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The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Faith of the Faithless

My Friend Scott directed me to a post on a discussion board. It reads:

"The British Museum is putting online the remaining fragments of the world's oldest Bible. The Codex Sinaiticus dates to the fourth century BCE and was discovered in the 19th century. Very few people have seen it due to its fragile state — that and the fact that parts of it are in collections scattered across the globe. It'll give scholars and those interested their first chance to take a look. However, I've got a feeling that some people won't be happy to see it online, since it makes no mention of the resurrection, which is a central part of Christian belief."

There are plenty of errors in this:

* The date is closer to 400 C.E., not 400 B.C.E! Obviously, the New Testament was not written before Christ. Okay, I can forgive a typo, but there's more.

* The question about resurrection accounts relates primarily to the ending of the Gospel of Mark. There are longer and shorter versions of the ending of Mark, some of which have more detail of the resurrection. However, Mark is one of 27 books in the New Testament. The resurrection is either implicitly or explicitly mentioned in all of them! It is absolutely false to claim that this manuscript of the Bible has no mention of the resurrection.

* It is misleading to say this is the "world's oldest Bible", but in shorthand it is somewhat forgivable. This manuscript named Sinaiticus is one of the most important documents in the Christian tradition. It is the oldest document that contains the entire New Testament all together. This lends weight to the idea that the Christian community had recognized these books as scripture by that time. However, there are individual books and fragments that are much older than this manuscript. Also, another manuscript named Vaticanus is a document from around the same time, but it was probably a copy of an earlier manuscript. So even though it is missing some books, what it has may be closer to what the original authors wrote.

You have to understand that no one has an original copy of any book of the Bible. The best we have are copies of copies of copies. In many cases, there is reason to believe that the scribes copied the originals verbatim--but not always. The more people touched it, the more chance that someone altered it in some fashion, which did happen.

So big deal, you say, someone's running their mouth on the internet. Where's the story in that? This may not even be an expert in the field (let's hope not!) but just some idiot posting on the internet.

I bring this up because it's a clear example of the kind of double-standard that exists. People with religious beliefs are often called on the carpet to substantiate their claims--and for good reason. However, here you have someone trying to denounce the central claim of Christianity (the resurrection) with absolutely incorrect information. It is common for people to bash Christians for believing in fanciful things all the while throwing out "facts" that they just made up themselves on the spot!

Poor scholarship is literally everywhere, so be careful. I am guessing this person skimmed over the link that they included in their post (see above) and quickly saw the line that reads: "It cuts out the post-resurrection stories". This clicked with their idea of how Christianity came to be and it made sense with their preconceived notions of how the world works, so they included it as fact in their post. It didn't seem to matter that this fact was incorrect--what mattered was that this "fact" backed up the claim that they wanted to advertise. It is interesting the way the human mind works. Of course, I don't know what the motives of this person in particular were, but it illustrates a common trend. It makes me wonder who is living by blind faith--Chrisitains, or non-believers?

Comic taken from xkcd.

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