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My Favorite Passage That's Not in the Bible

A year and a half ago, Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why was released. No one at the time could have predicted that it would become a New York Bestseller. It’s a book that essentially introduces textual criticism to a general readership. There are some serious problems with the book, as I have noted in reviews posted on www.bible.org, in Christian Research Journal, and in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. In general, Ehrman suggests a gloomy prospect of recovering the original text, and further, that what we thought was authentic often turns out not to be—most significantly, in passages affirming a high Christology.

As much as I disagree with Ehrman over these issues, there’s one thing that I think he is right on target about. He speaks about some passages that scholars for a long time have considered to be spurious, yet for a variety of reasons are still left in the Bible. Two in particular are noteworthy: Mark 16.9-20 and John 7.53-8.11. These two texts—the two longest variants in the New Testament—are almost always marked out in modern translations with notes such as “Not found in the oldest manuscripts.” However, the passages continue to be printed in the Bibles, in their normal locations. The marginal notes are ignored by most readers.

Evidence of this is seen in the many interviews Ehrman has had over his surprising bestseller. He routinely brings up the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7.53-8.11), arguing that it’s not part of the original Gospel of John. There are gasps in the audience (e.g., when he was on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show) when he makes such a revelation.

As I noted in my review in JETS, keeping these two pericopae in our Bibles rather than relegating them to the footnotes seems to have been a bomb just waiting to explode. All Ehrman did was to light the fuse. One lesson we must learn from Misquoting Jesus is that those in ministry need to close the gap between the church and the academy. We have to educate believers. Instead of trying to isolate laypeople from critical scholarship, we need to insulate them. They need to be ready for the barrage, because it is coming. The intentional dumbing down of the church for the sake of filling more pews will ultimately lead to defection from Christ. Ehrman is to be thanked for giving us a wake-up call.”

In that article, I used the analogy of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: in the eighteenth century, when he wrote his masterpiece, he spoke glibly about the KJV reading of 1 John 5.7-8 (“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one”). This passage (or, more specifically, the mention of the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit), which in the KJV becomes an explicit affirmation of the Trinity, is not found in the great majority of manuscripts. In fact, there is no evidence that it was written in any Greek manuscript prior to the sixteenth century. Gibbon’s matter-of-fact denial of the authenticity of the verses in the KJV sent shock waves through England. Yet today, those two verses aren’t found in any major English Bible (apart from the KJV and NKJV), and they rarely merit a marginal note. Modern translations instead have: For there are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement” (NET Bible).

When it comes to the story of the woman caught in adultery or the long ending of Mark, why is it that translators are still hesitant to relegate these verses to the margin? My sense is that there is a tradition of timidity. The problem is that when layfolks learn that these verses are almost surely not authentic, it sends panic through their ranks. I assume that the RMM crowd is a bit more sophisticated than that. Hence, I am taking the risk of talking openly about these passages. If you want to see the arguments against their authenticity, simply check out the NET Bible’s notes on them (at bible.org).

The irony is that between these two doubtful passages, if most Christians had to choose, they would rather have John 7.53-8.11 in the Bible than Mark 16.9-20. Yet, the textual pedigree of the John passage is far worse than the Mark passage. To put it bluntly, the story of the woman caught in adultery is my favorite passage that’s not in the Bible.

This blog is not meant to get into the debate over whether these verses are authentic. I will simply ask you to look at the literature on this if you’re interested. It is certainly not too much to say that the great majority of New Testament scholars, including evangelical scholars, would reject both passages as later additions to the Gospels. However, no cardinal truth is lost if these verses go bye-bye. No essential doctrine is disturbed if they are MIA.

What I want to ask is a different question: In light of the scholarly consensus, how should translators address these passages? What would you prefer? Would you want the texts to remain in their place, with only a tiny marginal note that, like the small print in consumer products, is hardly noticed by the reader? Would you want these verses expunged from the text entirely with no trace? Would you want them relegated to footnotes with explanation? Ultimately, what I’m asking is, How honest do you want biblical scholars to be? Would you rather hear this sort of news from those who are enemies of the faith or from those love Christ and are willing to go to the wall for the scriptures? What say you?

82 Responses to “My Favorite Passage That's Not in the Bible”

  1. Dan,

    When dealing with sensitive issues like this — whether or not two passages belong authentically to the Bible — I’d like to see a scholarly treatment done by believers. Having said that I believe it is necessary that these scholars subject the passages to the same rigorous analysis as they would any other piece of ancient literature. Then explain in a well reasoned manner what should or shouldn’t be done with these passages. As a believer explain, as you mentioned, that no important doctrine is damaged if these passages are removed.

    The alternative is to let hostile critics and others do the explaining. Instead of taking a nuanced view of the scriptures they may be more likely to say nothing can be trusted and it’s all inventions and it should all be thrown out.

    I believe that faith and reason are not incompatible. As Christians we have nothing to fear in our faith from the intellectually honest work of scholars.

    ChadS

  2. Wow. Talk about a telling the world that the emperor has no clothes!

    I hope this post and the thoughts therein get the sort of coverage that Erhman seems to generate. In Sunday School, I recently dealt with passage in John, and I went the way of Calvin, who agreed that the passage was probably not in the original text, but is still good for our edification.

    I would like to see the passages relegated to footnotes. These two pericopes have had far too much influence (and sentiment!) to remove them entirely, but to take them out of the Scriptures and to place them in the footnotes with a brief explanation would be both honest and responsible. I do like that the NET Bible prints it in a smaller print (something the ESV does not). This forces the reader to see that something is different about this section, whereas double-brackets can be easily skipped.

    When the Da Vinci Code came out, lots of people in my church were in a tizzy asking a lot of “is that really true” type of questions. Educating uses on basic text-critical issues would be an incredible ministry to strengthen the church in a currently deficient area. However, I strongly believe education is a two-way street: the educator can offer only *some* knowledge, but must ultimately teach the student how to learn and facilitate the learning process. The student must, must, must assume the responsibility of learning. You can put these passages in footnotes with Comic Sans font and you’ve only helped them with these two passages. Somehow, the church must learn to learn and then get up and learn for themselves.

    — Richard

  3. Inoculating people regarding such matters is wise: most pastors’ Greek Bibles are filled with alternate readings, so why not have English Bibles contain similar (albeit not as much) documentation and information?

    Wait a minute! Isn’t that what the NET Bible has already done?

  4. Place a footnote in the column that you believe these portions of scripture were not in the original. Do you have ABSOLUTE PROOF they weren’t?
    We seem to be going the way of the evolutionists here. They have no “PROOF” that evolution happened at all. BUT, they want everyone to BELIEVE it happened so they state things as though they are fact when in actuality they aren’t. If “scholars” start tearing apart everything they “BELIEVE” wasn’t in the original text, where will it end? Do we take out the verses that Dan Wallace doesn’t agree with, or do we take out the verses that Michael Patton doesn’t agree with. How much “plausible deniability” has to be present before the texts are removed? Who is the ultimate judge who makes the declaration that “No, these were NOT in the original text!”
    I think you’re walking on dangerous territory in placing yourselves as the “Determinate Council.”
    Leave it alone or just add footnotes.

  5. iakobusdoulos — let me turn the question back to you: Do you have “absolute proof” that they are original? What sort of proof would be acceptable either way? Are you looking for mathematical proof? Logical proof? Reasonable certainty? On what basis do you accept these texts?

    Before you slander Michael and Dan (which you do when you put the word “scholars” in double-quotes, implying that they are not scholars in your eyes), please offer your reasons for keeping the text. By the way, emotional appeals do not count as reasons.

    Lastly, Dan and Michael do not consider themselves the “Determinate Council.” Their opinion is shared by many, many scholars through the ages. Note that even Erasmus (whose text stands behind the KJV) gagged at having to put the 1 John passage in his text.

