At he end of this survey, we will inevitably reach the conclusion that we have actually lost the words of the original authors of the New Testament, perhaps forever. And this means that we have lost confidence in these scriptures to tell us exactly what their authors wrote. We are left in the darkness, in the middle of a wilderness, with unending inquiries and innumerable hypotheses. There is no latitude for guessing what the authors wrote, because we cannot conjecture about the sayings of God, especially when studying a religious history so full of troubles and mysteries, and when the text acquired its authority from outside and changed in word and meaning as the society diversified into many varying religious affiliations.
What the result of our search means is that we are doomed to wait for an irrecoverable original to find out what the authors of the sacred books wrote and to know the exact messages and details they wanted to transmit to those for whom they were destined. We must therefore remain in a state of ignorance and doubt, with no hope of reaching our goal. I realize that some readers might be unconvinced by the proofs exhibited here because they are too tied to their inherited beliefs and too afraid of losing their blissful state by accepting the disturbing truth.
To those who reject the idea of the loss of the original New Testament, I suggest considering the idea that we did not lose it, and that the best text we have today is the real autograph. Does this affect the reliability of the New Testament? And does this affect its core message? Why do I ask these questions? There are three urgent reasons.
First: The historical fact of the lost original has not been extensively debated. There are only a few articles hidden away in academic journals, and even in the wider field of New Testament studies, this issue is not well known. I do not want readers to be left without answers to this classical debate about our newest critical text and the change it has made in our perception of the New Testament text and its new message.
Second: To show that the best critical text of the New Testament goes back, at the earliest, to the beginning of the third century, and this text badly damaged both the reliability of the New Testament and its connection to the Church creeds. So, if we could recover the lost original composed in the first century, we would probably have more unpleasant surprises, because the motivation for corrupting the scripture was more profound and the new corruptions had more chances to survive and to be proliferated.
Third: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which was formulated by more than 200 evangelical leaders in 1978 A. D., reads:
“We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy.
We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the Autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant” (Article X).
We need to start from The Chicago Statement claim to see if there is any chance for conservative Christians to save their faith and avert the dire conclusions we have drawn here. Every conservative Christian needs to re-examine his faith now that it is possible to throw light on earlier phases of the Holy Scripture. Before passing to the doctored text that so adversely affected the New Testament reliability and the status of Church dogma, I would like the reader to consider the following, knowing the propensity of apologists to trick the unsuspecting reader by claiming that the author has contradicted himself in given statements, so that the apologists can shift the readers’ attention away from the central points being made:
- I agree with the large majority of textual criticism scholars that the eclectic method is the best available tool to get to the best attainable New Testament text. This does not mean that this method will help us recover the original, because we do not have enough concrete sources, and we are missing fundamental knowledge about the beginning of the transmission of the text. This tool can tell us in most instances which variants were prevalent in the third century, and why and how the other variants arose.
- I choose not to cite the textual controversies based on the rendering of some passages into English, due to the differences in understanding the same reading in the Greek text. I will deal only with divergences that appear in the Greek text and influence the scripture and faith of the Church.
- I believe that the New Testament is basically the word of man, and that the Church’s dogma is basically a man-made fabrication, so the following examples only emphasize this belief; they do not create it.
Rephrasing the Apologists’ Challenge First
The apologists’ assertion that the new critical texts did not affect any element of the core of the Christian faith is too vague to be considered when we discuss the effect of the New Testament revolution in the field of textual criticism. The Church’s defenders need to be more precise when they impose an intellectual challenge. The challenge should be embodied thus: “Do the newest critical texts of the Greek New Testament have any serious impact on (1) the textual background of the “orthodox” faith, and (2) the doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture?” Remolding the challenge as I did will help the Christian apologists to defend the text and its impact, and should give their opponents the chance to exhibit their reasons for not having faith in the Church creeds and its holy books.
Limiting the debate so narrowly, as proposed by Christian apologists, does not help in examining the faithfulness of the transmission of the holy text nor the judging of its claim to have a heaven-inspired source. We should not study the New Testament outside the broad religious significance of its text. It is a text that is still claimed to be reliable and infallible. Reviewing its origin may either affirm or discredit these claims.
We might need to redefine once more the essence of the challenge after inquiring about the real connection between the scriptures and Christian dogma. Is Christianity a religion of the word, a Bibliocentric faith, where the integrity of Church tenets really depends on the integrity of the New Testament text, or should we view the matter differently? Does the apologetic assertion that the recovered original (?) text of the New Testament did not hurt the core of the Church’s beliefs make sense, or do we need to confess that we were deluded by when we allowed such a claim to be considered?
The Unscriptural Church Dogma
We have been told that all the evolution in textual criticism methodologies and the discoveries of newer manuscripts could not disprove any Church dogma, and that all the changes known since the publication of the Textus Receptus are trivial and do not remotely harm the tenets of the Church. Here is the obvious answer.
First: The reader who is not familiar with the New Testament text might understand from the Church advocates’ claim that the New Testament is a theological book that embodies a series of articles of faith, or that it has some chapters for elucidating each theological issue. Therefore, any serious change in the text would deeply affect these doctrinal declarations. As a matter of fact, the New Testament is not that presupposed book(s). The heart of the New Testament is the Gospels, which constitute a mere narration of parts of Jesus’ life. Most of its passages have no real attachment to theological matters, strictly speaking. Consequently, if the changes inserted in the newest critical texts do not affect the New Testament message, this does not mean that the Christian faith guarantees its originality and its genuineness.
Second: Most of the Church creeds have no scriptural background; many were fabricated by Church theologians. Let us look at some of these.
- The deity of Jesus: In the New Testament, Jesus never claimed to be “Theos,” “God,” even though that creed is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. The only verses that talk about a kind of “divinity” of Jesus are the prologue to the fourth Gospel. It is to be noted that this “divinity” was never professed by Jesus, and it is not the same as understood by the Nicene Church. The first verses of John depicted Jesus as the Logos, a “divine” entity that emerged from God. Logos is a neo-Platonic concept for the word of God, as used by God to create the world. The early Church Fathers thought that Jesus was that divine being who had a beginning, i.e. that he was a created divine being.
It is more tenable to consider John’s prologue to be a later addition to this Gospel, because (1) there is no contextual connection between it and the next verses, (2) it teaches a theology that is incompatible with what was taught by Jesus, his disciples, or the narrators in the four Gospels, (3) the Gospel of John made it clear in various clauses that Jesus was a human being (e.g. 8:40; 17:1-3), and an Israelite prophet (e.g. 3:1-2; 4:19).
- Jesus is a God incarnate, a doctrine never mentioned in an original text.
- Jesus’ death for Adam’s sin is a doctrine never taught in the Gospels; it is a Pauline fabrication (Romans 5:12-21).
- The Church adopted the Hellenistic word “ὑπόστᾰσις,” “hypostasis,” which means literally “beneath-standing,” to denote the nature of the three “Gods” in one. It is the formula “Three Hypostases in one Ousia” (essence). However, we cannot detect this creed in the New Testament text.
- The Holy Ghost deity is totally unknown to the authors.
- There is no plain statement in the New Testament that God is “three in one” or “one in three.” It was Tertullian in the late second century who coined the Christian term “trinitas,” “Trinity.” Tertullian was responsible for the development of the typical Trinitarian terminology; he coined other terms related to this dogma, such as “persona” and “substansia.”
- The belief that the authors of the New Testament were divinely inspired when they composed their texts has no text-proof.
- The descent of Jesus into hell, the problem of predestination, the Church’s authority, saints, and many other creeds which are a basis of the theological statements made by the Church throughout Christian history cannot be found within the text of the New Testament.
- For the Catholic and orthodox churches who refuse the Sola scriptura doctrine (by scripture alone, meaning that the Bible is the ultimate authority in matters of faith and the Christian way of life), most of the official creeds have no real roots in the Bible.
The Church creeds taught by the Gospels are really sparse; the virgin birth, Jesus’ messiahship, Jesus crucifixion and his resurrection contain a lot of vagueness, confusion, contradictions, and anachronisms. Let us look, for example, at the Nicene Creed (as enlarged A.D. 381) which summarizes the orthodox faith of the Christian Church, to see the linkage between the Church faith and the New Testament text. One can see that most of this orthodox declaration of faith does not have any textual attestation in the four Gospels (shown in bold), and that part of the rest of the declaration is a common belief held by most of the known religions (underlined).
1.We believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible.
2.And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of the Father before all worlds;
Light of Light.
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made;
3. Who, for us men, and for our salvation,
came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of
the Virgin Mary,
And was made man
4. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
And suffered and was buried;
5. And the third day he rose again,
According to the Scriptures;
6. And ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
7. And he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;
Whose kingdom shall have no end.
8. And in the Holy Ghost,
The Lord, and Giver of life;
Who proceedeth from the Father;
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified;
Who spake by the Prophets.
9. And in one holy catholic and apostolic Church;
10. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
11. And we look for the resurrection of the dead;
12. And the life of the world to come.
And if we look at the proof-texts in the Christian theological treatises, we will notice that Jesus’ sayings are barely mentioned, and that the biblical Church dogma is Pauline par excellence. So Jesus’ theological statements are not there in any case.
We have been asked to believe that the changes made in the King James Version did not alter any of the Church’s doctrine, while we know that when the Revised Version was published at the end of the nineteenth century, many “orthodox” scholars felt that the new “updates” in the text so badly damaged the Christian faith that they decided to launch an offensive campaign against the team of scholars responsible for it, accusing them, or their preferred manuscripts, of straying from the faith.
