In order to diminish the importance and relevance of the Bible, it's common for skeptics to point out that the early Christians didn't even have an official Bible. They claim that what we now call the "New Testament" wasn't compiled until hundreds of years after the life of Christ and the Apostles, when church councils convened to decide which books were "in" and which ones were "out." Famously, Dan Brown, in his best-selling book, The DaVinci Code, even alleged that the Emperor Constantine chose the books at the council of Nicaea in AD 325. (1)
The Muratorian Fragment is a big deal because its very existence is evidence that these notions are not true.
"Do you understand what you're reading?"
This simple question is credited with carrying Christianity into Ethiopia. (1) Acts chapter 8 tells of Philip being led to the desert by an angel to meet an officer from the court of the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip finds him reading an Isaiah scroll containing prophecies about the Messiah. At this point, Philip could have walked up and boldly declared, "I have been sent to you today to proclaim the good news of Jesus the Messiah!" But he didn't. He met this man right where he was at and asked a good question, which then led to an explanation of the gospel. This is apologetics at its best.
"No—it can't be." I will never forget standing in my kitchen after finishing a New Testament class, reeling a bit from what I had just learned—that one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible was something called a textual variant.
I have always loved the Bible. I’ve studied it ever since I could read and write—but for most of my life, like many Christians, I didn't really know how we got the Bible. I didn't know about textual variants, how the New Testament was transmitted, or that we don't actually possess any of the original writings.
What is a textual variant? When scholars have many copies (manuscripts) and early copies of a particular work, they can compare them to find out what the originals actually said. The New Testament has more and earlier manuscripts than any other work of ancient literature. Because these manuscripts were copied by hand, naturally there are going to be some differences between them like spelling changes, grammar devices, and mixed up or missing words. Once in a while, a bit of text was even added or removed by a scribe after the original writing was sent out. All of these differences are called textual variants.
Years ago, I was part of a study and discussion group in what would later become a Progressive Christian community. This was before the term "Progressive Christian" was very well known in most circles. In this group, traditional beliefs about Christianity and particularly the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible were under constant scrutiny.
In one of our meetings, while taking a swipe at the idea that the Bible is inspired by God, one student asserted, “Confucius thought of the ‘Golden Rule’ before Jesus. Jesus stole it from him.” Mind. Blown. What was he talking about?
[This post is a summary of an excellent yet lengthy piece written by D.A. Carson in Themelios, a journal for religious studies. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.]
Biblical authority is an idea that is slowly losing its grip on modern Evangelicals. It's a very simple proposition—it gives the Bible the right to form and correct a Christian's beliefs and behaviors. This has been one of the bedrocks of our faith, going back to ancient Judaism, with a renewed emphasis since the Reformation. With the onslaught of the post-modern "anything goes" mentality of our culture, some Christians seem confused about what biblical authority is, and how important is it for spiritual growth. Here are 10 signs you might be abandoning biblical authority without even realizing it.
Studying apologetics can be a daunting endeavor because it tackles so many different topics. When I was first starting out, I would barely grasp one concept only to be made aware of ten more things I needed to know—right now. I wanted to know All. The. Things. While simultaneously trying to grasp the cosmological argument, biblical Greek, the history of philosophy, world religions, and textual criticism, I found myself with several open books and an overwhelmed mind. As I learned how to prioritize, I discovered eight things that helped me simplify and study apologetics in a fruitful and productive way:
[Today I'm thrilled to feature this guest post from my friend Diane Woerner. Diane is a brilliant thinker who specializes in the cultural and theological implications of God's design for sexuality, marriage and gender. For more of her writings, visit her website, bereansnotepad.com.]
Every year someone comes up with a list of new words people have created, and a number of these make it into the official dictionaries of our culture. At the same time, words get left behind—often without anyone noticing they're gone.
Two words I believe to be currently on the endangered species list are these: masculinity and femininity.
In their original use, these words simply designated manliness and womanliness, those qualities to which men and women should aspire. But our world is rapidly rejecting any exclusive descriptions of the nature or roles or appearances of men and women. Instead, we all get to think and act and look like any combination of characteristics to which we might be inclined at the moment.
How did we get here?
One of the most common misconceptions about the New Testament canon (the list of books the church recognizes as authoritative) is that early Christians didn't have any Scripture until hundreds of years after the life of Christ and the Apostles. The church then examined all the books they had and "picked" the ones they thought should go in the canon. However, this is not how it happened.
Most of the earliest Christians were Jews, so they had the Old Testament Scriptures, but concerning the 27 books of the New Testament, there wasn't an official canon until three or four hundred years later. That doesn't mean they didn't have New Testament Scripture. In fact, the word "canon" does not need to be confined to a formal and final list, but rather reflects "the entire process by which the formation of the church's sacred writings took place." (1) Here are 5 facts that point to an early canon: