Archive for February, 2012

I was talking to a friend last year who told me that the Bible couldn’t be trusted because it was changed by a Roman emperor.  What do you think about that idea?  Sound plausible?  It does seem to be a fairly common view in some circles.  What’s the basis for it?  It’s based on a movie which was based on a book which was based on imagination.  The movie was of course the Da Vinci Code, but for those who had no real interest in researching the facts, it gave a simple, digestible story that meant they need never open the Bible again.

The fact is that this just didn’t happen.  Let’s take just one aspect of it today, for the sake of brevity.  Have the words on the page of the Bible changed since they were written in the first century?  Was there an editor at some point that ironed everything out nice and neat in accordance with the wishes of someone powerful?  The simple answer is: no.  That would have required a miracle.

Constantine is the Roman Emperor suggested by Dan Brown as the man who had the Bible changed.  He called the council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which was the first worldwide meeting of Christian bishops and the supposed setting for the Bible to be changed.  The simple fact is that we have manuscripts of the Bible in museums across the world from before this time.  Although we don’t have a complete manuscript until around the time of Nicaea, we have many portions and fragments from before then.  We also have translations done into other languages as early as the second century, more than 100 years before Nicaea.  The Bible was well spread throughout the Roman world by the time of Constantine.  It would have been a mammoth effort to have destroyed and amended all that material.

In fact, the evidence points in the other direction entirely.  The Bible is by a long way the most reliably transmitted ancient book that we have.  Historians work this out based on the number of ancient manuscripts and the closest date to the original that’s available.  The earlier, and the more manuscripts, the better.  Take, e.g. Tacitus, considered one of the most important Roman historians that we have.  Much of what gets said about the Roman Emperors is dependent solely on what he wrote in his ‘Annals’.  Not all of his annals survived through to our time, but what we do have comes from 2 manuscripts in the ninth and eleven centuries.  He wrote about 100AD.  That’s a gap of 800 years, and yet no-one seriously doubts that what we do have of his Annals is what he wrote down.  Julius Caesar’s ‘Gallic War’, written in about 50 BC comes to us on about 9 or 10 extant manuscripts, the oldest of which is 900 years after Caesar, and yet no-one complains that we can’t trust our copy of his work.  How does the Bible compare?  There are over 5400 manuscripts of the Bible that have been uncovered so far, some fragments, some complete, and the earliest fragment comes from 90-125 AD, within 90 years of Jesus life and within 50 years of the original documents.  And yet people persist in suggesting that the Bible has been unreliably transmitted.  This just doesn’t stand up to the facts.


Our Humble God

I heard last night about a Christian celebrity that had been invited to speak at an evangelistic event.  Apparently he’d been precious the whole night, because he was a big celeb, he’d even been to the Oscars, and that’s not the way you treat a celeb.

This morning I was reading through part of Luke chapter 2. In there we find out that Jesus, God coming to earth, was born to a teenage mother and laid in a food trough because they couldn’t secure proper accommodation in a town they were visiting.  Putting a baby in an animal food trough is shocking today (imagine what DOCS would say!), but was still shocking back then.  In Luke 2:12 the angels’ only directions to the shepherd on how to find baby Jesus: look for the baby in a food trough.  That’s all the information they got!

I then went on to read a small section from1  Samuel 6:18-21, where the ark of God comes to the town of Beth-Shemesh and God puts 50, 070 people to death because they don’t show his ark the proper respect.  He is truly an awesome God and won’t be disrespected, and yet he willingly humbled himself, took on human form and was born into a food trough.  The same God of awe and wonder in 1 Samuel is the baby in Luke 2.  What an amazing God we have, that he was willing to humble himself so much for our sake. Being born into a food trough was not the most humiliating part of Jesus’ life, though.  His death as a criminal on the cross was far more shameful.  And yet he died for us.  What sort of God would do that for the creatures that he made?  Our humble God.