  6. Boy, what do you say when you are taken wrong? There was no offense meant to anyone! I was trying to make a point. Sorry if I’m not as eloquent as most.

  7. Oops :) Sorry if I took your post wrong. However, I bet there are many who might echo the sentiment in which I took your post. There are certainly those would consider this “tampering with Scripture”.

  8. If I have offended anyone, I most humbly apologize in Christ. My intentions were honorable. Maybe my lack of education is reflective in my post, however, my post stands as written. I don’t find anything offensive in it. If I am blind to my own arrogance or sinfulness, I appologize but the Lord knows my heart and my sincerity. Michael, you know me and my service to you in love and respect. Dan, you do not know me, but I hold you in highest regard as a true Brother in Christ and as an educator. May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be on all who love Him.

  9. What are the opinions concerning what it is that makes a particular text or portion of text “valid” or “authoritative.”

    Is “one” author of an entire book a requirement? Why or why not? Is it all being written in one sitting a requirement? Why or why not? Perhaps the most succinct way to pose the question is: What makes the Scriptures sacred? And, how do we know that THOSE Scriptures—or passages—are worthy based on what criteria?

    Felicity

  10. richards, you wrote: Oops Sorry if I took your post wrong. However, I bet there are many who might echo the sentiment in which I took your post. There are certainly those would consider this “tampering with Scripture”.
    Thank you for the apology, forgiveness is extended.
    I’m having a hard time deciphering what you mean though by “tampering with Scripture.” Could you please expound on that?

  11. richards,

    You talked about people in your church being in a tizzy when the Da Vinci Code came out. I think as I was hinting at in my original post that sort of questioning and consternation comes about when hostile critics address issues that comment on Christianity, its scriptures and history.

    Dan Brown’s apologists said he was only writing a fiction book and people should realize that. What he did was take his version of “facts” — things he claimed were historically verifiable and weave them into a fiction narrative. By doing that a lot of good church-going people asked “Did this really happen?”

    Christian apologists were sort of caught flat footed and had to play catch up to combat the legion of errors in Brown’s book. Because a response took a little bit to formulate some wondered if the charges of secrecy and conspiracy may have been true.

    What I mean to say is that as Christians we need to have good research and scholarship to address history and hermeneutics. So we can have excellent resources to turn to instead of allowing critics to always have the first word about what we believe.

    ChadS

  12. What these types of issues really come down to is our definition of inerrancy. If inerrancy is, “everything must be taken literal as God breathed” as many fundamentalist types take it you will run into huge problems with issues like this. It goes back to the blog post on the idea of dominions (I think Dr. Wallace posted that one as well); if one of them falls they all come tumbling down.

    In regards to the question, I think it would be better for them to remove the passages but put a “*” where they use to be and refer to some clarification pages in the back or front of the Bible explaining why they have been removed with a brief summary of how they do not affect the inerrancy and authenticity of the Bible (taken them out of course makes it more authentic), similar to how some Bibles explain the rendering of words LORD and Lord in their front pages.

    You would of course get some people upset (as in anything), but it may bring up some useful dialogue and educate many people on their misconceptions of how they understand and view Scripture.

    Just my thoughts,

    Your brother in Christ,

    -Josh

  13. Obviously I don’t know how to spell dominos lol, I meant to say “dominos” instead of “dominions” in the first sentence.

  14. iak — regarding “tampering with Scriptures”, they come in several flavors. One non-lethal group would argue over how literal a translation must be to be considered Scripture , such as the spat between TNIV and the ESV. Certain ESV proponents see the TNIV as a distortion of God’s Word.

    The most repugnant group would be the KJV-only crowd. This is a group that regularly finds anyone who reads a non-KJV Bible lacking an essential for salvation.

    Then there are those who would group Dan, Bruce Metzger, F.F. Bruce, Bart Erhman, and the Jesus Seminar into one big toilet and flush. Seeing no difference between critical scholarship and cavalier eisogesis, this group would assert that to suggest that such passages are additions is to “add and remove from the Word of God.”

  15. Dan,

    You said:
    “This blog is not meant to get into the debate over whether these verses are authentic.”

    Seeing as how the mass majority of biblical scholars would submit that they are inauthentic (at least in the sense of being written by John or Mark or being included in the original manuscripts), it seems rather upsetting to me that we have even been set up to make such an unnecessary and emotionally based decision. Most who read this will react because they are familiar with and love these passages (at least the John 8 passage). I am sure that emotional commitment would cause many to desire to keep this in the text somehow. Some would even resort to so some sort of KJV Only defense or a Catholic authoritative defense (I could be wrong, but I think the Vatican has used Mark 16 and its mention of baptism in an authoritative way which puts it beyond their ability to consider that it might not be authentic). But the fact is that anyone who objectively looks at the evidence would undoubtedly be convinced that these passages should not be included.

    Dan, I could not agree with your implications more. It is sad, indeed, that people first hear about this from liberal scholars and unbelievers. This is a real black-eye for the church with regards to our intellectual integrity and the separation between the academia and the pew.

    Having said this, I think that these passages should be placed in the footnotes at most, but most readers versions of the Scripture should not have them at all.

  16. Just a word about Ehrman. His is a sad story, really. I have listened to a number of his university lecture series through the Teaching Company and there is no doubt that he knows his stuff. But the problem is that he was once a fundamentalist believer, and when confronted with the issues that arise with that type of rigidity in the face of the evidence, his faith broke. In a recent interview in Biblical Archeology Review, he described his loss of faith. I believe that had he maintained a more flexible dynamic understanding of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, this breakdown would not have occurred.

    Unfortunately, he presents his views with the fervor of the convert and, it seems after having listened to dozens of hours of his lectures, a degree of resentment and condescension regarding the Scripture.

    A cautionary tale NOT of the danger of opening the door to critical thinking on these issues, but instead on holding a too rigid and narrow view of what inerrancy is all about.

  17. Michael,

    You are correct in pointing out that the Catholic Church does refer to Mark 16 concerning Baptism, but there are also other verses that pertain to our beliefs concerning baptism.

    I wonder though how “signs following” Christian groups would react to Mark 16 being relegated to a footnote? Aren’t those very verses the ones they turn to most often to justify their snake handling, speaking in tongues, drinking poisons etc?

    ChadS

  18. richards, your definition is incongruous with your response to me. I know what the literal definition is to tampering with Scriptures, however, this is not your implication in your assertion to me. I was hoping this is what you would clarify. In my original post, I, in no way, “tampered with Scripture” in the literal sense.

  19. Chad, thanks for the info. Can you direct me to the place where the Catholic church speaks of Mark 16?

    You are right about the snake handling groups. I imagine that most of them would have to be committed KJVers as well :)

  20. ***From CMP:
    Chad, thanks for the info. Can you direct me to the place where the Catholic church speaks of Mark 16?

    REPLY:
    Pardon my presuming upon the request issued to Chad…I would like to offer these.

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3M.HTM

    VI. The Necessity of Baptism
    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.59 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.60 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.61 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
    59 Cf. ⇒ Jn 3:5[ETML:C/].

