11 Mar 2007

Without Original Texts Can We Trust the Bible?

Submitted by theshovel
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I’m researching the lack of original writings to refer back to concerning scripture. This brings up a lot of questions for me, such as “Can we trust what we have always relied on?”. Since no original texts are in existance, shouldn’t we be extremely careful how we view the written word? Through the centuries we have made huge decisions based on a phrase or word. Scribes were just human beings that make honest mistakes, and sometimes not so honest mistakes. They had their own views and ideologies that were folded into the mix. Sue

Our reactions (or over-reactions) to the fact that no Biblical originals exist hang upon centuries of intellectual dependency. In fact, our reactions are founded upon other reactions. The “Protestant Reformation” era (mid 1500’s) set a new (for them) principle into motion: “Sola Scriptura”, Scripture Only. What a shame they hadn’t instead considered something like “Sola Christus”, eh? Now, we must remember what they were up against, as it might temper our reactions, otherwise, our reaction might end up as ineffectual as the other.

What they were up against was a repressive religious system built upon centuries of Papal (from the Popes) dogma and tradition. The people were held in bondage (some literally) to the compounded laws and decrees of “The Church”. It was so bad that Martin Luther penned his famous “95 Theses” detailing those Papal fallacies and nailed a copy to the door of the Wittenburg Church in Germany (or so the story is told). Whether we agree with everything he wrote is immaterial, for the truth is that he protested man’s usurpation of what only God can do in Christ. Anyhow, in the midst of all their protestations (hence “Protestant”) against The Church they asserted they could not trust man’s authority but only God’s … as recorded in Scripture.

The whole issue revolved around whether they were to trust Papal authority on the matter or God’s. The Church demanded that salvation was the result of compounded religious works while the Reformers claimed the testimony found in the Scriptures revealed that God had done the work in Christ. Their stance was a reaction to false religious authority of the day. No doubt they added their own fallacies along the way, but let’s remember what was driving them.

The main problem is not with the testimony found in the writings found in the Bible but with the dependency factor that became entrenched in this centuries’ old stance. The challenge quickly shifted from the objection to man’s authority into an intellectual search for “truth” using “God’s words” to prove one’s conclusions.

Because many now have put their faith in recorded testimonies rather than in the one who is testified to (as did the scribes and Pharisees of old) the whole matter of “trust” is founded upon who can best prove their point. It also demands that the knowledge of God is found in, by or through the words in the book, rather than by the spirit of Christ who dwells in us. What we often learned to “trust” in were legalities that hinged upon one word, one phrase, one verse, etc. Truth is that we have learned to trust the particulars, assuming that knowledge is found therein.

So the real dilemma has become one of a slavish search for technicalities in our search for that elusive “true interpretation”. This is the only reason why scribes who added, subtracted or changed words along the way, as well as the centuries of word differences, would affect us so. We’re frantically trying to hold onto that insane law of “every word of Scripture” thinking that we’re not trusting God’s authority if we’re not making a hard and fast determination of every word.

What I have come to discover is that more accurate understandings of the writings of the Bible will often read totally different than the record we read. But I’ve also come to this conclusion by having read the words as written, only with a wary eye, knowing that either changes, religious tradition, and differences from language barriers and time dynamics.

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