Alexander Gordon, one year after the publication of the Revised Version that ignited a lot of debates, portrayed the status quo, and presupposed its consequences: “what shall presently be illustrated in detail, that these passages are in fact, by common consent, the very strongest that have ever been brought forward to support the doctrines which they seem to countenance. Boldly attacked by one small section of Christians, they have been vehemently defended on the other hand by bigotry with its thousand tongues. Each party has felt that victory or defeat on these points meant a controversy gained or a controversy lost. When, therefore, the sponge is, in these instances, deliberately passed over the traces which assimilated the teachings of the New Testament to the doctrines of the later creeds, it is plain that not only is the body of evidence substantially diminished, but its quality suffers, its character is impaired. Fabrications, spurious readings, and wrong renderings, in the most material proof-texts, cannot be detected, exposed, and reduced to the level of the Apocrypha, without a strong suspicion being generated in reference to a cause which has so long rested upon rotten reeds, and, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes unblushingly, proclaimed them to be sound.”
One more crucial point needs to be mentioned, which is that even those who claim that the message of the New Testament was not affected by the recent changes in our best Greek texts avow that this assertion does not mean that we have the exact first text. Daniel B. Wallace gave the gist of the Church defenders’ view by stating, “Our fundamental argument is that although the original New Testament text has not been recovered in all its particulars, it has been recovered in all its essentials.” He is saying that there is no fundamental change, and that this “fact” does not nullify another “fact,” which is that we are not totally sure of the recovering of the original reading of some clauses.
To make his case more comprehensible, he used numbers: “Although the textual variants among the New Testament manuscripts number in the hundreds of thousands, the number of those that change the meaning pale in comparison. Less than 1 percent of the differences are both meaningful and viable. Now, to be sure, hundreds of texts are still in dispute. We don’t want to give the impression that textual criticism is merely a mopping-up job nowadays, that all but a handful of problems have been resolved. That is not the case.”
The previous “Neo-Orthodox” view admits that we have not yet recovered the whole “God-Breathed Word,” and that altering HUNDREDS of passages without leaving clear fingerprints is possible. So, let us suppose that we doubt the authenticity of only a few dozen words (not even “texts”); does that keep us from insisting that the message of the New Testament, as understood by the “Orthodox Church,” with its 138.162 Greek words, is in danger?
The theoretical answer is “Yes!” because a large number of the Church doctrines are apparently based on a few words found in the New Testament. We will have a clearer view of the matter under discussion if we take an intrinsic doctrine, such as the divinity of Jesus, which article of faith was denied by so many “Christians” who were labeled as heretics over the past centuries, especially during the early ones, because they refused or doubted its historicity.
Was Jesus called God (with a capital G) in the New Testament? After studying what was written by twenty-seven distinguished New Testament scholars who lived in the twentieth century, Murray J. Harris revealed that the majority of them “hold that theos [God] is applied to Jesus no fewer than five times and no more than nine times in the NT.” Father Raymond E. Brown, the most prominent American Roman Catholic scholar in the last century, even though he believed that only in “three clear instances” Jesus was called God in the New Testament, admitted that “no one of the instances we have discussed attempts to define Jesus essentially.” So, it is claimed here that there are only a few words that proclaimed Jesus Deity in contexts that are not fundamentally related to the doctrine of clarifying the essence of Jesus. The legitimate question now is this: Don’t we have the right to doubt the doctrine of Jesus’ deity, since it is based, for those who believe in it, on only a few scattered words in the New Testament, in dubious contexts?!
Wallace acknowledges that Ehrman’s “basic thesis that orthodox scribes have altered the New Testament text for their own purposes is one that is certainly true.” And he proceeds to say, “We can see evidence of this in hundreds of places.” So, speaking in the abstract, if it was possible for the scribes to change the holy text for theological reasons (with a broad meaning of “theological”) in hundreds of places, why should we exclude the possibility of their altering a few “canonical” passages that established an “orthodox” doctrine not known to the authors of the autographs?
Because the victors not only write history, but also reproduce and preserve the fundamental texts, we feel the need to air our suspicion about the preservation of these texts by the self-styled “orthodox” Church.
Corruptions Hiding Biblical Errors
The inerrancy of the Bible is a doctrine that greatly affected the fidelity of the scribes when copying the New Testament. The scribes were trying to resolve the apparent inconsistencies in the text by revoking the “difficulties” to fit all the criteria of orthodoxy with its multi-faceted aspects. The most important “difficulty” they wanted to tackle was the errors that threw doubts on the infallibility of the scriptures. An inerrant holy text, as viewed by the Church, is one which is inspired by the Holy Ghost. Celsus, the pagan philosopher who lived in the second century, pointed to the corruption of the Bible made by the Christians, stating that their intuition was “to deny difficulties in face of criticism.” Textual criticism scholars are aware of this habit, which has led them to apply a prime principle to help resolve the problem of conflicting variant readings, which is lectio difficilior potior or “the harder reading is stronger.” The more difficult reading would then be preferred, because the scribes tended to soften the troubling passages.
Today, it is difficult for a “serious” reader to take seriously the answer offered by the top apologist Norman L. Geisler to the “hard” question: “Does the Bible have errors in it?” Geisler writes: “The original text of the Bible does not teach any error. The logic of the Bible’s errorlessness is straightforward: (1) God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18); (2) the Bible is God’s Word (John 10:34-35); (3) therefore, the Bible cannot contain error. Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and God cannot breathe out falsehood, it follows that the Bible cannot contain any falsehood.” This is not an answer which is acceptable to a skeptic; rather, it is an appeal to not ask, and to believe blindly in the testimony made by the Bible when weighing the Bible’s authenticity itself. It is the same as seeing the Bible as simultaneously a suspect and a judge.
The scribes share Geisler’s view, but they handled the question in a different way; instead of asking the reader not to ask, they fixed the problem in the text so the reader would have no reason to set up any inquiry. It was their way of effectively solving the controversial textual problems. The earliest manuscripts revealed that the later scribes altered the holy text to hide the errors that unearthed the human source of these texts. We will go through some well-known passages, i.e., known to certain scholars, that expose the original errors in the text, so that everything will be crystal clear to anyone who may have been tricked by the apologists’ claims.
We do not seek to challenge Daniel B. Wallace through the following examples, because Wallace does not think that it matters whether or not we believe that the New Testament is free of errors, since he believes that the New Testament is still the holy word and, as such, is worthy of our belief in it. We urge him to think seriously and to commit himself either to the doctrine of inerrancy or of the integrity of the New Testament scriptures, because he is the one who said, “if one wants to argue from the starting point of inerrancy and then judge all manuscripts on that basis, then he must resort to conjectural emendation (that is, changing the text without any manuscript support)”.
The Unknown Asaph!
Matthew 1:7-8. “And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias.”
The UBS4 chooses the earliest reading “Ἀσάφ,” “Asaph,” and rejected “Ἀσά,” “Asa,” which is inserted by the later scribes who knew that there is no “Asaph” in Jesus’ genealogy. 1Chronicles 3:10, the source of Matthew’s genealogy, says, “And Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, Abia his son, Asa (אסא) his son, Jehoshaphat his son.” Metzger stated, “since, however, the evangelist may have derived material for the genealogy, not from the Old Testament directly, but from subsequent genealogical lists, in which the erroneous spelling occurred, the Committee saw no reason to adopt what appears to be a scribal emendation.” W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison tried to explain the cause of the mistaken name mentioned in the best manuscripts by writing, “Matthew’s Ἀσάφ [Asaph] differs from the Ἀσά [Asa] of 1Chronicles. Josephus has Ἄσανος [Asanos]. Matthew or his tradition probably confused the eponymous ancestor or founder of a guild of Levitic temple musicians (the ‘sons of Asaph’) to whom several Psalms were ascribed (50, 73-83: cf. 2 Chr 29:30, 35:15; Neh 12:46) with Āsā, the good king of Judah (1kgs 15:9-24; Josephus, Ant. 8:286–315).”
“Amos” not “Amon”!
Matthew 1:10. “And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias.”
The earliest and the best witnesses read, “Ἀμώς,” “Amos,” in Matthew 1:10. Some scribes changed it to “Ἀμών,” “Amon,” because they knew that the name in the Hebrew Old Testament (1Chronicles 3:14) is “אָמוֹן,” “Āmōn,” (king of Judah) and in most of the manuscripts of the Septuagint, “Ἀμών,” “Amōn.”
Robert Gundry said in his commentary on Matthew, “Matthew may have chosen or coined the spelling ‘Amos’ for a secondary allusion to the prophet Amos, just as he spelled Asa’s name like that of Asaph to introduce a prophetic note.” Because of this declaration, Gundry was asked to submit his resignation from the Evangelical Theological Society in 1983 for holding views inconsistent with the society’s inerrantist doctrinal basis, “unless he acknowledges that he has erred in his detraction from the historical trustworthiness of the Gospel of Matthew in his recent commentary.”
We should be open to any serious explanation as to why Matthew used the name “Amos,” but we should not doubt that Matthew made a mistake by using the wrong name for the person mentioned in the Old Testament. The reading adopted by the UBS4 revealed the scribal change, its reason, and the fact that the author of the first Gospel was using a defective manuscript of the Septuagint or that he had simply relied on his imperfect memory.
The “lamentation” of the Old Testament
Matthew 2:18. “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
Philip W. Comfort commented on the variant readings in Matthew 2:18, where Matthew corrupted the Greek Old Testament passage he quoted by saying, “Because Matthew’s rendition of Jer 31:15 (38:15 in the LXX) differs significantly from the Septuagint, various scribes wanted to conform Matthew’s rendition to the Septuagint. One way to do this was to add “θρηνὸς καὶ” (“weeping and”). Such alterations were common in the fourth century (and thereafter), when scribes tended to produce a standardized text by harmonizing OT quotations in the NT with the Greek OT.”
It is “Gadarenes,” but it Should not be “Gadarenes”!
Matthew 8:28. “And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.”
The best witnesses read: “Γαδαρηνῶν,” “Gadarenes,” not “Γεργεσηνῶν,” “Gergesenes,” and that is the variant reading chosen by UBS4. Origen informs us that accepting the variant reading “Gadarenes” as the original in the story of the swine as it is in the Gospels means that we should accept an error in Matthew’s text, because “Gadara is a city of the Jews, near which are famous hot springs, but it has no lake with adjacent cliffs or a sea.” Titus of Bostra shared Origen’s view.
