Answering Missionaries

May 24, 2006

Response to Steve Hays reaction

Filed under: Anti-Islamic/Muslim Polemics,Bible Text,Dialogue/Debates — answeringmissionaries @ 6:53 pm

Howdy everyone!

In response to my response, a Christian apologist, Steve Hays, has also offerred a short reply which is to be found here and here. As you will notice, right from the outset Mr. Hays maintains a patronizing and arrogant tone towards me throughout his brief reply. Needless to say, such an attitude is hardly conducive for a civil and sober discussion/dialogue. Nonetheless, I will try to reply in a civil manner, though I make no promises.

As usual, my original statements will follow “>” whereas Mr. Hays’ reply will be in italics.

    “I’ll venture a few of my own comments on some of Rambo’s assertions:”

      > However, I suppose that if a text is known to be textually
      > uncertain, whatever the percentage, then we would naturally
      > have to study all of its statements more carefully in order
      > to ensure as best we can that the text in question is
      > “original” and not the product of adaptation by a later
      > scribe before we decide whether or not the claims are
      > historically plausible.

    “This is misleading. Transcriptional errors are not that randomized. Rather, they follow a certain pattern in terms of the types of inadvertent mistakes which a scribe is apt to make.”

Above I was not commenting upon the state of the New Testament, but making a general observation regarding a hypothetical document which is known to have underwent an unknown amount of textual corruption during its transmission. This reply was in response to a hypothetical question posed by Patrick Chan. Naturally, to ascertain whether or not this hypothetical document contains “historical” information, one would first have to establish its text. What is “misleading” here?

      > Not a problem. According to Muslims, Muhammad was
      > illiterate, he could not read and write, and so he had
      > scribes to whom he dictated the surahs and they wrote them
      > in his presence and then recited them back to him for
      > verification. Muhammad had over 30 or 40 scribes (sorry I
      > can’t remember the exact figures right now), who were
      > basically his followers and companions. Thus Muslims
      > believe that the Quran is the verbatim word of God,
      > revealed to Muhammad though the angel Gibrael, which
      > Muhammad then recited to the scribes for transcription. If
      > you are interested to pursue this topic in-depth, I would
      > suggest you take a look at the following book: M. M. Azami,
      > The History Of The Qur’anic Text From Revelation To
      > Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New
      > Testaments, 2003, UK Islamic Academy.
      >
      > Nonetheless, having said this, I will state that my
      > confidence in the general Quranic outline of Jesus and his
      > mission was immensely raised after I read a couple of books
      > on the subject of the historical Jesus by NON-MUSLIM
      > scholars, books by scholars such as E. P. Sanders, Paula
      > Fredriksen, Geza Vermes, C. M. Tuckett and many other
      > scholars.
      >
      > The following is a list of some of the leading scholars
      > whose writings I have read or am still reading: Bart D.
      > Ehrman, David C. Parker, Michael W. Holmes, William L.
      > Petersen, Helmut Koester, Kim Haines-Eitzen, James D.
      > Miller, John J. Brogan, Eldon J. Epp, Harry Y. Gamble.

    “Notice an emerging pattern. Rambo quotes conservative Muslims scholars on Koranic textual criticism, but he generally quotes liberal Christian or Jewish scholars on NT textual criticism and early church history.”

There will be only one emerging pattern to note as our discussion proceeds: my consistent reliance upon mainstream scholarship and Mr. Hays’ heavy reliance upon internet polemics against the Quran and overly conservative scholarship for the New Testament.

Second, he does not explain what is a “conservative” and “liberal” Muslim scholar in Quranic studies. Azami is a recognized authority in the field of hadith and Quranic studies, a mainstream Muslim scholar, the equivalent of Bruce Metzger in Quranic/Hadith studies. He does not represent a fringe segment of scholarship.

I personally don’t know of any “liberal Muslim” scholars who have said something contrary to Azami regarding the transmission and compilation of the Quran. Certainly, there are differences of opinion among Muslim scholars over certain points of details, but all of them – and I really do mean ALL – acknowledge the textual integrity of the Quran.

