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In the Year of our LORD Jesus Christ
-- As of January 20, 2017
A Sigh Of Relief With The Inauguration Of Donald John Trump as President of the United States of America, And Hope For A Prosperous Future For All United States Citizens (we who are a nation called "the melting pot of the world"). We shall be great and exceptionally great again.

It is likely that the entries to this blog will be less frequent than in years past. I do intend to keep this blog active, and to offer insightful information and/or opinion (and sometimes humor and/or entertainment on occasion) when I do post.

Peace and Liberty. Semper Fidelis.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Some Generalized Thoughts On Historical Literary Veracity Of The New Testament By Brianroy

Historians will benefit by trusting the historical veracity of the Bible.  Even though these quotes are a bit older than most would like, they remain true in their statements.

  "The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details."    
W.F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (Revell, 1935), p. 127.

"The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the (New Testament has) come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."   
Sir Frederick Kenyon, The Bible and Archeology (New York: Harper, 1940), pp. 288,289

"It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical passage."  
  Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society, 1969), p. 31

"To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."    
 John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976), p. 29

“Careful comparison of the New Testament with inscriptions and other early independent evidence has confirmed their primary claims . . . Competent historical scholarship must regard the New Testament documents as coming from the first century and as reflecting primary-source testimony about the person and claims of Jesus.”  John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976), pp. 31,34.

It is important for us to study history...but to me, we also need to be faithful to the Almighty who gave us the Bible, and trust HIM over the ever- changing opinions and popularity of what men (or women) might think or say.

 Gleason Archer Jr. puts it better:

"...the only alternatives available to us as we confront the Scriptures: either they are inerrant, or else we are."    
Gleason L. Archer, Jr. "A Survey Of Old Testament Introduction"  (Chicago: Moody Bible Institue, revised 1994) p. 31

And a well-respected scholar once noted the acceptance of Faith and History,  stating, 
"It is, indeed, difficult to restrict a discussion of the New Testament writings to the purely historical plane; theology insists on breaking in.  But that is as it should be; history and theology are inextricably intertwined in the gospel of our salvation, which owes its external and universal validity to certain events which happened in Palestine when Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire."    
F.F.  Bruce in April 1959, as found in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 14th reprint 1980), pp.5-6.

 It seems that history is becoming a category of expertise that is once again contracting, and as a result, society forgets the past, falls into moral decay, and repeats the mistakes of the past to its own peril and fatal consequences.  If one would even arrive at a level of competence in grasping historical literary testimony, skillfully gleaning facts and exercising cognitive processes that modern education steers the collective away from doing, so much past and present will open up and a greater state of awareness is achieved, and faith in the Bible as accurate and true and faith in Christ Jesus as 100% truthful and good, as well as being LORD and Savior is easily affirmed.  

The historical literary testimony tells us that the Apostles of Jesus used Hebrew manuscripts of an older date than the Greek Septuagint (LXX) as their primary texts.  Biblical Scholarship has often lamented of their confusion on this issue for the last 100 years, asking "did the apostles rely only on the LXX or a variant copy of it", because they are unwilling to believe the historical testimony of a translator who held and viewed these Greek and older Hebrew manuscripts 300 years after the last Apostle of Jesus died.

"The Hebrew Scriptures are used by apostolic men; they are used, as is evident, by the apostles and evangelists.

Our Lord and Saviour himself whenever he refers to the Scriptures, takes his quotations from the Hebrew… in the words used on the cross itself, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which is by interpretation “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” not, as it is given by the Septuagint, “My God, my God, look upon me, why hast thou forsaken me?” and many similar cases.

 I do not say this in order to aim a blow at the 70 translators; but I assert that the Apostles of Christ have an authority superior to theirs. Wherever the 70 agree with the Hebrew, the apostles took their quotations from that translation; but, where they disagree, they set down in Greek what they had found in the Hebrew.

And further, I give a challenge to my accuser. I have shown that many things are set down in the New Testament as coming from the older books, which are not to be found in the Septuagint; and I have pointed out that these
 [still] exist  [in our own day] in the Hebrew.

Now let him show that there is anything in the New Testament which comes from the Septuagint but   which is not found in the Hebrew, and our controversy is at an end."

Justin’s Apology against Rufinius, Book 2.34

We must also remember, that Jerome, a 4th Century A.D. scholar  who translated the Bible into Latin,the Latin Vulgate,  probably held copies of the New Testament that were almost exclusively from the first century A.D. sources as well, being only 350 or less years removed from the 47 -57 A.D. compositions of those works. 