The Mouth that Should be Shut up
Matthew 15:8. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
The earliest manuscripts have this verse saying, “This people honors me with the [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.” This version differs verbally from the Old Testament text which Matthew intended to quote.
Philip W. Comfort comments, “The expanded text is the result of scribal conformity of the OT quotation to Isa 29:13 (LXX). This kind of conformity was especially prevalent in the fourth century and thereafter because it was then that New Testaments were often bound together with Old Testaments in one Bible codex, thereby increasing the temptation for scribes to create harmony between OT quotes appearing in the NT and the OT text itself.”
Mark 1:2-3. “As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”Because of the mistaken attribution of the prophecy which is composed of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, the later scribes changed “ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ,” “in Isaiah the prophet,” to “ἐν τοῖς προφήταις,” “in the prophets.” The UBS4 opts, as it is supposed, for the earliest reading. Eusebius stated that the manuscripts which have “in Isaiah the prophet” are mistaking the attribution of the prophecy. That was also the opinion of the philosopher Porphyry (A.D. 232 A.D.–303 A.D.). Porphyry used this text to prove the ignorance of Matthew. He pointed out in his book Adversus Christianos the unskillful evangelists who were so ignorant of the divine scriptures that they attributed texts to the wrong books. Saint Jerome reports, “Porphyry takes up that passage in the Gospel of Mark: “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ … directing straight his foot path.” Since one testimony comes from the context of Malachi and another from Isaiah, he asks “how can we believe that this passage is taken from Isaiah to which men of the church have often times responded?”
We Need “Sidon”!
Mark 7:31. “And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.”
This is one of many geographical inaccuracies in the Gospels that forced scribes to correct the “word of God” to make it fit the reality. In Mark 7:31 “Several witnesses read καί Σιδω̂νος η̂̔λθεν to smooth the apparent awkwardness of the itinerary.” Robert A. Guelich adds, “This verse in the eyes of many describes what is at best an improbable if not nonsensical route. Abandoning any attempt at making sense of it, several like Cranfield have concluded that “this verse reflects a certain vagueness on Mark’s part about the geography of northern Palestine.” Taken literally and in sequence, the route is comparable to going from New York City to the Chesapeake Bay through Boston. The matter becomes the more difficult if the statement simply seeks to move Jesus from “New York” to “the Bay.” And add to this itinerary the further problem of the apparent dislocation of the Chesapeake Bay to the middle of Maryland, and you have the basis for the despair.”
Why did they Bury him for One More Day?
Mark 9:31. “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”
Because of the erroneous statement made by the earliest manuscripts that Jesus shall rise “μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας” [meta treis hēmeras], “after three days,” the late manuscripts went for a different reading, known today in the King James Version, that makes Jesus rise one day before, “the third day.” The same corruption of the sentence occurred in Mark 10: 34.
Bye Bye “by”!
Mark 10:1. “And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.”
The best manuscripts do not have “διὰ” [dia], “by”; its text reads, “the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan.” This text is geographically inadequate because it implies that the region of Judea extended eastward beyond the Jordan, while the truth is that the region to the east of Judea beyond the Jordan was Perea. Scribes could not resist the temptation to correct this mistake.
The Disciples Were There Too
Mark 11:19. “And when even was come, he went out of the city.”
The New English Translation has, “When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.” In the footnote, we read, “Greek “they”; the referents (Jesus and his disciples) have been specified in the translation for clarity. Without such clarification, there is room for considerable confusion here, since there are two prior sets of plural referents in the context, “the chief priests and experts in the law” and “the whole crowd” (both in v.18).” What amazed me here is that Daniel B. Wallace and his team from Dallas Theological Seminary did not allude in the footnote of this translation to the Textus Receptus choice adopted by the King James Version, which is the “he” supported by the majority of the manuscripts. We know that this translation is distinguished by its extensive notes (60,932 translators’ notes), and its preface stated (under the section entitled “What is unique and distinctive about the NET Bible?”) that “the translators and editors used the notes to show major interpretive options and/or textual options for difficult or disputed passages, so that the English reader knows at a glance what the alternatives are.”
Why did the majority of the manuscripts change the text from “ἐξεπορεύοντο” [exeporeuonto], “they went out,” to “ἐξεπορεύετο” [exeporeueto], “he went out”? It is because the previous verse (18) was talking about Jesus only: “And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” The scribal change is due to the awkwardness of the structure of the text, which urged an urgent correction to this “inspired” (!) verse.
The Unbelievable Darkness
Luke 23:45. “And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.”
The earliest reading, which is adopted by the UBS4, is “ἐκλιπόντος” [eklipontos], “being eclipsed.” The later scribes changed it to “ἐσκοτίσθη” [eskotisthē], “was darkened.”
The conservative James A. Borland points at the problem with accepting the originality of the “eclipse” reading: “a solar eclipse is impossible astronomically during the full moon of the Passover when sun and moon are 180 degrees apart in relation to the earth.” This is why A. R. C. Leaney tersely comments on Luke 23:45: “Strange, since the Greek would naturally mean ‘the sun being eclipsed,’ impossible at the time of full moon.” S. MacLean Gilmour declared, “Probably even Mark’s version was intended to imply an eclipse but Luke makes this explanation explicit.” Similarly William Manson writes, “Luke or his source rationalize by adding ‘owing to an eclipse of the sun.’ A solar eclipse was of course impossible at the Passover time—which had to coincide with the full moon—but Luke might not have known this.” A. B. Bruce observes of tou hēliou eklipontos that “this phrase…ought to mean the sun being eclipsed, an impossibility when the moon is full. If all that was meant was the sun’s light totally failing, darkness, e.g. by a sand storm, the natural expression would be eskotisthē.” H. K. Luce concluded about the supposed eclipse and similar events that “these portents are legendary additions to the story made with the idea that miraculous occurrences must have attended such an event as the death of the Son of God.”
Origen was aware of this textual difficulty. He tried to defend the inerrancy of the scriptures by attacking the “enemies of the Church”(!) in writing: “Yet I rather believe that the secret enemies of the church of Christ have altered this phrase, making the darkness occur by reason of “The sun being eclipsed,” so that the Gospels might be attacked with some show of reason, through the devices of those who wished to attack them.” Saint Jerome shares Origen’s opinion about the source of this reading by declaring that it is made up by the enemies of the Gospels: “Qui scripserunt contra Evangelia, suspicantur deliquium solis.”
Wayne C. Kannaday pointed out the influence of Origen’s attitude on the scribes, and this shows clearly that the canonization of the text through the years was done in apologetic interests. Some scribes omitted the whole niggling phrase from their manuscripts (33 and vgms) to protect the “believers” from any worrying doubts.
Acts 12:25. “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”
Fitzmyer brought attention to the textual problem that forced scribes to change the text that they had received: “After the verb hypestrepsan, “returned,” the Alexandrian Greek text of Acts (MSS א, B, H, L, P) and the Koinē text-tradition have eis Ierousalēm, which has been understood at times as the destination of the movements of Barnabas and Saul “returned to Jerusalem.” That creates a problem, because 11:30 implies that Barnabas and Saul have gone to Jerusalem, so that they could not now be returning “to Jerusalem.” Consequently, copyists of various MSS (P74, A, 33, 945, 1739) changed the preposition to ex, “from,” and those of other MSS (D, E, Ψ, 36, 323, 453, 614) changed it to apo, “from.” Both of these would make good sense (“returned from Jerusalem”), but they are for that reason suspect.”
The Inflated Number
Acts 19:16. “And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
The earliest reading, adopted by the UBS4, is “ἀμφοτέρων” [amphoterōn], “both,” but the later scribes changed it to “αὐτῶν” [autōn], “them,” because the sons of Sceva were seven, not two as mentioned two verses earlier. 
Corruptions Hiding Biblical Contradictions and Discrepancies
Wayne C. Kannaday gives a fresh scholarly summation of the harmonization tendency in the scribes’ habits when he writes, “Scholars generally agree that the practices of harmonization, assimilation, and conflation of readings were frequently practiced by ancient copyists of the Gospels. Willem Wisselink identifies four kinds of assimilation that occur in the Gospels: (1) mutually among the Gospels, (2) within a single Gospel, (3) to the Septuagint, and (4) to an otherwise known wording. Scholars have frequently asserted that this tendency was inevitable, in part due to the bent of the human mind for unity and the belief that scripture cannot contradict itself.”
Frederick Wisse, while he does not believe in a corruption that affected the Christian doctrine, noted that some seventy-five percent of the bulk of interpolations of the Gospels, which are of great number, are obvious harmonization of non-identical accounts.
Porphyry in the third century hinted at many contradictions in the Gospels. He summed up his view by stating, “The evangelists were fiction writers, not observers or eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. Each of the four contradicts the other in writing his account of the events of his suffering and crucifixion.”
Origen, as one of the strongest earlier apologists, felt the urgency of a human “interference” to save the holy status of the Gospels. He wrote: “If the discrepancy between the Gospels is not solved, we must give up our trust in the Gospels as being true and written by a divine spirit, or as records worthy of credence, for both these characters are held to belong to these works.”
The task of ridding the text of irritating discrepancies was carried out by the early scholars in their hermeneutical and apologetic works or their Gospel harmony versions, such as Tatian’s Diatessaron, and the ever-vigilant “devoted” scribes in their production of new copies. Scholars played their preferred acrobatic, exegetical games, while scribes went straight to the text to make it look as non-human as possible and hence, divine.
The scribes made an intense effort to wipe out the unwelcome discrepancies from the manuscripts of their time. The “faithful” scribes helped other Christians interested in reading the New Testament to have a homogeneous text to some degree, but this is anathema to the scholars of the newest critical texts because they have the task of clearing the Holy Text from forged readings. Today we have a raw text, full of disagreement in its details.
James R. White does not acknowledge the faithfulness of the scribes to the inerrancy of the scriptures. He writes, “Scribes were extremely conservative in their handling of the text and were fearful of “losing” anything in the copy or copies they were working from. Even when a scribe might make a mistake that is obvious, the following scribes would be hesitant to change or “correct” what was found before them in the texts they were copying.” He pretends that they were attached, not to their commitment to the holiness of the scriptures, but to preserving what went before them, meaning that the scribes were no more than copiers by rote.