Similarly, when we move on to New Testament studies, I again referred to mainstream scholars and did not rely upon fringe opinion here and there. All of the scholars that I named are authorities in their field of studies.

I mentioned specifically that John Brogan is an evangelical scholar. Perhaps I should also have added Prof. Metzger to the above list bearing in mind the statements in the latest edition of his introduction of the New Testament. E. P Sanders, on the other hand – though not a scholar of textual criticism – is a practising Protestant Christian and, similarly, Parker, Koester, Tuckett, and many others (whose writings I am still reading, such as Dunn and Stanton) are also committed Christians. Dunn and Stanton, in particular, are no mere “liberals.”

Finally, terms and descriptions such as “conservative Muslim” and “liberal Muslim” are not current or widely used in Quranic studies by Muslim scholarship. Christian polemicists impose terms and jargons in currency within their scholarship upon an entirely different field, in which they are alien, barely applied, or meaningless.

      > You also enquire how do we know that the stories about
      > Jesus within the Quran are “authoritative”? I suppose you
      > are trying to ask how do we establish if the stories about
      > Jesus within the Quran are HISTORICALLY ACCURATE. Well,
      > that’s a different matter altogether. For me personally, I
      > cannot “prove” that the virgin birth is an historical event
      > even though I accept it as a real actual event. This
      > acceptance is based on my faith and belief in the Quran as
      > God’s word. Basically, we cannot “prove” scientifically,
      > historically or archaeologically that miracles such as the
      > virgin birth of Jesus did take place. It takes faith to
      > accept these stories.

    “It takes a lot more faith for a Muslim the absence of certain lines of evidence available to the Christian with respect to the Bible, viz. archeological confirmation, the argument from prophecy, the argument from miracles.”

On the contrary, me thinks that it takes a lot more faith for a Christian to accept the Bible as an inspired document given the absence of certain lines of evidences such as archeological confirmation, the argument from prophecy, the argument from miracles.

You are not required to be too bright to figure out that anyone can make such assertions about someone elses’ religion. It is very easy. It is even more easy to counter/weaken the possible “evidences” Mr. Hays may bring up in support of the inerrancy and complete inspiration of the Bible since I can utilise the writings of committed Christian scholars to undermine his exagerrations.

Moreover, bearing in mind James White’s recent performance, it would appear that a lot more faith would have to be invested to believe the Bible as completely inspired and inerrant given his inability to offer even one positive reason why the Bible should be deemed the inerrant and inspired.

I am really not interested in such polemics. But the above was just to show how easily r. Hays’ proclamations can be turned upon him.

On a serious note, faith is required to accept any writing as the word of God, be it the Quran or the Bible. The assertion that Christians require “less” faith while Muslims require “a lot more” are just the type of claim one would make for self-satisfaction.

Coming to the Quran, Muslims can (and have) pointed towards the evidence of archaeology, prophecy, miracles etc., in support of their belief in the Quran. Even Shabir Ally, in his debate with White, offered many positive reasons why we may consider the Quran as the Word of God. Here are some links which get into the details:

I realize that Christians too can proffer such types of evidences in support of their belief in the Bible. I can either dismiss them from the outset due to my presupposition that the Bible is false (no matter what), or I may study them in a serious manner, granting the possibility that I could be wrong. Something tells me that while Mr. Hays would really like me to adopt the later mindset with regard to the Bible, he would, however, not be willing to give the same courtesy to the Quran. This is clear from his attitude and tone.

      > Correct me if I am wrong, but the last time I checked
      > Christians were in quite a disagreement over the issue
      > whether or not the New Testament is divinely revealed.

    “Yes, I’m more than happy to correct him. He is failing, no doubt deliberately, to distinguish between the self-witness of the NT and whether liberals are prepared to believe the self-witness.”