    60 Cf. ⇒ Mt 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent (1547) DS 1618; LG 14; AG 5.

    61 Cf. ⇒ Mk 16:16.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09674b.htm#IV

    IV. State of Text and Integrity;

    …[Mark 16:9-20] …The passage stands in all the great unicals except B and Aleph–in A, C, (D), E, F, G, H, K, M, (N), S, U, V, X, Gamma, Delta, (Pi, Sigma), Omega, Beth–in all the cursives, in all the Latin manuscripts (O.L. and Vulg.) except k, in all the Syriac versions except the Sinaitic (in the Pesh., Curet., Harcl., Palest.), in the Coptic, Gothic, and most manuscripts of the Armenian. It is cited or alluded to, in the fourth century, by Aphraates, the Syriac Table of Canons, Macarius Magnes, Didymus, the Syriac Acts of the Apostles, Leontius, Pseudo-Ephraem, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom; in the third century, by Hippolytus, Vincentius, the “Acts of Pilate”, the “Apostolic Constitutions”, and probably by Celsus; in the second, by Irenæus most explicitly as the end of Mark’s Gospel (“In fine autem evangelii ait Marcus et quidem dominus Jesus”, etc.–Mark xvi, 19), by Tatian in the “Diatessaron”, and most probably by Justin (“Apol. I”, 45) and Hermas (Pastor, IX, xxv, 2). Moreover, in the fourth century certainly, and probably in the third, the passage was used in the Liturgy of the Greek Church, sufficient evidence that no doubt whatever was entertained as to its genuineness. Thus, if the authenticity of the passage were to be judged by external evidence alone, there could hardly be any doubt about it.

  21. Michael,

    Felicity did a great job in answering for me. My source, however, was a little more mundane.

    I saw on Steve Ray’s website a “Sacraments Chart” and under the heading of scripture Mark 16:16 is listed. See: http://www.catholicconvert.com/Portals/0/SacramentChart.pdf

    I see though that Felicity’s citation from the Catechism provides that same scriptural reference.

    ChadS

  22. Dan,

    Thank you for your thoughtful (and thought-provoking) post. I had a thought regarding your question, “In light of the scholarly consensus, how should translators address these passages?”

    I think that if both the internal (style) and external (manuscript) evidence demonstrated these passages to be nonoriginal, then they ought to be removed from the text. I feel a bit less strongly about this regarding Mark’s ending due to its presence in so many manuscripts, but nonetheless there ought to be a clear indication (perhaps a smaller font) that indicates the fact that it’s originality to the Gospel is highly unlikely.

    I feel even more strongly that the pericope about the adulterous woman in John 7:53-8:11 should be removed from the text and relegated to a footnote, primarily due to the fact that 1) the manuscript evidence shows how it was wedged into John at this point; and 2) it interrupts the flow of the Johannine passage it’s inserted into. While I also greatly appreciate the story and am not suggesting that the account is nonhistorical, it should not continue to be presented as a part of John’s Gospel.

    And while we’re talking about radically changing our translations, when are we going to get rid of translating Yahweh as “Lord” in our Old Testaments? I’d like to see a shift so that our English text transliterates “Yahweh” as God’s name, rather than use a title… ;-)

    Love you guys,
    C.L.

  23. Dan and all, if the text was not in the most ancient manuscripts, I would say that at most the passages should be put in as footnotes, but I have to say that I love John 53-8-11 and would miss it. The section “And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground” lends such an air of authenticity to it. I imagined Jesus writing things such as “thief” “liar” “drunk” without having to point his finger directly at anyone. Even though it was not in the original manuscripts, I wonder if it was SO far from Jesus’ time on earth that it is not at all possible that the event occurred. Or, perhaps, it was a story that had been passed by his original disciples to younger disciples and on and on until someone said, “Hey, this story is too good to let get away. We have to write it down so it doesn’t get lost with time.” I guess we will never know. Or, maybe the scholars among us here have read about how this got inserted. If so, please give us that information if you have the time. Maybe Ehrman gives details in his book about how this story of the adulerous woman came to be in the Bible. Thanks!

    Joanie D.

  24. From the NET Bible Notes (my magisterial authority :) )

    tc The Gospel of Mark ends at this point in some witnesses (א B 304 sys sams armmss Eus Eusmss Hiermss), including two of the most respected mss (א B). The following shorter ending is found in some mss: “They reported briefly to those around Peter all that they had been commanded. After these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from the east to the west, the holy and imperishable preaching of eternal salvation. Amen.” This shorter ending is usually included with the longer ending (L Ψ 083 099 0112 579 al); k, however, ends at this point. Most mss include the longer ending (vv. 9-20) immediately after v. 8 (A C D W [which has a different shorter ending between vv. 14 and 15] Θ Ë13 33 2427 Ï lat syc,p,h bo); however, Jerome and Eusebius knew of almost no Greek mss that had this ending. Several mss have marginal comments noting that earlier Greek mss lacked the verses, while others mark the text with asterisks or obeli (symbols that scribes used to indicate that the portion of text being copied was spurious). Internal evidence strongly suggests the secondary nature of both the short and the long endings. Their vocabulary and style are decidedly non-Markan (for further details, see TCGNT 102-6). All of this evidence strongly suggests that as time went on scribes added the longer ending, either for the richness of its material or because of the abruptness of the ending at v. 8. (Indeed, the strange variety of dissimilar endings attests to the probability that early copyists had a copy of Mark that ended at v. 8, and they filled out the text with what seemed to be an appropriate conclusion. All of the witnesses for alternative endings to vv. 9-20 thus indirectly confirm the Gospel as ending at v. 8.) Because of such problems regarding the authenticity of these alternative endings, 16:8 is usually regarded as the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. There are three possible explanations for Mark ending at 16:8: (1) The author intentionally ended the Gospel here in an open-ended fashion; (2) the Gospel was never finished; or (3) the last leaf of the ms was lost prior to copying. This first explanation is the most likely due to several factors, including (a) the probability that the Gospel was originally written on a scroll rather than a codex (only on a codex would the last leaf get lost prior to copying); (b) the unlikelihood of the ms not being completed; and (c) the literary power of ending the Gospel so abruptly that the readers are now drawn into the story itself. E. Best aptly states, “It is in keeping with other parts of his Gospel that Mark should not give an explicit account of a conclusion where this is already well known to his readers” (Mark, 73; note also his discussion of the ending of this Gospel on 132 and elsewhere). The readers must now ask themselves, “What will I do with Jesus? If I do not accept him in his suffering, I will not see him in his glory.”

    Concerning both Mark and John, one must explain both why it is virtually absent from the earliest Greek manuscripts and why the vocabulary and style of both are so different from the rest of the book. While we have the same vocabulary and style problem between 1 Peter and 2 Peter, it is easier to resolve due to the external evidence and the explaination of an amanuensis. Both Mark 16 and John 8 seem to be beyond any plausible explaination for continued inclusion other than emotional attachment and the plausibility of their basic historicity (esp with John 8). Yet we must be careful since historicity does not determine inspiration or canonicity. (BTW: I find no problem believing the John 8 is historical).

  25. Thanks, folks, for the excellent interaction! I really appreciate the great comments and, frankly, the boldness with which you express yourselves. I’m encouraged, too, by the general response that you would want these passages relegated to the footnotes. Since they have had such a long history in the text, and since they are well known, I think they should be in footnotes rather than not being printed at all.

    I appreciate, too, the concerns that some raised about relying on scholars rather than relying on scripture. However, what needs to be stressed is that scripture as we have it today is based on an eclectic compiling of the data from the earliest and best manuscripts. There is no single manuscript that we can point to and say, “That’s exactly what the original says!” But to think that just because these two passages have been in printed Bibles doesn’t mean that they were always a part of the Bible. In spite of what the general public may think about biblical scholars at times, responsible scholarship does not simply chop out of the Bible what it doesn’t like. To be sure, there are those with a liberal agenda who twist the meaning of the text, but very few simply chuck it because it doesn’t meet with their agenda. And such scholars have had zero impact on the wording of the text that other scholars accept as genuine.

    At bottom, these passages and several other, significantly shorter ones (no more than a single verse or two at the most) have a lot of emotional baggage attached to them. If you’ve grown up reading a passage as scripture, it’s very hard to even consider the possibility that it’s not—especially if it’s a favorite passage!