The following examples will show clearly how the scribes from the early centuries changed the holy text to mask the long list of contradictions and discrepancies present in the best manuscripts.
Ministered Unto Them or Him?
Matthew 8:15. “And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.”
After noticing the parallel passages; “ministered unto them” (Mark 1:31 and Luke 4:39), some scribes changed “αὐτῷ” [autō], “him,” found in the manuscripts of Matthew 8:15 to “αὐτοῖς” [autois], “them.”
Matthew changed Mark’s version because he thought that the woman was supposed to serve only the one who had cured her miraculously, but the later scribes considered Matthew’s choice incompatible with the claim that the canonical Gospels are the non-contradictory word of God. They “muzzled” him for the sake of the harmony of the scriptures’ accounts.
Were They Allowed to Take Staves?
Matthew 10:10. “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
Jesus commanded his disciples, in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew 10:10, to take “neither a staff,” “μηδὲ ῥάβδον,” in their journey, but the parallel passage in Mark 6:8 tells us that Jesus commanded his disciples to have “ῥάβδον μόνον,” “only a staff.” For the sake of harmonization, the later scribes changed the text in Matthew to “μηδὲ ῥάβδους,” “neither staves,” (plural), so that Jesus forbids only taking more than one staff. The UBS4 took the side of the earliest manuscripts, making the contradiction in the paralleled passages observable.
Matthew 11:2. “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples.”
Luke 7:18 tells us that John sent “δύο” [duo], “two” of his disciples, while the earliest manuscripts of Matthew 11:2 (א B C* D W) has “διὰ” [dia], “by” his disciples. The scribes changed Matthew 11:2 so it will claim that John sent two of his disciples, not all of them. 
Children or Deeds?
Matthew 11:19. “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.”
Luke 7:35 reads, “But wisdom is justified of all her children.” The best manuscripts of Matthew 11:19 read, “wisdom is justified of her deeds.” Many scribes felt uncomfortable with this apparent discrepancy; and that made them feel compelled to eliminate this difficulty by changing “ἔργων” [ergōn], “deeds,” to “τέκνων” [teknōn], “children.”
The committee responsible for the UBS4 “regarded the reading τέκνων [children] (widely supported by B C D K L X Δ Θ Π and most minuscules) as having originated in scribal harmonization with the Lukan parallel (7:35). The readings with πάντων represent further assimilation to the passage in Luke.”
The Hungry Crowd
Matthew 12:4. “How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?”
It was clever of Matthew not to follow Mark’s version, which claims that only David ate the bread (2:26), because the account in 1Samuel 21:1-6 tells us that David and his men ate the bread. Many scribes felt that preserving the harmony of the New Testament accounts was more important than respecting Matthew’s decision to be faithful to the Old Testament, so they changed “ἔφαγον” [ephagon], “[they] ate,” found in א and B, to “ἔφαγεν” [ephagen], “[he] ate.” The UBS4 defended Matthew’s choice of words by opting for the “they ate” reading.
From “Joseph” to “Joses”!
Matthew 13:55. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?”
Because the parallel passage in Mark 6:3 has “Joses,” many scribes changed the reading available in the best witnesses (B C N O Θ Σ f1 13 33 700c 892 pc l184 l387 l997 ita itaur itb itc itf itff1 itff2 itg1 ith itl itq* vg syrc syrs syrh(mg) syrpal copmae copbo(mss) ethpp ethms geo slavmss Origen2/3 Eusebius Basil Jerome Augustine) “Joseph” to “Joses” to avoid any differences between the two lists of Jesus’ brothers(?).
The Goodness or the Good?
Matthew 19:17. “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
When many scribes noticed that Jesus’ wording in Matthew 19:17 differed from what he said in Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19, they changed the earliest text from “Why do you ask me about the good? One is good,” “τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός” to “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” “Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; Οὐδεὶς ἀγαθός, εἰ μὴ εἷς, ὁ θεός.”
W. C. Allen explains the reason for Matthew’s change of the text as he received it from the Gospel of Mark: “Mt.’s changes are probably intentional, to avoid the rejection by Christ of the title “good,” and the apparent distinction made between Himself and God.” The scribes did not respect Matthew’s view because they thought that sacrificing Matthew’s choice was acceptable since their intervention was for a “noble” purpose which was eliminating the discrepancies from the holy texts.
Her Daughter or his Daughter?
Mark 6:22. “And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”
The earliest manuscripts of Mark 6:22 (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) tell us that the girl who danced and pleased Herod is “Herodias,” who is Herod’s daughter: “αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος” [autou Herōdiados], “his [daughter] Herodias,” while Matthew 14:6 informs us that the girl who danced was Herodias’ daughter. The scribes did change Mark 6:22 to “αὐτῆς τῆς Ἡρῳδιάδος” [autēs tēs Herōdiados], “[the daughter] herself of Herodias,” to fit the parallel passage in Matthew 14:6.
R. A. Guelich, who preferred the oldest reading, added, “by taking αὐτοῦ [autou] as the reading, the daughter is named “Herodias.” Yet Josephus tells us that Herodias’ daughter from her first marriage was Salome, the wife of Philip the Tetrarch (Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.4). This would mean that the daughter’s name had become confused with the mother’s.”
Wallace’s translation, The New English Translation, chose the troubling reading. We read in the footnote: “Behind “his daughter Herodias” is a most difficult textual problem. The reading adopted in the translation, τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ ῾Ηρῳδιάδος, is supported byא B D L Δ 565 pc; it is also the most difficult reading internally since it describes Herodias as Herod’s daughter. Other readings are less awkward, but they do not have adequate external support […].The reading τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ ῾Ηρῳδιάδος, despite its historical difficulties, is most likely original due to external attestation and the fact that it most likely gave rise to the other readings as scribes sought to correct it.”
Galilee or Judea?
Luke 4:44. “And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.”
The scribes felt the need to change the earliest manuscripts which read, “τὰς συναγωγὰς τῆς Ἰουδαίας,” “the synagogues of Judea,” to “ταῖς συναγωγαῖς τῆς Γαλιλαίας,” “the synagogues of Galilee,” because the context of verse 44 informs us that Jesus was in Galilee before and stayed there. The UBS4 followed the earliest manuscripts that have “Judea.”
Were They Silent?
Luke 8:45. “And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?”
The best witnesses (P75 B Π 700* 1079 1546 al syrc syrs syrpal copsa geo Diatessaron Origenvid) omit “and they that were with him.” The UBS4 ignored the added clause because it is a mere scribal addition to make Luke’s version in harmony with Mark’s version, which has “And his disciples said unto him” (5:31).
A Desert Place in the city?
Luke 9:10. “And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.”
The earliest manuscripts of Luke 9:10 (p75 (Βηδσαϊδά) B copsa copbo) inform us that Jesus and his disciples were going “εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά,” “into a town called Bethsaida,” but after the next verse (verse 12), we read that the disciples are “in a desert place.” Many scribes who noticed this irritating contradiction changed their manuscripts in Luke 9:10 to “εἰς τόπον ἔρημον πόλεως καλουμένης Βηθσαϊδάν,” “into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” The UBS4 went for the earliest variant reading, making the Gospel of Luke contradict itself, Matthew 14:13 and Mark 6:31-32. A. Plummer stated, “The common reading, εἰς τόπον ἔρημον πόλεως καλουμένης Βηθσαιδά (A D G H K M S U V etc., Aeth. Arm. Goth.), seems to be an ingenious conflation of the original text, εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαιδά (B L X Ξ 33, Boh. Sah.)—which is supported by D [only κώμην for πόλιν]—with a correction of it, εἰς τόπον ἔρημον (*א), or εἰς τόπον ἔρημον Βηθσαιδά (b c ff2 l g Vulg. Syr.), or εἰς τόπον ἔρημον καλούμενον Βηθσαιδα (a e f). These corrections would be suggested by ver. 12 and Mt. and Mk. and the difficulty of associating the miracle with a πόλις [city].”
“Beloved” or “Chosen One”?
Luke 9:35. “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
The earliest manuscripts (P45 P 75 א B) have “ἐκλελεγμένος” [eklelegmenos], “chosen one.” Some later scribes change it to “ἀγαπητός” [agapētos], “beloved,” to harmonize it with Mark 9:7.
Philip W. Comfort made an interesting comment on the variant readings in this verse: “As often happened in the textual transmission of the Gospels (especially from the end of the fourth century onward), divine proclamations about Jesus were harmonized. At Jesus’ transfiguration, each of the Synoptic Gospels has different wording. Matthew 17:5 reads, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”; Mark 9:7 reads, “This is my beloved Son”; and Luke 9:35 reads, “This is the Son, the chosen one.”
Egg and bread
Luke 11:11-12. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”
The earliest copies of Luke have two pairs mentioned in Jesus’ analogy: fish/serpent and egg/scorpion, while Matthew’s parallel passage has two different pairs: bread/stone and fish/serpent. Later scribes expanded Luke’s version to three pairs: fish/serpent, bread/stone, and egg/scorpion, to make it resemble Matthew’s account. 
Who Was at the Sepulcher?
Luke 24:1. “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.”
Comfort comments on the addition of “and certain others with them” by many scribes: “This addition was made to bring the text into harmony with Luke 24:10, which speaks of other women beside Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.”
“Jona” or “John”?
John 1:42. “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.”
Jesus in John 1:42, as in the Textus Receptus/King James Version, is calling Simon “the son of Jona,” distorting the earliest manuscripts (P66 P75 P106 א B*) which read “the son of John.” It is evident that the scribes changed the text to bring it into harmony with Matthew 16:17, where Jesus called Simon “Barjona”; “bar,” “בר” is Aramaic for “son.”