Mr. Hays believes that he has the ability to enter my mind and thus know for sure that there is “no doubt” at all about my supposed “failing to distinguish” being “no doubt deliberate.” For some reason, the laws of physics do not permit me to honestly get something wrong without a deliberate ulterior intent, or to make an innocent mistake/error. No such benefit of the doubt is to be granted to me. If I make a mistake of any type, it “must” be “no doubt deliberate.” This is how Mr. Hays has painted me right from the start. Hence, any erroneous statement from my part has to be by default “no doubt deliberate.” No other explanation is possible.

On the contrary, it is Mr. Hays who again failed to read carefully (no doubt deliberately?) what I said. My emphasis was upon the notion of the Bible being “revealed.” That the Bible is a “revealed” book is something which is not widely accepted by Christians.

      > According to most Christians, the plenary verbal view of
      > inspiration is not a valid model. Hardly any Christian
      > would be willing to state that the New Testament was
      > “revealed”. Most Christians adopt a model of inspiration
      > according to which the New Testament are documents composed
      > by human authors, not “revealed” documents, but that
      > somehow the Holy Spirit “guided” these authors.

    “This is muddled. To speak precisely, all of Scripture (=the Bible) is inspired, but not all of Scripture is revealed. Revelation is a subcategory of inspiration.”

What is “muddle” to Hays is an even “better” summation of the Christian understanding of the New Testament in the eyes of another Christian apologist. Consider the comments of another Christian to my above cited words:

I was amazed that Rambo was able to sum up the Christian understanding of the NT pretty well, maybe even better than may Christians would do it:

    “According to most Christians, the plenary verbal view of inspiration is not a valid model. Hardly any Christian would be willing to state that the New Testament was “revealed”. Most Christians adopt a model of inspiration according to which the New Testament are documents composed by human authors, not “revealed” documents, but that somehow the Holy Spirit “guided” these authors. Apart from the author of Revelation, no author of the New Testament claims to be writing “inspired” documents. Moreover, once we compare these writings, we note that the authors occasionally make grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, sometimes write in confused Greek as well. So, the documents do not appear to be “special” on a prima facia level. Why then should I start off with the presupposition that they are “inspired” or “revealed” writings, especially when none of the authors – apart from 1 – claimed to have been “inspired”?”

I essentially agree with this. The books of the Bible are inspired, but in most parts not “literally inspired.” How they were written down was very different from how the authors of the Quran or the “book of Mormon” claim these books came into being. The books of the Bible were written by many different authors, in many different styles and in different languages, and different forms of literature styles, in many different places, and over a very long period. Some of the authors are unknown, and most of them did not know or claim they were writing a “book of the Bible.” Only later, what they wrote was added to the canon because people started to understand that the authors had been inspired (not literally, but regarding the content) and contained the Word of God. So, on the one side, most of the Bible books were written in a completely natural way by human beings. But on the other side, miraculously, they contain the Word of God.

Perhaps Chris also failed to distinguish, “no doubt deliberately”? We should not be surprised if Mr Hays decides to take a similar cheap shot at his fellow Christian as well.

Mr. Hays says that all of scripture (=the Bible, although we are not told which particular collection of books) is inspired though not all of it is “revealed.” But he never explains why we should just suppose right from the outset that the New Testament writings are allegedly “inspired”, let alone “revealed”? This was the question I began with initially. Nonetheless, Mr. Hays, albeit partially, agrees with my statement that the Bible cannot be viewed in its entirety as a “revealed” collection of document since he only asserts that the Bible is partially “revealed.”

    “Revelation would involve direct information from God, bypassing ordinary sources of information. There are many examples of revelation in Scripture.”

Such as? Silence.

    “However, God, by inspiration, and can also make use of ordinary sources of information.”

I have no objection to this. All I want to know is the reason to suppose that the New Testament writings, in their entirety, are inspired, especially in light of the fact that the earliest Christians did not generally view the New Testament writings – whatever writings they were aware of – as “Scripture”? For them, the Jewish Bible was “Scripture,” the canon of which, however, was not fixed among the earliest Christians. Before Mr. Hays decides to repeat the boring mantra: “liberals! liberals! Evil! Evil!” let me inform the readers that many, many conservative and evangelical scholars also agree with this observation. I have the references ready, so feel free to ask!

