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Old October 8th, 2017 #72
Emily Henderson
Intellijintly Dezined
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Pre-Rapture, USA ⚛️
Posts: 3,871
Emily Henderson
Default Understanding NT Manuscripts

This is a great blog entry from Ancient Historian Richard Carrier, illustrating some key aspects of the New Testament that Christian Apologists get wrong, yet they look plausible to the undiscerning eye. Well-meaning people often are taken in by what appear to be 'experts' who give convincing accounts of the origins of these manuscripts.

Most people are not trained in papyrology and are not paleographers. Those fields can be even more important than ancient language in discovering the truth on where these docs come from, which is key to knowing about their authorship and the authenticity of their stories.

Sometimes it takes a decade or more for the changing evidence to make it's way into being known to the public as having de-bunked the former expert opinion(s).


This part of his blog entry is referring to the 'Josephus Testimonium', or the 'Testimonium Flavianum'. In Book 18, Chapter 3 of the Antiquities, Josephus describes the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Romans....yet it is not authentic.

"..a flurry of positive opinion arose about ten or twenty years ago from excess enthusiasm over the purported discovery of an earlier version of the text in Arabic translation that supposedly “proved” the passage predated Eusebius and said something different. But by 2008 that “discovery” had been debunked in the peer reviewed literature by Josephus expert Alice Whealey: that Arabic translation was in fact of a Syriac translation of Eusebius, and the changes were thus made after him, either by a telephone game of transmission error or by scribal attempts to make the passage more believable. This means all those published opinions before were based on a falsehood. Those opinions therefore can no longer be cited in favor of the passage. Expert opinion has to be re-polled. And obviously, only experts aware of this development should be polled.
This has happened in New Testament (or NT) studies, too.

For example, many papyrus fragments, once dated overly early, have been dated decades or even a century later than previously claimed, after the poor logic and unchecked bias of earlier estimates was exposed. This was well reported by Neil Godfrey, in New Date and More on Dating, which articles are also very educational on what the peer reviewed literature says about the problems dating NT manuscripts. (BTW, Wikipedia will often keep you more up to date than many experts are, with a wonderful catalog of entries on all New Testament papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries.)

As another example, sixteen years ago David Trobisch published evidence changing the way we understand extant NT manuscripts; and it’s taken a decade for his results to filter into expert knowledge. Interestingly, Trobisch has been tapped to curate Hobby Lobby’s new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., despite him in no way being a fundamentalist but an actual legit scholar and justifiably renowned expert on biblical manuscripts. Anyway, his book in 2000 presents evidence that makes a significant difference in how we interpret the surviving manuscripts of the Bible.."
"Inquiry and doubt are essential checks against deception."--Richard Carrier