Saturday, July 1, 2017

Interesting Quotes

All of the following are quotes from The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Craig Bloomberg:

“George Houston has studied the evidence from ancient public libraries as well. Documents did circulate among the general populace but nowhere nearly as commonly as with modern libraries. Far more important was the library’s function as a place to preserve documents intact. When an important book was still in reasonably good condition, except that the ink of the letters was starting to fade, it was often reinked. Scribes carefully traced the letters with new ink on top of the original, rather than making a completely new book on costly new parchment or papyrus. Houston demonstrates that the average time of circulation for most handwritten or hand-copied library books in the ancient Mediterranean world was 150– 200 years! Sometimes manuscripts remained available to be copied for up to 500 years! The existing complete New Testament from the fourth century known as Codex Vaticanus was even reinked after 600 years so that it could continue to be used.

“All this means is that we should not envision the autograph of a biblical book being recopied by dozens of independent scribes and then discarded. Nor would those copies of the autographs have remained in use just for a few decades. When Ehrman (or anyone else) says that what we have in even our oldest New Testament manuscripts are not even “copies of the copies of the copies of the original,” he is going far beyond what the actual evidence allows anyone to demonstrate. Any second-century and most third-century manuscripts of books and collections of books could well have been copied directly from the autographs that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of Hebrews themselves penned or dictated. Of course, perhaps none of them was. Their appearance at diverse locations throughout the ancient Roman Empire means it may not have been possible for their scribes to have accessed the originals at all. But somebody at some point had to have transported a copy of the originals to a different portion of the empire, so it is entirely reasonable to imagine any or all of those documents being copies of copies of the originals. In a context in which this literature was increasingly being viewed as sacred and where we can see for ourselves the care with which all the letters were formed, we should not imagine many errors creeping in after only two rounds of copying.”

 (Kindle Locations 8840-8862)

“We can see glimpses of this “canon consciousness,” not at all formally delimited, beginning to emerge even within the first century, within what would come to be called the New Testament documents themselves. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, promises that the Spirit would enable his disciples to remember his teaching (John 14: 26) and would testify about him (15: 26), and would lead them into all truth (16: 13). None of these passages clearly promises new Scripture; and none of them delimits what it would be, were it to appear; but the three texts are at least consistent with the later conviction that some had appeared. First Timothy 5: 18 cites Deuteronomy 25: 4 as Scripture and then goes on to add a quotation from Luke 10: 7. Of course, it is possible that Paul is referring only to the text of Deuteronomy as Scripture, but the more natural way of understanding the grammar is to take the two quotations as parallel references to Scripture. It is also possible that the Greek word graphÄ“ here simply means a “writing”; but because Paul, like almost all the New Testament authors, uses this term to mean the Hebrew Bible, it would appear that he intends to refer at the very least to some kind of uniquely authoritative document. For those who find it impossible to believe that Paul in the mid-60s could have viewed the works of his beloved physician and travel companion written just a few years earlier as inspired, this interpretation of 1 Timothy 5: 18 becomes a major reason for their dating this book much later and seeing it as pseudonymous (recall above). But if Paul could recognize that the Thessalonians’ maturity derived from recognizing the spoken gospel message as the word of God (1 Thess 2: 13), it seems hard to imagine him unable to recognize the God-breathed nature of a work of his close colleague almost at once.

“More unambiguously, 2 Peter 3: 16 refers to at least some of what appears in Paul’s letters as “other Scriptures.” For many this is a key reason for dating 2 Peter to the second century and not finding it Petrine (again, see above). But if one refuses to argue in a circle and countenances the possibility of Peter in the mid-60s recognizing even just the earliest of Paul’s letters from ten or more years previous as uniquely inspired, then we have even clearer early evidence for a kind of canon consciousness. Whether any of these passages are admitted as evidence, we have a plethora of quotations of and allusions to many of the New Testament documents in that largely early second-century body of literature known as the apostolic fathers. There is regularly a sense that they are cited as authoritative, sometimes uniquely so (e.g., Ign. Trall. 3: 3; 2 Clem. 2: 4), occasionally called Scripture, and once in a while put on a par with the Old Testament works.”

(Kindle Locations 9231-9255)

“Remarkably the Gnostics themselves did not, to our knowledge, put forward any of their literature as on a par with emerging New Testament Scripture, merely as worthy within their own communities to articulate their beliefs and practices.[ 1642] Their debates with orthodoxy were not over canon but over hermeneutics.”

(Kindle Locations 9264-9268)

“Even more importantly, there is no significant dispute from the early centuries of Christianity over the unique value and origin of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, over the book of Acts, over the thirteen letters attributed to Paul, or over the epistles of 1 Peter and 1 John. Yet these works are most often challenged by today’s revisionist historians. Radical scholars today wish to discredit or at least supplement the Gospels, the Acts, and the major epistles of the New Testament, as we saw with A New New Testament (chap. 12). In the ancient world the seven books that eventually were accepted in the New Testament, which at times received serious questioning, were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. The issues then were issues that are still sometimes raised— the lack of any confidence of knowing who the author of Hebrews was, apparent theological tensions between Paul and James, the strikingly different style and contents of 2 Peter compared with 1 Peter, the brief and personal nature of 2– 3 John, the brevity along with the quotation of pseudepigraphical literature in Jude, and the puzzling genre and interpretation of Revelation as an apocalypse.”

(Kindle Locations 9276-9286)

“The early church also made good choices in what it canonized. It might be better to speak of it as receiving or ratifying documents which from their composition were recognized as unique. Yes, there were some rough edges, including a minority of the texts, particularly some of the shortest, where debate continued for three centuries or so. Also a handful of texts supported by a multiplicity of sources for inclusion in the canon failed to make it. But a substantial gap remained in the amount of support that existed between the most poorly supported texts that made it into the canon and the most frequently supported ones that were rejected. As far as we can tell, the theologically most central texts of the New Testament were all acknowledged, virtually without question, from their inception. Meanwhile, the most intriguing documents propounding an alternate and heterodox form of Christianity were rarely if ever put forward for inclusion at all, even by their own adherents.”

(Kindle Locations 9371-9378)

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