    “Apart from the author of Revelation, no author of the New Testament claims to be writing “inspired” documents.

    i) What we have in the NT are certain programmatic passages (e.g. Jn 14; 16; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21), as well as certain authoritarian claims (e.g. Paul) which are applicable to the NT generally.”

2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1:19-21 only refer to the inspiration of the Jewish Bible – the scope of which we don’t know. They have nothing to say regarding the alleged inspiration of the New Testament. Regarding 2 Tim. 3:16, we read this in a conservative source:

The expression … for the divine word is peculiar, so far as the New Testament is concerned; but it occurs in Philo and Josephus (see in Wetstein), and always in the definite sense, the sacred writings, or the Holy Scriptures, namely, of the Old Testament. Here also, of course, it is Old Testament Scripture that is meant. And the things contained in them are represented as still possessed of saving virtue-possessing it even for such a believer as Timothy …

[Patrick Fairbairn, Commentary On The Pastoral Epistles, 2001 Sovereign Grace Publishers, p. 376]

According to another conservative and evangelical source:

The statement in 2 Tim. 3:16 sums up the whole attitude of Paul. Whatever translation we adopt it is plain from v. 15 that the apostle has the OT in mind and that he thinks of it as peculiarly inspired by God.

[D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman (Editors), The New Bible Commentary, 1970, Revised, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 3]

If Christians insist that 2 Tim. 3:16 is supposed to include the New Testament as well, then we may say that the author of this writing was definitely not inspired since he was unaware that none of Paul’s writings were in existence when Timothy was a little child!

Regarding 2 Pet. 1:19-21, The New Jerome Bible Commentary says that:

(B) 2 Pet 1:19-21. “We have the prophetic word made more sure….First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (RSV)…

The immediate context (1:12-21) guarantees Christian hope. Having reflected on the transfiguration (v v 12-18), the author cites “the prophetic word” (ton prophetikon logon, i.e., the entire Law, Prophets, and Writings – the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures; … as a firm foundation for hope insofar as God has confirmed its truth, and its message was in the process of being realized.

[Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Roland E. Murphy (Ed.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990) Nihil Obstat. Imprimatur: Reverend William J. Kane. Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Washington, Nov. 15 1988]

As for John 14, I don’t see where the author claims to be writing under “inspiration.” Perhaps Mr. Hays can offer the precise passage so we may attempt to study it.

And what so-called “authoritarian” claims of Paul suggest that he believed he was writing “Scripture” or an “inerrant inspired” letter? Yes, Paul did believe he was in charge and that others had to follow his authority. Paul did believe that he was inspired by God. But when he wrote letters, did he write them with the belief that they were sacrosant letters, on a par with the Jewish Bible?

More importantly, just because a New Testament writer claims to be inspired, it does not follow that he is really inspired.

    “ii) Let’s also remember that the NT takes the OT as its model of inspiration and revelation. The NT didn’t come out of the blue. It is building on a prior foundation, as an extension of that inspired cornerstone.”

Certainly, the New Testament writings did not come out of the blue. The New Testament is basically a collection of letters written by different individuals at different times to deal with different situations, and books about Jesus (the gospels) and the history of the early church (Acts). Mr Hays does not explain where the New Testament allegedly takes the Jewish Bible as “its model of inspiration and revelation.” He is merely assuming what he needs to demonstrate. Moreover, did Matthew and Luke really deem Mark as inspired sacred and inerrant “Scripture” bearing in mind the way they used Mark during the composition of their own gospels? Or does Mr Hays also deny Marcan priority, something readily accepted by conservative and evangelical scholars in general as well?

      > Moreover, once we compare these writings, we note that the
      > authors occasionally make grammatical mistakes, spelling
      > mistakes, sometimes write in confused Greek as well. So,
      > the documents do not appear to be “special” on a prima
      > facia level.