    As for the historical question about the story of the woman caught in adultery, I make a distinction between what the evangelist wrote (which is what I regard as inspired) and what additions to the text may still be historically true. Something doesn’t need to be inspired to be true. There are, in fact, several places in Acts where additions were made by certain manuscripts (collectively known as the western text-type)—additions that may have come about by early oral tradition that had some genuine historical basis to it. But because such passages are not generally known, there is no emotional baggage attached to them. As Henry Alford argued long ago, we must always be willing to jettison the most treasured passage if the textual data do not support having it in the text. He was an honest, conservative scholar.

    John 7.53–8.11 is a text that so many scribes wanted in the Bible that it ended up in quite a few different places. My take on it is that, however, it is not entirely historical. Rather, I think it was a conflated story between two different stories that circulated even earlier in various parts of the Roman Empire. What I’ve been wrestling with for some time is (1) who originally wrote the story, and (2) what did it have in it? My preliminary investigation suggests that the language is more Lukan than Johannine, and that it would have gone after Luke 21.38 if Luke ever intended to include it in his Gospel (some manuscripts even place it here). However, not exactly in the present form. I do think, though, that Jesus did in fact write something in the dirt—precisely because it’s ambiguous, mysterious, and is just begging for some sort of definitive answer: WHAT did he write? That several later scribes actually wrote down what their hunches were is very much in line with human nature. And it also tells us that the text has grown with time.

    Yet, remarkably, over fourteen hundred years of copying the New Testament by hand, the text has grown no more than about 2%! That’s a growth of about 1/10 of one percent in the average person’s lifetime. If Donald Trump had put all his money on that investment, he’d die a poor man.

  26. I honestly am FLABBERGASTED that some people suggest REMOVING text from sacred scripture. :O

    When you can go in and start relegating passages to footnotes, or removing them entirely, based on any criteria you intellectualize, you act in opposition to the scriptures.

    The last few verses of the Bible tell you point blank **NOT TO DO THAT.**

    18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

    Consider what makes the texts included in the Bible SACRED—Why THOSE texts? Why not the Gospel of Mary, or the Gospel of Judas?

    What makes a text known to be trustworthy and called “divinely inspired”? What is the criteria?

    Lastly, What does the “sacred” part of “Sacred Scripture” mean if men consider scripture able to be tampered with in this way?

  27. Michael,

    If you compare your NET Bible notes with the link Felicity provided to the Catholic Encyclopedia you get do very different opinions on the authenticity of the passage in Mark. I’ll grant you that the Catholic Encyclopedia was first published in 1911 or 1912, and reflects earlier scholarship, but they both make appeals to the manuscript evidence.

    The passage you provided says that both Eusebius and Jerome make no mention of anything past Mark 16:8. The CE argues that in this instance Jerome most unlikely borrowed uncritically that opinion from Eusebius, which may have reflected an incomplete copy in circulation.

    Furthermore, the CE argues that the majority of manuscripts include the additional Markan verses, even though the oldest don’t. The CE makes what I think is a valid point in that the oldest doesn’t make it the best.

    I think as scholars that raises an intersting point. Do we trust the oldest versions merely because they are the oldest or do we trust the manuscripts that seem to be in consensus even if they aren’t the oldest? Or is it a combination of both approaches? Historians tend to trust sources that are the oldest and are assumed to be closest to the original even if it disagrees with more recent examples. Is that true of archaeologists or scholars of ancient manuscripts?

    Dan — I appreciate that you mention the fact that over 1400 years the NT has grown by only 2%. I suspect that much of that 2% can be accounted for by taking into account grammatical and spelling changes that naturally occur as languages develop, change and become standardized. In my mind this fact also attests that the Scriptures are the word of God and he has protected it from corruption throughout the years. The Biblical manuscripts we have are consistent and virtually identical across the centuries and number in the hundreds if not thousands. Whereas, the ancient sources for much of what we know about Greek history and philosophy are far less and even less accurate than Biblical sources.

    ChadS

  28. Dr. Wallace,

    Did not the late Bruce Metzger give a defense on why the Mark 16 passage should be retained? What is your view on his arguments?

    Kurt

  29. Felicity,

    Regarding the reference to Rev 22:18, did you know that this also appears in Deut 12:32? Would you then say that the command in Deut commands us not to include the Prophets, Psalms, and NT? Or could Deut and Rev be appealing to the local context, i.e., the Law as given to Moses and the vision given to John? Exegesis requires context.

    Deuteronomy 12:32 32 ¶ “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

    Revelation 22:18 ¶ I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;

    It sounds like this is more of an emotional appeal to leave a passage in the text without addressing the arguments Dan has brought up. No doubt that there could be *some* manuscript evidence for these passages, but I think that one of Dan’s quotes would be appropriate here: “Manuscripts must be *weighed* and not *counted*.” In other words, not all manuscripts are equal; age and pedigree are essential elements in determining how must consideration is due. Dan’s argument is that the manuscripts that attest to these passages are not nearly as strong as those they deny the passages.

    Whether we agree with this assessment or not, his argument does merit investigation.

    Richard

  30. Felicity, what would you say if someone, today, chose to add some text to, say, Luke. And somehow he got it published by Zondervan or some other publishing house, and it stayed for a while and even got picked up in later editions? Would you say that spotting it as a later addition and removing it was “removing text from Scripture”? It made it into publication, and it was circulated and even repeated in later publications, after all.

    While an extreme example, it is the same situation really. If those passages were truly later additions that had NOTHING to do with the original text, then it would be like adding human words to God’s Word, and in a way in which everyone would think it was God’s Word. So, removing them would be necessary, and that is why this question is relevant and important.

  31. Vance,

    This may be on or off topic but I had a question for you. I think I remember you saying you had a history back round so maybe you (or anyone else who posts here) can help me understand something I have been curious about for a while.

    I have read different reviews of books with people giving their different opinions, but a consistent complaint I see in the reviews is “poor scholarship” for many historical (Christianity mainly) books. I understand that for certain people, disagreeing with the conclusion of a book may signify “poor scholarship”, but what are the general rules or guidelines for scholarly works?

    More specifically, how does one determine what source is better than another, and how does one determine if that person has interpreted their source correctly (given of course their source is more than likely in the past and in a different context). Obviously historians are not mathematicians, in the sense they their equations always come out “perfect” each time but I’m having difficulty grasping the means in which historians draw their conclusions without having already presupposed (at least something) in their minds.

    This has been brought to light in the recent interview between Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith (i.e. Beckwith’s “reconversion” Catholicism), and followed up in blog comments where both sides seem to be using the same information but are coming up with completely different conclusions.

    Hopefully you can understand my question.

    Your brother in Christ,

    -Josh

  32. Josh, arguing over the relative value of sources is a constant battle area, even among secular scholars. It is all very nuanced and they will argue for the merits of one source or another based on a wide variety of criteria. Closeness in time to events recounted, indications of bias (or even assumptions of bias), track record of author, if known, conditions of discovery, etc.

    But the issue of “poor scholarship” on the part of people of faith goes much deeper. Basically, there are two inter-related problems.

    1. There IS a lot of bad scholarship out there from people of faith. The scientific method, even when used in history, is based on the idea of letting the evidence dictate the conclusions. If you think X and it turns out that the evidence shows that Y is more likely, you change you position to Y. And, of course, ALL such positions are only held to the degree that the evidence calls for. People of faith, and even scholars of faith, very often do this backwards (and possibly necessarily so). They start with the conclusion that they hold by faith, and then go and look for evidence to support that position. The more scholarly make a show of reviewing all the evidence, but in the end their faith dictates the conclusion. Now, it can be argued that ALL scholars start with a bias, but the DEGREE of bias and “proof-texting” used in the secular scholarship is much less, for the most part. The problem is that too many Christian scholars try to play the game on the secular playing field, but then don’t really play by the secular rules.