Jerome, himself, handled some of these same pre-Septuagint manuscripts of Isaiah, pre-dating the LXX's completion prior to the ascension of Herod the Great.  By his own testimony, Jerome says that his Hebrew copies that he was handling, were those that pre-dated even our extant  Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll now on display in Israel, dating to at least 150 B.C. and possibly as old as 250 B.C.   For him to say this, there would have been a clear distinction in the difference of the Hebrew epigraphy.  For which aid, he sought out the best Hebrew expert of his day to learn more than just an expanded version of what he would have called "modern hebrew" in the 4th century A.D....but an "ancient Hebrew" of the 4th to 5th century B.C. as well.   

This is accessibility to oldest manuscripts and their copies  would be still yet another reason to trust the translationof the New Testament Gospels as accurate; and this is better understood when we have a more well-rounded understanding in history and language development in the relevant period of discussion.    

In regard to the New Testament (NT)  works, even in the First century we have so many copies being produced, that manuscript families branched out and they were compared one to another often, as well as back to their original source.  By example, in Ephesus of Asia, from the introduction of the Book of Revelation in late 53 A.D. to the Apostle John's death in ca. 97-98 A.D., there were many copies made of Revelation (using this one NT book by example) and copies of copies that branched out.

 At one point, as Irenaeus addresses in Against Heresies book 5.30.1-2, there was the issue of just one slip of the pen or a lacunae that had to be corrected regarding a number (6), in order that a wrong concept of 616 could be corrected, and the copies either destroyed or amended to the correction.  In fact, because of Irenaeus' boast of how that any having questions about the manuscript could simply go to Ephesus and ask John for verification, we know that Revelation existed for many years prior to John's death, and that John was fully accessible and in his right mind at all times to offer veracity to the 666 instead of the 616 one manuscript branch was promoting before that scribal error was chased down and stopped cold.

  By 392 A.D.ff., if Jerome possessed a first century New Testament copy of a letter or book  to translate, he may have possessed not only first century copies, but in regard to even it being a first century copy, it still may have been passed through as many as 16 copyists from the original in as little as its first 40 years from the master first copy from which those others were generated afterwards.    

We must historically consider the explosive and exponential growth of Christianity from a figure of a few thousands in the 30s to that of a couple millions by the 90s A.D. (though chiefly among slaves, followed by that of sailors, farmers, and soldiers), and the reasonable assumption that we can perhaps calculate no less than one manuscript per 1000 Christians would give us no less than 3,000 probable manuscripts at the utmost  bare minimum of each of the most popular books and letters of the New Testament in Churches and designated locations by the early 90s while the Apostle John was still yet alive. Each of these works were treated as more precious than gold, and closely guarded by Presbyters and bishops in their respective Churches as "holy" and set apart in a most revered manner.    Not all works were uniformly in all places at the first, however; and  by the mid to late 2nd Century A.D., the New Testament works  most certainly were virtually universal in the Roman Empire, at least.  

The  NT references most clearly used in the First Century Christian  in Rome and used regionally there, we know from that book we call as First Clement, which was based out of Rome,  and these at minimum were : The Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Mark, Romans, I Corinthians, Hebrews, Ephesians, and I Peter.  

Clement in 64 A.D. Rome, apparently did not possess such a copy of Matthew, Greek or Aramaic, and did not quite know the full context of the use the prophecy the way the Apostles (including John in Ephesus and Phillip in Phrygia) apparently did.   This tells us that Rome's Churches took the position, under Clement, of first being communicated with -- or they would not communicate to -- since Rome was a vast central metropolis so as to take all the Roman Christian's own focus. This also tells us that the Roman Churches were, in effect, more or less isolated from the outside world during the reign of Nero and especially during his persecutions, and that in this point in history, Rome's christian Churches were not likely to intervene in other bishoprics 
until late in the second century (with the one exception of Corinth, because so many of its evangelists were based out of and first funded from Corinth, as was the case with Corinth's Churches funding and evangelizing Christianity being preached into the province of Asia).  

Although it has been taught that it appears that only the first Greek translations of Matthew survived well beyond the First Century,  it is obvious that Ignatius of Antioch and other bishops of the region (as late as 107 A.D.) still had the Aramaic original of Matthew in a copied form entering also into the early Second Century as well.  Further, the Christians of the Syriac and Iraq Middle East (including that of Lebanon and parts of Turkey) are those who have kept the Aramaic language of the Scriptures from the times of Jesus.  For being a witness of the One True Church, they are being targeted and killed by a criminal usurper in the U.S. Presidency and fellow Muslim butchers like John "might as well be a Muslim Heinrich Himmler" Brennan misusing the United States Central Intelligence  Agency to genocide these innocent victims, as if attempting to erase the memory of Jesus Christ from history.  The Gospel According to Matthew is apparently one that the Devil indeed hates beyond measure, apparently.  