    “i) This trades on an equivocation of terms. Grammar and spelling have no truth-value. They make no truth-claims. A misspelling or grammatical error is neither true nor false. It is not a true or false statement about something.

    ii) Rambo is also assuming that there was a standardized form of spelling in the Koine era.

    iii) Grammar is a social convention, and it varies according to your social class.”

I did not claim either that grammar and spelling have truth value. Let me rephrase my query: if a writing contains grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, grammatical confusions etc., does not appear to be special on a prima facia level, then what reason is there to suppose that its authors were “inspired” in the first place? Why should we begin with the presupposition that such authors were “inspired” and could make no errors besides linguistic and grammatical errors?

According to Hays, grammar “varies according to your social class.” I agree with this. The educated will be better at grammar as opposed to the ones who underwent little or no schooling. The grammar within the New Testament varies. Some writers wrote with a high grammatical standard (Luke for instance) while others did not (author of Revelation). But why start with the presupposition that these writers were inspired and inerrant?

In other words, I understand that Christians such as Mr. Hays accept the Bible as “inspired”; I just wish to know why? Given the very ordinary nature of these writings, why believe they were “inspired?”

    “iv) Rambo has fallen into a trap. In order for him to assert that the NT writers make these mistakes, he would have to admit that our extant MSS give us access to the autographa.

    But if our MSS are as corrupt as he would have it, then grammatical errors or misspellings in our extant MSS are not directly traceable to the autographa.”

There is no “trap” here. First, I did not say that the manuscripts of the New Testament are so corrupt that they are radically or substantially different from the original writings. Mr. Hays had to construct a strawman here.

Second, the grammatical mistakes are there whether they are from the original writers or the later scribes.

Third, even if I had claimed that the manuscripts are totally different from what was originally written (note again that this isn’t my view), there would have been no “trap” in place since I can follow the model utilised by classical scholars who comment upon ancient texts, known to have suffered from corruptions, by granting them “authentic” status for arguments sake. I can say that the manuscripts of the New Testament are quite corrupt and still work from the hypothesis, for arguments sake, that the grammatical problems eminate from the original writers.

Fourth, I can take the grammatical problems as is, putting aside their exact source (whether from original writers or later scribes), and assume them to be part of our finished product.

In anycase, why believe such a book to be fully inspired?

It is interesting to note that Mr. Hays believes that the extant manuscripts of the New Testament give access to the “authographa”, a far-fetched claim which not many textual scholar entertain.

Finally, to my personal view, I believe that the text of a critical edition is a close approximation of what the writers originally wrote, though not identical to it. The present form of the text, particularly in the case of the gospels and the Pauline epistles, are quite likely to contain later interpolations though, by large, they are like to be very similar to the “originals.”

      > Why then should I start off with the presupposition that
      > they are “inspired” or “revealed” writings, especially when
      > none of the authors – apart from 1 – claimed to have been
      > “inspired”?

    “i) Because the Koran, in the Meccan surahs, commits Rambo to the revelatory status of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures (e.g. 5:45-46,65-66; 10:94; 29:46).”

The Quran in the Meccan surahs does not commit me to view the New Testament and the Jewish writings are completely inspired or inerrant.

Let’s briefly consider the passages one by one.

5:45-46

We ordained therein for them: “Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.” But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.

And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.

Nothing here says that the writings in the hands of the Jews and Christians are 100% accurate, fully inspired or textually authentic. The verse is not commenting upon the status of the various writings in the possession of the Jews and Christians. Instead, it only mentions the fact that the “Gospel” was revealed to Jesus (P). Yes, we do indeed believe that what was revealed upon Jesus (P) and Moses (P) was the truth.

Next passage

5:65-66

If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to gardens of bliss.

If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil.

Nothing here says that what is in the hands of the Jews and Christians is 100% accurate, inspired or textually authentic. It is only said that the Jews and Christians did not abide by the revelations which were given to them, not that those revelations remained entirely intact. Moreover, despite the corruption, the Jewish and Christian writings still contain elements of truth within them as well.

Next passage: 10:94. The entire passage is actually 10:93-95:

We settled the Children of Israel in an honourable dwelling place and provided for them sustenance of the best: It was after knowledge had been granted to them, that they fell into schisms. Verily Allah will judged between them as to the schisms amongst them, on the day of judgement.

