Burying Myths about Christianity

There is no shortage of fables circulating out there.

For many of us, the holiday season means that ole Uncle Ruprecht will be coming at you, with his dusty ivy league philosophy degree rolled up in his bow tie, claiming rationalism long ago disproved Christianity. It means your cousin, Crowing Cameron, is home from his fancy university, having just sat for fifteen weeks in a world religions class where he gorged himself on dainty morsels of recycled myths about Christianity. It means your in-law, Taunting Tom, will be locked and loaded again with another year’s worth of boogie-man wiles in an attempt to belittle Christianity over the merry making.

 

Today is the eve of one of my favorite American holidays. There’s nothing like pushing pause and gathering together for an annual tryptophan treat.

With Thanksgiving weekend here, the holiday season is officially kicking off. That means time with relatives and friends. And, it probably means time for a little verbal sparring with not-yet-believing loved ones. For many of us, it means that ole Uncle Ruprecht will be coming at you, with his dusty ivy league philosophy degree rolled up in his bow tie, claiming rationalism long ago disproved Christianity. It means your cousin, Crowing Cameron, is home from his fancy university, having just sat for fifteen weeks in a world religions class where he gorged himself on dainty morsels of recycled myths about Christianity. It means your in-law, Taunting Tom, will be locked and loaded again with another year’s worth of boogie-man wiles in an attempt to belittle Christianity over the merry making.

Whatever the case, there is no shortage of fables circulating out there. Here are a few, easily-debunked myths concerning Christianity that may invite themselves to this season’s holiday feasting.

Myth #1: “The Bible has been translated and edited so many times, we don’t know what it originally said.”

This is probably the most common myth out there. And despite the deluge of data demonstrating its falsehood, it still makes its way into serious conversation, even in the name of academia.

This myth assumes a few errors concerning the inspiration, transmission, and preservation of the biblical text. First, it assumes that with the passing of time, we have lost and/or destroyed the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible. Second, it assumes that translators have been indifferent and careless towards the preservation of texts from which they translated. Third, it assumes that we possess few ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Finally, it assumes that we do not possess manuscripts close to the time that the originals were given.

Now, the manuscripts of the biblical text in their original languages certainly have been translated into multiple languages. However, there is a sense in which the passing of time has brought us closer to, not further from, the original text.

Over the years, more biblical manuscripts have been discovered. Today, we possess close to 6000 ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, some of which date back to within a few decades of their inspiration in the first century. For example, manuscript “P52,” dating to the mid-second century, is a fragment containing portions of John 18 which would have been included in a larger book or codex of Scripture.

Comparison of these several thousand manuscripts demonstrates that we can be certain of what the original text said. Over the centuries, scholars have invested their lives in comparing these manuscripts, discovering an agreement rate of over 99% among the content. The disagreements are insignificant, calling into question no significant doctrine or event. Today, we have NT critical apparatuses (e.g. UBS, Nestle-Aland), produced through painstaking work of rigorous manuscript criticism.

Also, you can tell Crowing Cameron that no ancient text comes close to the Bible in terms of its preservation. For example, the oldest complete manuscript known of Homer’s Iliad dates to the tenth century A.D., nearly 1700 years after the work was supposedly written. All that to say, God has left himself with a stunningly preserved text, burying this myth.

Myth #2: “A church council got together sometime in the 4th century and decided what would be in the Bible.”

This is a popular one which some presume renders Scripture merely the product of irrelevant dead men, and thus possessing no divine authority. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Let it be known: no man, no church, no council, and nothing of earthly origin ever decided what would, and would not be, in the Bible. As it concerns the 66 books of the Bible, man merely recognized what God had inspired. This is a question of the Bible’s inspiration. The moment that one of the 66 books of the Bible was penned for the first time is the moment it was included in the Bible. God had breathed it from heaven through the pen of his authorial instrument, rendering it canonical. Regenerate men and women subsequently recognized, but did not determine, the divine origin and authority of a given text.

Think of it this way: electricity existed prior to Benjamin Franklin’s discoveries and inventions. Franklin did not invent electricity, he only recognized and discovered it (though many throughout history recognized it long before him). Franklin and others were given the insight to recognize electricity. That’s the way it was with the 66 books of the Bible. Each book was given by God at a point in time through human instruments. Throughout history, God’s people recognized his word such that throughout church history among biblical Christianity, there have been no major debates about the divine origin of the 66 books.

Myth #3: “There are contradictions all over the Bible.”

Be sure to answer this one with, “Which ones?” Have Ruprecht point them out.

Groups like the American Atheists love these. These are the favorites among those who neglect to read the Bible in context.

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