    2. When there are scholars of faith, this issue of core faith beliefs will, at some point, create a disconnect with the scholarly process. The scholar who is also a Christian has concluded that the Scriptural texts are basically accurate REGARDLESS of the evidence, not BASED ON the evidence. Now, they may be able to show how it IS accurate even by scholarly, non-faith based, evidence, but the bottom line is that this is apologetics for the most part, not strict historical analysis.

    Some Christian scholars do better than others at remaining objective, but we must acknowledge that we WILL come to different conclusions due to our faith. Without that faith persuasion, we WOULD give less weight to certain documents than we do. Of course, the purely atheistic scholar would do the same in the opposite direction, since he also has an agenda, and is EQUALLY unscientific in his methods at times.

    Of course, we believe that our additional insight is, actually, additional evidence for our search for the truth, and so in our personal studies, and even in our presentation of conclusions to fellow believers, it is absolutely necessary to add that additional insight into the mix. To do otherwise would be ignoring valuable evidence. But we can not expect the non-believer to be persuaded by that additional insight. There are simply two methods of study and, very often, two conclusions reached.

    Having said that, Christian scholars need to make sure they are using the right “touchstones” as core “absolutes”, but that goes to Michael’s discussions regarding inerrancy, etc.

  33. ***From richards:
    It sounds like this is more of an emotional appeal to leave a passage in the text without addressing the arguments Dan has brought up.

    REPLY to richards:
    What you have just perpetrated is the fallacious ad hominem mode of argumentation. Instead of addressing the points I make, you deflect by an attempt to call into question my means of argument—in other words, you make your point about me, rather than the issue at hand. I addressed the claims of Dr. Wallace in my link to the CE. I asked pertinent questions concerning what is the criteria by which texts are judged, and no one has addressed that—the comments have been mere discussion on where the assumed “faulty” texts should go, and now, a critique of my mode of prose.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    REPLY to all who consider removing portions of the Bible appropriate:

    Let me be clear. If your sole infallible authority is the Bible, and that authority is deemed to have error according to your view, then, by your own point of view, you DENY the infallibility of your ONLY authority. By the suggestion that some of the claimed “infallible text” is, in fact fallible, you COMPLETELY negate your only claimed means of accessing the Divine Revelation of God. This begs the question—why should anyone believe anything you have to say? Who is your valid authority? You have destroyed your own means of credibility through the prideful negation of the “sacred.”

    The Jews had a teaching authority. The scriptures were sacred texts that were held as separate resources. http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/texts.htm
    The Christian Bible was codified as a single inerrant Sacred text. What is known as the HOLY BIBLE was compiled from among myriad texts by a teaching authority that determined the veracity of those texts. This teaching authority determined what texts were properly considered divinely inspired because THEIR authority was given by Jesus Christ Himself. Prior to this codification of texts, there was no Holy Bible—there was only Sacred Oral Tradition, Sacred Jewish texts, and “modern” Epistles and Gospels. This teaching authority transmuted their Christ-given authority to the Sacred Texts of the people of the New Covenant and codified them as properly believed to be worthy of trust that the texts were God-breathed. Without the codification—the texts had no traceable authority. The authority of the teachers, by their historically Jewish and Christ-given power of “binding and loosing” finally, and infallibly, and without question, BOUND the texts as Holy Christian Scripture in the year 405, though the specific Canon had carried the authority of Sacred Tradition from much earlier. ~~Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) pp. 237–238;

    Please explain this contradiction to me: Your beliefs rest wholly in your confidence in the inerrant, infallible authority of Sacred Scripture, and yet, many on this blog have found “error” and “fallibility” in these texts which, as testified by your willingness to alter the texts, are not at all “sacred.”

    Although I may sound assertive (polemic rather than irenic), and it may be off-putting to some of you, it is out of genuine concern. To violate the Sacred Texts of Christianity, I believe, could be seen as blasphemous. As your Sister in Christ, I am asking you to reconsider your position.

    Matthew 18 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [6] in heaven.

    Peace be with you all.

  34. Felicity, the question would be whether that text was included in what was originally canonized and deemed “sacred text”. If we hold to the idea that God chose those men at that time for that job, then we must look to what actual text they deemed holy. Now, I have not looked to see when those particular portions of the text were considered added, but if it was after the time that the Early Fathers deemed them part of the canon, then that answers your question. If those portions were in existence earlier than the canonization process, then I would agree with you completely, those portions of the text were chosen by the men assigned by God to gather the proper texts.

    I could go dig out the details, but maybe Dan or someone else here has the dates of the various texts.

  35. Vance,

    Thank you for comments, they are very insightful.

    The difficulty that I see currently is the shift from modern thinking; i.e. we can achieve everything and understand everything in reality through the scientific method, to the post-modern thinking i.e. we can’t really “know” things for certain, so it’s better if we allow people to interpret “facts” how they see best. This seems to have tremendous affects on scholarship and readership in regards to what we believe to be “scholarly” which in essence (it communicates to me this at least), “what really happened back then”.

    So it seems extremely difficult for me to grasp the idea that all scholars do not void themselves of their philosophical foundations when conducting their research and methology. In regard to the scientific method, does it not become extremely subjective and difficult to use in light of the fact that we interpret the “facts” in light of our current social and historical context while divorcing (reading about and living in a cultural are completely different things) the state in which they were originally intended to communicate in?

    I understand this is what historians and scholars do (context, culture etc), but I don’t think you can have any objective perspectives on it, because they (secular & non-secular) are both influenced by their own prepositions on the “facts” whether they are indifferent to the issue or not.

    To me it seems similar to asking 4 artists to paint a picture of the dog I saw today, they will all draw a dog, but they will come up with different details onto what they depict a dog to be, based on their personal experiences with dogs, what they have studied and understood dogs to be like. We can get even similar pictures if we tell them a certain type of dog they are familiar with, and even more similar if we tell them the hair and eye color, the expression of the dog, etc. Now did they represent the dog that I actually, in reality saw? They certainly represented it, but in reality, it was NOT the same dog that I saw. They brought in their own interpretations of my vision, which was not in tune with the picture of the dog that I experienced in reality.

    So my question is why is it faulted religious scholars who come to conclusions using the same information that secular-scholars have that affirm their pre-supposed bias, when in fact secular scholars have their own bias on the interpretations of the “facts” (based on experience, level of understanding, etc) from the beginning as well?

    Just my thoughts, I’m completely ignorant on the method in which historians do their work so I mean no disrespect to them, I’m just trying to understand and discover the philosophy that governs their methology.

    Curious your thoughts,

    Your brother in Christ,

    -Josh

  36. I think the reason why religious scholars are faulted more often is because they do it more often and/or to more effect. While it is true that even secular scholars have preconceptions and biases, it simply does not have as rigid a mandate in most cases. Most historians I have been around and most I have read do a much better job than the Christian scholar who MUST, as a matter of definition, let their preconception control their conclusion on many issues. This is not to fault the Christian scholar, since his faith is part of his “pool of evidence”, but to point out that he is basically following a fundamentally different process.

    A good secular historian can truly strive for absolute objectivity, but will only reach that goal with varying degrees of success. The Christian scholar can not claim that goal AT ALL on certain issues. The atheist scholar is an odd mix. He can claim objectivity based on a lack of preconception, but his lack of belief is itself preconception which impacts his analysis.

    The post-modern relativizing of history is an interesting phenomena. As a history major, you take courses like “what is history” learning about approaches which range from the very scientific which emphasizes the presentation of facts in a very scientific way, in an archival manner, letting others do the application and analysis and those who feel that the ONLY use for history is to find a useful application to modern times, and thus are in favor of reinterpreting in every generation to fit its needs. There is a constant tension between these two approaches. But the modern school is not dead yet!

