tisdag 27 oktober 2015

Why we Trust the Bible : Lita Gets It Nearly Right

Her idea about why we trust the Bible goes a bit like this:

The originals were inspired, The originals were copied, The copies were copied, The copies were quoted and translated, and Exciting manuscript research is now going on.


All this is very true.

But she leaves out one crucial thing.

When we speak of crucial, why not mention the exchange about gematria* between Epistle of Barnabas and early non-Christian rabbis? Abraham went to (was it Gehazi?) with 318 men. Now, in Greek, the letters had numeral values. 318 looks like TIH. T looks like a cross, and Tav means mark and looks even more like a cross in its oldest forms. IH are the first two letters of IHCOYC - the Greek version of Jesus. Or in genetive IHCOY. And the phrase then means "cross of Jesus", which is the real reason Abraham was victorious or successful. Rabbis answered that 318 is the numeral value of the name Eliezer, the name of Abraham's trusted servant. So, 318 men really meant Eliezer alone went down with Abraham. Now, Eliezer has a counterpart in the New Testament. Jesus also has chosen a one servant as trusted as Eliezer. St Peter.

So, when Abraham went down with 318 men, he went down under the God seen shadow of the cross of Christ, and he went down with Eliezer, who was prophetically prefiguring papacy. Not meaning there were not 317 other men too.

The crucial (or, Eliezeric, or papal) issue Lita Cosner leaves out is the role of the Church as authoritative body of teachers.

The originals were inspired, and the Church knew this.

The originals were copied, mostly not on private initiative, unlike what she imagines, but because the Church had accepted as inspired certain apostolic writings, either by apostles themselves or by certain disciples of them. These were ORDERED to be copied. In the case of Apocalypse, it was certainly copied to the bishops (early Christian term : angels, St John might have called simple priests bishops), of the Seven Churches. And since these (except perhaps the one of Laodicea**) accepted St John as being a guarantee of his writing being inspired, these ordered further copies. But of course, every bishop or series of bishops who received an epistle from Sts Peter or Paul ordered copies too. Rome received Romans from St Paul and one at least from St Peter. Corinth received two from St Paul. Bishops*** Timothy and Titus received together three from St Paul.

The copies were copied, like the originals had been, mainly because Church men required it.

The copies were quoted and translated, also because Church men wanted it. Most notably, when St Jerome translated what we know as the Vulgate, he took orders from bishops (he was just a priest himself), and while translating OT from Hebrew and himself wanting to translate only what he found a Hebrew text for (a preference which Protestants have taken from his personal preference), he obeyed the preference of the bishops to include all books of the LXX (Septuagint). Now, there were diverse versions of LXX, and St Jerome's apparently did not include III and IV Maccabees, the latter being a moral sermon by Flavius Josephus. But he did obey the Church and we do have I and II Maccabees in the Vulgate.

As for Church Fathers quoting Scripture, yes, for one thing these were usually Church men (priests like St Jerome, more often Bishops like Sts Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, though Bede of Jarrown was again just a priest), but even more, it is the authority of Church men which tells us how to distinguish a genuine Church Father (like those mentioned) from a writer who is not holy and not reliable (like Terence or Origen), and it were Church men who chose what aspects (if any, but like for these two) one could accept (like Mariology of Origen, but not his idea of Apokastasis ton Panton).

The last part, and Exciting manuscript research is now going on. Sure. Some of it on orders of Church men. But it is less important than the Tradition of the Church.

For instance, some have found very old manuscripts in Sinai or elsewhere, which here and there lack a verse. We do not go by manuscript research and say those verses were later additions. We go by the tradition of the Church and say these verses belonged there. If they missed in that manuscript, this may be due to having been written by some sect and then taken hold of, or may be a mistake by a copyist, who may have been a moralist or sth, and the mistake was why the manuscript was left unused in a corner, which was why it was preserved so long and so well.

So, when we trust God to have preserved His Word, we trust Him to have preserved the original Church (visible body, not abstract total of all real Christians dispersed through different ones) which He originally spoke to. If you say, God could have preserved His Word without the Church, we answer, He could and did preserve His Church too, and His Word mainly through it. Or through Her.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Vigil of Sts Simon and Jude

CMI : Has the New Testament been corrupted?
by Lita Cosner
Published: 27 October 2015

* See the article Gematria in Encyclopædia Judaica.

** A council of Laodicea some centuries later gives a list of books from which readings are to be made during Holy Mass and Hours. Apocalypse of St John is not among these. However, even in the West, reading Apocalypse was more done by lectio continua by monks reading it in private. Than by public reading of its texts in Church.

*** These were functionally bishops, but there was at first no one accepted name for these, after these included more than the Apostles. The word "bishop" in the letters seems to mean "priest" rather than what we call bishop. For instance, they could be married. On the other hand, someone has said that only later celibacy was required before becoming a bishop.

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