Are the Biblical Documents Hopelessly Corrupt?
By Phil Steiger
In preparation for our Every Thought Captive event coming up in April, I have been reading through Craig Blomberg’s book, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions. His approach caught my attention quickly. He sees six areas in which biblical scholarship has seen the largest amount of development or attention in the last few years. In each area his contention is that even though the popular opinion tends to be that new scholarship reduces the trustworthiness of the Bible, it in fact does the opposite. In this way his book follows some of the strongest intellectual traditions in the Christian faith. We have always, when we are at our best, opened our faith and our Scriptures to scrutiny and taken the best results as they come. The Christian can do this because of a fundamental belief, that all truth is God’s truth, can be found by us, and when we find the truth about contested matters we find God’s fingerprint.
So Blomberg tackles head-on the most talked about and the most serious criticisms of biblical reliability and comes to the settled opinion that the more scholarship has advanced in these areas, the more our confidence in the reliability of Scripture is strengthened. Thus, the title of the book. As it turns out, those who tend to be the most vocal in their criticism of biblical reliability are the least informed of recent scholarship, basic details of language and culture, and the implications of advances in the field.
In the first chapter, “Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?” Blomberg tackles the matter of the variants and dates of both Old Testament and New Testament documents. The primary advocate for the skeptic’s position, at least in the public square, is Bart Ehrman, so Blomberg takes his assertions as his launching pad into the details that matters. Ehrman claims that there are more than 400,000 variants in the NT documents, making the astonishing claim that there are more differences between early copies than there are words in the NT. This would clearly lead one to believe, and this is Ehrman’s tactic, that there is no single phrase (or word!) in the NT that is not doubtful. The sane thing to do, then, is to throw the whole thing out.
Blomberg does the work of teasing out the various early manuscripts, doing the math, and dealing with the most significant variants…
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