Category Archives: Da Vinci Code vs Early Manuscripts

Early evidence that proves death and ministry of Christ

A charge sheet that accuses Jesus of his crimes.  These experts discuss exactly what is implied here.  They show that some sections of the sheet has been rubbed out in an attempt to delete it.  Amongst a litany of testimonys that prove Jesus death and ministry, here is an interesting clip from scholars across the Pond at Asbury University, UK.

 

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Da Vinci Code vs Early Manuscripts: pt 3 NOBODY chose the gospels!

Almost done with the book

As my time of reading and digesting Dr. Hill’s book “Who Chose the Gospels?”, I’m beginning to lament the last words of the book.  I will be done then, and truth be told I’ve sneak-peaked the end and technically not “done”.  The early history of the church and those who safe-guarded the canon of the gospels is largely not precisely known.  From shadows, and and glimpses, from short little insights into the culture and insight into the situation, we can gather for the most part what was going on.  Like, ok we know Irenaeus was debating Marcion on X, Y, and Z issues, and Justin Martyr wrote Trypho on issues A, B, and C, but what would have been REALLY helpful is if they answered direct questions like “Where did you get your Gospels from?”  Its totally doable, but its like one of those IQ questions where it asks you, “If Susie is older than Mary, and the person standing next to Beth, is 2 years older than the person to their left, and John is their father, how old would he be?”  Its not quite like that, you get my point.

Our man John

As I could not take the suspense I read ahead to the end of the book to read in his conclusion to find out exactly “Who chose the gospels?”  His answer was a bit surprising, but almost as obvious as it was surprising.  First, I want to add that we can trace the origin of the gospels, in its guided composition (not authorship we know who wrote them, we want to know why four, and by what criteria they used).  We can trace it thinly back to the apostle John.  When it comes down to 80-150 AD, hard scientific evidence comes more sparse.  In fact what we have is an early church “tradition” that says John is the one who chose four, and called them the four first (I haven’t read that chapter yet….specifics to come).  From him, it just got passed down to those after him, to church fathers, and eventually to those who defended the gospels, that these four are the four are the ones that the apostles authored, and can be trusted.

But if we had a group of early church fathers in front of us including John, and we asked them, “Why did you chose the four gospels?”

Nobody chose the gospels

The surprising thing about Dr. Hills conclusion was that, in answer to that question… nobody.  He says, it would be like if we asked ourselves “Why did you chose your parents”?  Well you didn’t, they chose you.

“The key realization which best explains our inability to find an ultimate ‘chooser’, which best explains why the church didn’t take the easy way out with some kind of singular Gospel and why it never cobbled together a set of criteria to apply to all the Gospel candidates, is that the church essentially did not believe it had a choice in the matter!”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 231

In addition he says,

“When speaking of the church’s part in the process they instead use words like “receive”, recognize”, “confess”, “acknowledge”….just like the faith itself, which had been “received from the apostles and transmitted to its children” so the Gospels were “handed down” to the church by the same apostles.”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 232

So there we have it.  No one person, comittee, council, or prophet created the criteria for the four Gospels.  We don’t know the significance of four, why God providentially chose the number four.  We don’t know why God chose that point in time to insert Jesus Christ into, historically speaking.  We don’t know when He is coming, like he said he was, but we do know it is good.  It is very good.

The “other”s

I’ve talked about the other self-proclaimed gospels in my other articles, but I want to quickly touch on them in regards to their indirect support of the Gospels.  No “other” gospel, like the gospel of Mary, or the gospel of Thomas, or any of them actually attempt to denounce the authority of the Gospels, or try to persuade their readers that the authors of the Gospels were not who they claimed to be.  They all respected the club that the Gospels were in; they didn’t mess with the club.  Like some outsiders trying to get in, they tried to make themselves look appealing, by opening their gospels with phrases like “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke…” (gospel of Thomas begins this way), or “The secret revelatory discourse in which Jesus spoke with Judas Iscariot…” (the gospel of Judas).  None of the four Gospels are like that, they were open and public Gospels.  When they were written, they were not challenged, because they were aligned with the actual set of events, and everyone knew that.  Its very interesting that the outsiders didn’t try to topple the castle and build a totally new one, because they knew this castle was real, had a firm foundation and was here to stay.

More to come

I’m not done yet.  I plan on reporting more as I read it.  Sorry if some of this was not as orderly as it could have been.  I had no thinking space tonight…..desktop cluttered, table full of material and a sowing machine (a friend was making a shirt…pretty cool).  I need a “study”.

DaVinci Code vs Early Manuscripts pt 2: Three ways the church killed heresies!

Words, as some of you know, are my obsession.  To put them eloquently in beautifully composed poetry brings strength to the bone.  The color and flavor words bring into a story can be as integral as the plot itself.  When someone uses choice words in a personal letter, you are in a sense learning more about that author, and his affections toward you (how much does he care for you, is he sympathetic, or instructional), his intentions for the relationship (to end a friendship, or encourage them in a hard time), etc.  So the Bible, the greatest letter on earth, a letter written from God to man, carries on its words the very sentiments, the intentions, the will of God himself.  The incredible thing about this letter, is that he so trusted his followers (those prophets or followers of Christ who listened to the Spirit and wrote what was impressed on them), that he gave finite and mortal human beings the privilege to hear and write down what God wanted to say to humanity (more on spiritual inspiration at the bottom).