  37. Just a quick note to everyone to keep things extremely civil. Go out of your way to be kind while not necessarily going out of your way to agree. :)

  38. To answer Vance: Although throughout Christendom the canon of Sacred texts was a matter of authoritative Sacred Tradition and clearly taught by the Magisterium of the Church, final Dogmatic closing of the Canon of Scripture occurred at the Council of Trent in 1546. I’m not certain, but I would hazard a guess the Dogmatic defining was predicated by Luther’s attempts to remove Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelations. The Catholic Church usually only dogmatically defines things when there is heresy afoot.
    …Sounds eerily similar to today’s discussion, though today’s discussion is on a much smaller scale.

  39. I would not say “throughout Christendom” because there was a time before the first canonizations by synods and councils, and those occurred in the fourth century, IIRC. Augustine himself considered the canon closed at that point. So, I would use that time frame for determining whether these texts were present at the time the Church fathers made the canon official.

  40. Vance,
    I already posted this evidence of the passage being accepted in the 4th century and earlier, but I’ll post the pertinent part to your qualifications again:

    “It is cited or alluded to, in the fourth century, by Aphraates, the Syriac Table of Canons, Macarius Magnes, Didymus, the Syriac Acts of the Apostles, Leontius, Pseudo-Ephraem, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom; in the third century, by Hippolytus, Vincentius, the “Acts of Pilate”, the “Apostolic Constitutions”, and probably by Celsus; in the second, by Irenæus most explicitly as the end of Mark’s Gospel (“In fine autem evangelii ait Marcus et quidem dominus Jesus”, etc.–Mark xvi, 19), by Tatian in the “Diatessaron”, and most probably by Justin (“Apol. I”, 45) and Hermas (Pastor, IX, xxv, 2). Moreover, in the fourth century certainly, and probably in the third, the passage was used in the Liturgy of the Greek Church, sufficient evidence that no doubt whatever was entertained as to its genuineness. Thus, if the authenticity of the passage were to be judged by external evidence alone, there could hardly be any doubt about it.”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09674b.htm#III

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm

  41. Vance,

    I think you bring up some very interesting comments about historians and their craft. Every historian I know (I did graduate work in history) would admit they have a bias or preconception about certain their particular field of history. The rub comes in when they say their bias is limited. I know in the department I was in there were ideological rivalries among professors. Their discussions would get quite heated as they each tried to defend their turf and particular historical world view from each other — usually in a collegial manner but not always. Sometimes they couldn’t even agree on what certain “facts” were — which led to an almost comical naysaying between the sides. So I doubt that secular scholars are any better then Christian scholars at working past bias and preconceptions and what is true and what isn’t.

    As I’ve said elsewhere I don’t believe that faith and reason are incompatible. The Christian has absolutely nothing to fear from scholarship. I think that good, solid orthodox Christians of all stripes can do good solid historical research that stands up to peer review. I believe they can use the same tools and apply the same critical thinking skills that secular scholars do to their own research. Even to this day much great research and writing is going on at religiously affiliated universities. Many Catholic scholars are members of religious orders and are doing good research and archaeology in the Holy Land.

    ChadS

  42. Folks, the comments here have gotten a little sidetracked and a little too pugilistic. If you recall, I said in the blog that I was not going to entertain the arguments about the authenticity of these two lengthy passages; rather, my question was whether we should remove such texts to the footnotes in light of the scholarly consensus. Perhaps that question was exhausted yesterday, prompting many of you to get into the details of the text.

    Frankly, there are some people commenting who seem so angry that their vision is a bit blurry. When Westcott and Hort produced their magisterial Greek New Testament in 1881, there was a virulent reaction by the Dean of Chichester, John Burgon. He produced volumes about that the long ending of Mark needing to be retained, about “God” in 1 Timothy 3.16 needing to stay there instead of “who,” and some treatments of patristic quotations of the New Testament. Hort told Westcott that he wanted to read what Burgon had to say, but that the tone was so hostile and personal it was difficult for him to wade through the barrage. I would ask those of you who are on the emotional fence to tone it down a couple of notches. If you want others to hear what you’re saying, civility and substance will go a long way.

    I won’t get into the details on this issue, but suffice it to say the following: As I’ve already mentioned, the great majority of New Testament scholars would regard both of these passages to be spurious. This is no surprise in scholarly circles; the opinion has held sway for over a century. I mean this with all charity, but it is really an argument out of ignorance to say that the reasons for these decisions are “based on any criteria you intellectualize.” If anyone wants to know the arguments for these various views, there is a wealth of information that you can consult. But I must insist that text-critical scholars do not do their work based on any criteria that they intellectualize.

    Further, to argue that we have no right to take out parts of scripture or to add to it is also an argument that is not well founded. It really begs the question: What standard are you measuring things by? Is the standard the 1516 Erasmus Greek text? It radically changed things found in the manuscripts. Is the standard the Vulgate? If so, which version? The Vulgate is so corrupt in the copies that it’s very difficult to determine the original wording in many places. Is the standard a particular manuscript? If so, it should be noted that every single copy of scripture has either taken away or added to the text. For one thing, no scribe is perfect. Mistakes are made. For another, the scribes filled in data where there were ambiguities. So, again the question is relevant: What standard should we use to claim that some scholars are taking away from scripture? I am inclined to think that what biblical scholarship has done in the past five hundred years is to burn off the dross to get to the gold. Or to put it another way, it’s not that the modern translations are only 90% of the word of God; rather, the KJV is 110%!

    Let me give some details. The earliest manuscripts of the New Testament are shorter than the later manuscripts. The earliest papyri, for example, do not have the story of the woman caught in adultery. The passage is not found in P66, P75, Aleph, A, or B. These are among the earliest manuscripts we have, from the second to the fifth century. If we say that these scribes have cut out part of the word of God, on what basis are we arguing that? No patristic commentary on the passage exists until centuries after these papyri were penned. So, is it not possible that later scribes added the passage to scripture rather than that early ones omitted it?

    Now, admittedly, that discussion is over an emotionally-charged passage. Let’s consider something that is probably a bit less significant to most of us. It has to do with the “Amen” that is found at the end of some of the New Testament letters. Some later manuscripts have the “Amen” at the end of ALL the letters, while others have it only at the end of some of them. The evidence from the manuscripts is so overwhelming that we would be foolish to read “Amen” at the end of each letter. But if the standard that one is following is one of these later manuscripts, he or she might think that the earlier scribes perverted scripture. I would call that a knee-jerk reaction that is unworthy of our allegiance to Christ. Precisely because God clothed himself with humanity in time-space history, because the scriptures are written in such a way that intentionally risks historical inquiry, we do not honor Christ if we close our eyes and say no to history.

    Three other points. First, the Greek text that stands behind the KJV has about 5000 differences (yes, that’s three zeroes) from the modern Greek texts. Yet the KJV base was produced by a Catholic priest who was in a race to get the first Greek New Testament published on a printing press. His first edition has been called the most poorly edited book ever produced. It was based essentially on half a dozen late manuscripts, from the tenth century on. The modern translations, on the other hand, are based on manuscripts that come from as early as the second century. And instead of half a dozen, we now know of almost 6000 Greek manuscripts (let alone tens of thousands in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and other ancient languages). In other words, modern translations are based on about one thousand times as many manuscripts as the KJV, and they predate the Greek manuscripts of the KJV by almost a millennium. Are we really going to say that those manuscripts have, in every instance, removed portions of the word of God? Is it not possible that the text has grown over time? Further, modern translations do not always shorten the text (i.e., by omitting words, phrases, clauses). In nearly 700 places, the text behind the KJV is shorter. This at least shows that scholars are not trying to chop up the text. They are seriously investigating the data and going where the evidence leads them.

    Second, in case some readers are not KJV-Only advocates, but think that the Catholic Bibles are the only way to go, you should realize that the RSV and NRSV both received the imprimatur. Yet these modern translations are based on modern Greek texts. Catholics were on the translation committees. And they reversed the decisions about what the original text said from earlier generations of Catholics. Are we going to blame these scholars for using whatever criteria suits their fancy?