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch of Syria wrote in Aramaic; and the copy of Matthew in historical perspective, was directed to the saints that spoke Aramaic fluently.  Ignatius wrote primarily to the Asian Churches who were guided by John for prayerful support, upon Ignatius' own arrest.  It was to Asia that help and counsel was sought from, by Ignatius, not Rome (or its bishop there).
Hundreds of years before a split, there was already an East/ West division in Christianity between the Aramaic and non-Aramaic speaking peoples.  Matthew's Gospel, in how it was accepted and distributed at the first, highlights this detail.

 Matthew was written for and eventually distributed to those of the Syriac influence churches from Jerusalem (to Babylonia and points East) to Damascus to Antioch to the province of Asia in western Turkey, and all points in between; amongst hostile, and friendly, witnesses who also were there to have seen many of the events....some in the hundreds of thousands, in their own dialect.

Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna of Asia, who was a disciple of the Apostle John  and a bishop placed in Smyrna by that same Apostle John, spoke as to the matter of the veracity of Christianity in its written form which we have later labeled as "The New Testament."

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 1, Chapter 10, 
 selective statements  from points 1 and 2

1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: 

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.

 She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. 

For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. 

For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions  of the world.

  Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. 

For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

Most scholars are deficient in the proper and full reading of Irenaeus.  For example, by their most popular use of even referencing him, they oft cite him as the authority for dating John's Apocalypse, and then ignore his other writings.  Why?  Perhaps they are too busy copying the end notes of their colleagues...perhaps they are too busy...perhaps philosophic arguments are simple a dinner exercise, and academic truths are as intangible as a good dinner conversation.  

Irenaeus is a third generation witness from Jesus, and a second generation witness from John the Apostle.  When discussing Church history in these first two centuries or the first 150 years of development, it is ludicrous to leave Irenaeus out.

Irenaeus clearly states that at all points of the Empire in (some say 178- 181, others 180 - 181  A.D)., Christianity clearly was an organized, developed, and communicating religious system.  Germany communicates with Egypt and Spain; the Eastern provinces communicate with Libya and Italy.  Gaul communicates with Greece and Asia...and all the Christians provinces communicate one with another, and testify faithfully that history - tradition - faith that has been passed down to them from the Apostles.  

And what NT documents are communicated them by no later than 180 or 181 A.D.?  If we judge from Irenaeus own quotations in Against Heresies, we at least have the entire Roman Empire saturated with:  
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,
 Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians,
 Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 
I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, 
I Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 
Hebrews, James, I Peter, 2 Peter, 
I John, II John, Jude, and Revelation.

It is impossible, if Christianity had any myths in history or tradition up to this point, to have had such a uniform consistency of the Faith throughout the Empire.  There is no doubt about it...the libraries of Caesar were thoroughly checked, the places of the NT visited, the rolls of the bishops unfurled, and Christianity, 100 percent, was found true and accurate historically and in the very legal sense of truthful as well.

Let me point out that NT  manuscript families, like the Patmos family of manuscripts, tell us that the NT is  clearly 95% or better a word for word transmission of the ancient text as it probably was.  The majority of the 5%  of the grey area, is quite often simply defined as either an expanded  translation upon the Greek or a work to this effect to convey the passage more effectively.   We can literally cut the 5% by 60-70%, and then again by another half until we reach the same 40 lines consisting of less than 400  words that are known to be added in to the texts, having once been marginal notes, with the exception of a word or two here or there that do not change the theology or the essential meaning of the text where they occur, by simple inter-familial comparisons.

Further, where any translation preceding a time period of Vaticanus or Sinaiticus (or what have you) is questioned, we can go to early patristics and see how they phrased the same quote.

It is known that where the Apostolic texts differ from the much later Masoretes in quoting the Hebraic Old Testament texts, the Apostles appear to have followed a manuscript tree that was more closer to Aramaic (if we follow the second century quotations in translation to Latin and Greek by Irenaeus) and first sources, such as the Ezra era translation of Hebrew Scriptures scribed by Hillel -- if I understand correctly -- that was brought to Rome, and cited by Josephus.

Those same copies of that master copy of the Temple, 

"Now that Scripture, which is laid up in the temple, informs us..." (Antiq. 3.1.7, Whiston)

which language means that Scroll of not only the Torah but all biblical books later canonized in the 90s as holy, and would have included the Psalms and the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah (etc.), those same works which were possessed by and quoted by Matthew (while he was in Jerusalem in A.D. 55-56) and Luke (Paul's fellow evangelist and physician, while at Corinth of Achaia in A.D. 50).  