Ernst Haenchen commented on the text, “Jesus looks at the one brought to him and says, “You are Simon, the son of John” (Hebrew: יוחנן). In Matt 16:17, however, Jesus addresses him as “Simon, son of Jonah.” On this, Jeremias (TDNT 3:407) remarks, “Apart from the prophet Jonah there is no instance of Jona(h) as an independent man’s name prior to the 3rd century A. D.” On the other hand, Jonah occasionally appears in the LXX (the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) for Hebrew “Jochanan.” From that Jeremias would like to conclude that Jonah in Matt 16:17 is an abbreviation of Jochanan. But that conclusion is uncertain because the ordinary shortening of Jochanan is pronouncedיוחא or יוהי. It is possible that the less common name Jonah was replaced by the more common “Jochanan” (John). The Fourth Gospel would then be following another tradition here.”
The Helpful Disciples?
John 6:11. “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”
The addition present in the manuscripts that are the base of the King James Version was created to make a harmonization to the synoptic accounts of this same event (see Matt 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16). In John’s account, it was Jesus who distributed the multiplied loaves and fish, while the synoptic Gospels attributed this act to the disciples of Jesus. The added words were revoked from the UBS4.
Were the Beasts There?
Acts 10:12. “Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.”
In Acts 11:6, it is said that Peter told the apostles and the brothers throughout Judea that he saw in the dream (revelation) “fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.” The first reference to this same dream appeared in Acts 10:12, but the account misses in the earliest manuscripts (p74 אA B): “(καὶ) τὰ θηρία” [(kai) ta thēria] “(and) wild beasts.” Many scribes added “(and) wild beasts,” so Peter was giving the same account of the revelation made to him in 11:6 and 10:12.
The Seat of Whom?
Romans 14:10. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
The best manuscripts and versions (א* A B C* D F G (0150 τῷ θεῷ) 630 1506 1739 1852 2200 l1178 itar itb itd ite itf itg ito itx itz vgww vgst copsa copbo) have “the seat of God,” “θεοῦ” [theou],” which contradicts the statement of 2Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ “Χριστοῦ” [christou].” Some faithful scribes felt that they were responsible for bringing the word of God into conformity, so they changed “God” to “Christ.” Unfortunately, the new critical texts lack this noble intention.
I think that there is no acceptable reason to disagree with the statement of the Anglican Bishop Hugh Montefiore that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy seems inherently improbable due to “evident errors and contradictions” found in these scriptures and the late canonization of the books of the Old and New Testaments. 
Errors and Contradictions: Do They Matter?
When he was interviewed by Lee Strobel, Wallace narrated a significant story. He said that a Muslim girl came to him with a long list of discrepancies in the Gospels. She told him, “You’re going to have to answer every single one of these before I can believe anything about Christianity.” He told her, “Don’t you think this list proves that the writers didn’t conspire and collude when they wrote their Gospels?” She said, “I’ve never thought of it that way.” He said that we should look at only the positive side, which is that the agreement of the evangelists on an absolute core of central beliefs suggests that they got the basics right, even though they did not cook all of this up. Voilà! The girl converted to Christianity!  I am not going to investigate the credibility of this story, because that is irrelevant to our purposes here. I am, instead, concerned about having a definitive answer to the following question: Are discrepancies and mistakes meaningless facts that cannot affect the New Testament credibility? Many alarming realities come to light from a review of the undesirable discrepancies and errors spread over the New Testament books. Here are some of those disturbing facts.
First: It makes no sense to say that God inspired His word to the authors of the New Testament, and at the same time led them, or even gave them the license, to contradict each other so many times on so many different issues, some of which are fundamental theological issues, and to spread erroneous statements about science, geography, and the Old Testament. These discrepancies and mistakes constitute an unassailable argument that the New Testament is not the word of God, but is the word of men who belonged to the culture of the first century and who were interested in expressing their own personal views in historical and theological matters.
Second: The authors of the New Testament expressed different theological views and narrated conflicting accounts of the story of Jesus and his disciples, which tells that no one of them was considering the other authors as infallible or chosen by God to convey his holy word to human beings. In fact, these authors were regular historians who were trying to transmit the events they heard about, or theologians interested in sending religious messages through the fabricated stories they did create.
Third: The authors of the New Testament books did not believe in the infallibility of each other. They dared to opt for other historical narrations (mainly in the details) or theological tendencies. So now the question is this: Why would this (Muslim) girl believe in the New Testament, which was written by authors who (1) were not eyewitnesses of the events they recorded, (2) were not inspired by God, (3) were inaccurate, (4) had conflicting views about the minor (?) details of Jesus’ life and teachings, (5)did not even know, as Wallace avowed, that they were writing scriptures? These authors were not God’s inspired men, nor were they trustworthy eyewitnesses, or competent historians. What, then, could compel a non-Christian to follow the Jesus of the New Testament?
Corruptions Hiding an Unpleasant Jesus
The picture of Jesus engraved in the scribes’ consciousness as “God,” i.e., a sinless being, made some of these scribes rush to eliminate any traces of stories or statements running against that passionate belief. These scribes got themselves involved in polishing the official narrations to make them fit their honorable view of Jesus and to defend Jesus against antagonistic character assassination. From the numerous examples, we will cite the following.
A Defiled God!
Luke 2:22. “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.”
The oldest and the majority of the manuscripts have “their,” “αὐτῶν” [autōn], which means that the text either alludes to the need for purification of Mary and Jesus, or of Mary and Joseph. Some later scribes could not abide either of these meanings, because the first one presumed that the holy, pure Son of God was defiled, and the second meaning (with the previous one) contradicted what was mentioned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 12:2-4) where only the female who begat a boy is supposed to wait for a purification. So it is inconsistent with the Jewish customs to talk about the purification of the father (or son) as well as the mother. Some scribes changed the pronoun to “her,” “αὐτῆς” [autēs], to maintain the idea of Jesus’ sanctity, and to make the text conform to Jewish customs. It is striking here that a reading which does not have support from any uncial and perhaps only from one cursive (76) has been widely adopted. Other scribes chose to avoid facing the problem, so they omitted the pronoun altogether (such as the scribe who copied 435, and the Bohairic Coptic version).
Excuse his Anger!
Matthew 5:22. “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”
What is the effect of deleting “without a cause,” as the earliest manuscripts do? The only reasonable answer to this question is that it negates the doctrine of the sinlessness of Jesus and, in so doing, makes Jesus worthy of condemnation and judgment, because he himself became angry with many people on various occasions (Mark 3:5, 8:33 …). This is what motivated the scribes to add “without a cause.” The UBS4 did not care to keep a blameless Jesus, because its goal was to ascertain the best reading, not to hunt for the less flattering one.
The Nervous Jesus
Mark 1:41. “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.”
“The merciful Jesus” in this text is created by the scribes’ ink. The scribes were trying to bury the best reading, which says that Jesus did not “move with compassion” when he healed the miserable man with leprosy, but rather that he was angry, “ὀργισθεὶς,” [orgistheis] with this woeful sick man. Today, the greater number of scholars prefer “ὀργισθεὶς.” Even Daniel B. Wallace commented on an essay written by Bart Ehrman defending the originality of the reading that included Jesus’ furiousness, saying that Ehrman “has made not just an impressive case but a persuasive one.” Yet Wallace could not let it go; he claimed that the “original” reading did not change the New Testament portrait of Jesus. There is irony in what Wallace said when he presented one of the convincing pieces of evidence for the use of the Gospel of Mark by the authors of the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew, which is the avoidance of Mark’s hard sayings by these two evangelists. These are Wallace’s words: “Mark 3:5/Luke 6:10—‘he looked around at them with anger/he looked around on them all.’ Matthew omits the verse entirely, though he includes material both before and after it (12:12-13). That Luke would omit a statement regarding Jesus’ anger is perfectly understandable.” Why is it understandable? Undoubtedly, because the peaceful Son of God who gave his life (!) on the cross to save sinners should not act like an ordinary human being, full of unrestrained emotions such as anxiety and anger.
It was not only the urgent need felt by the scribes who copied the Gospel of Mark to excise any notion of Jesus’ anger. Matthew and Luke also were embarrassed by the stories of Jesus’ temper, which is why they at no time followed Mark in portraying Jesus as an angry man. (Our case is seen in Mark 3:5=Matthew 12:13, Luke 6:10; Mark 10:14=Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:15). They edited Markan passages to keep the “sinless” Jesus free from human rage.
The Lying king
John 7:8. “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.”
Jesus asked his disciples to go unto the feast, and informed them that he would not go there. Early scribes changed the word “οὐκ” [ouk], “not” to “οὔπω” [oupō], “not yet” to make Jesus say that he would join the disciples later on. The scribes found out that keeping the original reading meant that the sinless holy Jesus was lying to his disciples, because verse 10 says, “But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” This verse meant clearly that Jesus intentionally lied, by stating that he did not go to the feast “openly, but as it were in secret.” Saint Jerome reported Porphyry’s unduly harsh view of Jesus of the Gospel: “Jesus said he would not go up, and he did what he had previously denied. Porphyry rants and accuses him of inconstancy and fickleness, not knowing that all scandals must be imputed to the flesh.” The UBS4 did not intend to cover up a “lying Jesus,” so it adopted the “harsh reading.”
Fear the Lamb of God!
Ephesians 5:21. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
We get used to hearing about the story of love between Jesus and those who believe in him, but we have never heard that the true believer should “fear” Jesus, the crucified Lord. It is not ignorance that deterred us from knowing that “unusual Jesus.” It is the scribes who changed the phrase in Ephesians 5:21 from “the fear of Christ [christou]” to “the fear of God [theou].”
The best witnesses, and the majority, agree that Jesus should be feared, but the Church never mentions this doctrine, because it does not want to reveal to its flock what might seem a “frightening Jesus.”
Corruptions Changing Commandments
The scribes usually tended to corrupt some laws of the Holy Scriptures because they thought that these commandments were too rigid or too lax or because they wanted to insert in the pages more “useful” commandments or delete those they thought were senseless. The New Testament’s scribes were not an exception; they altered the words of the authors to make them conform to their perception of the truth.