    Third, the standard critical text of the Greek New Testament that is used today had five editors on the committee. One was a Greek Orthodox scholar, Johannes Karavidopoulos. Another was a Roman Catholic scholar, Cardinal Carlo Martini, formerly the Archbishop of Milan (from 1980 to 2002). Martini was highly considered for the papal office, too. The point is that Martini is a squeaky-clean Catholic with impeccable credentials. Yet, on the committee for the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, he agreed with the rest of the committee (it was a unanimous decision each time) that Mark 16.9-20 and John 7.53-8.11 were not original to the Gospels but were added later. These, of course, are the most visible examples. But the committee made thousands of decisions and most of them received unanimous votes. Further, between the four editions produced since 1966, there were changes made—often because of recent discoveries, often because of new insights about an author’s language, argument, etc. That the same committee members could reverse themselves in light of better evidence shows the integrity of the work. It simply is a cheap shot to say that these scholars based their decisions on any criteria that they intellectualized.

  43. Chad, I agree completely and I have seen many of those knock-down drag-outs in my day! People DO become passionate about their positions, no doubt. But they hold them on an individual basis, not usually collectively (although there are “schools of thought”, etc), and even then they are not “believed” in the same sense as our religious faith. I think these two biases and preconception approaches are not the same, kind of apples and oranges in most cases. One is at least theoretically open to change, and theoretically developed FROM the evidence, whereas religious belief is neither. I have never seen any secular historian claim to be free of bias, but I think it is much easier in the big picture. After all, you and I are biased and proud of it! :)

    Eventually, in secular scholarship, consensuses develop which are based on the material evidence at the time. If there is insufficient evidence, then there often remain competing theories, but with enough independent thinkers, the best conclusions based on the evidence acceptable to secular scholars does tend to come to the top. It is that “acceptable” evidence bit that becomes the issue between the secular scholars and those of Christian faith.

    I do agree that any Christian scholar can do great historical work, and many do. But the problem arises when the area of study coincides with an area of faith. At that point, the Christian scholar very often faces a dilemma. He has to recognize that his faith has no evidentiary value to those of no faith, and that when he is presenting to both Christian and secular audiences, bringing in evidence believed by faith will count as no evidence. At the same time, it is very often the faith itself which causes him to come to a particular conclusion, not just the data itself. He must admit to himself, in intelletual honesty that, absent his faith, the material evidence on its own would most likely not lead to that conclusion, or at least not as convincingly. Not in every case, but in many.

    In those situations, the Christian scholar can go ahead and make a case based entirely on the material evidence that points to his conclusion, but this carries a certain amount if intellectual dishonesty since he KNOWS that his conclusion was reached in large part due to his faith. He KNOWS that he is really doing historical apologetics as much as pure history.

  44. Vance,

    I understand completely what you are saying. I think you are correct to point out that their faith does inform their intellectual inquiries and that it does point them somewhat in another direction. I’m not sure it’s intellectual dishonesty — perhaps only if they argued that their faith had nothing to do with their research. I can’t think of any glaring examples here to give.

    As a general note on this topic I think that in general a continual reassessment of what we know and how we know it is not only necessary but a good thing. The way Americans understand their history is considerably different than say it was in 1960, which was much different than it was in 1900.

    So if the best evidence and informed scholarly opinions say these two passages are not part of the original documents then perhaps they should be relegated to footnotes. As Christians in search of our roots and trying to be as certain as possible of an accurate and faithful translation of our scriptures we need to undertake and not be afraid of the answers we come to. Even if it means relegating to footnotes two passages that many of us grew up with.

    Vance — I’d say I’m proud of my bias and wear it proudly on my sleeve.

    ChadS

  45. Dr. Wallace:
    I don’t know what posts you refer to as “pugilistic” and “on the emotional fence” and imply a lack of “civility and substance,” but I assume you refer to mine, since you directly quote me, though you don’t name me. Since I am not interested in the textual criticisms of my own writing, suffice it to say, I am sorry that you see my disagreement as a personal attack of some sort. Unlike you, I have not attempted to malign any individual as “angry” and arguing “out of ignorance,” or characterized any claim as a “cheap shot.” If you intend to offer personal advice on my literary voice, I would humbly suggest you remove the log from your own eye prior to attending to the speck in mine.

    It seems very clear to me that the “substance” contained in my posts has been roundly ignored in favor of finding some sort of fault with my particular writing style. This is evident in the fact no one yet has bothered to explain the INHERENT contradiction in the professed belief that the Bible is sacred, inerrant, and infallible yet, as you characterize a passage that likely wasn’t written by Mark as “spurious.” Spurious denotes falsehood—a bastardization of the text. That would mean the text is NOT infallible. If the text is not infallible, and you find a portion that you believe should not be there, then the text is NOT inerrant. If the text is not infallible or inerrant, and to “remedy” the “spurious” nature of the text you propose altering the text, there is NO sacredness concerning the Bible as a whole and complete authoritative body.

    This inherent contradiction casts doubt on the religious connotations of all this textual criticism. This is so in that no longer is the study of the text a means to come to know God’s revelation more deeply, it is merely human literary historical criticism sans the eternal implications. It is no longer a sacred, inerrant, infallible, authoritative text, it is a mere historical document scrutinized for individual authorship. This is not evangelization, this is “intellectualization” of the texts.

    In order to see the Bible as the word of God, there is a degree of faith one must have. Faith is trust in the revelation given us by God. Reducing the texts to single authorship, or authorial intent, or earliest possible known sources, calls into question God’s means of revelation. God did many things “in the fullness of time.” God allows for development and growth. However, when He imposes a final decree, He acts swiftly and definitively through His ministers.

    Vance seems to have understood the implications I suggested in my prior posts—He also seems to have seen the clear standard I put forth for measuring the authenticity of Biblical reference. Since you, Dr. Wallace, seem to have overlooked it, I refer you to post number 33, the paragraph right under the “religionfacts” web-source. In a nutshell—the standard is: Authentic, authoritative texts are those codified via those whose authority to do so can be traced to the apostles.

    If a mere consensus of “scholars” with no traceable apostolic authority can determine what is claimed to be the word of the Almighty God to His people, then all of Christianity is relative to the whim of the modern sensibilities of those who elevate their own intellect to the level of mouthpieces for God. What is the difference between that willful elevation of intellect and what the serpent in the garden encouraged Eve to commit? The serpent told her “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” and in her desire to claim for herself the authority of God rather than live in obedience, she brought sin and death into the world. The serpent is the father of lies—Eve already knew what was good an evil, but her self-interested desire to be like God clouded her willingness to be obedient to the Divine Providence of the Creator.

    God—in His Providence—provides a means for man to know His Will; we merely must be obedient to His revealed Truth that has been consistent and immutable throughout all time. God has always raised up leaders who are clearly given His authority among His people—and he punishes those who challenge that authority. One example is when Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses saying, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”

    God then spoke to them and addressed the affront, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.
    10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, [1] like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us [2] because we have done foolishly and have sinned.

    I believe in the infallible, inerrant, authoritative Biblical texts in that I trust God’s chosen servants. Christ built his Church on a foundation of Rock—not the shifting sands of scholars who appoint themselves the mouthpieces of God and elevate their own intellect rather than choose obedience to His design. What need of God does man have if he believes “the tree of knowledge is good and pleasing” and chooses that tempting fruit over humble obedience? That man chooses himself rather than God. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

    Prayerfully submitted,
    Felicity

  46. Felicity,

    I have sensed the same tone as Dan in these latest exchanges. I’m afraid that this is one of those areas where many Catholics have painted themselves into a corner and must defend the indefensible.

    You said:
    “If a mere consensus of “scholars” with no traceable apostolic authority can determine what is claimed to be the word of the Almighty God to His people, then all of Christianity is relative to the whim of the modern sensibilities of those who elevate their own intellect to the level of mouthpieces for God.”