 In Josephus Wars of the Jews, 7.5.7., it is clear that the Temple Scroll is that same First master copy or Imprimis Torah Scroll and Scriptures  (from the days of Ezra).   It may actually have been the very collection Hillel brought up from the Jews at Babylonia, if Oral Torah's historical literary testimony is to be believed.  It was that Master Copy, once made available for all Jews from circa 3 B.C. (with the arrival of Hillel, until its 70 A.D. capture) that went to Rome.

Josephus reiterates a statement of writings, now regarding the book of Joshua also:

"Now, that the day was lengthened at this thee, and was longer than ordinary, is expressed in the books laid up in the temple."  (Antiq., 5.1.17, Whiston)

"That the duration of the day was prolonged and exceeded the usual on that occasion is disclosed in the writings that were present in the temple" (Alternate translation of same passage)

The authority of Josephus as an historian on historical (and sometimes textual) data does NOT exceed the Bible, and is subordinate to the Biblical text ... but his writings should still always be readily considered as a reliable on hand supplemental

Of interest, the Apostle Paul traveled about with many scrolls of Scripture with his entourage, and occasionally had to entrust them at this or that location while on his missionary journeys.  By example, the Apostle Paul stored  his Scripture scrolls and parchments at what he probably thought would be a central location as 2 Timothy 4:13 appears to infer.  Because of circumstances and necessity to reach Jerusalem quickly by Pentecost (just prior to his final arrest) he left them behind.   Scrolls were large and bulky objects.  At the time he wrote 2 Timothy,  Paul was in Rome in a hired or rented  house at his own expense, and under house arrest.  The Apostle Paul, contrary to popular and perhaps tourist trap initiated belief, was not in a dungeon in Acts 28.  Further, in the way Paul requests his scrolls be brought to him, it was not unrealistic to request them.  Indeed, we may even reasonably infer that the Apostle Paul may well have been in the habit to rotate one or several personally owned Scripture scrolls at a time,  delivered and or taken by messenger or an ambassador (a protected status under Roman Law) or "angel"  for the sake of convenience.  

There may have been times where one could have been "mailed" by carriage in Asia and certain developed areas / provinces in the Roman Empire in this era, but that method isn't likely to have been employed (being deemed a wasteful use of funds).  Instead, manuscripts or scrolls having been wax sealed and encrusted with in similar manner as the Romans and thereby being granted legal protections and even Roman escort under certain circumstances,  were entrusted to guardians who were recognized as "ambassadors" and protected by Roman law.  The Christian guardians who delivered manuscript scrolls were generally deacons and deaconesses or presbyters or even bishops.  Again, generally, these were called both messengers and "angels" and took their task to deliver sealed scrolls unopened very seriously.  Because the Bible declares that "in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses shall every word be established", so too would there be a religious legal requirement in the transport of such manuscripts, and we would expect a re-verification was quite often both done and commended.  

Supplement: Historic Dates of New Testament Authorship

Letter or Work             When Written                   Written in / from  

Jude                               Pentecost, A.D. 47             Jerusalem, Israel 

James                            Pentecost, A.D. 47             Jerusalem, Israel 

Galatians                         A.D. 48                              Philippi, Greece 

Gospel of Luke               A.D. 50                              Corinth, Achaia

I Thessalonians       February - July, A.D. 52      Ephesus, Asia

I Corinthians           July - November, A.D. 52     Ephesus, Asia 

Revelation          Tishrei 4-9, Sep/Oct, A.D. 53    Patmos, Aegean 

Romans               October - November, A.D. 53    Corinth, Achaia 

Titus                     February, A.D. 54                       Troas, Aegean Sea

Colossians          May - November, A.D. 54          Jerusalem, Israel

I Timothy            May - November, A.D. 54          Jerusalem, Israel 

II Thessalonians   August - December, A.D. 54   Ephesus, Asia 

Gospel of Matthew   May, A.D. 55 - July, A.D. 56   Jerusalem, Israel 

Philemon                          A.D. 56                                  Rome, Italy 

II Timothy                 October, A.D. 56                        Rome, Italy 

Ephesians                  October, A.D. 56                       Rome, Italy 
Philippians          February - April, A.D. 57               Rome, Italy

I Peter                  March - April, A.D. 57                    Rome, Italy 

Gospel of Mark         June, A.D. 57                             Rome, Italy 

II Peter                      June, A.D. 57                             Rome, Italy 

Acts of the Apostles    July, A.D. 57                          Rome, Italy 

Hebrews                       July, A.D. 57                          Rome, Italy 

I John 
(severed intro to Gospel of John)  
                          August - October, A.D. 57              Ephesus, Asia 

Gospel of John   August - October, A.D. 57         Ephesus, Asia 

2,3 John               A.D. 58 - A.D. 96                        Ephesus, Asia 

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