I have a very good friend that I consider a diehard Christian. He is a great friend to me and he and I often have friendly debates about God, Jesus and the Bible. At no time are we ever disrespectful toward one another and it is always a wonderful experience. One of the things I respect about him is he is one of those people who doesn’t just talk the talk, he actually walks the walk. Even though he and I do not agree on the topic of religion, after every debate, we both shake hands and we walk away with a genuine love and respect for each other.
I feel that this type of conversation is so important in our wish to improve conversations between theists and non-theists because it helps bridging a gap that separates us a human beings. Well, my friend came up to me last week and told me he had a paper for me to read. The paper turned out to be six pages! I promised him I would read it but to understand that I will be reading it through the eyes of a skeptic. He did warn me that the paper(s) was written by an apologist and was taken from an apologetic website. This didn’t bother me, I am willing to read anything but that doesn’t mean I will agree with everything I read. After all, I am a skeptic at heart.
So my friend gave me a paper(s) titled Are the Biblical Documents Reliable by Jimmy Williams. You can find the article here if you are interested in reading it, although I will give a quick rundown of what was written as well as my personal comments about the material presented.
Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?
One of the first things I noticed was a section titled Three Errors to Avoid.
- Do not assume inspiration or infallibility of the documents, with the intent of attempting to prove the inspiration or infallibility of the documents (sounds good so far). Do not say the bible is inspired or infallible simply because it claims to be (no complaints so far). This is circular reasoning (Finally some truth from a Christian document).
- When considering the original documents, forget about the present form of your Bible (hell, I’ve been saying this for years) and regard them as the collection of ancient source documents that they are (sounds reasonable, right?).
- Do not start with modern “authorities” and then move to the documents to see if the authorities were right (because they never are). Begin with the documents themselves.
The article then presents a question; “Not having any original copies or scraps of the Bible, can we reconstruct them well enough from the oldest manuscript evidence we do have so they give us a true, undistorted view of actual people, places and events?” This has a simple answer…Hell No! According to the article the scribes were devout Jews who BELIEVED they were dealing with the very word of God. I like that the article used the word believe because they have no way of knowing if it was actually delivered by an invisible sky deity or the ramblings of bronze age sheep herder listening to the voices in his head.
The article then turns to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Apparently the Dead Sea Scrolls consisted of a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, a fragmented copy of Isaiah and fragments of every book in the Old Testament. As a non-theist, I have no problem with agreeing that something was written down. My problem lies with the lack of evidence to show what was written actually happened.
The article continues, a witness to the New Testament text is sourced in the thousands of quotations found throughout the writings of the church fathers who followed the Apostles and gave leadership to the fledgling church, beginning with Clement of Rome. Once again, my problem with this statement; writings are not evidence! What evidence is provided to show the writings are true besides someone saying they are true? Hmm…None!
The article concludes with the statements “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” and “We have the Word of God”. Wrong!!! What you have is a book filled with hearsay. You are no documented or testable evidence that God actually inspired the writings. You have a book full of opinion. I close this post with the poem in the article.
The Anvil? God’s Word
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime:
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then, with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed . . . the hammer’s gone.
I couldn’t disagree with the unknown author more. The hammer is not gone, it has gotten bigger, stronger and is multiplying in numbers.