The Disgusting Divorcee
Matthew 19:9. “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
The scribes were very enthusiastic when copying the condemnation of the act of divorce, so they added, by their own choice, a new condemnation for someone who marries a divorcee, by labeling him an “adulterer.” Mark 10:12 accuses only the female divorcee of being an adulteress if she remarries, and in Matthew 19:9, scribes include the new husband in the adulterers category. Therefore all of them will receive this unpleasant label.
Is It Still Good to Fast!
Mark 9:29. “And he said unto them, this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
Even though Jesus has discouraged fasting as inappropriate until the bridegroom is taken away (Mark 2:18–20), many scribes added “καὶ νηστείᾳ” [kai nēsteia], “and fasting,” to Mark 9:29, reflecting the church’s growing interest in fasting.
Let Us Make it Easy for Adulteresses!
John 7:53- 8:11. The story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery is, for many “believers,” the most emotional and touching story in the New Testament. It was used extensively in the Christian literature to indicate the code of life for the true Christian: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7). The story was found to be a fake one by scholars. Many Christians have thus been deprived of their favorite passage in the Holy Scriptures, but most of those attached to the story have no idea that it is flawed, because the Church does not preach bad news in its Sunday services.
The “Orthodoxisation” of the Holy Text
The Church believes that Jesus is the Son of God, one of the triad God(s), born of a virgin, sent by God the father to be crucified, and that he rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. The most updated Greek New Testament text eliminated the explicit proof-texts of many fundamental tenets of the Church: a shocking truth that the Church does not dare reveal to its followers because it would probably incite its flock to doubt the biblicism of these creeds.
The “orthodox” scribes felt the urgent need, from the beginning of Christian history, to back up their faith with holy statements, especially when they felt any weakness of the apologist arguments made against the “heretics.” They altered the text, in an orthodox interpretation, to make it adhere more closely to what they felt it was supposed to be. Reproducing new copies was not, therefore, an automatic process; rather, it was a re-creation of the text to make it reflect the status quo of the Church’s creeds.
Kim Haines-Eitzen summarizes the current position of scholars about this matter: “studies have shown that certain changes made by scribes in the process of copying appear to have been motivated by anti-Jewish sentiments; others seem influenced by a certain animosity toward women; others by apologetic concerns; and still others can be explained by theological, especially Christological, concerns. Such studies have seriously countered Hort’s famous statement: “even among the numerous unquestionably spurious readings of the New Testament there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes.”
We need to go through the detailed examples to see how our newest critical texts show a differentiation between the beliefs of the church and the sacred books.
The Deity of Jesus
The New Testament never mentioned in an original, clear statement the deity of Jesus as understood by the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. One cannot find any proclamations ascribed to Jesus such as these: I am God (Theos/Θεός)! I am Jehovah (יהוה)! I am the only God! There is no God besides me! I am the God of Israel! I am the God of Moses! I am God who sent Moses to your ancestors! No clear and straight statement has ever been shown to come from the lips of Jesus to proclaim that he is God. The earliest witnesses who helped us to correct the deformed passages in the New Testament proved that (1) the clear statement proving Jesus’ deity is corrupted, and (2) some verses as they appear now in the best critical texts disagree with the claim that Jesus is “God.”
The conservative scholar Jay P. Green stated, “There are only two verses which the Arians [followers of Arius. They believe Jesus Christ was created, not a member of the Triune God] falsely feel undermines their beliefs: 1Timothy 3:16 […]. The other key verse hated by the Arians (today they are represented by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, the Unitarians, and many other cults) is Romans 9:5.”
The translation of Romans 9:5 depends on the punctuation inserted in the text. Because punctuation was missing in the early manuscripts, scholars had different opinions about the meaning of the verse and how it is supposed to be rendered into modern languages. The Revised Standard Version has an opposite view of this verse from the one found in the King James Version:
KJV: “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
RSV: “to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.”
The interpreters’ Bible expressed that “the choice is probably to be made between the KJV and the RSV translations. The majority of modern commentators favor the latter because of the unlikelihood of Paul’s having here referred to Christ as ‘God’.”
While Romans 9:5 depends on grammatical issues, the modern translation of 1Timothy 3:16 was affected gravely by the new critical New Testament texts.
It is the “Mystery”!
1Timothy 3:16. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
The oldest witnesses have “ὃς” [hos], “who,” not “θεὸς” [theos], “God,” so the text is not talking about the God incarnated, but rather about “the mystery,” as can be seen by the context and Paul’s common statement about the “mystery” (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 1:9-10, Colossians 1:27…). The Peshitta clearly confirms this fact: “ܘܫܰܪܺܝܪܳܐܝܺܬ݂ ܪܰܒ݂ ܗܽܘ ܐ݈ܪܳܙܳܐ ܗܳܢܳܐ ܕ݁ܟ݂ܺܐܢܽܘܬ݂ܐ ܕ݁ܶܐܬ݂ܓ݁ܠܺܝ ܒ݁ܰܒ݂ܣܰܪ” “and truly great is this mystery of righteousness which was revealed in the flesh.” The later scribes changed [hos] to [theos], using the ancient abbreviation for the sacred name of God, as if the Greek letter “Ο” had lost a crossbar in transmission. The UBS4 took the text to its earliest known form, eliminating a crucial proof for Jesus’ divinity.
The Ignorant God!
Matthew 24:36. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
The earliest manuscripts have “οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός” [oude ho huios], “nor the Son” after “not the angels of heaven,” declaring that the Son is not all knowing, which means that Jesus the “Son of God” is not “God”.
Saint Ambrose knew that accepting the originality of “nor the son” would nullify Jesus’ divinity, so he claimed that it did not exist in the oldest Greek manuscript. And he added, “it is not to be wondered at if they who have interpolated the sacred Scriptures have also falsified this passage. The reason for which it seems to have been inserted is perfectly plain, so long as it is applied to unfold such blasphemy.” So, accepting the addition of “nor the son,” as the UBS4 did, is a provocative blasphemy that cannot be reconciled, for any reason, with the orthodox faith.
Daniel B. Wallace did his best to lessen the gravity of this problem when he answered Ehrman’s Misquoting. He said, “What is not disputed is the wording in the parallel in Mark 13:32—‘But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father’” (italics added). Thus, there can be no doubt that Jesus spoke of his own prophetic ignorance in the Olivet Discourse. Consequently, what doctrinal issues are really at stake here? One simply cannot maintain that the wording in Matthew 24:36 changes one’s basic theological convictions about Jesus, since the same sentiment is found in Mark. It is interesting that not once in Misquoting Jesus does Ehrman mention Mark 13:32, even though he explicitly discusses Matthew 24:36 in half a dozen places, inclusively suggesting that “nor the Son” here impacts our fundamental understanding of Jesus. But does the wording change our basic understanding of Matthew’s view of Jesus? Even that is not the case. Even if Matthew 24:36 originally lacked “nor the Son,” the fact that the Father alone has this knowledge certainly implies the Son’s ignorance (and the “alone” is found only in Matthew 24:36, not in Mark 13:32).”
Wallace did not present any solution to get us out of this impasse; rather, he worsened it by acknowledging that the Son is lacking one of the features of a God. The truth that can be deduced from what was discovered from the earliest manuscripts is that the scribes were aware that the statement of Matthew 24:36 could not be reconciled with the belief in Jesus’ deity. They succeeded in corrupting Matthew’s text but failed to adjust the parallel passage in the second Gospel. So the earliest recovered reading of Matthew 24:36 exposes the non-orthodoxy of this text.
Basil in the fourth century did not think that the “alone” would prevent him from denying the ignorance of Jesus. He used the classic sophisticated hermeneutical logic of the Church to reconcile the corrupted expunged Matthew 24:36 with Mark 13:32: “What is noticeable in these passages is this; that Matthew says nothing about the ignorance of the Son, and seems to agree with Mark as to sense in saying but my Father only. Now I understand the word only to have been used in contradistinction to the angels, but that the Son is not included with His own servants in ignorance.” Basil’s words tell us that the deletion of “nor the Son” from the Gospel of Matthew has a heavy theological significance, and it cannot be minimized by considering it to be only a marginal scribal distortion of late copies with no serious implications.
He is not Unique
John 9:4. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
The earliest manuscripts (P66 P75 א*) read, “πέμψαντός ἡμᾶς” [pempsantos hēmas], “sent us.” The later scribes felt that the idea that Jesus and his disciples(?) were sent from God threatened the uniqueness of Jesus, the only Son sent by God, so they changed it to “πέμψαντός με” [pempsantos me], “sent me,” for that reason, and maybe also to overcome the contradiction between John 9:4 and John 20:21, where Jesus is claiming that he is the one who sent the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Believing in the uniqueness of Jesus and the coherence of his sayings means not being faithful to the “original.”
It has been stressed in biblical dictionaries and encyclopedias that there is no clear-cut textual evidence for the trinity creed. For instance, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary states that the trinity “is not a biblical doctrine in the sense that any formulation of it can be found in the Bible.” There is a single passage in the New Testament that teaches Trinity. The Textus Receptus had this text in 1John 5:7-8: “ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες εν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα· καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν. καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἕν τῇ γῇ, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσὶν,” which is in the King James Version, “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 is the only apparent textual proof for the trinity. The newest critical editions of the Greek New Testament agree that the italicized text is an apparent addition because it was inserted into a very few Greek manuscripts in the second millennium.
Daniel B. Wallace, in the most bizarre reply on the Misquoting, says, “The early church didn’t know of this text, yet the council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 explicitly affirmed the Trinity. How could they do so without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek New Testament for another millennium? The answer is simple: Constantinople’s Statement was not written in a vacuum; the early church put into a theological formulation what they got out of the New Testament.” And that, “The Trinitarian formula found in late manuscripts of 1John 5:7 only summarized what they found; it didn’t inform their declarations.” This is the height of deception and deceit. Wallace’s answer was meant to keep us distant from the prima facie fact, which is “The Trinitarian formula found in late manuscripts of 1John 5:7 was made to legitimate the church’s fabricated doctrine wholly absent from the Holy Scriptures.”