If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee; THE TRUTH HAD INDEED COME TO THEE FROM THY LORD: SO BE IN NO WISE OF THOSE IN DOUBT.

NOR BE OF THOSE WHO REJECT THE SIGNS OF ALLAH, OT THOU SHALT BE OF THOSE WHO PERISHED

We don’t read above that the scriptures in the hands of the Jews and Christians are fully accurate or authentic. Instead, the Quran informs the doubters that the truth has come to them (the Quran) and they should not doubt it.

The final passage:

29:46

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).”

There are no words here about the writings in the possession of the Jews and Christians. Yes, we do believe in the revelation that came down to the Jews and Christians through Moses (P) and Jesus (P), but we do not believe that the writings in their hands are entirely intact, inspired and authentic.

Moving on:

    “ii) And if Rambo tries to weasel out of this dilemma by claiming that the Meccan surahs are only applicable to Jews and Christians in the 7C Hijaz, then he cannot turn around and appeal to the Medinan surahs to prove that the corruption of the OT and NT extended beyond the confines of the 7C Hijaz.

    So he has a choice between one dilemma and another.”

The act of weasling is Mr. Hays’ occupation; I do not need to apply his modus operandi to deal with his imaginary “dilemma”, particularly in light of this weird argument which I have never seen a Muslim apply.

The Quran no where states that what the Jews and Christians have in their hands is 100% authentic or reliable. Instead, the Quran directly deals with the theological beliefs propounded by the Christians and dismisses them. For instance, the divine sonship of Jesus (P) is denied by the Quran; the Trinity is denied; Jesus (P) being God is denied; the crucifixion is denied and other examples can be offered where certain Christian beliefs are denied by the Quran. Logically, if a person proclaims and affirms such beliefs, then he is wrong according to the Quran. These Christian beliefs have always been an integral part of their different writings. The author of the Quran knew what the Christians believed and He denied their beliefs with confidence. Naturally, the Christians acquired their beliefs from their books and traditions, whatever they may have been. It is the beliefs highligted above which are mistaken according to the Quran.

    “iii) It also won’t do for him to suppose that the Christians of the 7C Hijaz had a different canon of the Bible, for even if that were so, the discrepancies between the NT and the Koran involve such doctrines as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Are we to suppose that the NT canon of Christians from the 7C Hijaz had no books recording or alluding to the crucifixion or resurrection of Christ? Think about that for a moment.”

Whatever books the Christians of the Hijaz possessed, I think it is more than likely that they did make mention of the crucifixion and the divine sonship of Jesus. So far I agree with Mr. Hays. My point, however, which has been overlooked, is that the Author of the Quran is aware of these beliefs. He knows this is what these Christians believe, Yet He goes on to dismiss and deny them categorically. Mr. Hays needs to think about this carefully: is it really likely to suppose that the Author of the Quran did not know that these beliefs were embedded within the writings in the possession of these Christians? It is reasonable to suppose that He was aware of this since he knew of Christians who propounded these beliefs and defended them. And yet He denies these central Christian beliefs numerous times. It is therefore sensible to say that the Author of the Quran did not regard the books of these Christians to be entirely reliable, accurate or inspired in their entirety. Think about this.

What we have is the Quran confidently dismissing and denying a number of central Christian beliefs which were a firm part of the “Bible” of these Christians.

      > To me you seem to be giving the impression as if I “made
      > up” or “invented” the claim or idea of New Testament
      > textual corruption. On what basis would I claim that the
      > New Testament documents underwent corruptions during the
      > course of their transmission? Well, the same basis which
      > has convinced all textual critics – the Greek manuscripts
      > of the New Testament, particularly the earliest ones. We
      > look at manuscripts, compare them and so know how texts
      > were adapted at times.

    “Do all textual critics say the earliest MSS are the most corrupt?

    Rambo is obviously attempting to insinuate radical primitive error in the course of transmission.”