For the last month or so, I’ve been going through the book “Who wrote the Gospels?”  by Dr. Hill.  It is a book that seeks to combat mis-conceptions about early Christianity, it seeks to bring light to the process by which we have the Gospels, and seeks to further encourage our believers by empowering us with the knowledge of the history of this great book.

In this article, I want to address probably the most prevalent mis-conception of the Bible we have today.  People may ask, Why just the four gospels?  Why was the church so exclusive? It is a very legitimate question, to which there is a very interesting answer.

True, there were other gospels circulating at the time, but the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the most prevalent, to the extent at which we can say the church at large did NOT consider the other non-canonical gospels to be inspired by the Spirit of God.  There were some who branched off, and we have testimonies of church leaders who call them heretics, those who believe the canon of scripture was more than four gospels.  One very simple argument is that the number of Greek manuscripts found to this day, by far eclipse in number those manuscripts of non-canonical types (i.e. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, those not found in the Christian bible today).  (At this point it may seem that I’m trying to say, the group with the big numbers win….that simply is not true.  That is not logical from a spiritual perspective and historical perspective….you must understand, I’m showing you one piece of the pie in supporting the fact that the Gospels were inspired by God, and the non-canonical gospels were not)

The gold rush of Alaska and the rushes that occured in California, serve as a good analogy for me today.  When miners sought to find gold, they were forced to learn by various ways to determine the difference between fools-gold (fake gold, a look-a-like) and the real thing.  The thing is, you will invest much in something you think you will benefit much from.  Same thing goes with the Bible, and Bible study.  You study the Bible because you know its true, and you want to benefit from it more, by studying it.  If you were to chose between a book that had eyewitnesses to testify to the events of that book one generation ago, and a book that had clearly inaccurate sayings (sometimes the non-canonical gospels are quite blatantly contradicting gospel testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

Three study tools came onto the scene around 180 AD, showing to which books they invested the science of study.

1) Harmonies – scribes went through the Bible and compiled all four gospels to make a read-through version of the Gospels.  This is called A Harmony of the Gospels. For example, when a story is told, lets say about the birth of Christ, it compiles all accounts of that narrative to make a single voice.  This is helpful if you wanted to get a very detailed feel for how all the narratives combined would be.

An example: “The mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt 27:56) and Salome (Mark 15:40) and the wives of those who had followed him from Gallilee to see the crucified (Luke 23:4-9), And the day was Preparation: The Sabbath was dawning (Luke 23:54)……etc.

2) Synopses – This was a tool similar to that of the Harmonies, except it laid out each Gospels narrative in four separate columns, instead re-written as a novel-like story with Gospel references interwoven in the text.

3) Use of codices – We quickly learn in “papyrology” (the study of texts written on papyrus…gotta be smaaart!) that the church quickly evolved from using scrolls to document the gospels (few scrolls in existence) to using a slight variation of book form, similar to what we use today called codices.  This was because using scrolls in early church services were not as useful, and could not contain four gospels worth of scroll in one set.  Because the Gospels were bigger they were forced to use a larger convention, the codices.  This caught on as the staple way to make ANYTHING gospel related.  Scribes would even make pocket-sized books of the Bible for people to study with.  The larger ones were used in church services, as they would make the fonts bigger, more organized into columns, and had read-aids to assist the reader when he would read in front of the community.

Here’s the thing!  If the early church considered the “other” gospels to be God inspired, you would think they might consider them valuable….valuable enough like gold to invest to learn what they’re about.  The thing is, NONE of the study tools EVER mentioned or included ANY of the other heretical non-canonical gospels.

To give those lonely outsider gospels a little love, scholars do say they were used by Pastors and teachers.  Iraneaus, one of our early church fathers had some things to say about learning the heresies of the day.  He even blamed one communities falling back into pagan ways because their eyes weren’t really open as to what the heretics were teaching, and so they were lulled back into old ways.  So many pastors in that day had “heretical” gospels in their libraries so they were up-to-date on their heresies, BUT they were never in the book form, which was how scribes wrote holy books, like the four gospels.  The heretical gospels were usually written on single sheets of papyrus or in scrolls, almost automatically putting them in the category of unholy.

So from the beginning, the church has practically considered all the non-canonical gospels as NOT God inspired.  Now as to how they discovered and established principles of inspiration, that is entirely a different can of worms, and we’ll get there.  Stay tuned!

What I’m writing about is something that you can go to a museum and touch.  There are old fragments you can see.  We can be scientific about all of this.  The area where this gets spiritual is the gap between God’s mind and the writers pen, as they wrote the Bible.  The doctrine that deals with this issue is called “Inspiration”.  Wayne Grudem in his “Systematic Theology” gives great light on this matter if you want to study this further.  For now I leave with you this amazing verse in 2 Peter, which shows yet another way in which God considers man trustworthy and honors us with the reception of his divine message!  Incredible he would chose us!!!

“…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someones own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

– 2 Peter 1:20-21

Wow!  What do you think about all of this?