It is noteworthy that the new critical texts do not deprive the Unitarians of any of their proof-texts. “Every text, formerly adduced by Unitarians in their own favour from the Old Version, will also be found in the New. There are no lapsed verses in their case. Their old proof-texts have not lost any clearness; nay many of them speak, in their new dress, with an added force of testimony.”
The Crucified Son
The un-Crucified Jesus!
Matthew 27: 48-50. “And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”
We read in John 19:33 that after his death, Jesus was pierced in his side: “But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (33-34). The earliest Matthew manuscripts, which include Matthew 27:49-50, Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century), Codex Vaticanus (fourth century), and Codex Ephraemi (fifth century), add, “ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα,” “And another took a spear and pierced his side, and out came water and blood” after “whether Elias will come to save him.” It is obvious that adding that clause is “the harder reading” because it contradicts what is said in John 19:33, where Jesus was pierced after his death, not before. From a medical standpoint, blood and water cease to flow and begin to coagulate after a person’s death.
So, here the internal and external evidence, and the scientific evidence, support the originality of that passage in Matthew 27:49-50. The previous cogent testimonies made S. W. Whitney declare, “All things considered, we cannot resist the conclusion that the marginal reading is genuine, and should have an unquestioned place in Matthew’s Gospel.” Accepting this fact means that Jesus was not killed because of his being hanged on the cross, as is believed by the church, but rather that he was killed by a spear. Pope Clement V. condemned in 1311 A.D. the idea that Jesus’ side had been pierced while he was yet alive. It is a heretical belief that has a scriptural proof from a canonical gospel.
An Awkward scenario?
Hebrews 2:8-9. “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
The “orthodox” belief held by the Church is that Jesus was crucified by the grace of God who sent his Son, the sinless divine being, for redemption of mankind, and that Jesus went by his will to the cross. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews had a different view; he believed that Jesus was crucified “χωρὶς θεοῦ” [chōris theou], “without God,” meaning that he was crucified against his will and without his approval, and that there was no covenant between the Father and the Son to shed the holy blood on the cross as a sacrifice.
The odd statement made in this canonical epistle deeply offended the “orthodox” scribes, who did not have the smallest doubt of the pre-arranged plan of God the father to make a voluntary sacrifice by giving his beloved Son to die on the painful cross as a ransom for many. This variant was understood too as a statement that it is only the human Jesus who suffered on the cross. Later Christian writers charged that the reading was a Nestorian fabrication (Ps.-Oecumenius; Theophylact). These “pious” scribes had no choice but to change the bothersome “without God” to the “suitable” expression “χάριτι θεοῦ” [chariti theou], “grace of God.”
The corruption of the text was very extensive from the fourth century, the time of the Christianization of the Roman Empire, and this shows clearly how determined the early “orthodox” Christians were in creating their “orthodox” scriptures, to the point that they did not hesitate to distort the “original” readings if they could not keep them “orthodox”.
Was He Crucified in Vain?
Luke 22:19–20. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
Bart Ehrman asked, “Did Luke understand that Jesus’ death was an atonement for sin?” Then he answered by saying, “It depends on what you do with Luke 22:19–20. […] Luke has eliminated Mark’s references to Jesus’ death as an atonement. The only remnant of that teaching is in some manuscripts of the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus says that the bread is his body to be broken ‘for you’ and the cup is his blood poured out ‘for you.’ But in our earliest and best manuscripts, these words are missing (much of v. 19 and all of v. 20). It appears scribes have added them to make Luke’s view of Jesus’ death conform to Mark’s and Matthew’s.”
The scribes knew that Luke’s theological view of Jesus’ crucifixion was not compatible with the other Gospels, so they colored Luke’s manuscripts to make them show that Jesus was crucified as atonement.
Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven
Mark 16:9-20. “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”
Luke 24:51. “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”
Daniel Wallace, like any devoted Christian who refuses to acknowledge the embarrassing gap between the old text and the growing dogmas in the history of the church, commented on the unauthenticated story in Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 (the woman caught in adultery), with the classical answer: “it needs to be stressed that these passages change no fundamental doctrine, no core belief-even though much emotional baggage is attached to them. The probability of their not having been part of the original text has been understood for more than a century, yet no theological formulations have been altered.” The problem with this statement is that it is too superficial, and is therefore incapable of discerning the problem. The number one trouble with this answer is Wallace’s atomic thinking—seeing the problem as a group of independent objects.
In his remarks on the Revised Version (1881 A.D.), Alexander Gordon declared, “These two passages [end of Mark and the woman caught in adultery passage], put together, contain more matter than the Epistle to Philemon; while they embrace unique affirmations both of theological and of ethical doctrine. It is plain that the raising of unavoidable doubts as to the canonicity of considerable and important sections of the text, opens the way to an inquiry more fundamental than is suggested by the mere excision of isolated verses; though this in itself is sometimes startling enough.”
The forged canonical end of Mark should not be seen as just a “number of words added to the text.” The problem is many-sided, and it needs to be treated with a lot of care and patience. We can summarize the real issues as follows:
- The narrations of the resurrection and appearances of Jesus in Mark are a later addition to the text.
- There are different endings of Mark in the manuscripts that surfaced in the early centuries.
- The abrupt close of Mark’s Gospel at verse number 8 is a puzzling ending for a religious-historical text.
- If the original ending was lost, as some think, why did that happen? Is it because of the inconvenience of the original termination of the story?
- The Gospel of Mark is the earliest canonical gospel.
- The Gospel of Mark is the main source of Matthew and Luke.
- Q, the other source of Matthew and Luke and the earliest record of Jesus’ message as is held by the majority of scholars, also does not have the story of Jesus’ resurrection and reappearance.
- From whence do Matthew and Luke acquire their versions of Jesus’ resurrection and his reappearance?
- The narration of the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven also existed in Luke 24:51, but many scholars declare that it is a later scribal insertion. And that means that there is no story narration of the ascension in the Gospels.
So, the matter is more complex than Wallace tried to make it seem.
The Virgin Birth
The predominant view of the origin of the Gospel of Luke is that its author used different sources to build his text, the Gospel of Mark being one of these sources. Mark did not allude to the virgin birth, and that shows that he very likely did not know about it or that he did not believe in its historicity. When we read the Gospel of Luke, we note that its author adopted inconsistent traditions. He explicitly mentioned the virgin birth of Jesus, but he also used expressions discarding it.
“And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”
“And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.”
The best manuscripts of the two previous verses have “ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ” [ho patēr autou], “his father” (Luke 2:33) and “οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ” [hoi goneis autou], “his parents” (Luke 2:43). The “faithful” scribes could not accept any suspicion being thrown on the virgin birth doctrine, so they handled the task of maintaining a homogeneous gospel attributed to Luke by changing the heretical allusion to “Joseph” in both verses.
It is worth noting here that the earliest preserved Syriac version of the gospels (Syriac Codex Sinaiticus-4th century) states in Matthew 1:16 that Joseph begat (ܐܘܠܕ) Jesus (KJV: And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus). E. J. Wilson adds: “the statement that Joseph begat him would seem to indicate that the term “virgin” was understood by the redactor of S[inaiticus] to apply to Mary only during the period of the betrothal, but that afterward Joseph fathered a son, and the virgin birth is therefore contradicted by S[inaiticus] (or at least not confirmed).”
The conservative New Testament textual criticism scholar Wilbur N. Pickering summed up his essay on the Greek New Testament Text reconstructed according to the eclectic method (UBS/NA) by stating, “the eclectic text incorporates errors and contradictions that undermine the
doctrine of inspiration and virtually vitiate the doctrine of inerrancy.”
So, if the earliest attainable text of the New Testament (1) proscribes the inerrancy of the holy books, and (2) disproves some of the fundamental church tenets, we have every reason to expect that the autograph would take us farther from the doctrine of the infallibility of the scriptures and its coherence with the church faith, because the inducements to corrupt the text were more intense in the obscure zone, where there were only a few copies in circulation and many newly formed, conflicting sects.