    This “mere consensus of ‘scholars'” has necessarily become irrelevant because you are not allowed, in this case, to consider the evidence since it goes against the Vatican. This is too bad. This tendency is one of the primary reasons why I am neither a Catholic nor a KJV Only advocate. Both appeal to the comfort of a supposed infallibility rather than look at the evidence and follow it wherever it leads. While you claim “apostolic authority,” there is an elephant in the room which amounts to a denial of the authority of evidences. God made evidences to point to truth, not to mislead us from the truth.

  47. Chad, I think where the “intellectual dishonesty” (much too strong of a word, I admit) could come in would be in stating a case on the material evidence alone AS convincing when you know that, absent your faith, it may well NOT be convincing, or at least not as convincing as you are presenting the case.

    It can come up in situations in which there is evidence on both sides of an issue (say, historicity of the patriarchal accounts or the Exodus or the invasion the promise land). The Christian scholar will start with the presumption that it is strictly historical, based on his faith. He can then find a lot of material evidence to support that conclusion, but if he was honest with himself, he would admit that there is evidence both ways and that, absent his faith presumption, he would very likely reach a different conclusion.

    Now, when that scholar presents that case historically, he could very possibly present it AS IF the material evidence alone was sufficient to reach the conclusion of historicity. He will not say “if I were to base my conclusion solely on the material evidence, I may be undecided on this issue, or even hold that it is most likely NOT strictly historical, but I am a Christian and my faith tells me it is historical, so that is what I believe.”

    Now, I admit that the human psyche works very differently and if you believe something based on faith, it is difficult to have that level of self-reflection to admit what you might conclude absent that faith. If there is evidence there, we tend subconsciously to weight it most favorably to our pre-existing beliefs. But I will admit that I hold many stories in Scripture as more historical than the evidence alone would support (even though I am not by any means a holder to strict literal historical narrative in all passages).

  48. ***From CMP:
    I have sensed the same tone as Dan in these latest exchanges.

    REPLY:
    As I said, I am not particularly interested in textual criticism of my writing. My tone is polite and pointed. I offer my comments with honesty and conviction. I do not need to be critical of others to bolster the veracity of what I am saying.

    ***From CMP:
    I’m afraid that this is one of those areas where many Catholics have painted themselves into a corner and must defend the indefensible.
    You said:
    “If a mere consensus of “scholars” with no traceable apostolic authority can determine what is claimed to be the word of the Almighty God to His people, then all of Christianity is relative to the whim of the modern sensibilities of those who elevate their own intellect to the level of mouthpieces for God.”
    This “mere consensus of ’scholars’” has necessarily become irrelevant because you are not allowed, in this case, to consider the evidence since it goes against the Vatican.

    REPLY:
    This is simply false. This is the ugly head of prejudice that claims another’s faith in their understanding of the means of God’s revelation is mere obedience to a man-made dictum. Please refer again to the passage concerning Aaron and Miriam. God chooses upon whom His authority rests—the obedience is to God.

    ***From CMP:
    Both appeal to the comfort of a supposed infallibility rather than look at the evidence and follow it wherever it leads.

    REPLY:
    Again, I say this is a prejudiced conjecture. I ask you, when reading the Scriptures, what “authority” do you look to? You suggest that “Catholics have painted themselves into [some unnamed] corner” that is “indefensible,” I suggest, rather, that you have painted yourself into an indefensible corner. That corner is the “Authorial Intent” or “Historical Grammatical” hermeneutic itself.
    As you stated in your “how to perform a Gnostic Bible study” blog, “We are held accountable to those who have gone before us, knowing that God’s spirit was with them as well and we had better think seriously about departing from them theologically, yet the rightly interpreted Scripture (when available) is our ultimate and only infallible authority” (bottom, post 42).

    First: In striking out some of the text of the canon of the Bible itself due to a perceived problem with single authorship, you strike out the Divine Editor who is ultimately the Author of the texts in question. You deny your accountability “to those who have gone before us, knowing that God’s spirit was with them” in favor of your own “modern consensus” as to what criteria testifies to the authenticity of divinely inspired texts. If single authorship is a requirement—many many passages and whole books of the Bible can be stricken. I do not think that is your ultimate goal, but that is where this hermeneutical criteria leads.

    Second: You mention a lurking elephant. The elephant in the room is not “the denial of the authority of evidences” as Catholics most definitely believe the evidence is very clearly in support of Catholic Dogma (though you dismiss that conclusion based on your bias that Catholics abdicate their intellect when agreeing with their Magisterium—it’s really a catch-22 you devise—I wonder how you rationalize Dr. Beckwith’s conversion—but that is afield if the current issue). No…The elephant trumpets loud and clear that his presence is in the statement “the rightly interpreted Scripture (when available) is our ultimate and only infallible authority.”

    That elephant is, in fact, the relativist nature of your words “rightly interpreted”—and that elephant stands squarely at the bottom of your “Authorial Intent” hermeneutic. At its core, your professed hermeneutic is ultimately a reader response criticism which you ironically condemned in the “Gnostic Bible study” blog as “lucky-lotto hermeneutics.” You rely on relativistic consensus of scholars with no known verification but their own intellect and letters after their names to determine what is “rightly interpreted” and consider that “infallible.” Infallibility is immutable, or else it fails. Something cannot be infallible and changeable. Since “rightly interpreted” per an unverified consensus is changeable (as evidenced by this current discussion about removing sacred text), by definition, it cannot be infallible. Your method fails—it is fallacious at its foundation.

    Lastly, we do agree, however, on your final point: “God made evidences to point to truth, not to mislead us from the truth.” I would only add, “those who have ears ought to hear.”

    Sincerely,
    Felicity

  49. Vance,

    I understand exactly what you mean. “Intellectual dishonest” would be too strong a term. Perhaps we could settle for “overstating or exaggerating the case.” I think that would apply when somebody dismisses one possibility for another when both or more are possible based only upon the available evidence.

    In scholarly discussions appealing to the Bible as an ultimate source for the veracity of a story will raise many eyebrows for the reason you mentioned that it is based upon faith. To a Christian it would be like a Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist quoting their sriptures as proof of the historical veracity of a story based upon the presupposition that they consider their books to be holy and must be true since they consider it to be inspired.

    Like you, I hold the stories in the Bible as being quite historical even if all the evidence isn’t there (I don’t hold to a strict literal interpretation either). Has any evidence been found that corroborates the Gospel story of Herod ordering the slaughter of the children?

    ChadS

  50. Chad, I know of no direct evidence outside of Scripture, but we do have the very useful circumstantial evidence of Herod’s nature. That type of action fits entirely within his paranoid nature and his perfect willingness to perform such murders. In history, as you know, this helps in eliminating one argument AGAINST it being accurate: that it is not plausible in historical context. And, of course, the scriptural texts ARE historical evidence, even in purely secular terms. They are accounts written about past events (even if not with the same type of “writing history” intent we moderns would have) within a couple of decades of the events. While a secular scholar, such as Ehrman, would critique the source based on a rubric he has for evaluating the likely accuracy of each text, even he would admit that they are valuable historical documents.

    It is definitely an historical scandal, as far as I am concerned, that the texts of the NT are not treated as historical texts in their own right. Since they are also theological texts, too many people write them off altogether as historical sources. Even the most critical non-believing scholar, like Ehrman, should still be able to sift and glean this source as a valuable insight into both the minds of the first century and, yes, events as well. To toss them out because they might arguably contain more bias than, say, Tacitus or Pliny or Josephus, is just bad historical process.

    There is an excellent book on on Acts, btw, written about 100 years ago called St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, which analyzes the text of Acts AS pure history, concluding that Luke was, indeed, a dedicated and accurate historian. A classic work and a good read.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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