Church Fathers start identifying which apostolic writings they consider authoritative and authentic. Until that point, I don’t think there is much evidence of a canon.
Vinny, I think you are splitting hairs over my use of the word "list" when referring to Clement, Polycarp and Ignatius. The references I've read and studied all say that these three men did indeed cite the New Testament writings I listed - my point being that Christians decided early on which ones were inspired and which ones weren't. The earliest "list" that we know of is the Mutorian Canon. That does not mean another earlier one didn't exist. It's just the earliest one we know about. But that certainly doesn't mean Christianity has been distorted or embellished through the years. The early Christians were already acknowledging which Scriptures were inspired even as some of them were being written (as in some NT books referring to other NT books as inspired)I have no reason to doubt the sources I've seen.
I have seen similar descriptions of the early fathers in Strobel's books, but being a skeptic, I decided to read some of the letters for myself. They can all be found on line at The Christian Classics Ethereal Library. If you read Clement's letter to the Corinthians, you will see that he introduces quotes from the Old Testament with phrases like "it is written," "Scripture sayeth," or "the Lord said." However, he inserts phrases from the epistles without indicating where they came from or even indicating that they are drawn from someone else's writing. Although I don't know whether that would have been considered plagiarism by the standards of Clement's day, it would seem to suggest that he did not consider Paul's letters to be scripture on a par with the Old Testament regardless of what other early Christians might have thought.
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