Obviously I did not make any such insinuation about the nature of the errors, but only that scholars generally agree that the earliest manuscripts contain far more variations than later manuscripts. Whether these are “radical” or otherwise I did not state.

I didn’t say that “all” textual critics claimed that the earliest manuscripts were most corrupt. Frankly, I do not know what each and every textual critic on this planet presently believes regarding the state of the earliest manuscripts. However, I can say with reasonable certainty – and I am more than happy to provide references in the future upon request – that textual scholars generally agree that the text of the New Testament writings were most unstable during the earliest period of their transmission.

      > No, I was arguing that, as you also stated, Muhammad, who
      > lived centuries and centuries after the composition of the
      > New Testament and Old Testament writings, who could not
      > speak a word of Greek either, and who was basically
      > illiterate, could have been in no position to conduct
      > painstaking studies to know that the previous writings had
      > underwent corruption during the course of their
      > transmission. Yet, despite all these hurdles, his claim
      > turns out to be rock solid…so, this is just one indication
      > for me personally that he was being inspired by God. Of
      > course, this isn’t the only reason why I accept him as a
      > Prophet, but it does make me wonder how he could have
      > gotten so many facts right.

    “i) To my knowledge, Muhammad, in the Koran, never accuses the Christians of corrupting the text of the NT. At most, he accuses the (or some) Medinan Jews of corrupting the text of the OT.”

Your “knowledge” requires serious updating I would suggest. First, as a Muslim I do not believe that Muhammed (P) “says” anything within the Quran since the Quran is not his word. It is the word of God. But in this instance I will argue from a non-commital perspective.

At least Mr. Hays acknowledges that the Quran does accuse the Jews of corrupting the text of the Old Testament. His only qualm is that a similar charge is not levelled towards the Christians. But this is quite mistaken as I have already explained.

The Author of the Quran denies a number of central Christian beliefs throughout the Quran. This is acknowledged by Mr. Hays. These Christian beliefs are a part of their scriptures, whatever precise writing they possessed. Thus, the lack of reliability of the Christian writings is very clearly suggested within the Quran from the fact that many of the central doctrines and claims made within these writings, claims which are their integral part, are head on dismissed and rejected by the Quran. According to the Quran, these views and beliefs are false.

    “ii) There is also an obvious tension between the view of the Bible in the Meccan surahs and the view of the Bible in the Medinan surahs.”

This is an imaginary “obvious tension,” one which will be never explained and elaborated upon by Mr. Hays despite his repetition of this assertion.

      > As for the Jewish Bible, I would recommend the following
      > reference by one of the leading scholars on the Qumran
      > scrolls: Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the
      > Origins of the Bible (Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and
      > Related Literature), 1999, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
      > Company.

    “This is a little off the beaten track. Isn’t Emanuel Tov the leading OT textual critic?”

Notice again how he misreads what I plainly said. I said that Eugene Ulrich is ONE OF THE leading scholars on the Qumran scrolls. I didn’t say that he was “the” leading scholar. Obviously, there are more than one leading scholars on the Qumran scrolls.

      > Metzger is without a doubt the “daddy” of textual
      > criticism, second to none, but, of course, some scholars
      > would differ with some of his views. Nonetheless, I would
      > also recommend you the LATEST edition of Metzger’s book,
      > particularly because it is co-authored with none other than
      > Prof. Bart Ehrman.

    “To call Ehrman a coauthor is an overstatement. This is the fourth edition.”

There is no “ovserstatement” here since Ehrman is described as a “co-author” in the back cover of the book itself! Let me quote (bold added):

This thoroughly revised edition of Bruce M. Metzger’s classic work is the most up-to-date manual available for the textual criticism of the New Testament . . . Fourth Edition, has been invigorated by the addition of Bart D. Ehrman . . . as a coauthor.

Read the preface of the this edition as well since Ehrman and Metzger are presented as co-authors.

Evangelical scholar Daniel Wallace also refers to Metzger and Ehrman as coauthors:

The fourth edition of this venerable classic has undergone a more thorough revision than any previous iteration, in part because it is now co-authored by Bart Ehrman.