- [Italics mine]. ↑
- Except Romans 9:5. ↑
- Justin Martyr, who lived in the first half of the second century, wrote in “Dialogue with Trypho,” LXII: “But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all his creatures and as Offspring by God.” Tertullian wrote in “Against Hermogenes,” III: “He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of his having always been God. For he could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son.” ↑
- See Tertullian, Against Praxeas, III ↑
- Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes, New York & London: Harper, 1919, 1/27-28 ↑
- This wave was led by Dean Burgon (John William Burgon). Even today some authors accuse the two main figures in the translation committee responsible for the Revised Version (Westcott and Hort) of being heretics; D.A. Waite, a Baptist scholar and one of the most famous defendants of the King James Version today, writes: “these two men were apostates, liberal and unbelievers” (Defending the King James Bible, Collingswood, NJ: Bible for Today Press, 1996, p.41). ↑
- Alexander Gordon, Christian Doctrine in the Light of New Testament Revision, London: Christian Life, 1882, pp.6-7 [italics mine]. ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The original New Testament has been corrupted by copyists so badly that it can’t be recovered,” in Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007, p.72 ↑
- Ibid., p.58 [italics mine]. ↑
- Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992, p.274 ↑
- See Raymond E. Brown, Jesus, God and Man, New York: MacMillan Publishing, cop. 1967, pp.28-9 ↑
- Raymond E. Brown, “Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?,” in Theological Studies, 26 (1965), p.572 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists so Badly that It Can’t Be Recovered,” pp.60-61 ↑
- Ibid., p.61 [italics mine]. ↑
- Dean Burgon sets a good example of how the early “orthodox” altered the text to defend Jesus’ deity: “Theodotus and his followers fastened on the first part of St. John 8: 40 [“But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.”], when they pretended to shew from Scripture that CHRIST is mere Man. I am persuaded that the reading “of My Father,” [instead of: “of God”]—which Origen, Epiphanius, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Cyril Alex., and Theodoret prove to have been acquainted—was substituted by some of the orthodox in this place, with the pious intention of providing a remedy for the heretical teaching of their opponents. At the present day only six cursive copies are known to retain this trace of a corruption of Scripture which must date from the second century.” (The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, pp. 214-15) ↑
- See Bart Ehrman, “The Text as Window: New Testament Manuscripts and the Social History of Early Christianity,” in Bart Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes, eds. The New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, p. 365 ↑
- Origen, Against Celsus 2.27 ↑
- See Richard N. Soulen and R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, third edition, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p.190 ↑
- Ravi Zacharias and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003, p.120 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, Errors in the Greek Text Behind Modern Translations? The Cases of Matthew 1:7, 10 and Luke 23:45http://bible.org/article/errors-greek-text-behind-modern-translations-cases-matthew-17-10-and-luke-2345 (12/4/2011) ↑
- Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p.1 ↑
- W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004, 1/175 ↑
- Robert Horton Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982, p.16 ↑
- James Borland, “The Preservation of the New Testament Text: A Common Sense Approach,” in The Master’s Seminary Journal 10/1 (Spring 1999), p. 49 ↑
- “lamentation, and” in the King James Version. ↑
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008, p.5 [italics mine]. ↑
- Origen, Comm. Jo. 6.41 ↑
- See Titus of Bostra, Fr. Luc. 8:26 ↑
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, p.44 ↑
- See Eusebius, Supp. qu. Marin., 2 ↑
- Jerome, Com. In Matt. 37.45. (Tr. Robert M. Berchman, Porphyry Against the Christians, Leiden: Brill, 2005, p.63) ↑
- Robert A. Guelich, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 1-8:26, Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p.390 ↑
- Ibid. ↑
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, p.131 ↑
- See ibid., p.134 ↑
- James A. Borland, “Re-Examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles and Practices Used to Negate Inerrancy,” in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25:2 (December 1982), pp.504-05 ↑
- Origen, Comm. ser. Matt. 134 ↑
- Jerome, Comm. Matthew, xxvii. 45 ↑
- Wayne C. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition: Evidence of the Influence of Apologetic Interests on the Text of the Canonical Gospels, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004, p.98 ↑
- J. A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, New York: Doubleday, 1998, p.493 ↑
- Ibid., p.650 ↑
- Wayne C. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, pp.86-7 ↑
- Frederik Wisse, “The Nature and Purpose of Redactional Changes in Early Christian Texts: The Canonical Gospels,” in William L. Petersen, ed. Gospel Traditions in the Second Century: Origins, Recensions, Text, and Transmission, p.48 ↑
- Macarius Magnes, Apocriticus. II. 12-15 (tr. R. Joseph Hoffmann, Porphyry’s Against the Christians: The Literary Remains, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994, p.32) ↑
- Origen, Commentary on John, X. 2. ↑
- Wayne C. Kannaday added: “This concern, though, extended back even earlier. Even in the labors of Matthew and Luke there can be recognized an obvious need for the sacred writings of their faith to bear the marks of consistency, harmony, and factual felicity […] Another factual error appears in Mark 2:26 where Jesus is said to have recounted David’s act of commandeering the bread of presence as occurring during the high priesthood of Abiathar, despite the fact that 1 Sam 21:1-7 clearly states that Ahimelech was high priest when this happened. The scribal tradition shows an awareness of and an apparent concern for this factual error. Craig Evans, assuming Marcan priority, adduces Matthew and Luke as the first Christian interpreters who worked to resolve this problem. In their parallel accounts, Matt 12:4 and Lk 6:4, both evangelists manage the error by simply removing the troublesome phrase altogether.” (Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, p.84, 98-99) ↑
- The “issue of inconsistency was addressed frequently, if variously, by apologetic writers, including Justin Martyr, Tatian, Aristides, Theophilus of Antioch, and Origen.” (Ibid., p.84) ↑
James R. White, “Examining Muslim Apologetics (Part One): The Bible versus the Qur’ān,” in Christian Research Journal, volume 25, number 3 (2003)
- Donald A. Hagner gives two reasons for the corruption; the one above and to make Matthew’s Greek less awkward (Donald A. Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1-13, Dallas: Word, 2002, p.299). ↑
- Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p.24 ↑
- W. C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, New York: Charles Scribner, 1907, p.208 ↑
- Even though most of the newest English translations are based on the text of the UBS4; they did not adopt the UBS4 chosen reading in Mark 6:22 (with few exception such NRSV), and that shows CLEARLY that the New Testament is not–till now–free from the human intention to change its statements! ↑
- R. A. Guelich, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 1-8:26, p.332 ↑
- See Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, Tr. G. Buswell. New York: Harper & Row, 1960, pp.38-41 ↑
- Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, New York: Charles Scribner, 1896, p.243 ↑
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, p.195 [italics mine]. ↑
- See ibid., p.204 ↑
- Ibid., p.243 ↑
- E. Haenchen, John: A Commentary on the Gospel of John, tr. R. W. Funk, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, 1/164 ↑
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, p.275 ↑
- Hugh Montefiore, Credible Christianity: The Gospel in Contemporary Society, London: Mowbray, 1993, p. 5 ↑
- See Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 79 ↑
- With reference to the four gospels, only Matthew and John claimed to be Jesus’ disciples, but this cannot be accepted any longer, because we now know, as admitted by Wallace, that Mark, who belongs to the second Christian generation, was the main source for Matthew. The large divergences between John and the other synoptic gospels led many scholars to doubt the accuracy of John’s accounts and his discipleship. ↑
- Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, p.74. Wallace portrayed this view with a very paradoxical statement of bibliology: “The real miracle of inspiration is that the writers were usually unaware of the Spirit’s guidance of them as they penned their words.” (Wallace, The Synoptic Problem and Inspiration: A Response; http://bible.org/article/synoptic-problem-and-inspiration-response (12/4/2011).) I have to admit that it is really an “unbelievable miracle”! An absolutely unbelievable one! The New Testament was written, as depicted by the Wallacian bibliology, this way: (1) The authors used human sources when collecting the material of their books. (2) They did not intend to write the Word of God. (3) They did not even know that they were writing the Word of God. Yet, we have to believe that they were writing the Word of God! I can see Wallace asking us to be more biblist than the authors of the Bible, or as the French proverb says: “être plus royaliste que le roi.” ↑
- Wallace goes on to say that the New Testament should be seen as “a book,” like any historical book, when he was answering those who think that the doctrine of inerrancy is a core belief in Christianity. He said, “If we demand inerrancy of the Bible before we can believe that any of it is true, what are we to say about other ancient historical documents? We don’t demand that they be inerrant, yet no evangelical would be totally skeptical about all of ancient history.” (Wallace, My Take on Inerrancy) ↑
- Wayne C. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, p.105 ↑
- Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds. The Jewish annotated New Testament: New Revised Standard Version Bible translation, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, p.102 ↑
- Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, p.63 ↑
- Other reasons are (1) it makes no sense to ask people not to be angry even for good reason; (2) Jesus’ commandment is not compatible with Paul’s commandment: “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26) ↑
- See Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Get Angry or Agonize?,” in Bible Review 21 (2005). pp.16-26 ↑
- See the list of scholars in Heinrich Greeven and Eberhard W. Güting, Textkritik des Markusevangeliums, Münster: LIT Verlag Münster, 2005, pp.120-21 ↑
- “A Leper in the Hands of an Angry Jesus,” in New Testament Greek and Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Gerald Hawthorn, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003; pp.77-98 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists So Badly That It Can’t Be Recovered,” p.66 ↑
- See ibid., pp.66-7 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, The Synoptic Problem, http://bible.org/article/synoptic-problem (6/30/2011) ↑
- See Wayne C. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, pp.131-32 ↑
- Jerome, Dialogus Adversus Pelagianos, II. 17 ↑
- C. A. Evans, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27-16:20, Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p.47 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace made a strong case against the authenticity of the story, see Wallace “Reconsidering ‘The Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery Reconsidered,” in New Testament Studies, 39 (1993), pp.290-96 ↑
- Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature, New York: Oxford University, 2000, p.112 ↑
- Jay P. Green, Unholy Hands on the Bible: An Examination of Six Major New Versions, Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1992, pp.225-26 [italics mine]. ↑
- George Arthur Buttrick and others, eds. The Interpreters’ Bible, New York: Abingdon Press, 1954, 9/540 [italics mine]. ↑
- Jerome D. Quinn and William C. Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Notes and Commentary, Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000, p.295 ↑
- Ambrose, Fid. 5.16.193 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists So Badly That It Can’t Be Recovered,” pp.67-8 ↑
- Basil, letter 236.2 ↑
- J. D. Douglas and N. Hillyer, eds. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1980, 3/1597 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists So Badly That It Can’t Be Recovered,” p.70 ↑
- Ibid., pp.70-1 [emphasis by Wallace] ↑
- Alexander Gordon, Christian Doctrine in the Light of New Testament Revision, p.24 ↑
- S. W. Whitney, The Revisers’ Greek Text: A Critical Examination of Certain Readings, Textual and Marginal,” in The Original Greek of the New Testament, Boston: Silver, Burdett, 1892, 1/168 ↑
- Ibid., 1/165 ↑
- C. R. Koester, Hebrews: A new translation with introduction and commentary, New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2008, p.218 ↑
- Origen, Comm. Jo. 1.35 testified in the third century that the majority of the manuscripts had “without God.” ↑
- Bart Ehrman made a strong case for the originality of “without.” A must read study: Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp.146-50 ↑
- Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, pp.187-88 ↑
- Daniel B. Wallace, “The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists So Badly that It Can’t Be Recovered,” p.64 ↑
- Alexander Gordon, Christian Doctrine in the Light of New Testament Revision, p.10 [italics mine]. ↑
- Some versions omitted it: the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and the Revised English Bible. ↑
- E. J. Wilson, The Old Syriac Gospels, Studies and Comparative Translations (Tr. G. A. Kiraz) Louaize, Lebanon; Piscataway, NJ: Notre Dame University; Gorgias Press, 2003, p.xlvii ↑
- Wilbur N. Pickering, “What Difference Does It Make?” in Jay P. Green, Unholy Hands on the Bible: An Examination of Six Major New Versions, p.574 [italics mine]. ↑