May be Wallace too, “no doubt deliberately,” made such an “overstatement?”

It should be pointed out that Wallace does refer to “Ehrman’s fingerprints” and his “distinct contribution” in chapter 4. However, there is no reason to suppose that Metzger disagreed with these sections of the book. It is natural to suppose, unless there are strong reasons to think otherwise, that Metzger approved of these parts and, therefore, permitted their inclusion within the 4th edition of his influential book. Thus, the whole work may be regarded as a co-authored project, when if certain sections were composed only by Ehrman, in light of the fact that Metzger must have read and approved of them, giving those sections his consent and blessings.

Nonetheless, we will find Mr. Hays conducting marvellous acrobatics in his later tirades to weasal out of this dilemma. (note, I am applying Hays’ own wording against him)

Mr. Hays may not like Prof. Ehrman and may even think of him as a very embodiment of Satan on earth, but that is no excuse to deny basic elementary facts. Ehrman is indeed the co-author of this book, with Bruce Metzger, and is presented as such throughout, whether Mr Hays likes it or not.

And yes, I know this is the fourth edition. When I said this was the “latest” edition, I was not contradicting the fact that this was also the fourth edition!

But Mr Hays is not done yet, he has more strange arguments to offer due to his anger at Ehrman:

    “Metzger is now a ninety-something, so he can’t do it all himself anymore.

Fine, so he had Ehrman assist him. Metzger must have had a high estimation of Ehrman as a textual scholar.

    But this is a revision of his standard monograph. It doesn’t rewrite the whole thing.

Neither did I suggest that it “rewrote” the whole thing.

    The main difference is that Ehrman has interpolated some stuff into the third edition from his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.”

But there is no reason to suppose that Metzger disagreed with those “interpolations.” It is only natural to believe that Metzger approved of those additions after reading them, that he agreed with them, and did not find them to be utterly objectionable. Thus, in those “additions” we may see the agreement of both Metzger and Ehrman. Hence the whole work may be seen as the product of Metzger and Ehrman’s co-authorship/collaboration.

I also wonder why Metzger did not approach, say for instance Daniel Wallace, or some other evangelical textual critic, to help him update his classical introduction to the textual criticism of the New Testament? That Metzger approached Ehrman and agreed to have him as a co-author shows how highly he regards Ehrman.

      > Again, Metzger agrees in the latest edition that there are
      > many variants in the New Testament mss tradition which are
      > of immense theological and historical significance, over
      > which the entire meaning of passages hinders, so that they
      > cannot just be conveniently ignored. Moreover, he has an
      > interesting section on the “original text” as well,
      > together with information on the transmission of the New
      > Testament in the earliest period – when most of the
      > corruptions emerged.

    “i) We need to distinguish the sections penned by Metzger from the stuff by Ehrman.”

Mr. Hays needs to submit proof, not just his desire, to show that Metzger supposedly strongly disagreed with those parts and did not approve of their arguments and conclusions.

We have, as of yet, no reason to believe this. Instead, it is logical to suppose that whatever we find in this book receives the endorsement of both Metzger and Ehrman even if certain parts are argued to be Ehrman’s distinctive contribution. Unless the contrary is shown, the starting point has to be that Metzger approved them and agreed with the arguments/conclusions.

    “ii) In addition, certain variants do concern Christological verses. In that sense they are more substantive than misspellings.

    Due, however, to the redundancy of NT teaching, a high Christology doesn’t depend on any disputed verse.

    iii) Moreover, the examples of intentional “corruption” to further a high Christology come from later MSS in the Alexandrian tradition.

    But we can still make our case, with plenty to spare, from earlier MSS.”

Let me end this with just one quote from this book:

While no one would claim that theological controversies caused the majority of our hundreds of thousands of textual variants, they clearly engendered several hundred. Nor are these variant readings, taken as a whole, of little consequence. On the contrary, many prove to be critical for questions relating to the New Testament exegesis and theology.52

[Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2005, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, p. 284]

Chao!

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: